Twelve Tips to Grow as a Leader

Leadership speakers Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek feature Nelson Mandela as exemplifying growth in leadership.

Leaders aren’t born. They grow. Yes, some people are born with characteristics that make leadership easier. Some people are more outgoing, or intellectually gifted, or quick thinking. Some are excellent communicators, or have natural self-belief. But opportunities to learn and grow dramatically outweigh all of those factors combined. Leadership is learned and developed through a … Read more

The Wonders of “Pay It Forward”

Leadership speaker and author Bob Vanourek uses this image of a smiling man offering a pen to a woman to illustrate the importance of valuing people.

“For it is in giving that we receive.” –St. Francis of Assisi There are three kinds of people: takers, “transactors,” and givers. Each of us needs to decide where our focus will be. Takers are focused on serving their own needs and pleasures. They may be courteous about it and pleasant to be around; or … Read more

Leading with Heart and Head

Leadership speakers Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek feature Nelson Mandela as exemplifying growth in leadership.

 By Cristina Gair “A good heart and a good head are always a formidable combination.” –Nelson Mandela — In Remembrance, 1918-2013 Students of leadership should immerse themselves in the study of leaders who embody the values and actions they want to see in the world. In college, I started studying Nelson Mandela as an inspiring … Read more

Your Leadership Mindset

Leadership speakers, Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek, use an image of a man with his head buried in a vast desert of sand to illustrate the "fixed mindset" that is so detrimental to leaders.

What is your leadership mindset? What are your self-conceptions and beliefs that drive your behavior as a leader? In many cases, these are unknown because they operate beneath the level of our conscious awareness. Yet they are crucially important because they affect the way we approach people, situations, opportunities, and risks. In short, our mindset … Read more

Is Your Organization Falling Short on Values?

Leadership Authors and Business Speakers Bob Vanourek and Greg Vanourek, feature guest blogger Harvey Kaufman, who uses the image of the word values over a group of words that are considered values to show the importance of values in buisness

Recently, we heard about a law firm whose partners, after operating for a while, decided to draft a list of the firm’s values. As part of that process, the partners discussed their own personal values: their core beliefs and principles, and what they valued most. During that exercise, it soon became clear that “family” was … Read more

Is Your Organization Out of Alignment? 2 Checklists

The single hand of a drowning man illustrates how it feels to be out of organizational alignment, as seen by leadership speakers Bob Vanourek & Gregg Vanourek.

Are you working more but enjoying it less? Stressed out? Overloaded? Does it feel like things are slipping out of control? These conditions are becoming “the new normal” for leaders today; they also indicate that your organization is out of alignment: People are working at cross-purposes Turf wars break out between departments Everyone is criticizing … Read more

Trust: Ride the Wave to High Performance

Trust Inc. Book Cover. Leadership Speakers, Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek recommend Trust, Inc., a new book of essays compiled by Barbara Kimmel.

A sea change is underway in how businesses are run. Are you ready? Will you follow the trendsetters, scrambling to catch up? Or will you run out front in the vanguard? For decades, the mantra of businesses has been to “maximize shareholder value.” Executives were quick to embrace it. They could focus on a single … Read more

10 Steps to a High-Performance Culture

Leadership Speakers and Authors, Bob and Greg Vanourek, use this picture to illustrate the importance of team work in leadership.

“I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game, it is the game.” –Lou Gerstner, former Chairman and CEO, IBM, and author, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? (2002) How can leaders build a high-performance culture? Culture is powerful. Culture has a huge influence on what people do on … Read more

“Take This Job and Shove It”? Not So Fast

Sometimes you have to walk out. Some of you are stuck in a toxic firm or with a terrible boss. But before you say, “Take this job and shove it” (to quote the old song), let’s run through a pre-flight checklist before flying the coop. #1 Live Lean. If you don’t have your dream job … Read more

The Three Most Important Things Leaders Can Say to Their Teams

Arrow through brick wall represents the breakthroughs triple crown leaders can achieve in employee engagement when they say the right things to their team.

Disengaged employees are a growing problem for many organizations today. People lack commitment, can be cynical mutterers, and even saboteurs of company initiatives. How can you as a team or organizational leader motivate better performance, even breakthroughs? The answer has many components, from creating a high-performance culture of character with clear goals and empowered followers … Read more

The Three Most Important Questions About Your Leadership

Stick figure sitting in question mark ponders 3 questions of leadership

Here are three critical questions to ask yourself before you undertake the responsibility of leading other people: What is the difference between “the leader” and “leadership”? Why do you want to lead? Whom do you serve? Let’s discuss each one. What is the difference between “the leader” and “leadership”? “The leader” is the historical leadership … Read more

Unleashing Other Leaders

Bird out of Cage demonstrates the power of unleashing other leaders.

Leaders today need to, not only develop loyal and committed followers, but also unleash other leaders who can lead various critical tasks. Leadership in this scenario is not about the great skills and talents of “the leader,” but the collective strengths and blended talents of the leaders and the followers, who variously lead at times … Read more

We’re All Entrepreneurs Now

Guest Blog by Mike Critelli During my 25-year tenure as a senior business leader, I have seen a remarkable change in the requirements for successful business leadership. Leaders today must adopt more entrepreneurial behaviors and imbed them in their organizations, however large or mature those organizations might be. The image of an entrepreneur as a … Read more

Unleash Your Latent Leader

  Too many people disempower themselves with comments like “If only they would …“ Or “I’m only a (fill in the blank with ‘engineer,’ or ‘salesman,’ or ‘clerk’).” Too many people self-select out of leadership. (See our blog on “The Biggest Barrier to Leadership.”) What if Alice Paul (who fought for women’s rights), or Rosa … Read more

Why Is Leadership So Difficult? Paradoxes (and How to Master Them)

cube frame representing the paradoxes of leadership

After thousands of years and countless words written and spoken about leadership, why is it still so hard to get it right? Perhaps because leadership is rife with paradoxes? A paradox includes two contradictory concepts both of which are true. We recount some of them here. Leaders are: Adaptive and persistent. Asking and telling. Bosses … Read more

The Ten T’s of Trustworthy Leadership

Trust Inc. Book Cover. Leadership Speakers, Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek recommend Trust, Inc., a new book of essays compiled by Barbara Kimmel.

Guest Blog by Barbara Kimmel #1 Trustworthy leadership – A culture of trust cannot exist with an untrustworthy leader. Trustworthy behavior must start at the top and flow down through every person in an organization. Trust should not be confused with compliance. Being “legal” is not synonymous with being trustworthy. #2 Transformation – Productivity and … Read more

High Performance Begins with Shared Values

“When aligned around shared values and united in a common mission, ordinary people accomplish extraordinary results.”  –Ken Blanchard, leadership author Managers today have a daunting job. With their downsized staff, often depending on people over whom they have no authority, they are expected to produce better results than last year, all on a reduced budget. How … Read more

Creating Alignment & Balance through High-Performance Leadership

Guest Blog by Charles Walsh One of the most important aspects of leadership today is intentional alignment of purpose and direction. A four-quadrant approach will assist you in achieving high-performance leadership while ensuring balance of effectiveness and impact of results. In the 21st century, the battle cry of top leaders is achieving and sustaining high … Read more

Classroom Chaos? Try Shared Values

Leadership Authors and Business Speakers Bob Vanourek and Greg Vanourek, feature guest blogger Harvey Kaufman, who uses the image of the word values over a group of words that are considered values to show the importance of values in buisness

Especially at the start of a new school year, classrooms can be chaotic with students testing the limits of a teacher’s authority and not wanting to be constrained again after summer’s freedom. Some highly effective teachers have borrowed a page from the playbook of high-performance teams in other kinds of organizations by eliciting the shared … Read more

Leading Board Members Who Aren’t Natural Followers

Guest Blog by John Balkcom The board chair by definition and by charter is assigned to be the leader in the boardroom. But board members, especially when selected well, are rarely known for their willingness to follow. What’s a board chair to do? Here are my recommendations based on years of service on both for-profit … Read more

Life’s Leadership Lessons in Lots of L’s

Life's Leadership Lessons

By Bob Vanourek Leaders aren’t loners, nor are they letter-perfect, lily-white, lazy, lordly, or loud-mouthed. Leaders don’t lie, loot the limelight, feel locked by conventional limits, pay lip service to things, leer, or lecture people. Leaders often share lunch at the local eatery with colleagues, listening deeply and looking carefully. Leaders set a lodestar that … Read more

Love as a Leadership Imperative

chief karl bauer sees love as leadership imperative

Guest Blog by Chief Karl Bauer We study, teach and write about how to become better leaders.  We espouse collaborative visioning, champion the empowerment of subordinates and challenge each other to harness collective wisdom when setting organizational goals.  We call upon leaders to provide clear direction, cultivate a climate of support and work tirelessly to … Read more

The Missing Links in Goal-Setting (How to Rock Your Goals)

  Much has been written about the power of setting goals. Unfortunately, almost all of the advice about effective goal-setting falls short on a few key factors. More on that soon. First, some clarifications. Goals are what you hope to achieve. According to a popular mnemonic, goals should be “SMART”: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and … Read more

Botching Mission and Vision

Words matter in leadership. Bob was once talking to a group of employees about his ideas for setting up dedicated teams to focus on problems. One employee responded, “We are all dedicated here.” Oops. Bob meant teams focused on single problems. The employee thought he was questioning their commitment. Semantics. Words matter in leadership. Think … Read more

Synthesis: A Critical Leadership Skill

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” -Leonardo Da Vinci Leaders today are swamped with information 24/7. The complexity can be overwhelming. Yet leaders are supposed to rally colleagues with insightful analyses of problems and plans for how to succeed. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. spoke about the importance of getting to the “simplicity on the other side … Read more

Ethical Decision-Making: Simple Tests

When it comes to ethical challenges, we are all tested at some point. Leaders are tested most when they are under duress. Many leaders are ill-equipped to navigate the ethical minefields awaiting them in the swirl of fast-changing competitive markets and new technologies. Drawing insights from terrific books like Ethics (for the Real World), by … Read more

Ethical Pitfalls—You Will Be Tested

Photo: iStock No matter where you work or live, when it comes to ethics one thing is clear: you will be tested. Ethical pitfalls are all around us. Often you stumble upon them suddenly. Your ethics are tested most when you are under duress (with stress, pressure, or fear). Here is a partial list of … Read more

What to Do If You Work For a Jerk

So your boss is a jerk.  What to do? Of course, how to approach it depends on the severity of the situation, but here are some tips: 1. Go Lean. You may have to make a change, so you need money in the bank. That’s not tapping into your 401k or IRA. You need six … Read more

Is Your Organization Headed for a Breakdown?

Business Breakdown

Is your organization or team headed for a breakdown? Organizations emit warning signs before breaking down, but the financial signals, such as revenue declines, shrinking margins, and deteriorating working capital ratios, are lagging indicators. Leading indicators are much more important because you can address them before the financials go south. Using our triple-crown framework, here … Read more

Big Questions for New Graduates

graduates face future

New Graduates, Congratulations on your big achievement. The exams are now over, the assignments all in. As you celebrate and revel in the memories of achievements, experiences, and friendships, we advise that you also pause to reflect on some important questions. Many of you have made a big decision about what comes next—often in the … Read more

Tilts: Short- vs. Long-Term?

Our triple crown leadership model has three dimensions: excellent, ethical, and enduring. Some people wonder whether triple crown leadership requires giving equal priority to “excellent,” “ethical,” and “enduring” considerations. Many ask, “Don’t we have to sometimes tilt toward the short-term results just to survive, thereby, sacrificing the long-term?” Others may wonder, “In my business everyone … Read more

Bending the Focus of a Company

Interview with Harvey Wagner, Former CEO, Quovadx Harvey A. Wagner was the turnaround CEO of Quovadx from 2004 through 2007. Quovadx was a $100 million, NASDAQ-traded software and services company with offices in the U.S. and Europe as well as some outsourced R&D in China. Customers were in the hospital and telecommunications markets as well as … Read more

Leading a Tech Startup in China

Interview with Steve Mushero   Founder, CEO, & CTO, ChinaNetCloud Leaders Speak Series Steve Mushero is Founder, CEO, and CTO of ChinaNetCloud, a leading global provider of Internet Managed Services. Headquartered in Shanghai, China, ChinaNetCloud is a private company founded by Silicon Valley technology entrepreneurs, with a team of system experts and support staff in … Read more

The Biggest Barrier to Leadership

Many people self-select out of leadership. They lean out. They view leadership as the province of others, the ones with confidence, or the answers, or charisma, or vision. Sound familiar? Many people don’t even consider leading, because they don’t think of themselves as leaders. And so it is that incredible potential is wasted due to … Read more

What’s Different About Leading Startups?

Interview with Stephen Von Rump  Co-Founder and CEO, Giraff Technologies Leaders Speak Series  Stephen Von Rump is Co-Founder and CEO of Giraff Technologies AB. Giraff brings people together in the care of those living at home (e.g., the elderly). Giraff allows you to virtually enter a home from your computer via the Internet and conduct … Read more

The Job of a Lifetime: Leading an Incredible Transformation

Interview with Nancy Tuor  Former Group President CH2M Hill Leaders Speak Series  CH2M HILL, founded in 1946, is a global provider of consulting, design, construction, and operations services for corporations and governments. Headquartered near Denver, the employee-owned company has revenue of over $6 billion and employs over 30,000 people worldwide. CH2M Hill manages large, complex … Read more

Value and Values

Interview with Chip Baird  Founder and Managing Director, North Castle Partners Leaders Speak Series North Castle Partners is a leading private equity firm headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut, committed to creating extraordinary value for its companies, employees, investors, and communities. Charles (Chip) Baird, Jr., North Castle’s Managing Director, founded the firm in 1997. From 1989 to 1997, … Read more

The Legacy of Leadership

  What will your leadership legacy be?  Some will argue that the only real leadership legacy is the results you achieve.  But are results all that matter? Too many leaders today get caught up in the game and pursue results at all costs, or look the other way when results are achieved illegally or unethically. … Read more

Making It Work as Co-Founders

Interview with Raj Vinnakota and Eric Adler Co-Founders and Managing Directors, The SEED Foundation Leaders Speak Series  The SEED Foundation partners with urban communities to provide educational opportunities that prepare underserved students for success in college and beyond. SEED’s innovative model integrates a rigorous academic program with a nurturing boarding program, which teaches life skills and … Read more

What’s So Hard About Ethics?

  Why are ethical breakdowns in organizations so common? Why do so many good people make bad decisions?  Look at the “wall of shame” of organizations abusing trust recently: AIG, Barclays, Bear Stearns, BP, Countrywide Financial, Galleon Group, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, ING, Johnson & Johnson, Lehman Brothers, MF Global, Standard Chartered, Walmart, and many more.  … Read more

More Leadership Half-Truths

Many leaders operate from half-truths or outright misconceptions about leadership. Here are more examples, adding to our prior post, “10 Leadership Myths and Half-Truths.”  Half-Truth: Leaders Hire the Most Competent People Yes, leaders hire for competencies and skills, but equally important is to hire and promote people with character, emotional intelligence, and cultural fit. We … Read more

How to Develop Other Leaders

Leadership speaker and author Bob Vanourek uses this image of a man on top of a rock ledge reaching out to help the next person up to illustrate the importance of trust in the workplace.

Great leadership is a group performance, with leaders developing loyal followers and unleashing other leaders. Everyone has the potential to lead well, and everyone will have to lead at some point–in the office, at home, or in their community. In this age of budget cuts, how can leaders develop other leaders? Leadership is best learned … Read more