bird flying out of cage

Why Leaders Should Create a Culture of Stewardship

One of the most powerful ideas we discovered in our research for our book, Triple Crown Leadership—including interviewing leaders in 61 organizations in 11 countries—is one we call “stewards” (and building a culture of stewardship). It’s one of the most unusual and counterintuitive leadership practices we’ve ever discovered. A “steward” is a person who is responsible for and looks after other people or property. It’s a position of trust. It entails being the guardian of something valuable. Building a culture of stewardship entails nothing less than changing the way we think about and practice leadership.   Changing the Focus Most

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How Do You Want to Be Remembered?

While many people profess not to care what others think, we’re social creatures and want to fit in. Right? But winning acceptance should never take precedence over accepting yourself. Given that, one of the best ways to identify who you want to be is by asking yourself, “How do I want to be remembered?” Mark Twain said, “The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you understand why.” You may be thinking, “Who cares. I’m too busy.” While that’s understandable, if you wait too long to identify your destination, you’ll never

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Are You Strong Enough to Be a ‘Voice of One’?

You’re sitting in a meeting with your colleagues. They all agree on a course of action you sense is wrong. It’s not illegal, but it certainly doesn’t feel right. Do you speak up?   You Will Be Tested No matter what field you work in, you will be tested with ethical challenges or dilemmas. You’ll see something disturbing. Or you’ll be asked or pressured to do something you sense is wrong. Do you speak up and refuse or go along? Bob had that happen early in his career. He was a new General Manager of a division of a large

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body chalk outline

Taking Casualties–No Jerks Allowed

What do you do when one of your star performers, the best salesperson, or the brilliant technical expert is a jerk? Even worse, more than a jerk, your star performer is a dirtbag who lies, abuses others verbally, or worse? Or cheats to land a bonus? What do you do? We’ve seen this too many times. Too often, we fear making a mistake because we feel so much past, current, and future success is directly due to the “star.” We tolerate it; we rationalize their behavior; we try to persuade the person to change. All to no avail.   Only

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Why Leaders Must Protect Mavericks

Tom Cruise’s 2022 reprise of his 1986 hit movie, Top Gun, has been a box office smash. Top Gun: Maverick has Cruise again playing Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a cocky, rule-breaking Navy test pilot. The elite naval aviation academy recruits Mitchell (Cruise) to train a group of younger top guns for a harrowing and almost-impossible aeronautical mission. It’s a great film. How does this relate to leadership? It raises a critical but poorly understood aspect of organizations: How to deal with mavericks? The mavericks in your organization deserve your attention and protection even if they’re not top gun superstars. They can

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steel and velvet

Steel and Velvet Leadership

In our book, Triple Crown Leadership, based on extensive research and interviews with leaders in 61 outstanding organizations in 11 countries, we identified five advanced leadership practices for building an organization or team that’s excellent, ethical, and enduring. One of these practices has most intrigued the leaders we work with. Here we elaborate on how you can “flex” your leadership style between the hard and soft edges of leadership, between what we call “steel and velvet.”   Steel Steel is the hard edge of leadership, demanding excellent results and insisting upon ethical and sustainable practices. Steel leadership uses the power

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Don’t Retire, Reawaken and Refire

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” -author unknown I have a new take to share on retirement. Search online about retirement and much advice will pop up. You’ll find advice about celebration, financial planning, hobbies, exercise, courses, bucket lists, disenchantment, and more. In 2015, Ken Blanchard co-authored the book, Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life. I agree that many people need to go beyond golf and playing cards at the club. They need to “refire.” I’ve failed at retirement several

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Why Are We Talking about Ethics?

There I was, giving a guest lecture on leadership at a European business school, when I got an intriguing question from a student in the back of the room: “Excuse me, why are we talking about ethics? This is a course about leadership.” I came to realize what a gift this question was. His question was so revealing about how we perceive business and leadership today. So revealing about the chasm between how people think about and practice leadership. And so revealing about things we can take for granted and miss if we’re not careful. The question created a teachable

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Bob Vanourek with weaknesses quote

Be Vulnerable: Turn Your Weaknesses into Something Good

Most of us are adept at hiding our weaknesses. I know I am. I’m getting better though. I’ve learned that being vulnerable by admitting my weaknesses often turns the situation around to something good.   People Already Know I discovered that many people already knew my weaknesses. It was obvious to them, even while I was working feverishly at hiding and self-deception. I was often the leader of many of these people, but they weren’t really sure if they could talk about my weaknesses to me directly. So, like me, they pretended to me that my flaws weren’t there. We

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What Are Your Leadership Derailers?

Here’s the thing: we all want to be better leaders. But too often we focus on what to do as leaders while neglecting what not to do. That’s where leadership derailers come in—the things that take us off track and inhibit our leadership effectiveness. If we want to be good leaders, we must be aware of our derailers and begin working on them. “Most books about leadership tell us what a person ought to do to become effective and powerful. Few tell us what to avoid. But the latter may be even more valuable because many people on the road to

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