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Leaders, Do You Have Your People’s Backs?

Article Summary: Good leaders tell their people, “I’ve got your back”—and mean it. They make good on that promise. They protect their team, in the process building loyalty and trust. Do you have your people’s backs? +++ In the film “A Few Good Men,” Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, played by Tom Cruise, defends two dedicated young U.S. Marines charged with the alleged killing of a fellow Marine. At issue was a “code red” (a disciplinary action brought against a Marine who’s fallen out of line) that went horribly awry. During the court-martial proceedings, Lt. Kaffee questions Base Commander Colonel Nathan Jessep,

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The Power of Dialogue for Leaders and Groups

Article Summary: Dialogue is a rarely used but potentially transformative gathering and communication process that can help groups tap into their collective wisdom, realize new insights, and bridge divides. +++ Good leaders are effective communicators. One powerful but rarely used form of communication is dialogue. Dialogue is a special form of respectful conversation between people involving an open exchange of ideas, opinions, and experiences in which participants understand they don’t (and can’t) know everything, so they’re open to genuine sharing and learning. It elicits collective wisdom and understanding through openness, respect, and deep listening. Dialogue is an ancient practice with

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Good Leaders Believe in People–And Show It

Do you believe that most people are basically good, want to do the right thing, and have inherent talents? Good leaders have that mindset. They believe in the inherent capabilities of people. “I bring you the gift of these four words: I believe in you.” -Blaise Pascal, French mathematician, physicist, inventor, philosopher, and writer Or do you believe most people are lazy or out for themselves? Unfortunately, some bosses have that mindset.   Lacking Faith in People Some leaders have a negative mindset about people. That mindset may have been instilled by their parents, teachers, peers, or poor bosses. They

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Leadership Lessons from the Great Works

Article Summary:  A wealth of life and leadership wisdom is readily available in the great works of literature, film, theater, and oratory. We’re wise to plumb this fount of extraordinary knowledge. +++ We can learn much from the great works of history, including classic books, films, great poems, theater, and speeches. Thomas Jefferson created lists of great books for friends. Many universities have courses on the great works. Our ancestors learned from each other by telling stories around the campfire. We often learn best through stories. “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” -Joan Didion, author Stories are full

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Are You Too Focused on Yourself?

Article Summary:  Are you more of a giver or taker? Too focused on yourself? On ego versus service and focusing on ourselves versus something bigger. +++ Are you a giver or a taker?   We all give and take to varying degrees, but what’s the greater tendency in your life? Are you more of a giver or a taker? Most of us have core values and beliefs. Often, there’s something we believe in most of all, something at the top of our belief list. How we spend our time, energy, and money is a good indicator of our true beliefs

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Why All the Bad Bosses–And What to Do About It?

Article Summary:  Why are there so many bad bosses? Why are so many organizations bad at choosing managers? How to distinguish between bad bosses who can be redeemed and those who can’t? +++ “Surveys show that one in two people at some point in their careers have left their job to get away from their managers.” -Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge Why are there so many bad bosses? And what can we do about it?   Organization Failures Some organizations are failing in their selection of managers. Why? Here are some of the major reasons: They tolerate

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Good Leaders Demonstrate Self-Control

Article Summary: Self-control can be learned and developed. Good leaders demonstrate self-control, mastering their impulses and emotions. +++ Self-control is our ability to manage our impulses, emotions, feelings, and desires to influence our behavior, especially in difficult situations. It’s a form of self-discipline that helps us address our weaknesses, avoid undesirable behavior, and pursue what’s right despite temptations otherwise. Self-control entails avoiding or refusing things that are bad for us and those we care about—and building a capacity to work toward long-term goals despite short-term costs or challenges. It involves avoiding impulsive behaviors and modeling our core values as leaders,

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Good Leaders Say "And" More than "But"

Good Leaders Say “And” More than “But”

You’re in a meeting with your boss and colleagues discussing an important issue. You have a new insight to share on how to solve the issue, so you speak up. How would you feel if everybody ignores what you said and just moves on in the conversation? Or if the next person to speak says, “That’s interesting, but…” and then contradicts or dismisses your point. Think of this scenario: Everyone expresses their thoughts during the meeting while the boss remains silent. At the end of the meeting, the boss announces her decision or directives without acknowledging anything they’ve contributed. Ignoring

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Leadership as Art and Science—But More Art

Article Summary:  Is leadership an art or a science? That debate has gone on for decades. We believe it’s both—but more of an art, especially in challenging circumstances with risk and uncertainty. +++ People have long debated whether leadership is an art of science, or both, and whether it’s more of one than another. The answer, of course, depends on how we define art and science—as well as leadership. Easier said than done. All these concepts have multiple definitions, and the way we think about and practice all of them are changing over time—and have been for a long time.

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How to Use Questioning to Drive Innovation

When business executive Edwin Land was on a family vacation decades ago, he took a picture of his daughter, who was three at the time. She wanted to see the picture right away and asked him why she couldn’t see it right then. That simple question from a child pushed Land to carry the inquiry further by asking what it would take to take instant photography to the market. His work on this question led him to some profound insights, which came in handy since he was a cofounder of Polaroid. Answering his daughter’s simple but powerful question transformed the

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The Importance of Judgment in Leadership

The Importance of Judgment in Leadership

Summary: Judgment is an essential leadership quality. We outline why some leaders make bad judgments and how to develop good judgment. +++ Judgment is the ability to make good decisions. It’s a complex phenomenon requiring the ability to observe and understand things, draw upon knowledge and experience, form an opinion, and reach a decision. It entails discerning, comparing, and making considered decisions. Decision-making takes place in the frontal lobes of our brains which are responsible for “executive function.” That includes attention, reasoning, judgment, problem solving, creativity, emotional regulation, impulse control, and awareness of the aspects of our own and others’

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courage and leadership

Courage and Leadership

Courage is essential for great leadership. Without courage, leaders can’t do the things they must do. Courage is the mental and moral strength which helps us venture forth, confront danger, face our fears and challenges, and persevere. Aristotle taught us that courage is the virtue that is at the center of—the “golden mean” between—foolhardiness (excessive courage) and cowardice (insufficient courage). There are different types of courage. We often think of physical courage but there’s also emotional, intellectual, social, moral, and spiritual courage. These days, most of us don’t face enemies in battle or attacks from wild animals. Danger comes more

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Fishing for compliments

Compliments Are Not Always Helpful

(This is a guest blog from Frank Sonnenberg on the problem of fishing for compliments.) People like compliments. I get it. But what if you send the message that you only want good news and positive feedback? In fact, you want folks to tell you that your ideas are brilliant, your actions are flawless, and you’re as perfect as perfect can be, thank you. Unfortunately, fishing for compliments is not in your best interest. If you discourage people from pointing out your shortcomings, you’ll never learn how to better yourself. Moreover, if you fail to do a postmortem, you’re bound

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Why We Need More Coaching Leaders

Article Summary: A coaching leadership style is on the rise to help organizations be more effective with today’s workers and our current challenges. +++ Coaching leaders provide guidance and support to people to help them achieve their goals and reach their full potential. They invest their time and energy into developing people. Coaching leaders identify people’s strengths and weaknesses and help them grow, improve, and succeed.   What Is Coaching? Good coaching involves building trust, communicating effectively, encouraging, collaborating, developing self-awareness, showing compassion, asking questions, providing constructive feedback, giving stretch assignments, offering highly personalized support, and more. It helps people

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Spirituality and Leadership in Action–Martin Luther King, Jr.

Article Summary: Here we profile Martin Luther King, Jr. as an example of someone who has incorporated spirituality into his leadership with great effect. (This is part of a series on spirituality and leadership.) +++ In recent articles, we covered “Spirituality and Leadership—Leading with Heart and Love” and “How to Bring Spirituality into Your Leadership.” We noted that there are seven aspects of spirituality that can be applied to leading—and that love is an important part of the equation when people incorporate spirituality into their leadership. See the images below. Here we profile Martin Luther King, Jr. as a powerful

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