Communicating with Steel or Velvet–A Critical Leadership Practice

Communicating with Steel or Velvet— A Critical Leadership Practice

Article Summary: Many leaders don’t tailor their communication style to the situation. Effective leaders flex between steel and velvet (hard- and soft-edge) communication, depending on the situation and the people involved. +++ Of the five advanced leadership practices for building an organization that’s excellent, ethical, and enduring (from our book, Triple Crown Leadership), “steel and … Read more

Giving and Receiving Compliments–An Important Leadership Practice

Article Summary:  Many people are poor at giving and receiving compliments. That’s a shame. High-performance teams are superb at this skill, and praise can make a big difference in motivation. +++   What’s Wrong with This Exchange? Sam: “Amy, you did a great job on that rush project last week.” Amy (looking away and down): … Read more

Reading Body Language—A Neglected Leadership Skill

Article Summary:  Reading body language is an underutilized skill for most of us. Body language and tone of voice are important communication conduits. +++ There’s a leadership capability we all have that is seriously underutilized—observing and reading body language. By reading what other people are communicating through their body language, we can significantly upgrade our … Read more

Why Do You Want to Lead?

Article Summary:  Knowing why you want to lead is essential. If your motive to lead is selfish, you’ll fail. Your ego is a leadership toxin. +++ Why do you want to lead? It’s important to know that—important to your future and to those you lead.   Leading Is a Choice You may get thrust into … Read more

Good Leaders Are Good Storytellers

Article Summary Many leaders struggle with effective communication. Here we address why storytelling is so powerful and how leaders can get better at it. +++ Bob recalls a defining moment in the turnaround of a large public company where he was the new CEO. During the senior staff meetings held every Saturday morning while the … Read more

The Power of Small Groups—And How to Run Them

new growth with group hands

There is immense power in small groups. But not just any small group. We mean small groups that meet periodically to support each other at the deepest levels in a safe place of confidentiality, trust, and respect. We’re not talking about social clubs, book clubs, Bible studies, 12-step meetings, mastermind groups, circles of trust, clearness … Read more

Good Leadership Practices–An A-to-Z Guide

Through many years of research and experience, we discovered many practices employed by good leaders. Some practices were well known. Others were surprises. We’ve now compiled an alphabetical guide of these practices: A-to-Z Guide to Good Leadership Practices. The full guide contains more than 200 entries, and it’s chock full of actionable tips for leading … Read more

An Overarching Aim for Your Leadership

Today, more than ever, we need leaders and organizations to commit to the overarching aim of being excellent, ethical, and enduring. Commit to the overarching aim of being excellent, ethical, and enduring.   Triple Crown Leadership When we wrote our book, Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, we committed ourselves as a … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

Steel and Velvet Leadership

steel and velvet

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

Why Leaders Can’t Be Loners

Early in my business career, I was a loner. I worked hard and was polite to others, but I never connected with colleagues. I never opened up to reveal what I was feeling. It was all business. I kept my head down and “nose to the grindstone.” Since I had done well in college and … Read more

Lead by Leading

  (Guest article by Bill Thompson.) Leadership occupies the vast space between that which is clearly right and clearly wrong. The result often is indecision and inaction at the highest levels of organizations. This failure of leadership can be catastrophic, and often is. While most are familiar with the high failure rate of businesses during … Read more

How to Become a Better Servant Leader

Decades ago, Robert Greenleaf articulated one of the most important leadership frameworks in history: “servant leadership.” Greenleaf described the essence of this counterintuitive approach here: “The servant leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from … Read more

The Essential Qualities of Servant Leadership

In the years since Robert Greenleaf first published his essay, “The Servant as Leader,” many notable authors and experts have built upon his work. As expected, servant leadership in theory and practice has evolved over time as the context of leading has changed. Here we’ll summarize Greenleaf’s original ideas on servant leadership, recap what some … Read more

How Robert Greenleaf Created Servant Leadership

Robert Greenleaf was the founder of the servant-leadership movement. But who was this self-effacing man? Why did Stephen R. Covey say, “… I have found Robert Greenleaf’s teachings on servant leadership to be so enormously inspiring, so uplifting, so ennobling.” With no grand title or celebrity, how did Greenleaf, a self-described introvert, create this world-wide … Read more

Who Determines If You’re a Leader?

Are you a leader if you’re a boss with people who report to you? If you’re a military officer with personnel subject to your orders? Are you a leader if a nonprofit board hires you as their Executive Director? Who determines if you’re a leader? In the late 1960s and 1970s, Robert Greenleaf (1904-1990), a … Read more

How Great Leaders Reward, Recognize, and Celebrate People

“There are two things people want more than sex and money—recognition and praise.” -Mary Kay Ash, founder, Mary Kay Inc. It’s not enough to recruit and develop exceptional people. Triple crown leaders—ones who build excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations—must also recognize, celebrate, and reward them effectively through their culture.   How Leaders Can Reward People … Read more

Great Leaders Develop People Intentionally

Triple crown leaders—ones who build excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations or teams—focus not just on recruiting great people but also developing them intentionally. They focus on developing people systematically and continually. Unfortunately, many leaders fail miserably when it comes to developing people. Most organizations leave development mostly up to individuals, acting on their own initiative, … Read more

How Great Leaders Recruit People with Heart

Penguins lining up for interviews

“Acquiring and keeping good people is a leader’s most important task.” –John Maxwell, leadership author How much scrutiny do you use in assessing people for your team? What do you look for? And how? Triple crown leaders—ones who build organizations that are excellent, ethical, and enduring—systematically recruit people with specific characteristics. They invest their precious … Read more

The Importance of Heart in Leadership

head and heart

In “triple crown leadership,” our framework for how to build organizations that are excellent, ethical, and enduring, both head and heart are required for exceptional leadership. In most workplaces, it’s almost all head power. We need much more heart power in leadership. The way most leaders go about identifying and developing talent is utterly insufficient … Read more

What We Can Learn from the Olympics about Life and Leadership

With the Olympics underway­­­—with all the competition, drama, and intrigue—what can we learn from them not only about excellence and teamwork but also about life and leadership? Sure we admire the grueling physical feats and the mental preparation. The years of punishing practices, discipline, focus, and skill-building that go into the nine-second sprint, the epic … Read more

Leadership and the Excellence Imperative

Getting results is one of the preeminent tasks of leadership. What we call “triple crown leadership” (from our book of the same name) seeks not just any results, but excellent results—exceptional outcomes. It strives for the pinnacle of performance. (Our “triple crown leadership” model has three aims: excellent, ethical, and enduring. Leaders should begin with … Read more

What’s Your Leadership Quest?

It’s time to raise your leadership game. What’s your leadership quest? What are you seeking to do through your leadership, and where do you want to take your team or organization? What kind of leadership does it take to build excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations? How can we lead ventures for both high performance and … Read more

Back to Normal? Not So Fast

In fortunate parts of the world, there’s a palpable sense of relief and celebration as life begins to get back to normal after a brutal pandemic year. In some quarters, there’s jubilation—and rightly so after so many shocks to so many for so long. And of course the pandemic rages on, with so many people … Read more

The Comparison Trap

We all fall into traps in life. One of the most common is the comparison trap: constantly comparing ourselves to others and judging our worth by how we stack up—mostly on things that are superficial and unimportant: Where do I live? What do I drive? How much do I make? Where do I fall in … Read more

Why Conflict Is Good–And How to Manage It

Most people avoid conflict. But that’s a mistake. Conflict is essential in high-performing teams but must be managed well. Here’s how.

Guard Your Heart

A year into the pandemic, we’re reminded of how important it is to guard your heart. Here we mean our metaphysical heart, our sacred center. Parker Palmer said it beautifully: “I’m using the word ‘heart’ as they did in ancient times, when it didn’t merely mean the emotions, as it tends to mean today. It meant that … Read more

Are You Playing the Long Game?

These days it’s easy to fall into the trap of playing the short game. Our culture is geared toward it. With our devices, we’re developing the attention span of a gnat. We swipe and scroll. We get fidgety with a few seconds of down-time. The power of the long game is astonishing, but the short game is alluring. Now more than ever we need to reorient our life and work to the long game.

Designing Your Work for Flow

We’ve all heard of flow—that remarkable state of being in the zone and operating at our best. Many of us have experienced it. But what exactly is it? And how do we get into it? First, we note that the deep concentration and absorption associated with flow is becoming much harder to attain these days … Read more

Leadership and Psychological Safety in Teams

The problems in far too many organizations today are legion: Unproductive, boring meetings Astonishing amounts of wasted time Avoidance of sensitive issues Lack of full engagement Reluctance to provide candid, constructive feedback Political games and hidden agendas Sound familiar? The effects are far-reaching, from low quality work to employee turnover. According to a Corporate Executive Board … Read more

The Power of Empathy in Leadership

These days, we ask much of our leaders. Organizations and governments are under great pressures to perform. These days, leaders are responsible for crisis management during a pandemic with its attendant economic destruction and social and emotional anxiety. More and more we are realizing that empathy is a powerful aspect of leading well. Empathy is … Read more

The Importance of Integrity in Leadership

Leadership involves so many difficult challenges and exceptional behaviors and mindsets. These days, we ask much of our leaders. When I ask workers to quickly name the qualities that arise in their minds when they hear the word “leader,” I am instantly assaulted by a barrage of words: vision, charisma, confidence, clarity, responsibility, results, judgment, emotional … Read more

The Importance of Trust in Leadership

There are many ways to think about leadership. For some, as we have seen, it is about control or power. For others, it is about achievement or recognition. For others, thankfully, it is about people and service, along with higher purpose and positive impact. Since leadership by definition involves a relationship between leaders and followers—and, more … Read more

The Root Cause of Ethical Failings (and Our Political Dysfunction)

Scandals. Fraud. Abuse of power. Greed. Corruption. Tax evasion. Coverups. Once rare occurrences, coming back to haunt us every decade or so, these are now front and center in our daily lives and our daily news cycle. We see them in government, in business, and even in nonprofits and some religious organizations. It seems as … Read more

The Most Important Questions for Leaders

Leading others well can be a great challenge. It requires courage, judgment, wisdom, emotional intelligence, integrity, and much more. Leadership excellence comes with experience, but it begins with intentionality and commitment. Here are the most important (four) questions to help ground your leadership in a powerful foundation, whether you are a new leader learning the ropes … Read more

The Keys to Great Meetings

One of the mind-numbing miseries of organizational work is the time spent in meetings. Atlassian, an Australian enterprise software company, provides the following estimates from various sources: Most employees attend 62 meetings/month (staggering) and half the meetings are considered time wasted Regarding the average meeting attendee: 91% have daydreamed during meetings 39% have slept during … Read more

CHRO–Become Your Organization’s Chief Culture Officer

Today’s Human Resources (HR) leader has a wonderful opportunity to make an important strategic contribution: Become your organization’s Chief Culture Officer. If your CEO already acts as the Chief Culture Officer, great. Then you can be his or her Chief Culture Execution Officer. But most CHROs aren’t that fortunate, and you may need some ammunition … Read more

Leading without Authority

Leadership is a complicated subject. Most everyone recognizes good leadership, but there are many varying definitions of leadership, as well as many different versions of what constitutes good leadership. Unfortunately, most examples of good leadership also cite people who are in positions of authority. Such authority gives people hierarchical power to enforce their views, or … Read more

How to Change Your Organizational Culture

Most leaders understand that organizational culture is important. But many struggle with how to change and improve their culture. For too many leaders, culture is too ethereal, too hard to measure, too intangible. So, they muddle along with speeches, slogans, or projects, but their organizational culture refuses to budge. That’s unfortunate because your ideal culture … Read more