Ten Vital Leadership Questions

Ask yourself the following ten questions (one per PLI Essential) to check your leadership pulse:

  • Vision - What am I doing today to be where I need to be in 5 years? 
  • Integrity - How am I helping my team trust me?
  • Innovativeness - What are the challenges I am facing today that require more "solution thinking"? 
  • Wise Judgment - Who do I consult with before making major decisions? 
  • Service Mindedness - Do I model volunteerism in my life? 
  • Goal Processing - Do I have challenging goals that stretch and grow my abilities? 
  • Skill Assessment - What is my core strength and have I put myself in the position to do that everyday?
  • Emotional Maturity - Do I handle struggles and failures with grace and a growth attitude?
  • Fostering Relationships - Am I working daily to improve the health of my most important relationship? 
  • Masterful Communication - Do I listen to others with focus?

Print this list and write your answers in a journal.  Work to identify goal areas where you need to adjust behavior to improve your leadership effectiveness.  Good luck.


Fostering Relationships: What Clicks Reveal About Human Nature

Clicks (using this spelling instead of cliques) aren't bad. Using clicks as leverage for negative peer pressure is. Clicks exist in schools and businesses for some very basic reasons and leaders within these groups should learn how to leverage them for good.

Why do clicks exist?

1. We are pack-minded people. We desire to be around people who think like us, dress like us and believe in the same things we do.

2. We like to know the rules and have those we hang out with know (and follow) them also. It gives a sense of grounded-ness.

3. We defend what is ours. Clicks define who we are. They hold truths about the individuals within them. If we will fight and defend anything it is our beliefs and our identity.

4. We fear the unknown. This is the source of many "click-battles". If I'm operating from a known set of behaviors, attitudes and beliefs, when I come across someone who doesn't operate from the same set of rules, there is a sense of mystery about what that person or group will do or say. This is retaliated against often in hostile, negative and even violent ways.

Leaders operating within a click need to understand these basics of human nature and discover ways to work effectively within them. Following are a few ideas on how to do that.

1. Operate from a home base of understanding and curiosity. Learn what makes them click (pun intended) and be ok with it.

2. Educate your click on how to overcome fear-based and negative tendencies. You can rarely help people lose these as an initial reaction to opposing or different clicks, but you can help your crew understand the value of not taking negative action on these tendencies.

3. Stick to your values and beliefs, but work to not belittle the values and beliefs of others. Different does not always equal wrong.

4. Work to educate other clicks on the positive reasons why your click exists and why you hold true to your ways. However, don't expect them to agree with you or change their ways. There is much truth to the approach of "agreeing to disagree".


Wise Judgement: You Can Only Choose One

1. Your house is on fire.
2. You have a spouse (in their 20s like you) and three children. John is five and in perfect health. Susan is one and in perfect health. JoAnn is three and has a rare blood disease that prevents her from walking.
3. You can only save yourself and one person.
4. Who do you save?

This extreme dilemma is tragic, no matter the outcome. It also serves to highlight five decision-making elements high-level leaders must understand how to deal with.

1. The facts can't be changed.
Reality is the home field of leaders great at making critical decisions. Things are complicated enough: creating a reality-distortion field isn't prudent. This requires facing the hard truths head-on, being disciplined to gather facts from all necessary input streams and not using assumptions or (even experienced) opinions to fill in too many gaps.

2. Every decision has a downside.
Decisions create tension and silos. High-level leaders are naturally equipped, trained and/or emotionally prepared to deal with both the upsides and the downsides of decisions. Be ready to handle them by expecting the downsides, preparing accordingly and not letting fear sway the decisions that must be made.

3. Some people will benefit from your decision and some won't.
Trying to keep everyone happy will not fully satisfy anyone. Many times tough decisions involve picking sides. Success in this area requires being diplomatic with both. Don't get too cozy with the winning side and talk openly and directly with the other side. You can't expect to have the losing side to like you right then, but you should strive to demonstrate your logic and reasons to earn (or rebuild) respect, trust and credibility.

4. Your beliefs/values will guide you.
One of the most important benefits of being clear, resolute and convicted of your beliefs and values is they provide a firm guide for critical decisions. Of course, the secret is to be disciplined to follow your beliefs and values, but you must have them first. Set beliefs and values that you firmly believe in and that can serve as an inspiration for those around you. High-level leaders don't have the luxury of following mediocre beliefs and values.

5. As the leader, you carry the burden of making the decisions.
True leadership is not easy.  It is demanding, challenging and weighs heavy.  Accept this burden and take it for those who can not.  Never use the high-pressure as an excuse for poor decisions and never hold others ransom with it. Carry it freely as the price you pay for stepping up and arming yourself with the traits, skills and expertise necessary to make the tough decisions for those around you.

(What decision would you make in the situation above and why?  Comment below.)


Integrity: The Lance Armstrong Lesson

It is very simple. He doped. He lied. He personally hurt people to protect his lies. He finally told the truth.

Lance Armstrong has now joined the ranks of Pete Rose, OJ Simpson, Tiger Woods, Roger Clemens and many other sport celebrities whose personal failures (yes, choosing to use performance enhancing drugs is a personal decision) out-weigh their sporting achievements.

Lance Armstrong is someone who should not, today or ever, be held up as a model for anything other than a perfect case study of how far someone will go to protect their reputation and win at virtually any cost.

What about his foundation, Livestrong, improving the lives of millions of cancer survivors and family members? Does this (as has been stated by many people in the sporting world) hold up his moral character to a certain degree?  In my opinion, no. He is not making a personal decision every day to improve people's lives. His foundation does. It is their mission and the people working for the foundation care deeply about it.  He invested years making personal decisions to dope, lie about it, hurt others to protect his lie and stand behind that lie for as long as he could.

The Lesson

The lesson here is simple, as well. Leaders must protect people's trust above all else. Without it, nothing else really works.

Lance Armstrong is, and forever will be, a leader.  He has and will continue to influence millions of people through his cycling fame, cancer struggles and foundation work. However, he chose to make personal decisions that undermined his credibility, integrity, moral standing, and trust with everyone he will associate with for the rest of his life. 

Was he in a high-pressure, high-stakes world in elite cycling? Yes.
Did he think doping was justified because it was common place in competitive cycling? Yes.
Was his stature in the cycling world and the humanitarian world going to crumble if he told the truth? Yes.
Will his position, influence, power and abilities as a leader ever have strength and merit again? Sadly, no.