Sunday, December 7, 2008

Good vs. Courageous?/Live It!

Fear holds us back!
It's the river, according to Gus Lee, that the good person refuses to cross. And that's unfortunate, because on the opposite bank lies the land of the courageous.

Again, understanding the premise of why good isn't all a leader needs is found in Lee's definition of "courageous."

In his book, "Courage," Gus defines a courageous leader as the person who boldly stands for principles and for all others. He supports values, and doing so he does not play favorites.

The most important core values of the courageous leader, then, are these:
  • Integrity--This leader discerns right from wrong, acts for the right despite the risks, and teaches others from that act.

  • Courage--First, this leader stops wrong in himself. Then, he challenges wrongs in others and always follows through.

  • Character--This leader sustains integrity and courage, always in an effort to maximize integrity.

Here's the rub: adhering to these core values requires a leader to confront. It's not enough to recognize when someone isn't measuring up. You must confront the behavior that is wrong--in every case.

I don't care who you are, that is scary. I'm trying to discern why that's so in my case. After all, if the behavior is wrong, why would confronting that behavior be difficult?

You would have to be confident, and by that I don't mean arrogant. For me, this confidence should come from an uncompromising belief in the values you live and espouse, plus an absolute conviction that confronting people who deviate from these values is protecting your team as well as improving the people you confront.

You would have to overcome the lack of confidence that comes from uncertainty, over-sensitivity to others, and your own complacency towards the values that will make your team successful.

I wonder if any of this is close to Lee's advice in the rest of his book? I'd better finish it and find out.

Thanks for working through this with me. I want to be that courageous leader.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Good vs. Courageous?/Go Deep

When is good not good enough?
In Gus Lee's book, "Courage--the backbone of leadership," just being good doesn't cut it in executive positions. You need to be courageous, he says.

If you're confused, welcome to my world. But it helps to know how Gus defines good. A "good person" avoids personal wrongs, but doesn't take unpleasant stands for principles (which makes him prone to standing, at times, for favorites rather than values).

A good person is good, adhering to the principles of honesty, honor and ethics. But, a leader should be more.

Gus uses the analogy of how a boxing coach confronted him and others to make them the best they could be. He did not hesitate to translate his values to his young students, peppering them as much about ethics as about how to defend against a right jab. Also, he was diligent about confronting every breach of ethics that he witnessed.

The coach wanted only the best for those he mentored. And that included not allowing them to get away with disrespecting themselves by breaking those values.

That, according to Gus, is a true leader. Never satisfied to see people fall short of the best, he communicates the standards and then holds those within his care to account for living up to those standards. That, Gus says, is what it means to be courageous.

The impression I get is that Gus believes a good person is all right. It's just that, if you're just good, you should not aspire to be a leader.

There's the challenge. Can I be courageous? How can I be a courageous leader? Early in his book, Gus gives some clues.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Good vs. Courageous?/Think About It

I'm reading a challenging book.
It's titled, "Courage--the backbone of leadership," written by Gus Lee, a business consultant.

According to Lee, no one wants to consider himself a coward. Yet, few, he says, fall into the category of courageous. Instead, they fall into a lesser category, "good." I'll get into more of the difference between the two later.

For now, I want you to struggle with me. I've always thought of myself as a courageous person, and a leader. But, I've also known that I am conflict-adverse. Apparently, most people are. Perhaps, even you?

The question is whether you can be a "courageous leader" unless you conquer that fear of conflict and confront the negatives that you see in the workplace. Honestly, that's not where I live. I tend to take care of myself, watching my P's and Q's and making sure I measure up. That other person? Well, he's responsible for himself.

So isn't example an adequate approach to leadership? Apparently, it takes both in Lee's estimation. It's obvious that you can't confront other's negatives effectively unless you are first living up to the values you espouse. But, just living up to those values isn't enough. You must confront those who are failing to live up to the values that will bring success to the operation.

I'm just beginning this book, so I'm trusting that Lee will provide more of the tools that help you know when to confront and how. But, for now, it's significant enough that I'm struggling with Lee's proposition. I may have to settle that personal issue before any practical steps will be of help.

How about you?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Together/Live It!

Be thankful for the friends you have.
They provide more than you think and a whole lot of what we need in life.

Again, a collection of "Quotable Quotes" from a Reader's Digest delivered some great reminders of the benefits of friendship:
  • Acceptance. "Getting people to like you is only the other side of liking them."--Norman Vincent Peale. This fits very neatly with the principle of being a friend to make friends. Friendship brings with it acceptance, a nutrient we all crave.
  • Encouragement. "Friendships multiply joys and divide griefs."--H. G. Bohn. In good times and bad, friends provide encouragement that feeds our soul.
  • Support. "Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer."--Ed Cunningham. That is rare. Are you one of those who listen when others need to share?
  • Effectiveness. "No matter what accomplishments you achieve, somebody helps you."--Althea Gibson. The longer I live, the more evidence I see that this is true. Never forget the friends, the co-workers, that help you achieve.
  • Mentoring. "Men are men before they are lawyers, or physicians, or merchants, or manufacturers; and if you make them capable and sensible men, they will make themselves capable and sensible lawyers or physicians."--John Stuart Mill. We all need mentors; yet, there's a dearth of good coaches these days. Perhaps you can become one?

Friendship is such an essential--worth the thoughtfulness, intentionality, and effort to create and maintain. Try it. You'll like it!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Together/Go Deep

"Strangers are friends that you have yet to meet." --Robert Lieberman

I used to complain that I had few close friends, until I realized that the bulk of the problem lay with me. Friendship isn't something that just happens. It's something that you work at making happen.

It starts by realizing the wealth that comes from a close-knit group of friends who are investing in each others lives. Or, the poverty that exists in a vacuum without shared interests and experiences and support.

I found a compilation of "Quotable Quotes" from Reader's Digest that take it from there:

Friends develop from the pool of acquaintances you have around you. "One does not make friends. One recognizes them." --Garth Henrichs

Seeking friends is an unselfish process if done correctly. "The only way to have a friend is to be one." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

You put other's interests ahead of your own. You prove your worth as a friend first before expecting others to befriend you. "You can make more friends in a month by being interested in them than in ten years by trying to get them interested in you." --Charles L. Allen

Don't look for perfection in a friend. Look for (and model) loyalty. "A true friend is one who overlooks your failures and tolerates your successes." --Doug Larson

Don't expect true friendship to spring up overnight. It's a process that takes time. "True friendship is a plant of slow growth." --George Washington

Friendship is a life essential. The fact that so many have thought (and written) so much about it is proof that it is a cherished and necessary component of living. I've decided I need to work harder at building true friendships.

I've found other quotes that speak to the benefits of a "team of friends." More on that later this week.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Together/Think About It

I watched a rip-roarin' football game Saturday night.
It was the Oklahoma Sooners that were rippin' up the #2 Texas Tech Red Raiders. And it was the OU fan base that was roarin'.

A little one-sided, to say the least, as the #5 Sooners romped over the Raiders to the tune of a 45-point margin.

Headed into the locker room at halftime, behind 42-7, the Tech coach told a reporter, "We just never got the players settled down." That's shorthand for, "The team is not playing like a team."

Too hyped, too nervous, too charged or too whatever, the individual Tech players were unable to concentrate. They weren't executing individually and lost cohesion as a team. It wasn't apparent that Tech was a team until their final drive, when they put together 12 plays for 99 yards and a rare touchdown.

This was a team that was 10-0 coming into Norman, Oklahoma. They had regularly romped over their opponents, having only one close game this season (vs. Nebraska, won in overtime). Both the quarterback and the team were racking up all sorts of records, too many to summarize in this post.

The team's complete disintegration in the face of a strong OU performance was a big reminder to me of how important teamwork is. Individuals do not win games. Excellent individual performances come together in a pattern of success that achieves mutual goals--yards, first downs, touchdowns, the win.

Even the very best QB--a Heisman Trophy contender Graham Harrell--can't do it alone.

Then why is it we, as men, tend to go-it-alone? Many times in pride, sometimes out of convenience, and at times out of unfortunate necessity, we tackle some of life's hardest challenges as Lone Rangers. When we do, it often ends in disaster.

Think about your tendency to rely only on self. Think about what would be different with a close-knit troop of friends who could be true team players with you. Then we'll go deep on Wednesday.