Leadership Lessons ezine by Mark Sanborn
An Army of Lions
Remember Phillip of Macedonia, Alexander the Great’s dad? One of the pithier quotes he left us with is this: “An army of deer lead by a lion is more to be feared than an army of lions lead by a deer.”
His point, of course, is the importance of leadership. He believed that with the right leadership even the underdog could be victorious. And with poor leadership, the strongest and most capable were vulnerable.
I’ve reflected on Phillip’s observation and reached a different conclusion: An army of lions lead by a lion is to be feared most of all.
The best followers are leaders. Think about it. The old adage “too many cooks spoil the soup” was about cooks, not leaders. A true leader knows and appreciates good followers. When he or she is in a position to follow, they know what to do.
Posers, those who want the power of control without the responsibility of leadership, are a vexation. They make terrible followers. This is the type that jockeys for position and meddles rather than contributes.
Most organizations are scared to death of leaders who aren’t officially given the title. The fact is many of the most effective leaders-those who most influence the direction of your company-cannot be found in the org chart. They are rank and file employees who, through their power with others, the force of their personality and respect gained through competence, set the direction and make things happen.
Rather than fear, the secret is to mobilize them. The highest aspiration of any company is to have a team of lions. Make sure that the formal lead lion of such a group is capable, because he or she must have the respect of the other lions to be effective.
Why wouldn’t you want everyone in your employee qualified to lead? When a front-line technician interacts with a disgruntled key account, don’t you want them to take the lead? Leadership will regain the customer’s loyalty; acting like a follower waiting for instructions from outer space won’t impress.
When there is a problem with a vendor, don’t you want a purchasing manager who will lead-not manage-to a successful outcome? Or would you rather he or she act like a powerless clock puncher and let the vendor settle things their way?
The problem is that we don’t differentiate between perpetual and periodic leaders. Someone charged with leading a team, unit or organization is in charge 24/7. This is the nature of his or her work. It’s what I call perpetual leadership.
But the technician and purchasing manager lead periodically. Other than the necessary self-leadership they practice daily, much of their time will not be spent “leading.” But in the situations outlined above (and these situations are frequent and critical), they become periodic leaders. They need to understand the art and science of leadership to be truly effective in their roles.
So are you building teams of followers or teams of leaders? Are you content with a single lion and a zoo of lesser metaphorical animals, or are you aiming to equip everyone to be a lion? High performance organizations are populated by only leaders, but of two types: perpetual and periodic. Everyone knows that whether they lead sometimes or all the time, leadership is an ability they’ve developed and are willing to use in the service of your organization’s goals, objectives and vision.
Remember, an army of lions lead by a lion is to be most feared of all.
6 Ways to Capture Great Ideas
We are bombarded by ideas every day. Whether listening to the news,
attending a meeting or reading the paper, we are exposed to ideas
that could be captured and used to advantage.
If you don’t capture an idea, it goes out of your life as quickly as
it came in. Here are eight ways you can capture useful ideas.
1. Create your own study
Few things are more effective in improving your
learning capacity than an area devoted to study and learning. One of my
favorite rooms in our home is our study. It is lined with bookshelves jammed
with books read and yet-to-be read, many highlighted with notes in the
margins, audio and video cassette tapes, a large beautiful desk that I
designed and had built, an oversized reading chair, excellent lighting, and a
computer system. I have, over the years, put together my own personal R&D
lab, and it is in this room that I spend some of my most productive study
2. Highlight everything you read
I have frequently been asked by observers if I am a grad student because I can’t
read a book or magazine without a highligher. I never want to loose track of the
many good ideas embedded among so many pages and words. By highlighting the
books and articles I read, I can quickly review and learn the key ideas each
3. Don’t “take notes”, “make notes”
“I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written
on it.” William Faulkner
Note taking is copying key information. Note making is a commentary of
your own ideas about the information: your interpretation, implications and
how it can be applied. Good note-makers often use trigger words to summarize
and remind them of key concepts. They use plenty of white space. Crowded,
jumbled pages are uninviting for review and make it difficult to read. Many use a
form of shorthand. It makes note-making at speeches and seminars easier, and is
less-time consuming and taxing.
4. If you can’t write it down, record it
Some of my best ideas occur when I’m driving or exercising. That’s why I
invested in a digital recorder. This tiny recording devices make it easy to
capture ideas. By simply speaking into a recorder, you can create file
folders of ideas you can later transcribe or, in some cases, load directly
into your computer.
5. Keep a journal
Many of the most successful and creative people I know keep a journal.
While some may record the events of each day, the majority are jotting down
their insights, reflections and information. More powerful than just keeping
a journal, I’ve found, is periodically reviewing one’s journal to reinforce
the important things one has experienced and learned.
6. Make idea-hunting a weekly expedition
At the end of each week, search for the best idea you had in the past
seven days. Record that idea in your journal, or your “Idea of the Week” log.
By consistently recording those ideas, you will create a record of successful
lessons that will put you in an elite minority of learners. Most go an entire
lifetime without recording their best ideas. The best do it weekly.
Many go months without recording and sorting through their best ideas.
Effective learners do it regularly.
Don’t miss my new series, “Doing Leadership.” Part 1 of 6 parts is already up at www.marksanborn.com/blog
You’ll learn practical things you can do to lead or lead better.
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