Tuesday, September 30, 2008


"We can talk about the past and the problems you face today, but at some point you have to stop being a victim and start being an advocate for your education".

This is what my wife, a high school teacher, told one of her students. Don’t be a victim. Do something about it.

In the final analysis, it is clear to me that whatever we have or don’t have in life is somehow our doing. Both good and bad. I don’t mean that if you were abused as a child it's your "fault". It's not about what happened to you. Most of the time there is no rhyme nor reason to anything that happens to us. What I'm talking about is how we "handle" the lemons that we're given in life. In other words, will you be a victim or step up and own your life and career?

This type of thinking leads us to Leadership… I believe that there is a leadership maturity model. Leadership is usually seen in the context of leading others. And although that is indeed what leaders do, it all has to start with self.

At the genesis of leadership is a state of unmistakable comfort in who you are and what you stand for. There is clarity and direction. You are comfortable with yourself. You aren't still trying to "become"… you already "are". I call this Self-Realization.

You now have to act and behave in such a way that is consistent with who you are. There is no "act." In other words, you have integrity with your own principles. You are your word. Between your words and actions, there is no gap. I call this Self-Actualization.

At this stage, others begin to see something in you. There is a pull towards your persona. They are interested in how you do it and why you do it. Some just want to be a part of your goals and plans. So you reciprocate by making them part of the plan. They get tasks and assignments that are clearly aligned with the vision and goals you have laid out. This is where volunteers find themselves. This is also where those that don’t agree, leave. In "Good to Great" (See must read list of books), this is where we're getting the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus. This phase I call, The Buy-In.

When you entrust core tasks of your vision to others, you realize that the concept of "delegation" is more powerful than expected. Delegation is usually discussed in the context of how to manage your time effectively. Others will tell you that a good manager delegates. Why? For me there's one simple reason: you empower others. It shows your trust in them. They in turn take that trust and want to execute successfully. The concept of "control" no longer exists.

This dynamic starts causing people to work smarter and in harmony with each other. It is not about their own agenda's or goals. The team's agenda is their own. One and the same. This is the phase that I call Organizational Greatness.

In 1999, when I was with Hitachi, I ran the operations in our outsource facility. I had overall logistics responsibility. So end of month was always crazy. We had to manufacture everything that was booked and make sure they left our dock before midnight of the fiscal close of month. I was the man. Calling trucks, fighting with carriers, making sure that we had all the materials on our dock moments before we had to build and ship. I would run up and down the warehouse finding the parts that were hard to find. It was crazy. I would get ulcers, migraine headaches, the whole 9 yards. But I was the hero. I was the guy who made it happen. I got the accolades, I, I, I…. One month later, I decided to give it away and let others do the work. I looked over and encouraged. We still made the month end numbers. There was a couple of times that it was touch and go, but I resisted. We made it. We pulled it off. I stood back and looked at the forklift drivers and the operators. They were giving each other high fives. They were excited. They were part of the win. We, we, we. Everyday I learn better ways to help my team succeed. I make more mistakes than I care to count, but the point is that I am vigilant about making a difference in others. I am driven by it.

What is a Leader? At the core of it all, a Leader creates a culture of greatness. Where a vivid picture of the future is engrained in the language and the actions of the masses. Where ordinary people generate extraordinary results. Where the strength of the organization is in the multiplicative effect of the many not the one. When the leader is not the reason for greatness, but is personally transformed by the greatness of the organization.

I started this post bytalking about being an advocate for yourself. Start with yourself. Good news is that you don’t need anything other than a thought in your mind that says "Make it happen." The bad news is that… yes, it is up to you. It always has been. Don’t give away your power to someone else. It's all in your hands. If you see something that should be different, do something about it. The transformation starts with how you "handle" the situation. Give it a shot… you won't regret it. In fact, this is the first step towards realizing phase 1 in becoming a great leader.

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