Leadership: Follow a Star

three-wise-men-starDo you know the Christmas story of three wise men from the east who followed a star to find the baby Jesus? The star they saw guided them to their destination. They were determined to get there because they had important gifts to present to Jesus. They wanted to make the journey. They followed a certain star, and delivered their gifts! Leaders also have very important gifts to deliver: gifts of good leadership to colleagues and followers who depend on that leadership to guide, support, and encourage them. The model of determination, commitment, and generosity that the wise men displayed is a motivating example for leaders to emulate year-round.

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Leadership Cornucopia

cornucopia-pictures-6aHarvest time and cornucopia of abundance: the farmer finally gathers the crop planted earlier in the year. The fruit of his or her labor goes to market; we benefit from the harvest, delighted with the selection and quality. Abundant crops invoke celebration and thankfulness. The culmination of the growing cycle reminds us that it was a process. It required good seed, time and effort! As Will Rogers said, “You got to do more than just live in the country to be a farmer.” Leadership is like farming. Leaders sow into the lives of others; over time and with cultivation, there is a harvest…a reaping of results based on what the leader sowed and how it was cultivated. What do leaders sow? How do they cultivate? What do they reap at harvest time?

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Leadership Focus: Foggles

fogglesLet’s take a lesson from aviators: learn to focus on what will save you and further your mission. Foggles resemble over-sized eyeglasses; they are “frosted” except for narrow, clear areas at the bottom of the lenses, designed to restrict the view to a small area. Worn by students learning to fly aircraft by instruments only, they force the wearer to rely on the only thing visible—the instrument panel! It’s the discipline of relying on information the pilot receives from objective instruments of measurement—not feelings, physical sensation, or optical illusion. Pilots with Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) training can fly through clouds, inclement weather, and darkness. This skill can save lives. Fatal accidents have occurred when non-IFR pilots have become disoriented, relying on their physical feelings of orientation—thinking they were ascending—when in reality they were descending to a tragic crash. Foggles are a tool used to develop the discipline of acting in productive response to reality, especially when it seems counterintuitive—to make course corrections that keep you on course and safe. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were Foggles for developing this kind of discipline in leadership focus—to keep your company or organization on the right trajectory for success? There are…

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Strategic Foresight: Future of a Turkey

turkey1Your Thanksgiving Day turkey takes a journey to get to your table! Many people along the way have already planned and implemented with the future in mind to make the turkey available for purchase—and then—cooks at home use strategic foresight for the advance organizing of the festive turkey meal! Consider the four day weekend associated with Thanksgiving: travel to and from a destination, the special meal, the football games, the activities on the day after Thanksgiving, and the weekend that follows. Many households plan the Thanksgiving meal weeks ahead. Agendas for visiting family and friends are carefully arranged, sometimes down to the hour. Shopping and activities entail schedules. To top it off, travel for the Sunday after Thanksgiving is declared heaviest of the year by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, with 13.7 million long-distance trips.

In the midst of most Thanksgiving plans one will find a special bird—the turkey. If one applies strategic foresight and end-visioning to the preparation of the Thanksgiving turkey, it’s sure to be a success. Furthermore, one can use this process of planning for any other aspect of the Thanksgiving festivities. Take advantage of this enthusiastic holiday planning approach to catalyze your everyday work, life and leadership, too! Here’s how…

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Flying Monkeys: Intimidating Leadership

flying monkeysThe classic movie The Wizard of Oz brings to life the famous Flying Monkeys of the Wicked Witch of the West. These strange beasts do the bidding of the evil witch as they are sent out to capture victims and bring them back to the witch’s dungeon. Many a child’s nightmare has resulted from the scary scene in the movie where the flying monkeys snatch up innocent, terrified Dorothy and whisk her away. It’s a scene that evokes despair and fear. How can Dorothy escape the clutches of this evil?

I recently saw a bumper sticker that read, “Don’t make me call out my Flying Monkeys!” At first it seemed funny, as images of the movie scene flashed through my mind and I thought of the extreme nature of the monkeys’ mission. However, upon reflection, I realized the saying could very well communicate this message: Don’t cross me, or you’ll be sorry. Although humorous at first, unfortunately the meaning is all too true for some. Have you known a  leader who is harsh, unreasonable, and can make life miserable for followers?

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Priorities at Work: Yours Aren’t Mine!

prioritiesWhy do you approach your work a certain way? Why do co-workers approach work in ways that seem counter-productive to you? Our approach to work is guided by our personal priorities. Each person has priorities that rise to the forefront in thinking and behavior.

We find it easier to work with co-workers who share our priorities. After all, “they get it!” We may find it challenging and sometimes unpleasant to work with colleagues whose priorities differ from our own: “They just don’t get it!” If we had a way to better communicate our priorities to others and to better respond to the priorities of our co-workers, it would make our workplaces better! Communication would flow more freely and helpfully, productivity would increase, and people would be more fulfilled in their work. All of this would most certainly lead to a better financial bottom line. So let’s take a look at how to communicate better so that our workplaces and work outcomes are improved.

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Best Leadership: Three Non-negotiable Values

the number 3 goldChoose the “best” response you can when you’re under pressure. Intentionally respond with the “best” in character. It pays off. Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible…” What do you believe about the importance of integrity and behaviors that flow from it? How do you know what best leadership is? There are three characters of response that always fall in the “best” category. Choose these three values when responding to any situation, and you’re on track for a better result.

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All That Work You Do

Piles of PaperworkDo you live for 5 p.m. when “work” is over and “life” resumes? Think again. Life happens at work, and more so than ever. Americans spend more time—living and breathing at work—than any other people on our planet. According to International Labor Organization research, “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.” Financial advisor G.E. Miller reveals: “The U.S. is the most overworked developed nation in the world.” Facing the overwork reality, can we make business, or work, worth living? Our work investment of hours upon hours ought to be valuable and rewarding. But how?

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Leaders Must Die

Fall-LeavesVivid autumn colors will soon burst forth across the Midwestern United States. Are you amazed by the shades of changing leaves, fall sunsets, and the harvest moon? But there’s more: it’s the season when nature dies around us. We see the grass turn brown; trees lose their leaves, and flowers dry up. It’s a transition to a barren time, a season when living things are dormant until spring brings life giving warmth and rain. Without the autumn death and the winter barrenness, the spring would not be filled with new life. Always welcomed as a time of new beginnings, fresh starts, and life; spring could not exist without the true beauty of autumn. This is nature’s illustration of the fundamental principle of death and dormancy in order to bring newness and life; it’s paramount for leaders. So then, leaders must die before they lead well? In a way, yes.

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Leaders: Rest!

tired manOh, the driving zeal of many leaders! Little rest seems normal—but what are the consequences when the leader’s passionate pursuit precludes appropriate rest? How can rest seem important when the need is pressing? Maybe this is the day you’re supposed to be honest with yourself about rest. After all, you’re reading this!

In our fast paced world where one may expect immediate and plentiful results, it is tempting to participate in this frenzy in the name of leadership. Energy runs high, motivation is strong, and a desire to succeed may dominate the leadership persona. Fatigue, exhaustion, and burnout may be “badges of honor” for those who abandon themselves to work. But does this type of obsession, without rest and care for one’s personal being, call for rewarding—or rebuking? Author Esther Schubert notes that leaders who give of themselves without appropriate rest say they “…sometimes feel like Garrison Keillor’s Catholic church in rural Minnesota—Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility.”

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