Why the Best Leaders Embrace the Worst Ideas
Award-winning entrepreneur and creativity expert Josh Linkner wrote a recent piece for Forbes.com on why it’s important to welcome ideas from anyone–at all levels–in your company:
Modern leadership technique models all point to an “open door” style. With this practice, employees have the ability to approach their leader with questions at any time. This philosophy of openness makes perfect sense, but it doesn’t go far enough. The door should be open not only for questions, but also for ideas – even if that means an influx of terrible ones.
Whether it’s in a pop-in, impromptu chat or in a team brainstorming session or a formal board meeting, you (as a leader) should encourage people to bring forward their ideas – and then, you should embrace what they suggest… even if it’s awful.
Bringing Clarity To Your Corporate Vision
The Globe and Mail’s Harvey Schacter interviews business management, marketing, and service expert Donald Cooper for his thoughts on the importance of a clear corporate vision:
When Toronto-based consultant Donald Cooper runs a corporate workshop, he displays the company’s mission statement, vision statement, statement of values and statement of purpose – but he hides the label for each chunk of text. Then he asks the employees to identify which statement is which. Rarely do they get it right.
It’s an example of the big failing in the businesses that he tries to fix – a lack of clarity. “Businesses have no clarity about what they want to do and how to get there and how to behave along the way. Our first job is clarity,” Mr. Cooper said in an interview.
For the past seven years, he has worked to develop simple, practical, logical approaches – one-page templates, meant to be presented in clear language – that can help companies gain that clarity.
The Age of Leading Yourself First
“To thine own self be true,” said Polonius in the play Hamlet, by Shakespeare. It is highly likely that Shakespeare had not intended for his character to be the spokesperson for humanity on the subject of living one’s truth (indeed, he was portrayed frequently as a foolish old “goat”.)
Nonetheless, his ramblings remain legendary; renowned through the ages for their wisdom. This quote epitomizes the essence of leading oneself first: i.e. practicing personal leadership. To lead ourselves first means that we can differentiate our values without holding any attachment to another person’s idea of whom we are supposed to be. When we are true to ourselves, we know ourselves and we understand our place in the grand scheme of things. We have discovered our unique purpose and we regularly tap into our intuition in order to make decisions of all kinds. We are successfully practicing “me” management in every situation or challenge.
When we think of “leadership skills”, we usually associate these with individuals who are in a management or supervisory role. Leadership rhetoric has its roots in a variety of management theories espoused over the ages. What is missing, however, is the idea of taking charge of oneself. It has been commonplace to think of a leader in terms of “position”, generally associated with being in charge of others. However, a title on a business card or a placard on a desk or door does not automatically make someone a leader. It may give the impression of self-importance and achievement, however, the title alone is not enough. Neither is a job description that notes functions associated with managing people. The importance of practicing personal leadership is everyone’s personal responsibility. Attaching importance to what we do for a living is often recognized as a yardstick for measuring success. However, the manner in which we conduct ourselves has far greater significance and impact in the long-term. Therefore, the meaning of leadership denotes character, above all else. It has nothing to do with a job title.
Is America Still the Greatest Country in the World?
“There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, number 4 in labor force, and number 4 in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies.”
– News anchor Will MacAvoy, a character in “The Newsroom”, HBO
There are actually two questions implied in the title of this blog. First, is America still the greatest country in the world? And then, if it is, can it remain so – or even, how long can it remain so?
That America was the greatest country in the world following World War II, and through the second half of the 20th Century is beyond dispute. In economic power, military might, cultural influence, and just about every other way, America bestrode the world like a colossus, with only the Soviet Union and its empire providing anything like serious competition.
But just as the sun finally set on the British Empire, is America’s day over?
Leadership & Friendship Go Hand In Hand
One of the questions that I’m asked most often is: should leaders be friends with the people they lead? Or should they maintain a distance that prevents sentiment getting in the way of judgment?
Here’s my unequivocal response: friendship and leadership are inseparable. A friend is someone who cares deeply about others, and so is a leader. A friend is someone who puts others’ well-being ahead of his or her own and so is a leader. A friend is someone who others depend on and so is a leader. A friend makes it fun to be around him or her and so does a leader. A friend is someone who others choose to spend time with and so is a leader.