February 16, 2008

An Industry Leader

Filed under: Leadership — Mark Sanborn @ 5:01 pm

My brother owns a brewpub in Pueblo, Colorado called Shamrock Brewing. He called me this morning with an interesting story about Boston Beer Company, the brewer of Sam Adams.

If you’re not really into beer, you probably don’t know that there has been a serious shortage of hops. Limited availability and rising prices have been difficult for all brewers, but especially smaller ones. In some instances smaller brewers stopped making beer.

Boston Beer decided it had some extra hops to make available to smaller brewers who really needed it, so founder Jim Koch offered up ten tons. And they’re selling the much needed hops at their cost, not the elevated prices hops are currently commanding.

You can read more at the Sam Adams website about this generous hops sharing program.

My brother is greatly impressed and so am I. There are many ways to define “industry leadership.” In my opinion, one of the best measures is being willing to help smaller players and contribute to the improvement of the industry as a whole. That makes Boston Beer an industry leader.

February 12, 2008

You Don’t Need a Title Leadership Training Available Now

Filed under: Non-titled Leaders, Leadership, Success, Leadership Lessons — Sanborn & Associates @ 6:40 pm

You Don't Need a Title Leadership TrainingWe’re excited to offer anybody who leads, or who desires to lead, regardless of title a new DVD training curriculum based on Mark’s best selling, You Don’t Need a Title To Be a Leader: How Anyone, Anywhere Can Make a Positive Difference.

Mark’s impactful new leadership training program begins with the story behind the title of a woman who sought to make a difference, not gain a title and consequently had enormous impact on her company, colleagues (and everybody who’s bought the book!). This concise curriculum will teach you and your teams that anyone can be a leader on the job and in life by embracing the qualities that genuine leaders share:

  • Thinking about what you want to accomplish before beginning a project
  • Caring about and listening to others
  • Focusing on the success of those around you rather than on individual achievements
  • Looking for ways to encourage the contributions of everyone around you
  • Drawing on the power of shared values

You Don’t Need a Title Leadership training takes you beyond simple authority and shows you how to achieve true power with people (leadership) as opposed to merely having power over people (title). The idea of an Army of Lions led by a Lion is a central theme of Mark’s speaking and writing. Imagine that kind of power and purpose in your organization!

The You Don’t Need a Title To Be a Leader DVD Training Curriculum is now available through Mark Sanborn’s Store at Mark’s main web site. By the way, in addition to many fine products for sale at that site, Mark also has a number of downloadable free leadership resources and a wealth of other articles, archived ezines and just great content in general that will help aspiring and experienced leaders alike, lead better.

By the way, if you want to know what kind of impact You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader can have on training up your leaders, read this case study from the VP of Human Development for a $200 million medical equipment and services company.

January 31, 2008

Former Starbucks President Podcast

Filed under: Leadership — Mark Sanborn @ 3:31 pm

My friend Jim Canterucci has a Februrary podcast that you will find of interest. It features the former president of Starbucks, Howard Behar. Howard has a people-centered leadership style. Check out the podcast here.

January 27, 2008

Rush to Judgement

Filed under: Leadership, Professional Development — Mark Sanborn @ 6:20 pm

The pendulum continues swinging. Rarely does it stop in the middle, at the point Aristotle would have called the golden mean.

Many practices err to one side or the other. In the early 80’s Tom Peters and Bob Waterman suggested managers and leaders practice “ready, fire, aim.” Their advice was a backlash against snail-pace decision making and indecision paralyzed organizations.

The new badge of honor was decisiveness: decide fast and move quickly.

Of course that approach misses the golden mean.

I’ve come to believe that one of the greatest dangers of leaders in a complex environment is premature conclusion. Some decisions are best made after slow and sometimes even painstaking consideration. Other decisions need to be made and made quickly. The art is in discerning what kind of decision you need to make.

Operational decisions are often those that can be made quickly. Decisions involving strategy, significant potential gain or loss, and important relationships need to be made more deliberately. The greatest error you can make is deciding before you have the necessary information. While intuition is important–and I believe it does play a role in good decision-making–it should never replace due diligence. Personally, I’ve used the excuse of acting on intuition to replace the harder work of good decision making. The results haven’t always been pretty.

In a time-compressed world, we resist digging and sorting through the information necessary to make an informed and wise decision. Sometimes we use the mantra of ready, fire, aim and rush to judgment. When the stakes are high, reaching a premature conclusion can be costly.

January 15, 2008

Time for a Change?

Filed under: Leadership, Politics — Mark Sanborn @ 9:59 am

Current polls and the writing of pundits are all about America wanting a change in Washington. Of course each and every presidential candidate believes he or she is the right person for the job. (Wouldn’t it be a kick to hear a candidate honest enough to say “I can’t promise any major changes. I only know how to operate in government as it presently is, not as it could be.” That kind of candor would be refreshing but politically fatal.)
Whenever people get frustrated with the status quo, change becomes desirable. Remember that most of the time we resist change. It takes a large dose of disgruntlement to make people demand change.

All progress is change, but not all change is progress. We tend to focus only on the first half of that statement. I’m all for positive change; the rub is in deciding what is positive.

Real and pseudo leaders alike love a climate demanding change because they can offer hypothetical solutions not tested by time. It is easy to promise grandiose change but infinitely harder to deliver on the promise.

Delivering on change is what separates the true leaders from the posers.

January 8, 2008

A Slip of the Tongue

Filed under: Influence, Leadership, Speaking and Communication — Mark Sanborn @ 9:45 am

Fred Thompson was being interviewed this morning and was asked what he would do to get the economy back on track. His response was telling: “They need to…”

The question wasn’t what “they” needed to do; the question was what about what Fred would do. He dodged answering.

Was it a slip of the tongue? Maybe. But little slips can derail leaders. (And maybe it is just me, but why doesn’t it seem like Fred is really running for president? I can’t recall a more half-hearted attempt at something so significant.)

When a leader is asked what he or she will do, they should answer specifically. If there’s nothing they can or are willing or want to do, they should say so. Just never begin with a statement that looks like you’re placing blame or passing the buck.

Here’s a critical and overlooked step: a  leader can use what he or she would do to build a bridge. Acknowledge that big results require the cooperation of others. One thing any leader could choose to do is solicit the input and cooperation of others. Or the leader could explain their agenda and link it to coalition building and the importance of earning support.

Fred missed both the obvious point and the nuance. Leaders don’t just take responsibility for what they did; they also take responsibility for explaining what they plan to do. That’s what followers and votes want to know.

January 5, 2008

Leadership and Politics

Filed under: Observations, Leadership, Politics — Mark Sanborn @ 5:00 pm

The two are not the same. There is a political dimension to leadership (wherever you have two or more people, there will always be some level of politics involved in the interactions). Not all politicians are great leaders. To think the two are the same is truly naive.

I read Peggy Noonan every Saturday in the Wall Street Journal and it is rare that I don’t pick up a nugget or two of wisdom. In today’s paper she questions whether Mike Huckabee is truly leading a revolution or simply riding a wave. The growing concern among American, she conjectures, is not the war or economy so much as it is our culture. Mike Huckabee for many stands for a return to the values that made America great. That doesn’t necessarily demonstrate leadership unless you include the definition “find out which way the crowd is going and get in the front of the line.”

She also points out that it isn’t easy for politicians–even good ones–to impact the culture of the country much. Sure, they can influence the economy and policy, but culture is a bigger conglomerate than either. Whether or not you agree with her, she warns not to get too excited about electing a president who is going to dramatically change the culture.

Just as Guiliani has gotten dinged for talking too much about 9/11, I’m tired of every so-called conservative talking about Ronald Regan, and I admired and respected Reagan very much. The problem is that despite his good ideas (and I believe he was a politican who knew who to lead), he’s gone. We live in a different country and a different time. Although we can learn much from his legacy, it is foolish to attempt to replicate it; it is hard to step into the future with one foot firmly planted in the past. As I blogged about several months ago (and this is Noonan’s phrase much as I wish it were mine), we need “a new kind of greatness.” We don’t need Ronald Reagan wannabes.

Obama beat Clinton in Iowa for basically the same reason Huckabee beat Romney: both winners seemed more human and more likable. Yes, that is a generalization, but I’ll stand by it and many pundits and commentators smarter than me believe the same thing. We don’t just want leaders and politicians we respect, we want leaders and politicians that are nice, decent people. (That isn’t too suggest Mitt and Hillary aren’t nice decent folks; the caucus in Iowa seemed to think their opponents nicer and more decent. Romney comes across as a bit too analytical and Clinton as having an air of entitlement.)

So what about Edwards? Isn’t he nice and likable? Well yeah, if you buy his story that he is just like you and even though he’s a really rich guy that made his millions as a lawyer and didn’t get re-elected by the voters of his own state. His platform is the most disingenuous I’ve seen. It is one thing to say “I once was like you and then made it big but I remember my roots.” Edwards doesn’t say that. He distances himself from the kind of people he is: affluent, successful voters. He has no qualms about throwing the rich under the bus to get the vote of the common man. Deja moo: same old bull as last time he ran.

After twenty years in leadership development, I know there are many excellent leaders who have no desire to go into politics. It is a different skill set, and the price is high.

I also know politicians who have demonstrated their leadership ability. But, it seems, it is increasingly rare that politics and leadership go hand-in-hand.

We can hope for presidential candidates from both parties that truly know how to lead, but it remains to be seen.

January 2, 2008

Which Candidates Are Up to this Challenge?

Filed under: Uncategorized, Observations, Leadership — Mark Sanborn @ 10:20 am

Lyman Bryson said “…the purpose of a democratic society is to make great persons…”

I was reminded of this while reviewing Renewal, a book by John Gardner (Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in the 60’s) I had read some years ago.

I’m not sure our current leaders are even aware of this concept much less actively working to achieve it. And I haven’t seen a stand-out candidate from either party that appears to be addressing this challenge.

December 18, 2007

The Worst Kind of Bureaucracy

Filed under: Observations, Leadership — Mark Sanborn @ 11:59 am

We have good reason to make rules.

We follow the rules.

The reasons for the rules change.

We keep following the rules.

A 10 year old girl was expelled and hauled off in handcuffs for bringing a steak knife to school to cut her food. She did not threaten anyone or behave inappropriately, but she violated the school’s “zero tolerance” rule about knives.

So what did the administration do? They abdicated the responsibility to think and enforced the rules blindly. In doing so they most likely traumatized who appears to be an innocent child. (Her and/or her parent’s lapse of judgment could have been dealt with much more rationally. She is now accused of a felony.)
The timid and irresponsible hide behind rules. Rather than make the case that in an imperfect world there will sometimes be legitimate exceptions to the rules, they succumb.

I don’t know the administrators (the responsible parties aren’t leaders) at that school. They might otherwise be sane, decent people. But I am completely dismayed by their lack of common sense.

They have exemplified the worst kind of bureaucracy.

December 17, 2007

Leadership at Thomas Jefferson High School

Filed under: Leadership, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 2:20 pm

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology was recently named by USN&WR as the top high school in the U.S. Admission standards are high and only one of six who apply is chosen. A GPA of 3.0 is required for students to remain enrolled, and the curriculum includes courses in organic chemistry, neurobiology, marine biology, DNA science and quantum mechanics. In addition to traditional languages like German, French and Spanish, TJHS teaches Chinese, Russian and Japanese. This certainly aren’t options I had when I attended high school during the dawn of civilization.

In other words, this school rocks.

Recently I received an email from Principal Dr. Evan Glazer, also known as Dr. G. He teaches a leadership course for 15 juniors and seniors. They had found my book You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader and were wondering if I could do a video- or teleconference.  I enjoy doing things like this when possible, but my travel schedule doesn’t often allow.

Thankfully, I’m off the road for the balance of the year so we were able to do a teleconference today. The students asked excellent, perceptive questions and being able to share ideas with them was an honor.

At the end, they asked me if there was anything I’d like to ask them. Time was short, but I asked, “What is the one attribute you look for in a leader?”  Here are the three responses we had time for:

“I look for how much a leader cares. I want a leader who you can work with, not for.”

“I want an open-minded leader who is willing to look at different solutions, not just their own.”

“What I look for is someone who can inspire collaboration.”
I wish time would have allowed for me to learn more from them. The answers above indicate students who are thoughtfully addressing the important issues of leadership.

My compliments to Dr. Glazer and the leadership students at TJ High School. Keep up the great work!

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