Innovation is a Leadership Issue

I heard a quote some time ago, “Organizations that think they have an innovation problem don’t have an innovation problem. They have a leadership problem.” When I heard that quote, it got me thinking. I had to really stew on it, because at first I wasn’t sure if I agreed with it. However, the more I contemplated the comment the more I started to agree with it. We don’t have an innovation problem, ultimately we have a leadership issue. Any leader that doesn’t make innovation a strategic priority, ensures that there will not be any executable innovation. Continue reading


Fostering Collective Leadership

No time in history have we needed system leaders more than ever. We face a host of systemic challenges beyond the reach of existing institutions and their hierarchical authority structures. Sensing this need, countless collaborative initiatives have arisen in the past decade as a result. Unfortunately, more often than not they have floundered because they failed to foster the collective leadership necessary within and across the collaborating organizations. In addition, many of us are “swimming in the same river” so to speak as we try to cultivate collective leadership in diverse settings in our organizations. To be a successful system leader you need to foster proper collective leadership.

Fostering Collective Leadership Continue reading

When You Should Have the Right Leadership Style

Taking a team from ordinary to extraordinary means understanding and embracing the difference between management and leadership. I love this quote by Peter Drucker, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Managers and leaders are two completely different roles, although we often use the terms interchangeably. I won’t necessarily go into the differences between the two, I’ll save that for another article.

When you’re dealing with ongoing challenges and changes, and you’re in uncharted territory with no means of knowing what comes next, no one can be expected to have all the answers or rule the team with an iron fist based solely on the title on their business card. It just doesn’t work for day-to-day operations. Sometimes a project is a long series of obstacles and opportunities coming at you at high speed, and you need every ounce of your collective hearts and minds and skill sets to get through it.

Over the years I’ve developed this observation, that the best leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders. When we share leadership, we’re all a lot more smarter, more nimble and more capable in the long run, especially when that long run is fraught with unknown and unforeseen challenges. As a result we need to have a different leadership style depending on the situation.

When You Should Have the Right Leadership Style: Continue reading

Most Overlooked Leadership Skill

Even before I released the disc, I knew it was a long shot. Unfortunately, it was a clumsy one too. We were playing Ultimate Frisbee and we were tied 14-14. The next point would win the game. I watched the disc fly over the heads of both teams. Everyone but me ran down the field. I cringed, helplessly, as the disc wobbled, still, I had hoped it could go our way. However, my friend Jeff was on our team and he was an Ultimate Frisbee superstar. Jeff broke free from the other runners and bolted to the end zone. But the disc was too far ahead of him, he would never make it. At the very last moment, he made the leap of all leaps and snagged it in the air. Jeff was completely horizontal with the ground and his arms outstretched. The field was silent as he slid across the end zone, shrouded in a cloud of dust. A second later he rose, Frisbee in hand. Our team erupted in cheer. Jeff’s catch won us the game. His great receiving ability got the win for us and made me look good – very good.

The game also taught me a great lesson: Never underestimate the value of a talented receiver. This is a very important and practical lesson a great receiver can be a huge asset to a team. Being a great receiver is important it’s vital to be a great listener in a team environment for the groups success.

Typically, we choose our leaders for their skill at conveying messages clearly and powerfully. But, in my experience, it’s their ability to receive messages – to listen to your team, that distinguishes the best leaders from the rest. That’s because the better you are at receiving, the more likely people will talk to you. And that’s precisely what every one of us needs: to be surrounded by people who are willing to speak the unspoken. This is why receiving is the:

Most Overlooked Leadership Skill Continue reading

Close the Strategy-to-Execution Gap

Leading is challenging, what’s even more challenging is getting the department or organization to go into a different direction – a healthy and correct direction. The only way to do this is to be good at strategy and execution. There are a handful of strategic things that you can do strategically to get your company on the right track.

Close the Strategy-to-Execution Gap Continue reading

Start the New Year with Progress

It’s a new year and every new year has the hope of great new beginnings! We all hope to have great results this year. Furthermore, we all have the expectation that our teams will succeed like never before. To get your team and yourself to have the best year you’ve ever had, you must get off to the right start. To get off to a good start for the new year, focus on progress.

It’s important to foster progress. To keep people highly engaged at work you have to foster progress — even if that progress is a “small win.” We call this phenomenon the progress principle; it works because people want to feel that they are contributing to something that matters. The new year presents a great opportunity for managers to put the progress principle into action.

Start the New Year with Progress: Continue reading