Real Leadership?

March 18th, 2011

In the process of teaching a leadership class, some things have become clearer to me.  Leadership as we know it is in jeopardy.  A leader can only lead if the followers are willing to follow or the leader has some form of legitimate power over the follower (ie. do this or you’re fired).  When you look at some of the great leaders of the past (not figure heads, but real change agents) I can only wonder who I would bestow that honor to today.  It seems as though real leadership takes:

  • A willingness to have and follow a vision.
  • The ability to ignore opposition.
  • The ability to clearly convey the vision to others.
  • The willingness to accept the position of leader, to lead, and to accept the accountability that accompanies leadership.

Today, we simply don’t do that.  As a culture, we have set in motion things that work against a leader attempting to lead.  Look at how we’ve changed:


  • There’s a winner and a loser.  Be a winner!
  • Pull yourself up and be somebody.
  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Hard work will take you places. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s stuck, pull harder.

May 28th, 2010

Over the last several days, I’ve watched several incidents where critical thinking skills would have saved both time and money.  How many times have we come across something that is stuck and simply pulled or pushed harder to unstick it?  This might be acceptable under certain circumstances, such as trying to open a sticky bathroom door.  But what about physics?  When you force something, you must overcome the resistance of whatever is stuck!  This happens in one of two ways, either you put enough force on the object to overcome the friction of it being stuck, or whatever is stuck breaks and frees itself.  So, when something sticks, there is a real chance you are going to break it by trying to force it open. Then when it breaks, people always say “I knew that was going to happen” and bystanders always say “Of course it broke, what did you think was going to happen when you pulled that hard.”.   So, if everyone knew it was a bad idea, why did it happen?

It’s stuck, pull harder is really just a metaphor for an overly simplistic troubleshooting process or failing to apply critical thinking skills to a situation.   Read the rest of this entry »

10 Steps Ahead

May 20th, 2010

One interesting phrase used in many airline academies is “You should never fly anywhere your mind hasn’t already been.”  This mantra helps pilots that often fly at many miles a minute keep up with the demands of high speed flight, rapid decision making, and continuous situational awareness.  Every flight is thought through to its logical conclusion often before the wheels ever leave the ground.  In business, while it’s impossible to think everything through to its logical conclusions, the advice remains sound:  Read the rest of this entry »

Resistance to Change

May 16th, 2010

Resistance to change has long been studied by change agents in an attempt to win and sometimes force compliance from the holds outs, or those that are unwilling to change.  But, overlooking the reasons people resist may lead change agents down the path of no return since resistance, in my cases, is a form of feedback.  What?  People that won’t comply may be doing the right thing or sending an important message?  Let’s explore resistance to change a little further.

There are two types of change resistance; Read the rest of this entry »

Thoughts vs. Solutions

May 5th, 2010

It’s one thing to have thoughts, it’s another thing to have solutions.  So what’s the difference?  A solution is the ability to operationalize thoughts so they solve a problem.  It is the process of operationalizing that allows us to be good problem solvers and do more than just provide input or suggestions.  How do we train ourselves to operationalize knowledge? Apply! Apply! Apply! Every time you learn something, think of ways you can apply that knowledge!

We’ve all heard the advice to eat less and exercise more.  This is seemingly sound advice.  But, in reality, it’s simply a Read the rest of this entry »

Word Choice – Know Your Audience

April 30th, 2010

Every discipline has its “standard phrases” or phrases that are commonly found in conversation.  As both an academic and a practitioner, I sometimes have to switch gears in the word choices that I use.  Let’s explore why knowing your audience is important so you can use the correct words.  For the sake of framing this discussion, I will compare and contrast academics and practitioners.

Academics spend a lot of time and brain power searching for the truth.  But, as part of their doctoral training, they quickly learn that the truth is generally Read the rest of this entry »

The “Why” Way.

April 20th, 2010

One character trait (flaw?) that I recall from my youth was the incessant use of the word Why?. Although this may have annoyed many of my teachers, I learned later in life this one word helps separate those that can repeat an answer vs. those that understand a concept.  In aviation and management we always want to proceed with knowledge and understanding.  Therefore, being able to answer the question Why? is a great way to ensure Read the rest of this entry »

Satisfaction Extraction

April 12th, 2010

Working with different personality types in aviation has forced me to manage hazardous attitudes and change them into more productive (and safer!) attitudes.  I’ve found the same process used in aviation also works well with subordinates who don’t seem to be doing the right things or who aren’t having fun at work.  The secret?  Change how the person extracts satisfaction from the situation and in turn you will see a change in behavior.  Without delving into deep neuroscience, when we are satisfied, a chemical cocktail in our brain is our reward.  This chemical cocktail gives us feelings of happiness, satisfaction, contentment, motivation, empowerment, and other “good feelings”.  But, what if this chemical is released when you are doing something dangerous, counterproductive, or unhealthy?  You need Read the rest of this entry »

Thought vs. Action

April 9th, 2010

There are times to think and there are times to act.  We all know the manager that thinks too much or uses thought as a way of deflecting accountability or delaying results.  This is the person that is given a relatively simple task but chooses to ponder the outcome for way too long.  Generally, we think this person is slow, overly academic, or can’t seem to get anything done. This is the person that reads the entire 300 page cell phone manual in multiple languages before placing their first call.

On the other end of the spectrum are those that are Read the rest of this entry »

Active Problem Recognition

March 31st, 2010

Have you ever met someone who lives in a constant state of obliviousness?  These are the folks that wouldn’t notice their arm was missing until they went to wave at someone.  A more covert form of obliviousness is when people do their daily tasks, but do not scan the periphery for trouble.  These are the folks that step off the curb and often get honked at when the speeding car swerves to avoid them.  So what does this have to do with business or management?  Let’s talk about two concepts, the first is Read the rest of this entry »