8 Leadership Lessons from a Symphony Conductor

A while back, Gail and I went to the Nashville Symphony with our daughter, Mary, and her husband, Chris. Mary had bought tickets for Gail’s birthday. It was a magnificent evening.

The Hands of a Symphony Conductor - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/StudioThreeDots, Image #18995017

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/StudioThreeDots

The orchestra was conducted by the renowned Hugh Wolff. He and the orchestra performed Beethoven’s Concerto No. 4 in G major for Piano and Orchestra. Horacio Guitiérrez played the piano. After the intermission, the orchestra performed Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, Op. 45.

How to Get Your Boss to Say “Yes,” Part 3

The ability to sell an idea or project to your boss is critical to your success. If you can’t get your boss’s approval when you need it, you are not going to go very far in your career. In this three-part series I share six steps for doing it more effectively. In this post, I cover the last two steps. (You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)

In my last post, I wrote about how to prepare to make a presentation to your boss. To get him to say, “yes,” I encouraged you to prepare a brief, written proposal. I even provided a template.

Woman Giving Her Approval on a Proposal - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/nuno, Image #2437760

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/nuno

Once you’ve done that, it’s time to anticipate objections and formulate talking points for each one. Don’t risk getting a “no” because you haven’t carefully thought through the questions and your responses.

How to Get Your Boss to Say “Yes,” Part 2

The ability to sell an idea or project to your boss is critical to your success. If you can’t get your boss’s approval when you need it, you are not going to go very far in your career. In this three-part series I share six steps for doing it more effectively. In this post, I cover the second two steps. (You can find Part 1 here and Part 3 here.)

In my last post, I wrote about the importance of seeing your boss as the customer. To get him to say, “yes,” you have to first understand his needs. Moreover, you have to frame your proposal in terms of how it will help him accomplish his goals.

Man with a Laptop Against a Blackboard - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/mattjeacock, Image #19460301

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/mattjeacock

Then, you have to commit to success. You must be determined to get to “yes,” because your reputation depends on it—first with your boss and second with the people you lead. Once you have taken these first two steps, you are ready for step three.

How to Get Your Boss to Say “Yes,” Part 1

The ability to sell an idea or project to your boss is critical to your success. If you can’t get your boss’s approval when you need it, you are not going to go very far in your career. In this three-part series I share six steps for doing it more effectively. In this post, I cover the first two steps. (You can find Part 2 here and Part 3 here.)

When I was in corporate management, I spent a great deal of time listening to proposals. Those doing the pitching usually needed my approval to proceed with their project. Frankly, I was amazed at how poorly most people do in these kinds of situations.

An "Approved" Rubber Stamp - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/DNY59, Image #6618875

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/DNY59

In fairness, most of us never received any formal training in this important skill. As a result, we flounder about, not knowing why it seems so difficult to get to “yes.”

5 Characteristics of a Strong Mind

LaRae Quy worked as an undercover and counterintelligence FBI agent for 24 years. She exposed foreign spies and recruited them to work for the U.S. Government. Now she speaks and writes on leadership and empowerment. Her book, Secrets of A Strong Mind, is available on Amazon. Visit her blog, Empower the Leader In You, or follow her on Twitter.

We live in turbulent times. If you and I are to overcome the obstacles in our way, we’re going to need a strong mind.

Anticipating the Leap Off of the Trapeze Platform - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/mtenniswood, Image #1106647

No matter the circumstances around us, we will need to rely upon the mental toughness we normally look for in our heroes, not in ourselves.

A Question That Changes Everything

In 2003, I was named President of Thomas Nelson. It was an extremely busy time. I made some major changes to my executive team and had two vacant positions. As a result, I essentially had three jobs.

An Undecided Businessman - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/kaisersosa67, Image #2098327

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/kaisersosa67

One morning on my way to work, I grabbed my computer case in my right hand, a fresh cup of coffee in my left, and headed downstairs to the garage to leave to work.

5 Rules for More Effective Presentations

Presentation software can be a wonderful tool if used correctly. It can also be a dangerous distraction that interferes with communication rather than facilitating it. The line between the two is thin.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/mbbirdy, Image #4746463

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/mbbirdy

Over the course of my career, I have sat through hundreds of presentations. Most of them were done with PowerPoint. Most of them are done poorly.

The 5 Marks of Authentic Leadership

Many people have written on what it means to be a leader. Almost everyone identifies influence as the primary characteristic. By definition, this means that leadership and position are two different things. You can have a title, and a position of power, but this does not mean that you are a leader. Even people without these things can exert influence and thus leadership.

Business man stripped to his shorts and jumping off a dock - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/PeskyMonkey, Image #11582459

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/PeskyMonkey

But leadership is more than influence. It certainly includes influence, but it is more. I believe it includes at least five characteristics. When I speak on this topic, I call these “the five marks of authentic leadership”:

Slay Your Dragons Before Breakfast

I awoke this morning to the dragon’s hot breath on my face. I was disoriented, not quite knowing where I was. I struggled to open one eye. Then another.

An Icon of St. George

And there he was. A dragon. A very big dragon. With three heads. Sitting in my bedroom, like so many mornings before, he was waiting. His heads swerved back and forth, dancing in the dim light. Each head alternately belching fire and hissing smoke.

Embrace Permanent Beta and Launch

A while back, I met with a friend who is a blogger. She has been blogging for a few years, but her blog is in desperate need of a facelift. It has grown a little “long in the tooth,” as they say. I have been meaning to speak to her about his, but she brought it up herself.

The Last Flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Neutronman, Image #19528606

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Neutronman

“I am redesigning my blog,” she mentioned. She then showed me a prototype. I was flabbergasted. It looked … great! It was a hundred times better than what she currently has.

Why You Aren’t Dead Yet

Several weeks ago, I had lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. He had just turned eighty years old. His mind was as sharp as ever—witty, inquisitive, and focused. He was also a great listener. When he did speak, wisdom dripped from his lips like honey.

After reading this blog post, Greg Surrant, Senior Pastor of Seacoast Church, decided to preach a sermon series on the topic. His creative team produced the video above to promote the series.

In a point of genuine humility but uncertainty he asked me, “Michael, do you think I have anything left to contribute? Are my best days over?” Tears welled up in his eyes.