My dad was injured in the Korean War, a few years before I was born. As a result of that injury, he walks with a limp. As a young boy, I unconsciously emulated him. I just thought that was the way grown men walked.
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When I was about three or four, I remember my Mom saying to me, “Michael, you don’t need to walk with a limp. Dad walks that way because he was hurt in the war.” Regardless, I still walked with a limp for another year or so, simply because I wanted to be like my dad.
As a leader, you have an effect on people. When you leave the room, people either feel taller or smaller. This is an almost super-hero power, but, unfortunately, leaders are often unconscious of it.
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A few years ago, I met with an author I had always admired. It wasn’t our first meeting; I had met with him a few times previously. I had always enjoyed being with him and left our encounters with a renewed commitment to serve him well.
On the third Monday of each January in the U.S., we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. As you know, he was the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
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Dr. King was an eloquent preacher and gave a famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” that defined the aspirations of that movement, not only for his generation but for generations to come.
I think it is particularly appropriate, in view of the upcoming holiday, to devote a podcast episode to the this speech. I urge you to take time to watch this speech and experience what Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is all about.
While the speech is a masterpiece of rhetoric—one of the top ten best speeches ever given, in my opinion—I believe it also provides eight key insights into what it takes to be a truly great leader.
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I don’t like conflict. In fact, sometimes I think I am conflictaphobic. (I just made that word up.) I will do almost anything to avoid it.
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As a result, especially early in my career, I would keep my real opinions to myself. I didn’t want to get in trouble. I thought that if I just complied with the system and kept my mouth shut, I would get ahead.
We live in a very externally-focused culture. However, there is an internal issue which is largely ignored: the condition of your heart.
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The corporate world is increasingly aware of the fact that you can’t improve productivity without increasing engagement. In other words, people have to show up at work with more than their education, experience, and skills. They have to come with their heart.
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We’ve all experienced it: the large bureaucracy where the employees seem to be just punching the clock.
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A while back I had to get my drivers license renewed. This meant a trip to the Department of Safety’s Driver Service Center. While the process was quicker and more efficient than I expected, the people working the counter seemed lifeless.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.”
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.
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.