The Best Leaders Tip #12 – Lead holistically

This is my final of 12 posts about how to be among the Best Leaders.  In these, I provide inspiration for everyone seeking professional and personal growth as a leader of people, projects, groups, teams and organizations. I welcome your comments and feedback.  Visit my website for more information.


Best Leader Tip #12        Lead holistically.  The academic field of leadership is evolving to this, more holistic view of leadership. – where although we understand and acknowledge the various types and styles of leadership and when to use them, we lead as whole people, embracing our teams with all their differences, demonstrating values-based behaviors, setting a clear vision and motivating our people to achieve it, communicating authentically and powerfully, and making sure our organizations are aligned with their entire systems.  This is also known as integrative leadership

To me, this sums up all the steps to being the best leader.


The Best Leaders Tip #8 – Get Smart: There is no one best leadership style

This is my 8th of 12 posts about how to be among the Best Leaders.  In these, I provide inspiration for everyone seeking professional and personal growth as a leader of people, projects, groups, teams and organizations. I welcome your comments and feedback.  Visit my website for more information.


Best Leader Tip #8          Be flexible.  There are situational, transformational, transactional leaders.  There are servant leaders, authoritarians, democratic leaders, laissez-faire, visionary, charismatics, paternalistic, collaborative, consensus-driven, participative, coaching, commanding, pace-setting… We know about most of these, and many of us have identified with one or more of these styles. While scholars differ in how they type leadership practices and behaviors, they agree that the most effective leaders know how to effectively use multiple styles to meet various needs at different times in their organizations. (Read about types of leaders here).

There are many types of leaders, and many tools to help us understand our own styles based on personality and temperament.  I believe these are helpful only to a point, because the best leaders know how they must adapt their leadership styles to be effective in specific situations.  So we have to become proficient in many leadership behaviors, no matter what our natural styles or preferences might be. Read more about leadership theories here.

For example, leading in a crisis requires a more commanding or directive style, and during a strategy or brainstorming session, a collaborative or more hands-off style works better.  Leading through long-term strategy shift, a merger or acquisition, scandal, or economic hardship also require different skills and behaviors.  The best leaders know these differences and when to use them.  Read more here.

Read a New York Times article about leadership styles here.

The Best Leaders Tip #1 – Have a soul: Be the Golden Rule

This is my 1st of 12 posts about how to be among the Best Leaders.  In these, I provide inspiration for everyone seeking professional and personal growth as a leader of people, projects, groups, teams and organizations. I welcome your comments and feedback. This is my 2nd of 12 posts about how to be among the Best Leaders.  In these, I provide inspiration for everyone seeking professional and personal growth as a leader of people, projects, groups, teams and organizations. I welcome your comments and feedback.  Visit my website for more information.


Best Leader Tip #1          Be the golden rule.  What you hold inside you is what you’ll see manifested in your external world.  If you treat people with kindness, generosity, honesty, caring, and accountability, you will see those qualities returned to you many time over.  It’s the best, and most important, ROI in the world of leadership.  First, be a person of quality – tend to your soul and clean out any darkness there.  Then, lead with your soul shining out to your work and your people.  You’ll know you’re doing it right when you generate respect, love, recognition, and wealth.

Taking the Fear Out of Networking


Now that the professional social season is in full swing, there are abundant opportunities for networking.  Approach these with confidence – my presentation shows you how.

Today’s Thought: Remove obstacles – with your mind


In running cross country, there are hills, valleys, and plateaus, twists, turns, uneven ground, shady spots, sunny patches… spots that are easy to navigate and those that make muscles ache and lungs gasp.  Just like life.  When I face a steep hill, I can inwardly groan and panic, wondering how or if I’ll make it up the hill, remembering how hard it was last time and dreading every second.  Or I can remove the hill.  I can tell myself it’s not that difficult, not that steep, the downhill is just ahead, remember that the incline is easier on the knees and gives my calf muscles a stretch.  The hill – or any challenge or obstacle – is only an obstacle if you tell yourself it is.

What’s your hill today?  Big meeting, unpaid bills, long commute, important interview, difficult conversation… those “obstacles” can be  difficult, challenging, troublesome, laborious.   Or they can be nothing but the wind in your hair. You choose.

Second Step of Networking: Refine Your Approach

This is your mental and physical state during your networking opportunity, as follows:


  1. Be of service and help to others. This is a new way of thinking for a lot of people – but networking isn’t about you! You are much more approachable and attractive if you go in seeking to help and support others. To do that, develop active listening skills, which include asking leading, open-ended questions and responding to what they say. The information you gain will be valuable to you as you continue the relationship with them after the networking event.
  2. Use business cards for contact information only. Networking is about forming relationships with humans, not cards. Hand out and ask for cards for the people you actually plan to follow up with for clear reasons that support your goals.
  3. Be authentic. Many people feel networking isn’t their thing because they are shy, or introverted. I say – networking is for everyone. It’s about bringing your own style and personality into the room, and leverage your strengths as a person to build relationships for your benefit and others’. Know yourself, and work the room in your own way. Introverts can be great at one-on-one conversations, so take each networking opportunity to develop greater common ground with your connection, beyond looking for a job.
  4. With all the above in place, go in with confidence and calm.

people art

First Step to Networking: PREPARE

Luck is where preparation meets opportunity

You’re not going to get the most from your networking opportunities unless you prepare. To me, there are just three basic things to do before your networking event:

  1. Do your homework.
    • Find out who will be at the event who you have something to offer, and from whom you believe you can gain something.
  2. Set specific goals related to those people. What information do you want to gain? What impression do you want to make? How can you make yourself memorable? What information, support or advice can you offer? What is your end game – that is, at the end of the event, how will you know it’s been a productive one for you?
  3. Know your ELEVATOR speeches. These are the ever-popular synopses of who you are and what you do intended to grab interest of your audience quickly and compellingly. I recommend creating 60-second and 15-second versions (the shorter one is also known as the “handshake” speech).

Elevator Speech


90% of executives say interpersonal communication is a critical business skills, but 85% of employees say their bosses don’t communicate well with them. I provide communication coaching and training for business leaders.  One CEO remarked that after working with me, her approval rating among direct reports improved by 55%!

Other examples?  Would love to hear!

Designing Leadership – Thought of the Week

Committed to designing effective organizations and courageous leaders, this Thought of the Week series provides tips for reflection and your use.

Be Authentic.

Treat your subordinates as if they were at least as important as your clients, customers, bosses, and investors. Do what you say, and uphold the qualities you say you value. You don’t want to be the person about which they say, “He’s well-regarded by people who don’t know him.”

Four things that make companies great in 2014

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Forbes recently published the Glassdoor 2014 Best Companies to Work For – one of the intriguing lists that gets the full attention of engagement and communication pros like me. We want to know how to get our clients on those lists, yes – but also we want to find the secret to creating happy employees, and being happy ourselves! We’re not alone –  ‘best company’ lists and articles usually get a lot of traffic.  Everyone wants to know if there are better jobs or better companies out there.

In the spirit of improving the companies where we already are,  I borrow from Erika Andersen.  In a recent blog, she quotes Samantha Zupan, a spokesperson for Glassdoor, who says:

Andersen agrees with us when she says these four elements come up time and time again her engagement-related work. She says, “People want to build and work for companies that 1) have a strong positive culture, firmly grounded in a meaningful purpose, 2) offer real chances to grow professionally, 3) provide the opportunity to work with people they like and respect, and 4) offer work that requires them to stretch their brains and skills.”

Here is more explanation of each of these, adapted from Andersen:

A strong positive culture, firmly grounded in a meaningful purpose.  ’Culture’ has, too often, come to mean ‘perks.’ But while a ping-pong table in the break room and coupons for burgers are fun – they’re not the core of a great culture.  What people are looking for is an environment that supports and rewards excellence, honesty, mutual support, and fair dealing; where people get great results and they’re treated well….and neither is optional.  Truly strong cultures are supported from the C-suite on down: the employees report that their boss – and their boss’ boss, and so on – live by the espoused values.  People also want to feel that their strong culture exists to support meaningful work.

Real chances to grow professionally.  Although great companies focus on providing substantive growth opportunities for their employees, this doesn’t necessarily mean ‘career pathing’ in the traditional sense. Good managers in excellent companies look for ways to match employees’ skills and passions with the organization’s needs.  They do this through good old-fashioned observation and conversation.  They observe what needs to get done at the company that’s not getting done, or not getting done well.  They talk with other managers and leaders to find out about new initiatives or projects that might need people.  They observe  what the employee is good at doing.  They converse with the employee to find out what he or she is interested in learning or doing, and how he or she would like to see his or her career unfold.

The opportunity to work with people you like and respect. This one has both a universal and a personal aspect. The universal: excellent companies generally have a firm “no a**hole” rule. They don’t hire people who are dishonest, narcissistic, abusive, prejudiced, lazy, etc. Beyond that, “people you like and respect” is more individual.  For instance, some companies tend to hire fun-loving, informal, uninhibited people.  Other companies hire more serious, reserved, intellectual people.

Work that requires you to stretch your brain and skills. Human beings are wired to overcome challenges; it’s a deep survival mechanism that has allowed us to successfully adapt to new environments again and again over the millenia.  So it makes sense that we want this in our jobs, too: we like to figure things out, to get good at things, to crack codes and solve problems and make breakthroughs.  Great companies don’t assume that people are slackers who just want to do the least possible to get by: they recognize and call upon this built-in human attraction to challenging work.

It seems simple when you lay it out like this: a great company is a place you can do great things while having a great time, with others who want the same.  But it’s not easy to create this simple, powerful thing – it requires real focus and consistent effort on the part of the company’s leadership to build the needed structures, processes and systems; to hire the right people with the right attitudes and the rights skills; and to inspire and hold people accountable every day to the high standards you’ve set.

But that investment pays off tremendously: you end up with a company that attracts the best talent, creates excellent products and services, and figures out how to do it better, faster, and smarter than the rest.


Cultivating “unusual suspects”: diversity and creativity

oprah magazine nov 2013 In the November issue of Oprah magazine, Ori Brafman, co-author of The Chaos Imperative, advises us to cultivate contacts outside our usual social circle. Most of us would find that stressful (and who has the time?), but forming relationships with all kinds of individuals gives us the chance to push our thinking in new and different directions. Brafman especially tells us to reach out people in groups that might have made us feel uncomfortable in the past. Making a point to get together with these new connections even just to chat – with no agenda – this creates opportunities for ideas and inspiration.  Maybe the best professional and personal reason of all to seek out and embrace diversity in those all around us!

the chaos imperative

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