Can Leadership Be Learned?


Are leaders “born to lead?” Is it part of their DNA?  Or, can a person learn leadership?  I believe the latter—the attributes and skills that make a leader can be learned.

The attributes necessary to leadership are those that define how a person deals with his or her responsibilities, organizations, followers, and others.  These attributes can be described by 5 words,all beginning with the letter C—the 5 C’s.

Also, necessary for leadership is an awareness of one’s behaviors and motivators.  Understanding these factors, leads to the skill being able to adapt to the differing behaviors and motivators of others.

The 5 C’s

Effective leaders possess 5 key attributes: convictions, courage, commitment, consistency and connecting.  Collectively, these make up the “5 C’s” of leadership and are essential to leading through influence rather than by authority.

Convictions are one’s firmly held beliefs.  Effective leaders practice truthfulness, honesty, loyalty and exemplary behavior.  They not only “talk the talk,” they “walk the walk;” and, by doing so they set the standard for their followers.

Courage is the ability to act despite fear.  Possessing courage of their convictions, effective leaders stand fast in difficult times.  They have the courage to innovate; to take risks; to think “outside the box.”  Their courage emboldens and empowers their followers to act courageously.

A commitment is a pledge to serve organizations, people or activities.  A leader does not take a commitment lightly—through good and bad, he or she “stays” the course; doing whatever is necessary to achieve success.

An effective leader is a consistent leader: not hot today, cold tomorrow or allowing differing standards and rules for different people.  Followers know his or her expectations and understand the consequences of not meeting them.  By being consistent, leaders create a level of fairness that permeates an organization; setting the standard for how people deal with others.

Effective leaders understand the importance of and work at connecting with others.  They practice listening; they manage by “walking around; they take time to recognize achievement and praise success.  Effective leaders are empathetic; willing to share joy, disappointment and sorrow.

Practicing the 5 C’s of leadership is observable behavior.  People see that a leader has convictions, possesses courage, is committed, consistent and knows how to connect with others.  Seeing is believing; believing is doing.  How a leader conducts his or herself, sets the pattern of behavior followers will adopt.

Behavior and Motivation

“Behavior” refers to HOW people do what they do. When people are unaware of their “natural” behavior, they can clash with people whose behavior differs: a confident person dealing with a shy person; or, a neat person working with someone who is messy.  Behavior is how people respond to:

• Problems and challenges

• Influencing others

• Pace of environment

• Rules and procedures

Behavioral research suggests that the most effective people are those who understand themselves, both their strengths and weaknesses, so they can develop strategies to meet the demands of their environment.

Whereas Behaviors illustrate the HOW of our actions and decision-making, Motivators explain the WHY behind your actions and passions.

People respond to different motivators.  For example, some people are motivated by money; others by recognition and others by learning.  Motivators are:

  • The personal drivers, the “WHY” of what we do
  • Influence our decision making
  • Are our way of perceiving value, our filters and biases

Motivators are the windows through which an individual views the world. These intrinsic motivations explain the key forces driving someone’s on-the-job performance and why they act a certain way.

An understanding of behaviors and motivations helps to: increase efficiency in teams, reduce turnover, improve communication, reduce workplace conflict and stress, identify best employees and grow them, and hire people ideally suited to the job — creating job match that pleases employers and employees, too.

It’s not easy, but with coaching and training leadership can be learned.

To learn more about leadership training go to www.e3-consulting.net.

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Enhanced Interrogation and Johnathan Gruber


The recently released Senate Intelligence Committee report on the use of torture subsequent to 9/11 and the uproar over Jonathan Gruber’s remarks about the necessity of subterfuge to pass the affordable care act, remind us there are people who believe an end may justify the means.

Gruber’s remarks expose the use of subterfuge to subvert the political process.  He admits, if it were known how the act would affect most people, the legislation would have never passed.  He concedes the law was written in a “tortured way” to hide tax increases and other defects.

Abraham Lincoln famously stated, “You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all the time.”  Unfortunately, many politicians believe they can fool all the people all the time.  There are politicians—liberal, conservative, independent, of all stripe—who utilize misinformation, innuendo and fear to win votes and pass legislation.  They use taxpayer money to pay “experts” and “learned people” to provide support for their causes.  They believe the means they employ are justified by the outcome they seek: sometimes public policy; other times filling their own coffers.

The Senate report on enhanced interrogation techniques forces a national debate about our beliefs and convictions.  Pricking our conscience, it occasions us to examine whether the end justifies the means.  It makes us focus on the kind of people we believe we are and the kind of values we will pass to further generations.  However, a lack of context undermines the effectiveness and calls in to doubt the intent of the report. 

To be relevant, any examination of an action must include the perspective under which the action was taken. To not do so, leaves out the precipitating cause and impedes a discussion as to what action should be taken in a similar circumstance. 

The enhanced interrogation techniques as described in the senate committee report were in response to the attacks of 9/11.  When viewed in the light of what occurred, it is understandable why good people permitted their use.

At the time, there was an expectation of further attacks.  Fear ruled the country: airports, train and bus stations were patrolled by armed soldiers and it took courage to attend a public event.  Bolstered by reports of anthrax filled envelopes, we were horrified at the concept of an imminent biological attack.

Our country’s leaders shouldered a grave and heavy responsibility for protecting the people they served.  The president was soundly criticized for lacking the covert intelligence that could have thwarted the attack.  From both sides of aisle, members of congress called for an increase in obtaining operational information. 

The people who were interrogated were not combatants fighting on a field of battle.  They were evil men who conceived and instituted a plan designed to purposefully kill or maim innocent people. Their involvement and guilt was beyond question; as was a certainty they possessed information that could prevent further attacks.

No, the end does not justify the means.  To believe so is to head down the slippery slope where the benefits of “outcomes” are exaggerated and “means” become more appalling. This understanding must apply to all circumstances: enhanced interrogation, as well as, political manipulation.  It is intellectually dishonest and hypocritical, to point your finger at one but because you agree with the outcome, to accept the other.

Enhanced interrogation techniques in the aftermath of an attack that killed over 3,000 people and the use of subterfuge and lies to insure the passage of legislation.  Both were means to an end: one to derail an attack and the other to pass legislation that otherwise would not have done so. When viewed in context, the report on enhanced interrogation techniques will give rise to a moral debate on whether we should sacrifice beliefs and values to prevent a deadly attack. While the other—purposefully misleading the people to achieve a political end—if left unchecked, will eventually lead to the demise of our democratic institutions.

Tweeting and Posting


My dad told me, “Fools names and fools faces, always appear in public places.”  Advice to consider prior to tweeting or posting.

The Essential Attribute Necessary To Be A Leader


When asked about leadership, one of our nation’s greatest leaders responded:

In order to be a leader a man must have followers. And to have followers, a man must have their confidence. Hence, the supreme quality for a leader is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office. If a man’s associates find him guilty of being phony, if they find that he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need, therefore is integrity and high purpose.-Dwight D Eisenhower

A lesson our current leaders need to learn and practice!

Johnny


Diminutive.  Loving, patient, kind, tough are other words that describe Johnny but diminutive is the word that comes to me.

Johnny

A small woman, no more than 5 feet tall and weighing less than one-hundred pounds, Johnny packed a wallop.  When I would talk back to her, she would grab me by the collar, spin me around and whack my rear end to remind me sassing wasn’t allowed.

From before my first birthday until I left for college, Johnny Davis worked for my parents.  Six days a week, my mother would deliver her to our house; 8 hours later—4 on saturdays—she would take her home.  I don’t know how much pay she received—I’m sure less than $10 a day plus meals—but it wasn’t enough, not for a housekeeper, cook and stand-in mother.

My mom stayed involved in the community.  Bridge Club, Garden Club, Women’s Club, the Ladies Golf Association, every afternoon was occupied.  Her activities involved more than being a social butterfly, in a small community where relationships “mattered” her connections helped to build my father’s business.  In the afternoons Johnny cared for me: snacks served, cuts bandaged and  discipline applied—she could twist an ear until it almost fell off.  She loved me as the child she never had.

Playing with Byron McClellan, who lived close by, I fell hand first on a broken bottle.  Clutching my hand to my stomach I ran home.  Johnny hearing my cries, opened the back door and found me with what appeared to be a pierced stomach.  Dr. Hartley Davis–who delivered me, set bones and sewed me up until I was a young adult—closed the cut with stitches; I was fine.  Johnny wasn’t.  Years later, my father related how the shock of my seeming to be severely injured affected her for months.

I was sixteen, when my parents attended a weekend long meeting and left me  home alone.  Saturday night I hosted an unauthorized and ill-advised party: girls, music, dancing and alcohol—lots of alcohol.  I awoke Sunday morning to a wrecked home and an inability to do anything about it.  I felt as if someone was hammering a nail into my brain and my stomach heaved when I moved.

Staring out the window, contemplating running away, I saw Johnny climbing the back stairs.  I remember her words as she opened the door, “Look at you; you’re a mess.  Your momma and daddy are going to send you to military school, and you deserve to go—you hear me!  I knew you were going to get in trouble.” Then lifting me by my ear she growled,  “Get up and get going, we have a mess to clean up.”  To keep her “baby” out of trouble she sacrificed her day off.

When I left for college, my parents purchased a smaller home and let Johnny go.  After college, I would visit Johnny only infrequently: sometimes by choice but more often because she would need something.  The woman who loved me enough to bandage my wounds, smack my butt and clean up my mess, to my sorrow, became an object of my charity.

I cannot think about Johnny without reflecting on the culture in which I was raised.  The business and professional communities my father belonged to participated in a racism that in ways proved to be more harmful than the hate-filled dark side of the South.   Their’s reflected a patronizing duty to care for what they believed to be inferior people.  They couldn’t abide the race haters—but they treated as children, the people who tilled their fields, labored on their jobs, cooked their food and cared for their infants.

Aspects of the old south are reflected in the attitudes of some of today’s leaders.  The patronizing conviction that “we know what is good for you” leads  the condescending Mayor Bloombergs of this world to try and dictate people’s lives. Elitist thought—whether based on race, education or wealth—is bigoted, anti democratic and limits freedom and opportunity.

Free people are allowed to make their own decisions—even bad ones; they are rewarded for taking risks and allowed to fail.  Free people create prosperity that lifts all and provides the means to help others.

Don’t Patronize Me!


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After a stray dog—who my dad named Brown Dog— adopted our family it became my job to make sure he was fed.  The first evening I fed the dog, I spooned the contents of a can into his dish and watched as he devoured his meal.  He appeared to still be hungry, so I refilled the bowl and again the food rapidly disappeared.  Thirty minutes later an overstuffed Brown Dog loudly deposited the undigested remains of his dinner at my dad’s feet.

My experience with Brown Dog taught me that dogs don’t possess good sense: put food in front of them and they will eat until they are ill.  There are politicians who believe the same is true of us—we are not blessed with the intelligence to recognize what is good for us.  Even worse, is the belief we are not endowed with self control to avoid unhealthy alternatives.  In other words, there are politicians who are convinced, like dogs, we need to be cared for.

During a preteen birthday party at a friend’s home, several of us snuck off into an adjacent orange grove.  When we were out of sight, the birthday boy lit a cigarette and dared us to take a “drag.”  I didn’t want to appear to be a sissy, but I was frightened—I knew “smokes” were addictive and bad for you.  I took a puff, manfully blew the smoke out and spent the rest of the day worried about becoming addicted to cigarettes.

In college I, like almost everyone, smoked—even during classes.  Several years later after completing army basic training I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day.  I was aware they were bad for me—heck we called them “coffin nails—it didn’t matter, I liked smoking.  On my son’s six-month birthday, deciding I wanted to be with him as he grew up, I quit smoking.

Even though cigarette packs didn’t carry a warning and public service announcement and obnoxious anti-smoking television ads didn’t exist, we recognized smoking was bad for you.  Why then the necessity to spend millions of dollars telling people what they already know?  Because it enforces the appearance that politicians really care about their constituents and it satisfies a patronizing need to take care of people.

Supposedly, the cost to society of caring for those who persist in continuing bad habits is the reason behind regulating behavior.  Actually, this is the rationalization for busybodies sticking their noses into other people’s business.  Give me a break—unhealthy people die young; society will care for healthy people for many more years.  I haven’t seen the studies but I have read that societal cost even up.

To avoid future generations becoming automatons looked after by a benevolent and elitist dictatorships, people, of every political stripe, should respond to attempts to limit personal freedom with“I’m not and I refuse to be treated like a dog.”

Leaders Are Not Retreaters


Annually, we would gather at a local restaurant for a holiday celebration that resembled a wake.  Over drinks, our boss would recount the terrible year coming to an end and how he believed our company would not survive another.  The current year ended in defeat and we faced the coming one with dread.

As director of marketing, I was challenged to keep our salespeople motivated.  A tough task with the fear we weren’t going to make it.  Our boss’s answer to falling sales was to retreat: lay people off and cut expenses. We were spiraling down the drain our ever-worsening level of service drove customers away.

Overwhelmed, our boss  resigned his position and took a job delivering phone books—not as much pay but a lot less stress. In contrast to our Ivy League educated former boss, his successor had only a high school education and little experience in our business.

His first day, he gathered the staff and announced we were going to upgrade our computer system.  A new computer system!  Why would you make a major investment with the company going out of business? Maybe, things were not as bad as we thought.

He presented a positive view of the future and employee morale soared, as did productivity and sales.

More important than a college diploma, he possessed a can-do attitude.  He provided hope, while setting an example of hard work and resistance to adversity.  He was a leader rather than a retreater and the company prospered under his guidance.

When the confederate army surged through a gap in the union line during the Civil War battle of Chickamauga, the northern troops and their officers panicked and ran.

General George Thomas wasn’t running.  He assembled a defense line that held long enough for the retreating army to make it to safety.  Thomas saved he Army of the Cumberland and became forever known as the “Rock of Chickamauga.”

George Thomas was a leader.  In the midst of panic he rallied his troops and held his ground.  In contrast, a retreater is prone to retreat.  At the first sign of trouble he or she gives up the fight, runs for safety. As the leader goes, so go the troops with them all hope of success.

In advance of a Japanese victory, general Douglas McArthur was ordered to flee the Philippine Islands. A pragmatist, he knew the battle was lost but he was determined to win the war.   When he arrived in Australia, he made a simple statement that rallied resistance and offered a vision for the future: “I shall return.”

Like McArthur, a leader is a realist.  He or she understands retreat is sometimes necessary; but when required, it is an organized withdrawal, giving way while maintaining morale and setting forth a vision of an ultimate success.

Even when facing failure, leaders continue to lead: presenting a positive view of the future; standing firm in the face of adversity; and offering hope.