Leadership Lessons: An IntroductionThis is the start of something beautiful.
Most leadership literature is, frankly, useless. It’s loaded with generalities like “Great leaders need to be decisive, strong communicators, cool in a crisis, build agile teams, hire wisely, work toward their values, define markets…” Who wouldn’t agree? When I asked my friends, colleagues and professional contacts, “Has the leadership literature helped you?” their answer was “No.”
Their experiences are grittier than anything the leadership literature addresses. For example:
- Those who managed VC-based companies discovered each was a horse in the stable, employed to solve a particular problem: the executive who can build a team, the one who can grow a market, get the IP protected, or raise capital. Once they achieved their outcomes, they were fired. Each was devastated. But soon they were hired to perform that trick again for another company in the portfolio. Effectively, this type of person became a career executive for that particular problem, for that investment group.
- Executives who acquired a company realized that while they were personally excellent in sales, finance or engineering, they had to learn what it meant to be “strategic.” One had to redefine how he spent his time, what to do, in order to be strategic; another found herself managing a partner who disagreed on how company money should be spent; a third dealt with the anxiety of being personally accountable for mountainous debt; another exec grappled with the sense that, now that he was committed, he couldn’t just quit.
- Leaders who operated within a traditional company had other challenges. One had to create a dynamic personal brand; another had to find a balance between leading and being authentically himself; one felt she had to sometimes choose between being liked with being respected; another had to figure out how to lead while the previous CEO was still with the company, on the board as a co-CEO.
Despite the wide variety of situations, we identified common threads during our conversations.
- The job is filled with worry and stunning levels of stress, even when it’s fun.
- You have to maintain energy and “mojo” and not just focus on problems.
- The nature of your business has its nuances, which affect how you lead.
- Managing time – and those who demand your time – is a critical skill.
The stories from these authentic and accomplished people are superior to anything I’ve gleaned in school, and it’s time to pay it forward. Mary Stewart, Michele Brown & I are putting them together as book and, as the work takes shape, I’ll be sharing elements of our interviews in a blog. Stay tuned!
Stephen Colbert’s Tribute to Jon StewartColbert called out what makes a great leader: Mastery. Modeling. Intention. Focus. Respect for others. Character.
Mr. Colbert called out what makes a great leader: Mastery. Modeling. Intention. Focus. Respect for others. Character. If there’s a better definition of what it means to lead well, please let me know. Here’s Colbert’s entire speech. Thank you Mary Stewart (no relation) for transcribing it (I fear blood was dripping from her ears, like Jon’s Fox News staff). (Are you kidding? You paid me to listen Stephen Colbert. Could that be my whole job now? – MS)
SC: “Jon, like Frodo, you are leaving us on a voyage for the undying lands. For 16 years, you and your basic cable fellowship of funny clutched that ring of power and trudged up the steep slopes of Mount Doom. The ring of power in this metaphor is a metaphor for power. The power to be a player in the world of media and Washington politics.”
JS: “Yeah but I don’t really want that, so…”
SC: “Jon, you know who else didn’t want that?”
SC: “Your words, Jon. Frodo thought surely Saruman would know they meant to destroy the ring, but I don’t have to tell you what Gandalf said about that.”
JS: “You’re just going to tell me though, aren’t you?”
SC: “He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, though I could do it verbatim if I wanted… He said, ‘My fellow Americans, it has not entered into Sauron’s darkest dreams that we would seek to destroy rather than wield this hideous power.’ And in Gandalf’s metaphor here, power also stood for power.”
JS: “I just want to say that I am so touched that everybody could be here tonight…”
SC: “Me too, Jon. Is there a party or anything? Because I brought a lot of people from CBS and I told them I know you.”
JS: “Yes, there is a party and you can go to it. Stephen Colbert, everybody.”
SC: “Actually, Jon, we’re not quite done. Just a moment, Jon. No…you can’t stop anyone because they don’t work for you anymore. Huge mistake, Jon. It’ll be quick if you just hold still.
Jon, I’ve been asked and have the privilege to say something to you that is not on the prompter right now. Here’s the thing, Jon, you said to me and to many other people here years ago never to thank you because we owe you nothing. It is one of the few times I’ve known you to be dead wrong.
We owe you … and not just what you did for our career by employing us to come on this tremendous show that you made … we owe you because we learned from you. We learned from you by example how to do a show with intention, how to work with clarity, how to treat people with respect. You are infuriatingly good at your job. And all of us who were lucky enough to work with you for 16 years are better at our jobs because we got to watch you do yours. And we are better people for having known you.
You are a great artist and a good man and personally, I do not know how this son of a poor Appalachian turd miner … I do not know what I would do if you had not brought me on this show. I’d be back in those hills mining turds with Pappy. Jon, you know by now I’d have Dung Lung. So Jon, I know you are not asking for this, but on behalf of all those people whose lives you have changed over the last 16 years, thank you. And now, I believe your line is … and correct me if I’m wrong … ‘We’ll be right back.’”