Thursday, June 1, 2017

7 Laws of Leadership

I have read and written a great deal about leadership and being a boss in a corporate setting, and am a big fan of the development of leadership skills in a person’s life. No, not everyone will be a leader all the time, but when you do lead, great leadership makes ordinary people into extraordinary people. So, what is it about leadership that is so important and what are the characteristics that make a great leader? As Orrin Woodward once said, “The only thing tougher than developing leadership skills is attempting to be successful without them.”

In that vein, there are seven critical characteristics that make great leaders stand out from other people. What is amazing is that there is nothing super human about them, and any one of us can hone these skills if we do a little practicing every day. Yes, leadership is in all of us if we just put a little effort into it.

Optimistically Realistic

Napoleon Bonaparte once stated that a leader is a dealer in hope. To take it a bit further, “There is nothing more inspiring and stimulating than being in the company of optimists. It is the core of true leadership,” as James Joyce says. Still, a major challenge with being a leader is the ability to balance being a “cheerleader” with being a pragmatist. So, if you are too much of a optimist and something bad happens, you might have to tendency to sit back and say, “do not worry, everything will work out.” Of course, a pessimist will throw up their hands and complain about the situation or blame other people or external forces at work. But a optimistically realist will get others to believe that whatever action they do, it will move them closer to their goals. Essentially, they put things in motion and are people of action. To sum it up, “Leadership conceives and articulates goals that lift people out of their petty preoccupations and unite them in pursuit of objectives worthy of their best efforts,” as quoted by John Gardner.

Walk the Talk

“Anything that costs you your integrity is too expensive,” and this goes especially true for great leaders. People might listen to what you say, but the always are looking a what you do as a leader. It is through actions that great leaders develop trust and inspire admiration. You see many leaders say that integrity is important to them, but great leaders walk their talk by demonstrating integrity every day. Extolling the virtue of something does not mean you possess it; just as harping about the behavior you want to see in people has little impact. What does have an impact is you, as a leader, acting in a way that others will mimic. As Max DePree says, “Leadership is much more an art, a belief, a condition of the heart, than a set of things to do. The visible signs of artful leadership are expressed, ultimately, in its practice.”

Confidently Defiant

As I like to say, “Confidence is armor you cannot buy.” We naturally gravitate to people who are confident because confidence is contagious, and it helps us to believe that there are great things are in store in the future. The trick, as a leader, is to make certain your confidence does not denigrate into arrogance and cockiness. Confidence is about passion and belief in your ability to make things happen. It is not about idly boasting about your skills or abilities. When your confidence loses touch with reality, you begin to think you can do things you cannot and start to believe that you have done things that you have not. Suddenly it becomes all about you. This arrogance makes you lose credibility, integrity, and most importantly, loyalty.

The secret sauce is that confident leaders are still humble. They do not allow their accomplishments and position of authority to make them feel that they are superior or better than anyone else. As such, they do not hesitate to jump in and do the dirty work that is needed to be done, and they do not ask their followers to do anything they are not willing to do themselves.

Kind Hearted

One of the toughest things for leaders to master is the soft touch of being kind hearted. Great leaders understand that kindness is about sharing credit and offering enthusiastic praise for people’s work, effort and success. It’s a balancing act, between being genuinely kind and not looking weak. The real hard part is finding that balance between recognizing that being kind is really about trusting yourself and actually being strong. It is about keeping your integrity and always being direct and straightforward with everyone you interact with. Telling people the difficult truth they need to hear is much kinder than protecting them (or yourself) from a difficult conversation. It is about facing reality head on, not dodging it to do the easy stuff.

True kindness also does not come with expectations of reciprocation. Being kind is a weakness when you use it in a self-serving manner. Self-serving kindness is thin and week, and people will be able to see right through it when a kind leader has an agenda. Think of those leaders who gave without any benefits to themselves, but only thinking of other people. Now, that is true kindness and leadership.

Fluidly Strong

While strength is important in a leader, how great leaders use strength is what sets them apart. “As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong,” as so well observed by Lao Tzu. Loyalty is derived directly from whether a leader demonstrates the ability to be strong, to make the difficult decision and can care for those in his or her charge. People want a leader who will stay the course, but make a change when it is called for.

Emerson once stated, “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” A great leader will not make the mistake of domineering, controlling, and doing otherwise harsh behavior for strength. People do not want to ruled by force, but coerced by strength. They will follow and trust a leader that demonstrates strength time and time again in the face of adversity.

Self Sacrificing

Lao Tzu once said, “In wishing to be above men, put yourself by words below them, and, wishing to be before them, place yourself behind them.” What this means is that to be a great leader, you must first be a servant. The best leaders will do anything for their teams, and in doing so, they will have their teams support no matter what. Great leaders know that They take a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.” They do not shift blame, and they own up when they fail. They know where the buck stops, and keep that target on themselves no matter what. Great leaders also make it clear that they welcome challenges, criticism, and viewpoints other than their own. They know that the best teams work in an environment where people are not afraid to speak up, offer insights, and ask good questions.

Love, Actually

Great leaders know it is about giving, not taking, and that includes love. Love is about giving freedom and power, not about gaining possession and control. Great leaders really love people, not just the work those people are doing for them. And by people, not just the people close to them or who work for them, but anyone they meet. They understand that love is about giving others respect and authority, and not about hording power and information.

And in order to love others, great leaders understand that you cannot give what you do not possess. They take time to develop the self-love that is necessary to be a giving person. In addition, they have also mastered the art of life and living as stated by James Michener in his quote, “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he's always doing both.” A great leader makes other leaders, and shows them that in the end, it really is all about love.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Men v. Boys

I have been reading a lot of articles of late about relationships and seeing some that put men into groups without understanding that men are NOT all alike.  By lumping all men together, the concept of being a gentleman does not come into play. Women, and people in general, have to realize that there are men of character, culture and grace, and then there are boys.  Boys are men who have chosen not to grow up and become wise in the ways of civility, charm, and substance. This post highlights the differences between men and boys.  Ladies, which are you dating? Men, whom are you?


Men: See women as the fairer, not weaker, sex
Boys: See women as weak and just for sex
Men: Realize that to be a leader, you need to be a servant
Boys: Only want to be seen as a leader to get the recognition
Men: Hold doors, and rise when a woman enters a room or comes to the table, knows how to be a gentleman
Boys: Have no idea what those concepts are nor why you should do it for women
Men: Honor women
Boys: Desire women
Men: Make Love
Boys: Have Sex
Men: Give freedom and power to their significant other
Boys: Want to control and possess his girlfriend
Men: Appreciate a woman’s character, heart, and mind more than the beauty she possesses
Boys: Look for beauty first, and does not care of what she thinks, feels, or acts
Men: See women as equal partners
Boys: See women as something to “own”
Men: Take women out on dates
Boys: Do Booty calls
Men: Understand and practice the concepts of truth, integrity and fidelity with themselves and others
Boys: Are not faithful or honest with themselves so could not be with a woman or others

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Tough Get Going

During my years of working at startups and trying to get funding, I have developed a pretty accurate guide on what it takes to raise money. The main reason why some startups are not successful with certain funding entities or organizations is because there is not a "rightness of fit." What that means is unless you have some incredibly compelling reason for someone to invest with you, that they will look for an excuse not to. I can appreciate that one of your founders may be a friend of one of the potential funding organization’s partners, but unless you are talking directly to the guy or gal who makes the decision to fund or not, you are just wasting time with a gatekeeper, and gatekeepers do not go outside their comfort zone.

In addition, too many companies shop their business plans around too much. Yes, maybe you will get lucky, but in between, you are going to get rejected by lots of VCs. The one major potential downside is that the word gets out that your company is desperate for money (and desperate people do not inspire confidence in others). If at all possible, try to get an introduction to the decision makers through a trusted source (attorney, accountant, venture partner, etc.), instead of cold calling. It never hurts to walk up to a potential investor you do not know, but plans that get "thrown over the transom" rarely get reviewed not matter what they say.

My suggestion to any company struggling to raise money is to first calm down, and secondly look at what you are doing right by answering yes to the following questions:

1) Are you in the right market space at the right time?
2) Is your company message resonating with potential customers?
3) Do you have a good business model (pathway to profits)?
4) Do you have a compelling fire in your belly that what you are doing is right?
5) Do you have an exceptional leader and good executive team?
6) Do you have enough money to maintain your team for another 12 months?
7) Is new market data bearing out your original business assumptions?
8) Do you think you will get an intro to well-connected investor, and soon?

If you can answer yes to 6 out of 8 of these questions, where does it leave you? First, make sure you are preserving capital as best as possible, and just keep the goal in mind that you are potentially creating a company that may one day change the world and perhaps make you very rich. Next, you may have to get creative in raising funds by going to potential customers or vendors who can benefit in your company’s product or services and perhaps ask for a pre-payment or an NRE to get a little cash in the door without having to give up equity.  Or as an alternative perhaps share some of your future revenues with an investor to take the "risk" out of the investment. Times are tough, and the tough get creative in order to survive.

If you cannot answer the affirmative to at least 5 of the questions above, you either need to take steps to do so, or consider putting your endeavor on the shelf until the storm clouds pass.

Remember, no matter what you do you need to just chill.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

44 Truisms and Quips

I am a big believer in humor and love intelligent word play.  Over the course if my, many, many years, I have run across quite a few truisms and now have listed them here for you to enjoy.  It is not all inclusive, but they are funny, and right now, we all can use a bit of humor.  Enjoy, and I hope you get a chuckle out of them.

1.    If I had a dollar for every girl that found me unattractive, they'd eventually find me attractive.

2.    I find it ironic that the colors red, white, and blue stand for freedom, until they're flashing behind you.

3.    Today a man knocked on my door and asked for a small donation towards the local swimming pool, so I gave him a glass of water.

4.    I changed my password to "incorrect" so whenever I forget it the computer will say, "Your password is incorrect."

5.    Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

6.    I'm great at multi-tasking--I can waste time, be unproductive, and procrastinate all at once.

7.    If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame.

8.    Never tell your problems to anyone, because 20 percent don't care and the other 80 percent are glad you have them.

9.    Doesn't expecting the unexpected mean that the unexpected is actually expected?

10.  Take my advice — I'm not using it.

11.  I hate it when people use big words just to make themselves sound perspicacious.

12.  Hospitality is the art of making guests feel like they're at home when you wish they were.

13.  Television may insult your intelligence, but nothing rubs it in like a computer.

14.  I bought a vacuum cleaner six months ago and so far all it's been doing is gathering dust.

15.  Every time someone comes up with a foolproof solution, along comes a more talented fool.

16.  I'll bet you $4,567 you can't guess how much I owe my bookie.

17.  Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.

18.  If you keep your feet firmly on the ground, you'll have trouble putting on your pants.

19.  A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing.

20.  Ever stop to think and forget to start again?

21.  When I married Ms. Right, I had no idea her first name was Always.

22.  My wife got 8 out 10 on her driver's test--the other two guys managed to jump out of her way.

23.  There may be no excuse for laziness, but I'm still looking.

24.  Women spend more time wondering what men are thinking than men spend thinking.

25.  Give me ambiguity or give me something else.

26.  He who laughs last thinks slowest.

27.  Is it wrong that only one company makes the game Monopoly?

28.  Women sometimes make fools of men, but most guys are the do-it-yourself type.

29.  I was going to give him a nasty look, but he already had one.

30.  Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

31.  The grass may be greener on the other side but at least you don't have to mow it.

32.  I like long walks, especially when they're taken by people who annoy me.

33.  I was going to wear my camouflage shirt today, but I couldn't find it.

34.  If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.

35.  Sometimes I wake up grumpy; other times I let her sleep.

36.  If tomatoes are technically a fruit, is ketchup a smoothie?

37.  Money is the root of all wealth.

38.  No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

39.  Stealing someone’s coffee is called a mugging.

40.  The other day, I held the door open for a clown. It was a nice jester.

41.  Pasteurize: Too far to see. (sound it out)

42   Whomever invented knock-knock jokes should get the “no-bell’ prize.

43.  The Energized bunny got arrested: It was charged with battery.

44.  I put my grandma on speed dial. I call it Instagram.