The Lifelong Learner :: Do what you can, with what you have, where you are -Roosevelt ::

Archive for the 'Leadership' Category

Are you a Lawn Mower? January 26th, 2010
Every group has a leader December 16th, 2009
7 Key Leadership Ingredients November 29th, 2009
Influencing Change March 28th, 2008
12 Rules for Self-Leadership April 19th, 2007
Four Desired Qualities Outside of Talent November 15th, 2006
Reach Out and Ask Someone October 20th, 2006
Lessons in Leadership October 4th, 2006
Good Definition of Charisma September 8th, 2006
A Humble Leader July 14th, 2006

Are you a Lawn Mower?

Provocative statement, don’t you think?

Before I expand, remember, choose your friends carefully. Who you hang out with, that’s who you’ll become.

There are a lot of great life tips that I found in the book by Karen Williams. This one has had the biggest impact. I’ve extracted the important excerpts to make this post.

“Walt Disney used to say, there are three kinds of people in this world: Well Poisoners, Lawn Movers, and Life Enhancers. Hang with the Life Enhancers.”

1. Well Poisoners

“They’re the people who have something negative to say about everything. There’s no joy in their lives or in their words. They’re miserable inside, and they want you to be miserable, too.”

2. Life Enhancers

These “are the people who build you up. Everyone loves being around Life Enhancers, and you know it when you’re with one. They glow, they smile, they laugh — there’s a joy that comes from within. They’re quick to hand out compliments because they’re secure in themselves.  These are the people who are always feeding into your life, investing something of themselves in you. You feel good when you hang with Life Enhancers.”

3. Lawn Mowers

They “are tricky. They’re the people who get up every morning, get their mower out, and mow their lawn. They work to maintain their lawn, trimming and mowing only what’s required on their side of the fence — nothing more, nothing less. They don’t bother their neighbors. They’re living their lives, doing only what needs to be done, and leaving everything and everyone else alone. They’re perfectly happy with the status quo.”

Good stuff, right?

Yeah, I thought so too.

Let’s reflect a little.

“There is nothing wrong with hanging out with the Lawn Mowers, except that they don’t enhance your life,” said Pat Williams to Karen in the book.

I learned a lot from these three definitions. Most of all, I now have good names for the different types of people in the world.

Some Questions For You
: Question One
Let’s start with a question about yourself: Which category do you put yourself in?

Think about it for a while.

I think most of us have been all three at some point in our lives. Consciously or not, when you complain a lot, talk bad about your friends behind their back, gossip, etc.: you are a Well Poisoner. At work, you try to do all that’s required of you. You do it well. Same with your families and friends. You just enjoy being around them. You are a Lawn Mower. Whether you like it or not. It’s when you step outside the “circle,” and do something extra that is not required of you; when you inspire others; when you put pressure on others to improve. That’s when you can call yourself a Life Enhancer.

So which one are you now?

Or perhaps a better question: which one of the above actions do you do the most?

OK, you figured out which category you belong to. Are you going to do anything about it? You don’t have to be a Lawn Mover the whole life. There are always ways you can improve. Even if you are a Life Enhancer — but I’m sure you already know that.

We all mow lawns at some point. But do you really want to do that for the rest of your life? Be a lifetime mower?

Hmm… that does not sound good.

Question Two

Let’s move on to the second aspect: Who do you hang out with?

I’m sure we know people in all three categories. But with whom do you like to spend your time with? Who’s your first choice?

Do you remember what I said at the beginning of this post?

“Who you hang out with, that’s who you’ll become.”

My wife tells me that I shouldn’t group people. I think what she really means is that I shouldn’t reject any of them. True. I think we should respect every human being. Even the Well Poisoners. But choosing who you hang out is different. You make a choice.

Tell me what you think about this.

, Karyn Williams (p. 167-169)

Every group has a leader

I find this quote really inspiring. One that calls to action. Leadership situations, whether we are aware of them or not, are presented to us in a lot of ways. And more likely than not, we’ve either taken the challenge or passed on it.

Look around. Look around in your workplace. Look around in the clubs you belong (Toastmasters is a great example). You are either a leader in the group or you follow some other leader.

Situations to lead are presented to us in small (sometimes hidden) ways. How we act in these situations can tell you whether you’re interested in being a leader or not. There are a lot of ways we can step up, raise our voice, change the direction of the group. It happens all the time. These are leadership tasks! These build up a leader. This is how we can expose our leadership qualities.

What do you do in these situations? Do you hide or do you look for ways to take action?

It’s really a choice of whether you want to lead or you want to be lead.

Leadership is not just having a title to lead. Sometimes people with a title don’t know how to lead. And like I said, leadership opportunities present themself throughout our lives. Be conciuos of the fact. And remember: If you don’t step up, somebody else will. Start small. Take action. Lead!

7 Key Leadership Ingredients

While reading The Takeaway by Pat and Karyn Williams, I came across a really good summary of what leadership is all about. I think these 7 ingredients are essential in an effective leader.

  1. Vision: Leadership is always about the future.
  2. Communication: Leaders have to spread their vision. The do that by communicating optimism, hope, inspiration, and motivation.
  3. People skills: Outstanding leaders care about others.
  4. Character: Honesty, integrity, respect, humility.
  5. Competence: Leaders are good at what they do, always working on improving their skills
  6. Boldness: Leaders have to make decisions. More harm is done by no decision, than a wrong decision.
  7. A Serving Heart: “It’s not about you.”

Influencing Change

How do you influence another person? How do you make him change? How do you get him out of this habit that’s killing you?

It’s not easy. But there are good ways and bad ways of accomplishing the task. I found this out by reading a very good book on communication skills, Messages. I extracted what I found the most useful information.

“Influencing others is an art that requires an understanding of the principles of change.”


Blaming, criticizing, or complaining.- your basic message is “you are bad or wrong.”

Threats.- “do what I want, or else…”

Pouting or withdrawing.- “you won’t have it, if you won’t do what I want”


Positive Reinforcement

1. Praise.Everyone is hungry for esteem and appreciation. You can praise past behavior that is similar to the changes you now want to reinforce.

2. Trading.“I’ll give you X if you give me Y.”They are effective because they acknowledge the other person’s needs and promise to provide something real as compensation for the desired behavior.

3. Building in rewards.Much like trading, but the reinforcement is woven into the desired behavior.”Come shopping with me. There’s a huge bookstore in the mall. You can browse around and see what new biographies they have.”

4. Verbal and nonverbal appreciation.Appreciation conveys the message that you are grateful, you are pleased, and you value what the person has done. It greatly increases the chance that the behavior will be repeated and you will continue to get what you want.

Negative Consequences

Negative consequences should be used as a last resort, when positive reinforcement isn’t working. They tend to create a backlash of anger and resentment.

1. Stop rewarding the person for behavior you don’t want.If you want somebody to be punctual, don’t wait for them while they’re still doing some last minute preparationsInfluencing others is bound to be frustrating when you consistently reward them for staying the same.

2. Design self-care strategies to meet your needs when the other person is unable or unwilling to make desired changes.“If a friend keeps borrowing things without returning them, a self-care strategy might be to insist that only one thing can be borrowed at a time.”

3. Identify natural consequences.“If someone is always late for your lunch dates, stop eating with them in restaurants.

ReferenceMessages: The Communication Skills Book

12 Rules for Self-Leadership

This is the best set of rules for self-leadership I have read. These are principles that will make you a better leader, a better person, and a better learner. Priceless. Lifelong learning.

1. Set goals for your life; not just for your job. What we think of as “meaning of life” goals affect your lifestyle outside of work too, and you get whole-life context, not just work-life, each feeding off the other.

2. Practice discretion constantly, and lead with the example of how your own good behavior does get great results. Otherwise, why should anyone follow you when you lead?

3. Take initiative. Volunteer to be first. Be daring, bold, brave and fearless, willing to fall down, fail, and get up again for another round. Starting with vulnerability has this amazing way of making us stronger when all is done.

4. Be humble and give away the credit. Going before others is only part of leading; you have to go with them too. Therefore, they’ve got to want you around!

5. Learn to love ideas and experiments. Turn them into pilot programs that preface impulsive decisions. Everything was impossible until the first person did it.

6. Live in wonder. Wonder why, and prize “Why not?” as your favorite question. Be insatiably curious, and question everything.

7. There are some things you don’t take liberty with no matter how innovative you are when you lead. For instance, to have integrity means to tell the truth. To be ethical is to do the right thing. These are not fuzzy concepts.

8. Believe that beauty exists in everything and in everyone, and then go about finding it. You’ll be amazed how little you have to invent and much is waiting to be displayed.

9. Actively reject pessimism and be an optimist. Say you have zero tolerance for negativity and self-fulfilling prophecies of doubt, and mean it.

10. Champion change. As the saying goes, those who do what they’ve always done, will get what they’ve always gotten. The only things they do get more of are apathy, complacency, and boredom.

11. Be a lifelong learner, and be a fanatic about it. Surround yourself with mentors and people smarter than you. Seek to be continually inspired by something, learning what your triggers are.

12. Care for and about people. Compassion and empathy become you, and keep you ever-connected to your humanity. People will choose you to lead them.

Reference12 Rules for Self-Leadership –

Four Desired Qualities Outside of Talent

Another great piece as part of the Leadership Wired newsletter.

Qualities independent of talent which, when practiced, add value to others and ourselves:


The desire to listen, learn, and apply is not innate, but when cultivated, it aids the growth and development of a leader.

Successful people view learning differently than those who are less successful. For successful leaders, learning is as necessary as breathing. They crave knowledge and seek it out through books, conferences, conversations, and evaluated experiences. The unsuccessful person is burdened by learning, and prefers to walk down familiar paths. Their distaste for learning stunts their growth and limits their influence.


Initiative is the inner drive that propels leaders to achieve great dreams. American founding father, Benjamin Franklin, held to the following maxim about initiative: “To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.” Leaders with initiative have an eagerness to make things happen. They have a positive restlessness that prevents them from being content with average.


A person of passion will move mountains to see their dream come to fruition. Passion long outlasts talent for a leader in pursuit of a vision.


We need courage to seek the truth when we know it may be painful. We need courage to change when it’s easier to remain comfortable. We need courage to express our convictions when others challenge us. We need courage to learn and grow, especially when doing so exposes our weaknesses. We need courage to take the high road when others treat us badly, and lastly, we need courage to lead when being in front makes us an easy target for criticism.

ReferenceLeadership Wired – November 2006

Reach Out and Ask Someone

Great leadership article. I’ve extracted some excerpts.

By nature, leaders are decision-makers. The more influential the leader, the more consequential their decisions will be. Leaders are out in front because they have proven their ability to choose the appropriate course of action when faced with big decisions.

However, when a leader begins to rely solely on personal observation and intuition, that leader is headed for trouble. Even the wisest among us has a limited perspective, and we will miss important decision-making clues if we become entirely self-reliant.

In this edition of LW, I am indebted to the brilliant thought of Dr. Saj-nicole A. Joni in her book, The Third Opinion. An extremely well-written text, The Third Opinion makes the case for the value of outside insight to the performance of a leader. In her book, Dr. Joni identifies four signs that the time is right to consult decision-making advice.

• When multiple decisions need to be made, and you don’t have the required amount of time to focus fully on each one.

• When the implications of the decision are far-reaching, and you know your organization will be in serious trouble if you don’t do the right thing.

• When you lack the expertise to tackle the issue on your own, regardless of whether you have the time.

• When you are capable of taking action, but you know the decision will be better off if you consult the experiences and insights of someone else.

ReferenceREACH OUT AND ASK SOMEONE, Leadership Wired, Dr. John C. Maxwell

Lessons in Leadership

The latest issue of ComputerWorld, Oct 2nd issue, has a very good section on leadership, Lessons In Leadership, where five top CIOs share their lessons learned. I am going to extract some great quotes I found. These quotes explain what leadership is in a practical way.

Bette Walker, CIO of Delphi Corp”I remind my direct reports that if they’re not doing a good job of communicating, coaching and preparing materials in advance, change will take even longer.”

David Rice, CIO of Siemens Medical Solutions USA”Sometimes the absolutely worst decision is to not make a decision. Being a leader means having to make tough decisions. If you’re not comfortable with that, you’re probably in the wrong job.”

Bill Spooner, CIO of Sharp HealthCare”You’ve got to do everything you can to make your employees proud to work for you and proud of what they’re doing. They need to sense the importance of what they’re doing.”

Rick Davidson, CIO of Manpower”I believe it’s important to be honest and transparent and to establish trust between management and employees. People follow leaders because the leader can take them places they can’t go on their own. And if you violate that trust, people won’t follow you anymore.”

Noel Tichy, author and former head of GE’s leadership centerQ: “What is the best thing a leader can do?”A: “Be a teacher and develop other leaders while the organization keeps winning. The worst people in the world to do this are consultants, professionals and training stuff. It is up to the leaders of an organization to be the teachers.”

ReferenceLessons In Leadership, CW article

Good Definition of Charisma

A good leader needs to have at least some charisma. What is charisma? I found a great definition of it while reading Win The Crowd.

Charismatic people are:
  • enthusiastic
  • confident
  • comfortable in their own skin
  • unconcerned about what others think of them
  • masters of their subject matter
  • symbols of something others desire

Be Unconcerned About What Others Think of YouThe key to charisma may lie in this advice. Do what seems right to you, and don’t waver when people present differing points of view. Stay true to who you are and what you believe in. People will often test you to see how far you can be pushed. Don’t budge. The firmer you stand, the clearer it is what you stand for.

You can’t please everybody. Not everybody will like you and that’s perfectly okay. There is no need to be liked by every person you meet.

Stop trying to impress everyone. Your presentations will improve, and people will be more attracted to you when you decide to impress no one but yourself.

ReferenceWin The Crowd, Steve Cohen

A Humble Leader

What makes a good leader?

I don’t think there is one answer to this question. There are different views on that. But there are some characteristics that a leader should have. The following sums it up nicely:

“We want honest leaders, who are decisive, creative, optimistic and even courageous …. one of the most critical traits of a leader: humility. A humble leader listens to others. He or she values input from employees and is ready to hear the truth, even if it’s bad news. Humility is marked by an ability to admit mistakes.”

ReferenceThe above quote is taken from a very good blog post about leadership, Humble Leaders – An Oxymoron?

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