Is Your Leadership Any Good? Five Ways You Can Be Certain

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If you Google “Great Leadership” you will get over more results than you can filter through – I actually find that fascinating. So much knowledge to be had at our fingertips and so many people writing about the topic of Leadership, yet we complain about the lack of leadership (within our companies, communities, government) on a daily basis. How can we have all these ideas and opinions about what makes a great leader, yet perceive a serious lack of it?

I decided to do a little research on the subject, just enough to get a feel for the overall thoughts of what makes a great leaders and why we believe there aren’t any out there. In my own completely unscientific approach, I read the top 10 search results for two search phrases: (1) Lack of Leadership and (2) Great Leadership. The following is a summary of what I found – click on the terms above to see what I saw – it’s a fascinating view of our world.

Lack of Leadership – key themes

Just because someone has a title, a corner office, or millions (billions) of dollars, does not necessarily make them a great leader. Here are 5 themes I picked up from reading about poor leadership.

1. Loving the title, not the team: As I read several articles about bad leadership, one theme that kept coming back (in various phrases and words) was the concept that many people in leadership positions start to love “how other people perceive them” (i.e. suckups or strangers), more than how their team perceives them.

2. Managing UP: An area of great concern, to those being lead, is whether a leader is more concerned with their own career or how they look to the organization, than individuals within the team. If your leader is more concerned with making a show of what “they’ve done” rather than what the team or individuals have accomplished – it is a signal to you as a team member about the value to you bring to the table. Poor leaders make sure they get the credit, but never the blame.

3. Poor leaders beget poor leaders: It may not come as a surprise, but poor leaders usually hire poor leaders. Regardless of who is doing the hiring, all the things that make up great leaders, will be the exact things that turn off a poor leader – and one of the hallmarks of poor leadership is not allowing someone else to be in the spotlight.

4. Decisions … poor leaders can’t make them: A ripple effect of the list of poor leadership traits in most, if not all, poor leaders is their inability to make a definitive decision by themselves. They are caught in the cross-hairs of their own personality – on that razor’s edge of Success and Failure – when this one decision can make or break their standing within the organization. It’s a tough place to be, but this one thing is a tell-tale sign of bad leadership.

5. All Talk, No Action: On the heels of #4 above, is another easy sign of who is the real leader and who isn’t. There is a saying “You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” – roughly that translates to … you sound very good when you talk, you know all the words, the catchy phrases, the industry jargon, but can you really put it together and make things happen? Poor leaders may be great talkers – either one-on-one, in team meetings, or standing at a podium – but that does not equate to being able to actually lead anyone and get the right things done, at the right time.

Great Leadership – key themes

It has been said Great Leaders are not made, they are born. That may or may not be true, maybe there is a genetic disposition to being a great leader – I’ll let those genetic engineers figure that one out. What I do know, you can spot the real leader in most groups – but being a leader and also being great are two different things. The following 5 themes seem to crop up in most discussions about great leaders and leadership.

1. Know the difference between Management and Leadership: Great leaders may or may not be great managers – which is why there are positions such as “Chief of Staff”, “Chief Operating Officers” and any number of similar roles. Great leaders are notoriously poor administrators. They hate the paperwork and established processes. They are doers, and those just get in the way of doing. That being said, they understand the importance of administration, process, coloring between the lines – so many will demand their teams follow those same things they dislike.

2. Want to work with great people, which translates to hiring great people: Great leaders are not afraid to hire talented people, even if those people could be great leaders themselves. I was looking for a quote to go along with this one. What I found out, is that those people who are successful and recognized leaders, will always talk about hiring great and talented people. The flip side of that coin is they also don’t want to work for poor leaders themselves. They have an innate ability to recognize poor leadership and understand how it will affect them (and their teams).

3. Provide vision, then get out of the way: One of the key attributes of a great leaders is their ability to either create or translate a vision into “what it means” to the people who will actually do the heavy lifting. They are there to facilitate and motivate their teams, that starts with having a vision – without it, a leader will be just another corporate-drone, repeating what they are told. How the work gets done is not as important as getting it done. Everyone has goals and timelines – great leadership help to position those as motivators, rather than detractors. Making a push for year-end numbers is a fact of life in business, but having the sales leader “whip” his sales people to perform doesn’t need to be part of it.

4. They’re just good people: This may seem obvious, but it’s not. Think about all those “bad” bosses you’ve had in the past – what names would attribute to them. Now, think of all those wonderful bosses (or other people that lead something which you were involved) and what names would attributed to them. We are all human, but a really great leaders is a “people person” they care about you, they care about what they are doing and how they spend their time, they care about hitting the numbers or goals set in front of them – in general they care. And that caring nature is one of the things that pushes them into the great category.

5. Lead from the front: This is my catch-all theme. But if your leaders isn’t willing to get their hands dirty, roll-up their sleeves and just help “get it done”, they won’t be around when things go wrong. You can tell a great leaders by two things (1) the quality of the people that follow them and (2) the number of leaders they “create”. Trust, Faith, Belief are all words that a great leader will inspire – and in most cases, that means when times are bad, they help, they assume responsibility, and provide the necessarily guidance to move through it. Great leaders may have failures, and when you talk to them, some of their most animated stories will be about those failures – but they are not defined by the failure, rather they are defined by what happened next. You can always tell great leaders, they stand tall and proud, up front and center.

Sometimes all you have is a gut feeling about one person versus another. Whether you are hiring them, or they are hiring you – eventually, you will know what kind of leaders they are. No one can hide their true selves forever. There are times when you just know, because they have that “It” factor, you just want to be around them. If you find someone like that, count your blessings. It’s much more rare than we would like to believe.

Modern gamification rules to up your customer engagement

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More than 50% of Organizations that Manage Information Processes Will Gamify Those Processes” Gartner, Inc (2011)

I have to admit it, the internet is a wonderful thing, especially when you are just meandering along, following random links, not specifically looking for anything. And BOOM, you see something that looks interesting, and you get sucked into a subject, you had not expected to be sucked into. That happened to me this morning – all of a sudden, I was sucked into reading about Gamification of business (both in the world external marketing and internal support). I was fascinated – I remember reading about game theory a few years back and now here was this information about using the idea of “games” to engage our customers and employees. I guess at the end of the day, all of us are “gamers”.

First a definition and background …

Gamification is the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals. Gamification taps into the basic desires and needs of the users impulses which revolve around the idea of Status and Achievement. Source:

Gamification was a term that was first coined in 2003 by Nick Pelling, but did not gain popularity until 2010. The term gamification began to gather interest and a following in 2010 when companies such as Badgeville started using it to describe their behavior platforms. In 2011, more companies started developing gamification platforms as they became more popular. Source:

What makes up gamification? Well think of any game, from physical games to online games – what are the characteristics that make up your favorite games?

1. Rewards – we all like to be rewarded. Some games are either “win or lose” type games, others include points, some include badges or new abilities – but rewarding someone for something is key element in the use of games (and in gamification).

2. Competition – at our core, we like to compete. Games give us that competitive feeling, and in some games, we not only compete against someone (or something) but we also compete with the clock, creating a sense of urgency along with the sense of competitiveness.

3. Increase Difficulty – humans like rewards, we like competition – but we also get bored easily. Games (especially computer/video/mobile/online games) give us new experiences, harder challenges, and of course, better rewards and bragging rights. All to keep us engaged.

4. Feedback – the best games keep us informed of our progress – what we have done, where we have been, and more importantly, where we might be headed (but only a glimpse). Feedback, whether is through menus, onscreen dashboards, auditory – is an important aspect of gaming to keep the player pushing forward and not giving up too soon.

5. Social – as we have seen over the past few years, providing a social element is critical to the success of games – and it is critical to the success of gamification. Since we are not so connected to our social media, the success of Facebook and mobile games have proven that we humans like to brag about our experiences – especially when we are winning.

But how are Businesses using gamification?

The following are examples I have found (with links provided) to companies and organizations utilizing games, gamification, and gaming theory to engage their customers and/or their employees.

FoldItProblem solving applied to protein molecules. Result: over 240,000 players registered for the game and competing viciously against each other. A solution to the structure of the M-PMV was found in 10 days, creating a major breakthrough in the AIDS research field.

Recyclebank – Rewards users for doing everyday things that are good for the environment, such as learning how to cut back on water consumption or purchasing greener products – specifically, those with the Recyclebank logo.

Slalom Consulting – Seattle-based Slalom Consulting had 2,000 employees in offices around the United States. To improve internal communications, the company decided to create a mobile application that would help employees learn the names and faces of their colleagues. To encourage participation, the application included a “leaderboard” showing who had the highest scores, says CEO Brad Jackson. The tactic backfired. “We found that only 5% of the people truly cared about being at the top of the leaderboard,” he says. The prizes – gift cards – weren’t enough, either. One tweek, creating “teams” to compete – made all the difference. Participation went up to 90%.

There are any number of ways to apply it to your business – only your imagination is the limit. Here are links to three resources I found (but do a Google search to find your own).

So what are your thoughts? Let me know below in the comments.

Lee Iacocca – The 9 C’s of Leadership

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OK, this is an excerpt from two sources: First – Lee Iacocca’s new book “Where Have all the Leaders Gone” co-written with Catherine Whitney and a book excerpt from USA Today. I’m trying to be a good citizen and give credit where credit is due. I read this and had to share…

The Test of a Leader

I’ve never been Commander in Chief, but I’ve been a CEO. I understand a few things about leadership at the top. I’ve figured out nine points—not ten (I don’t want people accusing me of thinking I’m Moses). I call them the “Nine Cs of Leadership.”  

3 ways to create Frictionless Transactions

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I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read about how the world of business is changing; or why your “old school” ways of selling are just not working anymore; or if you’re not working the social channels into your marketing, success will be elusive at best.


THE PIVOT – 3 tactics when it’s time to change direction

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It’s 3am again and I woke up in a cold sweat.  That uncomfortable feeling gripping my stomach, wrenching it into knots.  No sense fighting it – so I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and stumbled to the bathroom.  As I flipped the switch, it was like being slapped in the face as the darkness blinked away.  The first sight was my reflection in the mirror, with a slight disgusted shake of my head, I reached down, turned on the cold water and splashed some on my face.  It was going to be a long day … as many had been over the past few months.

Launching a new business or new product is never easy, although it is significantly easier than pivots and re-launches.  Either of those is filled with more dread, more stress, more pressure, than doing something new and exciting.  It’s easy to stay excited about a “game changer”, bouncing out of bed with new ideas, talking to partners and potential customers, telling them how “great this will be when it’s launched”.  That – well frankly, is easy.


Microsoft (Money) + LinkedIn (Social) = Business Killer App

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As soon as I heard about the merger, my mind started reeling – because things like this usually get my mind engaged – it’s so much fun to speculate about “What Will Happen”?  And this one … well, LinkedIn wasn’t going to be purchased for a few bucks, even with their stock price down for the past few months.


It’s not business, it’s personal

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Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!” Dr. Suess (1904-1991)

We have all heard the saying “It’s not personal, it’s business”. We hear that statement and it rings true. It sounds very logical. Business is just a transaction, it’s an exchange between two entities – that insurance policy doesn’t really care about me, or that loaf of bread – emotions are not involved, it’s just business. (more…)

BIG is not what it used to be

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BIG (meaning very large, corporate multi-national companies) is loosing it’s advantage in today’s economy. With the exception of a few industries, where BIG government helps to regulate who can play and who can’t, the general barrier to entry is no longer cost, size or expertise. (more…)

Any one can say that

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I was thinking this morning, as I looked at another PowerPoint presentation about some new services being offered by some company in the IT services world and thought “anyone can say that” – because in general, anyone can. (more…)