08/25/20

Leadership Revisited — You Can Do This

This blog post is a revisit of something I wrote some time ago. It was one of the most heavily trafficked posts I have ever written though not at the time I wrote it. I have revised some things.

I have been a CEO for 33 years, before that an Army officer for five years, before that a cadet at VMI for 4 years, and most recently a CEO coach for 8 years. I grew up in a military family.

In business, I have founded private companies and grown them to some recognizable success; and, I have run a public company. My endeavors have been entrepreneurial and I have done a few turnarounds.

I have a lot of experience with both the theory of leadership and the practice of leadership. I have taught leadership. I have developed leaders both in the military and in business.

I have coached good and bad CEOs. I have helped bad CEOs become good CEOs. I have helped good CEOs become great CEOs and I have shepherded them to the pay window.

I have been in the leadership game a long time and at depth.

There is a huge difference between learning from an observer and learning from a practitioner. It is the difference between reading a book and lab work.

You can sit in an airplane in first class for 1,000,000 miles, but you still don’t know how it feels to take off and land a 737. [I have about 3,000 hours flying Bonanzas and find that flying analogies are very comparable to the startup business.]

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05/10/20

CEO Shoptalk — Fear v Fearful

A leader is always operating on the edge. Talking to you: entrepreneurs, founders, CEOs, C-suite denizens, departmental leaders, and students of leadership.

When I was in those positions, I never thought it was lonely at the top, but when people say it is — this is what they are talking about. Being alone with your thoughts, your duties, your responsibilities, your decisions — good ones, bad ones.

Today it is perfectly fine to feel the press of fear. I would be surprised if you didn’t feel fear today. We are facing monumental changes and the fellow traveler of change is fear.

Fear is an emotion. It is an instant in time. It is fleeting. We can banish it. It does not define us.

As a leader, you can feel fear, but you cannot run your organization on it.

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04/24/20

Nancy Pelosi’s Side — Let Them Eat Ice Cream

I’m considering things great and small when my phone rings. I do not recognize the number, but the ring itself feels like a political survey, so I answer.

“Stand by for the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi,” the voice says. It sounds eerily like the Emperor in Star Wars. So, I wait. I wait. I wait.

“Big Red Car, how are you, dear?” the Speaker asks.

“Fine, Madame Speaker, et vous?”

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03/22/20

No Perfect Leaders

I have been in the leadership business since I was a cadet at Virginia Military Institute in 1969. As an Army officer, we were not converted into “wartime” CEOs, our constant context was war. That was what we were trained to do.

It is like nails on a blackboard when I hear venture capitalists describe the “wartime CEO” using the Army as a context.

All of this has drawn me to assess the leadership of the country in the context of the WutangCurse.

The nature of leaders

The WutangCurse is a crisis and it will require stalwart, sound, optimistic leadership to navigate the medical, the intellectual, the psychological, and the economic shoals of this dilemma.

We do not have perfect leaders. Life gives us leaders who may be or become perfect for that challenge.

Today, I think we have two of them: President Donald J Trump and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Winston Churchill, an exemplar

Winston Churchill was the perfect leader for England and what would become the Allies — long before the United States entered into the war — when on the heels of Dunkirk, he spoke directly to Hitler and told him England would resist the Nazis with ever fiber of their being.

In August 1941, Prime Minister Winston Churchill signalling “V for Victory”

In the Parliament of the United Kingdom, 4 June 1940, having lost his army’s heavy weapons in France, his army in tatters, Prime Minister (since 10 May 1940, the date upon which the Nazis launched their attack against the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg) Winston Churchill, rose and said in his inimitable voice:

“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender.”

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03/4/20

Evolving Leadership Style

Leadership is one of those subjects that ebbs and flows in cycle with the startup and venture capital buzz. It was quite fashionable to discuss a few years ago, today, not so much. It is, however, a very important issue to understand. I want to discuss three different specific elements of evolving leadership.

 1. The first element is that leadership, you as a leader, the leadership style the organization needs, WILL evolve. You cannot run a 500 person company with the same leadership technique as a 10-person startup.

 2. The changes will be manifested in your leadership style which requires you to assess and give considerable thought to ‘what is your leadership style?’

 3. One of the most important elements of leadership style is your authentic leadership voice. This will also evolve.

It seems so obvious when one looks at it from afar, but you will be experiencing this when you are ass deep in alligators. You may not have the natural inclination to step back and assess the changes that are happening or are needed around you.

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07/15/19

Adapting Leadership Style

One of the gratifying things about working with CEOs who are developing their skills is to watch how they become stronger and more flexible as their problem solving becomes more sophisticated and situational. This is leadership style and voice.

Each successful leader will try out several leadership styles and a genuine voice to advance that style. We have talked about that before.

What is also important is to know that there are multiple ways to solve problems in the course of translating leadership goals into reality.

There are different methodologies based on the current — instant in time current — situation. These different methodologies require a CEO to think carefully about style and voice.

Allow me to use a flying analogy.

When you learn to fly an airplane, one of the critical skills is landing the plane. Pilots define a “good landing” as one that you can walk away from, but that is grossly oversimplistic.

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06/26/19

Leadership And Leadership Training

Gloomy day in the ATX, but then I am in the ATX, so how gloomy can it really be?

So I have been reading a book — 40 pages in, an easy read — by Jerry Collonna called: Reboot – Leadership and the Art of Growing Up.

Jerry is one of those Internet presences one meets and grows fond of. There is wisdom in his writing and there is a good heart in his chest. He comes to the issue of leadership primarily from the perspective of CEO coaching and has a huge following.

He is an emotional, Zen, Buddhist type of guy who will cry at the drop of a hat. I don’t see him doing much hunting or skydiving, but he is a mensch.

I recommend the book as a body of work that one should read, but I am not a fan of the emotional style and desperate nature of how he tells his story.

It is HIS story. It is not my story. It is a good story and it should be in the institutional memory of anybody who is serious about the leadership gig.

Go read the book, but when you do, I want you to know a few other things at the same time.

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02/5/19

The Curious Case of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam

Hello, dear readers. It is a gray, warm (70F) day in the ATX. Today, I speak to you of the curious case of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.

If you don’t know who Governor Ralph Northam is, then you may stop reading right now, go to Sbux and contemplate the prospect of Howard Schultz as our next President.

Image result for images ralph northam

If you are acquainted with the subject, then read on. [BTW, you are looking very sharp today. Lost weight?]

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