To some, being a leader is just a job. But to others, it’s a choice, a calling even, to inspire others to engage, perform, and achieve. The women and men who make this choice are skilled in a number of areas that bring out the best in everyone and everything. They’re leaders who get it.

Their secret sauce? They’ve chosen to:

1. Be well-mannered mavericks who know when to go with the flow and when to go against it. Leaders who get it have the insight and courage to buck the status quo when it’s gone awry and are willing to assume the personal risk involved in doing so. “Business courage is not so much a visionary leader’s inborn characteristic as a skill acquired through decision-making processes that improve with practice,” notes University of Southern California professor Kathleen Reardon.

2. Be kind. These folks have closed the book on the view of leaders as flinty heroes who unsmilingly save the day and double the bottom line. (read more…)

In one of the stranger inversions of the tech industry, failure has become chic. The founder of a failed startup, instead of feeling a little sheepish, now has bragging rights and a badge of honor. Indeed, one CEO of a failed startup recently bragged to a New York magazine writer that more people than ever now want to talk to him because of his failure.

There is certainly nothing wrong with learning from the experience of having tried and failed at starting an enterprise, and there is value in sharing the lessons of that experience. In the military, we refer to studying the outcomes of operations as “After Action Reports,” with an objective of honest self-reflection and developing an understanding of exactly what went right, what went wrong, and how to avoid the what-went-wrong part going forward.

But that’s not quite what this is. Instead, this celebration of failure seems more like an opportunity to spin one’s mistakes rather than coming to terms with them. (read more…)

Leadership IQ recently released a study called “Optimal Hours with the Boss.” It’s an insightful report based upon research conducted earlier this year with more than 30,000 executives, managers, and employees in North America.

The results have understandably made news. The findings are profound:

“The median time people spend interacting with their leader is 3 hours. But 3 hours spent per week interacting with one’s leader is not enough. For the 32,410 people in this study, the optimal amount of time to spend interacting with one’s leader is 6 hours.”

This is helpful information indeed and a welcome metric for managers who are increasingly looking to quantify not just their results but also their efforts. Meeting the six-hour mark yields significant returns in the form of engagement, motivation, inspiration, and innovation according to the study.

A dimension of the report that has received little attention, however, addresses how much time managers and executive need with their own leaders. (read more…)

Charlie is a charming, highly persuasive marketing executive for a growing technology company. He’s a delight to work with — until you tell him what he’s asking for isn’t possible.

Then, his charm rapidly dissipates. On a good day, you’ll get a reptilian smile with, “I’m sure someone with as many years in the business can find a way to make this work”; on a bad day, it’s a terse “just find a way.” No amount of reasoning will work with Charlie because, in his mind, there are two types of people: winners and losers. And Charlie doesn’t lose.

The media is filled with stories of CEOs, celebrities and highly paid sports figures run amok with their inability to take “no” for an answer. Whether their reactions are all-out tirades or a more subtle approach like Charlie’s, leaders who must hear “yes” at all costs put their organizations’ financial health at risk. (read more…)

I love the strengths-based leadership approach. It challenges us to know what our natural gifts are and build on them. But if we’re not careful it can make us blind to our opportunities to improve.

I recently worked with a vice president who was an up-and-comer in her firm’s global division. She was the “go-to” person on technical issues relating to Asian markets, and she was intentionally developing her leadership style to incorporate coach, mentor and develop others in the company to work effectively with foreign partners.

This was her primary career strategy until a situation that threatened to leave her at the VP level. It turns out that while focusing on the technical aspects of global operations and developing employees to manage them well, she had failed to develop some of her bosses. Her “managing up” skills were weak at the executive level, and she was uncomfortable with the delicate education and persuasion necessary to bring along some of her superiors. (read more…)