It’s mythical and alluring, that thing that you may secretly desire. It surfaces slowly and silently unseen, unheard and often unrecognized. It hides within the facade of your ego, growing larger with time while blinding you to its presence.

Make no mistake. It will destroy you and your organization even while it parasitizes your values and harms the spirits of those who once willingly followed you, but who now trudge along like sheep going to slaughter.

“Why aren’t our employees more innovative?” you exclaim, and the question “Why must I carry the burden of being all things to all people?” is keeping you up at night.

You’re blind to it when it surfaces, this thing named control. Yet it makes you feel powerful. The desire to control will surface throughout your leadership career. The trick to keeping control at bay is be aware when it surfaces and to let go of it (this is the hard part) when it’s appropriate. (read more…)

 Warning: Step away from the search engine!

Google is a great tool, but it’s not perfect for everything.

You can use it to learn the time difference between New York City and Hong Kong, or you can settle an argument with a friend about whether flies really vomit when they land on you. These kinds of questions — ones with a clear-cut, definite answer — are what Google is made for. But if you’re looking for answers to questions that will affect your company or help you make a decision on a professional matter, Google doesn’t quite cut it.

Why Google misses the mark

A Google search is both faster and easier than tracking down an expert to talk to, so why would you go through the trouble of finding a real-life person to answer your questions? Here are three reasons why it’s better to seek an expert’s opinion

You get content that isn’t available online. (read more…)

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 190,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our e-newsletter.

Last week, we asked: Are you better at being a leader or being a manager?

  • I’m better at being a leader: 44.68%
  • I’m better at being a manager: 21.26%
  • I lead and manage equally well: 27.74%
  • I don’t see a difference between leadership and management: 6.31%

Leading or Managing. As Admiral Grace Murray Hopper said “You manage things and you lead people.” The clear majority of respondents have a bias toward the people side of things. If you are in this group, just ensure there’s someone on your team who has an eye on the management pieces too. It’s very easy to ignore the inanimate and focus on the human interactions. Lean too far in that direction though and you put your organization at risk. (read more…)

To drive innovation, you sometimes have to “break” to achieve your breakthrough.

Tesla Motors is a perfect example of a company that disrupted its industry, despite the risks inherent in innovation. Founded in 2003 as a “boutique” automotive company, Tesla soon focused on the fringe electric car movement. When the financial crisis hit, Elon Musk came close to losing both Tesla and SpaceX. After General Motors and Chrysler went bankrupt, Musk found it almost impossible to raise another round of funding. Following the acquisition of $465 million in low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009, Tesla was able to file an IPO and begin trading on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

Tesla’s subsequent efforts have been revolutionary. The company introduced a transformative driving experience to the market and continues to drive down the cost of electric cars — all under the guise of a 100-year-old mode of transport.

This type of innovation requires risk, and when growing from a startup to a stable, process-driven enterprise, the willingness to allow something to “break” is often lost. (read more…)

Posture is critical to public speaking.

The stance of a speaker says much about how a speaker feels about what is saying as well as how he wants the audience to receive the message. A speaker hunched over at the podium, or one who is furtively glancing sideways or upwards, but never at the audience, radiates discomfiture.

James Lowther, Speaker of the British House Commons early in the 20th century, gave this advice, “There are three golden rules for Parliamentary speakers: Stand up. Speak up. Shut up.”

The first two relate directly to posture, the third bit relates to common sense. And that is something no speaker can project enough (read more…)