More than 50,000 books are published per year on leadership — how to be an effective leader, how to grow into being a leader if you’re not one, what qualities constitute a good leader. And it’s not just books — there are websites, magazines, blogs, training seminars, not to mention graduate degrees from major universities.

The market for leadership development seems unlimited. Why? Because nearly everyone sees him or herself as a leader, or at least a potential one. Leadership seems to be the holy grail for which all business people should be striving. But what if there is another side to this coin? What if leadership is not always where your focus should be?

Here’s the nugget: You can’t be a leader unless you have willing followers. So you must follow first. You must learn to be a good follower. You need to see life from the trenches, understand the mindset of those you may one day lead. (read more…)

Your company has a shadow organization, whether you realize it or not.

That doesn’t mean that your company is running a spy collective worthy of the CIA. It means that your business has an unofficial set of relationships that influences how things are done in your organization.

Navigating these shadow organizations can be the difference between surviving and succeeding in the workplace. Here’s how you can find your way through:

1. Reframe “office politics.” Workplace surveys show that the majority of employees reluctantly engage in office politics, and nearly half of them believe it detracts from productivity. So how can you boost your career without engaging in dog-eat-dog politics? Start by reorienting your assumptions about what the term “office politics” means.

  • Replace the word “politics” with “awareness.”
  • Recognize that organizational awareness is all about communication and relationships.
  • Commit to using organizational awareness in a way that benefits everyone, not just you.
  • (read more…)

According to Bersin by Deloitte, U.S.-based companies invested more the $15 billion in 2013 to develop their leaders.

The dollars were spent on a variety of activities designed to build leadership competencies and skills. These activities included external educational programs, partnerships and internally developed face-to-face workshops, webinars and e-learning. They include development experiences, stretch assignments, 360-degree surveys, one-on-one coaching, action learning teams and communities of practice, simulations and assessment centers, job rotations and strategic mentorships.

No expense has been spared in many organizations to surround leaders with the activities, resources, and tools necessary to elevate their capacity to guide, inspire, and influence individuals and business results. Yet other organizations are shifting their focus in a profound way. Rather than dishing up external experiences to build leadership capacity, they’re beginning to explore a new — internal — frontier.

For the average leader, life is filled with an kaleidoscope of challenges that offer tremendous opportunity for learning and growth. (read more…)

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Happiness is good, right? Researchers led by Steven Cole at the University of California at Los Angeles made a stunning discovery last year. They studied the gene expression profiles of people who experienced happiness from seeking pleasure and those who experienced happiness from seeking meaningful purpose in life. While both pleasure and purpose seekers reported experiencing happiness at a conscious level, the gene expression profiles of the two groups told a different story.

The profiles of the purpose seekers exhibited low levels of inflammatory gene expression and strong levels of antiviral and antibody genes. The pleasure seekers showed the opposite. Their profiles were consistent with people who are more likely to experience adverse health and premature death.

This new research is relevant to how we live our lives. People who seek purpose in their lives feel they make a difference. They experience greater energy and enthusiasm. They are more likely to give their best efforts and persevere through the inevitable challenges and difficult seasons in life that everyone experiences. (read more…)

Recently I had the pleasure of going on a fishing trip on Lake Michigan with three of my sons. This was our first such fishing charter, and it turned out to be a great experience all around.

Clearly, one of the most common words on a shipping boat is “catch,” as in the fish that is brought in during the trip. When used in the workplace, the term can be used to reference a great new resource, such as a new hire or tool that has the potential of adding value to the workforce and its efforts. Proactive managers and employers can also catch their workers doing something right and praise such conduct as a form of reinforcement.

On the negative side, the term “catch” can refer to the way in which employees are oftentimes evaluated, as in being caught off-guard with critiques (or worse) that stem from unstated or unclear expectations. (read more…)