I recently returned from a whirlwind vacation that included visiting three of the beautiful Hawaiian Islands. As much as I tried to “go off the grid,” forget about work and enjoy the surroundings, my mind remained on autopilot, constantly scanning for outstanding presenters. I wasn’t let down; in fact I had a couple of terrific tour guides who created what I like to call “breakthrough moments” where they truly connected with their audience.

More than a lecture about lava

My husband and I joined a varied group of vacationers on a 17-mile bike ride around the crater of an active volcano on the Big Island. Meghan, our tour guide, was a young geologist. At first, she seemed to be pushing information out to us instead of connecting with us. Once we arrived at the crater, however, she got into her element as she shared her vast knowledge about Kilauea, the volcanic rock and the local mythology associated with it. (read more…)

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…)

There is an interesting story about the shortest letter sent to an English newspaper. The editor asked readers to respond to the question, “What’s wrong with the world?” The following response was reported to have been received from C.K. Chesterton, a well-known writer in the last century:

Dear Sir,

I am.

Yours Sincerely, C.K. Chesterton

When I learned of that story, I wondered how many leaders realize that the impact they make begins with what’s inside of them. The good “human” qualities that are expressed outwardly by leaders — courage, respect, restraint, empathy, compassion, generosity, etc. — start from within.

What that means is that when we look inside to develop these qualities, they can then manifest and become expressed through us to make an impact on the world around us.

So you, as a leader, have the opportunity to impact what’s right with the world through the positive qualities you express. (read more…)

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of facilitating a discussion for a webinar for alumni of Georgetown University titled, “Conversations are the Work of a Leader.”

In spite of my limitations as a presenter, there was a lot of appreciative feedback about the messages conveyed: that as senior managers and leaders we need to be connected with our people, and not just through e-mail, newsletters and town hall meetings. We need to get out of our offices, off our executive floors and speak with the people who are doing the work of our companies.

There were poignant comments and questions during and after the webinar, such as, “I wish my boss was listening. He doesn’t get it,” and, “How do we get this message to our senior managers? They spend most of their time talking to each other, not to us.”

There were many similar comments and questions. Clearly this subject sparked interest; people feel strongly that conversations are vitally important. (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: How well do you take to being “just a team member” and working alongside your team?

  • Very well — I easily transition into the role of team member: 58.76%
  • Well — sometimes I transition easily but other times I’m challenged: 34.4%
  • Not well — I have difficulty changing my mindset and being a team member: 5.77%
  • Poorly — I actively resist situations where I have to work alongside my team: 1.07%

Welcome to the team. It’s easy to forget what it’s like to be a team member when you spend most of your days leading that team. If you have difficulty stepping into a team role and letting someone else lead, you’re missing out on a great opportunity. (read more…)