Archives For Leader

Starting Your Leadership Library

November 15, 2010

In my mid-twenties, I came to the sad realization that I was a pathetic leader. I didn’t have a good people skills.  I knew I needed to make a change. I was cutting through a discount book store near campus, when I saw the book “The Power of Followership” by Robert Kelly.  I bought the book, thus  began my fascination with self-development.

Another book I picked up that day was “Leonardo da Vinci: Engineer & Architect.”  This is one of those huge art books. This fascinated me because I was working on a Ph.D. in engineering. What I had known up to that point about Da Vinci was him as painter/artist. I had a built in book case with 4 shelves in my campus apartment. Most of which was filled with text books.  17 years later, I have 7 large Ikea bookshelves that line my living room wall like wallpaper. I also have one large bookshelf in my bedroom. I have 2 shelves dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci. Needless to say – I love to read.  I believe leaders must be lifelong learners.

If you are taking the first step in developing your leadership skills let me recommend the top 10 books in my library.  These are the 10 books I find myself returning to regarding leadership skills.

1.    “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie – this book is a classic. It is the book that taught me that ‘eating crow’ is part of leadership. And it helped me crucify my desire to be right all the time (even though I am – joking)

2.    “Becoming a Critical Thinker” by Vincent Ruggerio – I almost named Edward de Bono’s “Thinking Course “instead. Bottom line, become a good thinker. We live in a very feeling generation. Feelings are real, but feelings lie. Good thinking is a must for leaders.

3.    “Please Understand Me” by David Kiersey – or any good book on personality difference and temperaments.  Discovering my own temperament, helped me understand how to relate to other temperaments. Even more important, it taught me how to change behavior to connect with those I needed to connect with.

4.    “Instant Rapport” by Michael Brooks – This book is a tad bit of overkill in regards to neuro-linguistic programming.  In short, it describes the various mind processing methods: Audio, Visual and Kinesthetic. This helps with communicating to others.

5.    “Developing the Leader Within You” by John Maxwell – 3 of his books made my top 10. I own most of John Maxwell’s books. The 3 listed here are the must reads. The titles say why.

6.    “Developing the Leaders Around You” by John Maxwell

7.    “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson – Simple yet profound book on dealing with change.

8.    “Men Are From Mars, Women are From Venus” by John Gray – I take a lot of criticism when I conduct a women’s leadership workshop and tell them some of the best books on leading men are dating books. Understanding yourself as a woman and understanding the male ego will set you apart from other women counterparts. I’m an engineer by trade, this was a must for me to grasp. Yes, it doesn’t hurt your love life either!

9.    “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by John Maxwell

10.  “Black & White: Styles in Conflict” Thomas Kochman – When I first entered corporate America, most often I was the only black person on the team –  WAIT, this is still true! Although Corporate America is becoming more diverse, we’ve got a long way to go. Understanding the cultural differences helped me feel less like an outsider and helped empower me to teach my white counterparts the differences between them and I.

What are some of your favorite leadership books that you consider foundational or must reads?

The Rise of the Introverted Leader

August 23, 2010

The Introverted Leader’s Guide Part 3

The 21st Century will give rise to more Introverted leaders than we’ve seen in the past.  This century’s leaders who will be recorded as the 22nd Century’s historical heroes will have 1 major common trait – the ability to focus.

The speed of life has increased more than hundred-fold over the past 100 years. Being able to pull away, prioritize and dig deeper into problems will be the catapult for the rise of this leader; because these traits allows the introverted leader to respond rather than react. This leader’s calm demeanor will be a beacon to their followers.

There will always be a place for charismatic extroverted leaders. But calm, confidence and thoughtfulness are this century’s advantage.

The Introverted Leader’s Guide Part 1

August 9, 2010

Introvert versus Extrovert

I recently read Dr. Marti Laney’s book “The Introvert Advantage”.  Excellent read if you are an introvert, think you are an introvert or an extrovert that leads/loves an introvert.

Only 1 in 3 people are introverts. I’ve known for 15+ years I’m an introvert.  But it’s only been the last 10 years I’ve adjusted my lifestyle because of being an introvert.  Understanding and accepting my temperament helps me thrive in an extroverted world.  With 2/3 of the world being extroverts, many times introverts get caught striving to compete with them and eventually burning out. I strongly believe I can do anything!  But what I’ve learned is that it may be accomplished by different means than my extroverted peers.

Introversion and Extroversion are temperaments.  We are born with it.  It’s not pathological or learned behavior.  There are 3 main differences we differ from extroverts:

Energy Creation

Introverts need to shut down and withdraw to recharge; while Extroverts recharge by being around people.

Response to Stimulation

Introverts are easily overwhelmed by stimulation; extroverts thrive in stimulation.

Depth vs. breadth

Introverts have fewer friends but deeper relationships; extroverts lots of friends and shallower relationships.

I spent years attempting to deepen a relationship with a friend who is an extrovert.  Our conversations were so shallow and honestly never changed in 18 years. Finally I realized there wasn’t much there to get deep with and stopped frustrating myself. I do have deep relationships with extroverts but it takes a lot of work.  They understand all of the above we both compromise to meet each others needs. This true in leading extroverts as well.

Key Points:

  • There are more extroverts than there are introverts (ratio 2:1)
  • Introverts can do anything an extrovert can do, it’s just done differently
  • Lifestyle must be adapted to thrive in extroverted world

Next week: Part 2 – Work/Life Balance for Introverted Leaders

What have you learned about being an introvert? If you are extrovert, what have you learned about leading introverts?

“Prepping” Authority

July 25, 2009

iStock_000010043398XSmallAuthority is often misunderstood by leaders and team members. Endless discussions about roles are a symptom of this misunderstanding. Authority has relativistic characteristics as well as some absolutes.  How I’ve viewed authority is by considering the “preps”, that is prepositions, in front of authority. As a leader you can simultaneously be “in authority,” “under authority” and “of authority.” A mature leader knows when to operate “in”, “under” or “of” authority.

Under Authority:

This one is the easiest to understand. Most people don’t want to be under anybody. But it is a safe place to be. It is a place of accountability which leads to growth. As a project manager I am under the authority of the sponsor and customer. A director is under the authority of a vice president and so on.

In Authority:

This is the area in which you are free to make decisions and chart the course. As a project manager, I have a project charter, team and budget to freely operate as I see fit to accomplish the goals of the project. Your position has a job description, which is another way of defining the boundaries of your authority.  As a leader you have the responsibility to fully operate in that authority to accomplish the vision of your job description.

Of Authority:

This is an area that I consider temporary authority or an empowerment given by a person in authority to a person under authority in order to accomplish something. For example, you are a manager and your boss, who is a director, asks you to represent her at a meeting. For that meeting you are of the authority of a director.  You have a temporary expansion of your current authority to accomplish the task at hand.

Confidence is gained and frustration suspended when you understand all three areas of authority. It removes the ego out of the way and allows focus on the mission.