Monthly Archives: December 2011

Are You Leading Consumers or Creators?

I’ll be the first to admit that today’s topic may be overly simplistic, however, I believe it is worth discussing. Make a list of your team members in one column. To the right of that column make three more columns with the headings Creator, Consumer, and Other.

Creators are individuals on your team who take minimal care and feeding, and they produce a steady stream of innovative results. Give them a direction and they’re off. These individuals are generally bright, disciplined and passionate about their work. On the other hand, Consumers will take a disproportionate share of your time by asking questions, remain unsure how to proceed in most tasks, and continually check in to make sure they are on the right track. They will likely be more concerned about what they are getting out of their employment than what they can produce for your team and the organization. Others may be steady, heads-down workers or deadwood.

Now venture down the list and place a check mark in the Creator or Consumer column for each team member or enter a comment in the Other column. It should now be easier for you to determine your top contributors as well as team members you may want to consider moving out. You may also want to think about your role in each performer’s results. How are you motivating your team members? How are you rewarding your top contributors?

• How many of your team members are needlessly consuming the majority of your time?
• How many of your team members are continually churning out useful, innovative results?

Keywords: leadership, employee selection, creativity, motivation

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Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong Il: A Contrast in Leadership

The coincidental loss of two world leaders in as many days illuminates a stark contrast in leadership styles. It is difficult to find a greater difference in approach than that of Václav Havel of the Czech Republic and Kim Jong Il of North Korea.

Václav Havel was President of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic from 1989 to 2003. Prior to his rise to power he was an outspoken dissident of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. His political plays and support for the opposition frequently led to imprisonment. In the fall of 1989 he became the head of the revolution against Communist rule, the Velvet Revolution. His nonviolent approach led to a bloodless transfer of power and election in 1990 as the first freely elected President of Czechoslovakia since 1946.

Havel was an idealist and always fought for freedom for all individuals, no matter how unpopular that stance may be. For example, he fought for the rights of Gypsies and Communists after losing control of the government.

In contrast, despot Kim Jong Il was a brutal and cunning leader. At his ascension to ruler of North Korea in 1994 he inherited a country which had lost its benefactor, was slipping into a large-scale famine, and whose economy was in shambles. Despite the dire situation, Kim was able to nurture a fledgling nuclear program to the point of creating nuclear weapons which he used as blackmail in a brilliant game of tactical brinksmanship with China, the United States, Japan, and Russia. The famine ultimately terminated over two million lives, almost 10% of the North Korean population. Yet Kim was able to maintain control by treating the military well and keeping a tight lid on dissent.

At the time he rose to power, pundits predicted his rule would unravel before his second anniversary as leader. Instead, Kim played his cards extremely well and beat all odds, maintaining rule, oppression and the country’s borders. Kim Jong Il led by fear, intimidation, and unpredictability.

The passing of these titans should give all leaders pause. As I observe and interact with leaders in organizations I see the complete spectrum of leadership, from abusive to congenial, from command and control to laissez faire, from respectful to disdain. It may be a good time to look in the mirror and assess your leadership style, much as many around the globe are assessing the leadership style of Havel and Kim.


• Do you lead more frequently with fear—or empowerment?
• Do you direct team members—or nurture their creative energy?
• Do you respect everyone, even those seemingly without any power?
• What legacy will your leadership leave behind?

Keywords: leadership, authentic, dark side

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President Obama Lays the Vision

As if unrolling a tapestry, last week President Obama laid out a remake of Teddy Roosevelt’s New Nationalism speech from 1910. Some call the President’s speech a populist appeal. I don’t care so much if it is or isn’t, but I do care to find out if we can sift through the speech to glean a few leadership tidbits.

In the speech we see clear signs of charismatic leadership. President Obama lays out the vision—fair rules, superior education, and a strong middle class developing and manufacturing innovative products for global consumption. He states, “We should be known for creating and selling products all around the world that are stamped with three proud words: Made in America.”

Secondly, he works to build a bond with his supporters. He does this by reiterating the pain they’ve felt through declining fortunes and echoing their hope for a better future. The speech is a rallying cry to pull together. Will members of each side of the political divide listen and pay heed? I doubt it.

I frequently tell people that we, as humans respond to pain. The current pain is not great enough for the politicians. When it does become significant, when a catastrophic event takes place then they will pull together.

In the meantime, whether you’re conservative or liberal, listen to the President’s speech or read a transcript. Look for his vision and how he builds a bond. I think you’ll find a few nuggets in there.


• Charismatic leadership characteristic #1: lay out a compelling vision
• Charismatic leadership characteristic #2: build a bond with your followers
• Humans respond to pain

Keywords: charismatic leadership

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The Leadership of Herman Cain: Round 2

Republican hopeful Herman Cain enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity following the announcement of his bold 9-9-9 plan, but has recently endured painful missteps, an erosion of support back down to the single digits, and an exit from the race. Let’s look at these missteps and what he could have done to prevent his loss.

In recent weeks allegations of sexual harassment by Cain have come to light, along with assertions that settlements were made with some victims. Mr. Cain vehemently denied that any of these incidents took place, and in fact declared that, “I have never acted inappropriately with anyone. Period.” Really? I think all of us, at least once, have acted inappropriately. For individuals considering candidate Cain I’m sure this was a concern. Strike one: the words and manner of his response begged the question of authenticity.

Enter the next phase where Cain was at a loss for words when asked if he agreed with President Obama on Libya and as he asked how to say delicious in ‘Cuban’ while sipping a fine cup of Cuban coffee. Strike two: if you’re going to be a leader you need a minimal working knowledge of your area.

Herman Cain entered the final phase of his imploding candidacy when a woman named Ginger White came forward and detailed a 13 year affair with Cain. She came prepared with records itemizing phone calls and text messages at all hours of the day. Once again, it was as much what he said in response as how he said it. Strike three: denial and arrogance remain.

Contrast Cain’s response with that of President Bill Clinton on August 17, 1998 when he finally admitted, “I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate…” I believe that it was at that moment when the American public began a shift from reviling the President to accepting that he had made a mistake. It is easier for us to have empathy with someone who makes a mistake and admits to it rather than someone who remains defiant.

So like a rocket ship that fails to reach orbit, Herman Cain shoots skyward on the clear, bold leadership of his 9-9-9 plan, enters a slow arc at the apex, then plummets earthward, gravity tugging on his arrogance and inexperience. Had Mr. Cain said early on that he may have made some mistakes in the past, that he regretted them, was working to do better, and had studied up on foreign policy, I believe he might still be a contender in the Republican primary race.

• Apologize for mistakes with humility and authenticity
• Have a good working knowledge in the areas you are leading

Keywords: leadership, humility, authentic

• ABC News. (1998, August 17). Bill Clinton Admits Affair [Video file]. ABC News. Retrieved from
• Geiger, K. (2011, November 17). Herman Cain: ‘How do you say ‘delicious’ in Cuban?’ [Video file]. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from
• Journal Sentinel. (2011, November 14). Herman Cain on Libya [Video file]. Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Retrieved from
• The Associated Press. (2011, November 8). Cain: ‘Never acted inappropriately with anyone’ [Video file]. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

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