Author Archive

Leadership is a Matter of Life and Death

The room fell silent as the stranger with an interesting accent introduced himself, and his wife. “Ve have taken zee time off from da revolution, to come to United States to learn about effective leadership.” The details of the current struggles in Ukraine were brought to life through first hand accounts of recent tragedies and fears that have been unfolding over the past few months in an unstable region of the world.Pro-European protests in Ukraine

Our guest was no ordinary learner. Usually we have a room full of individuals and students eager to learn how to become effective leaders. Individuals who choose to sit in a classroom, accept assignments, and eagerly collaborate with managers, teachers, and coaches, while exploring ways they can help their communities grow and thrive.

This day, we had a group of participants from the incredibly fragile nation in the world who was in desperate need of a different leadership. One that our group had not grown up with or have been experiencing the last decade—a model that empowers individuals to freely choose to influence others toward a greater good, through manipulation and intimidation.

As we listened with sober minds to our new friends struggle for leadership concepts that work, we explored the impacts of good and bad leadership on the local communities, organizations, and the world. As we did, we discovered the timeless challenges that have faced individuals trying to influence others toward freedom and independence. We explored skills and habits that encourage and inspire effective collaboration and communication that draws out the best in everyone, directing them toward a common vision and good.

“For us, leadership is not a nice to have,” our brave learner concluded at the end of our training day. “For us…it is a matter of life and death!”

The reality is that no nation or organization is exempt from the root characteristics of ineffective, poor, or in some cases, ruthless and unethical leadership. Great organizations and individuals place a high premium on, and appreciation for, effective leadership. Without effective leadership, things fall apart.

About the Author:

About the Author:

 Jason Diamond Arnold is a leadership consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He is Co Producer and Director of Stepping Up to Leadership with Scott Blanchard, at lynda.com.

 

Leadership is a Verb

lead·er·ship [lee-der-ship] noun

the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group: He managed to maintain his leadership of the party despite heavy opposition. Synonyms: administration, management, directorship, control, governorship, stewardship, hegemony.

From 1973 until 2000, one of America’s largest, and eventually global, courier delivery services, headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, was called Federal Express. In January of 2000, Federal Express changed its name to FedEx Corporation and implemented one of the most successful re-branding campaigns in American history.

Lead!

Lead!

After the rebranding efforts took place, something even more significant than the shorter name and little arrow added between the “E” and the “X” began to evolve into a new idea. The word FedEx, became known, not just as a way to define a company, but as something you do as a critical part of your business. “I need you to FedEx me the product tomorrow.” “I’ll FedEx that to you right away.”

FedEx evolved from a being a noun into a verb!

The same thing is happening to the idea of leadership. For the past 50 years, the leadership development industry has exploded into a multi-billion dollar industry because companies around the world are realizing the competitive advantage to having a strong leadership strategy.

I recently found myself sitting in a coffee shop, having a conversation with one of the coauthors of Leadership Genius, and one of the top gurus on the topic of leadership, Dr. Drea Zigarmi.

“Leadership has been an over-used word, in which some people think of it as a person or a thing. It’s not thing. It’s action, or a series of actions you do with people.” Taking a long, slow sip of his coffee, he leaned toward me and proclaimed, “Leadership is a verb!”

When you think of the word leading, you have to consider that it means doing something. It means moving an idea, project, or a dream from one place to a higher place—through the shadows and the conflicts and into the light and consumption of meaning and purpose.

It takes action to effectively move a package from Memphis, Tennessee, to Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire, where a little boy or little girl eagerly open a package to discover something magical, something that will bring a smile to their face. Great organizations, whether it’s a global company serving millions of people or it’s the little pizza shop down on the corner, move their people from knowing what a good job looks like to doing a good job consistently, task by task, with passion and excellence.

Great organizations are dedicated to developing more than just leaders; they are dedicated to developing people who lead! Great leaders are defined by what they do, not by what they know.

About the Author:

 Jason Diamond Arnold is a leadership consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He is Co Producer and Director of Stepping Up to Leadership with Scott Blanchard, at lynda.com.

Stop Trying to Find Yourself—Start Being Yourself

Stop It!

Stop It!

Whether you’re in the early stages of your career or a tenured vet of the workforce, there is a constant tension between who you are at work and who “they” want you to be at work. This conflict has been an endless source of business and self-help books designed to help avert the anxiety of pleasing your managers and executives within your organization.

The tension and sleepless nights about the future of your career can be fatiguing and overwhelming at times. The best piece of advise ever given in the quest of trying to improve yourself, improve your workflow, improve your standing within the organization, is found in two very ordinary words.

“Stop it!”

Don’t be caught in the half-light of what your friends, your family, your boss, your organization thinks you should be—start aspiring to be who you already are deep down inside.

Excellence at work or in life is more than a thought or an idea, it is a purpose driven effort. Make your choices wiser and more productive this year through high intentions, sincere effort, and intelligent execution of those efforts. Live the life you intend to live!

 Jason Diamond Arnold is a leadership consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He is Co Producer and Director of Stepping Up to Leadership with Scott Blanchard, a lynda.com and Ken Blanchard Companies production.

Intentional Leadership—3 Timeless Narratives for 2014

Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” —Aristotle

January is littered by a multitude of good intentions! That new number at the end of the Roman calendar, blindly promising to bring us prosperity and success, does often become a distant memory by the time the groundhog raises his weary head from a winter slumber. But the start of something new—a year, a friendship, a work project—can be a great opportunity to lead yourself and others to great success through three simple narratives.

High Intensions

High Intensions

High Intentions 

The giddy hope and high expectations of a new year often outpace our ability to align old habits with those new intensions. However, high intention is the heart beat of any personal or social revolution. It is woven into the tapestry of humanity, to naturally hope for higher levels of happiness and purpose in our lives. High intensions do not mean that a person who has them need be dissatisfied with the life they are living, but rather are open to challenges and disappointment as they seek meaning and purpose at work, at home, or at play.

Sincere Effort

However, the highest intentions are but a thought in the wind without sincere effort to make those intentions a reality. An athlete or an artist does not become excellent without sincere effort. Effort is easy, sincere effort is meeting of the cruelest of tasks with the same zeal for the things we love to do. Sincere effort requires us to do more than put one foot in front of the other; it requires us to take each step, each daily task, as an opportunity to align it with our highest intensions.

Success

Success

Intelligent Execution

Our highest intentions and sincerest efforts must be driven by more than just arbitrary motion or aimless daily activity. It’s one thing to have a workout scheduled on your calendar, but it’s another task to lace up the shoes and complete that workout. If you have made resolutions, or have a set of goals for yourself this year, they will ultimately be measured by the intelligence of their execution, not the height of your intensions or the sincerity of your efforts. Forming an intelligent execution strategy promotes real goal achievement. With intelligent execution, you are moving from intensions and knowing, in to action through doing.

***

Excellence at work or in life is more than a thought or an idea, it is a purpose driven effort. Make your choices wiser and more productive this year through high intentions, sincere effort, and intelligent execution of those efforts. Live the life you intend to live!

 Jason Diamond Arnold is a leadership consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He is Co Producer and Director of Stepping Up to Leadership with Scott Blanchard, a lynda.com and Ken Blanchard Companies production.

Stepping Up to Leadership

The late autumn chill had an extra bite as I walked down the street and into the safe harbor of the Kettle Coffee & Tea café. Once inside, the heat from the fireplace and the enthusiasm of the conversations would soon warm me, both physically and intellectually.

I have often overheard some of the most amazing and engaging conversations while enjoying a piping hot vanilla tea made by the servants hearts of the best baristas in town. From the latest political controversies to the five points of Calvinism, I have often gleaned more insight into fascinating topics than I would have in an entire semester at the university or a two-day workshop in a cold dark ballroom.

This particular morning was exceptionally insightful as I listened to one of the most intriguing conversations on leadership—particularly as it related to individuals who have recently inherited the responsibility of influencing others toward a common purpose—individuals who are Stepping Up to Leadership for the first time.

There in the middle of the café, with the classic brick wall of the coffee shop as his backdrop, was internationally renown, and best selling business author, Scott Blanchard—The Son of the One Minute Manager, legendary business author, Ken Blanchard. There at the table, highlighted by two large mugs of piping Joe, David Witt, Lead Columnist at LeaderChat.org, was engaged with Blanchard in meaningful conversation about the challenges new leaders face when working with others in the ever evolving new workforce.

During the course of the conversation, Scott Blanchard highlighted three insights for anyone stepping up into a new leadership role. Insights that even the most seasoned leaders could leverage to bring out the best in their people and their organization.

Leading Others

The conversation began with one of the most timeless questions on the topic of leadership—are leaders made or born? While Blanchard admitted, some people have natural leadership instincts, everyone can learn time tested, researched based leadership skills that can help them collaborate and communicate more effectively with others. He also went on to discuss the need for unshakable ethics, and how to leverage the best in yourself as a leader—not focus on your weaknesses.

stepping-up-to-leadership

Building Relationships

Scott Blanchard passionately emphasized the critical need for leaders to build relationships. “Great leaders,” Blanchard said, “Build trust with the people they are leading.” He also went on to encourage new leaders to deal with conflict effectively, not ignore it or dismiss it as an employee problem. Being others focused, communicating well, and praising people are also key leadership traits that build solid relationships with people and increase the effectiveness of your ability to lead others.

Getting Results

As Dave Witt downed his last drop of coffee, he challenged Scott on weather good leaders should focus on results or people as a top priority in the leadership process. Blanchard had some interesting responses to the question, sighting that the need to motivate people and invest in their wellbeing is the secret key to getting more productive results from the people you are leading. Blanchard tackled the difficult part of leadership, having challenging conversations with people, and the difference between reprimanding someone verses redirecting them toward the vision and values of the team and organization.

While the sting of the approaching winter subsided in the harbor of one of the most engaging conversations I’ve listen to in a café, so to does the winter of discontent of employees and contributors who are lead by people who know who they are and what they are attempting to accomplish in their role of responsibility as a leader. While the most important advise for individuals Stepping Up to Leadership is reserved for lynda.com subscribers, the lessons learned from listening into the conversation on leadership will lasting and impactful.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a leadership consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He is Co Producer and Director of Stepping Up to Leadership with Scott Blanchard, a lynda.com and Ken Blanchard Companies production.

Corporate Citizen X

Corporate Citizen X

Corporate Citizen X

He was found by all Human Resource accounts to be
An individual contributor against whom had no official complaint,
And all the annual reviews on his performance agree
That, in the new millennial sense of a classic word, he was an
Angel,

For in all of his daily tasks he did serve the greater good of the organization.
Except for one Sabbatical till the day he retired He worked at his desktop and never got fired,
But satisfied his many managers at Grey Consulting Inc.
Yet he wasn’t offensive or strange in his worldview,
For his mature colleagues report that he had paid his dues,
(His HR file also shows this service was satisfactory and sound)

And the outsourced Positive Therapists too had found
That he was respected by his peers and liked to sip the news
Social Media is convinced that he engaged CNN’s blog every day
And that his algorithms regarding advertisements were typical in every way.
Insurance records under his name prove that he was fully insured,
His health card showed it had been swiped once in the ER, and that he left completely cured.
All of Nielsen’s numbers and Gallup results do declare

He had taken full advantage of his 401k-employee match plan,
And had everything necessary for a 21st century man,
Laptops, SMART phone, wireless signals running through his living room air.

Our investigation into Eco Footprints demonstrate a spirit of circumvent
That he maintained the proper green omissions based on the time of year;
When there was no conflict, he was not conflicted; when there was tension, he was proportionately tense.
He had married and added two and a half children to population,
Which all NBC Social Political polls indicate was the right number for a parent of his generation.
And a few witnesses observed that he never influenced or manipulated their
Online Education.

Was he free? Was he happy? The questions are rediculous and absurd:
Had anything been wrong, in this connected world, we surely would have heard!

A Parody of WH Auden’s, The Unknown Citizen

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant and Learning Media Specialist at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, a self-paced learning course about personal excellence and effective collaboration.

Leadership is as Leadership Does—Leadership Lessons Learned from the Recent US-Government Shutdown

 

Leadership is Not a Title

Leadership is Not a Title 

Leadership Dependency Weakens Independence 

The most fundamental leadership lesson learned from the shutdown is the ancient reminder that the more we, as individuals, become dependent on leadership, the more it weakens our own personal independence. The United States of America was founded on the core value of personal independence—leadership of self. When leaders of organizations and communities take a top-down approach to solving problems and finding solutions, they undermine the power of the individual to come up with creative and innovative solutions to the challenges at hand. Excellent leadership empowers individuals to equip themselves with the mindset and skill sets to resolve issues at a personal, local level, rather than depend on someone else to solve the problem for them.

Leadership Is Not a Title

People assume that elected officials are leaders by nature. This assumption is misleading and is often a source of frustration when politicians don’t live up to our expectations; behaving more like spoiled children rather than acting like mature servants of the people. As with other assumed leadership roles—executives, teachers, doctors, president of the local sports league—people aren’t necessarily in that role because of their leadership skills. Often they assume positions of authority by default or indifference of the people, not necessarily because they are qualified for the position. We shouldn’t assume people are effective leaders just because of their title. Good leaders should be viewed as such based on how they collaborate with and influence others through a positive and productive process.

Leaders Collaborate

Collaboration is no easy task. It’s an acquired and developed skill set of every good leader. The larger the stakes and the more people involved means the more complicated collaboration will be. That’s why great leaders—of both others and self—need to be effective collaborators. Collaboration is not just listening to others’ opinions then making a decision based on your own personal point of view. Collaboration could be the most exhaustive, painful, messy, and frustrating part of leadership, but it is critical to maintain the trust of the people you are leading, as well as serve the greater good of the people.

Blame Game

Blame Game

Leaders Don’t Point Fingers

One of the silliest aspects of an otherwise tragic situation in the government shutdown was the public calling out of others with opposing views. The blame game is nothing more than an immature act of desperation in an attempt to influence public perception of other people’s point of view. Instead of finger pointing, great leaders assess the disagreements, seek understanding, and assume the best in other’s opinions, even if there is an apparent selfish intent. Effective leaders roll up their sleeves and work behind closed doors, face-to-face, to get the issues on the table as a first step to discussing possible solutions. Leaders listen, they don’t stand behind a podium and blame others.

As the dust settles from the latest uprising of political division in the country, let us sober our minds and check our own hearts to consider how we, the people, may glean something worthy from this conflict. There is still great hope in the great American experience, and it still resides within the heart of effective personal and collaborative leadership.

Enjoy Your Work!

“Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” —The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 

Image

Tomy Sawyer Whitewasing A Fence by Norman Rockwell

There are high-minded folks who are prone to speak confidently, and perhaps somewhat knowingly, about the challenges of today’s  “workplace,” as some distant plot of time and space that is in desperate need of inspiration. These gurus and generals of thought and attitude speak of a place that somewhere along the way has gotten separated from the rest of our lives.

What we have come to call “work” now seems to consist of only duties and tasks that our minds and bodies are obliged to do nearly three out of every four days of our lives, rather than a grand stage where our hearts and souls lead the dance. The mere mention of the word “work” has become synonymous with labor and toil, with survival and disengagement, with quiet desperation and the worship of weekends.

Today’s deepest leadership challenge is not finding a way to influence people and ourselves to work harder or more efficiently; rather it is to inspire and encourage meaning and joy in the tasks we set out to achieve in the service of others.

“The work that is really a man’s own work is play and not work at all,” Mark Twain noted in A Humorist’s Confession. “Cursed is the man who has found some other man’s work and cannot lose it. When we talk about the great workers of the world, we really mean the great players of the world.”

Image

Enjoy Your Work

The poorest paid receptionist to the highest paid executive should be challenged to cultivate the eternal, to store up treasure in others, and to ultimately rename work as pleasure—a dispensation that rewards our highest calling as human beings through the consumption of meaning, purpose, and happiness. The teacher, architect, salesperson, accountant, mechanic, engineer, copy editor, software developer, legislator, actor, pastor, poet, prince, homemaker, painter, speaker, writer, software developer, or singer, should seek the higher rewards of their daily endeavors through the enjoyment and adventure of completing what they have learned to do, have trained to do, were born to do at work.

But the ones who have subtly and silently slipped into the chorus of groans and now tread in the mental pool of toil, have in fact resigned themselves to no longer hope to do something great in their work.

“How can they when their souls are in a ferment of revolt against the employment of their hands and brains? The product of slavery, intellectual or physical, can never be great,” Twain concluded in his sober confession.

It is time to rename work as pleasure and seek to master it with as much passion and persistence as we do a good meal, a child’s laughter, or the deep and intimate connection with a friend or family member who reminds us of how precious this life is. It’s time to renew our spirits during the three out of every four days of which our minds and bodies are not obliged to “work,” but inspired to work with joy.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies and CoAuthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, a virtual learning experience that empowers individuals with the skills to achieve excellence at work.

Inspired vs. Required

It’s back to school time! While the memories of summer fade into our conscious, to be called upon in future years of eternal youth, young minds reluctantly transition into formal education mode. The thought of spending the next nine months sitting in a classroom cramming information into their brains is far from the glorious lessons learned on rope swings down by the river, swimming pools, and lemonade stands of summertime.

Square Peg, Round Hole

Square Peg, Round Hole

So why is it such a haunting proposition to return to the classroom this time every year? Why are our children not as excited about learning—the core purpose education—as they are about the freedoms of summer?

Today’s formal education conditions young people to jump through hoops, rather than train them to think for themselves.

Core curriculum and Standardized Testing provides checklists and incentives/consequences for the fulfillment or lack of fulfillment of the duties outlined. Today, we require rather than inspire a healthy and effective learning process. We worry about skills, test scores, grade point averages and assignments rather than focusing on the process and the development of the whole person into a critical thinker and unique individual contributor with valuable ideas and a mission to fulfill in life.

These children grow up to work for organizations and continue the program they learned in childhood…. hoop jumping, get by, do your duty until their eyes glaze over from the combination of boredom and stress of today’s formal education process.

We applaud those who successfully jump through the hoops and we shake our heads at those who don’t. We forget that some of the greatest minds and contributors to our culture and civilization were children that we would have shaken our heads at in their youth because they couldn’t “hack” it. Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs, as well as many of today’s movers and shakers come to mind.

What would happen if we took time to have great discussions with children? What would happen if we inspired them to learn all they could and then turn around and fulfill their life mission and inspire others in the process? What would happen if we stopped focusing on the outcome (scores, grades) and focused on how effective the process is? What would happen if we adults stopped being “the sage on the stage”, but rather the “guide by the side” and became fellow learners with children showing them how to effectively learn, lead, and apply during the process? What if we mentored them as a whole person and took delight in them and in drawing out their thoughts on various subjects?

When the inspired children grow up, how would that change the way they approached their careers? How would they lead others differently? How would that affect entire organizations as they started to hire employees that had the quiet confidence and desire to serve a higher cause that inevitably stems from having been treated with interest, and respect and given time and attention and encouragement to naturally grow in areas of weakness and strengths, rather than be criticized and measured by the results of cookie cutter tests?

The way we raise and teach our children conditions them to accept mediocrity and boredom and a state of disempowerment as the norm for their adult lives to the detriment of us all. There is a better way, but it is time-consuming, messy, harder, less measurable, but for sure more fulfilling. It’s time to rethink the way we teach our children to becoming healthy, happy, adults through the learning process.

 Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies and is CoAuthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, a virtual learning experience for Individuals in the workplace. He also a Master Trainer of Student Self Leadership, a leadership program designed for youth to be more effective collaborators and problems solvers in their schools and communities.

Speakeasy Leadership

Seakeasy Leadership

Seakeasy Leadership

The spirit of the Roaring Twenties was marked by a cultural rebellion against classic traditions, inspiring social revolutions around the world. Everything seemed to be possible through the modern technology of automobiles, motion pictures, and radio, which all promoted ‘modernity’ to the world.

One of the most mysterious trends that came out of the Roaring Twenties was the establishment of Speakeasies—hidden sections of an establishment that were used to illegally sell alcoholic beverages and feature new artistic expressions of music, dance, and risqué behavior. To enter a speakeasy, one would need to say a password to the doorman, indicating that the person-seeking entrance was welcome by the owner or other members of the “business within the business.”

In many ways, today’s workplace resembles the spirit of the twenties, with a rapidly evolving workplace, cutting edge technology changing and shaping the culture norms of organizations around the world.

Unfortunately, one of the dangers of today’s workplace is Speakeasy Leadership—the hidden sections of an organization where only a few people in positions of power make decisions that affect the rest of the organization. The practice of exclusive leadership, rather than inclusive leadership practice is alive and well in today’s organizations. But the reality is that the old school leadership hierarchy is an ineffective novelty in a knowledge-based economy.

Outside Looking In

Outside Looking In

Today secret societies and “good ole’ boy networks” only work at your local grocery store or coffee shop as a special promotion tool. In a Knowledge base economy, where individuals are empowered through the Internet, smart phones, and social networking that empowers a variety of information and connections that naturally drive higher levels of collaboration and success.

One new workforce member expressed it this way, “I am used to being so connected to my colleagues and playing off each other in the office, via social media, and creating ideas together with high levels of synergy everyday…” The open organization, without the Speakeasy executive office on the second floor, is a robust place where individuals create new best friends instantly and in days create a strong network with everyone on the team, as well as the friends made at their last organization.

Speakeasy Leadership promotes the opposite atmosphere at work where a few gatekeepers of ideas, formulate a plan from the top of the organizational pyramid, then pass it down to the people on the frontline to try and implement—void of passion and intimacy. 
 “I feel like there is a secret group of people running the organization,” says another frustrated employee. “It’s like were sitting in a meeting, and there are two or three people sitting at the table, speaking their own language, giving each other a wink and a nod to each other when I present our teams creative solutions to our organizational challenges.”

Collaborate for Success

Collaborate for Success

Speakeasy Leadership will kill today’s knowledge based company, because today’s leadership model and workplace formula for success is one based in wide-open communication, effective collaboration, social networking, and truly empowering individuals that are encouraged take ownership in the vision—not just contribute to it. Touch the untouchable by bringing energy and productivity to work, breaking down the interior walls of Speakeasy Leadership, creating a community where people work and play together, stimulating innovation, connection, and wild success.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant and New Media Producer at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, a non-linear learning program that promotes individual empowerment and collaboration.

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