The Cost of Leadership (A Rabbi/Therapist’s View)

8 08 2017

“Leadership through self-differentiation is not easy; learning techniques and imbibing data are far easier. Nor is striving or achieving success as a leader without pain: there is the pain of isolation, the pain of loneliness, the pain of personal attacks, the pain of losing friends. That’s what leadership is all about.” 

(Edwin H. Friedman)

Suggested Resources:

The Myth of the Shiksa (Edwin H. Friedman)

It’s Lonely at the Top! A Practical Guide to Becoming a Better Leader of Your Small Company (Oswald R. Viva)

 

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“You Can’t Outsmart the Work”

7 07 2017

Chris, Jeff and I all went to the same school to work in our respective Master’s programs back in the early 2000’s.  Our studies were challenging and we enjoyed our learning experience.

Jeff went on to earn a Ph.D in Leadership Studies at a fine school on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard.  Those pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy degree spend a lot of time in books and writing, like their counterparts in the medical and legal professions, to name just two disciplines.

Some time later, Chris and Jeff got together—reflecting on their educational journeys.  Their conversation went along these lines.

Chris:  “So, how is your Ph.D program going, Jeff.  I bet it’s intense.”

Jeff:  “For sure.  I’ve never read and wrote so much in my life.”

Chris:  “What does it take to get through a Ph.D program?”

Jeff:  “You’d be surprised.”

Chris:  “Oh really?  What do you mean?”

Jeff:  “Well, the ones who make it through a doctoral program like this aren’t the ones you’d expect.”

Chris:  “Really.  Who make it through and who don’t?”

Jeff:  “Not the geniuses.  The ‘Einsteins’ are the ones who wash out.”

Chris:  “Really?! Why?” (This goes against the standard assumptions of genius and success.)

Jeff:  “Because you can’t outsmart the work.

 

Well.

 

There is gold here.  And it is this.  There is no substitute for putting in your time and paces to earn a high degree/platform or income.  10,000 hour rule again.   One could fairly apply the 19th century label of “snake oil” to a lot of get-rich-quick schemes and thinking that so many of us gravitate to to make as much money in as little time with as little effort as possible.

We cheat ourselves when we do this.  Self-deception is delicious but it bites hard in the end.

Here’s a couple of quotes to ponder on the value of hard work:

  • “Wizard?  Pshaw. It’s plain hard work that does it.” (Thomas Edison, on being called a wizard)
  • “I was made to work. If you are equally industrious, you will be equally successful.” (Johann Sebastian Bach, author of over 1000 musical works in all sorts of genres)
  • “The only way to escape the personal corruption of praise is to go on working. One is tempted to stop and listen to it. The only thing is to turn away and go on working. Work. There is nothing else.” (Albert Einstein)

Questions:

  • Do you love work or loathe it, seeking to avoid it if at all possible?
  • If you loathe your work, what can you do to change your approach to it? Perhaps cultivate a new field of work, a new discipline?
  • Are you aware of the genius/talent discussion embodied in the “10,000 hour rule” and the Edisonian maxim, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration?” As a counter to the rule read here.

 

Suggested Resources:

Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else (Geoff Colvin)

Outliers: The Story of Success (Malcolm Gladwell)

 

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Sage Advice For Twenty Year Olds

6 09 2013

Twenty SomethingsMy friend and writing colleague, Christopher Hopper, shared this gem from Forbes today.  Do yourself two favors:  Read the post and check out Christopher’s website.  You won’t be disappointed and will, in fact, be enriched.  I wish I’d read this when I was twenty (a short thirty years ago).

http://www.christopherhopper.com/2013/09/every-20-year-old-needs-to-read-this/

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The Hard Work Factor in Making It

26 08 2013

hard-workIf you stop by The Upside often, you’ll know that over the past number of years, I’ve mentored  young leaders..  During one particular period, a handful of guys in their twenties met with me and we discussed leadership, family, career and steps to success.  They were inspiring and invigorating meetings.

A couple of these men work between ninety and one hundred hours a week.

No, that wasn’t a typo.

90-100 hours every week, holding down multiple jobs.

You simply cannot expect to advance in your career, increase your income and become exceptional in your vocations and avocations without putting time into them.  A lot of time.

There are no shortcuts.  Those who are “getting rich quick” with cheap moneymaking schemes will eventually lose.  Being clever is not necessarily the mark of being a professional.  Nor is it a benchmark of character.

These guys earn my respect.  They are putting out to get ahead for their families—multiple jobs, college and vocational schooling.  And they carve out a couple of hours each week to meet and be challenged.

I’ve long admired the cultural, economic and vocational achievements of the Jewish people.  Jews make up one fifth of one percent of the world’s population and yet have won about twenty-two percent of all Nobel Prizes awarded since 1901.

This is due in part to a sober understanding that to get ahead and make an impact in the world takes an enormous amount of focus and hard work over many years.  The Jewish people have understood this as well as any people group in history.

God initially set the bar for humanity when He said, “Six days you shall labor and do your work.  The seventh is a Sabbath (rest) to the Lord your God.”  The Hebrew day was a twelve hour day.  Over a six-day period, that comprises seventy-two hours (no, I didn’t say forty).

There are no shortcuts.

I left our meeting challenged by the lifestyle of my colleagues.  How much would my skills as a writer and a musician improve—exponentially—if I worked ninety plus hours each week (including my forty-hour day job)?

How much indeed?

Time to get at it.

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“You Can Do This!”

3 08 2013

Chemistry Teacher with Students in ClassOne of the most inspiring examples of leadership I ever witnessed took place in a classroom of mine.  A dozen years ago, I took a substitute math and science teaching position in a small private school. I started four months into the year and filled the position until the school year ended.

I’d been having a tough time teaching a certain class effectively.  One of my colleagues named Kyle happened to be the math chair of the school.  He volunteered to come in and teach a lesson.  I would watch him teach and increase my own confidence.  I accepted his offer.

He came in and taught a rudimentary algebra lesson, easy stuff for him.  He wrote a problem on the chalkboard, illustrating a certain algebraic function.  Then he looked out at the class comprised of kids from grades 7-9 and said, “I bet you guys can do this.”

Often people use sarcasm and trash-talk to try to get people to perform.  You see this often in sports contests.  Others try to guilt people into better performance in this or that arena of life.  But this teacher, an ace, used an opposite tack.  He set the bar high and confidently told the students they had what it took.

The result? You guessed it.  The students rose to the challenge, solved the problem on the board and learned.

I can’t tell you what concept we learned that day.  But I will never forget his leadership in the classroom.  It’s why he was a great teacher.

You can take away a number of helpful things from this example:

  • If you set the bar high for those you’re responsible for, you will be pleasantly surprised to watch them meet and exceed the goal.  Often we set it too low and then are baffled and frustrated by mediocre performance.  The same is true for the goals we set for ourselves.
  • Positive expressions of affirmation and encouragement will always be better than sarcasm and talking people down.  I’ve never yet met a great leader who is fundamentally sarcastic and pessimistic.

Challenge: Set some high goals for yourself for the slower Summer months as well as the time after Labor Day when the pace accelerates.  If you’re a leader, issue inspiring and tough challenges for those under you.  Then watch as you meet the objectives you’ve set.  It’s really not that hard.  It’s the pessimism, the internal and external trash-talk, that make the meeting of lofty goals difficult.  But you’re better than that!

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Decisiveness: Cornerstone of Leadership

31 07 2013

Chuck MisslerIf there is one thing that defines a leader, it is decisiveness.  This is that indispensable ability to weigh the facts, make a plan, and then execute it at the right moment.  When the heat is on and somebody needs to act, it is the leader who looks at everything, chooses a course, and moves forward without looking back.

Chuck Missler, US Naval Academy grad (class of 1956, pictured above), once said, “Weak men hurt people.”  He made this statement in 1982, at a gathering where he spoke on business ethics.  Chuck made his living as a professional executive in the Defense and semiconductor industries for over 30 years.  He happened to be teaching a group of Christians to be ethical and stable in their business dealings.  And chief among these qualities are decisiveness and keeping one’s word.  “The sanctity of a commitment.”  At the time of this talk, he was CEO of Western Digital Corporation.  A proven leader with ballast.

You will never get anywhere being wishy-washy.  Vacillation and inability to come to a decision are fatal to leadership.  In contrast, people will follow someone who knows where he is going and knows how to get there.  And get there with dispatch, knowing that time is too precious to waste with “analysis paralysis.”

When the pressure’s on, the leader cannot afford to buckle.  Time, money, confidence, respect; all are lost when someone in a position to do the right thing can’t make a decision or takes too much time so doing.

It is far better to make ten decisions and have seven of them prove to be good decisions rather than to wait and wait and only make two good decisions.  The reason is that although both decisions turned out to be good, the effect of waffling has compromised your influence.  Playing it safe often makes your followers feel unsafe.    Why can’t he make up his mind?  Are we staying or going?

Your high calling as a leader—whether as a husband, business leader, captain of a sports team, etc.–means being decisive.  You cannot afford to be ambivalent in the clutch.  It is charming when we watch Fiddler on the Roof and see it with Tevye the Dairyman.  In real life, vacillating is uninspiring at best and dangerous at worst.

Being decisive and stable brings a host of benefits not only to the leader but to those who follow him or her.  You earn respect.  You inspire those watching.  In the marketplace, if you can weigh the facts and act quickly, you’re worth more money than those who can’t.  If you’re a military leader, you will undoubtedly save more lives than you lose.

Here’s the challenge.  This next month, make a calculated effort to make quicker decisions.  Do this with anything from where to go out to eat to vacation plans to starting a new growth project, like a blog or exercise program.  Weigh the evidence, do a cost/benefit analysis and then act.

You’re going to be pleasantly surprised.

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Leadership: “After Me!”

22 07 2013

After MeThe world was stunned on July 4, 1976 at the news of the incredible rescue of over one hundred Israeli hostages by members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at Entebbe, Uganda.

The hostages, mostly Israelis, and therefore Jewish, had been traveling from Tel Aviv to Athens aboard an Air France jetliner when their plane was hijacked by terrorists.  The flight was then diverted to Uganda where the terrorists were given haven by dictator Idi Amin.

A plan was put into action immediately in Israel to bring the hostages home safely.  At the head of the team to lead this effort was a 30-year-old soldier, Lt. Col. Yonatan (Jonathan) Netanyahu–“Yoni” to family and friends.

A mockup of the Entebbe airport was assembled in the desert based on Mossad intelligence.  The raid—dubbed Operation Thunderbolt—was practiced over and over and over.  The clock was ticking.  And time was not on the side of the hostages.

In the IDF, the motto for military leaders is “After me!”  Leaders are the first to lead the way into danger and put themselves in harm’s way.  It was no different for the raid at Entebbe.

The operation was a resounding military success.  The terrorists holding the Israelis were killed and all but four of the 102 hostages survived.

But there was one other casualty.  Col. Netanyahu died leading the raid.  He took fire during the rescue.  This was not wholly unexpected.  He had at other times put himself in the jaws of death to care for his men and his people.  Netanyahu’s story is eloquently recounted in the book Self-Portrait of A Hero.

It is the nature of a leader that at times he (or she) will face danger.  Will stand alone.  Will lose approval or popularity.  But a leader does this because human beings matter and the stakes are very high, even eternal.  A leader doesn’t wait to have someone point the way.  He is the beacon.  True north.  The bedrock that people can stand on.

Stand up and lead.  More people are counting on you than you can possibly imagine.

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