Articles


Managing Self


Assessing Your Job Fit: Make your work your hobby and ride cowboy ride!

In one of my grandfather’s poems, he wrote, “Make your work your hobby and ride cowboy ride!” It was his way of telling us kids to get a job we’d love so we would never have to work a day in our lives. I’ve gotten to coach over a thousand new, middle and senior executives, […]

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Leaders’ Statements are Promises: Five actions to build your reputation

Thomas Jefferson said, “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” Ralph Waldo Emerson can be credited with the corollary, “Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.” Your reputation is shaped by your actions, not by your education, not by your good intentions, and not even by your values. People can’t […]

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Mistakes versus Misdeeds: A principle you can grow with

You might have heard it said that if you’re not making mistakes, you’re probably not trying hard enough, and it’s one of my favorite, difficult topics in leadership! Before we explore this any further, let me be clear that the kinds of errors that I’m addressing are not the kinds of mistakes that literally put […]

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Like a ship’s navigator, leaders need to approximate their position, make a decision, and move on

I recently interviewed Scott Wallinger (left) for my podcast, an iconic manager and leader in the forestry profession (http://leadershipnature.com/podcasts/s1e13-scott-wallinger/), and Scott reflected on his lessons in leadership through the lenses of history and experience. Near the end of this episode, Scott talked about the tendency of foresters to analyze things until they have the answer […]

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Your Strengths May be Killing Your Career

It’s true that we all have natural abilities that are important factors in our career success. Some of us are naturals at sales and negotiation, while others are terrific at data analysis. Some managers are detail-oriented planners, while others are gifted at seeing the “big picture.”  However, the emphasis on strengths in popular management literature […]

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Make Up Your Mindset: The heart of purposeful leadership

“Dad, what do you do?” This was the question that Stafford County Administrator Anthony Romanello was asked by his son, a high school senior at the time, and one that would ultimately enlighten and inspire his own father, a veteran executive and respected civic leader. “I’m responsible for day-to-day operations of Stafford County, Virginia, government […]

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Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda: What makes a “good” decision?

As mentioned in Question Traps are Just around the Cubicle, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly started a minor fad last month among political commentators by asking presidential hopeful Jeb Bush if he would have ordered the Iraq invasion “knowing what we know now.” More than a trap question (because it’s hypothetical), the inquiry also implied that […]

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Question Traps are Just Around the Cubicle What every leader needs to know about trap questions

When Fox News’ Megyn Kelly asked Jeb Bush on May 11, “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion (of Iraq)?” she made news, because Bush had anticipated a different question and answered that one, setting off a small firestorm. When he then back peddled to answer the one he was asked, […]

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Dull Blades are Dangerous: The easy but irresponsible practice of promoting unprepared leaders

One small but important right of passage for every young Boy Scout is earning his Totin’ Chip award. To earn it, a Scout has to learn and demonstrate that he knows how to carry, sharpen and use a knife, axe and saw. It’s a safety program to prevent injury to themselves and others when camping, […]

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Growing Your Leadership at the Edges

Just as trees grow at the tips and on the edges, so do leaders. And that takes getting out of our comfort zones. You know what it’s like to sign your name with your dominant hand. For most people, doing so is easy and effortless. You don’t have to think about it, because it’s well […]

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Growing a Taproot to Your Leadership

The longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) is a unique species of the southern yellow pine family, and it provides an important metaphor about developing leaders. Once a predominant forest type in the southeast forests of the United States, the longleaf was prized for its quantity and quality of resin, turpentine and lumber. Antithetically, the species flourished […]

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Career Crashing Leadership

Your feedback-free zone could be a recipe for disaster. If you had the ability, would you tell your best friend that he or she was headed straight for a cliff at 90 miles an hour, or would you let them go? Worse yet, would you tell them what a great driver they are while they’re on […]

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A Misremembering Legacy on the NBC Nightly News Don’t “Conflate” Misdeeds with Honest Mistakes

According to Mark Twain, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything,” or as others put it, “You don’t have to keep track of your lies.” Telling the truth and admitting mistakes are the currency of leadership, and as we are witnessing this week, the currency of good news reporting as well. […]

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Take Yourself from Individual Expert to Expert Collaborator

Almost no one starts a career as a manager, team player, or formal leader of a team. Most successful people learn a technical skill or other body of knowledge that they apply as individual contributors. If you do a good job at that, you will very likely be considered for promotion and may very well […]

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Grow Your Range for When Preferences become Differences

Are you right handed or left? Right-eye dominant or left? How do you cross your legs, left over right or right over left? Would you rather avoid confrontation or meet it head on? Do you prefer to take charge or let others do so? We all have preferences, some from our natural wiring as individuals […]

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The Price of Deciding What’s Right versus What’s Popular

On one of the rare times I’ve flown first class, I sat next to a Congressman on his way home from Washington, D.C. I asked him if he would be talking to his constituents on this visit, and he clarified. “No. This is my last trip. I was voted out of office.” Being curious, I […]

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Leadership Ethics on Trial in Virginia

Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted last week of public corruption charges, and both parties face substantial prison terms when sentenced in January. The story highlights the often blurry lines between what’s moral, legal and ethical, an ambiguous realm that all new supervisors (and experienced leaders) should be clear about […]

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Leadership Ain’t Paint by the Numbers

What lucky kid doesn’t love to color with crayons, finger paint or shape clay? When I was a child, I loved to draw airplanes. I was particularly good at the PBY-5 and the Sabre Jet. At one point, my parents gave me a “paint by the numbers” kit, which had small paint brushes, several brightly […]

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Skillsets are Nothing without Mindsets

I’ve been in leadership positions since I was 12 years old, but at age 57, I’m just a beginner at golf. Shortly after my father died, I eyed his last set of clubs, which had fallen into my dubious care, and decided to take them for a spin. After swinging wildly at the local golf […]

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Passing the Buck in Leadership

One of the most common mistakes new managers (and many experienced ones) make is passing the buck. Why? Because most people quite naturally want to be seen as competent, keep from “getting in trouble,” and avoid losing face. The real trouble comes from the fact that while these are the very results they are trying […]

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