Monthly Archives: June 2011

Leadership with a Light Touch

I recently went camping with a group of 90 friends. Credit for the fact that it was very enjoyable goes to a small cohort of voluntary leaders. Based on lessons learned from less successful previous trips, the leaders started well in advance to plan and organize the event. Lists, sign-up sheets, and extensive preparations all contributed to a smooth camping experience, including meals and clean-up, camp setup and takedown.

Food for Thought ~

Three fundamental leadership skills were evident: planning, organizing, and communicating. With peers, asserting one’s authority is not an option. I call it “leadership with a light touch.” You have to inspire and influence people with your attitude and example. If you want to learn how to be a leader or become a better one, there’s no better training than leading a group of volunteers.

Question of the day ~

Have you had experience leading a group of peers, colleagues or friends? What have you learned from that experience?

On behalf of my guest columnist for last week’s edition, Karen Vyverberg, thanks very much for your positive response to this young leader and writer. Also, if you haven’t yet had a chance to read my current article on the importance of self-awareness as a leader, here’s the link.

Guest Columnist on “The Everyday Leader”

Karen, my 19 year old niece and one of my loyal readers, is visiting me this week. She is a junior at the University of Florida, majoring in geology, with a minor in English. I was delighted when she accepted my invitation to contribute to today’s Minute! I gave her carte blanche to write on anything having to do with leadership, and here is her essay, unedited.

Food for Thought ~

The Everyday Leader by Karen Vyverberg

In my – admittedly brief – 19 plus years I have come to decide that there are two main types of leader: the Official Leader and the Everyday Leader. I like to believe I can speak personally on both.

An Official Leader is just that – a person whose job it is to lead, like a foreman or a shift supervisor. The job of an Official Leader is not easy. The group has certain goals to meet, and the Official Leader is saddled with the responsibility of meeting them.

An Everyday Leader is a more subtle position; that person in a group of friends or peers that the others instinctively look to for communal decisions. He or she might be the person who drives the most often, or even just the person who starts the brainstorming of dinner ideas. Perhaps “the party doesn’t start” until he or she arrives.

I believe it is often more difficult to be an Everyday Leader. We are faced with countless responsibilities everyday, and it is nice when some simple choices – like where to eat out – are made for us. The tricky role of the Everyday Leader is to make these extra choices without enforcing them like an Official Leader. An Everyday Leader must first be a group member, but perhaps with just enough foresight to take the responsibilities no one else wants.

Question of the day ~

Where do you fit in this description? Do you inhabit both Official and Everyday Leader roles? Where are you most effective or comfortable?

I hope you enjoyed this special edition with a different, yet related, perspective. Thanks, Karen!

Guest Columnist on "The Everyday Leader"

Karen, my 19 year old niece and one of my loyal readers, is visiting me this week. She is a junior at the University of Florida, majoring in geology, with a minor in English. I was delighted when she accepted my invitation to contribute to today’s Minute! I gave her carte blanche to write on anything having to do with leadership, and here is her essay, unedited.

Food for Thought ~

The Everyday Leader by Karen Vyverberg

In my – admittedly brief – 19 plus years I have come to decide that there are two main types of leader: the Official Leader and the Everyday Leader. I like to believe I can speak personally on both.

An Official Leader is just that – a person whose job it is to lead, like a foreman or a shift supervisor. The job of an Official Leader is not easy. The group has certain goals to meet, and the Official Leader is saddled with the responsibility of meeting them.

An Everyday Leader is a more subtle position; that person in a group of friends or peers that the others instinctively look to for communal decisions. He or she might be the person who drives the most often, or even just the person who starts the brainstorming of dinner ideas. Perhaps “the party doesn’t start” until he or she arrives.

I believe it is often more difficult to be an Everyday Leader. We are faced with countless responsibilities everyday, and it is nice when some simple choices – like where to eat out – are made for us. The tricky role of the Everyday Leader is to make these extra choices without enforcing them like an Official Leader. An Everyday Leader must first be a group member, but perhaps with just enough foresight to take the responsibilities no one else wants.

Question of the day ~

Where do you fit in this description? Do you inhabit both Official and Everyday Leader roles? Where are you most effective or comfortable?

I hope you enjoyed this special edition with a different, yet related, perspective. Thanks, Karen!

The Authentic Workplace + A Personal Note

Sometimes we think of work as a separate section of our lives, cordoned off by location, hours, job descriptions and roles. As the workplace has evolved, our definitions and expectations are shifting shapes. The formal and somewhat rigid business boundaries that we see depicted in films set in the 1950’s through the 80’s seem antiquated. Here in casual California, the business suit is no longer the requisite attire for men. Changes in our social culture and the positive influence of many, many more women working have contributed to a more holistic workplace. In short, we are becoming more comfortable being our whole selves at work. We can celebrate our personal hobbies and our children’s achievements, acknowledge family responsibilities, personal crises, and health challenges. I, for one, am glad of this evolution to a more authentic world of work where we are not one dimensional. I see evidence that the complex, holistic, yet still intelligent and intensely focused companies often outperform the more formal ones. When people can be more authentic, they bring more of themselves to the workplace, and have more to give.

Food for Thought ~

Leadership in this new era is a far greater challenge than in the hierarchical management era and in the organizations that still follow that model. Those are indeed simpler to manage. The holistic organization with its collection of real, multi-dimensional human beings presents a far more complex set of leadership issues. I believe the rewards are well worth the effort.

Question of the day ~

How would you describe your workplace? Are people able to be authentic and multi-dimensional? What leadership challenges does this present for you?

On a Personal Note ~ In memorium:

My mother, Mildred Smiser Vyverberg, gently passed away on June 11. She was a teacher at two universities, my first and foremost role model, and a peach of a human being. Thanks, Mom.

A Cautionary Tale

Here’s my new article on leadership in the NorthBay Business Journal ~

SELF-AWARENESS ESSENTIAL FOR LEADERS

A business owner recently told me about a proverbial wake up call he had received: a key employee had resigned, citing difficulties with the owner as one of the reasons. As the exit interviews unfolded over a period of days, the owner learned that the employee had accepted an attractive job offer with a competitor. Ouch. The good news is that the business owner is using this opportunity to take stock of his management and leadership style. He wants to see what he can learn from the situation.

Click here to read the rest of the article

Food for Thought ~

Leaders must be ever willing to learn and grow personally and professionally. We must be strong enough and confident enough to be a student, to continuously hone our skills toward mastering the art of leadership.
Self-awareness is an essential foundation in that process.

Question of the day ~

What resources do you utilize for developing your self-awareness and your skills as a leader: reading, classes, coaching, counseling, personality testing, trusted friends/advisors? And from another perspective, what’s the cost of insufficient self-awareness?

Robert Louis Stevenson said: “You cannot run away from a weakness; you must sometimes fight it out or perish. And if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?