Archives For November 2015

Who is on the top of your list of great leaders?
What great leaders have had a personal impact on your life? Think of great leaders from history. Now think of great leaders who you’ve personally known. What made them great in your eyes?

This blog is for those of us who want to make an impact as great leaders.

Before we begin our discussion of great leaders, we should agree on a definition.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s just say a leader is someone who gets things done by influencing others.

So what makes a leader “great?” The big point I want to make is that greatness is not the same as success, so a great leader is not the same as a successful leader.

I’m not saying that greatness and success are opposites, or that they’re even mutually exclusive. If they were, there would be no leaders who were both great and successful. But it’s important to note that there are great leaders who we would not think of as successful. Likewise, there are successful leaders who we would not consider great.

Here’s the big difference. We consider a leader successful because of high achievement. We measure them based on their accomplishments. And that’s a good and important thing.

But we consider a leader great because of the positive influence they’ve had on the lives of others. We measure them based on their character and care for others.

In Alaska, we’re accustomed to seeing icebergs from time to time, near our many glaciers. Icebergs are majestic and powerful floating structures. They can be the size of buildings! What some people don’t know is, 83 per cent of a floating iceberg is unseen, below the surface of the water. But what’s below the surface buoy’s up and supports the 17 per cent that is seen. iceberg

The life of a leader is much like the iceberg. Business and operational successes are easily seen, and get most of our attention as a result. But 83 per cent of great leadership is largely overlooked, because it is not readily seen without going deeper.

Like the iceberg, it’s the 83 per cent of the life of a leader that’s unseen which allows the 17 per cent that is seen to either “sink or swim.” Focusing on the 17 per cent above the surface can help you achieve success, which is important in any organization. But getting below the surface, focusing on the 83 per cent is how a leader begins the journey to greatness.

The world is in desperate need of great leaders of character; leaders who give more to their world than they take; leaders who care about investing in the next generation of leaders.

There are plenty of people offering advice on how to become more successful. Every five minutes there’s a new tweet in my Twitter feed telling me what successful people do. (Many of the articles contradict each other.) I read and apply some of them because I want to be more successful, as every leader should.

But I want to go beyond just being successful. I want to be a great leader. I hope you do too. But it doesn’t happen by accident. Going for greatness requires thinking differently than striving for success. That’s the conversation I want to create with the Great Leaders Blog- a conversation about what’s below the surface.

Until next time, here’s a paradigm to chew on. If we set our minds on being successful, we may or may not ever become great leaders. But if we set our minds on becoming great leaders, our definition of success may change, and we may find ourselves being more successful at what really matters than we ever dreamed.

For discussion:

  1. Think of a great leader who impacted your life. Tell someone about that impact, and why it makes that person great in your eyes.

Thru Cyber Monday, save $400/person when you enroll them in a 2016 Leadership Excellence Course, an Alaska Leadership Adventure. Click here to see the schedule.

10443079_10205780236256984_87779908044533500_oHi, my name is Jay. I’m a pretty average looking, pasty white, middle-aged guy. Almost. There’s one thing that’s unusual about me. I have a passion for making great leaders. How did it get there? Great leaders before me put it there. They were leaders who thought of me as not just a statistic, but an immortal soul with eternal value. They wanted more from me than to just do their bidding. They wanted to make me a great leader. And they challenged me to make more great leaders.

They saw their time with me as an investment in the future. They stopped what they were doing, pushed away from their desks, and really listened when I needed them to. They cared more about who I was becoming than what I was producing. They challenged me not to just be successful, but to be great. And that’s what made them great.  Maybe you’ve had great leaders like that too.

This is a blog dedicated to greatness. It’s in memory of great leaders before us, and it’s a commitment and investment in today’s leaders and tomorrow’s.

Every three minutes, I see a new article in my Twitter feed about how to be more successful. It’s overwhelming! A lot of it has helped me become more effective in getting things done, and I’d recommend learning some of those tools. But I want to have a different conversation. I want to make a distinction between successful leaders and GREAT leaders, and I want to have that conversation with people who care about those they lead.

And I want to challenge you to do one more thing with me. I strongly believe that the number one job of a great leader is to make more great leaders. I don’t want to just equip you to be a great leader. I want to equip you to equip others to be great leaders as well. So, while I’m investing in your greatness, I want you to simultaneously invest in someone else’s greatness. Because ultimately THAT’S what will make you a truly great leader.

Here’s how it works:

First, think of someone you want to invest in with the hope that you’ll both grow as great leaders together. Maybe it’s one person you’re doing life with. Or maybe it’s a team that you lead. Invite them to join you in a conversation about great leadership.

Second, forward this newsletter to them and ask them to subscribe to it so that they’re getting it as well.

Third, whenever you get a new newsletter, schedule time to discuss it together. And ask two questions of each other: “What did you learn,” and “What are you going to do about it?”

And lastly, challenge them to make the same investment in someone else. Next thing you know, you’ll be infecting your world with great leaders. And don’t we know our world needs them!

OK, go for it! This is going to be amazing! One more thing just for fun: Write me a quick note and tell me how this first step went. Who are you going to invest in? Who are they going to invest in?

More soon!


Jay Pullins

Thru Cyber Monday, save $400/person when you enroll them in a 2016 Leadership Excellence Course, an Alaska Leadership Adventure. Click here to see the schedule.

wire-163985_1280One of the most frustrating time wasters in the workplace is spending hours and resources working on something only to find out it’s not what your boss wanted. Or believing you were doing something the way your boss expected it to be done, only to find out in a feedback session you misunderstood their expectations. Wasting time and resources at work due to misunderstanding hurts credibility and often leads to frustration, feelings of resentment and loss of respect.

Many of us spend the first year of working for a new supervisor trying to figure out, mostly from trial and error, how things are supposed to be done. Sometimes, the boss’s verbal directions don’t match their unspoken expectations. Sometimes, those expectations are inconsistent from one day to the next, or from one employee to the next.

This is understandable however. For most of us supervisors, if we were asked every week about our workplace expectations, and we gave an answer off of the top of our head (which would be the case for most of us), the answer would probably not be consistent week after week. It would vary based on the mood we were in at the time, new information or circumstances, or a variety of other variables that change from week to week. And often we’re just too busy in the moment to explain things as thoroughly as we should.

But when our lack of clear expectations leads to confusion and distress, valuable time and productivity are lost. And so is your credibility. And so is the company’s productivity.

With a little additional effort, forethought and intentionality, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can be the leader who breaks the mold. You can have the employees who are confident about working consistently for you and with their peers, knowing that they are all moving forward together in the right direction- the direction that you clearly articulated to all of your employees.

One of the best ways to become a leader whose communication motivates employees is to have a written leadership philosophy. Put down in writing what you expect of your employees and what they can expect from you in return. Consistent expectations lead to predictability in the workplace, which leads to stability, confidence and improved productivity and teamwork. So how do you create crystal clear expectations for your employees?

The first step is to realize that you’re probably not as understood as you think you are. None of us are. So begin by assuming that you’re going to have to work harder at being clear about your expectations than you thought. But, like all leadership development, a little extra effort up front will have huge payoff down the road.

Second, commit to taking time to put your big picture expectations in writing, along with the major principles that guide your decisions and leadership behavior. Hone that message into a “living” written leadership philosophy that you can use as your basis for communicating a consistent message.

Third, share your written leadership principles and expectations with all of your employees. They will be thankful for your clarity and for the days and weeks you’ve saved them by not having to figure you out through trial and error. And you’ll be thankful for their extra energy, consistent effort and improved productivity.

And lastly, let your daily actions be consistent with your written and spoken expectations. Hold yourself accountable to behavior consistent with even the smallest details. There’s nothing more frustrating than bosses who don’t walk their smallest details. There’s nothing more frustrating than bosses who don’t walk their talk or hold people accountable to their stated expectations, even the smaller ones. It’s better to not share an expectation than share it and kill your credibility by not living up to it.

You can download some FREE examples of effectively written leadership philosophies here.

Supervisor, if you’d like to become an expert at clearly and consistently communicating your expectations, I’d recommend attending my Leadership Excellence Course in Anchorage or Seattle. Every participant finishes the three-day course with a written personal leadership philosophy that’s ready to share with his or her employees.  Click here for all the details on dates, locations, and discounts. If you live outside of Alaska or Washington, I can connect you with a Leadership Excellence Course led by one of my Academy Leadership colleagues in your area.

One of the most common failures of managers today is the failure to effectively handle workplace conflict.

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