All posts in “Leadership”

6 Leadership Books for Your Christmas Wish List

Hoping to catch up on your reading over the holidays? Why not put some of the top titles of 2017 on your wish list? We’ve curated a collection of books published in 2017 that stand out from the pack.

These titles aren’t only for CEO’s. Some are deeply reported feats of investigative journalism that are just compelling stories, no matter what your day job.

1.    Janesville: An American Story, by Amy Goldstein

What it’s about. Pulitzer Prize winner Amy Goldstein has spent years immersed in Janesville, Wisconsin where the nation’s oldest operating General Motors plant shut down in the midst of the Great Recession, two days before Christmas of 2008.

Why pick it up. Janesville is a microcosm of what connects and divides people during economic upheaval. It’s not just a 21st century Midwestern story. It’s an American story.




2.    Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Acceleration, by Thomas L. Friedman

What it’s about. In his most ambitious work to date, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman shows that the age of dizzying acceleration is leading to dystopian disruption. Friedman exposes the tectonic movements that are reshaping the world today and explains how to get the most out of them and cushion their worst impacts.

Why pick it up. With his trademark vitality, wit, and optimism, Friedman shows that we can overcome the multiple stresses of an age of accelerations—if we slow down, if we dare to be late and use the time to reimagine work, politics, and community.



3.    Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone, by Satya Nadella

What it’s about. Microsoft’s CEO tells the inside story of the company’s continuing transformation, while tracing his own journey from a childhood in India to leading some of the most significant changes of the digital era.

Why pick it up. It’s a study of how the human ability to empathize will become ever more valuable in a world where the torrent of technology will disrupt the status quo like never before.




4.    The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone, by Brian Merchant.

What it’s about. Veteran technology journalist Brian Merchant reveals the inside story you won’t hear from Cupertino-based on his exclusive interviews with the engineers, inventors, and developers who guided every stage of the iPhone’s creation.

Why pick it up. To get a roadmap for design and engineering genius, an anthropology of the modern age, and an unprecedented view into one of the most secretive companies in history.





5.    The Inspiration Code: How the Best Leaders Energize People Every Day, by Kristi Hedges

What it’s about. Informed by quantitative research and thousands of responses from leaders at all levels, Hedges reveals that inspiring communication isn’t about grand gestures. Instead, those who motivate us most do a few things routinely, consistently, and intentionally.

Why pick it up. Eye-opening and accessible, The Inspiration Code dispels common myths about how leaders communicate, and guides them in cultivating qualities that authentically excite.




6.    Principles, by Ray Dalio

What it’s about. Ray Dalio, founder of one of the most successful hedge funds in the world, shares a painful, public experience from his leadership journey, and how he found the humility to balance his audacity through radical truthfulness and radical transparency.

Why pick it up. While the book brims with novel ideas for organizations and institutions, Principles also offers a clear, straightforward approach to decision-making that Dalio believes anyone can apply, no matter what they’re seeking to achieve.



Download our Top Leadership Books for Your Christmas Wish List infographic and start shopping!

Question: What leadership book is on your wish list this Christmas?

The 6 Principles of Humility, by Dr. Tony Baron

Over the past 10 years, I have been honored to explore and debate the essence of power with Dr. Tony Baron. Specifically, how power impacts leadership, how leadership impacts culture, and, ultimately, how culture impacts performance.  

 With a double doctorate in psychology and theology and decades of executive coaching experience with Fortune 100 companies, you can imagine the depth and breadth that Tony adds to the subject. We are currently co-authoring a book that combines Tony’s scholarship and my straight talk about the challenges faced by today’s leaders. Meanwhile, I will be sharing guest posts by Tony from time to time to give you a taste of what it’s like to have an amazing colleague and friend like Tony Baron. – Sheri Nasim

By: Dr. Tony Baron

Demonstrating modesty has been underrated. Yet, when you read some significant thinkers in the corporate world like Jim Collins or in the church world like Larry Osborne, they think it is the essential ingredient of good leadership.

In 2013, Harvard Business Review published an article on how to cultivate humility as a leader. Authors John Dame and Jeffrey Gedmin suggested that every developing leader should be taught these 6 principles of humility:

1. Know what you don’t know.  The higher you climb up the proverbial corporate ladder, the greater the temptation it is to believe that you are the smartest person in the room. But deep down, you know that you don’t have all of the answers. You may not even have all of the questions. Know when to defer and delegate.

2. Resist falling for your own publicity.  Part of the leadership role is to maintain a positive outlook. Your confidence boosts that of your team and your customers. While it’s important to have a positive outlook, it’s just as important to correctly assess reality. Keep your spirits high, but your judgment at an even keel.

3. Never underestimate the competition.  No matter how smart you are, how many hours you are willing to put in, or how creative your team is, do not allow a residue of hubris to form around your culture. There is always competition for your customer’s attention.

4. Embrace and promote a spirit of service.  The term servant leadership was coined by Dr. Robert K. Greenleaf in the late 1960s.  In his book, Servant Leadership: A Journey Into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness, Greenleaf writes, “The great leader is seen as servant first, and that simple fact is the key to his greatness.” Use you power for the sake of others.

5. Listen, especially to the weird ideas.  Dame and Gedmin write that “the most imaginative and valuable ideas tend to come from left field, from some associate who seems a little offbeat, and may not hold an exalted position in the organization.” Step outside of your inner circle to get a fresh perspective.

 6. Be passionately curious.  Leading during uncertainty and change requires a healthy dose of curiosity. Without curiosity, we are unable to sustain our attention, we avoid risks, and, essentially, stagnate. Embrace curiosity and promote it among your team.

Larry Osborne, in his 2013 article in Leadership Journal, believes that every leader must avoid the 3 curses of leadership failures: the curse of the spotlight, the curse of hype, and the curse of leadership ADHD. Osborne recommends keeping leadership hubris in check by leading with a low profile, underselling and over delivering, and keeping the team focused on strategic goals.

The first task of any leader is to assess reality correctly. You can’t do that well without humility.

Question: What specific actions are you taking to remain humble as a leader?

Dr. Tony Baron is Distinguished Scholar-In-Residence at Center for Executive Excellence and an internationally recognized speaker, writer, corporate consultant, professor and the San Diego Director of Azusa Pacific University Graduate School of Theology.

Dr. Baron is the author of six books, including The Art of Servant Leadership and a workbook manual co-written with noted author and business leader Ken Blanchard. Throughout his career, he has worked with hundreds of companies including Ford Motor Company, Coca Cola Company, Warner Brothers Studios, and Boeing, among many others.

Being Misunderstood: 4 Ways to Respond Instead of React, By Dr. Tony Baron

Over the past 10 years, I have been honored to explore and debate the essence of power with Dr. Tony Baron. Specifically, how power impacts leadership, how leadership impacts culture, and, ultimately, how culture impacts performance. With a double doctorate in psychology and theology and decades of executive coaching experience with Fortune 100 companies, you can imagine the depth and breadth that Tony adds to the subject.

By: Dr. Tony Baron

Nobody likes to be labeled. And nobody likes to be misunderstood. Given the context of our national dialogue recently, this may be a good time to talk about how to respond, instead of react, when we are misunderstood.

I am not talking about times when there is a lack of clarity in communication. I am talking about when others judge you based on misinformation they have received (or conceived) that results in them questioning your character.

The injustice hurts deeply. But, as leaders, our ultimate responsibility is to not to react, but to respond by modeling the behavior we would like to see in others. It is a true test of how we use power. Will we use our position to force others to bend to our will? Or, will we use our position to practice the discipline of transformative leadership?

Here are four ways that you can practice transformative leadership and respond, rather than react, when others attack your character:

1.   Practice the Discipline of Not Having the Last Word

A transformative leader influences others by modeling appropriate behavior not only in positive situations but also in periods of criticism. When people attack your character, they often want to engage you in a verbal volley. Don’t do it. Transformative leaders have the discipline to not have the last word.

2. Practice the Discipline of Humility

An attack on your character may immediately send you into defense mode. If you have power, you may be tempted to use that power to punish the person who is attacking you. However, a transformative leader must refrain from presuming you can silence another person, and refrain from letting others know how wronged you feel. Humility comes from the word “grounded.” A grounded person reflects deeply to see what truth may be in the midst of falsehoods, what path may be used for reconciliation, and what direction you need to follow.

3. Practice the Discipline of Civility

A transformative leader understands that people who attack their character often betray their own fears and anxieties in the process. When people spew words at you in anger, recognize the pain or anxiety behind their words. Pause to reflect before you engage, then practice the discipline of civility. In Reclaiming Civility in the Public Square, civility is defined as “claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs, and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.”

4. Practice the Discipline of Wisdom

Knowledge is a compilation of things true, maybe true, and definitely not true. Knowledge can lead to pride and a sense of superiority over others. Wisdom, on the other hand, is insight into reality. Reality is the only thing a transformative leader can count on. People of wisdom seek reality – not illusions, innuendos, or ill feelings.

So, to those who feel you have been misunderstood, take courage in the midst of adversity. Seek reconciliation. Practice the discipline of not having the last word, humility, civility, and wisdom.

Question: Have you felt misunderstood recently? Which of these practices might help you respond instead of react?


Dr. Tony Baron is Distinguished Scholar-In-Residence at Center for Executive Excellence and an internationally recognized speaker, writer, corporate consultant, professor and the San Diego Director of Azusa Pacific University Graduate School of Theology.

Dr. Baron is the author of six books, including The Art of Servant Leadership and a workbook manual co-written with noted author and business leader Ken Blanchard.  Throughout his career, he has worked with hundreds of companies including Ford Motor Company, Coca Cola Company, Warner Brothers Studios, and Boeing, among many others.

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, visit us today at or subscribe to receive CEE News!


6 Things Successful Change Leaders Know

Can you feel it in the air? For the past few weeks, everything around us has been changing. The sun is setting earlier. Leaves are changing in color to vibrant reds and deep yellows. There’s no denying that fall is here and winter is just around the corner. As humans, we are hard wired to accept the inevitability of seasonal changes. Although we can manage extreme weather changes of four seasons a year, why are we so resistant to organizational changes?

If you’re engaged in the effort to set a new direction, orchestrate innovation, or mold a culture, here are six universal truths that can guide you along the way.

1. People don’t resist change. They resist being changed. As management guru Peter Senge suggests, resistance is greatest when change is inflicted on people. If you can give people a chance to offer their input, change is more likely to be met with enthusiasm and commitment.

2. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Big goals can seem overwhelming and cause us to freeze. This simple truth, attributed to Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, is a reminder to get moving. Take the first step, however small it may seem, and the journey is underway.

3. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. Many change efforts fall short because of confusion over the end goal. In the Lewis Carroll classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice asks the Cheshire cat which road she should take. The cat’s response reminds us to focus on the destination first, then choose the best path.

4. Change is a process, not a decision. It happens all too often. Senior executives make pronouncements about change, and then launch programs that lose steam. Lasting change requires an ongoing commitment to the process reinforced by constant communication, tools, and milestone recognitions.

5. Do not declare victory prematurely. In his book, The Heart of Change Field Guide, author Dan Cohen suggests that short-term wins do not necessarily equal long-term success. Cohen writes, “keep urgency up and a feeling of false pride down.”

6. Be the change you wish to see in the world. These famous words attributed to Gandhi reminds us all — executives with associates, political leaders with followers, or parents with children — that one of our most important tasks is to exemplify the best of what the change is all about.

Any form of change requires an adjustment period, and some are easier than others. While seasonal changes are predictable and tend to go over smoothly, organizational changes cause more chaos. Leaders trying to implement changes in the workplace can take heart in these truisms, settle in and enjoy the journey.

Question: Chances are, you’re going through a change effort now. Which of these truths can you apply today to help you succeed?

Triggered? Rewire Your Brain in 3 Easy Steps

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at an event hosted by the San Diego Employers Association. I talked about the research I’ve been doing on a book I’m co-writing with Dr. Tony Baron about power and leadership.

CEE Founder Sheri Nasim and Danielle Aguas with SDEA Team!

Dr. Baron and I flew to U.C. Berkeley last year to visit Professor and social psychologist Dacher Keltner. Professor Keltner had just published a book called The Power Paradox. Using MRIs to study the brain, Keltner and his students found that when a person experiences power, the brain gets a little surge of dopamine – the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, love, addiction, and psychotic behavior.

The paradox, Keltner found, is that dopamine can also suppress our ability to empathize. That’s not good news for the people we’re supposed to be leading. (Read more about Professor Keltner’s findings here.)

Dr. Baron and I also reviewed what Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, refers to as the “amygdala hijack”. If you’ve ever experience road rage, you’re familiar with this phenomenon. Here’s a breakdown of why it happens.

Our brains are made up of three parts. The first and oldest is the brain stem. It’s responsible for the body’s basic operating functions like breathing and heartbeat. Next, comes the limbic system where the amygdalae are located. The amygdalae activate during times of stress. They are responsible for “fight or flight” responses that have kept us alive as since the days that cave men crossed paths with sabre-toothed tigers. Over the limbic system is the neocortex, which is responsible for logic and reason.

When the amygdalae are triggered by stress, they race into action. First, they signal the brain stem to release adrenaline and cortisol through the body. The heart beats faster, blood pressure rises, and breathing accelerates. Next, the amygdalae shut down the flow of blood to the neocortex, because using logic and reasoning could cause you to delay jumping into immediate action.

That’s the amygdala hijack. And though we’ve evolved from living in caves to condos, our brains don’t know the difference between a sabre tooth and a distracted driver. When someone cuts us off in traffic, we can lose the ability to reason. Our focus narrows, and all we can think is “I’m right and he’s wrong!”

We get triggered the same way when we are in a stressful meeting, or even when we replay memories of stressful events. Adrenaline and cortisol flood the body. What’s worse is that these stress hormones can stay in the body for up to 4 hours, which is why we may stay amped up long after the stressful situation has passed. There’s a term for that effect too – the amygdala hangover.

So, is there anything that we can do to avoid an amygdala hijack? Fortunately, yes.

1. Recognize when you are triggered.  If you get easily triggered at work, especially when you’re in meetings with the same people each week, this is an excellent opportunity to practice. You might start by going to the meeting, getting upset, staying upset for a day or two before you realize that you were triggered. The next week, you go to the meeting, get upset, and stay that way until you get home that evening before you recognize that you’ve been triggered. The next week, you’re in the meeting and you start to feel your chest tighten and your blood pressure rise just before you get upset. You still get upset, but you notice what’s happening in your body in the moment. Progress!

2. Fire up your neocortex. Once you can recognize that you are being triggered in the moment, you can move to Step 2. Thomas Jefferson once said that if you get mad, count to 10. If you get really mad, count to 100. This sounds simplistic, but it actually has the effect that you need to counter an amygdala hijack. When you count, you re-engage the neocortex that was shut off just seconds ago. Counting will give you the ability to re-access logic and will build the distance you need to see things more clearly.

3. Switch your attention. Take long, intentional breaths. Again, this sounds simplistic, but when you bring your attention repeatedly to each breath as you have it, you activate the parasympathetic system. That’s the part of your nervous system responsible for “rest and digest.” Taking deep, mindful breaths will have the net result of bringing you back into a calm state.

Recognize when you are triggered, reconnect with your neocortex, and take slow, deep breaths to find the path back to a calm state. Doing so over time, will form new neural pathways to re-take control of your brain.

Question: When was the last time you got upset? Did you blame others for your response, or did you recognize that you were triggered?


Interested in learning more about how to rewire your brain to excel at leadership? Summer special: Get 15% off our executive coaching services when you book between now and August 1, 2017. Learn more about our process by emailing me directly at [Read more about our Executive Coaching services.]

Interested in getting more content like this? Subscribe to CEE News!

CEE News is designed to help you with the challenges you face every day by sharing infographics, white papers, best practices, and spotlighting businesses that are getting it right. I hope you’ll subscribe to CEE News and it becomes a resource that continually adds value to your walk as a leader. If I can be of assistance in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

How to Dig Out of the Valley of Despair During Culture Change

One of the most challenging yet satisfying roles we play at Center for Executive Excellence is helping teams through culture transformations. These are heavy lift, long-term projects that require us to embed ourselves with our clients to execute the transformation roadmap.

The mechanics of the process are tailored from client to client, depending on things like size, business case, and readiness for change. The emotional cycle, however, is a consistent 5-stage process.

Stage 1 is uninformed optimism.

Stage 2 is informed pessimism.

Stage 3 is the “Oh S*&t! What have we gotten ourselves into?” phase, also known as the “Valley of Despair.”

Stage 4 is informed optimism.

Stage 5 is success and fulfillment.

Change of every type – both good and bad – can be stressful. Change takes us out of autopilot and forces us to lay down new neural pathways. Change makes us slow down and re-think what we’re thinking about.

I overheard another metaphor for change last week attributed to a leader at Chuao Chocolatier that helped explain cultural resistance to change. If you think of yourself as a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, you can imagine that your shape impacts the shape of those in your immediate surroundings. In turn, their shapes impact the shapes of those surrounding them, and so on throughout the entire organization.

If you try to change, you will meet resistance from those around you, because it will force them to change their shape. But, if enough of your team succeeds in changing together, it can be the catalyst for organizational change.

If you’re stuck in Stages 1 – 3 of your change project, try identifying a team that shows the highest proclivity to make the change you want to see in the rest of the organization. They will be most likely to find ways around resistance and influence those in their immediate surroundings to climb out of the Valley of Despair.

Question: Are you in the middle of a culture transformation? What stage do you find yourself in?

8 Leadership Books to Add to Your Summer Tote

Looking for some titles to add to your reading list this summer? Pull out your tote and pick up some of our top picks.

From recent bestsellers to old-school business parables, here’s a list of books that we think are well worth the read:

1. Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others by Cheryl Bachelder

What it’s about: An engaging case study of the turnaround of Popeyes, proving that servant leadership is challenging, tough minded, and gets results.

Why pick it up: Bachelder takes you first-hand through the transformation of Popeyes to show that leaders at any level can become a dare to serve leader.





2. The Employee Experience Advantage: How to Win the War for Talent by Giving Employees the Workspaces they Want, the Tools they Need, and a Culture They Can Celebrate by Jacob Morgan

What it’s about: A new type of organization is emerging, one that focuses on employee experiences as a way to drive innovation, increase customer satisfaction, find and hire the best people, make work more engaging, and improve overall performance.

Why pick it up: Backed by extensive research, futurist Jacob Morgan breaks down the three environments that make up employee experience at every organization around the world.



3. Option B: How To Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

What it’s about: Following the sudden death of her husband, Silicon Valley executive Dave Goldberg, Sandberg described widowhood at a young age as “a club that no one wants to belong to.” Co-authored with Wharton professor Adam Grant, the book is focused on recovering from adversity.

Why pick it up: Though not strictly a business book, it includes stories of people who recovered from a variety of hardships. It contains lessons for leaders who want to build their own resilience, too.




4. Leaders Made Here: Building a Leadership Culture by Mark Miller

What it’s about: A scarcity of leaders today means a shortfall in performance tomorrow. Bestselling author and Chick-fil-A executive Mark Miller describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization — from the front lines to the executive ranks.

Why pick it up:  Learn to build an organizational culture that will ensure your leadership pipeline is full and flowing.





5. Animal Farm by George Orwell

What it’s about: A dramatic takeover; disengaged, top-down management; besieged, under-appreciated workers — this Orwell parable on totalitarianism serves as a reverberating lesson in organizational behavior.

Why pick it up: If you haven’t picked this one up since ninth grade, it’s truly worth another read.




Sprint: Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz

What it’s about: These Google Ventures partners give us a practical guide to answering critical business questions, whether you’re a small startup, part of the Fortune 100, a solopreneur, or a nonprofit.

Why pick it up: This book is for anyone with a big opportunity, problem, or idea who needs to get answers today.





7. Own It: The Power of Women at Work by Sally Krawcheck

What it’s about: Success for professional women is no longer about trying to compete at the men’s version of the game. And it will no longer be about contorting themselves to men’s expectations of how powerful people behave.

Why pick it up: Learn how women can embrace and invest in their innate strengths — and bring them proudly and unapologetically, to work.




8. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

What it’s about: A manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation — into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made.

Why pick it up: To learn leadership and management philosophies that protect the creative process and defy convention.

Some of the principles shared in these books you may already know but need reminding of. Others can give you the insight you need to tackle your greatest challenges of 2017.

Question: What books have helped you along your leadership journey?

Do You Use this 4-Letter Word in Your Organization?

Someone used a 4-letter word at our April 27th Re:Imagine Leadership Summit that made a few audience members squirm in their seats. The word slipped out during the panel discussion when Joe Lara, a former Naval Special Warfare Command Officer, was asked, “What is the ingredient that holds service members together during the chaos of battle?”

“Love,” was his answer. “When someone cares enough for you to give their life to protect yours, that’s love in action,” Lara said.

Our panel moderator, Dr. Tony Baron, noted that love is not a word that’s often brought up at leadership conferences. But, when he asked other members of the panel about love in action at their organizations, they quickly agreed.

Rachelle Snook, Global Talent Manager of WD-40, said that the employees at WD-40 think of themselves as members of a tribe. “Tribal love,” said Snook, “is what keeps our culture strong. One of our mantras is ‘we’ve got your back.’” Damian McKinney, Founder of McKinney Advisory Group agreed. “When you think about the commercial real estate industry,” McKinney said, “love isn’t the first word that comes to mind, but it’s what we practice to ensure that we are truly serving our clients and that we have faith that we’re in this together.”

Dean Carter, VP of Shared Services at Patagonia, told the audience that employees at Patagonia think of one another as family. With a child care center located on Patagonia’s Ventura, CA, campus, the lines between employee and family are blurred. “Some of the children whose parents worked at Patagonia 30 years ago are now employees,” Carter said. “We are much more than co-workers. We are family members who look after one another. We know each other’s children by name and we’re there for each other through all stages of each other’s lives.”

In her 2015 leadership book, Dare To Serve, former Popeye’s CEO, Cheryl Bachelder, writes that turning around the flagging company in 2007 required a decision to serve its franchise owners. The problem was, Bachelder writes, “This decision [to serve] is not typical in our industry. Franchisors and franchisees are constantly in conflict – arguing about the contract, the business strategy, the restaurant design, the promotion pricing, or the cost of food.”

Bachelder continues, “Here’s a tough question. Do you love the people you’ve decided to serve? It helps. One Popeye’s leader says it this way: ‘If you’re in the franchising business, you should love the franchisees.’ To love franchisees, you have to love entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are passionate. They take risks. They invest for the future. They are ambitious. They are definitely not corporate bureaucrats. They do not have much patience with people holding MBA degrees or offering up expensive harebrained ideas. What if the most important people in your business are entrepreneurs? You must decide to love them.”

What Joe Lara, Rachelle Snook, Damian McKinney, Dean Carter, and Cheryl Bachelder have in common is that in order to truly serve the people you work with and are in the business to serve, you must set aside your differences, and look for ways to develop a love for who they are. Doing so requires you to set aside your ego, be aware of your biases, and have the courage to make love part of your organizational culture.

Question: Is there someone that you are in conflict with at work now? What would happen if you dared to love them?

Are You Ready to Hand Over Your Leadership Keys?

Picture this. A father had three children. When his oldest child, a daughter, turned 12, he took her with him to the auto dealership. He told her, “I want you to pick out the car that you think I should buy.” Puzzled, his daughter looked at her father and asked, “Why me, Dad?” “Because, this is the car that I’ll be driving for the next four years. When you turn 16 and get your driver’s license, I’m going to hand the keys over to you.”

He repeated this offer with his other two children, and over the next 16 years drove a bright red Volkswagen Beetle, a yellow Honda Civic (for his second daughter), and a red Jeep Wrangler (for his son.)

“I have to admit,” the father said, “when my son asked for a Wrangler, I hesitated.” It was outside of my comfort zone. I had always driven cars, we’d always lived in the city, and I couldn’t see myself driving a Wrangler for the next four years. But, I had made a commitment, and couldn’t break it now.”

“What’s funny,” the father said, “is that I actually started enjoying the Wrangler. By the time my son got old enough to drive it, I found myself thinking about buying another one for myself. If my son hadn’t convinced me to change what I’d gotten used to driving all of my life, I never would have gotten out of my comfort zone.”

What this father knew intuitively serves as a model for passing on the leadership keys in the 21st century. Three themes emerge.

1. Trust. Any worthwhile transition is based on mutual trust. Future leaders need to trust the wisdom and experience of current leaders. Current leaders need to trust the potential of the next generation, their innovative approach, and the ability to handle the responsibility for the future. When there is an absence of trust, the process of a healthy and fruitful transition breaks down, and the passing on of the leadership keys stalls. Breaking down the trust barriers starts with building mutual respect and appreciation for what we each bring to the table. Here’s a short, compelling video that shows how quickly we can start to break down the barriers and build trust.

2. Teamwork. Once we establish trust for one another, we can begin to work together as a team toward the future success of our organization. The father in the example above didn’t arbitrarily decide what cars would be best for each of his children. He included them in the process and let them voice their opinions. When we include future leaders in the decision-making process, they move from obliged to empowered. That empowerment – knowing that the keys to the future are in their hands – gives them a greater sense of responsibility for making good choices to show that your trust was well placed.

3. Transition. One of the most significant lessons from car-buying father is how he adapted to the Wrangler chosen by his youngest child. Most of today’s leaders grew up in a time when decisions and influence came from the top and rippled down. But, the rapid pace of technological change is having an impact on generational influence. Research by the Center for Generational Kinetics (CGK) finds that influence is rippling up, rather than down. “The greatest predictor of older generations,” says James Dorsey, CGK’s Chief Strategy Officer in this TEDx talk, “is what the younger generations are doing today.” They influence how every other generation uses technology. Need more convincing? Think Facebook.

Are you holding onto the leadership keys with a white-knuckled grip? It may be time to shift your view about future generations. When you can break down the trust barriers, give them true ownership and responsibility, and be open to their influence, you’ll be inspired by some of the most hard-working, eager-to-learn, and motivated people in the world today.

Question: What is your view about handing over the leadership keys? 

The Power Puzzle: Unlocking the Code to True Engagement

A few years ago, my family and I went to Cancun to celebrate my husband’s birthday. While we were there, we took a trip to Chichen Itza, one of the greatest Mayan centers of the Yucatán peninsula.

Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes a stepped pyramid dedicated to Kukulcan, the feathered serpent god. The pyramid is a feat of Mayan engineering and an astronomical marvel.

Each of the four sides has stairs with 91 steps. The platform at the top serves as the last step, for a total of 365 steps in all.

During the fall and spring equinoxes, the sun’s shadow forms an enormous snake’s body, which lines up with the carved stone snake head at the bottom of the pyramid. You can stand about 30 meters in front of the main face of the pyramid, clap your hands, and the sound travels up the face and bounces back out like the sound of a sacred bird worshipped by the Mayans.

When you visit Chichen Itza, you can’t help thinking about the pyramids left by other ancient civilizations around the world. The Mayan and Egyptian pyramids are best known, but pyramids can also be found in places like China, Iraq, France, and the Canary Islands.

We know that Chichen Itza’s stepped pyramid served as a temple to Kukulcan. He was the god of laws, fishing, healing, the calendar, and agriculture. We know that the Egyptian pyramids served as tombs to preserve the bodies of pharaohs and help their souls cross over to the afterworld. We also know that the pyramid archetype has been passed down for thousands of years, and is still embedded in our organizations.

Where does the power flow in your organizational pyramid? Does it flow up to the person at the top to preserve his or her legacy in perpetuity? Or, does it flow down to benefit the larger community?

In his book, On Moral Business, Max L. Stackhouse wrote that “Business leaders are increasingly the stewards of civilization.” Stackhouse argued that many of our institutions – government, families, universities and churches – are failing. What if the responsibility for future civilization depends on business leaders?

When you work as though society depends on the decisions you make as a business leader, it makes you think about which way the power is flowing in your organization. Is society better off because your organizational pyramid exists?

Question: What are you doing to test the flow of power in your organization? Do you track employee and customer satisfaction? Does your organization give time, talent or treasure to the community?

3 Ways Humble Leaders Keep their Egos in Check

Feedback is the breakfast of champions.

That’s a statement that author Ken Blanchard explains in sports terms. “Can you imagine,” asks Blanchard, “training for the Olympics with no one telling you how fast you ran or how high you jumped?”

The leadership application, of course, is that without feedback we cannot accurately assess reality. If we don’t know what we’re doing wrong, or what’s going wrong, we can’t fix it. This makes sense intellectually, but in reality, feedback can go down like a bowl of cold, lumpy oatmeal.

Today’s leaders face increasingly complex problems. No one person can have all of the answers. That’s why leaders of the 21st century must have the humility to encourage feedback. To step back and create space for others to show you your blind spots and help you make improvements that count.

Harvard Business Review contributors John Dame and Jeffrey Gedmin called this intellectual humility. “Without humility,” the authors argue, “you’re not able to learn.” Here are three principles of humility that will help put you in a feedback frame of mind:

1. Know what you don’t know. The higher you climb up the proverbial corporate ladder, the greater the temptation it is to believe that you are the smartest person in the room. But deep down, you know that you don’t have all of the answers. You may not even have all of the questions. Know when to defer and be open to learning from others.

2. Resist falling for your own publicity. Part of the leadership role is to maintain a positive outlook. Your confidence boosts that of your team and your customers. While it’s important to have a positive outlook, it’s just as important to correctly assess reality. Keep your spirits high, but your judgment at an even keel.

3. Never underestimate the competition. No matter how smart you are, how many hours you are willing to put in, or how creative you get, do not allow a residue of hubris to set into your culture. There is always competition for your customer’s attention.

The first task of any leader is to assess reality correctly. You can’t do that without having the feedback you need to make necessary adjustments. Open yourself to feedback by having the humility to know your own limits, keep your ego in check, and resist the false comfort of complacency.

Question: What specific actions are you taking to remain humble as a leader?

The 4 Steps to Extraordinary Productivity in 2017

Remember the days when someone asked you, “How’s it going?” “Fine,” was your auto-response.

“Fine” was code for, “I have a lot on my plate both personally and professionally right now, but unless you have an hour to listen, I don’t think you want me to get into it.” Everything wasn’t fine. You knew it. The other person knew it. But, “fine” was the socially acceptable response.

Today, when someone asks you, “How’s it going?” the new socially acceptable answer is, “Busy.” Busy-ness has become a badge of honor. You have messages to answer, meetings to prepare for, data to review, and decisions to make. You’re connected to work 24/7. You’ve tried the latest software to unclutter. You’ve bought the newest devices to keep up, but you just can’t break the cycle of busy-ness.

In 1992, global internet traffic measured 100 GB per day. Last year, that rate exploded to 20,235 GB per second. There’s been an explosion of information to consume, but we still have a finite number of hours per day to find the valuable bits. As this rate, we’ll quickly move from busy-ness to burnout if we don’t find a way to better manage our time. Here are four ways successful leaders don’t let busy-ness get in the way of business:

1. Prioritize. Start by deciding the most important priorities in your life – both personal and professional. Stephen Covey called this the “Big Rocks” principle. If you think of your day as a bucket, and you start your day without a plan, you’ll soon get busy filling your bucket with little rocks (tasks, cat videos, whatever). Before you know it, your bucket is full, and you spent another day working on things that have little value to you either personally or professionally. Instead, watch Covey demonstrate how to prioritize your Big Rocks.

2. Centralize. Next, decide on a system where you can keep a daily list of things you need to work on. The choices people make here fall into one of two groups: the techies and the Gutenbergers. If you’re a techie, you’ll probably want to use one of the many multi-platform productivity tools like Evernote and sync it with an app like Remember the Milk to help you manage your tasks. Gutenbergers prefer to track tasks on paper. Franklin Covey is a recognized leader in this area, with lots of options to choose from. Regardless of your preference, you’ll want to centralize all of your tasks in one system. Stop writing reminders on sticky notes and in random devices. Put all of your tasks in one place – and remember to put the Big Rocks in first.

3. Categorize.  You’re clear about your Big Rocks and you’ve chosen one place to keep track of your personal and professional tasks. Now what? In no particular order, make a list of your daily tasks. Next, put them in A, B, and C categories. A tasks are important, B tasks have medium importance, and C tasks have low importance. Now, number all of the A tasks in order of importance, and do the same for the B’s and C’s. If you’ve done this correctly, something that made your Big Rock list has an A beside it. Not necessarily A-1, but it’s at the top.

4. Recognize. Brace yourself for this – your task list will never be done. But, think of it this way. If you start each day with a plan in place, and if you only manage to get one thing on your list done, it will be the most important thing you had to do that day. Over time, you’ll see that some of your B’s and C’s could be delegated so that you’re focusing on the most important priorities in your personal and professional life.

You can continue wearing the busy-ness badge, or get real about your priorities and work on the most important things first. The choice is yours.

Question: Do you know someone who uses a time management system? What impact do you think it has on them personally and professionally?