One Leadership Style That Covers It All

Daredevil photographer Antonio Grambone, 46, photographed forest fires in the National Park of Cilento and Vallo di Diano in the province of Salerno in Italy.

Daredevil photographer Antonio Grambone, 46, photographed forest fires in the National Park of Cilento and Vallo di Diano in the province of Salerno in Italy.

Via Wiselike:

Do you advocate the same leadership style for all industries? Why or why not? Each industry has different qualities. For instance, people put their lives on the line when they work in fire safety, while retail is about money. Because industries are so different, should leadership styles be different as well? If so, which styles work best for industries such as public safety, health, and retail?

Here’s my answer:

I believe one leadership style works best across all industries. Here’s why.

In the 1990’s, I flew air ambulance trips moving sick and injured patients from one part of the world to another. On one occasion, we were transporting a gentleman from Chicago to Boca Grande, Florida. He was interested in what we did (I was a paramedic and my partner was a nurse) and how we worked as a team of two in a small metal tube (a Lear Jet) flying 400 MPH through the clouds. After thoroughly questioning us, I asked him what he did. He said he owned and operated several companies, describing a variety of organizations ranging from manufacturing to service businesses. I asked him how he knew so much about so many different businesses? He said, “Oh, I know a lot about one thing: How to lead people.”

I believe he’s right. He had one leadership style: servant leadership. He created a bond with the people he worked with and the people his companies provided goods and services to.

The parallels between leading in high-stakes business and leading in high-risk situations are quite the same. Competence, trust, and loyalty are qualities that span across a variety of areas. Whether it’s retail (selling things), non-profits (supporting people and causes), or healthcare (healing people) all involve people and require leaders who are inherently motivated and embrace learning (competent) and have a strong relationship with their followers (trust and loyalty).

I believe that’s servant leadership.

3 Ways to Trickle Customer Service Down Through Your Organization

Customer service trickles down from leadership, through members, to customers. Photo by Kim Fitzsimmons.

Customer service trickles down from leadership, through members, to customers. Photo by Kim Fitzsimmons.

Every organization serves customers. Retail stores, governments, hospitals and restaurants they all serve customers, both internally and externally. So, shouldn’t meeting the needs of all of their customers be a top priority? Trickle-down service may be the most effective way to serve everyone.

Fire departments, like other organizations,  are trying to make their way through tough economical times while maintaining, or improving, their customer service. But operational decisions made while weathering a storm must not ignore your organization’s first customers, your members. Making drastic changes, even if needed, must be done with care in order to meet the service needs of your members first. Take care of your members first, and, as a result, they will feel better about what they do. Your members deal directly with the community, so customer service is a key part of their responsibilities. Here are some ways to trickle customer service down through your organization:

  • Customer service trickles down from leadership, through members, to customers. Bypassing your members will not improve your customer service. Your members are the people on the front lines with your customers. You have to go through your members first.
  • Happy members make customers and the organization’s leaders happy. When your members experience good customer service they are happy. When your members are happy they serve their customers better. When your members and their customers are happy, well then, your organization’s leaders have no choice but to be happy. Everyone is happy!
  • Happy members help the organization work better. Unhappy members do not make extra effort to help, and sometimes make things worse causing more financial problems and less efficiency. Whereas, happy members contribute and take responsibility to make their organization better. They take initiative and go the extra mile. To improve your organization, keep your members happy!

How is the customer service at your organization? How have you tried to increase it through your members? Are your members happy?

This was originally posted on July 18, 2012.

What’s Working? What’s Not?

Photo by Kim Fitzsimmons

Photo by Kim Fitzsimmons

Start, Stop, Continue is a well-known method for feedback that many organizations and teams use to gauge effectiveness. You simply ask:

  • What can we start doing that will make us more effective?
  • What can we stop doing that makes us less effective?
  • What can we continue to do that’s providing value to us?

Another, less formal feedback technique that is similar is called WWWN. It stands for What’s working? What’s not? It’s a simple, effective communication tool that can illuminate critical issues or operations for improvement while creating a learning culture of openness.

Give them a try. Which one works better for you?

Getting Your People to Change Starts With You

Old_firefightersGetting your people to change starts with you.

Actions speak louder than words, and we hear it all the time, “It’s hard to change people with deeply embedded traditional behaviors!”

To be innovative and keep up with the rapidly changing complexities in our world, WE must be willing to change our behaviors and beliefs. And leaders must go first and set the pace and ideal behaviors for the rest of the organization. 

Here’s a way WE can begin to change:

  • WE need to be brutally honest about the behaviors that we must change.
  • WE must be willing to move away from what we all know as the business of yesterday.
  • WE have to build speed through trust. As trust goes up, work and time to results go down.

How do you get yourself motivated to make the change in the first place? When should you take massive action verses practicing incremental change?

Leaving the World of Standard Operating Procedures

The current challenging events of today require the decentralization of leadership and empowerment of talented firefighters on the front lines. This contrasts with the hierarchical leadership that dominates the fire service across all spectrums. In a complex system, such as fire rescue, everything has side effects. Experience teaches us that centralized command and control doesn’t work.

Watch this Inno-Versity Inno-Mation adapted from Captain David Marquet’s talk on Greatness, and is based on his book, Turn the Ship Around!

How do you decentralize leadership in your fire department?

How Leaders Build Winning Teams

In his book Winning, Jack Welch says he found that some ways of leading always seem to work in creating a winning team. Her they are:

  1. Leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach, and build self confidence.
  2. Leaders make sure people not only see the vision, they live it and breathe it.
  3. Leaders get into everyone’s skin, exuding positive energy and optimism.
  4. Leaders establish trust with candor, transparency, and credit.
  5. Leaders have the courage to make unpopular decisions and gut calls.
  6. Leaders probe and push with a curiosity that borders on skepticism, making sure their questions are answered with action.
  7. Leaders inspire risk taking and learning by setting the example.
  8. Leaders celebrate.

How do you build a winning team? What can you do today to build a better team?

The Choices We Make: My Notes From Leadercast

Along with a few friends, I attended the Leadercast simulcast at the Office Depot Corporate Headquarters on May 4, 2012. The program, sponsored by Chick-fil-A followed the theme of “Life changing events begin with a simple choice.” In other words, we all make choices (decisions) that affect the people around us which can create a positive impact on them and others. As leaders, our choices can strengthen our families and impact our organizations. The day-long program featured energizing speakers who delivered thought-provoking ideas on leadership and practical ways to apply them. Look for the next Leadercast on May 10, 2013. Following are some nuggets I took away:

Andy Stanley

Soledad O’Brien

Dr. Roland Fryer

  • Website: The Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard University
  • How do we make life better for those who are less fortunate?
  • If the U.S. has better education and technology available, why do we score lower than other countries who have less?
  • Who does it right? We should find them and follow what they do. Figure out what they do and do that!
  • Some ways for better education:
    • Spend more time doing it
    • Find the best teachers and use them
    • Use data to alter the pace of instruction
    • Have high expectations
    • Use short term learning and testing
    • Hold leaders accountable
    • Test the fundamentals early and often

Marcus Buckingham

  • Website: TMBC
  • Leadership is about “authenticity.” It’s not a model, it’s idiosyncratic.
  • What’s your leadership edge?
    • Advisor: You are practical
    • Connector: You are a catalyst
    • Creator: You make sense of the world
    • Equalizer: You are level-headed
    • Influencer: You engage people and convince them to act
    • Pioneer: You are optimistic in the face of uncertainty
    • Provider: You sense other people’s feelings
    • Stimulator: You are the host for other people’s emotions
    • Teacher: You are thrilled by the potential you see in others

Angela Ahrendts

  • Website: Burberry
  • Leadership should build a culture of trust and intuition. The combination will lead to more choices and better execution.
  • Keep asking:
    • What is our brand? Is it relevant? What’s best for the brand?
    • How do we unite the team? How do we connect with everybody?
    • How do we keep the organization healthy, motivated, and inspired?

John Maxwell

  • Website: The John Maxwell Company
  • You need to transform yourself to transform others. What are you doing to develop yourself?
  • 3 laws from the Laws of Growth
    • Law of Intentionality – What is our purpose?
    • Law of Awareness – We must know ourselves to grow ourselves.
      • Follow the 3 R’s:
        1. Requirement: What do I have to do?
        2. Return: What do I do well?
        3. Reward: What do I love?
    • Law of Environment – Grow in the right surroundings.

Tim Tebow and Urban Myer

  • Website: Tim Tebow
  • Urban Myer: Leadership is raising the level of the people around you.
  • Tim Tebow:
    • How do you lead when you are not in the game? Be ready!
    • Don worry about what you can’t control; focus on what you can do.

Dr. Sheena Iyengar

  • Book: The Art of Choosing
  • Choice is our ability to exercise control over ourselves and our environment.
  • Effective leaders see choice through others’ eyes.
  • Effective leaders are choosy about choosing.

Patrick Lencioni

Choices are about intention. What choices will you make today?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links on this page are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Leadership Doesn’t Come From Behind the Desk

From the movie Beauty and the Boss, 1932.

From the movie Beauty and the Boss, 1932.

Recently, I listened, with great concern, to two different questions about the same subject, a failure to communicate. On one occasion, I was part of a management meeting where the attendees were asking, “Why don’t they understand what we are doing?” Another time, while talking to people I supervise, they asked, “What is going on?” This roadblock, or maybe wall, in communication is a huge problem and affects everything. So what can leaders (even a mid-level leader like me) do to break through this wall? You can increase your “face time” with your people and build trust; to show you care.

Leaders, you need to get out from behind the desk (and get away from the continuous meeting table too; by the way read this book: Read This Before Our Next Meeting) to visit, mentor and socialize with your people. Communicating in person, as opposed to email, memo, and policy has always been and still remains extremely important, even more so in today’s complex and fast-moving world.

Everyone has their idea for a definition of leadership. Books, articles, and seminars tell us that leadership is, “the ability of an individual to influence others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organization.” Here’s my take on leadership, “Leadership is influencing people to act by providing purpose, direction, and motivation while working to accomplish the mission and improving the organization.” That is not done from behind a desk or in a meeting.

Effective personal communication is no small task today, especially in very large organizations. With customer and community expectations increasing, issues with completing training and countless other factors, everyone feels a heavy burden, both physically and mentally, that no one is immune to.

Within our fast-moving culture, we have come to a crossroads with regard to communicating with our people. What happened to the talent of one-on-one, face-to-face mentoring? Email has made the communication process faster, but it’s hindered, to some degree, our willingness to get out from behind the desk and talk. It’s hard to show you care about them and are interested in their problems in an email. Relationships and trust are not created from emails!

I believe we need to put more emphasis on face-time communication. Technology (email, social media, videos, etc.) alone does not create change, relationships with people do (relationships provide purpose, direction, and motivation). Leaders, you must talk, talk, talk! And then listen, listen, listen!

Leadership involvement, getting out there and leading your people from the front will increase awareness and maximize performance. The ongoing demands of today’s world require that leaders communicate well and often. You cannot provide the right kind of leadership needed from behind a desk!

What needs to happen in your organization to improve communication? How can you help make it happen?

Certain to Win: The Strategy of John Boyd, Applied to Business [Book Review]

USAF Colonel John Boyd was constant explorer, thinker, and doer (some say he was a rogue, but he did get things done). He influenced the tactical thought and critical decision making process of fighter pilots to “outmaneuver the enemy” during air combat operations. Boyd’s ideas can apply to everything from routine fire department productivity to high-risk, complex fire ground operations. Can his body of ideas be used for everything? Never. But they can be applied to most complex and rapidly changing situations.

Chet Richards was a close associate of the late Colonel Boyd and a lecturer at the Air War College and the Army’s Command and General Staff College. In Certain to Win, he introduces Boyd’s philosophy of conflict by examining how it works in the military arena as well as the business world. He puts forward that organizations, including fire departments, work best when they have clear visions, well-practiced skills, and implicit trust. Richards uses examples from military minds of Sun Zu, Musashi, von Clausewitz, Rommel, Patton, and Boyd seasoned with the organizational accomplishments of Toyota and Southwest Airlines to show how commonly held goals allow each unit of the organization to make decisions that continuously moves them toward the goal.

Why the title, Certain to Win? Sun Zu answers that here: If a general who heeds my strategy is employed, he is certain to win.

This is an excellent read for anyone looking to expand their knowledge on situational awareness, communication, decision making, teamwork, or leadership.