5 things kick-butt awesome leaders do

character-based paradoxical leadersAfter a recent talk, a participant told me he was intrigued with BIG’s tagline of “redefining power, performance, and connection at the intersection of the art of leadership and the science of business” and our concept of  character-based paradoxical leadership.

He asked for a cheat sheet for what a character-based paradoxical leader would do.

Here’s what I gave him.


5 things character-based paradoxical leaders know, believe, and do

1. Be self-aware and open.

Getting in touch with what we fail to notice about ourselves and others is a crucial first step in becoming a head-and-heart-connected leader. Ask people for feedback, and actively listen to what they share. Look for patterns in the advice you’ve received over the years. Act on what you discover. Take and/or make the time to connect with others to understand their point of view and heart direction. Acknowledge your fears without letting them rule your life. Radiate positive energy and determination.

2.  Embrace ethical norms and behavioral ideals.

One can do well, show kindness, be principled, and still be as effective as all get-out. Dare to be honorable and kind and encourage those around you to do the same. There’s more to business than just the bottom line—focus on people, principles, and profits. Walk the talk for being good and doing well. Show ethics and integrity that are above reproach as they’re based in authenticity, honesty, transparency, and a moral center. Treat those with and those without power the same. Invite the elephant in the room to dance.

3.  Engage the world and perform beyond self-interest.

I’m fond of saying that effective head-and-heart leaders wire themselves to think more of we and less of me. Every day, a character-based leader consciously balances the conflicts between selfish and selfless behavior. They get that life is an enormous merry-go-round of paradoxes and have learned to look to the greater good in managing these conflicting yet complementary tensions. Take a stand for what’s good and what’s right, even if doing so is unpopular.

4.   Treat people as ends, not as means.

While interviewing someone for an article about bad bosses, the interviewee told me her boss made her feel like a file cabinet, something utilitarian and easily replaced. Is that what you want your leadership legacy to be? Treat people with kindness, respect, and manage them with tough empathy that comes from the heart and head.

5.  Envision both what is and what can be.

A forward-thinking charter which engages people’s minds and moves their heart is a powerful combination, one that few individuals can resist. Leadership is a form of “power with” people, one that moves people beyond self-interest and interlocks them into a quest for the good of their group, organization and/or society. It’s an outreached hand inviting people to participate, be engaged, and make a difference…all because they matter.

What do you think?




3 Tips for Leaders for Practicing Mindfulness

Today’s guest contributor is Romila “Dr. Romie” Mushtaq, MD., a mind-body medicine physician, neurologist, and professional speaker. She did her medical education and training at the Medical University of South Carolina, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and University of Michigan. She is currently a corporate health consultant and professional health and wellness life coach at the Center for Natural and Integrative Medicine in Orlando, Florida.  Connect with Dr. Romie via her website or Twitter.

mindfulnessGoogle, eBay, Intel and General Mills offer classes on it. So do Harvard Business School, Ross School of Business and Claremont Graduate University, among other campuses. Mindfulness is not just a corporate trend, but a proven method for success.

Mindfulness—being focused and fully present in the here and now—is good for individuals and good for a business’s bottom line.

How can people practice it in a workplace where multitasking is the norm, and concerns for future profits can add to workplace stress?

Coloring inside and outside the lines

coloring in the linesLast week was the local TEDx event—an extraordinary day of women, men, and children sharing their talents and personal stories about an idea worth sharing. Being a TED speaker is now on my bucket list.

While walking out of the auditorium, I asked a fellow attendee what she thought about the day. She said she enjoyed the content and the energy but wished that more of the speakers had been specific with their calls to action.

I hadn’t noticed that.

3 dueling paradoxes for leaders to embrace

This post first appeared (without the bonus section on paradox) on Lead Change Group…do check it out!


dueling paradoxesIf you knew a replacement part would add an extra 90¢ in costs and yield only a dime in warranty savings, would you authorize use of the more expensive part?

Probably not.

Managers would crunch the business case and find the spending increase unjustified.

But suppose you knew the additional cost would prevent costly accidents and even save lives. Would your decision be different?

9 on the 9th: Quotes about Awareness

Nine quotes (and a bonus) about awareness. A prompt to pause, ponder, reflect…

4 Tips for Preventing & Handling On-the-Job Disasters

Today’s guest contributor is Timothy Dimoff, CPP, founder and president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., one of the nation’s leading authorities in high-risk workplace and human resource issues, security, vulnerability assessments and crime. A former award-winning narcotics detective and SWAT Team member, Tim reviews security problems and offers a path for conflict resolution and prevention to prevent workplace disasters.


workplace disastersAccording to OSHA, disgruntled employees, workplace bullies, active-shooter situations, illegal drug use, ex-spouses and dissatisfied clients can all be found in a random sampling of the two million people affected by workplace violence in the United States.

Workplace violence includes any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. And, of course, of the millions of reported cases, there are many more that go unreported.

From demeaning jokes to sexual innuendos to genuine fear of shots fired at work, hiring managers and their bosses need to understand these problems of human nature and know how to react. In my decades of experience with law enforcement and as a security entrepreneur, I’ve seen the evolution of workplace violence and management often does not know how to respond.

First Friday Favs 4.4.14

My leadership reading favs are an eclectic curation of articles, blog posts, research papers, quotes (always!), pod casts, books, and cartoons. Places where my research, work, reading, interest, or serendipity took me. Pieces that engaged my mind or touched my heart. Some items are recent, others aren’t. Some are mainstream; others off the beaten path. Enjoy…be inspired…LeadBIG!

10 military principles that apply anywhere, to anyone

Today’s guest writer is David M. Smith, the author of The Texas Spirit, (2014; Halcyon Press), and founder/owner of Chemical Exchange, Inc. and Texmark Chemicals. David is an avid jogger who’s committed to living to age 100.


keep good companyIn many ways, the knowledge gleaned from four years of college doesn’t compare to what a person can learn at infantry school. The Army provided me with more fun and interesting experiences and principles than college because I spent a lot of time in the company of officers and immersed myself in reading military classics.

Most students in MBA programs will never have that military experience, which is why I’ve condensed what I’ve learned into 10 essential principles that apply to business or anywhere.

10 essential military principles that apply anywhere, to anyone

3 ways to give meaningful feedback

leadership and feedback“Tell me why you didn’t give Kyle any feedback about his job performance problems.”

“I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.”

This exchange occurred during legal discovery as part of an unlawful termination lawsuit.  Fed up with an employee’s ongoing failure to meet job requirements, the supervisor had fired him.

The employee believed his job performance was just fine and attributed his termination to discrimination because he was the oldest person in his department.

If you supervise others, talking to them—candidly, caringly,frequently—about their job performance is a non-negotiable must-have skill in your management toolkit.

I remember the first time I had to tell one of my employees that his job performance was missing the mark. I postponed the discussion probably a dozen times. The time lag only made me more and more uncomfortable and dashed my secret hopes that he could read my mind and would miraculously start doing a better job.

As the possibility of that miracle receded further and further, I asked a respected colleague for advice.  He said all the delays signaled some fear on my part and asked me what I was afraid of.

“I’m afraid of hurting his feelings.”

“What will happen if his performance doesn’t get any better?”

“I’ll have to let him go.”

“What about his feelings then?”

Oh my, what a compelling insight!

My colleague reminded me that effective leaders talk frankly and often about performance—the good, the bad, the ugly—with their employees. That those discussions come from a place of caring, not a place of belittlement or some forced obligation like a mandatory performance review form.

3 ways to manage the 4 F’s:  fear, feelings, feedback, and futures

When you supervisor others, you’re just as responsible for developing their job performance as you are for production, budget, sales or whatever other metrics are used to assess your work output. Generally, we only learn where to improve when those areas are pointed out to us. To help your employees be all that they can be:

◊ Give your employees regular, ongoing coaching and feedback about how they’re doing because their insights, growth and performance evolve over time. Don’t hoard feedback for annual review time. (I liken this behavior to being like a squirrel hoarding acorns for the winter!) Talk as soon as possible after an event occurs.

◊ Be really specific in describing in good work and what needs to improve feedback (high fives and otherwise) often so it becomes a normal practice for you to do and for your team to receive and respond.

  • You need to be nicer to customers isn’t descriptive enough and is open to interpretation. Say instead, Smile and make eye contact when you greet customers. Use a friendly tone of voice and ask how you can help them. That feedback paints a much clearer picture of what performance you expect.
  • Saying Good job! is good recognition yet it doesn’t give enough specificity to help develop particular skills and/or behaviors.  Great job on that presentation to the boss! You had all your facts, had analyzed them well, had anticipated her objections and was able to deflect her pushback with appropriate humor…well done! See the difference?
  • Deliver your feedback with good intent. Aim to leave self-respect and self-esteem intact. Making an employee feel small and devalued doesn’t mean you are a leader; it means you are a jerk.

◊ Build a culture in which your employees give feedback to each other as well. There’s nothing that says that feedback can only come from the boss!

As for that employee who was my first “feedback guinea pig”—he thanked me for being upfront with him and went on to become a star performer.

What other tips do you have for giving authentic and meaningful feedback?

Image rights through Dreamstime


8 ways to be inspired

Eight amazing women of power took to their keyboards, marshaling tsurrender of securityheir women-supporting-women spirit and insights:

To share.

To educate.

To lift up.

To challenge thinking.

To begin the ripple.

To inspire.

If you missed their thoughts the first time around, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy reading the wisdom they imparted.

8 ways to be inspired

If equity is a mere matter of view by Ellen Weber | @ellenfweber

Until I changed filters and saw through the lived experience of a close friend, I had allowed dust and debris to cloud my vision. Have you done the same, and thereby missed amazing opportunities for expansion where you work?

A Woman’s View of the Future by Dana Theus | @danatheus

This work-life perspective leads to beautifully integrated future visions where business success, personal success, family success and community success are all interwoven and mutually reinforcing.

Workplace Equity:  Create positive ripples, not threatening glare by Jennifer V. Miller | @jennifervmiller

Will you join me in shining a spotlight on the inequities that still exist by taking whatever steps you can to help those in the prevailing culture understand that all is not equal, even if it seems so from their vantage point?

My girls need to know independence by Stephanie Alexander | @crackedslipper

Help your girls formulate a life view that will give them the best chance at independence. Show them that while you may struggle, you will reap the benefits of knowing your security isn’t in someone else’s hands. 

What makes you unique by Jo Anne Simson | @javsimson

How can we best honor one another without having to resort to labels or brands? Can we honor uniqueness? Is uniqueness something that would sell?

Why our world needs FIRSTS by Chery Gegelman | @gianaconsulting

I deeply believe that the reason history has been doomed to repeat horrific lessons from the past is that as humans we too easily forget the pain, the vision, and the sacrifice of those that have been firsts. 

Get your brave on by Mary Schaefer | @maryschaefer

The privileges those of a certain race or gender carry will be our ultimate downfall if every person doesn’t begin to muster courage – the courage to do what it takes to help our society intentionally see and embrace the gifts everyone has to offer and make it so commonplace we no longer have to call out the race or gender distinctions.

Change starts with me by Angie Mizzell | @angiemizzel

If I hadn’t noticed, I might have missed an opportunity. I might have sent my daughter the wrong messages. Messages that disempower: be nice. be good. be seen, not heard. I might have perpetuated a pattern I’ve worked so hard to break.


Big smiles and bigger thanks to Ellen, Dana, Jennifer, Stephanie, Jo Anne, Chery, Mary, and Angie for participating in this LeadBIG series!