Category Archives: Leadership

Asshat Much?

Mike Henry of Lead Change Group wrote a great article in response to another by George Cloutier.

Mr. Cloutier’s article,entitled, “Your Company is Not a Democracy,” was published in Entrepeneur magazine. This “Turnaround Ace” and NY Times best-seller is a big proponent of the “just view me as god” approach to business management. Nice. He provides other nuggets such as “be a dictator” and (my personal favorite) “Tell your employees ‘Don’t think – obey.”

The Asshat


I’m really at a loss for words. Really, George? Fear? Benevolent dicator? Is there such a thing? Really? We’re not indentured servants or furniture. I think the Soviets used a similar business model and we all know how that worked out.

Read Mr. Henry’s article first and then go to Cloutier’s.

8pm – The above was written quickly this morning after reading both articles. I’ve had the day to reflect and want to expand upon my more visceral outburst above.

Unfortunately, I have seen it all too often (and, to an extent, am living it now); small business owners who believe as Mr. Cloutier does. They see employees more as burdens, a suck on company resources (profits). If a business is suffering, Mr. Cloutier teaches to blame the employee first. After all, if they were working harder, the company would be rolling in profits and the owner would be rich. Fear is not an effective motivator. It only gets you the bare minimum, just enough not to be fired.

Instead, maybe they should look at their business plan (if there is one), their growth strategy (if there is one) or even the industry/market. Maybe it is just dead, or over saturated.

Mr. Cloutier makes a snide remark in his article regarding the suggestion box. Employees aren’t paid to think, just obey. After all, if they were as smart or as great of a person, they would be running their own business.

Employees are smart. Listen to them, they are the ones doing the work. They might have innovative ideas that could cut costs, increase productivity, increase customer service.

I just hate reading articles like Mr. Cloutier’s. It just perpetuates bad behavior on the part of employers. That’s not managing or leading. It’s bullying. Times have changed. Feudal lords and serfdom went out of style a few years ago (I think).

Owners cannot do it alone. They need our help.

I Hear Voices…


Two co-workers were giving advice the other day on how to deal with a situation. I compromised, I was aggressive but in a calm, gentle manner.

More Leadership 101…

  • A big part of leadership is communication.
  • Don’t make the employees come to you, go to them.
  • Do not assume that silence means everything is ok.
  • You are not too busy for a cup of coffee.
Do You Hear Something

Communication is a Part of Leadership

Maslow and Shoes…

Maslow created that famous pyramid showing the hierarchy of human needs of physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem and finally self-actualization. Maslow jumped into my mind last night on my drive home and Zappos put him there.

I subscribe to the various Zappos blogs and follow many Zapposians (my word) on Twitter. Through what they write and do, it is apparent that everyone from Tony H. (the CEO) on down truely care about the people who work at Zappos. Just read this post, and this and this on the Inside Zappos blog by John. H. to get an indication of the company’s core values and company attitude.

It isn’t all fun and games, Zappos is obviously very successful. It is easier to count the people I know who haven’t bought from them than it is to count those who have. The blog and Twitter posts also talk of the professional development and education of its employees. It is a holistic approach to the work environment.

That brings me to Maslow. Yesterday, I gave a status of my journey out of Career Hell. Basically, right now I am stuck at the “safety” level of Maslow’s pyramid. I can provide my family shelter, food on the table and clothes on our backs and pay our bills. Our basic needs are provided for and we are able to live in relative comfort. I am very grateful for this but as anyone who has studied Maslow, after awhile, a person begins to desire for more. Family and friends notwithstand, there is no sense of belonging, despite my efforts to remain positive, my self-esteem and confidence are nil and self-actualization is nowhere on the map. (some may say I should remove myself from the situation but that is easier said than done and the topic for another day)

Now consider Zappos. As I thought of Maslow and my situation, I did. Based on what they communicate in their blogs and on Twitter, I would say Zappos is high on the Maslow pyramid, at the Esteem level and most likely at times venturing into Self-Actualization. All indications are that they do it right.

What is your Maslow model? Where does your company land on the Maslow pyramid? Are you just providing the basic physical and safety needs? Or do you respect your people, value their efforts and encourage their creativity?

Leadership Principle – Human Needs

There is a lady here that gets it. I’ve talked her blog before but, unfortunately, it is an internal blog so I cannot link to it. But she is one of the few here who gets it. She discusses the book “The Thin Book of Naming Elephants,” by Sue Annis Hammond and Andrea B. Mayfield. It’s been on my reading list for sometime and her review just bumped it to the top of the list.

The book ends with a discussion on David Cooperrider‘s theory of the three universal human needs which are:

  1. Have a voice and be heard
  2. Be viewed as essential to a group
  3. Be seen as unique and exceptional

The blog then goes on to quote the authors,

“We have found that when people in organizations become frustrated or cynical, it is always because the organization is not fully respectful of the three universal human needs…most organizations will tell you they practice these principals, but in reality they do not…You can make a difference by monitoring who you listen to and who you ignore and asking yourself why. What assumptions have you made about people or positions that cause you to listen or tune out?”

Hammond and Mayfield say you can make a difference by creating a more constructive culture by being curious about how every other person sees the world, respecting each person’s perspective of the world as unique and essential to the group’s success, and making sure every person has a chance to speak and be heard.

“…following those simple rules, that by ensuring all three of those universal human needs are met, you will be a successful leader. Organizations that work at meeting those needs will be more successful, too.”

As I said above, the lady writing the blog gets it. I firmly believe many of the negative attitudes are because these needs are not being met. The folks on the other side of my cube wall are still a little upset about be dis-invited from a meeting yesterday. The implication being they were not important enough to attend. It was to hear the concerns of certain (i.e. more important) individuals only.

Too many leaders don’t take these “soft” skills into consideration. People are more productive when they are treated as valued members of the team, that they make a difference and would be missed.

The thoughts here are not original but I see them as important enough to be on my list and shared with the world.

Leadership Principal – Stay Positive

Change your attitude. Decide to be positive. It works. This is important not only as a leader but as a person. Negativity is toxic. It spreads like a cold from one person to another and eventually everyone in the office is infected. I only recently learned this but now I see it everywhere. The office I now sit is full of unhappy, negative people. Sometimes, I have to take a walk to get some air and just shake off all of the bad feelings. I mentioned to a friend I wanted to try to pull the negative string to see where in the organization it originates. This is a cultural problem within the organization.

I tell people how I forced myself to change my attitude when I changed companies last year. The change of environment gave me a clean slate, a new start. I decided to be positive. My situation is changing just from me deciding to be positive and proactive, no longer waiting to be “discovered” for my brilliance and expertise. I set out to show everyone that I should not be overlooked and can be of great value. The key, I found, was to maintain a positive attitude.

Positive people attract positive people to make good things happen.
Have you made the decision to be positive? If not, Why so negative?

Say Thank You…

Leadership Principle – Say “Thank You”

Much of what I believe about leadership, and life in general, stems from a philosophy of treating others with respect.

Along that line, I believe in always saying “thank You.” No person, or position, is too high or too low for this common courtesy. Say thank you to the server at a restaurant every time they refill a glass or bring a out dish or take one away. Say “thank you” to the crew or person who cleans the restrooms in your building.

A couple years ago, my wife had me take in fudge at Christmas for the crew that cleaned the restrooms on my floor at work. I had been telling her about how they were always checking and re-checking to make sure it was clean or had paper towels and soap. Sometimes you had to walk up a floor because they were cleaning but I would rather have to do that have the alternative – a nasty restroom. So, she had me take in fudge in appreciation for their hard work. Always say “thank you.”

A leader should always say “thank you,” too. I would make sure to thank the Sailors in my department for their work. I could easily be replaced with another department head but they would be missed because they were the specialists, they did the work.

Some leaders lose sight of this. Those people sitting in cubicles are spending long hours doing research, writing reports, crunching numbers. They deserve thanks. If not for them, the leader would fail.

So, tell someone you normally wouldn’t that your appreciate their efforts. Be they a colleague, a server at lunch or the guys who pick up your trash.

Say “thank you” today.


Grace is a trait not often extolled in today’s business world. I read an internal blog at work yesterday by a manager who said, “If you had to list the key characteristics of leadership, grace probably would not top the list.” It didn’t even get consideration when I started writing down my list of leadership principles. It never entered my mind. I believe now, though, that not only should it be on the list, it should be a the top.

Leadership Principle #1 – Grace

Her blog led me to two good articles. One by Ray Blunt on related the importance of grace to leaders allowing themselves to make mistakes, “…when failure comes, as it will, learn from it and give yourself the grace to get back on the road again.” “Otherwise, the load of responsibility becomes too great or we become too timid to ever make a mistake again.”

The other by Dr. John C. Maxwell in the March issue of Leadership Wired goes further with the idea. He says, “Leaders who accept the faults of others earn a reputation for being likable and worthy of respect. In tune with their own flaws, such leaders are more patient and understanding when those around them fail. While holding other accountable for their actions, graceful leaders demonstrate [a] willingness to help others learn from mistakes, and they are open to granting others a second chance.”


“Secure leaders recognize their faults and bear the fruits of others, and the poise and patience of a gracious leader will be rewarded with the respect of those they lead.”

Before anything else, a leader must have grace. This is something I recognize in myself as an area that needs work. It is difficult for me to accept my mistakes and those of others.

What do you think? Is grace, as some may say, a sign of weakness or admirable?

(picture by Warein Holgado)


I am not going to succeed and make my escape if I lose my focus and chase the wrong goal. I enjoy drawing my faces and writing this blog but they should not be my main focus. My focus should be playing to and improving upon my strengths which are more in line with simple organizational leadership. I have done this before and have done it well

Leadership Principal #3: Stay Focused

This applies to everything you do. Focus on your goal, whether it is in your daily work life or your dream of writing the great American novel or just to become a better spouse and parent. Focus on what it is you want to do, where you want to go.

I think I lost my focus for awhile. Have you?
(photo by Paul Watson)

Do Unto Others…

“You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

In response to something that happened at work, I posted about listening and good leadership. Before I started this blog, I would write things down just get thoughts out of my head. One day I started a list on what I thought encompassed good leadership, based on what I have seen and experienced over the years. None of this new or ground-breaking. Just my little twist on things.

Leadership Principle #2: Do Unto Others
This is so simple. Treat other people like how you want to be treated. Respect returns respect. You get farther by treating people in a civil manner. Yelling and rudeness only angers people and causes them to shutdown and stop listening.
It is much better to use mutual respect to have people want to do things than using fear and intimidation. I experienced this as an enlisted Marine working for an Air Force Captain. Our team really responded to him because he made sure we knew we were all part of a team. We succeeded and failed together. I lived that belief after being commissioned a Navy Officer with the same outcome as Capt. Kiser.
I, and others are less inclined to help out the jerks of the world. A book by Robert I. Sutton, The No Asshole Rule, reinforces this belief for me. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s a great book. It not only tells you how to deal with the assholes of the world but also tells you if you are one and how to stop.

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