David Stern’s Fight

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Features | No Comments

Leaders and organizations often go hand in hand. Sometimes it is hard to separate the man from the brand for obvious reasons (Henry Ford, William Chrysler) but there are other times when leaders are synonymous with the company they lead. One perfect example of this is the NBA’s David Stern. Stern did not invent the idea of organizing teams playing basketball for money, but in many ways he has perfected it. When he took over as NBA Commissioner in 1984 the league was just starting to grow again (thanks to two guys named Magic and Larry) after a long period of neglect and falling attendance. Since then the NBA has become a multi-billion dollar worldwide phenomenon/industry (the average team is worth $369 million). Of course it didn’t hurt that a Michael Jordan also arrived on the scene in 1984, but that’s a story for another blog.

With the help of an amazing supporting cast, Stern revolutionized the business of sports. His use of aggressive marketing and expansion, made basketball more than just the sport you watched between the NFL and MLB season. Without David Stern there would be no modern NBA.

Sounds great right? Who wouldn’t love a story about a outstanding leader saving an authentically American sport from the ash-heap of history? But there is a downside. There is a negative to be found and in late 2011 it’s on display for everyone to see.

The current NBA lockout, which threatens to take with it the entire 2010-2011 NBA season, is not only a function of the players demanding a larger (or at least not a smaller) share of the billions of dollars the NBA earns but also a function of those same players wanting to separate the NBA from David Stern. It is really not so much a classic battle of player versus owner but more of a battle for the soul of the league itself. Most players and even a few owners have grown tired of being dictated to by Stern. No one can deny that Stern’s brilliance has made a whole lot of people rich and famous and perhaps it’s true that Stern is just trying to save the NBA from financial ruin down the road. If the economy stays in the gutter and the league can’t groom superstars to replace Lebron and Kobe, there is no guarantee that the NBA will continue to be the money making behemoth it is today.  But it seems to me that we are getting to a point where the animosity between the players and David Stern has overtaken the realities of the situation. The leader and institution have become far too entwined.

I doubt seriously that David Stern will walk away from this fight. In reality the odds are good that he will win in the end, it’s what he does. But going forward it’s clear that for the sake of the NBA as a whole David Stern, the leader, will either have to choose to separate himself from the institution or the institution will do it for him, if it survives.

Top 10 Social Media/Tech/Leadership Links 6.13.11

By | Leadership On the Edge, Social Media | No Comments

1. Building your own iPad and iPhone apps just got easier

2. Has the internet “hamsterized” journalism?

3. Conan O’Brien’s amazing Dartmouth commencement speech

4. Apple worth more than Microsoft, HP and Dell COMBINED

5. Nine reasons your company should use brand advocates 

6. Winning, Losing and Collaboration7. Tips on successfully blogging from home

8. Google acquires Admeld 

9. Five tough questions entrepreneurs have to ask about growth

10. Lonely Employees and Productivity

It’s Never about the “I”

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Proactive Leaders | 2 Comments

Yesterday, my beloved Red Sox pulled off a great comeback. Down 6-0 after 5 1/2 innings they stormed back for a walk-off 8-7 win. It was quite the victory, especially for a team that has underperformed much of the year. At the same time their arch-rivals, the New York Yankees, have been falling apart lately thanks to internal strife and uninspired play. Both teams are flush with cash, both teams have rabid fan bases, both teams have talent laden rosters. Why then the current divergent paths?

While there are many different reasons, one stands out: a lack of cohesion.  Whether you are Major League Baseball’s #2 most valuable team ($912 Million) or a small business with five employees, having a common vision is one the true keys to success.

In the case of the Yankees and the Red Sox, we can get a feel of how they are heading in two different direction by looking at two very different player quotes.

Following last night’s aforementioned game, the Red Sox’s Dustin Pedroia told the Boston Herald:

“The game plan’s winning, that’s it…I tell…all the guys, we’re here to win. It doesn’tmatter if you hit .270, .280 with the personal stuff…It doesn’t matter what you do. It’s what we all do. It’s been fun lately. We’re climbing, man. That’s what we’re going to do. Get on the elevator and go.”

At the same time following their 6th straight loss the Yankees’ Rafael Soriano, who has been sidelined with an arm injury, was asked if it’s been hard watching all the losing from the sidelines, he responded:

“Right now, I don’t think the bullpen (is) the problem. It (is) the hitters. A lot of games we’ve been losing by two or three runs, I wouldn’t be in those games anyway.”

When you have true continuity, when you have a true sense of commonality, it shows. As a pragmatic and proactive leader it is this level of togetherness that must be attained to succeed. You want more “we” and less “I”.  It works in baseball, it works in business and it works in life.

Right about now you might be asking, “Hey Sean, it’s easy to be a positive, team player when things are going great, how about when you’re in the pits?” Glad you asked. When the Red Sox started the 2011 season 0-6, Dustin Pedroia responded to doubters by telling reporters:

“You’re either two feet in now or you’re two feet out. Let us know now because we’re coming.”

Even in the roughest of times, it’s about a shared sense of responsibility and accountability. If this message never wavers, then you have a better chance at success.

As far as the Yankees go, it’s now up to their leader/manager, Joe Girardi, to get his team on the same page. No more “I” and “me” and a lot more “us” and “we”. As simple or as difficult as it might sound, if you can gather your direct reports into a tight, cohesive team, then no amount of six-game losing streaks can keep the whole from succeeding.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Proactive Leaders | No Comments

It’s never easy to say goodbye. The graceful and perfectly timed exit is an act mostly reserved for movie screens and potboiler novels. In the real world, most of us are pushed out the door many hours, days and years after we should have left by our own accord. Leaders can be especially susceptible to this most awkward of foibles.

Even if you’ve done a perfectly fine job, there comes a time when you have to cede your position to someone younger and more energetic. It’s not so much that you have failed, but that you risk tarnishing your many successful years of service with a few less than stellar years of mediocrity or worse: out and out failure.

The list of business and political leaders who have overstayed their welcome goes on for miles (Tony Blair, Fidel Castro, Hosni Mubarak, AIG’s Maurice Greenberg, Bear Stearn’s James Cayne, etc.) Yet there is one industry where we get to see leaders go from heroes to goats quicker than any other: Professional Athletics. A political or business leader might make a bad decision which leads to a problem or disaster a few months down the road, but when a 42 year old Willie Mays stumbles trying to catch routine fly balls during a nationally televised World Series game that a 23 year old Mays used to chase down effortlessly, the world gets to see his fall from grace in real time.

Recently most sports fans had the misfortune of watching Brett Favre stay a few years too long at the party. In Favre’s case his denouement came as a result of a devastating, concussion-inducing and most likely life-shortening sack. This brutal exit is an over-the-top example of why all leaders must know when to say when. Yet it’s important to understand that very few careers end with such violent exclamation points.

In the past few days the New York Yankees’ Jorge Posada has been facing this very conundrum. After 16 amazing seasons (including 5 All-Star Game appearances, 5 Silver Slugger Awards and 4 World Championships) Jorge has nothing left to prove, he is a champion and according to most reports a gentleman’s gentleman. Unfortunatly his 17th season has started horribly. His .165 batting average is the lowest in the league and this past weekend he actually removed himself from the starting line-up because he was slotted to hit 9th, which in baseball circles is a slap in the face to anyone of Posada’s pedigree.

As I write, Posada is still soldering on but I can only imagine what is going through his mind. It’s moments like these where a leader is forced to make a decision that can affect not only how they are seen for years to come, but also the future success and/or failure of their organization. I do not envy Jorge Posada’s fast approaching choice. Despite all the difficulties and embarrassment of the past weekend, Jorge Posada still has the chance to walk away near the top and not only sustain his legacy but also give the current Yankee team a chance to succeed in the present and the future.

The bottom line is that proactive leadership is not only about getting things done; it’s also about sustainable and lasting success. And not just your own success but also about the success of those you lead. A true proactive leader is in many ways self-less. They know it’s not all about them. They want the best for those they lead and will do what it takes to guarantee a high level of future achievement.

Dan Adler: Taking a Chance or Just Crazy? (video)

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Leadership Videos, Political Competence | No Comments

Fighting for what you believe in is part of leadership. Getting people’s attention is part of convincing the world that you should have the opportunity to lead. But is there a limit? Can you actually go too far in your attempts to become a leader? A relative unknown and a big-time underdog by the name of Dan Adler is running for Congress in California’s 36th District. Bold and sometimes odd campaign commercials are nothing new, but Mr. Adler’s latest ad is not only a bit strange but according to some is also teetering on the edge of bad taste. I would try to explain the commercial, but I believe this is one of those instances where justice cannot be done with words. Please watch the video below (trust me, it’s worth it!) and then let me know if you think this political ad is just an enjoyable bit of farce or in fact offensive. For full disclosure, I happen to be 1/4 Korean and I find it hilarious.

contact me at seanlee.bli@gmail.com

What is the Internet Hiding From You? (video)

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If you are at all curious about the invisible flow of on-line information you need to see and hear this TED talk by Eli Pariser. It will make you take a second look at the Internet and your place within the new world it is shaping.

Oh and I should also note that I stumbled across this video in my Facebook feed today. Trust me, after you watch the video this seemingly minor bit of information will become much more than just a personal aside.


9 Great Leadership Quotes from 9 Not-So-Great Presidents

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Political Competence | No Comments

It’s pretty easy to put together a list of great Presidential leadership quotes if you rely on Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, FDR and Reagan. But how about extracting inspiring words from the less famous (and in many cases far less talented) Presidents? Well believe it or not, the forgettable have actually said some memorable things. Please enjoy 9 Great Presidential Quotes from some of our lesser Commanders in Chief.

1. “It is not strange… to mistake change for progress.”  Millard Fillmore (1850-1853) 

2. “Frequently the more trifling the subject, the more animated and protracted the discussion.”  Franklin Pierce (1853-1857)

3. “It would be judicious to act with magnanimity towards a prostrate foe.” Zachary Taylor (1849-1850)

4. “Failure to accord credit to anyone for what he may have done is a great weakness in any man.”  William Howard Taft (1909-1913)

5. “The bold enterprises are the successful ones. Take counsel of hopes rather than of fears to win in this business.” Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881)

6. “The government should not be guided by Temporary Excitement, but by Sober Second Thought.” Martin VanBuren (1837-1841)

7. “A man is not finished when he is defeated. He is finished when he quits.”  Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974)

8. “It takes a great man to be a good listener.” Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)

9. “It’s not necessary to fear the prospect of failure but to be determined not to fail.” Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)

How To Save An Hour A Day (video)

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Proactive Leaders | No Comments

Do you ever wish you had 25 hours a day to get things done? These days thanks to layoffs and cutbacks, many of us are doing the jobs of 3 or 4 people. It’s overwhelming and disruptive on so many levels. But now there might be a way to gain the upperhand on Mr. Time. Michael Heppell, a best-selling  author who has advised Microsoft, RBS, WH Smith and Britian’s National Health Service, just released a new book called  ‘How To Save An Hour A Day’. In an informative interview with the UK’s Daily Mail, Heppell not only gives some free advice and tips, but he also guarantees his methods will save you an hour a day because if you are not satisfied his website offers you a way to get your money back.

We’d love to hear what you think of “How to Save an Hour A Day” , so read the article or check out the video below and if you decide to pick up the book, try out Heppell’s tips and give us a holler if they actually work.