Sonnet 94 & Leadership

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Leaders are defined by their deeds, not their words. Everyone is capable of coming up with a vision, a set of goals, or a decent idea, but not everyone is up to getting things done.

Shakespeare said as much in sonnet 94.

In the first eight lines of the sonnet Shakespeare says that a person who has the power to move others, but resists temptations will “inherit heaven’s graces.” These people are the “lords and owners of their faces.”

Those that don’t wield their power to hurt or to brag can expect to benefit.

The remaining lines of the sonnet describe a summer flower. If the flower were to meet a “base infection”, Shakespeare states, it would smell worse than a weed. The moral of the sonnet: deeds shape a person’s character, regardless of their position.

Leaders know that their actions define who they are, but it’s an easily forgotten lesson in the day-to-day rush.

Literary critic Harold Bloom argues that in order to truly know a poem, one should memorize it. Leaders should commit the following sonnet to memory so they can not only internalize it’s important argument, but also feel it.

They that have power to hurt and will do none,
That do not do the thing they most do show,
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,
Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow,
They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces
And husband nature’s riches from expense;
They are the lords and owners of their faces,
Others but stewards of their excellence.
The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself it only live and die,
But if that flower with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity:
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

The Secret To Leading Teams: Balance

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Yesterday, Professor Sam Bacharach wrote an article for Inc.’s blog, Leading Teams: Find the Right Balance Between Hands-on and Hands-off.

Teams are capable of executing large agendas–but they aren’t always productive. Too many voices can distract and one strongly worded opinion can lead to groupthink. Team leaders need to allow flexibilty, provide rewards, and encourage creativy while setting goals, meeting schedules, and getting things done.

It’s a delicate balancing act that requires careful thought. In the article Professor Bacharach mentions four ways leaders can strike the right leadership balance.

Is Charisma Enough?

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Last week Professor Samuel Bacharach wrote Charisma Is Not Enough. Great Leaders Execute for Inc.’s online blog.

Leadership isn’t about vision, personality, or bright ideas. As the article illustrates–it’s about execution and getting things done. Here’s an excerpt:

“As an entrepreneur, as a leader, as a person with drive and ambition, what you care about is moving from potential to execution and that means moving an agenda. Charisma and vision may get you in the door, they may even get you elected, but in  the final analysis, leadership is about execution.”

Does Luck Matter?

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It’s an interesting exercise to think about how people catch their “big break.” Usually we think of “big breaks” as cases of pure luck. It’s easy to think that a person only begins to “make it” after being in the right place at the right time.

But that’s hardly the case as MediaBistro’s series, My First Big Break, illustrates.  Success isn’t simply built on luck, it’s built on hard work, tenacity, and humility.

The series asks six big names in journalism how they “made it” and their stories are interesting, exciting, and illuminating.

Luck plays a role in a lot of these examples, but each person profiled worked hard to capitalize on their good fortune. Luck fell into the their laps, but they did something with it.

Catching a “big break” is more about the work you put into it–not the luck.

Leaders, Russian Literature & Ping-Pong: The Value of Daydreaming

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In a soon to be published paper in Psychological Science written by Benjamin Baird and Jonathan Schooler at the University of California at Santa Barbara state, “creative solutions may be facilitated specifically by simple external tasks that maximize mind-wandering.”

In other words, daydreaming may help you solve complicated problems.

In a series of tests Baird and Schooler gave students tasks that required inventive problem solving skills. When the students were given a break half of them were told to sit and do nothing while the other half were given a tedious task–like reading  a dry passage from Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

When the break was over the group that had free time performed worse then the group who were told to complete monotonous chores. Why?

Those that were given a boring job were driven to daydreaming. They let their minds idle, wander, and explore whereas the group that had all the free time in the world busied themselves with more proactive thoughts.

To the researchers surprise the mind lost in daydreams isn’t lazy. In fact, it’s busy subconsciously untangling large, looming problems. As Jonah Lehrer of the New Yorker points out, this is the very reason why Silicon Alley businesses have so many ping-pong tables. Ping-pong, played leisurely, helps the mind wander while it addresses larger, more complex problems. It encourages productive daydreaming.

With this in mind, leaders need not feel guilty if they want to tuck into a bit of Tolstoy instead of checking their emails before bed. Taking time to yourself and allowing your mind to wander can help you figure out looming problems.

As an aside, if you’d like a ping-pong table at work, show this article to your boss.

Upcoming Inc. Magazine Talk

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Sam Bacharach will be talking at Inc. magazine’s Leadership Forum on June 8th. He’ll be giving two talks on the following subjects:

1. When Charisma and Vision Are Not Enough: Moving From Potential to Execution

Charisma may get you in the front door, but unless you have the ability to actually deliver on your promise, you will be remembered more for your personality than your leadership. Do you know how to rally people to your side and build focus and consensus? How to keep them there and nurture their entrepreneurial instincts? How to build a strong, dynamic, loyal team of dedicated, innovative managers and implementers? How to create a “pool” of talented people who will be your company’s leaders of tomorrow? In this groundbreaking session, you’ll learn how to master the skills of political and managerial competence. Recognize the benefits of developing these capabilities in yourself. Foster the leadership potential of others. And create a more dynamic, proactive and energetic organization.

2. Leading Your Team: The Skills of Engagement and Enhancement

In a world of Generation Y, in a world where companies are moving from products to solutions, and in a world where agility is critical, you need to engage your team members and enhance their capacity. Your team will deliver and commit only if you know how to lead it. What are the key things you need to keep in mind in leading a creative, dynamic, aspiring group of people? How do you coach and develop others to meet their potential while executing the business strategy? How do you challenge them so that they are fully engaged and committed? Dynamic organizations and creative agendas succeed because leaders know how to invest in others. In this session, you will learn the critical leadership skills to make sure your team will stay with you and go the distance.

The Inc. Leadership Forum will feature:

The Inc. Leadership Forum brings together the knowledge and experience of industry experts, academics, seasoned entrepreneurs and fellow company leaders to share their methods on how to implement leadership strategies that help businesses flourish.

What’s Included:

– A cocktail reception

– 2 power-networking breakfasts and lunches

– High-profile speakers

– More than 15 hours of education

– Informative break-outs and panel discussions

– Book signings

– A working night out! Join us for a baseball game at the brand-new, state-of-the-art Marlins Park (ticket, transportation and $20 refreshment voucher included with registration

Louisiana Womens Leadership Conference

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On May 3rd Sam Bacharach talked at the Louisiana Women Leaders Conference on Small Business Entrepreneurship. He spoke about why vision and charisma isn’t always enough when it comes to leadership. He was joined by U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and Joan Lunden, host of Good Morning America for two decades & best-selling author.

For more information about the The Louisiana Center for Women & Government go here.

The Louisiana Center for Women & Government promotes:
1. Leadership & public policy training opportunities for high potential females, ages 13 & above
2. Non-traditional careers for women
3. Opportunities for public service for women
4. Recognition of women who have made significant contributions in non-traditional roles and/or public service
5. Internships & opportunities for students at institutions of higher education to have practical experience in public service and learn about the relationship and interaction among government, business, and the economy.
6. Louisiana’s intellectual property and policy initiatives for women across this nation.

Good Jobs Exist. The Problem Is Your Resume

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Leadership On the Edge, Managerial Competence | One Comment

Don Fornes, CEO of Software Advice, has an astonishing point:

“[At] Software Advice, we’re hiring like mad, or at least trying to. You might think a growing company with interesting jobs, great pay, top-notch benefits and a cool office would find hiring to be a breeze in a recession like this. Nope.

The problem is Fornes can’t find candidates that take the time to write a decent cover letter and personalize their resumes. He admits that he gets about 150 resumes for any given job, but only about ten of those deserve a call back.

His biggest pet peeve is when applicants name their resume, ‘resume.’ He’s got a million resume files and not a single clue which one is which.

It’s a must read if you are looking for a job and if you are an employer it will be fun to relate to Fornes’ suffering.

Hire Oddballs, Weidos, & Misfits

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A few days ago the New York Times ran a must read interview with Susan Credle–CEO of the advertising agency, Leo Burnett USA.

She talks about generating good ideas, recognition, resolving disputes, and reading people. But the most enlightening part of the interview revolved around her hiring practices.

Ms. Credle admits that she prefers to hire the oddballs, weirdos, and misfits.

It’s not because she has a soft spot for losers, it’s because she feels new, fresh, perspectives are more important than in-the-box thinking.

She quotes Phil Dusenberry’s saying, “Make room for the crazy ones.”

Leaders take note. People who are passionate and inspired may be difficult to work with, but their energy can produce creative work.

Lessons From a Dumpling Stand

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Tricia Wang, an ethnographer and writer, recently followed a Chinese migrant family around and helped as they set up a dumpling stand outside of a sprawling factory.

Her observations are stunning and remarkable.

The family wakes up at 4:30AM and starts making dumplings with limited tools, little water, and equipment that doesn’t work. On top of that the family’s dumpling business is hounded by local police who want to shut them down.

Making matters worse the family is only netting 100 RMB a day (around 12 bucks). They want to make five times that much, but large social obstacles get in there way and small, unexpected, costs start to add up.

While a road side dumpling stand doesn’t supply a lot of business lessons–it is an example of the hard work demanded of the 200 to 300 rural migrants in China. It’s a must read.