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How Do You Organize a Leadership Training Program?

Yesterday Professor Samuel Bacharach’s article, Unbundling Leadership, was published on

The article lays out a leadership training strategy that targets high-potential employees and ensures their future leadership success.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“In selecting a leadership program that is relevant for your organization, you want to make sure that:

– The leadership construct is presented as specific trainable skills.
– The training vocabulary is integrated with the business function.
– There is a serious partnership with the top leadership team.
– A networking training cohort is created to ensure follow-through.”

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Vacation Vocation

Humor me for a small exercise in meditational zen. As you find your center and begin deep, controlled breaths, your office surrounding dissolve away. You’re transported to a rocky Andorran precipice where a sharp breeze bites at your exposed neck. Surveying the rugged landscape, you glimpse a wild horse commuting between France and Spain across the liberated terrain. As you watch the horse lightly gallop across the horizon, you can almost feel the hypnotic rumbling in the ground as hoof contacts firm ground. The rumbling swells into a vibration that seems to spring from your core. Glancing down to your pocket you discover your implacable cell phone hissing at you like a clammy kitten. Work is calling and they need your help.

This situation may be mildly hyperbolic but unfortunately it strikes too close to home for many leaders. A vacation is for a leader what a tub of ice cream is for a South Beach Diet devotee. Vacations are agonizingly tempting escapes from the intensity of advancing an agenda, but they’re escapes that can potentially weigh down an agenda. Particularly in organizational environments constrained by uncertainty, your campaign is unlikely to take a siesta while you’re lying on a beach on Ibiza. Without your steady guidance, your coalition will crumble like last week’s coffee cake and you’ll find yourself in an uncomfortably sandy position.

So how do you combine relaxed disengagement with manic dedication to your leadership cause? I discovered one solution in the backseat of my Chevy Cobalt last month as I toured the country for a month-long road trip. With four drivers splitting driving shifts from New York to San Francisco (via Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Colorado Springs, Denver, Boulder, Wasatch Mountains, and Lake Tahoe) I found myself often twiddling my digits in a compressed corner of the car. Unfortunately, though, invading my day dreams was the realization that I had to submit 25 hours a week of research and editing to this blog’s namesake Professor Bacharach.

My epiphany arrived as I whacked my laptop keyboard somewhere between Salt Lake City and Reno on I-80 W: Vacations are inspiring. Tourists absorb constant stimuli as they travel through mountains, deserts, strip malls, and Taco Bells by train, plane, car, or Segway. While you may want to throw your Blackberry into the Grand Canyon, consider instead how you can use your Grand Canyon trip to motivate your coalition and mobilize your agenda. Ultimately, your trip to the Pacific Ocean may prove much valuable to your agenda than your trip to the water cooler.

My road trip ultimately produced pages of leadership fodder and potentially some slight carpal tunnel syndrome. It was extraordinarily productive relaxation.

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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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.

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

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.

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What is the Internet Hiding From You? (video)

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.