The growing power of leadership

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

Jack Welch

Nested in the middle of the Ruby mountains the Lamoille canyon provides a beautiful landscape, as the sun provides their last rays of the day, the magical colors of the plants and the terrain comes to live. The canyon is also home to the Lamoille creek, as you enter the canyon you can hear the creek roar as is leaving the canyon and goes into Spring Creek NV to provide must needed water to the ranches nested at the bottom of the ruby mountains. If you continue driving on highway NF-660 you will notice the creek noise getting weaker and weaker until you reach the end of the of the highway, at that point you can’t hear the creek anymore and you have to look for it.

Leadership is like the Lamoille creek; it starts very quiet and very small. Great leaders are not born great, they might have been borne with the skills necessary to lead but they have to develop them, they are not born with a bunch of followers willing to do great things for a cause deemed worthy, instead great leaders are made and shape by the circumstances, by the events and by the people around them, and just like the Lamoille creek doesn’t keep the water for itself but it donates it to the land in order to create and green beautiful landscape that contrast with the Northern Nevada desert, so a leader must be willing to donate their time and talent to get their movement, project or cause to prosper and flourish.

There has been a lot of discussion about leaders and leadership but somehow the role played by followers is undercut, underrated and it might even seem relevant by some, but the truth is that just like the Lamoille creek it does not become big on its own but by collecting water from other creeks along its journey down the canyon so great leaders become great by collecting strength, wisdom and knowledge from followers, a great leader knows it and it gives credit when credit is due, yet is important to remember the role played for those followers. Without the belief in the need for change and civil rights Dr. Martin Luther King would have been unable to start a movement that ended up changing our perspective and our views towards one another in this country, but just as important are those who believe in Dr. King and who were willing to follow him, who were willing to sacrifice weather, insults, loss of jobs and credibility. Without those followers the movement would have never grown, and changes would have not happened.

As we reflect on leaders and leadership, let’s consider that both of them require growth and that followers are just as important to leaders, after all there is no leader without followers. To become a great leader, it will require growth and for a movement to become great it will require leaders, followers and growth. These go hand and hand and should not be separated.

leadership of many

“Leaders thrive when they feel creatively empowered, when they trust the people around them, when their confidence is swelling.”

Bill Simmons

When we think of great leaders names like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or Alexander the Great quickly come to mind, or perhaps leaders like Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs are the ones we think about, or even our company leaders, maybe a great boss you have or had in the past. And while this are great leaders that change history or leaders who have been able to transformed great organization and change the way we interact and communicate, or maybe even leaders who have touch us personally by their leadership style is important to remember what they all have in common, followers

That is correct, in order to become a great leader, one has to be a leader first and no one becomes a leader without followers. We have seen natural leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King who was able to get followers because they trusted him to have their best interest at heart. These natural leaders are able to have followers without direct power over them but is important to realize that they would have been unable to accomplish their missions, drive their message or attaint their goals without having followers. Great leaders attract people because of their actions, because their charisma, because the way the speak or for many other reasons, but the truth is that followers are just as important as the leader.

Steve Jobs has change the way we interact, when Apple introduced the iPod it was a game changer for the music industry, when the iPhone came out, consumer were camping outside to buy a new one, yet none of this lifestyle changing products had been possible if a great leader like Steve Jobs did not have followers like Ken Kocienda who was a firm believer of the company and what they could achieve together, and while you might not recognize Ken Kocienda name or face, he was the type of follower that made leaders like Steve Jobs shine.

A great leader knows that is not about him or her, yet many followers who made great leaders shine don’t get the recognition they deserve. George Washington inspired and led the revolution against England, but without the soldiers, the revels and the people who believed in him the thirteen colonies would have been unable to gain their independence.

Is important to remember that great leaders also had great followers and is perhaps that these followers saw something they believe in and that they are willing to sacrifice for that great leaders are able to achieve their goals. At the end of the day, leadership is of the many not just one, and great leaders know that.

Leadership Power

Leaders become great, not because of their power; but because of their ability to empower others.

John C. Maxwell

True leadership is not about accumulating power, but the power to move people in the right direction.

Being in a position of power does not in itself make someone a leader, while a CEO or any other manager can be considered a leader for being in charge of an organization, a branch, a department or a group of people and they can exercise that power by giving command, instructions or specific directions, true leadership power is about more than that, true leadership is about leading people in the right direction not because you have the authority to do so, but because they trust you have their best interest at heart.

We have seen people in authority lead people with fear, take for example Muammar Gaddafi who ruled Libya with an iron fist from 1969 to 1977, he dissolved existing laws and removed all of his opponents from public view, when he did not agree with something he would just declare it illegal and would not hesitate to have anyone who questioned him or opposed arrested or even killed. That, of course, is an extreme example of leadership gone wrong and leading with fear, still many CEO, manager or anyone else in a position of power can to some extend lead with fear. When that happens employees are afraid, they might be afraid of losing their job, getting a pay cut, a demotion or simple being ridicule. This type of power is not a good leading technique and it can result in negative consequences for an organization, from employee morale to subordinates lying because they don’t want to get in trouble.

A true leader in the other hand, has develop a relationship of trust with their followers and they follow the leader not because he has the authority to do so, but because they believe the leader has their best interest at heart and has the skill to guide them in the right direction. Nelson Mandela is a great example of a true leader, before becoming the first black president of South Africa in 1994 he had earned the trust of the people and spent years in jail fighting governments’ injustices.

While these are two extreme cases, a manager in an organization falls somewhere in between. Managers have a responsibility to the organization they work for and to make sure their employees are performing to the expectation set up by the organization, yet they are still called to be leaders and finding the balance between leading  with power and true leadership is the key to being a good manager. A good manager knows the people who was entrusted to lead and have their best interest at heart, yet he can use power when needed to make sure the people he/she is leading are performing at their expected level, finding the balance is a real challenge, but is definitely worth the effort.

Foto credit

Building leadership one day a time

“The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them.”

-John Maxwell

One of the most visited national parks is the Grand Canyon national park; with over 6,300,000 visitors each year the park ranks number two amongst the sixty national parks, the beauty of the landscape is only matched by the depth of the canyon itself, standing in the south rim you can look right or left and appreciate the proportion of the canyon. It only took the Colorado river six million years to carve this monument in the heart of the southwest desert, the Colorado river has been chipping of the canyon for that long and continues to do so.

Just like the Grand Canyon: great leaders are not formed overnight, in fact to become a great leader will require practice and dedication. Take Mohandas Gandhi, who was successful and leading a pacific rebellion against the powerful British empire, it took years of practicing nonviolent smaller rebellions before he was able to get enough support for India’s independence. Just like Gandhi, the Grand Canyon, Abraham Lincoln or any other great leader it will take practice and commitment to reach greatness. Here are somethings to consider in the way to become a great leader:

You lead by example or you don’t lead at all. A good leader sets the example every day, is not good enough to set the example 90% or even 95% of the time, a good leader has to set the example 100% of the time. This does not mean he has to be perfect or that the leader is the best, but a leader sets the tone, if a leader only shows the example 90% of the time the other 10% will show the followers an example they don’t want to see.

Leaders don’t ask followers to do things they are not willing to do themselves. This is my personal favorite, a good leader puts on the shoes of the followers and is willing to complete a task if needed.

Trust. Great leaders are trusted by their followers, but you just don’t step in front of the people they intend to lead wave a magic wand and they become trusted, trust is built and nurture over a long period of time. Only when there is congruence between what a leader says and does trust will be built, if a leader has a good reason for a separation between the two, he must explain the reason to his followers, if he failed to live up to his promises he must apologize. Trust can take years to be built and seconds to be destroyed.

Transparency. A leader should always keep it followers informed and share any relevant information as it becomes available; if a leader has a good reason not to share relevant information he should say so when asked instead of denying it or lying about it, transparency is a daily practice that will shape a leader in the long run.

If you aspire to be a great leader you must realize that great leaders are not born, they are made, and the traits of great leaders are built over long periods of time. fugamus a figurans stillando aquam petram, or “water shapes the rock not by dumping but by dripping” translated from Latin. Just like the Colorado river has taken its time to shape the grand canyon and continues to shape it, so a leader must take its time to shape its leadership.

Grand Canyon National park South rim

One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind

” I think we’re going to the Moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It’s by the nature of deep inner soul. We’re required todo these things just as salmon swim upstream”

Neil Armstrong

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the successful Apollo 11 moon landing is important to reflect on this amazing accomplishment. Interesting enough as Mr. Neil Armstrong step off the Apollo Lunar module “Eagle” the last one step was the shortest one of the ladder, yet this small step was one giant leap for all humanity. While Mr. Armstrong could have claim he was the first man to step on a planet other than Earth, he was a humble man. He did not want to take credit for the mission of for its accomplishment and he wanted to include all humanity in such special moment. He is quoted saying “Hey, I am just a boy from Ohio and I’m just following the procedures I’ve been told to follow. This isn’t about me, but this larger effort, this Apollo program, is about all of us, and we have done something significant, today”

Just 66 years before the Wright brothers had made history and change what was possible, they actually created the first sustainable and controlled flight, it is indeed amazing to think how much humankind advanced in such short time.

While many of us might never actually go to the Moon or Mars, the fact remains that we can all take small steps towards improving humankind. It could be something small like planting a tree, a tree can outlive us and continue to give fresh air, shade and decorate our planet long after we are gone, or it might be recycling the can of soda and keeping harmful metals from the ocean, it might be even so easy as to refuse a straw at a restaurant and instead use a reusable straw. At the end of the day we can all take actions that can make this planet better and it can help our country, our communities and our families.

Tough Leadership

“He who would accomplish little must sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice much; he who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly”

James Allen

It’s been over 10 years since that cold Thursday January 15, 2009 when flight 1549 from US airways took off from La Guardia International airport and lost power on both engines. What made the difference between life and death during this accident was the captain Chesley Sullenberger, he was able to maneuver the plane to the Hudson river and crashed landed there, the most impressive part he remained calmed during the entire incident and would not leave the plane until everyone of his passengers and crew had been rescued.

While this is an impressive demonstration of leadership and coolness under fire, not all leadership situations are about being heroic. Sometimes being a leader is about making difficult situations. What if your company is downsizing and you have to let go one employee from your team? All members of your team are hardworking and invested in the success of the team, they all need the job, how do you choose?

What if you have to choose between two competitive contracts and making the wrong decision could be demised of your organization?  

Bottom line is that sometimes being a leader will place you in difficult positions and true leaders will have to make tough decisions at one time or another. Here are some suggestions on how to cope with difficult decisions or situations:

Is important to remember that first rule of leadership is: you either lead by example or you don’t lead at all, before taking a difficult decision is important to think how that decision will affect the stakeholders, the people you lead, the organization, the customers, the community, etc. a good leader will place himself/herself on the shoes of those directly affected by a tough decision and find a way to minimized the impact of a difficult decision.

Transparency, a good leader is always transparent even when faced with bad news. Anyone can share good news with their followers, but a good leader have to be transparent, so when he has to share bad news or decisions that negative impact on those they lead, they can understand why the decision was taken, even if they don’t approve or agree with it, they are more likely to accept it when a transparent leader shares the bad news.

Learn to say no, a tough leader knows when to say no. sometimes the people they lead might not want to hear that word no, but a good leader have earned the trust of those who follow them and knows when to say no, even if it will not be a welcome word.

Don’t be afraid, a good leader is not afraid to make tough decisions, the key here is not to take decisions lightly, but once a leader has arrived at a decision is not afraid to do it.

Admit when is wrong, a good leader is not afraid to admit when he/she is wrong. Bottom line we all make mistakes and when faced with difficult situations we can also make mistakes; a good leader is humble enough to admit he/she is wrong to those who follow him.

So next time you are faced with a difficult situation or have to make a tough decision remember that is part of being a good leader, so don’t be afraid to make tough decisions.


A coach can make all of the difference!

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed”

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is arguably the best athlete of all times, his dedication, his talent and determination are unmatched, it is those traits that led him to six championships between 1991 and 1998, while making the Chicago Bulls a true dynasty in the NBA. Yet when tempted with a one year $25 million contract from the New York Knicks, Michael Jordan stated “my coach is everything”

Indeed, Phil Jackson is the coach with more championships in the NBA; at 11 wins he is two ahead of Red Auerbach. Phil Jackson spent 20 years in the NBA won 1640 games, 11 championships, 13 conference finals and had a 0.688% winning percentage; yet, he has only been named coach of the year once, that is correct only one time he has been recognized as the best coach in the NBA, how can this be? Because great coaches don’t make the game about themselves, is all about the players. Here are some of Phil Jackson’s core values for the game:

Fortes parat Victoria, or victory favors the prepared translated from Latin. Phil Jackson’s success is based on preparation, Jackson will spend any amount of time needed to prepared for the task at hand; regardless if is the opening game of the season or game seven on the championship series, the coach believes in being ready for the task at hand is the key to victory.

Execute. A plan without execution is a nice dream, you can prepare all you want until you are blue in the face, but if you don’t go an execute then all your preparation is meaningless, no one understood that better than Phil Jackson, which is why he preached execution at the center of his training.

Poise, Phil Jackson is a true believer of having the right poise in the game. As a matter of fact, the coach was reluctant to call time outs because he was afraid to alter his team’s balance.

Success, how you defeat speaks more about you than anything else, yet handling success is just as important, and Phil Jackson was generally courteous regardless of winning or losing.

Many critics claim Phil Jackson is not the greatest coach, he just happened to be in the right place at the right time when Michael Jordan peaked, and that he was lucky to have Kobe and Shaquille when he coached the Lakers, that without these players he would have been just an average coach, that the real heroes are the players in court.

While those are valid arguments, is important to remember that even Michael Jordan never won a championship until Phil Jackson coached him, the Lakers were struggling in the West, even with Shaq and Kobe, until Phil coached them

The bottom line is that a great coach is also a great leader, and Phil Jackson has found a way to lead different teams with different players to obtain the maximum trophy in the NBA. So yes, a coach can make all the difference.

Let Results Speak for you

“Success if the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence”

Colin Powell

The date was December 16, 1979 the San Francisco 49ers were stepping into the field for the last game of the season; coming out from an impressive win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the bay area team wanted to close the season in a high note, the 49ers went out there and left it all on the field and when the dust settled they walked away with yet another loss, their 14 loss of the season, unable to stopped a combination of passes and rushes from the Atlanta Falcons the team succumbed once again and finished tied with the Detroit lions for last place in the NFL with a 2-14 record.  

Fast forward 26 months to January 24th, 1982 once again the 49ers were stepping into the field for the last game of the season, this time to face the Cincinnati Bengals in the super bowl. When the final whistle had blown the score was 49ers 26 Bengals 21. They claimed their first super bowl win ever. How can a team finished last and then go to win a super bowl just two seasons later? Coach Bill Walsh said it best “in this organization we have a standard of performance” Bill Walsh created a culture of excellence and he believed that if his team adhere to the standards of that culture the score would take care of itself.

Coach Bill Walsh was a firm believer on improvement, taking a look at each week performance, analyzing the daily practices and finding what can it be done better the team can reduce mistakes and capitalize on opportunities, during the games he believe on focusing on doing what they needed to do and at the end of the game the score would take care of itself.

Just like coach Walsh, we can also create our own standard of performance. While there are some general rules that can be apply universally like the ones from coach Walsh “use positive language and have a positive attitude” or “demonstrate character” we can look at specific values that applies to our unique positions, what if you are a McDonald’s cashier? One of your standards could be to treat every customer as you would like to be treated, what if you are the CEO? One of your values could be transparence towards those you lead.

If we set our standard of performance and then we take the time at the end of each day to analyze them we can see where we failed, where we succeeded, where we need improvement, and then we can focus only on the task in front of us, the customer in front of us, the employee in front of us; we can also be like those 49ers who focused only on the play at hand.

By paying less attention to the results we can have significant improvement in a short period of time and then we can let the result speak for us, and those results will speak louder than our words.

Work hard, eat well… oh, and don’t forget to feed your soul!

“Your soul is the power and core of who you are, feed it well”

Dr. Bill

We live in a fast pace society; we are constantly bombarded with one activity or another and it seems we are always on the run and more and more is demanded of us and work is no exception. There was a time when lousy workers could hide behind the overall performance of their division or the company, but with increase in artificial intelligence and technology overall, employers can detect who is really carrying their weight and who is dragging their feet. What is the best way to handle all of this pressure? Well, the first thing is that we should be working harder, and by that I mean taking all of the steps needed to increase productivity and efficiency that could mean working smarter, working faster or simple working in a more precise way to achieve more with less effort, bottom line is we have to do what we can to achieve more

So now that we are working harder what? Now we can eat well, by that I mean that we all work for a reason, of course we all work for the money, but money is just a means to get what we really want. Perhaps your motivation is to travel, then work hard so you can travel more, maybe your motivation is to eat good food, then work hard so you can enjoy the food you really like and go with the biggest steak or lobster that you love, if you like to go out to concerts then work hard so you can go to your favorite concert regardless of where it is, possibly your motivation is to just do nothing, then work hard so you can have more time do nothing. Bottom line is that we need to work hard so we can do whatever we enjoy, only by doing that we can justify those extra hours at the office, putting up with that annoying coworker or tolerate your boss, if not then why work hard at all?

Oh, don’t forget to feed your soul. What does that even mean? Regardless if you are a spiritual or religious person or you don’t believe on any of it; we can all feed our souls by simple doing things that make us feel good about ourselves. Something simple as just enjoy the sunset (one of my favorite activities) take a deep breath, sing with the birds, bark with the dogs, let go of resentments, look at the clouds, count the starts (there are fifty of them) or just live the moment.

Home of the Free Because of the Brave!

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As we are getting ready to light up those grills, hike those beautiful mountains, swim at the lake, lay on the beach or simply just relax at home is important to remember what we are celebrating. Yes, today is independent day, but what does that means?

Independence Day is a day to remember that we all aspire at something bigger, something better, something more than what we have. Early revolutionaries like Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were willing to risk their lives because they believed in something bigger, they believe they could construct a place where people would have unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Of course, their understanding of who would have those rights were different at that time than what we have now, but that comes to show how much we have grown in the last 243 years.

Independence Day is a day to remember that the history of our Country is not the prettiest or the most glorious one, but is one that has taken us to where we are, is one that show that we can learn from our mistakes and become a better country, a better community a better family. Today we celebrate that we have make mistakes, but we have learned from them and because of it we have a better place to live.

Independence Day is a day to celebrate we have come a long way, yet we have further to go. We still have inequalities, we still have abuses, we still have kids going hungry while we waste 40% of the food we produce, today we celebrate that we will continue to work hard to bring equality to our country and that we will never cease to try to improve and build a better place for all where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is a reality.

Independence Day is a day to remember that we are all call to be better persons, better fathers, better mothers, better sisters and brothers, better neighbors and better citizens, because if we become a better version of ourselves we will have a better country and we will build a better society.

Independence Day is the day to be thankful for living in a country we the possibilities are endless and that we are limited only by our own barriers, a country were hard work will create opportunities and were those opportunities will be turn into success if one continues to work hard.

Finally, Independence Day is a day to remember those who has sacrificed so much so we can live the American dream, to remember those who were willing to paid the ultimate price to defend the values stated in our constitution and that freedom is not the liberty to do whatever we want but the liberty to do what we have to do.

Yes, this is the home of the free because of the brave!