Thursday, February 24, 2011

Nobody likes me :(

How do you judge your success as a leader? Micheal Scott from the office would say whether everybody likes me or not. He has a famous episode where he agonizes over having to fire somebody, and in the end his last sentence to the fired employee is, "I just hope we can remain really good friends after all this."

The cold hard truth is not everybody will like you or your decisions as a leader. You must have a different filter for making your choices. Trying to get people to like you, will be counterproductive in actually getting people to like you. You will behave differently than who you really are. Then the people around you will like somebody you're not, which is unsustainable, or they'll see the charade and you'll lose tons of respect.

You can't make decisions based on what people think of you, but you do have to be sensitive to the general emotions of your team. There is a balance between strong leadership, and ignorance to other peoples needs and emotions.

A strong leader has to know who they are before they make decisions. How do you make your decisions? How do you balance being a team player, yet making the right decisions?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Why you want to be like Madonna and not Milli Vanilli

I watched most of the Grammy's last night and what struck me was a bunch of performers desperately trying to out shine each other. From arriving in an egg to parading in a giant, red, peacock, knight costume it was a clear these artists were screaming for the spotlight to be on them. The gimmicks and stunts will only last you so long. Lady GaGa is famous for stunts, and it is getting increasingly more difficult to surprise us now.

Many Grammy award winning performers are heralded as leaders both of music and men. Some last for decades while others are more a flash in the pan. How do leaders stay relevant and influential over time? Let's look at a few artists and learn from success and failures.

In order to last as a leader you cannot;

1. Cheat! - Just ask Milli Vanilli or Ashley Simpson. Both of these artists were caught lip syncing in "live" performances. While one scandal was much larger than the other, have you heard much about either lately? Integrity is an absolute must for a leader to stay the test of time.

2. Stop working / Creating - One cannot stay anchored in the "Glory Days". If you have had previous success, in order to maintain, you must work harder. The recent Super Bowl Champion coach when asked three days after the Superbowl when he would start preparing for next season replied, "I'm already in day two". One day off after winning the penultimate championship? While that seems extreme the point is he was not satisfied with success. Don't be a one hit wonder. 

3. Become self focused - Leading is ultimately about other people, not yourself. Too many people stop focusing on the people around them and start focusing on themselves. Micheal Jackson became so self obsessed it crippled him from performing and leading. Perhaps the greatest artist of our time, locked himself away for most of his adult career.

Things that you must do to last as a leader;

1. Stay relevant - The hardest things for coaches to do is stay relevant. As one coach said, I keep getting older, the kids keep getting younger. This is the same for music as well. As tastes and genres change like the wind how does one endure? Stay relevant. Madonna has re-invented herself as much as any other artist possibly. You can disagree with her content, message, and public personality, but she has remained relevant for a long  time. The Key is she is willing to get outside her comfort zone in order to grow. Sometimes our comfort zone can become a danger zone because we never grow.

2. Focus on content not choreography - There must be substance to your message. Do not let stunts and flash be all that defines you. Eminem has evolved as an artist over time. However watch his performance last night compared to others. There was no choreography, very little effects or props. He often performs in jeans and a t-shirt. The core of his performance was his words and his message. Eminem is known for painfully sharing his feelings through his music. While often offensive and harsh, it resonates with people because we all feel pain and hardships.  

3. Know what you don't do - Think about how many actors and musicians try to cross over the line to the other medium. It doesn't often work, actually it's usually disastrous. An effective and efficient leader knows when to say no. It's easy to be distracted by shiny new objects. What filter do you use to decide what not to do. They may be the most important decisions you make so this doesn't happen. 

So what did I miss?

Which new artists today will be gone in sixty seconds? Which will last? Why?