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Doug Dickerson

Doug Dickerson is an award winning columnist and director of Management Moment Leadership Services. He is the author of the new book, Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders. Visit www.dougsmanagementmoment.blogspot.com to learn more.
Posts from March 2013


Leadership and the Art of Change

Life is a long process of getting used to things you started out to change. – Frank A. Clark

As the story goes, it was on June 4, 1783 at the market square of a French village of Annonay, not far from Paris, that a smoky bonfire on a raised platform was fed by wet straw and old wool rages. Tethered above, straining its lines was a huge taffeta bag 33 feet in diameter. In the presence of “a respectable assembly and a great many other people,” and accompanied by great cheering, the balloon was cut from its moorings and set free to rise majestically into the noon sky.

Six thousand feet in the air it went—the first public ascent of a balloon, the first step in the history of human flight. It came to earth several miles away in a field, where it was promptly attacked by pitchfork-waving peasants and torn to pieces as an instrument of evil.

From the earliest days of man change has been a difficult proposition. We are creatures of comfort and creatures of habit. Shake up the apple cart and you will have a fight on your hands; especially if you are a leader. Take the workplace for example. In a recent survey commissioned by talent management firm Plateau and conducted by Harris Interactive, finds that 74% of workers-satisfied or not- would consider leaving if approached with another offer. In other words, change is always in the air – yes, even at your office.

Steven Covey said, “There are three constants in life; change, choice and principles.” And as a leader how you integrate those truths is an important part of your leadership style. Here are three insights about change that will challenge the way you think about it and how it can help you as a leader.

The change we want – looks outward. In leadership when we think about the changes we want it usually has something to do with someone else. Our grumblings often center on what someone at the office is doing; or not doing, that frustrates us. People are not performing at the level you want, there is too much in-fighting or office politics, performance goals are not being met, etc.

The change you want is the frustration of your leadership. It is frustrating because it has you focused on things at the margins that steal quality time in terms of productivity. All you know is that you are frustrated and something has to change. And unfortunately, creating change out of frustration tends to lead to unhealthy choices regarding change and does not help you in the long term.

The change we need – looks inward. One of the hardest things for a leader to do is to look inward with a critical eye. The British politician Nancy Astor said, “The main dangers in this life are the people who want to change everything, or nothing.” And so long as you want to change everything else but remain unwilling to change yourself it will remain an encumbrance on your leadership.

The change you need is the necessity of your leadership. It is when you honestly evaluate your strengths and weaknesses; your blind spots and attitudes that inward change begins. Improvement will only happen when you look honestly in the mirror and make the changes you need to make before expecting them from others. But it’s when you are transparent, ask for feedback, and demonstrate humility that you can begin to create a culture of change in your organization. And the day you learn to let go of the things you can’t change in other people is the day you let go of many of your frustrations as a leader.

The change we celebrate – looks upward. Max Depree said, “In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to by remaining what we are.” In leadership the goal is not to sit back and rest in our comfort zones. We should constantly be striving to become what we need by embracing that which we must.  Change is a constant and we must welcome it and be open to it if we are to grow.  

The change you celebrate is the blessing of your leadership. It is a blessing when you forget about trying to change other people and change yourself. It is a blessing when you embrace your calling and purpose as a leader and fulfill your destiny not because you resisted change but because you dared to welcome it.

© 2013 Doug Dickerson

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3 Leadership Lessons from Mariano Rivera
I would like to be remembered as a player who was there for others –Mariano Rivera

In announcing his forthcoming retirement from Major League Baseball at the conclusion of the 2013 season, Mariano Rivera will certainly be bound for Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame. By the numbers Rivera has no equal. His stats speak volumes as to his skill as a dominant relief pitcher. Rivera enters the 2013 season with a career ERA of 2.21, 1,119 saves and 608 strikeouts.

In recognition of his stellar career it is worth noting the leadership lessons that can be drawn from his career and how these principles transcend the game of baseball. These are life lesson every leader can learn from and apply. John Wooden once said, “Success comes from knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” Certainly Rivera did that and you can too. Here are three take-away leadership lessons from the career of Mariano Rivera and why they matter.

How to enjoy every season. Rivera entered the Major Leagues in 1995. After 19 seasons it will be over and he will enter a new chapter and phase in his life. Every leader goes through seasons. And just as Rivera enjoyed seasons where he finished on top with World Championships, there were also lean years for the team.

The leadership lesson to learn here is that each season is to be embraced with enthusiasm, passion, and a desire to win. Your leadership will be called upon and tested. You will face obstacles and challenges. You will experience the thrill of victory and taste the disappointment of defeat.

The important thing to remember is to enjoy the journey regardless of the outcome. The mark of your leadership is found in the discovery of making the most of every season and opportunity that comes your way.

How to be a team player. Rare in professional sports today, Rivera’s entire career was played in the famous pin stripe uniform of the New York Yankees. It was only fitting that all of his teammates were in attendance at his retirement announcement.

The leadership lesson to learn here is that of being a team player. In his retirement announcement interview Rivera was asked about being labeled the greatest of all time. Rivera responded by saying, “First of all, I don’t feel I’m the greatest of all-time. The reason I say that is because I’m a team player. If it wasn’t for my teammates, I would never had the opportunities.” This summarizes both the power and importance of teamwork.

The mark of your leadership is found not so much in what you can achieve individually as rewarding as that can be, but in how you can be a part of something greater than yourself.

How to leave with your head held high. Rivera will leave at the end of the season celebrated as the game’s greatest closer.  When asked how it feels to exit the game he said, “There’s nothing to be sad of. I did everything within my power to enjoy the game, to do it well, to respect baseball. I have so much joy about that. So to me, there’s no sadness. I would say joy.”

Rivera’s legacy as a baseball player is secure. It is Hall of Fame material. What about your legacy? As a leader it is being created by the work you do, the decisions you make, the service you render, the obstacles you overcome, the lessons you learn, and your desire to leave your mark on the world.

Your calling is not to be a Rivera, but to be the best version of yourself as the leader that you were created to be with passion and purpose. With a touch of class, Rivera simply showed us the joy of doing it.

© 2013 Doug Dickerson
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Leadership and the Troubles That Develop You
Nothing last forever – not even our troubles. – Arnold H. Glasow

In Bits & Pieces, a story is shared about Somerset Maugham, the English writer who once wrote a story about a janitor at St. Peter’s Church in London. One day a young vicar discovered that the janitor was illiterate and fired him. Jobless, the man invested his meager savings in a tiny tobacco shop, where he prospered, bought another, expanded, and ended up with a chain of tobacco stores worth several hundred thousand dollars.

One day the man’s banker said, “You’ve done well for an illiterate, but where would you be if you could read and write?” “Well,” replied the man, “I’d be janitor of St. Peter’s Church in Neville Square.”

As a leader you will face troubles. In fact, you will probably have more. How you handle the pressures and troubles of life is crucial to your leadership. The truth is no one is immune from troubles, stress, and the pressures that either affect performance at work, or is the source of it at home.

As a leader how you confront those obstacles is what will elevate you as a leader and can be a source of inspiration for those you lead. The choices you make in facing your troubles will define your leadership. Here are three observations to consider.

The troubles that discourage you. The troubles that discourage you are not uncommon. These come as a result of the rough and tumble world in which you live.  They come about as a result of the pressures of work: a deal that didn’t come through, earnings expectations that came up short, low morale, petty office squabbling, etc. These issues and more are things that tend to wear you down and take the edge off of your performance.

Discouragement sets in when you allow these things to shape an unhealthy attitude. Dale Carnegie said, “Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” This is great advice to consider going forward. How you see and how you react to the troubles you face will make all the difference. When you choose a good attitude you are in a position to emerge from your troubles stronger and more successful.

The troubles that deny you. The troubles that deny you are those that have a way of getting under your skin and preventing you from being the leader you are meant to be. They are caused by a variety of external factors that eventually take their toll and deny you of the joys of leading and serving. Even the best of leaders are not exempt from the grueling daily demands that eventually wear you down.

Unfortunately, some leaders have to learn the hard way that they are not Superman and that at times their setbacks are self-inflicted. Troubles will only deny you if you allow it. The attitudes you choose and your responses to adversity will demote you or promote you. Troubles will reward you or deny you. The choice is yours.

The troubles that develop you. Every leader faces trouble and every leader will have setbacks. The important thing to remember is that those troubles do not define you; they develop you. Many “famous failures” have overcome great adversity and chose not to be defined by their troubles.

Despite the criticism from a newspaper editor for lacking ideas, Walt Disney succeeded anyway. Although he struck out 1,300 times Babe Ruth is a Hall of Fame baseball legend. He was rejected by the US Military and Naval Academies due to poor eyesight, but everyone remembers President Harry S. Truman. As a boy his teacher told him that he was too stupid to learn, but Thomas Edison proved the teacher wrong. This household name dropped out of high school and applied to attend film school three times but was unsuccessful due to his C grade average- but Steven Spielberg has been entertaining us for years.

As a leader you will face troubles. But they do not have to define you. When armed with the right attitude and perspective your troubles can promote you to something far greater than you could have ever imagined.

© 2013 Doug Dickerson
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