The rain is pouring and the wind knocking things over outside. A very un-LA sort of day. And for two years I’ve been blessed with people and events that pushed me to focus on leadership; something I understood having advised so many companies but never actively studied myself.
So, lessons from year two of more leadership than I’d expected.
1. Let’s start with Coro, an executive education program in leadership in which I’m currently enrolled.
a. The difference between adaptive and technical change. The former drives at core values and direction and meets with resistance especially early on in the process. I view it as a Churchill issue (and his book, Their Finest Hour, is among the best I’ve read for getting inside a true leader’s head. Technical change is more mechanical, easier and most of us gravitate toward it.
b. Groups are difficult. Focusing on each individual’s goals, beliefs and mind sets doesn’t come easily but related sensitivity is key to reaching a workable outcome. A group is made up of people.
2. Mayor Richard Riordan’s UCLA Leadership and Ethics class
a. Character is key. People follow those with a clear mission and a strong character. While character can be defined it essentially also carries a huge intangible and instinctive element. Watching people over time you infuse their character and will do anything (almost) to support the right leader and his/her mission.
b. Empowering others. Leading isn’t about credit.
c. And, one of the best lessons on leadership Dick imparted was recommending The Power and The Glory by Graham Greene. I won’t give away the secret but read it and get back to me.
3. A former boss.
a. I’m tardy in writing this posting and wasn’t planning to include Chad Keck (huge oversight) though he is among my personal best experiences in leadership. Ex-West Point and HBS, he ran the Needham office when I was there. This morning I got an email from him commenting and complimenting Captive (read empowering above). After ten years passing, he read my book and reached out. Working for him, I always knew that if I worked hard and did the right thing he would stand behind me and take whatever bullets came. He’s still standing behind me even though he has no obligation to do so. Thank you, Chad.
b. And, ten years later, I still look to him as the model of an ideal boss.
c. (And then there was that crediting other people for their work and not stealing the spotlight – also see above).
4. Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness, Zappos and LinkExchange.
a. I was fortunate enough to meet Tony at both LinkExchange and Zappos on the investment banking front. Then I read his book – among the best on leadership in my opinion.
b. The team follows you. So you need to lead if you aspire to create something. Set a mission and give it your all. Otherwise, you can’t ask others to follow.
5. Mark Suster and bothsidesofthetable.com.
a. Mark has advised me on blogging; he writes a great blog himself and drives VC related events in Los Angeles.
b. His blog posting on “conference hos” isn’t my favorite yet continues to haunt me (http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2010/10/13/be-careful-not-to-become-a-conference-ho/). Essentially, it says that if you don’t lead your organization that void will get otherwise filled. Good point.
I’ll stop at five because those lessons are the ones that really stuck with me for 2010.
Leaders don’t need to be announced; we notice them. Thank you to those who helped me this past year.