Archive for Education

BOSS or LEADER?

Today’s TEAMTRI Guest Blog is from Dr. Jim Lemoine. Dr. Lemoine is on the research faculty at the State University of New York (SUNY) in Buffalo as part of their Center for Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness. He is an Assistant Professor of Organizations and Human Resources; a Trustee of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership; a past local, state, and national Career Technical Student Organization officer for FFA, FBLA, and PBL; and a TEAMTRI Alumnus. His research on organizational management has been published in several outlets including the Harvard Business Review. As a researcher, Dr. Lemoine is always looking for organizational partners to study leadership behavior and determine effective approaches to improve outcomes. His email address is jlemoine@buffalo.edu.

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We all know that leadership is important. It’s the primary topic of countless books, speeches, and classes. It’s the focal concern of thousands, maybe millions, of organizational managers. It’s a development area for most every employee in the world, and the one thing we believe can make or break a business, a sports team, or a country. We talk about the need for better leaders, we hear how great leadership can make great differences, and we lament that so many of our institutional leaders do a poor job of leading us.

We know that leadership is important. But something I often wonder is whether we could ever agree on what it actually is.

Imagine you were working with an exchange student from a deeply solitary culture, where people work alone for most of their lives as hermits, without any managers or hierarchy or even teams. He is confused by this word, “leadership,” and asks you what it means. How would you describe it?

A government official once answered that question by saying that leadership is power. I noted that this was a pleasingly simple and easy-to-understand definition, and he nodded agreement. Then I brought up the possibility that a robber might hold him at gunpoint, forcing him to hand over his wallet.

The robber would certainly have power over him, but it would be difficult to argue that the robber was actually ‘leading’ anyone. In the end, we agreed that there was likely more to leadership than just power.

A manager I worked with answered that question by saying that leadership is exhibited when your employees respect you, so they get things done. I told her that I liked the sound of it, but wondered whether this was really leadership itself, or the outcome of leadership? Was it possible that respect and effectiveness were the things that resulted from good leadership, rather than the leadership itself? What, then, are the actual leadership behaviors that would result in these good outcomes?

A senior corporate executive in a training seminar answered that question by saying that leadership is just treating people well. Everyone in attendance liked this definition, but I had to wonder: was that really all leadership was? Surely you could argue that treating people well is part of leadership, but is treating people well really enough to lead them? What about holding them accountable? What about getting things done, as the manager had suggested? The last time I ate at Wendy’s, the salesperson behind the counter treated me very well. Was he leading me?

A janitor at a company I used to work at answered that question by saying that leaders are servants. This was a very different answer than I was used to hearing, so I asked him to tell me more. He told me that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said that serving others is the most important definition of greatness, and that by serving others, we teach them to care about us, each other, and the world around them. Through that care, they would be motivated to go forth and accomplish great things.

Personally, I like the janitor’s answer the best. He taught me something that day.

Former U.S. President and World War II General Dwight D. Eisenhower (the first American general to eat meals with his enlisted men, rather than in the officer’s tent) once said that leadership was the art of getting people to do what you want them to do, because they want to do it. And how do you make them want to do, what you want them to do? You don’t coerce, you don’t order, and you don’t merely treat them well: you ask questions, you listen, you help, and you persuade. You learn what their goals are, and you find alignment in how working toward the organization’s goals, or the community’s goals, or even society’s goals, can help you both. You provide them with the training and resources to succeed in your new mutual goals. You push them to ever-higher levels, believing in them and ensuring they have all of the skills and knowledge they need to reach their potentials. You learn from them by listening, and try to teach them what you can in turn. You build their self-confidence, and motivate them to help others just the way you, hopefully, are helping them.

Many have said that there is a leadership crisis in the world. It is difficult to argue with this statement, although this crisis is not a new problem. It is possible that the reason we can’t seem to find good leaders, is that we have not yet agreed on what a good leader is. We are drawn to charismatic and sometimes narcissistic individuals, assuming that their smooth speeches and visionary talking points are the marks of a leader, without thinking through what it is we really want from a leader. We are conditioned to see leadership as a position of power, a title to be held or an honor to be bestowed, rather than something that any of us could do, at any time, from any job. We unfortunately view leadership as something on a pedestal, something distant, rather than something that could be practiced by anyone – like a janitor.

Leadership is about putting the people around you first – being a servant – such that they collectively are able to accomplish goals that they previously could never have attempted. Leaders point the way to those ambitious goals, and help their colleagues find ways to reach them together.

The mark of a great leader is not accolades and awards, but rather that the people around her have grown and succeeded. The great leader is not necessarily the person who is elected to a political post, or the manager who skyrockets up a company’s chain of command: it’s the team member who constantly has to replace his team, because they keep growing and getting promoted.

The boss asks, “What are you going to do today? How are you going to hit your goals? How is the company going to be better, because you were a part of it?” The leader asks, “How can I help you accomplish our goals today?”

Being a boss is as simple as giving orders, promising raises and promotions, and threatening punishments. Being a leader is much more difficult, as you have to be humble, you have to listen, and you have to put your team first.

You have to learn about them, develop them, and show them how they can be even more than what they are.

Would you rather work for a boss or a leader? Would you rather be a boss or a leader?

I Love Deadlines! (And So Can You)

I am a little crazy about dates. Not dating like going somewhere and doing something fun (although I enjoy that too), but deadline dates. I have to admit that I am totally, 100% date–driven. It is shaped into my personality. I’m the type of person who makes lists of other lists just so I don’t miss anything. Without a due date for things, I feel paralyzed. I’m the type of person that doesn’t do anything, unless it has a deadline. Sad to say, but yes, I’m that person who schedules in time for “spontaneous fun”.

When I got married, I married a man that isn’t 100% into deadlines. Not to be mean, but I don’t even feel that 90% of him is driven by deadlines. My husband, a great man, doesn’t schedule time for spontaneous fun. He tells me that spontaneous fun is supposed to be that…spontaneous. However, even when I was a little girl, I hated surprises and liked (and still love) when everything is planned. However, when I got married, I told myself I would change. I would learn to be that spontaneous person. Little did I know how date-crazy I really was.

I’m writing this article for two reasons:

1) To show my husband that being a deadline lover, in my case at least, is a good thing.

And 2) To teach all the readers out there that setting deadlines and being a date lover can help you!

I have been wanting to post this blog forever. I wrote this two years ago. I just never told myself a due date to get this in. Ironic, right? I felt that there was always a way to tighten it up a paragraph. I felt that there was always a word that could be tweaked or a sentence I could re-write to make it sound better. I found myself living a life (well, with this one blog) that I was not loving. I didn’t set a deadline for it, therefore, it was never going to be posted.

Having deadlines focuses your energy. You feel as if you HAVE to get something in by that date. It will drive you mad, but at the time, it drives your creativity. Let me explain in four steps:

  • Expectations: When a deadline is set, everyone, whether it’s one person, or two hundred people, understands when the work is to be completed. In a fancy word, it’s like a contract. Because deadlines set us up for expectations, it means that people are working together and in sync. It really is amazing how just a deadline can change the whole process of a task!
  • The Value of Time: We all have 24 hours in a day. Everyone is busy. Everyone has projects. When we choose to set deadlines, we are committing to the value of the time of the project. Let’s use an example. If you are in school now, this should be easy for you, however, if you are out of school, go back in time and remember all the papers and projects that were assigned the same week as all the tests. Are you thinking of this time? You had to push. You had to push yourself to get everything done. Sometimes, you even stayed awake all night just to finish that very important paper that was due the next day. Deadlines give us the value of time. I am the type of person that would rather not stay up all night to write a paper. Call me an old grandma, but I like my sleep. For me, I am the type of person that tries to get things in days before the deadline is there. However, if we didn’t have deadlines, we never would push ourselves.
  • Prioritize: Deadlines help us with our workflow. Let’s say you have a report to turn into your boss on Friday, and the next week you have a school paper due on Wednesday. Knowing our deadlines helps us know that we should do first things first. Meaning, you should work on the report due Friday, before working on the paper due Wednesday.
  • Self – Imposed: This is your own deadline. Give yourself deadlines. Hold yourself accountable to your own deadlines. At work, I have deadlines for projects. Being told that something needs to be emailed by Friday, or sent it to my boss on a Monday. I found that what worked best for me, was setting a personal deadline the day before the “real” deadline. This means that I was finding myself a day always ahead. I even did this in college. Making it so I was weeks ahead in classes, enjoying college life way more than the person that was up till 2:00am still writing their paper and not even being able to go to the school dance. When we self-impose and set personal deadlines, we are forcing an effort throughout the process.

Bonus Step: Consequences and Rewards: When I was in school, there was a consequence for missing a deadline. There was also a reward for getting things in on time…higher grades, ice cream runs with mom, etc. When we create deadlines for ourselves it makes us think through the steps that we need to achieve it. Each step does in fact require time. Finishing all the steps helps motivate you to start tackling more and more deadlines. Learn to celebrate deadlines. Learn to let deadlines become a reward. I did this, and I found that everything I do that is fun, I see as a reward for getting my stuff done early.

And that’s why I love deadlines!

Leadership Defined! Part 1 of 5

What is leadership? There have been many articles written on this subject over the centuries and still there will be more. A couple of weeks ago I was recognized for over 20 years of service with an organization. In the process, I started to think about just what leadership was and how that definition worked into how I approached each task whether I was in a leadership position or a member of a group or activity.

Part 1:  It Takes Team Work

During my acceptance remarks I talked about team work playing a big part of what was accomplished during my time with the organization. We had a paid staff of two to carry out the organizations activities while also working with another group of equal size. Without a good team of volunteers, we could not have accomplished the tasks that were required.

Teams are in every situation of life. They start with the home and family. This is the most important team as we develop and start on the road of life. There are teams in the classroom and the playground.  Teams are at work and in social activities. Teams in every walk of life play an important role in the success that we achieve.

An effective team does not just happen; they are a combination of the right individuals, a well-defined mission and good leadership. Each team must have the proper balance of members with interest and experience in the area and those that are new to the group. The purpose of the team is to determine through its collective wisdom the best solution to reach a common challenge.

In Part 2 of the series “Leadership Defined,” Mr. Hall shares about the 22 Attributes of Good Leaders.

About Larry D. Hall

For over 20 years, Larry served as the Executive Director of Oregon DECA and Oregon FBLA-PBL including service as a National Board of Directors member from the Western Region for both organizations. He is recognized as an Honorary Life Member and mentor to many in both associations. He is known as a force for good, advancement, and multiplying leaders wherever he served. Long since retired, many of the initiatives, traditions, and lessons DECA and FBLA-PBL still have in practice today originated under his leadership in the 1980’s, 90’s and 2000’s. That’s great leadership! Email Larry at: lhall299@gmail.com

Image Credit: CMU.edu

Lessons From Losing: The Four Things I Know To Be True

There are three things that I know to be true in life: my name is Valerie Caña, I am currently eighteen years old, and I just broke $200 worth of Christmas cat ornaments at the store I work at in a matter of six seconds.

A lot of my peers might know me from before as that girl who was a DECA State Officer for wayyy too long or as a former National Officer candidate from Nevada. Both of those were acceptable. But now? Well, now I’m just the clumsy sales associate who decided to defer college for a year. I believe I did awesome things in DECA, but honestly the titles I received back then don’t matter anymore. It’s in the past. I am irrelevant, and I’ve come to terms with that a long time ago.

Since I was invited to write this article, I’ve been struggling to come up with “THE END-ALL, BE-ALL” ultimate leadership lesson that summarizes everything I learned in my CTSO career and maybe help raise your spirits to the land of success.

Unfortunately, I possess no knowledge of the secret of life, nor the key ingredient of becoming a great leader. In a perfect world, I would have won DECA Executive Office, gone to a top college on a scholarship, and still be relevant enough to be featured on this awesome blog. Instead, I just remember crying against the concrete wall of the Closing Session room, watching a different reality take place instead of my dreams. So as you can see, I can’t exactly tell you how to be successful. I, myself, am wobbling on my own rocky path. But I can tell you, despite my seemingly failures, why I am inescapably and undeniably happy:

I decided to be.

There’s a lot of room for joy once you cry out all of your sorrow. The morning after our national conference ended, I waved all of the members of my organization goodbye and emptied the millions of used tissues out of my purse. Then, I ascended the elevator back to my hotel room and chose to enjoy the way the sun’s light stretched across the floor and onto me. I packed my bags and chose to love how my DECA blazer looked wrinkled into a tired heap and how my heals were scuffed with the memories of running all across Orlando. I chose to admit my defeat, and then I happily chose to take the path that completely contradicted my original plan.

I took a gap year. Not even an “exciting” gap year abroad or working on a farm on the East Coast. I stayed where I have always been and got a job I really liked…for no legitimate reason other than that life was tremendously great that I could make my own decisions.

My family and friends were quite shocked. I had always been the person they expected to be extremely accomplished, trying to do big, extravagant things every single day.

“No,” I told them, “I’m just a human being and I kinda wanna take a break.”

I’m not saying I wasn’t happy when I was in DECA. Of course I was ecstatic doing all those cool things standing under the spotlight. But when I woke up that one morning and the sun shone so brilliantly during my time of loss, that alone told me that this was still my time. I can do everything and I can do nothing, and it can still be a great day.

That said, YOU can do everything or do nothing, and have a great day. It’s important to realize that yes, you can absolutely move on and do crazy big things, but there is also a joy in taking time to rest and to experience the smaller aspects of life. There are many paths in this big world of ours, and sometimes you have to stop in the middle of the direction you’re moving to notice the million other directions available to you. Not all are major roads to mountaintops. Some are tiny detours and bumps in the road. And others are the in-betweens of a journey where you just have to sit down for a bit and love the world around you will keep on going. All is good. All is life.

I quite like this “small somebody” I am today, because it lets me feel how large our universe is and how wonderful every minuscule detail of it is. It’s the small things like how my best friend calls me in between her busy schedule, how my sister includes me by asking which headphones to buy, or how I can now afford to treat my parents out to dinner. What I never noticed before has become so incredibly significant. Even laughing together with strangers at the bus driver’s joke is miraculous to me.

We can be people who are larger than life, always doing something, always chasing our dreams into oblivion. But when we stumble on the ground, we don’t have to suck up our pride and get right back up immediately. Instead, I encourage you to lie back for a while, reflect, and see that life is probably a lot larger than you expected.

I decided to be happy in life, and that meant to be easily impressed and appreciative of every encounter. It meant to let go of what I wanted, and grab on to what the world had always had. I think it’s pretty cool to stop for a moment and feel fulfilled just by how alive and decent the world is around you. Especially to someone like me, an eighteen year old klutzy sales associate, things like are pretty awesome.

I suppose that’s the fourth thing I know to be true.

Valerie Caña is a former three-year DECA State Officer and a talented, inspirational young person. She currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Three General Orders: Leadership Lessons from Army Basic Training

I grew up in rural Indiana. It was a nice place to grow up, but not much to do. Like many kids who grow up in rural areas, CTSOs were my first glimpse at the big city and lots of culture.

Once I graduated from high school in 1988, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and my parents were not willing to finance that. So, I did something pretty drastic for me – I joined the United States Army. I enlisted as a broadcast journalist and was ready to see the world.

Only one thing stood between me and a career like on Good Morning, Vietnam: basic training.

Basic training is lots of physical training, but it is also a lot of mental work as well. It takes both strong and smart people to be good soldiers. Every solider also has to learn their three general orders.

As I got to thinking about these general orders recently, I determined that they really are the keys to leadership. There is a reason the entire United States Army can recite them on demand.

  1. “I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved.”

In terms of leadership, this means to pay attention and do everything you have been asked to do. Never leave the people you are leading on their own and always do what you can to protect and support them.

  1. “I will obey my special orders and perform all of my duties in a military manner.”

Do everything you have been asked to do (and then some) and do it all with the courtesy and professionalism that you owe your teammates.

  1. “I will report violations of my special orders, emergencies, and anything not covered in my instructions, to the commander of the relief.”

This one is the most important. If you mess up, own it. If you have questions, ask. If something happens, report it. And always be willing to seek clarity and guidance from the people above you. That is how you learn and grow.

A military path isn’t for everyone. But, even if you don’t choose to join the Army, remember your general orders and march on!

Teresa Mankin is the State Director for SkillsUSA Oregon and a huge Indianapolis Colts fan. Follow her on Twitter @teresamankin.