Passion and Leadership

By May 7, 2009 No Comments

The Responsibility of a Leader

In times of both economic prosperity and uncertainy, the strength, stamina, confidence, enthusiasm, and positive outlook of leaders are needed in all sectors of society — whether that leader is the President of the United States, a Senator,  CEO, COO, teacher, professor, pastor, reverend,  office manager, volunteer coordinator, and head of household, it is natural that some are born to lead the various flocks of communities: this is their calling, and burden. Such a role has great responsibility, with ethical and moral implications that inevitably affects the lives of others.

Let’s look at the leadership role of CEOs and Presidents of companies in today’s economic marketplace and internet commerce, and the weight of responsibility that title carries… beings frame their lives around stories and narrative — this is true from the movies and TV shows we watch, news items, parables, jokes, and office politics. In the case of business, it is a story about confidence as well as a story about the lack of quality in  key level executives and upper/mid level management as perceived by the public (e.g., consider the backlash at the A.I.G. management on all levels).  Everyone, regular employees and upper management, are fearful for their jobs and futures, so they turn to someone in a “parenting role” to find confidence and reassurance. But what does it mean “to be confident”?  Is this the appropriate behavior these days? Do CEOs and Presidents have any confidence left?

Are their knees shaking?

It’s an ethical and moral issue: one can feign confidence, lie to employees, tell them that everything is just fine, not to worry, when that’s far from the truth and pink slips may be issued at the end of the week. This is called overloading the sugar coating.

Or one can be brutally honest, tell it as it is, try to put a positive spin such as: “Things run in cycles; things will be back to normal next year,” and risk the lowering of morale in the work place.

Today’s CEO faces challenges as both business folk and leaders.  As business person, they are challenged by cash, credit, customers, cost.  As leaders, they are challenged with the role of the confident, calm and courageous figurehead. It is  not only about the P&L — it is about the psychology of the CEO.

It is difficult for a CEO, if s/he has knots in the stomach about the company’s future, to go into the office and project absolute confidence for customers, employees, vendors, and bankers.

This leader has to have that confidence and must project that confidence. Forget the knots in the belly. Otherwise, one might as well give up, call it quits, shut down the place, file for bankruptcy.

No one wants to do that…but some are doing that.  But do they really need to? Or do these leaders lack the courage to face adversity, to play the role of David with the economy as Goliath?

There is a significant difference between confidence and deception.  One can go into a meeting and develop plans and alternatives with a degree of confidence within the bounds of reality and pragmatism. It is OK to say, “Listen, we’re not going to have as good a year as we thought we would have” or “this is going to be the worst year we’ve ever had” or “we’re going to have to shut down the following operations” or “we’re going to have to let some people” go or “we’re going to have to cut back on costs and here are all the reasons why” because that is the truth, there is no way to get away from it.  State all the facts and figures and needed sacrifices. Then comes the confident spin, a projection into the future: “But, we’re going to come out of this and let me tell you why and how we’re going to do it and what each of you are going to do and what I’m going to do.”

Give people the truth about what’s not working and the sacrifices they need to make; if a CEO gives them a clear and compelling reason for why and if one empowers them and enables them, this exercising good leadership. It is not confidence with deception, it is not sugar coating.  It is telling it as it is, with sleeves rolled up for the fight. The CEO will be surprised how much the troops will rally and jump into the ring, rather than cowering behind a rock.

Right now, the word “CEO’ has a bad taste in the public’s mouth because of all the companies such as AIG and the Detroit car companies and banks asking Congress for tax payer bailout, only to find out the money is not being used to the benefit of the community, and that some CEOs are getting “golden parachutes” and bonuses they may not be entitled to, since their companies are failing.

This is not the case of all CEOs.  Today’s average CEO struggles with shaking that image as a crook or someone who does not care about “the little people.”  Not all CEOs are corporate demigods — many of them are owners of their own businesses and when you’re an owner of your own business, your net worth and your identity are inextricably tied to your business. Most of their wealth is in that business — their reputation, their life blood is in that business.  If the business goes down, they don’t walk out with big bonus checks and go on to the next gig.  Their own net worth has gone down the drain and they are left with great shame because the baby they have spent their lives building has just been sent to the gallows.

With confidence, there must be courage – the courage not to quit, not to give up, to seek out the advice of peers, to make hard decisions that will be best in the long run.  When there is courage, the employees will see that, they will know that their leader is not lying to them just to get through the day.

So: don’t sugar coat it, you CEOs and company presidents out there. Be honest, be pragmatic, but show courage and confidence that today’s economic woes will be yesterday’s bad memory, and “blue skies” are indeed in the near future.

Balancing Work and Play

It can’t all be about career, no matter what age you are.  If you’re all work and no play, you’ll miss out on a lot of things in life.  However, to enjoy life, one must be successful and make good money, right?  To feel accomplished, to achieve?  So who has time for play?  The trick is to find a balance, and finding that balance will differ from person to person, career to career.

Larry Ellison, founder or Oracle, makes sure to balance his business life with some personal time, not only for his own sake, but also for the sake of the company as a whole. “In some ways, getting away from headquarters and having a little time to reflect allows you to find errors in your strategy,” he says. “You get to rethink things. Often, that helps me correct a mistake that I made or someone else is about to make. I’d rather be wrong than do something wrong.”

Trying to find the delicate Balance between Work and Play is still a struggle for Ellison. “There should be a guide book to the intelligent pursuit of happiness,” he says. “There isn’t such a book, but there should be. More than anything else, that’s what all of us need: a guide to how to pursue happiness intelligently. Jefferson guaranteed our right to do it, but he didn’t give us a map.”

Here are 5 Steps that may aid in this quest:

1.      Take just 10 minutes out of each day and relax, sit down and just clear your mind (in the morning or in the night.)

2.      Work hard for a certain time, but make sure your play is proportional to that of which you work.

3.      Enjoy life, when you have a chance for a vacation take it, go somewhere warm. Hawaii is a great place and just unwind.

4.      Don’t give up the things you love to do whether it be i.e. riding a bike or something like that.

5.      Don’t leave work until the day before it’s due, do it a couple days before and then relax because your done while everyone else is stressed out.
Overall, become flexible, and know when work is appropriate as well as when play is appropriate.

Finding One’s Voice

Some people find their voice early in life, some may not find it until mid-life.  This is called “The Act of Becoming.”  For business leaders, having one’s unique voice is essential.  But finding that individual voices means erasing all the voices talking to you inside your head, that have taken place there since childhood.

There voices endlessly ask: re we loved or are we hated? Does my mother really know me? Is she just going through the motions out of obligation? Why doesn’t my father talk to me? How come other children go more often on great vacations? Why do I feel that I am just along for the ride? These are the monkeys in our head that we need to deal with.

We are advancing into the “Golden Age” of information. Why are these voices, which contribute nothing still in my head? We have evolved into a new level of understanding. We are in a way privileged by the work of great minds; that have discovered how negative statements and situations have played havoc on our spirit and soul. We can not go back and fix what has already transpired. The candle of desire has burned out, our soul vacant, our dreams crushed by the words of others. It was their despair, their lack of optimism or forethought that played into their defeat or mediocre life.

Our role models gave us a window of what it is to struggle to live in “modern society.” Their fears became our fears, their dangers became our dangers and their failures became our fault. Bits of real wisdom lost amongst their own experiences as they strive through the task of the day. The ominous danger we face when we break free from the security of our family’s protected homes.

This is the voice of the great grandfather or grandmother, the claim from the disbelief of the father to the son, handed down like a chant “you’ll see what I am talking about!” “You are a loser!” “Your friends are trash and birds of a feather stick together!” Wealth and Success was never discussed, it was almost taboo to even think of those things could even be possible for you. Failure was always the talk of the day, the disappointments in your grades, your choices and your life. How can one satisfy those who wear failure and poverty as a badge of honor?

This picture is in your head, you can’t erase it, but you can alter your experience of it. Your voice must come from what is true for you. The truth just is. The infinite gave you full dominance over the earth and a blank page to do what you will. You are no where near where you wanted to be and you wonder how you got there. It is no mystery. The image has been implanted; the seed of their failure’s and mediocrity has been sown into you for years. You realize you don’t know why you do certain things that you do. You know that behavior is wrong or that action will backfire, but there you are executing it anyway.

This may or may not be true for everyone. There are monkeys in your head that are not yours. You have been conditioned through the actions and drama or emotions that others have displayed or acted out for your consideration. It becomes the “status quo” at least in your own mind. Will these people like me? Will I end up losing like my parents, friends or role model has? Are these tragedies on TV real, will someone just come along and kill me?

We are very privileged to know that none of this is true unless we believe it to be true for us. Our vision of being great men and women who will change the world is true today as it was when you were nine. The excitement of doing and being a great person was the vision. You need to rekindle that vision whatever it was for you. There was a feeling of power, of conquest and one of benevolence. That was your voice and your vision of yourself. It has obviously shifted after the conditioning or poisoning of the mind.

Your own personal revival starts with your true vision of how you want to be. Your voice is clear and can be stated that I have these things to accomplish, this is what I want to become and these are the things that I will do and this is how I feel about them. Your passion may not be that of a great statesman, but that of a forensic scientist, an effective manager or an entrepreneur with various specialties.

What is your voice, what does it tell you? In the silence of the night or the place where you can contemplate what you want to become, is where we must all start. In the quiet of the night, to know ourselves, our passions, and our purpose which lights the fire of our own souls, is where we find our voice. It is our true residence, it is where we live. Say it loud, know it in your heart of hearts and bring it forth by calling it into your life.

Claim the power within you, it is always there, it will never leave you. It is there as your tool to the better life, the dream that is waiting to manifest into reality. Make it so, by listening, learning, doing and most of all being. You establish your vision, because that is truly how you see yourself, not how someone else sees you or believe you to be. Reach for the star, because it is your vision to arrive there. Do not be deterred by the indifference or disbelief of others. You must own your vision, as it is what has been gifted to you by the Divine power that is granted all of us.

If life is what you make it, then let it be on your terms and in the direction that you want to go. It is your journey alone; even though others may travel with you it is still yours to claim. Can great wealth, health or happiness be yours? Of course, if your desire is embedded deeply in your heart of hearts. Will the results in your life change if you pursue your dreams? I believe they will. Can I arrive at the Promise Land? Only if your desire is hot enough to push you and throw you above, around, over or below the obstacles your will face.

There is that original voice inside of you, leader or follower. It has been there even before you were born. Find it, and bring it out into the open, know it and love it, for it is yours to claim. Your voice is exclusive for you only. Embroider that voice in your vision and power up to a greater and more rewarding life than imagined.

That vision of where you want to arrive in life; is not given to you as a wish or someday I will achieve this or that. It is given to you to achieve and to arrive at the destination that you see in your minds eye. The motivation and inspiration is always there, it really never leaves you. Simply remind yourself daily of your voice and vision, and the day will come when you arrive in the glory that you deserve.


Goal-setting is equally important as having a Voice for today’s leaders. Goals are exactly what are required – objective, quantifiable and clear. Goal-setting ideally involves establishing specific, measurable and time-targeted objectives. Work on the theory of goal-setting suggests that it can serve as an effective tool for making progress by ensuring that participants have a clear awareness of what they must do to achieve or help achieve an objective. On a personal level, the process of setting goals allows people to specify and then work towards their own objectives – most commonly financial or career-based goals. It is a given that in order to achieve a goal, usually, one must be focused.

Five types of goals:

  • Specific: one should precisely define objectives or goals rather than tolerating diffuseness or nebulousness
  • Measurable: one should define a method of measuring the objectives/goals
  • Agreed-To/Achievable: all parties need to agree to the objectives/goals, and to their achievability
  • Realistic/Rewarding/Relevant: one must define realistic objectives/goals, the accomplishment of which must make sense
  • Time-bound: completion must occur within an agreed time-scale

These are just a few elements needed for successful leadership, but enough to get one started on the right path.

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