How Solitude Shapes Great Leaders

Take time to read this thoughtful speech entitled Solitude and Leadership by William Deresiewicz given to this year’s plebe class at West Point. He describes how great leaders develop the courage of their convictions, which includes moral courage. Reflection, time alone with one’s thoughts, interactions with trusted friends and reading great books, as Deresiewicz says, are part of the mix.  What he didn’t adequately include is the impact of one’s experiences in life including one’s family of origin and periods of adversity and suffering that breed humility.  Despite its shortcomings, it’s a fine speech and well worth taking time to read.

Many thanks to David Books of The New York Times for bringing this thoughtful speech to my attention.  Brook’s recognized Deresiewicz’s speech as one of the best pieces of long journalism written in 2010.

Talent May Get You to the Top, But…

…it takes character to keep you there.  John Wooden, the late legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach once stated this in so many words.

Wooden’s observation came to mind when I read a New York Times‘ article today entitled “The Day the Patriots Empire Began to Crumble.”  The article argued that the Patriot’s lost their lustre when its coach, Bill Belichick, was caught cheating.

Over the years, the leaders of the Patriots, Coach Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, did so many things right.   I wrote about many of them in a chapter Fired Up or Burned Out.  Belichick’s cheating, however, diminished one of the three elements of a Connection Culture: the element of “Vision.”  The element of Vision exists when everyone in an organization is motivated by the mission, united by the values and proud of the reputation.   Belichick’s cheating was not in keeping with the Patriot’s core values.  It also tarnished the organization’s reputation.  the cheating caused players and fans lost some of their respect for Belichick and the Patriots.  They were not longer felt as proud to say they were members of the Patriots’ organization. Pride in one’s identity is emotional in nature and research shows that emotional connections are 4X as important as rational factors when it comes to the amount of effort people put in their work.  The Patriots lost some of that emotional connection and as a result their players have not been as fired up as they once were.

Hopefully, Belichick learned a lesson and in time can gain back the connection, respect and trust he once had.

Cartoon Boosts “Voice” in U.S. Military

Doctrin ManDoctrine Man,” a popular cartoon on facebook, has, in essence, become a means to boost the Connection Culture element of Voice in the U.S. Military.  It’s odd, I know, but it’s working.  To learn more, read this New York Times article entitled “Masked Military Man is Superhero for Troops.”

Earlier, Jason, Carolyn and I wrote an article about the element of Voice (also know as “Knowledge Flow”) for the award-winning Perdido magazine that you can read at this link.  Voice exists in an organization when everyone seeks the ideas and opinions of other, shares their opinions honestly and safeguards relational connections. Voice reflects a culture that values humility, open-mindedness, curiosity, continuous learning and experimentation.

Voice strengthens organizations in three ways.  First, it boosts employee engagement when people are informed and have their ideas and opinions considered. Second, decision makers make better decisions when they learn from the ideas and opinions of others.  Third, a culture that has a high degree of sharing opinions and ideas creates a marketplace of ideas that fuels innovation.

With those benefits in mind, I say to Doctrine Man, whoever he may be, live long and prosper!

Get to Know Colleagues’ and Customers’ Stories





Here’s a stirring video from Chick-fil-A to remind us that every human being has a story. In our endeavors to develop
Connection Cultures we encourage people who work together to get to know one another’s stories and to reach out and learn customers’ stories, if at all possible. Learning the stories of the people in your life is just one aspect of Human Value, the second element of a Connection Culture. When you know a person’s story, it helps you empathize and connect with them. It’s also more difficult to grow extremely disconnected with someone when you know their story.

MichaelLeeStallard.com on Newstex

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Newstex just added MichaelLeeStallard.com to its sources of authoritative content.  The organization provides real-time news and commentary collected from the world’s best online and offline sources to customers who need information but don’t have time to gather it from a myriad of places.  Today, Newstex offers aggregated news and full-text feeds from thousands of premium blogs as well as Twitter, audio and video content from editorially-selected, authoritative news, corporate, and independent publishers.

Our Book Now in Korean + New Video Interview

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A couple news items to report.

Our publisher, Thomas Nelson, just informed me that the Korean language version of Fired Up or Burned Out is now available (see cover above). Author, speaker Mark Thompson recently emailed me a video of an interview I did with Mark and his wife Bonita for the Leader to Leader Institute’s Leadership Dialogues series. You can view the video on Facebook at this link.

Best Posts on Leadership from Top Bloggers

Dan McCarthy at Great Leadership hosted this month’s leadership carnival that features best blog posts of top bloggers on leadership. Here’s what Dan wrote about it:

Welcome to the September 5th, 2010 Leadership Development Carnival Back to Football edition! Yes, Fall is in the air, and the NFL kicks off it’s season this Thursday with a rematch of last year’s NFC championship game – the Saints and the Vikings.

To get in the spirit of the season, this month’s Carnival is set up as if you’re watching the big game, from tailgating to post game highlights. So grab your favorite snack and beverage and get ready for some championship caliber leadership development advice and opinions from some of the best bloggers in the league.

Real Dysfunction Today, Hidden in Plain Sight

Many individuals and organizations today are in a funk.

Employee engagement is at a low point and the slide down began long before the Great Recession. Research generally shows that 90 percent of employees don’t feel connected to their supervisor or colleagues at work and are either not engaged and giving their best efforts or not aligning their behavior with organizational goals.  Is it any wonder that our economy is struggling?

Research shows that many individuals today are lonely, anxious and depressed.  Depression medication is now a 10 billion dollar business. Even more children report feeling anxious and depressed.  They sense that something is wrong although though they don’t understand why.

The problem today is hidden in plain sight. We are sorely deficient of what I refer to as connection (also known as community, social capital, belonging or meaningful relationships).  How did we get to this state?  Over the last century we grew myopic and obsessed with increasing efficiency and productivity and forgot that human beings need time for relationships too.

If you’re skeptical, I invite you to take a look at The Connection Culture Manifesto, the Hardwired to Connect report by the Committee for Children at Risk, and The Lonely Society report by the Mental Health Foundation in the UK. Several excellent books also address the issue of declining connection in society including Bowling AloneThe American Paradox and The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies.

What can you do?  Although it’s simple, it isn’t easy. Take time to connect. Reach out to the people in your life, set up times to meet for coffee a walk or a meal and then slow down and focus on being present with those you spend time with.  Find out what’s going on in their lives at work and outside of work.  Do this daily, if at all possible.

It used to be said that an apple a day keeps the doctor away but research from a variety of fields makes it clear that connection with others and with meaning in life is the real daily requirement that helps human beings survive and thrive.

So what are you waiting for?   Just connect.