Posts Tagged ‘communicating vision’

These value-priced quintessential leadership eBooks are available for download on The Quintessential Leader blog’s business website:

Building Trust and Being TrustworthyBuilding Trust and Being Trustworthy is also available from Amazon in print and Kindle versions.

If you don’t read another book this year, I highly recommend that you read Building Trust and Being Trustworthy. These are not just leadership or quintessential leadership principles. These are essential life principles that each of us should be incorporating into who we are and who we are becoming. Each of us. You. Me. Our children. Our grandchildren. Because we are all current quintessential leaders and we are responsible for cultivating, mentoring, and growing future quintessential leaders.

A mother shared these words with me after reading Building Trust and Being Trustworthy: “Just finished reading this book….EXCELLENT! In fact I’m going to make it a required read for my girls this year! Mine’s all marked in and highlighted…so I may have to get a new copy for them! Thank you, Sandra, for all the time and effort you put into this book or manual for life!”

Building Trust and Being Trustworthy is written for all of us in quintessential leadership positions: leaders of organizations, leaders of business units, leaders of teams, leaders of education, leaders of congregations, leaders of social organizations, leaders of civic organizations, leaders of families, leaders of ourselves, and those we lead.

As today – January 21, 2013 – marks the United States’ federal observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday (Dr. King’s actual birth date was January 15, 1929), it is a good time to review some of the quintessential leadership traits that Dr. King possessed and that we should be looking for and developing in our own quintessential leadership journeys.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.As always, having quintessential leadership traits does not make any of us perfect or without the flaws of human nature, so I urge each of us, as Dr. King undoubtedly did, to also examine ourselves to see where we are unquintessential in leadership and in life and endeavor and persevere to change or eliminate those things and traits that prevent us from being thoroughly quintessential in every aspect of who we are, what we do, how we live, and how we lead. This is our life-long quest.

One of the premier quintessential leadership traits that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. possessed was the ability to see the big picture – vision – and communicate that vision. To learn in-depth and to gain application insight into how Dr. King and three other leaders who shared this rare quintessential leadership trait, you can purchase Communicating Vision from The Quintessential Leader online store.

Dr. King also had the quintessential leadership traits of undeterred focus and commitment. His goal was the next substantial effort undertaken after President Abraham Lincoln’s two momentous achievements – the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and ensuring the passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1865 – toward making the phrase “all men are created equal,” as declared by Thomas Jefferson in the U.S. Declaration of Independence in 1776 true, not just in words, but in fact.

No matter what Dr. King had to endure personally, including prison, overt hatred, ominous threats, and ultimately, untimely death by assassination on April 4, 1968 at the hands of James Earl Ray at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, or what he and the civil rights movement collectively endured, including the deadly bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, the deadly and strong backlash of the resurgent Ku Klux Klan, and overt local and state-sanctioned law enforcement brutality, Dr. King never wavered in focus or commitment to making racial equality a reality.

He didn’t see problems, only opportunities, even in the face of daunting odds and a lot of pain and suffering for a lot of people along the way. That is a rare quintessential leader trait that we could and should all make sure is part of how we lead and who we are.

Another quintessential leadership trait that Dr. King had was part of what made him a trusted and a trustworthy leader: he set and he adhered to a higher standard for what the road to achieving racial equality would look like. Dr. King was adamant about not using violence in the cause (this was a big difference between the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and most of the 1960’s and the more radical Baby Boomer civil rights activism of the late 1960’s that took center stage in the fight for racial equality, promoting violence as the great equalizer). Dr. King knew that returning violence for the violence being perpetrated against the African-American community would only create more violence. He knew that was not the solution. 

He set the higher standard for the moving of winning hearts and mind, through eloquence, persuasion, passion, reason, and practicality. A good example of this was the very successful bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 to end segregation on buses that was initiated because of what had happened to Rosa Parks.

Although the white community in Montgomery largely acted shamefully and, sometimes violently, the African-American community followed the example set by Dr. King, meeting that higher standard of non-violence – even when they were the victims of violence – and their perseverance paid off.

Another quintessential leadership that that Dr. King had was the ability to admit fear and then face and overcome it. Just because we’re in leadership positions doesn’t mean that we won’t come up against things bigger than ourselves – often! – and things that can seem scary or can create anxiety. Those are all part of our normal human emotional makeup. But how we manage fear and anxiety is the difference between a quintessential leader and an unquintessential leader.

Dr. King had an interesting statement about fear and anxiety: “If you’re not anxious, then you’re not engaged.” He didn’t live or lead with overriding fears and anxiety, which unquintessential leaders do, but he recognized the relationship between being wholeheartedly invested in something and the range of emotions that can evoke.

Knowing that Dr. King was a pastor, undoubtedly he spent a lot of time in prayer asking God for the help to overcome the fears and the anxieties. King David talks with God about this very thing as well in Psalm 139:23. This is the verse that always comes to my mind and is part of my prayers to God when I am dealing with fears and anxieties.

Quintessential leaders are not ruled by their emotions and they know what resources they have available to them to help them manage and neutralize them so that they don’t cause hasty and poor decision-making.

If you find yourself as a leader being led by your emotions, then you’re not exercising this quintessential leadership trait. A good rule of thumb when you’re dealing with an emotionally-charged situation is to put a little time and distance between you and it before doing anything. The phrases “let me sleep on it” or “let me think about it” should become part of your decision-making process because that time and distance can neutralize the emotional aspect and give you clarity to make the right decisions for the right reasons.

While this is not a comprehensive discussion of all the quintessential leadership traits that Dr. King had, I would be remiss if I left out the trait of team-building from this discussion. Dr. King understood how vital building and growing teams – and individuals on those teams (look how many people from the civil rights movement went on to take leadership positions later in their lives) – was to accomplishing the goal of racial equality.

He understood that consensus across a diverse and large group of the American nation was the only way to achieve the goal. He knew it was critical to and how to motivate, engage, encourage, support, and sustain the ever-burgeoning team. Dr. King was, like President Abraham Lincoln, a very gifted team builder. As quintessential leaders, it benefits us greatly to go back and learn in detail how they did it. The eBook, Teams & Performance, available from The Quintessential Leader online store, provides an in-depth analysis and application of what quintessential team-building looks like.

Quintessential leaders are, at heart, historians, because they study the successes and failures of people in leadership positions before them, with an eye to learning to become even more quintessential leaders and removing or avoiding the mistakes of unquintessential leadership that are equally a part of our education.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of those leaders we should go back and spend some time with. You’ll find that, like you and like me, he made his share of mistakes, he had human flaws and weaknesses, but the thrust, intent, and purpose of his life was, as ours should be, not to be the sum of those, but to be the sum of his victories. His legacy tells us he achieved that goal. We should expect no less of ourselves.

I made a rare trip to a movie theater recently to see the Steven Spielberg movie, Lincoln. Having read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln a few years back, I was curious to see how Spielberg, who acquired the movie rights before the book was ever written, would treat the book and President Abraham Lincoln and his interaction with his Cabinet and with Congress.

If you’ve read the book and are expecting a visual rehash of it, you will be disappointed. But if you want to see a close-up view that in many ways summarizes Goodwin’s book and some real quintessential leadership moments from President Lincoln in the last four months of his life, this is the movie to watch.

Lincoln is one of those rare movies that I had to spend time processing on a lot of different levels. It is a heavy and intense movie, but very rich in things to think about and lessons to learn.

I will do my best not give away any spoilers here, but I would like to highlight the quintessential-leadership-in-action aspects of the movie. 

The primary subject of the movie is the all-out effort, spearheaded by President Lincoln, to get the 13th Amendment – which abolished slavery – to the U.S. Constitution passed by the House of Representatives by January 31, 1865 (just before the newly-elected representatives took office). In the backdrop are the last and equally-blood days of the Civil War, a possible negotiated peace with the Confederacy, and the outer and inner turmoil of the many burdens President Lincoln found himself encumbered with.

One of the quintessential leadership traits that made President Lincoln stand head and shoulders above everyone else was his ability to communicate vision. For an in-depth look at this quintessential leadership trait in President Lincoln and three other well-known public figures, you can purchase the downloadable eBook, “Communicating Vision,” from my store.

Another quintessential leadership trait that President Lincoln had was the ability to see the big picture and to stay committed to that goal, no matter what. President Lincoln understood that abolishing slavery was the underlying action that needed to be done to begin the path to ending the Civil War and start the slow – and still-not-completed – path toward the equality of all people the preamble to the US Constitution covers and refers to.

Lincoln shows how heavily this focus and determination weighed on President Lincoln and it also shows the strength of his commitment in the face of constant attempts to undermine and derail the goal.

Another quintessential leadership trait that President Lincoln had was respect for everyone, even his most fierce opponents, and his willingness to seek input from and listen to people outside of Washington and politics. By showing respect to everyone, President Lincoln was able to gain keen insights into what his policies and legislation would mean and look like in practice. 

One of the most moving scenes in the movie is when General Robert E. Lee leaves the Appomattox home of Wilmer and Virginia McClean after signing the documents of surrender with General Ulysses S. Grant. General Grant and the Union army members who are with him all gather on the porch to watch General Lee leave. They show their respect for General Lee, no doubt at the urging of President Lincoln, by simultaneously removing their hats in a gesture of deference to General Lee.

Another quintessential leadership trait that President Lincoln had was the ability to fight when he had to, but always with an eye to conciliation and making the outcome win-win, if possible. One of the prime examples of this in the movie is his pardoning of a young Confederate soldier, when President Lincoln says “I don’t want to hang a boy for being frightened. What good would it be for him?”

President Lincoln also possessed the quintessential leadership trait of strategic planning accompanied by flexibility and adaptability. He understood that planning is critical to success, but the plan cannot possibly see all the twists and turns and contingencies that will crop up during its execution and quintessential leaders must be equipped to handle those deftly and swiftly without impeding or halting progress. President Lincoln’s quote on this subject should be something we all think about often: “The compass points you true north but does not warn you of obstacles and swamps along the way.”

Another quintessential leadership trait that President Abraham Lincoln possessed was that he never stopped learning. There is an intriguing scene in the movie where he takes a mathematical concept from a book he’d read and applied it in a philosophical way as an explanation for why what was important to him was so important.

Quintessential leaders must be life-long students and spend time reading widely and well. This means reading outside the scope of our skills, abilities, and fields of work. There are so many things that can enhance our abilities as quintessential leaders and help us gain different perspectives and angles on the bigger issues we face each day as leaders. Don’t waste your time on anything that isn’t going to enhance your knowledge and understanding so that you become a more quintessential leader.

President Lincoln set an example of quintessential leadership when he assembled teams. First among these was his Cabinet, which included William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Simeon Cameron, and Edward Bates. All of these men had been Abraham Lincoln’s rivals in the 1860 U.S. presidential race. President Lincoln had a chance to evaluate their strengths – and the support that including each of them on the team would bring to his presidency – and, in what is widely considered an improbable stroke of genius, brought them together as a team of allies when he won the presidential election.

President Lincoln did a lot of team-building – often one-on-one and in very personal ways that showed he was a careful listener and observer with the intent of trying to understand what was important to other people and why they did and thought and believed what they did – outside of the White House as well. It’s surprising, especially in Goodwin’s book, to see some of the teams that President Lincoln forged in Washington and in Congress, with a level of diversity and complexity that only a quintessential leader could have brought and kept them together.

I strongly recommend Lincoln. It gives us quintessential leaders a lot of food for thought and hopefully it will help us to redouble our efforts to acquire and hone not only the quintessential leadership traits that President Lincoln had (and these certainly are not all of them), but also the other quintessential leader traits that we have already discussed and the ones we will discuss in the future.

If you like what you’re reading here, then check out our store at The Quintessential Leader where you can purchase, for a nominal fee, eBooks about the components of trust and trustworthiness, examples of communicating vision, how to build teams using performance planning, evaluations, and reviews, styles of control that exemplify unquintessential leadership, and unquintessential leadership pitfalls we all need to avoid.

These eBooks are worth far more in experience and the time taken to put them together than they are priced at. You, as a quintessential leader, can’t afford the cost of not having the information they contain.

You have a choice. Save a few dollars and fail to be a quintessential leader, or spend a few dollars and learn what are some of the things quintessential leaders look like – and don’t look like – and what some of the things quintessential leaders do and are – and don’t do and aren’t. This is an investment in yourself and your team.

I don’t have all the answers either. I am learning just like you. But as I learn, I share my knowledge and my experience. That’s how I become a more quintessential leader. I believe in paying forward. What do you do to become a more quintessential leader? How do you pay forward what you’ve learned and experienced?

Whether you buy my eBooks or not is not important. But what you do with what you learn and what your experience has taught, is teaching, and will teach you is.

Think about that. When it’s all said and said, that’s all we’re left with. It’s a legacy. What is your legacy going to look like?