A Little Book with Big Ideas

Chess Not CheckersA review of Mark Miller’s book, Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game

I have been a fan of Mark Miller’s ever since I heard him speak at a workshop many years ago in Florida. When I first heard him, I wished that his insightful content was available in book form. I heard him speak again several years later and was delighted to hear him say he was working on a book. That was five books ago. Each of his books has hit home with me and helped me grow as a leader. His latest offering, Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game is no exception.

This book continues the fable style that is popular among business authors today. We ride along on Blake’s (a character from previous books) leadership journey as he accelerates his pace as a leader by taking over as the CEO of a small company. Blake soon finds that leadership at this level is more complex than it was in previous roles. The rest of the book describes four moves leaders need to make in order to up their leadership game. I won’t regurgitate the content here. There are other reviews that do that and I encourage you to pick up a copy of the book for yourself. It’s an easy read but has powerful principles that have big impact on how we lead.

Here is how the book impacted my leadership development:

  1. I will plan my departure from the organization my first day at the organization.

As a leader, one of my main jobs is to identify and invest in other leaders. The question that I ask myself is, “What do I want the leadership bench to look like when I leave?” If I have a hard time identifying leaders from day one, I have my work cut out for me. If I can identify a few key people with leadership potential, I can then devise ways of helping them tap into and refine their leadership skills. One principle in the book is, “Bet on Leadership.” For me, that means I need to invest in leadership by talking about leadership and offering resources to help people grow as leaders so that the day I leave the organization, another leader can easily step up and take the group where it needs to go.

  1. I will focus on WE not ME.

We are weary of hearing about selfish CEOs who command multi-million dollar contracts and ride around in corporate jets. It’s easy to get caught up in the perks and power of leadership and forget about the teams we are leading. Leadership is not about us. It’s about the people we lead. Our role is to serve the people under our care. Too often we have seen walls that are built between the leader and the team. In the book, the principle that counteracts this tendency is, “Act as One.” The people we lead need to see and believe that we are on the same side as them. As with most other things, it comes down to what we do rather than what we say. We’re all pulling on the same side of the rope.

  1. I will be humble enough to find a mentor who can help me at this stage of my growth.

The great thing about leadership is that we are never fully formed. There is always room to grow. In the book, Blake gets a new mentor who helps him in his current situation. I’ve found it a matter of Providence that the right mentors come into my life at the right time. There are mentors whom I no longer need because I have learned and gleaned all I possibly could from them at that stage. As my leadership growth needs change, so does my need for specific mentors. We can never believe that we have arrived as leaders, but instead are asking, “Who can I learn from at this stage of my growth?”

Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game challenged me and I will be using it as a resource for many years to come both for myself and for those I lead. I am going to be sharing this book with every person on my leadership team.

promo_01Thank you, Mark for stirring up the potential in those of us whose task it is to continually elevate our leadership game!

 

You can check out a trailer for the book here:

 

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Guard Your Heart

heart-of-L-10-linkThis is a guest post from Mark Miller.  Mark’s latest book is, The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow.

Originally Posted on greatleadersserve.org on Wednesday, September 4, 2013

GUARD YOUR HEART!

The Heart of Leadership is built upon a simple premise: unless your heart is right, no one cares about your skills. This may sound harsh, but it’s true. If people don’t trust our heart, they don’t trust us. If they don’t trust us – they won’t follow our leadership.

That’s the idea the book is built upon, and when we demonstrate leadership character, others see it. They see it as leadership character in action. They see it when we…

HUNGER FOR WISDOM

EXPECT THE BEST

ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY

RESPOND WITH COURAGE

THINK OTHERS FIRST

But why does this matter? Aren’t we just supposed to get results? If you’ve been leading long, you know you can get results without creating follow-ship. Results can be the byproduct of a very toxic workplace and poor relationships with those you lead. The irony of this approach is two-fold. It is not the way to maximize results. And, it is not sustainable over the long haul.

There is a vast reservoir of untapped potential in most people and in turn, most organizations — potential that goes unused and wasted. It resides in the discretionary efforts of our people. The day of the hired hands is dead. Leaders operating from that perspective are the dinosaurs of our day. As Peter Drucker said, “We are all knowledge workers.” The implications for leaders…

For every pair of hands you hire, you get a free brain.

Our challenge is to create the context and the work environment to mine that potential, to capitalize on that FREE brain. It starts with us. People don’t leave organizations, they leave their supervisor. Are we becoming leaders people want to follow? Or, are we driving talent away from our team?

Yes, we need the skills of leadership. I’ve devoted decades of my life to helping leaders acquire the requisite skills to lead well, but skills alone are not the answer. I’ll go back to where I started this post and to the premise of the book. If your heart is not right, no one cares about your skills. You and I will be dismissed as a leader if all we bring to the table are skills.

Leaders rarely fail for lack of skills. Certainly you can find examples of this, but in my experience, for every leader who fails because she can’t build a team or cast vision, countless others disqualify themselves for issues of the heart. The good news, we can change the condition of our heart. If we couldn’t, I wouldn’t have written the book.

So, what’s my point? I want to encourage you to be vigilant and diligent – give adequate attention to matters of the heart. It is much more important than most leaders think – it is critical. These are not soft issues; these are issues that ultimately determine our impact on the world!

There is an ancient proverb that summarizes why the matters of the heart matter so much – it captures my thoughts as well as I could ever hope to…

ABOVE ALL ELSE, GUARD YOUR HEART. EVERYTHING YOU DO FLOWS FROM IT.

MarkMiller_About_179x240_050813Mark Miller, well known business leader, best-selling author, and communicator, is excited about sharing The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow with those who are ready to take the next step. You can find it on Amazon and in bookstores everywhere.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Read, Lead and Succeed

heart-of-L-4b-linkA Review of The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow,by Mark Miller

Mark Miller’s latest book, The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow is a short, simple yet powerful read.  It continues the story of Blake from one of Mark’s earlier books, Great Leaders Grow.  But you don’t have to have read the previous book to be up to speed with what is happening in this edition.

I found Mark’s tone to be conversational and warm. He’s not preachy and writes as one who is a fellow traveler on the road of leadership growth.  He doesn’t talk down but instead honors his readers by pointing out road signs along the way.

I resonated with one of the central themes of the book that leadership character matters more than leadership skills.  As we grow deeper in character, the necessary skill mastery will come in time.  It is true that we’ve seen too many highly skilled leaders derail themselves by their lack of character.  Miller reminds us not to put the cart before the horse.

Using the well-traveled metaphor of an iceberg, Mark asserts that 90% of leadership happens below the waterline.  Then he goes to work defining the essential elements of those below the waterline traits that we need to lead well.

I liked how the elements were told though a variety of people in different settings.  Too often I’ve found leadership books to be too narrowly focused on marketplace leadership leaving out the arenas of non-profits, education and community groups. The effect was that we are able to see how the concepts are applicable to a myriad of situations.

While the book is simple, it is not simplistic.  The character traits mentioned here will take a lifetime of practice to master.  This is not a bad thing because it reminds us that none of us have arrived as leaders. We’re all still learners among leaders.

The element that meant the most to me was the section on responding with courage.  As leaders, responding with courage is a daily occurrence as we tackle the challenges that come our way.  Mark reminds us that courage takes the actions necessary to correct the situation.

This is one of the best leadership books I’ve read this year.  It is one that I will read again and again so that I can continue to be reminded of its principles and apply them to my leadership.

Read this book and you will discover that it is not a 5 hour energy shot for your leadership skills, but rather a multi-vitamin for your leadership soul.

Enter to win:  I am giving away 10 copies of The Heart of Leadership to my blog readers.  You can enter to win by signing up to follow my blog between now and October 31, 2013. I will choose 10 winners at random. If you are already a follower, you are already entered to win! Good luck!

 

Monday Quick Tip ~ Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Image courtesy of Supertrooper/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Supertrooper/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Life Skill 101 advice for those of us who want to live a meaningful and profitable life is to “find a need and meet it.”  The world is full of opportunities brilliantly disguised as needs.

Life is exciting when need meets creativity.  The old adage is true: Necessity is the mother of invention.

One of my newly discovered fun websites is www.quirky.com where creative ideas are turned into useful products that help us in our daily life. (I “need” to win the lottery so I can buy all the stuff in the Electronics and Power section.)  Admittedly, we could argue all day about the need for an egg tray that lights up, but for the most part there are smart, simple solutions to the challenges we face.

What needs are you facing this week that have to be met?  You are already half way there, because you’ve identified the need.  Once we figure that out, our creative juices start flowing to come up with a workable, practical solution.

I once heard leadership author and speaker Mark Miller (http://greatleadersserve.org/) say in a workshop I attended, that “not every creative idea is a good idea.”  Once we have identified the need, the next step is coming up with an idea that actually works.

Most times, trial and error is the only way to find out what works and what doesn’t.  It seems obvious but it’s human nature to try to find a shortcut.  It strikes me as ironic that we try to find a shortcut on the way to designing a shortcut.

This week, get ready for some creative solutions to come your way.  Test those ideas to find out if there is a good one that actually works.

Who knows, you could be on the verge of the next million dollar idea that changes the way we live.

Be a Leader Worth Following

Image courtesy of Archipoch/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Archipoch/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Focus on getting better, before getting bigger.” – S.Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A restaurants.

“If I stop learning, I stop leading.” – Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller in Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life

Leadership titles don’t mean very much if the leader isn’t worth following.

As leaders, we have a bias toward action and we want to see our organizations grow. We want to charge the next hill and accomplish the next goal.

However, like the proverbial dog that chases cars, what are we going to do with it when we catch it?  Do we have the character that can handle the growth we desire?

When our focus is on getting better as a leader, the growth will take care of itself.

Why get better?

We respect leaders who grow.

No leader can be perfect, but we want those who lead us to be trying to grow.  We want them to be constantly improving their character.  As Adam Grant points out in his fantastic book, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, the motivation to become better precedes the development of the skills themselves.  Leaders are motivated learners.  Respected leaders are those who know they don’t have it all together and are willing to put in the time and effort required to grow.

We have a harder time following leaders we consider to be “takers” who are only in a position of leadership for themselves.  We expect our leaders to be humble enough to see that they can’t do it on their own but need the help of others and are willing to give to others.

One way we help others is by growing ourselves.

Superman, Iron Man and Captain Kirk are great for comic books and summer blockbusters and it turns out they have something to teach us about leadership when they exemplify honesty and courage. (See http://www.forbes.com/sites/dougguthrie/2013/06/14/looking-for-leaders-settling-for-superheroes/).  These are issues related to our leadership character rather than skills.

How to grow

Growing leaders feed themselves a steady diet of leadership books, podcasts, blogs, conferences and workshops.  Some leaders find coaches or mastermind groups to give them personal attention to areas that need to be strengthened.

We are blessed to live in a time of abundance of information that can help us grow in our leadership character. We can be mentored from a distance by people we’ve never met through books and online resources.

If we are serious about becoming better before bigger we, as author Bill Hybels suggests in Leadership Axioms: Powerful Leadership Proverbs, will do whatever we have to do to increase our leadership input, because we know it will make us better.

We become leaders worth following by making ourselves better before we get bigger.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on ways you are trying to get better as a leader.