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Shared Vision Bridges 5,000 Miles
I was fortunate last evening to spend time on behalf of an important cause. I met with several charter members of the Brea Education Foundation, a local non-profit organization that develops resources to provide students of our school district the tools and materials needed in order to maintain and advance their educational opportunities.

The meeting was worth noting on this page because it reminded me how much good and productivity can come from people who care passionately about a shared vision.

Vision is critical to achieving anything extraordinary.  Author Jonathan Swift said,

 "Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others."

It is interesting to me how simple and achievable something can seem once a visionary idea (often dismissed as an impossible dream) has been identified and effectively articulated. Proper execution must follow but the impetus to begin, to formulate a plan, to organize resources only follows after all participants understand and grasp a united vision.

Ten months ago the Brea Education Foundation hardly existed. Last night we saw how the seed of this foundation contributed to the development of the Global IT Academy.  Only an idea last January,
the Global IT Academy is now operational at Brea Olinda High School in southern California thanks to a shared vision. GITA -- draft2small.jpg

The Global IT Academy is an innovative model for cooperation among the University of California - Irvine, technology business leaders in the U.S. and China and high schools students located in Brea, California and Dongguan, China. The result is a unique high-school based accelerated learning program that offers course work that combines

• global partners in education and business
• emerging technologies
• IT industry experts

Shared vision and commitment to purpose led to cooperation among the private and public sectors, and high school programs more than 5,0000 miles away in China and southern California. What will we see in 2006? If it is noteworthy, it will start with shared vision.
Nov 3
People have the Power
There are plenty of leadership topics that are timely and worthy of writing about. But this post may not include many. Instead you’ll have to hear about two hours of musical ecstasy because I just can’t bring myself to not share the sheer exuberance I experienced at a U2 concert last night. But stick with me.

It was nearly four o’clock yesterday afternoon when I got a call from my wife telling me that she had scored some last minute tickets to the U2 concert at the Staples Center. I am a big fan of live music and catch as many concerts as I can over the course of a year but a chance to see U2 live – in my mind is the mother lode. Not that I haven’t seen them before – I have many times. In fact, I saw Bono and mates in Phoenix just last spring as they embarked on the Vertigo (current) tour.

Now the tour was winding down, would it be as enjoyable having seen the band just six months ago? My anticipation was concentrated and my expectations soared. However, I had no idea how memorable this concert would become. I can’t say enough about this performance. I have been somewhat flummoxed while writing this. The experience last night was so dynamic and filled with emotion that it seems ridiculous to try and convey what it felt like to be there. But such conveyance is a challenge that is worthy of my effort and keenly accomplished by a fellow attendee and U2 blogger.
U2 Bono and Edge.jpg
The show was quite different than in Phoenix last April. In Phoenix, it was typical U2 energy and a set list that was an amazing anthology of the band’s enduring sound. However, last night, Bono seemed more introspective. The lighting was more subdued. Blue and shadows replaced many of the bright reds and yellows of the Phoenix show. While the band was right on, the concert could not have felt any less programmed and planned. That made it special.

As you can note in the set list, the band hooked and weaved several non-U2 songs into their own hits. It was as if Bono, the Edge, Adam and Larry were sharing the music that inspired them but not through a simple cover song. Rather, Bono subtley dropped snippets of non-U2 songs throughout the night including Rockaway Beach and In a Little While (Ramones), Many Rivers To Cross (Jimmy Cliff) Exodus (Bob Marley) Rock The Casbah (The Clash) When Johnny Comes Marching Home (Civil War song) Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division) and People Have The Power (Patti Smith). It was random and magic.
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Leading by Doing
Leading by doing is a critical leadership trait to develop. You may have heard the term, “management by walking around,” - it is a similar concept. No matter how you call it, occasionally observing or even working alongside those you lead pays substantial dividends such as:

Trust – trust immediately develops as you experience what the front line experiences.
Understanding - you can relate to your followers and they can now relate to you as you share an experience related to their job. This is significantly different than chatting at the company holiday party or picnic.
Perspective – the view from a foxhole looks and feels much different than from command headquarters or from aerial reconnaissance. Both views are critical to any successful operation. You don’t have to take a bullet to understand life in a foxhole but you should occasionally take the opportunity to notice the fear in the eyes of those that must.

There are a few simple steps that make this leadership trait simple to practice.

“Get up and get out” - of your office that is. Knowing, teaching leading is done “with people,” not “to people.”
“Be Curious not Inquisitive” – show interest in the jobs and the lives of those you lead. What can you learn from them? Demonstrate that learning and bettering yourself is everybody’s job, including yours. Imagine the exhilration an entry level person would feel to teach “you” something.
“Follow through Every Time” – nothing destroys trust and goodwill between leader and follower more than hollow promises and unfulfilled commitments.
“Acknowledge Through Feedback” - provide indicators throughout the organization that communication is working and that you have listened and acted. Tangible changes to process or policy at the working level lets everyone know that you not only listen but that you have the understanding and authority to make changes and that everyone has a voice.

Eisenhower and troops.jpgYou will have a team that is committed to your vision and strategic plan if they know that you understand their unique circumstance. Dwight D. Eisenhower utilized this principle on the eve of the allies’ invasion of Normandy. The Supreme Commander walked the staging areas shaking hands with the young troops that would execute the greatest military invasion in history. Eisenhower didn’t quiz them on military tactics or equipment maintenance. Rather, he asked them about home, families and girlfriends. He was connecting, understanding, learning. He was leading.
Truth is Power

If you have taken the time to read any of my recent musings, you know I have spent a fair amount of time trying to glean from the rubble a handful of leadership insights from the response to our country’s worst natural disaster. Hurricane Katrina provided plenty of fodder for the world to again point a finger and proclaim with universal chorus all that is wrong with America. Of course the harshest criticism goes to the local, state and Federal officials that we as citizens look to for authority, civil order and in times of unprecedented disaster, basic food and water.

I have said my share regarding where, how and why our leadership may have failed. To add to that I found some keen analysis provided by Jonah Goldberg on how a “journalistic fiasco” added to an already downward spiraling situation. Unlike so many voices of the past thirty days, Mr. Goldberg calls it like it is – astutely and with candor including adding himself to the heap of those in the blogosphere that as he notes “bought the hyperventilation hook, line, and sinker.”

His analysis of “Katrina’s Other Consequence,” namely the failure of some journalists to report the events in New Orleans accurately, deserves your attention if you blog and if you hope that truth matters.  From my standpoint of offering insight into the leadership, his thoughts on this topic are equally noteworthy. 

From it, I was reminded of a quote that offers not only insight but hope for each of us as we look back to Katrina to find lessons that will make us better people, neighbors, volunteers, citizens and leaders. 

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”

From the mouth of a Yankee comes salve to the wounds of the south. Abraham Lincoln knew from crisis and leadership. And he knew how to heal.  As one of the greatest  leaders in our national history, he understood that if leaders will empower people, we will prevail.  I would venture that those of us in the blogoshere probably believed this truth long before Katrina hit.

However, in the past week we have had it burned into our souls. Blog-on and with it bring the truth.

JetBlue Provides More than Cheap Fares

Those of us in LA and perhaps others throughout the country were momentarily distracted from the destruction of hurricanes Katrina and Rita while we watched the drama of JetBlue flight 292 that had a malfunction in its landing gear. Ultimately, the plane touched down safely after circling southern California for three hours,landing with its front wheels turned sideways.050922_jetblue_hlrg.h2.jpg

This morning I was listening to KROQ's Kevin and Bean, a morning radio show in LA, as they laughed at the transmission between the pilot and the tower. They joked that the pilot in a time of such enormous stress, barely sounded awake. I thought that was not only a funny observation and quite true but a fascinating study of leadership in crisis.

When I thought about whom the pilot worked for, I wasn’t so surprised at his demeanor under such stress. At a dinner last year, I listened to Dave Neeleman, CEO of JetBlue Airways. I have been a fan of Dave’s ever since I was flying from New York to Los Angeles and Dave spent the entire flight time walking the aisles and talking to his customers.

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Lead Today, Survive Tomorrow

How do you plan for the most destructive hurricane ever? Can you? Should a leader be required to stand responsible when a crisis occurs?

Of course a leader should be held responsible – not for the crisis – but for the vision she sets forth for her organization.

Business is not static, at least not in today’s world where information and data can move across global markets in seconds. That means instability should be considered the rule and not the exception. As a leader, there are things you can do to arm your organization before the debilitating effects of an unexpected crisis strikes.

  • Effective leaders will set forth a strategic vision and reiterate it often. In times of uncertainty, a steady hand that has consistently charted the course, will find loyal followers in the ranks.

  • Effective leaders will create unity in their organizations. Organizational cohesion that has been formed prior to a crisis, will forge your team against the stress and force of unforesenn challenges.

  • Effective leaders are found among their followers. Your physical presence will engender trust with those in your organization. Your composure and confidence will inspire the same in others.

  • Effective leaders are “guiding lights” to an organization. Your commitment and focus to the business and your people will be an example that stabilizes disequilibrium and makes sense out of the chaos of crisis.

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