June 26, 2012

10 Lessons in Leadership from Lady GaGa

I'll admit it, I'm a Lady GaGa fan. While I don't listen to her music nearly as much as my kids, I love her fierce, fearless and completely authentic style. Her songs and concerts may not be for everyone, however, we all can learn a lot about leadership from watching her.

Here are 10 lessons worth sharing:

1. Be yourself, everyone else is taken. Oscar Wilde may have penned that quote, but Lady GaGa really lives it. She knows who she is, what she's great at and owns it. Throughout our lives we'll come across many people who inspire us. It's great to learn from what they do well, but you have to find your own style and stick to what's true to you.

2. Be a game changer.  In every generation we have a few people who take our breath away and leave us wondering where to go from here. Steve Jobs redefined computing, Michael Jackson transformed dance and now Lady GaGa has given new meaning to style. The market is crowded with experts, geniuses, wannabes who can already do it better than most. You need to cut through the noise. 

3. Find your voice and speak loudly.  Lady Gaga uses her concerts as her personal soapbox to spread her message to the world which is: "Be yourself. Love yourself." We all have within us a message we can take to the world. What's yours? Hint: it's the message you need to hear more than anyone. Find it and shout it out loud.

4. Make a difference.  Lady GaGa uses her fame to reach out to her millions of fans, touch their hearts and make them feel important. If you think about the number of people you connect with on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, you'd be surprised by how many opportunities you have to say something that would make a difference to someone else. Use your influence wisely.

5. Your words are your brand. When we speak, we leave something out in the world with one or many people that is a piece of us - our personal brand. Remember that when you speak. What do you want people to be left with?

6. Don't worry about looking good. People who try to look good invariably end up looking really bad. They can come across as self-centred, vain or stuck-up. In contrast, when someone just lets go, people tend to admire their confidence and pluck. Besides, no one ever had much fun while worrying about how they look. You have one life to live, spend it worrying out something worthwhile.

7. Worry about how you look. As a leader you're more than just the head of an organisation or team. You are a role model. People look to you for guidance. Not just with what to do, but in who to be. You need to think about how others regard you and be responsible for your power and position. In and out of the office. You never know who is watching and when.

8. Surround yourself with experts.  Lady GaGa really doesn't dance. But you wouldn't notice because she surrounds herself with fantastic dancers. You can't be a jack of all trades. Nurture your talent and surround yourself with people better than you to fill the gaps. 

9. Value your people, above all else. Your people are your gold. These days they're working hard with longer hours for less pay. Acknowledgement is free and really pays off. Send a quick note, pick up the phone, mention it in passing. Seeding small drips of acknowledgement might just make their day.

10. Bring your best to work. Whether it's exercise, diet, sleep or leisure time, we all have practices and habits that keep us mentally and physically at the top of our game. Sitting in front of a computer or in meeting after meeting isn't going to bring out the best of your mind. Get up, get out and bring out your best.

June 21, 2012

Get down tonight

It's been quiet on the blogging front as I've been hyper-busy with a number of different initiatives. The net result has been long, frantic days, short time frames with lots of physical movement and not much down time for thinking.

I've also been part of a large-scale initiative to assess and coach 450 executives in a few months. It has been a massive undertaking and hats off to Hudson for what they pulled together in record time with extraordinary professionalism.

One of the common themes that's shown up in this initiative ironically mirrors my experience over the past month and highlights an urgent and critical challenge facing business and leadership today.  

We have no time to think.
 We are time-poor, overloaded and under-resourced. No one has a spare few million these days to provide the kind of support we all need and the impact is going to be felt pretty soon. No, it's not just the quality of your days. It's the ability to think creatively about long-term opportunities that enable you to maintain a competitive advantage.

Leaders are losing that critical down time they need to create long-term opportunities and put into place high-level strategic plans that translate into future results.

It's all immediate and urgent. 

This leads to reactionary thinking and lots of busy movement which puts your brain and body into a constant state of high-energy and stress. Your adrenaline flows and blood pumps to your arms and legs to support movement, but not thinking. Your focus narrows to the issues in front of you as you become impatient for quick fixes so you can move on to the next crisis. it's great for putting out the fires, but what about tomorrow?

Leaders, your greatest value to your team and organisation is your ability to think past the moment and dream. It gives you that opportunity to consider your people's needs and how to nurture their potential. It allows you to shift into a relaxed state that channels the blood to the brain, settles that internal chatter and lets the ideas flow. It's the reason why we come up with great ideas in the shower or loo and why we wake up at 3am with that thought we couldn't remember in the middle of the chaos of the day. The brain needs time to relax.

I'm not saying it's easy. However, if you think about the value of your time and mental energy - what's going to provide the biggest return to your company?