Monday, November 17, 2008

Keep Your Ideas to Yourself

I podcast the HBR Ideacast; it is one of those podcasts that I load on my iPhone, but often times it takes a while for me to get to the individual episodes. I left this particular recording on the bottom of the pile because the title seemed so very ridiculous: Keep Your Ideas to Yourself. Why in the world, as a leader, would I keep my ideas to myself? Isn’t that precisely my job… to be adding value with my brilliant ideas?

The point of the podcast is this. There are many times when adding our ideas has a diminishing return. The author makes the point that there is both inspiration and perspiration in every initiative. There is both the excitement of the project leader (I often refer to the one who has their hair on fire) and the core ideas. Sometimes we leaders add our ideas into the mix, possibly improving the core ideas by 5%, but all the while throwing a bucket of cold water on the “fire”, gutting the personal commitment it takes to make the project work.

Take a few minutes and listen to the podcast yourself at

I think you’ll find useful ideas that work with direct reports, colleagues in teams, and even members of your family.

One final thought, the author, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, quotes a friend who says, “Achievement is about me, leadership is about them.” In my estimation, this might very well point to the most common mistake of most, especially young, leaders; we often mistake achievement for leadership. We often are more wrapped up in achieving a rank, role, or post than actually leading people. We come to be served, rather than to serve (sound familiar?).

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Rose or Cabbage?

Listening to talk radio yesterday, a caller, reflecting on the presidential election, rolled out the following quip:

It appears that we decided that, since a rose smells better than a head of cabbage, we figured it would make better soup.

I assumed that such homespun wisdom must have been derived from a popular colloquialism… but a Google search reveals no such saying, so I can only assume that this was original with the caller.

So… what is better? A rose or a head of cabbage? It all depends on the end sought, doesn’t it? If you’re heading to a dance, the rose will likely be more useful. If you’re heading to the kitchen to make dinner, the cabbage will provide more nourishment.

I’m more of a cabbage guy than a rose guy. I tend to overemphasize the substance of things and underestimate the importance of the sensory appeal. When I cast my vote, I focused almost entirely on ideas and ideology; it appears that a lot of people focused more on charisma and appeal.

I suppose that we need both. Not only for the leadership of our country, but for leadership in general.

One good question is which comes first? Is one more important than the other? Is one more easily acquired, or learned, than the other?

If you are a cabbage, can you hire or acquire rose-ness? If you are a rose, can you lead the cabbages?

I think the answer is yes. Leaders need to be keenly aware of both style and substance, and be vigilant to address their own shortcomings in these areas and the weaknesses in the organizations that they lead.