Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Clear the Clutter

Tim Sanders over at Sanders Says recently encouraged his audience to "dump the junk" in preparation for 2010. Clearing out the clutter before launching a new year could be just the thing to energize us and help optimize our potential in the new year. Tim suggests that you consider dumping "commitment clutter" as well -- taking a good hard look at your calendar, and making decisions as to what is really most important, and what will move you clearly toward your goals.

Can you think of ways you can de-clutter your life as we wrap up 2009?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Colin Powell on Leadership

Enjoy this short video of Colin Powell addressing students at Colgate University.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Leadership Genius of Harry Truman, Part II

An important weekly feature of this blog is an analysis of great leaders in history. What better way to learn the fine art of leadership than by studying those who have led, and led well?

In last week's post, we began a series looking at the leadership traits of Harry S. Truman, 33rd president of the United States (or 32nd if you asked Mr. Truman!). It is interesting to note that today marks the 37th anniversary of President Truman's death at the age of 88.

Part II: Dress for Success

During his Senate years, Mr. Truman was listed as one of the ten best-dressed men in the United States Senate. He was known daily to sport a neatly tailored suit, complete with pocket-square, fashionable tie, and shiny shoes. He even made headlines with his vacation attire, which usually consisted of a wild, Hawaiian shirt, white pants and socks, and white shoes. But even on vacation, Truman was squeaky clean, and sharp as a tack.

There is an old story that while Sir Winston Churchill was visiting the White House during World War II, he encountered the ghost of Abraham Lincoln as he was getting out of the bathtub. Upon seeing the specter, Churchill, who was wearing only his birthday suit, was reported to have said, “Well, Mr. President; you seem to have me at a disadvantage.” (Churchill refused to sleep in the White House thereafter.)

Even the great Winston Churchill felt insecure when “out of uniform.” How you look impacts how you feel, how you act, and how you are perceived by others. Attention to detail in this area suggests to others that you will give attention to detail in all matters. Dressing neatly, nicely, and appropriately shows that you care and that will get you plenty of mileage every time. Thus, it is an important step toward winning the confidence of your employees.

Action Point: Determine the dress code for your workplace and assemble the appropriate wardrobe. Turn to friends or your spouse for advice as to what colors best suit you and what style is “you.” If your office requires coat and tie, make sure your outfit is professionally tailored. The extra money is worth it, especially considering you can make a suit last a very long time if properly maintained.

Art of Manliness is a great blog which offers plenty of grooming advice for men. You might want to check out this post on men's fashion, this one on pocket squares, and these great videos on how to tie a tie. For women there is this site on the latest business fashion trends.

Bookmark these sites and step up your game in this all-important area.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I hope you are enjoying this holy holiday with your family and friends. I would like to share with you a beautiful rendition of For Unto Us a Child is Born, by Handel. Regular posts continue tomorrow with The Leadership Genius of Harry Truman, Part II. You may have a look at part one in this series by clicking here.

We will also be looking at some of the leadership traits of Colin Powell in Monday's post.

For now, enjoy this musical masterpiece, complete with score, and have a very Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sleigh Ride

Just for fun . . . Here's one of my all time favorite Christmas tunes played by the Boston Pops, directed by John Williams. It's fun to watch the percussionist crack the whip with the slapstick!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Classic Book - Timely Message

I recently ordered a vintage copy of The Success System That Never Fails, by W. Clement Stone, and I've been ripping through it for the last couple of days. Stone was a giant in the insurance business, and one can't help but be amazed at his systematic method of achieving such astounding success. Starting out in Chicago, he eventually built the largest insurance empire in the world, and he takes the time to outline exactly how he did it.

Although this book talks extensively about the art of salesmanship, Stone's classic work is a must read for anyone who wants to continually improve in their chosen profession. The book is an easy read, and one comes away with some very good ideas about goal setting, systematic planning, and overcoming obstacles.

Click on the "I'm Currently Reading" button to have a look inside the book and place an order.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Pomodoro Technique

In my quest to be the best leader possible, I quickly realized that time management is of utmost importance. Basically, I changed my way of thinking from managing my work to managing my time.

The to-do list is extensive, and is downright overwhelming if not managed properly. For this reason, I have found that it is best to think of to-dos in terms of a week and not a day. In other words, "I need to get the following things done this week." Then I list them in order of importance.

There are myriad of techniques for organizing and handling tasks, but one common theme is the importance of scheduling "chunks" of time for knocking things out. I stumbled upon one such system recently and thought I'd share it with you. It is called the Pomodoro Technique, and you can learn more about it here. I also suggest you get the full scoop by visiting the Pomodoro website.

Look for more articles in the future on time management. It might be the most important prerequisite to good leadership.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Leadership Genius of Harry Truman

I can’t help but be fascinated by Harry Truman. He is, without a doubt, one of America’s great presidents. But we have had several great presidents, and none of them attracts my attention and piques my interest quite like Mr. Truman. I suppose it is mostly because he came out of nowhere, became president, and then attempted to return to his normal life. In short, he was just a regular guy, or, as he would put it: Mr. Citizen.

President Truman believed in studying the lives of great men and women, and then applying that knowledge to current situations and challenges. He was a real student of history, and he used the knowledge attained over a lifetime of reading biographies and history texts to solve some of the most complex and critical problems of our time.

I have studied Harry S. Truman extensively over the last several years, and I have concluded that he is worthy of imitation if one wants to achieve great success and become an outstanding leader. The things that Truman did were simple; but Harry Truman was simple, and that’s why I like him so much.

Today’s post is the first installment in a series of articles about the traits that made Harry Truman such a great president. I invite you to check back each Saturday for the next several weeks as we explore the tremendous attributes of this fascinating man.

Part I: Be an Early Riser

Harry Truman liked to think, and he thought best in the early morning. Mr. Truman was up and out of bed by 5:30 each morning. He took time to bathe and dress before devouring multiple newspapers from across the country. Then he would head out the door for his famous “daily constitutional.”

Truman was famous for this daily walk – a two-mile affair clipped off at about 120 steps per minute. He would bundle up if it was cold, and he always carried a walking stick, even though he did not appear to need it.

The point of the walk was two fold: Get much needed exercise, and think, think, think before tackling the day. There is no telling what decisions were settled upon during some of these walks. At the very least, the President felt energized when he entered the Oval Office each morning.

The basic idea behind getting up early is that of maximizing every minute of the day. In his landmark book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill suggested that, when planning those golden 24 hours we all have at our disposal each day, one should devote 8 hours to work, 8 hours to family time and recreation, and 8 hours to sleep. Now we all know that this is much easier said than done. But it is the idea of planning the time that is so important.

Truman knew that in order to be an effective leader, he had to be informed, and he had to have time to clear his head and think. He utilized the early morning for this purpose because he was rested, his mind was clear, and his world was free of distractions for those few precious minutes. And, he was smart enough to get in some good exercise at the same time!

Action Point: Try to get into the habit of rising early each day. It may be tough at first, but you will find that you feel better, have more energy, and may even find the answer to a nagging question or two in the process. Maximize your time!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Recharging the Batteries

Fourteen years. That's how long our family has been making the annual pilgrimage to Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia. It all started when my wife Robyn and I decided to make a trip to Callaway's "Fantasy in Lights" as a part of our honeymoon in December of 1996. We went back the next year, then the next, and now we're making our 14th trek to the west Georgia resort.

We now take our children, and we've added some things that have become family traditions, like our homemade chili, a picture of the kids at the "train," and our newest addition: an organ concert in the chapel, which we started last year.

The timing of our trip is most important. You see, we leave Montgomery each year on the last day of school before Christmas vacation. I've gotten to where I really enjoy watching our fair city fade into the rear-view mirror on that Friday evening, and I can literally feel my blood pressure going down as we see the first few isolated homes on the outskirts of Pine Mountain as we're driving in.

Highlights of the trip for me include the homemade chili mentioned above (we always rent a
cabin with a kitchen and a fireplace), breakfast at the Country Kitchen, riding the trolley through the Fantasy in Lights display, and spending time with Robyn and the kids as we explore the Day Butterfly House, Mr. Cason's Vegetable Garden, the Pioneer Log Cabin, and other fun attractions.

This trip is critical for me because it is important for us to get away from things from time to time. In this day of cell phones, Internet literally anywhere, computers, and television with hundreds of channels, we just need to pull back and detox sometimes. Gain perspective, and recharge the batteries.

My plans for this little two-day trip include nothing other than special family time. I will then use a good bit of my two-week vacation to plan out the first half of 2010 - including post topics for this blog.

As we head toward the Christmas holidays, I encourage you to get away (even if that just means shutting off all of the gadgets!), detox, and recharge for 2010. We'll talk more in the coming weeks about how to find smaller segments of this type of time each day. In the meantime, give yourself a rest -- you deserve it!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lieberman the Spoiler

With the health care debate front and center in the news we are seeing the effect one person can have in the United States Senate. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn) is now saying that he opposes an expansion of Medicare to include those between the ages of 55 and 64, much to the consternation of Democrats in Washington and throughout the country. Lieberman, who, although an Independent, usually votes with the Democratic Caucus, has threatened to filibuster with the Republicans should the expansion of Medicare be included in the current legislation.

As it stands now, Democrats will likely have to fashion the bill according to Lieberman's liking, which means that health care legislation will probably not include the Medicare changes or a public option.

It is certain that Lieberman, who had to leave the Democratic party in order to win re-election, is under tremendous pressure to fall in line with the caucus. It is equally likely that he will take considerable heat for his present stance, and will lose support from Democrats in the Senate as well as potential voters in his home state of Connecticut. However, it appears he is willing to risk both of these potentialities.

Leadership can sometimes be very lonely. When Abraham Lincoln proposed the infamous Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet during the Civil War, he allowed each member to voice their honest opinion as to whether it should be implemented. To a man, every person present stated emphatically that the proclamation should not be made and that the president should not free the slaves. In the end, however, President Lincoln stated that, although he appreciated their input, his vote was the only one that counted. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued and slavery ended in the United States.

When in a position of leadership, it is important to study the facts, get advice and input from a variety of sources, make a decision, and stick by it. No matter who you upset in the process.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Coming This Week

Look for the following posts this week:

Wednesday - Leadership Issues in the News

Friday - Recharge the Batteries

Saturday - The Leadership Genius of Harry Truman - Part I

Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Home Stretch!

Education is a cyclical business, and we are headed into the home stretch of our first semester. Teachers are busy preparing exams, students are cramming, and everyone is ready to bolt for the door Friday morning at 9:30!

It is always interesting to see the flurry of activity that comes with the onset of a long vacation (in our case, two weeks). There are things that simply must be done, and productivity goes way up when in this frame of mind.

Imagine if we could harness this energy on a daily basis. What if we worked every day as if vacation were about to begin and things absolutely had to get done? What if we planned and managed our time the way we do when we know we are going to be out of the office for an extended period? And, most importantly, what if we could get our employees to do the same?

I challenge you to approach your work tomorrow as if it were the day before vacation. Before going to bed tonight, prioritize and plan your time tomorrow carefully. Think on paper, and come up with a game plan. Approach your work with a sense of purpose, and don't waste a minute of the day. This will set the tone for your employees, who will feel your energy and sense of purpose and be more likely to follow your dynamic and energetic lead.

Let's use this hectic time of year to our advantage, and have it help us shape our daily work ethic and mindset. You will find that you get more done each day, have more energy, and generally feel better about yourself. You will also find that your energy and enthusiasm will be contagious, and your employees will begin to ramp up their work pace to match yours.

Here's hoping you have an energetic and productive work week!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Welcome to All Things Leadership! This new blog venture is designed to provide timely advice to those in leadership positions and aspiring leaders alike. We will not only discuss current leadership topics, but will look to the past at some of history's great leaders, learning how to apply their unique traits to 21st century challenges.

So, I invite you to add this blog to your Reader, bookmark it, or subscribe to it and join me in maximizing your leadership potential!

Happy Reading!