Brand Book Bites from Do Lead
– the book: Do Lead: Share your vision. Inspire others. Achieve the impossible — a deceptively short and extremely practical read
– the brain: Les McKeown is one of the leading authorities on leadership today. Les has advised CEOs and senior leaders at Harvard University, American Express, T-Mobile,and Chevron; written 2 other fantastic books on leadership including the breakthrough text Predictable Success; and has started over 40 of his own companies. So, he has the real-world experience and know-how to deconstruct the topic of leadership and shed important light on how to lead.
– the best bits: Do Lead challenges many of myths about leadership out there today, offers up a more accurate and pragmatic definition of leadership, and relays relevant tools and steps to effective leadership. Here’s a sample of each:
Myth: “Leadership isn’t about genius. Leaders sometime come up with truly remarkable ideas…Sometimes, leadership is the opposite: eschewing the highly creative, knock-it-out-of-the-park blue-sky idea for the mundane; choosing between not very risky alternatives; or on occasion, simply making a statement of the bleeding obvious.”
Definition: “Leadership is helping any group of two or more people achieve their common goals…Leadership isn’t a self-contained, individual act — it only has validity when others are involved…Leadership happens not just in large organizations, but also in the smallest of groups…Leadership can happen in an instant…Leadership isn’t a permanent state. In a group or team, I might do something that is an act of leadership in one moment, and you might follow it with another…Leadership happens both formally and informally.”
Steps: How to influence groups and teams when you’re not their de facto leader:
Understand the cultural and political dynamics — look for signs that ‘leading’ from within is genuinely encouraged and accepted
Know your own style — leading from within requires…that your contribution is made in a natural, unforced manner that flows seamlessly with the ongoing discussion the team is having, and comes from a place of authority within you.
Match the issue under consideration to your style — focus specifically on those parts of the discussion to which you can speak most authoritatively
Watch for vacuums (dead spaces that must be filled for the enterprise to advance), blockages (something that is preventing us from making progress), and on- and off-ramps (an opportunity arises to take what you and your team are working on, link it to another activity, and create something more valuable in the process.
– the brand story: Les’s book concludes with four vignettes of leadership, so the “brand” stories are about the unexpected leaders of brands. One of them introduces Thomas, who at the age of five, decided he wanted his parents to adopt a younger brother from Russia. At first his parents dismissed his request as a far-fetched dream, but Thomas kept on bringing it up again and again. After years of hearing his plea, his parents started to explore the possibility and ended up making the adoption a mission for their family. After years of working through the system, they finally brought Nicholas into their home. But then Thomas decided there was some work left undone. He learned their were many more orphans like Nichols living in harsh conditions and so he launched what ended up become an annual Christmas Appeal to send show to the children in Nicholas’s former orphanage.
“At nine years of age, Thomas firmly believe he could make something happen in the world. By setting up a website, talking to the world through video about his passion, and making a specific and simple request of them (give me money to send shoes to orphans), he learned he could move people into taking action.”
What an inspirational story — and one that reveals what leadership really looks like.
– the bottom line: Do Lead is a handbook for anyone who wants to make a difference. You can read it in less than an hour but it will make a lasting impression.
Check out my interview with Les to learn:
- what are “not so random acts of leadership”
- how leadership from in front differs from leadership from within
- why leading within your own style is so important
other brand book bites: