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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Leadership Step by Step
Become the Person Others Follow
By Joshua Spodek
AMACOMCopyright © 2017 Joshua Spodek
All rights reserved.
The Personal Essay
I had met Frances Hesselbein when she spoke to my leadership class in business school but hadn't gotten to know her,
Frances rose from being a local Girl Scouts volunteer to serving as CEO of the national organization for 14 years, Turning the Girl Scouts around, among other achievements, won her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 21 honorary doctorates, and more, She's now the president and CEO of the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute (renamed in her honor from the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management). In short, I could learn a lot from her.
As it happened, I got my chance while writing this book, a decade after she spoke to my class. I reintroduced myself to her at Marshall Goldsmith's book launch. He's my mentor. She is his. We chatted, and she invited me for coffee at her Park Avenue office. Of course I accepted. To call the place impressive would understate what you see there: Her books translated into dozens of languages are framed on the tops of each wall. Below them are photographs of her with U.S. presidents, many-starred generals, and heads of industry. Around eye level are military swords glinting in the sun above framed notes from the dignitaries who gave them to her.
She sat me on her couch. An assistant set up her chair beside me, putting maybe two feet away a woman whom great leaders have called the best leader they've met. The chat I expected could have felt heavy, even intimidating. Her friendly, disarming smile masked the challenge of what she asked when she sat and looked me in the eye: "So, what do you want to talk about?"
I felt like it was a command performance and I was onstage. What do you say when one of the world's great leaders asks you to lead?
I had wondered this question for weeks, since she had invited me. Our only interaction between her business school talk and the book launch was online, when she tweeted about a blog post of mine — a pleasant surprise. I couldn't imagine how she found it. Six months later, I saw her at the book launch. We spoke briefly. (Me: "How did you know to tweet about my post?" Her: "Oh, yes, I have a girl who does that.") She lived up to her gracious reputation, emptying her purse on a library table to find me her business card. People must have wondered who the young man getting her attention was.
I accepted the invitation for coffee enthusiastically. Only when preparing to go did I think about what to say — not so easy with a Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree. My first thought was to ask for tips on leading, but I didn't want to waste her time with what I could read in her books. What could I talk about when I barely knew her? Then I remembered, "Wait a minute. I teach this!"
My leadership course includes teaching how to make meaningful connections. I call the exercise, which is in this book, Meaningful Connection. I've taught and practiced it for years, maybe not with people who hang out in the White House, but I still knew what to do.
That's the value of technique. You can fall back on it when you don't know what to do, which calmed me — even in the high-ceilinged marble lobby when the guard reinforced her status: "Frances? Yeah, she's big. Four-star generals wait for her. General Shinseki waited over there."
If I did not have a technique, her question in that office would have made me nervous. Instead, I knew what to say. "I feel like leadership is a passion of yours," I began, leading into the exercise. The conversation lasted over two hours — well beyond the originally scheduled 30 minutes. She took me to lunch, where everyone treated her with reverence. We talked about leadership; service; passion; teaching; the "hallowed ground" of West Point, where she teaches and speaks regularly; and her friendship with Alan Mullaly, the former CEO of Ford. Eventually, her assistant interrupted us to insist we finish because her next appointment was waiting.
"I don't remember a more delightful conversation," she said as we wrapped up. She was fascinating, insightful, charming, and generous. Not only did she answer in few words questions that I had pondered for years — that's the value of experience — but she invited me to West Point; referred me to a retired general who ran one of its leadership programs; and referred me to the editor of her institute's journal, Leader to Leader. The technique worked. I knew what to say and how to behave to make the opportunity enjoyable and productive for both of us.
A decade before, such an interaction would have paralyzed me with anxiety.
In fact, one did, eight years earlier. The author of a book I liked was speaking at a panel near me. Business school had instilled in me the imperative to network, so I felt compelled to use the opportunity to meet him. I attended and worked up the nerve to approach him after he spoke.
I said, "Hi, my name is Josh. I wanted to tell you that your book meant a lot to me and I wanted to thank you for writing it."
"Thank you," he replied.
My mind then raced to find something to say — anything — but came up with nothing. We stared at each other awkwardly for 10 or 15 seconds that felt like a year.
Needing to end the discomfort, I said, "Well, great to meet you," and walked away. I didn't get anything out of the conversation, and he probably thought I was weird.
I had taken leadership courses at a top business school, but learning about leadership didn't mean learning to lead. For all the theory the school taught, I didn't have the skills or experience to handle my emotions or inner monologue. How many connections had I missed or flubbed?
What changed between my anxious failure with the author and confident success with Frances?
Three things. First, relevant experience. I lived the experience that the exercises in this book will give you. I learned what works and how to do it, not just to talk about it.
Second, I led hundreds of clients and students through the exercises online at NYU, Columbia Business School, and private firms. I developed the leadership equivalent of piano scales so you can reproduce my results in months instead of years and without wasted effort. All of that teaching and coaching reinforced what I learned, which gave me more experience and confidence.
Third, I learned to create opportunity and to enjoy relationships with the people I met, not for their status or what they could do for me. I learned to enjoy myself while getting more done with less effort. I'd become more resolute, deliberate, and disciplined.
My editor will say, "Josh, don't tell them about these changes in your life. Show them through stories." This book does more — what no leadership book I know does. It will lead you through the same transformations. So you'll meet your equivalents of White House honorees; know what to say to them; and develop your confidence, authentic voice, and ways to inspire.
The Personal Essay Exercise
Acting without direction can lead you to work hard and go nowhere, so let's start with direction.
What to Do
The first exercise is to write a personal essay on leadership and why you decided to follow this course of exercises. The personal essay has three goals:
1. To lead you to reflect on yourself and leadership
2. To direct and clarify your focus for the course
3. To record your perspective to hold yourself accountable to it
I recommend writing 500 to 1,000 words, but write as much as you like. Show it to others or not as you like, although the more you share, the more people can connect with you and help if you're open to it. Perhaps most importantly, sharing gives you accountability to someone else.
To help focus you, at the end of your essay, I recommend writing a message explaining the value of taking a Method Learning course on leadership. I suggest a few sentences beginning with "Doing a course of exercises like this is valuable because ..."
You can write about what you want, but some questions and topics to consider include:
* What motivated you to do this book's exercises?
* What do you expect to gain from the experience?
* What motivated you to pursue leading in general?
* What do you think about leadership?
* What are your models for leadership?
* Who are your role models?
* What works for you when you lead? What doesn't?
* Where do you want to apply your leadership skills?
* What is your history with leadership — first memories, best and worst memories, and so on?
* What is the value in doing these exercises?
After writing your essay, I recommend sleeping on it, rereading it, and editing it. Even if you don't plan to show it to anyone else, the process leads you to reflect.
Now it's time to resist the urge to continue reading and to start your first exercise. Some relevant words on introspection and leadership from Isabeaux, an undergraduate who took my course:
To be honest, I was initially frustrated with the class, but as a couple classes passed by, and alongside many of the exercises Josh had us undergo, I was able to realize that my "frustration," was in fact my body reacting to being placed outside of its comfort zone. Usually whenever I am bothered or irritated by something, it is actually addressing something within me that I am either neglecting or denying. Josh's course and homework was synonymous with my daily and personal life — a rare experience in a traditional academic setting. ... His exercises forced me to think extremely introspectively about my life — leading me to change many previous staunch and unnecessary beliefs I held.
Congratulations on finishing the first exercise!
I hope you found it simple and that it helped focus your thoughts on leadership and yourself. If it seemed too simple, don't worry, things will pick up soon. You'll use this benchmark over the course to help measure and direct your work.CHAPTER 2
Perception, Focus, and Attention
Most people would envy Greg's life. He's a former coaching client and the CFO of a major media company in New York City. He graduated from Stanford as an undergraduate and got an MBA from Columbia.
He has a loving and supportive wife and a teenage son with good grades. When we met, he was in his mid-50s, still rising in his already successful career.
In our first call, he told me his immediate reason for coaching: his CEO. He told me that he and most of his coworkers were frustrated with the CEO's leadership, but his strong relationships with the board and investors meant he wasn't going anywhere. The company was also close to an exit, so many employees, including Greg, felt motivated to stay for the likely cash payout, although how much longer, no one knew. As a separate issue, he told me that he considered himself too quick to anger and wanted to learn to handle his emotions more effectively.
Greg's longer-term reason for coaching was the second-most powerful thing I heard him say:
If I continue on this path, in 10 years I'm going to retire rich, successful, and with no idea what my life was about. Despite succeeding in every measurable aspect of life and having access to every resource our society offers, he couldn't figure out what it all meant.
I suggested that material and external resources may not have been what was missing — which he knew anyway — but that new experiences could teach him what reading, listening, and other passive learning couldn't. He had to experience that meaning, value, importance, purpose, and self-awareness arose from motivations, relationships, and emotions, not the intellect. I think it helped him to hear that he could develop empathy, compassion, intuition, and similar qualities from someone with as analytical a background as a Ph.D. in the abstract field of physics. If someone like that could get this stuff, so could he.
He told me that he would talk it over with his wife before signing on. By the next week, they had talked, she had agreed, and we started.
We began by focusing on his relationship with his CEO with exercises in this book on perception, focus, and awareness. He made significant progress. For example, although he couldn't change much of the CEO's behavior, he learned to manage how he responded. He began to live it. He became more calm at work, he told me, and less reactive to his CEO. Colleagues saw the change and started reporting unofficially to him instead of the CEO. Board members and investors met with him more. He kept the CEO in the loop, avoiding surprises or other relationship problems.
A little over six months into our work, Greg told me about a conversation at home:
My wife, son, and I were talking after dinner. Something came up. The details aren't important, but I could see why it would annoy my son. But he didn't just get annoyed. He flew off the handle. I mean really angry.
I said, "Son, what's gotten into you? I can see why you would be annoyed, but there's no reason to get this angry."
And he said, "But, Daddy, that's what you would do."
Greg paused. Maybe he was just collecting his thoughts, but the effect was to make his son's words repeat in my mind: But Daddy, that's what you would do.
Josh, I can discipline my boy for misbehaving, but not for emulating his father. And the thing is, for all I know he's behaved and said things like this before. I just don't know. I never noticed.
That was the most powerful thing I heard him say.
No parent wants a legacy like an angry son. Greg loved the boy and gave him the best life he could, but his lack of awareness was undermining his effort. Coaching awoke him to what his eyes and ears sensed but his mind didn't process because his focus and attention were elsewhere. He told me how questions flooded his mind: How many times had he reacted with too much anger in front of his son? What else had he taught his son without realizing? What else had he missed his son saying? Could he change? If so, how?
We all do what Greg did. We have goals and try to ignore distractions. Focus helps us achieve the goal, but it doesn't give us extra attention. We sacrifice it elsewhere, usually unknowingly, precisely because we aren't paying attention to where we sacrifice it. Learning about focus, attention, and perception in the abstract doesn't translate to improving your focus, attention, or perception any more than learning about the piano in the abstract helps you play music. You only experience what you miss when you focus your attention back there, even your relationship with your son.
Seeing what he was missing led us to work on it and awoke Greg to areas of his life that he had unconsciously made "elsewhere" — family in particular and relationships in general. He also felt the difference between learning abstractly versus through experience. He had known abstractly to pay attention to his son before the incident. He didn't know how to do it.
Soon after, instead of asking or wondering what his life was about, he told me.
The Three Raisins Exercise
Every leader I've heard say anything about self-awareness describes it as fundamental to leadership and growth. Every system of leadership, professional development, or personal development I've seen has some concept of self-awareness at its foundation. Yet most people don't know what it means — those who lack it most more than anyone.
Talking, reading, or being lectured about self-awareness doesn't help you increase it. Experience does. We'll start with an exercise in awareness of our senses, which later exercises will extend to awareness of other parts of ourselves. This chapter's exercise starts you off more effectively than any other I know. It comes from one of the premier figures in mindfulness today, Jon Kabat-Zinn's book Coming to Our Senses. Many who finished this book's exercises consider it the cornerstone, as do I.
When I teach the course in person and assign the exercise, I ask my students if it sounds odd. Many say yes. The next week, after they've done it, I ask if I should assign it the next year even if it seemed weird when they heard it. They always say yes.
It will also introduce many of you to the value of Method Learning — that is, you'll find yourself learning things doing the exercises that you never could from someone telling you.
What to Do
1. Get three raisins. You can use raisin-sized pieces of other fruit if you prefer.
2. Block off an hour when you can turn off your phone and other distractions. You won't take that long, but the cushion keeps you from feeling rushed.
3. During that hour, put the three raisins in front of you and eat them as follows:
Imagine you've never seen one before.
Observe it with all your senses in turn. Look at it — its folds, its color, and so on. Feel it in your fingers, how it moves when you press on it. Try to detect if it has a smell. Taste it before you bite into it and then after. Feel how it dissolves in your mouth. Hear its sound if you drop it on a plate. And so on with all your senses.
Excerpted from Leadership Step by Step by Joshua Spodek. Copyright © 2017 Joshua Spodek. Excerpted by permission of AMACOM.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Unit 1 Understanding Yourself 1
Chapter 1 The Personal Essay 3
Chapter 2 Perception, Focus, and Attention 10
Chapter 3 Inner Monologue 20
Chapter 4 Write Your Beliefs 30
Chapter 5 Write Others' Beliefs 41
Unit 2 Leading Yourself 51
Chapter 6 Unwanted Beliefs 53
Chapter 7 Authentic Voice 64
Chapter 8 Adopt a New Belief 73
Chapter 9 Adopt a Challenging Belief 86
Chapter 10 No, But, However 93
Chapter 11 Avoid Imposing Values 99
Chapter 12 Feedforward 106
Unit 3 Understanding Others 119
Chapter 13 Write Your Models for Leadership and Emotion 121
Chapter 14 The Model 128
Chapter 15 The Method 139
Chapter 16 The Method, More Challenging 155
Unit 4 Leading Others 167
Chapter 17 Meaningful Connection 169
Chapter 18 Make People Feel Understood 186
Chapter 19 Lead with Empathy 202
Chapter 20 Inspire 217
Chapter 21 Support and Manage 228
Chapter 22 Next Steps 238