Saturday, November 20, 2010

The When of Leadership

This post began as “Is Everyone a Leader?.” I quickly realized that this is truly determined though the crashing together of needed skills, desire or duty, the situation, and timing.

John Wayne typically played characters that are leaders – people follow him over the hill or turn to him for “The Plan.”

To the contrary, Leonardo DiCaprio's character Jack Dawson in Titanic rose to the occasion during the cruse. If he had taken the boat before or after the Titanic, would Dawson have made it to the First Class Deck and had a life changing effect on a rich girl?

Does the situation create the leader – even for those 'natural' or 'born' leaders? Being in the right place at the right time certainly has some weight.

I can recall a recently graduated MBA – top school, great student, head of the class – who joined my organization and spent several frustrating years casting about trying to be a leader with no success. He certainly had the training and abilities for the task, but was unsuccessful in bringing it off – during this period there was just no compelling situation which required a new leader to step forward.

On the other hand, during an early game in the 2004 ACC Basketball Tournament when the team was trailing, John Gilchrist slapped the floor and took leadership of the team – it was electric! Through his playing, encouragement of his team-mates, and creating a shared vision that the trophy was theirs, the University of Maryland basketball team won the 2004 ACC Basketball Championship. Gilchrist rose to the occasion and was clearly the leader at the tournament, but did not serve that role either before or after. Timing...the right circumstances...each member of the team playing above their best effort...all brought together under his leadership.

Leadership in an organization is 'assigned' to certain positions or titles – a team captain and  a company CEO are expected to be leaders. Often, situations develop which require a leader to address the situation or circumstance – either immediate or ongoing – and a person steps up to take the role. There is no magic pill here – the individual needs to have the traits & skills necessary to pull this off, but like Dawson (mentioned above), it just doesn't work too well if you missed the boat or took an earlier one.

The WHEN of leadership is an interesting issue – and there are many, many stories and examples of ordinary people rising to the situation at hand to become leaders.

This topic will become very rich and insightful through the sharing of such stories – PLEASE add a comment below with your favorite example of a 'made leader.'  By doing so, we may better understand the common elements and can apply this knowledge to develop potential leaders.

Presentations you might find useful:
Talk Your Business How to make more and better sales right away!
December 7th, 7:30am to 9:00, Intelligent Office, Alexandria

How to Scale Your Organization - Build, Borrow, Buy
Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Gibbs Rules – Leadership by the Numbers?

Leroy Jethro Gibbs heads up the high performance field team of misfits for NCIS. How does he get extraordinary results week after week? Rules, feedback, and required growth for his staff.

Gibbs, a former Marine sniper demonstrates his personal competence and skill through results – not the least of which was shifting from a loner to a leader. His band of 'unique individuals' include: a vain DiNozzo adverse to scutt-work; McGee – a tentative agent and computer geek; Ziva - a Mossad trained assassin; Ducky with his constant stream of inane facts; and Abby - a goth gal with a big heart. That aside, each of these folks is brilliantly competent and extremely dedicated to the success of the team in getting results – catching the bad guys. And, they would do anything for Gibbs.


Gibbs focuses on the talents and skills of the people on his team and expects the best from them at all times, regardless of personal foibles.

Gibbs has rules – he follows them and he teaches them to his staff. Short...Practical...Memorable...they are reinforced by Gibbs and by the staff to each other. These rules are NOT written and posted on some wall or in a manual. They are shared as needed verbally. Gibbs says there are 51 rules and it is his job to teach them. In doing so he does not do their job for the staff nor tell them the one right way – to the contrary he presses for their view of the issue and how the team will solve it.

Gibbs puts each of his staff into challenging spots for growth and development – uncomfortable for them but shows they can do it. However, like a father running behind a child riding a two-wheel bike for the first time, Gibbs will appear and help out IF needed.

What keeps the rules alive is feedback – a slap on the back of the head as a wake-up call or his brief acknowledgment of a job well done – WHEN IT IS – each emphasize the validity of the rule.

Are the rules some kind of magic? Some secret of a world order? You decide – here's some of them:

Rule #1 Never let suspects stay together.

Rule #1 (yes there are two #1s) Never screw over your partner.

Rule #7 Always be specific when you lie.

Rule #9 Never go anywhere without a knife.

Rule #15 Always work as a team.

Rule #38 Your case, your lead.

Rule #45 Clean up the mess you make.

Rule #51 Sometimes – You're wrong.

And the unwritten rule is Family ALWAYS comes first!

Short – Sweet – To the Point... Applicable to the work they do.

Is this just a fictional account of a TV series or the chronicle of a true leader?

Do you know of a leader in an organization who is like Gibbs?

I would like to acknowledge the efforts of the many contributors to the collections of Gibbs Rules; here are several links for more details:

Comprehensive footnoted list -
Annotated list -
List with explanatory notes -

Other presentations you might enjoy:
Talk Your Business How to make more and better sales right away!
December 7th, 7:30am to 9:00, Intelligent Office, Alexandria

How to Scale Your Organization - Build, Borrow, Buy
Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville

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Monday, November 1, 2010

The Bright White Stripe on My Porch

A guy rang my doorbell the other day – with a generic spray-bottle and a couple of brushes, he completely filled the 10-minutes we spent together with talk, questions, and product demonstrations.

This guy was selling a liquid cleaner door-to-door.

He introduced himself, told me why he was there, and that he was selling the best cleaner in the world.

Then he pointed to my cement stoop, said it was moldy and dirty and asked me to watch this: he sprayed the liquid and used his wire brush to scrub down to a stripe of clean white cement. He kept up a constant stream of talk about the benefits and results of using this cleaner and showed proof on that stoop.

He took me down to the car, asking what was the most difficult thing to clean on the car (wheels). So he squirted his stuff on the wheel and made the spot shine. Then he did a section of the window, the bricks on the wall, and even a portion of the sole on my sneakers. All bright and clean.

When asked about why the cleaner worked so well, he answered by giving a brochure with details about what is in the cleaner while he kept talking about the benefits and results that I was seeing.

He opened his order-book and quoted the price ($48 per quart) and said it is concentrated - makes gallons, and pointed out several order forms from neighbors in the community.

This guy knew his product. He spoke only about benefits and demonstrated results – all from the viewpoint me getting something cleaned. He provided 'evidence' that others had purchased from him and that he would immediately provide the product right on the spot. When we were done, he thanked me and was gone. But I have reminders of the visit with several little clean areas – like the bright white stripe.

He never once claimed he had some Sales Award, or about the history and accomplishments of the firm, or about the thousands of bottles of stuff he has sold, or that he was only one sale away from getting a trip to somewhere.

The number of door-to-door sales has been increasing lately – an old fashioned means of making sales, which - although labor intensive - can be effective even today.

What if sales conversations were based on the principles that this cleaner guy executed so naturally? Does your customer have a need? Do you have a solution? Can you communicate the benefit and results FOR THE CUSTOMER from your solution without a bunch of other noise?

Please join us for:
Talk Your Business - How to make more and better sales right away! Wednesday, November 10th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville, and
How to Scale Your Organization - Build, Borrow, or Buy? Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville