Thursday, January 25, 2018

Good Leadership: Am I Swimming Against the Current?

I recently asked myself, “Why do you try so hard to proselytize good leadership when every day our televisions scream with examples of bad leadership at the highest government and corporate levels?" It’s a reasonable question and I know that many of my friends, professional and personal alike, think I am on a Quixotic, albeit noble, quest without much hope of success.

Yes, I confess that many times it feels like I’m swimming against the current.  Do I get angry?  Do I feel frustrated?  Do I get tired?  The answer to all of these questions is “You bet I do!”
But then I find inspiration in the current cadre of women who are standing up and speaking out for good leadership and then running for political office in every level of government.   I’m inspired by women who are taking it to the mat in fighting against sexual harassment in the workplace.  And, I’m inspired by the grit and leadership of the woman who, even with facing the potential of losing her job, confronted her boss when she discovered his manipulation of quality improvement statistics. 

Yes! I get angry, I fell frustrated, and I get tired.  But my inspiration exceeds all these emotions.  For a better, saner, safer and more just world, we must all find the inspiration to forward good leadership at every level and venue of life.  There's just too much at stake not to do it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Change Your World: Normalize Good Leadership

Surveys that ask people about the attributes they want in a leader consistently present a different perspective than the usual dictionary definition of leadership as the act of cultivating and motivating people to achieve a common goal.  Instead, people say they want leadership that goes beyond an ethically neutral definition that neither endorses nor rejects the motivation strategy (e.g., using fear versus fact) or the outcome (e.g., service to others versus greed or power).   What people want are good leaders. Leaders who have both moral and technical excellence.

Honesty and trustworthiness, fairness and principled decision making, the exercise of self-control, and care about people and society are components of moral excellence; technical excellence includes ethical motivation and the accomplishment of a goal through ethical means.  The combination of both is called Good Leadership. 

Good leadership keeps on giving.  Studies show when good leadership is practiced there is better organizational health and the impact spreads to the individual and broader community. On the other hand, when leaders act without moral or technical excellence, their followers tend to imitate their behaviors with negative outcomes.  For instance, if leaders engage in disrespectful behaviors or are dishonest, it is likely their followers will engage in the same practices with co-workers and customers.

In today’s corporate and political world, it may seem that bad leadership is being normalized.  However, end-runs on good leadership are centuries old. To promote good leadership, the challenge for all of us is to normalize it by our own behavior and by demanding it of others.  While it may seem we are unable to change the world, we have it in our power to change OUR world...... and through a ripple effect normalize good leadership as the standard for the world to practice. 
Use the exercise below, adapted from my book Leadership Development for Healthcare: A Pathway, Process, and Workbook, to reflect upon your behaviors and how you practice good leadership that motivates and inspires others:

How often:

  • Can I be depended upon to complete tasks I promise to do?
  • Can I be trusted to tell the truth?
  • Do I listen to others ideas mindfully and non-judgmentally?
  • Do I ask others for their input?
  • Do I consider how others’ needs and rights will be affected before I make decisions?
  • Do I try to avoid short-cuts and do things in the right way?
  • Do I do I think about the consequences of my decisions?
  • Do I hold my temper when people disagree with me?
  • Do I hold other people accountable for their own behavior?
  • Do I make fair and balanced decisions?
  • Do I share my views with others on ethical behavior?
  • Do I balance my needs and rights with the needs and rights of others when I make decisions?
  • Do I balance the needs and rights of an individual with the needs and rights of others?

My book:  Leadership Development for Healthcare:  A Pathway, Process, and Workbook,  is available from AHIMA press and all online booksellers.  Visit for upcoming events for women and leadership.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Snapshot of Leadership Presence: A Personal Story

I had worked as a volunteer in a federal election campaign.  My volunteer activities were not glamorous, mostly doing phone bank calls for several weeks in the evening after work.  About a year after the election, this politician published a book and was doing book signings across the country.  One of these was scheduled to take place at a neighborhood Chicago book store, just a few blocks from my home. I had admired this official from afar, but never had met him, so I was excited to be able to attend his book signing. 

When I arrived at the venue it was packed with several hundred people.  Prior to the book signing, the politician gave a short presentation, but, although the presentation was very good, it wasn’t this that impressed me the most that evening.

After his speech, I stood in line along with the hundreds that were gathered, and about 30 minutes later I was face-to-face with the man I had worked so hard to get elected. 
As I stood at the signing table, I mentioned to him that I had worked the Chicago phone bank for his election.  Immediately, he turned away from the book he was signing, looked directly at me and engaged me in a conversation.  I will never forget those penetrating eyes!   He asked me about my volunteer experience and what kind of work I did, waited for my answers and responded so that I knew he had really listened to what I had shared.  

In those few moments I felt like I was the only one present in the room.  What impressed me was that his focus was on me; he didn’t seem distracted by the line of people waiting,  he listened attentively and was curious, and he authentically responded to me.

This is leadership presence:  focus, listening, observing, being open and curious, and responding authentically to people.

People with presence are better problem solvers, experience less stress, have more vitality, have increased job performance and, not surprisingly, have better relationships with people!  Research by Dr. Ellen Langer has also shown that women who practice mindfulness behaviors are more likely to overcome implicit biases that are associated with the Glass Ceiling. 

So take the “Presence Challenge” and be a better leader.  Make it a habit to be present for every conversation you have each day!  It makes a difference.

Get my new book:  Leadership Development for Healthcare:  A Pathway, Process, and Workbook.  Available from AHIMA press and all online booksellers.

(Look for more in 2018 from the Monarch Center at   A tuition-free MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on Developing the Habit of Leadership Presence will be open for registration in April).