August 12, 2014
Let’s Be Legendary
Recently I spoke at JoomlaDay Chicago and delivered the closing keynote with the topic ‘Let’s Be Legendary’. I was hoping to inspire, motivate, and challenge first myself and also everyone else who had attended. I’ve embedded the slides below in case there are others interested. Obviously something is missing when it’s not heard but hopefully the concepts will still carry through.
Let’s Be Legendary
We looked at 5 individuals who we would all agree are legendary figures. Each displayed a particular trait which we then focused on and discussed.
Mother Theresa: Be Caring
Our first case study was Mother Theresa. One of her defining character qualities was the way in which she cared for others. The characteristic to be caring was clearly evident throughout her life. We also noticed she focused on a humanitarian approach to improving society.
Steve Jobs: Be Passionate
Our second case study was Steve Jobs. Of course this talk was given at a tech event so most everyone in the room would agree he is indeed a legendary figure. One of Steve’s most recognized character qualities was his passion. It’s quite easy to watch his talks and recognize the importance of being passionate. Steve Jobs was focused on using technology to improve society, or as he put it, “make a dent in the universe.”
Helen Keller: Be Consistent
This third case study was a bit trickier to recognize from the photograph instantly however the individual is immediately recognized by name. Helen Keller demonstrated an incredible level of consistency in her advocacy for disabled people. Helen spent her entire life devoted to this cause and consistently focused on helping the disabled and improving society.
Bill Gates: Be Generous
Our fourth case study returned to a familiar face with Bill Gates. One of Bill’s most well-known character qualities and the focus of our fourth legendary trait is his generosity. Bill has begun a foundation (The Gates Foundation) dedicated to serving and assisting the underprivileged in society. He’s shown incredibly generosity in the amount of wealth he has freely donated and generously given to others. He has focused on improving society by generously helping the underprivileged.
Jackie Robinson: Be Courageous
The last of our case studies which we focused on looked at the life and legendary qualities of Jackie Robinson. Jackie demonstrated incredible courage in the face of extreme conflict as he fought for equality in the world of baseball. He is well-known for breaking the color barrier on the baseball field. Jackie’s strong advocacy for minorities greatly helped improve society.
Of course there are other legendary figures and role models and certainly other aspects of these 5 individuals which served to make them legendary. We’re merely focusing on 5 aspects. The next thing we discussed was how we could apply these legendary qualities to ourselves. This is a bit more difficult because we feel quite small and helpless as a single individual sometimes and question whether we can truly do any good as one person.
“A life is not important except for the impact it has on other’s lives.”
– Jackie Robinson
But we determined there is value in starting small. We must (as they say) grow where we’re planted to a degree and use our small, local sphere of influence to do our part in our quest to be legendary.
As we saw demonstrated by several of the individuals above the idea of staying strong, being consistent, being courageous all speak to the importance of staying strong. If we stay strong we will continue to grow towards our goal of being legendary.
One thing we see along the way is that if we are starting small and attempting to stay strong there will of course be trials and obstacles and difficulties we will face. Each of the 5 individuals we studied faced hardships. The key is to savor the successes. The small victories along the way. Then we are able to stay encouraged, stay positive and stay motivated.
The last step in our path to being legendary is to serve society. Find a way in which we can benefit others. As we progress in our talk this becomes something of an interesting point. We should stop and revisit the 5 legendary individuals we looked at in-depth. All of them focused on this aspect. Every single one was in some way focused on improving society. Changing the world.
This led to a revelation….
Their goal was never to be legendary. Their goal was to change the world. To focus on a particular area where they could impact people which ultimately impacted the world. Suddenly it becomes clear that perhaps the focus of our talk should be different. Rather than the goal to “be legendary” perhaps something else is more important. Perhaps our focus should be shifted slightly.
Let’s be something else. Let’s be leaders. But not just any leaders, leadership can take a variety of forms. The type of leader that we looked at in our case study focused on a particular goal. Perhaps a better title for our talk today would be the following:
Let’s Be Leaders for Social Good.
July 31, 2014
6 Ways Leaders Work
I’ve had opportunity to see a wide variety of leadership styles in the various open source communities and business environments I’ve joined. It’s interesting to watch how different leaders work and how they function. Each seem to have a slightly different opinion of what makes a strong leader and what character qualities are most desirable.
Of course leaders come in a variety of sizes and shapes (we’re all unique after all). And everyone has their own opinions of what makes a strong leader. Based on my experience I’d like to share 6 ways leaders work. There are of course others. I’m merely going to point to six which I’ve seen successful from personal experience watching various leaders.
One thing I’d say before beginning my list of six attributes is that I chose my title with purpose. Some would argue leaders don’t work but rather they lead. I would suggest that they are working but simply not in the same way as other team members. These tasks are definitely something which take time and effort and work. Regardless of whether you believe the leader is in the front, beside, or behind the team, a servant leader, or an outspoken forerunner these six ways still apply.
A Leader Identifies Needs and Problems
One of the ways a leader works is identifying needs and problems within a company or project. They must be able to objectively look inward and compare with competition and identify weaknesses (and strengths). I focus on the problems because its quite easy for most to see the positives and the successes. Similarly it’s easy for anyone to point at failures but identifying is more than just seeing them. Identifying implies an entire process of finding, prioritizing, and strategizing how each is handled and addressed. Some may need to be seen and ignored. Others may require immediate action. A good leader must identify each.
A Leader Recognizes Talent
Another important way a leader works in a company or community is through the process of recognizing talent in people. A leader must recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each person and help them find the best way in which they can achieve both personal success and professional success. Everyone has unique abilities and certain tasks which they will excel at performing. A strong leader pays attention to the individual. They care for the person and they work to place each person in the role which fits them. As I mentioned this is two-fold because not only must the individual find satisfaction but the overall business or community goals must also be accomplished. Finding the right fit can be a difficult and yet highly rewarding task.
A Leader Motivates and Inspires
A leader has to be always ready to motivate and inspire. When a need or problem has been identified the leader must be then able to motivate and inspire people to solve those problems. It’s not enough to simply identify problems or point to failures. A leader must be capable of motivating solutions to be found. When a leader helps the individual find tasks which suit their needs they also inspire them to make things happen. There is a sense of excitement conveyed by a leader who is capable of motivating and inspiring others.
A Leader Listens
A leader is not always the loudest voice in the room. Sometimes the best leaders are the ones who recognize the value in quiet listening. Participating in active listening (thinking about what’s being said and applying the information) is an important character quality which I’ve seen demonstrated by good leaders. They take the time to listen to the people around them. This helps them identify problems, recognize talent, and also learn how to better inspire people. Listening is often neglected in favor of talking. Strong leaders don’t just shout orders and point the way.
I still remember watching a man I considered a great leader stop before going to an important meeting to listen to an idea of someone else. He didn’t need to stop and I wondered whether he really had the time, but he was making a point. Each person matters and each opinion is important. A good leader listens as much as they talk.
A Leader Shares The Vision
One of the most exciting parts of a leader’s job is sharing the vision. A leader doesn’t have to necessarily create the vision, but many times they have the role of sharing that vision with others. This involves demonstrating a passion for the goals and the plan to accomplish them. I’ve heard it said that excitement can be contagious. A good leader is highly contagious. They want others to see what they see and they want to share the excitement.
This task of sharing a vision can be a difficult job at times. The energy required can be quite exhausting over time, and secondly sometimes personal opinions may differ from the vision. A good leader is able to put personal differences aside when the vision has been decided upon.
A Leader Supports and Encourages
A leader must be always ready to support and encourage those around them. They must endure with resolve. I think this one is sometimes a hard one for leaders. If you look at the previous points a leader must maintain excitement and share a vision, they must motivate and inspire, and they need to actively listen. these are all very physically and emotionally draining. But a leader must continue. Leaders must exhibit endurance to continue the encouragement throughout the project or job. A leader must keep going; past the initial rush and excitement which naturally comes with a new project or a new goal.
A leader must also be a cheerleader. Leaders listen and identify ways to support others through words, through actions, or through connection with others. This task is equally difficult because it requires persistence and patience.
I hope you have been able to identify some ways in which you are a strong leader and even maybe a few ways in which you can improve. I know just writing my thoughts down I see several areas where I can improve in my leadership skills. One this is quite evident as we look through these 6 ways. Leaders definitely work. They may not be completing the tangible tasks identified as milestones on a project but they are absolutely critical to its success.
What ways do you relate to as an individual? What are your leadership strengths? What are your weaknesses? Being able to define those ways you can improve is the first step to becoming a better leader.