Friday, January 2, 2009

Everyone is talking - is anyone listening?

Or better yet, is anyone taking real action?

I have just received an invite from an associate who asked me to join him in a particular online social network.  While he is a good friend, I turned him down.

I denied his request for the simple reason that this is the 15th or 20th business network that he has become a member of and which he has asked me to join.

One of the social networks was particularly humorous, suggesting that membership was extremely exclusive.  I found the claim to be interesting, until I turned down invitations from approximately 1,000 people over a two week period from the same exclusive network.  Exclusive indeed!

Online social networks can be incredibly empowering when used appropriately.  However, when one becomes the member of so many social groups that they spend more time maintaining memberships in them (or joining new ones) instead of contributing to their network, harvesting results from the network or living a productive life that makes a difference, then something dysfunctional is in progress.  Many partners of such people have become "social network widows", as their significant other spends more time joining the latest social network or inviting everyone they know to the latest network rather than spending time working towards their purpose and passion with the people who really matter.

I overheard with amusement and sadness recently as two people compared notes on which social networks each belonged to and why the other person simply had to join networks "x, y and z".  As they each suggested the reasons for being part of these networks (friendship, romance, learning, etc), it became clear that maintaining the networks had become so complex that they were not obtaining and value from nor contributing any value to the networks that they belonged to.  The number of networks and the number of connections within the network had become more important than the reason you network in the first place - for collaboration through knowledge and contact sharing.

Occasionally, you see contests where people are striving to get "x" thousand new contacts the fastest.  Once they have reached the number, the network offers little of substance, outside of an ego boost.

Today we can even get software to help us manage all of our social networks.  It reminds me of the experts who come in and optimize your closet space, to help you find better ways to organize your "stuff".  Maybe instead of finding ways to store more stuff, we just need less of it in our lives in the first place.

I think the same thing applies to a number of conversations around leadership that I have listened to lately.

Some have conjectured lately that the reason so many challenges have arisen in our world (whether ecological, social, economic, governmental, etc) is that our leadership inventory is not as strong as it used to be.

People are also talking about the need to get back to classic values - a sense of purpose, vision, trust, respect and collaboration.

I believe that our leadership inventory is as strong as ever and that the "classic" leadership values are as prolific as ever, but we are spending too much time talking about them and for a variety of reasons, we are not taking action.

If you follow groups like Twitter, there is a lot of chatter about leadership principles.  If you are a member of LinkedIn, there are an incredible number of leadership experts.  Surely with 30 million (the number of LinkedIn members) leadership experts sharing their knowledge, the problems of the world must be practically solved by now.  :-)

Conversation around leadership is excellent and necessary.  However, when the conversation becomes a circular, never-ending conversation where the knowledge of 10,20,50,100 or more years ago keeps being released by the "experts" as the "be-all, end-all secret just discovered", one has to wonder if the greatest challenge in leadership is not a lack of leaders and the knowledge of how to lead but just a lack of execution.

So while there is an incredible amount of wonderful dialog taking place about leadership principle, skills, knowledge, etc., I think we need stop hoping things get better by merely talking about it and instead, let's focus on achieving results through action.

Even if the action produces a less than desirable result, it will at least teach you something you need do address differently the next time.

True leadership is difficult.  It takes courage, perseverance, purpose, mission and a willingness to sometimes swim against the tide of commonly accepted thought.  Leadership also requires humility, diplomacy (most times), dictatorial decision making (sometimes) and a knowledge of knowing when to lead and when to relinquish command to a more enabled individual.

However, when the true leaders don't stand up and the void is filled with the leader-wannabes who fill the gap with self-proclaimed "secrets to leadership", we can get overwhelmed with too much informational noise.  Such noise causes us to forget that while knowledge is important, at some point, we have to say "I know enough to at least get started" and take our first tentative steps towards our purpose, vision, mission and goals.  This applies to us personally as well as professionally.

We are all leaders with different levels of capability and leadership maturity.  Many of us would be surprised to realize that we have a lot more knowledge about being leaders than we give ourselves credit for.

Let's apply that knowledge in our environment, whether it be the workplace, the home, the community or the planet and start making a difference. 

If you think you need more leadership knowledge, you will discover you learn a lot more through application and collaboration than you do from just studying the experts.

What will separate people and organizations who are successful in our interesting times will be those who embrace proper leadership values, collaborate with others who are similar and take action. 

Are you ready to be successful (however you measure success)?  Do you have a passion for manifesting your purpose?  Do you have the drive to push forward and the humility to know when to relinquish control?

Do want to accomplish something so badly, you will do whatever it takes to get it done?

Excellent - then please stand up and start executing.  The world is eagerly awaiting "your arrival".

In service and servanthood.



  1. Yeah, leadership execution is often lost unfortunately.

    In the area of Solution Architecture, I sum up Leadership in the ability to a) Positively Influence and b) enable Self-Empowerment in myself and others. I attribute this understanding almost entirely to your teachings. :)

    Although many consider a successful leader as one who is influential this is a slippery slope b/c it can be misused. Daniel Goleman's EQ is one such concept that can be totally misused. Some may take 'resonating' as the only thing a Leader must be concerned with. Although being able to resonate is a core skill, it could be used without the ability to empower others, therefore, resonating alone is an incomplete Leader.

    I like the idea to help mitigate this problem, although not solving entirely, is the responsibility of Leaders to grow Leaders. When I think of myself as a Leader, one of the measurements of successfully delivering as a Leader is determining if I'm spending time empowering Leaders (referencing the self-empowerment responsibility of Leaders), not just focusing on my acheivements being positively influential.

    So, although I agree with the purpose of this post regarding leadership execution, I think having some sort of description and measurement of leadership is important to not overlook the value of measuring Leadership with the purpose of manageing leadership and, therefore, keep leaders growing rather than unintentionally them getting misdirected. Maybe via a skill set, maybe a set of certifications, maybe a track record, maybe personal references, whatever.

    I'm curious if you've done some work to compile a list of Leadership measures. I'm particularly interested in such a list to help me apply it to the Solution Architect discipline.

    Thanks, as always, for your support and dedication to the cause. I'm always grateful.


  2. Hey Gabriel,

    You humble me with your comments, Gabriel. Thank you! Thank you also for your insightful observations.

    Your observation about leaders creating leaders is an important one to note. Many times this doesn't happen because the leader is either:

    1. Too busy or disorganized to recognize the importance of this aspect of a leader's responsibility

    2. Not humble enough to recognize the fact that the true legacy of a leader is when he / she incubates a stronger generation of leaders than the original leader.

    Measurement of leadership and particularly, measurement of the influence (positive and negative) that a leader has on his / her team is possible. I have been working with a number of organizations to ascertain a number of measurable items in this area, specifically around:

    1. Leadership growth within the leader him/herself

    2. Leadership growth within the team influenced by the leader

    3. Overal productivity levels within the leader's team.

    It's too complex to explain in a blog comment. I will condense my work in this area and will shoot you a private email shortly.

    Thank you for everything you do, Gabriel. Your teams benefit from your personal and professional insight.

    Take care,


  3. Thank you! This was exactly what I needed to read! I set out to help conserve the beauty of our world through outdoor education/exposure and photography and yet, lately I find myself drained, spending lots of time in front of my computer screen due to the pressure to "network" to get my work seen. There have been benefits- I'm "meeting" some wonderful, inspiring people and exchanging valuable ideas. However I've felt torn, that tug from nature wondering why I don't come visit as often lately... How can I share passionate enthusiasm about the beauty of the outdoors if I'm not in them enough to fuel my own fire? While I don't know that I've got the balance all figured out for myself and my work, you have have reminded me that the "doing" side deserves more attention than the "talking" side of the equation. Again, thank you.

  4. Hi Kenna,

    Thank you for your very kind comment.

    While talking about stuff can inspire others, when we talk too much, it is easy to get drained and therefore we can't inspire others or fulfill our purpose.

    "Doing" allows us to get recharged while giving us the fuel to be an inspiration to others.

    By the way, your photography is beautiful. Here's a shameless plug for your wonderful website -


    Take care and keep doing the beautiful things you are doing, Kenna.