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Archives ~ April 2014 Entries

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The Better Angels of Our Nature

Dr. Foster Mobley // History, Sports, Wisdom Leading

This weekend, it was revealed that Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling had been taped recently making horrifyingly racist statements to his girlfriend. Let's leave retribution to the National Basketball Association or the fans, because I want to use this opportunity to talk about what may be the leader's greatest responsibility. It's been said that leaders don't get a day off-that we have to show up prepared to lead. What does that really mean? It means that as leaders, it's our duty to demonstrate the qualities of character and behavior that we want our people to aspire to for themselves. We can't just talk about presence, clarity, calm and trust; we have to live them, to embody them every single day. The led always mirror the leader. If we want our people to reach their full potential, our most important task is to reach our full potential and make sure those qualities permeate everything we say and do. That's how we inspire others to bring forth, as Lincoln called them, "the better angels of our nature." Doing that isn't easy. We're not machines. Sometimes we fall short. Sterling fell far short, and showed that while he may be the team's owner, he's not its leader. His disgrace reminds us that money, titles and executive authority have nothing to do with leadership. Character does. How does your behavior, even in quiet moments, reveal your character and commitment to greatness?

This weekend, it was revealed that Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling had been taped recently making horrifyingly racist statements to his girlfriend. Let's leave retribution to the National Basketball Association or the fans, because I want to use this opportunity to talk about what may be the leader's greatest responsibility.

It's been said that leaders don't get a day off-that we have to show up prepared to lead. What does that really mean? It means that as leaders, it's our duty to demonstrate the qualities of character and behavior that we want our people to aspire to for themselves. We can't just talk about presence, clarity, calm and trust; we have to live them, to embody them every single day.

The led always mirror the leader. If we want our people to reach their full potential, our most important task is to reach our full potential and make sure those qualities permeate everything we say and do. That's how we inspire others to bring forth, as Lincoln called them, "the better angels of our nature."

Doing that isn't easy. We're not machines. Sometimes we fall short. Sterling fell far short, and showed that while he may be the team's owner, he's not its leader. His disgrace reminds us that money, titles and executive authority have nothing to do with leadership. Character does.

How does your behavior, even in quiet moments, reveal your character and commitment to greatness? 

4.28.14 0
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What If Inspiring Others is a Fool?s Chore?

Dr. Foster Mobley // Sports, Wisdom Leading

A default value is a setting automatically assigned to a piece of software or electronic device so that, if someone like me makes a dumb choice, it resets to the way it's supposed to work. Sadly, the default value of many leaders dealing with underperformance is a cult-like devotion to the concept of motivation - that is, how do we better motivate others (or inspire, convince, tease out the next level of potential) we believe are capable of more? Want proof? How about the millions of acres of forests stripped of trees to make the countless number of books on the topic, or the tens of thousands of hours of motivational speakers in front of audiences, talking to them about personal power and changing their lives? Virtually no one has been immune. With all that, shouldn't everybody's life be changed by now? Shouldn't we all be leaping tall buildings in a single bound? I'm a sucker for every Rudy movie too, but in my opinion, that "superman" description doesn't explain how most of us behave. Motivation is important, vital in fact. But the prime directive* of human behavior is purpose, not words shouted from the outside of us. Meb Keflexighi, yesterday's winner of the Boston Marathon, didn't need much "pumping up" from a vocal leader. His winning drive came from within himself, from his strong will to win and his passion to honor the victims of the 2013 bombing whose names he had written on his race bib. Each of us has passions and visions and dreams. They may be a little dusty, or small, but they are there. Wise leaders help others reconnect to what's important to them (and possibly forgotten). The "inspirational leader" to me is someone who helps others remove things that are obscuring their own visions and purpose, not someone standing on the outside providing the perfect words to pump them up. What's in your way of full passion and performance? What role can you play in helping others reconnect to theirs? * Prime directive = the most important rule or law, which must be obeyed above all others.

A default value is a setting automatically assigned to a piece of software or electronic device so that, if someone like me makes a dumb choice, it resets to the way it's supposed to work. Sadly, the default value of many leaders dealing with underperformance is a cult-like devotion to the concept of motivation - that is, how do we better motivate others (or inspire, convince, tease out the next level of potential) we believe are capable of more?

Want proof? How about the millions of acres of forests stripped of trees to make the countless number of books on the topic, or the tens of thousands of hours of motivational speakers in front of audiences, talking to them about personal power and changing their lives? Virtually no one has been immune. With all that, shouldn't everybody's life be changed by now? Shouldn't we all be leaping tall buildings in a single bound?

I'm a sucker for every Rudy movie too, but in my opinion, that "superman" description doesn't explain how most of us behave.

Motivation is important, vital in fact. But the prime directive* of human behavior is purpose, not words shouted from the outside of us. Meb Keflexighi, yesterday's winner of the Boston Marathon, didn't need much "pumping up" from a vocal leader. His winning drive came from within himself, from his strong will to win and his passion to honor the victims of the 2013 bombing whose names he had written on his race bib.

Each of us has passions and visions and dreams. They may be a little dusty, or small, but they are there. Wise leaders help others reconnect to what's important to them (and possibly forgotten). The "inspirational leader" to me is someone who helps others remove things that are obscuring their own visions and purpose, not someone standing on the outside providing the perfect words to pump them up.

What's in your way of full passion and performance? What role can you play in helping others reconnect to theirs?

* Prime directive = the most important rule or law, which must be obeyed above all others.

4.22.14 2
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Climbing Trees

Dr. Foster Mobley // Sports, Wisdom Leading

According to that sage source for all things Spring, HGTV, it's now tree climbing season around the country. After a rough winter, the cold weather is finally receding and children are taking to the trees in their backyards, schoolyards and parks. But why do children love to climb trees? Part of it is the daring risk of a fall; the adrenaline of dangling eight feet off the grass, pretending to be a monkey, that gives them a thrill. But it's also the ability to view the world from a different perspective. Children are generally looking up on the adults who rule their world, but in a tree, they become taller. They look down on us, on rooftops, on cars, on everything. Every time you change the point from which you view the world, you change your perspective on what you're seeing. When was the last time you climbed a tree? More to the point, when was the last time you got a radically different perspective on your world? We can all use one from time to time; we're prone to believing that our way of seeing things is the only way. It's not, and standing taller or looking around from a different angle can change everything. If you haven't tried it, try it. Last time you looked at the world from a different point of view, what did you learn?

According to that sage source for all things Spring, HGTV, it's now tree climbing season around the country. After a rough winter, the cold weather is finally receding and children are taking to the trees in their backyards, schoolyards and parks.

But why do children love to climb trees? Part of it is the daring risk of a fall; the adrenaline of dangling eight feet off the grass, pretending to be a monkey, that gives them a thrill. But it's also the ability to view the world from a different perspective. Children are generally looking up on the adults who rule their world, but in a tree, they become taller. They look down on us, on rooftops, on cars, on everything. Every time you change the point from which you view the world, you change your perspective on what you're seeing.

When was the last time you climbed a tree? More to the point, when was the last time you got a radically different perspective on your world? We can all use one from time to time; we're prone to believing that our way of seeing things is the only way. It's not, and standing taller or looking around from a different angle can change everything. If you haven't tried it, try it.

Last time you looked at the world from a different point of view, what did you learn?

4.14.14 0
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How Should a Leader Dance?

Dr. Foster Mobley // History, Wisdom Leading

If you haven't seen him already, Google "Matt Harding dancing." You won't be able to stop smiling. In 2008, Harding became famous for traveling around the world and doing a goofy dance in front of important landmarks in cities from Lima to Lagos. Word got out and hundreds of people started showing up when Harding arrived in their town, so later videos often show him dancing with huge, joyous crowds. It's silly and utterly wonderful. It's also a vivid commentary on leadership styles. As leaders, we're deeply conscious of how we come across to others. Often, we think that being a leader means being Very Serious. Ponderous, even. Certainly, we can't be silly, lighthearted or have fun, right? Right? Matt Harding's example proves that idea to be wrong. His dance is dorky and his grin is awkward, yet his delight is palpable, and that's what draws hundreds and thousands of strangers to dance with him on camera. He proves that being serious, severe or stoic doesn't make a leader more likely to draw followers; inspiring people does. Whether you inspire them with your passion, your sense of humor, your empathy or your ideas, it doesn't matter. The point is, one size does not fit all. As long as you're not afraid to be authentic and honest, you can be a leader. How do you dance and how do your people respond?

If you haven't seen him already, Google "Matt Harding dancing." You won't be able to stop smiling. In 2008, Harding became famous for traveling around the world and doing a goofy dance in front of important landmarks in cities from Lima to Lagos. Word got out and hundreds of people started showing up when Harding arrived in their town, so later videos often show him dancing with huge, joyous crowds. It's silly and utterly wonderful. It's also a vivid commentary on leadership styles.

As leaders, we're deeply conscious of how we come across to others. Often, we think that being a leader means being Very Serious. Ponderous, even. Certainly, we can't be silly, lighthearted or have fun, right? Right?

Matt Harding's example proves that idea to be wrong. His dance is dorky and his grin is awkward, yet his delight is palpable, and that's what draws hundreds and thousands of strangers to dance with him on camera. He proves that being serious, severe or stoic doesn't make a leader more likely to draw followers; inspiring people does. Whether you inspire them with your passion, your sense of humor, your empathy or your ideas, it doesn't matter. The point is, one size does not fit all. As long as you're not afraid to be authentic and honest, you can be a leader.

How do you dance and how do your people respond?

4.8.14 0
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Dr. Foster Mobley

Trusted advisor and coach to admired executives globally for 3 decades, Thought leader on wisdom-based approaches to breakthrough leading, "Lead Coach" for Deloitte's experienced and high potential leader development, Team performance advisor to two NCAA championship teams