Read. Check. Listen. Check. Self inspect. Check. I can satisfactorily say these have been areas of strength of mine along my leadership journey. However, I can’t say the same for one particular area Lisa Brock of Brock Communications recommends for leaders – skydive. Yikes! Really?
Actually, as you’ll read, she says leaders should challenge themselves by stretching their comfort zones with activities that make them “uncomfortable.” I found this to be stupendous advice in a mix of rich leadership counsel Lisa offered in our Q&A. Enjoy, have a great weekend and lead well!
1. What is the hardest part about being a leader?
Risking popularity. Leadership will lend itself at times to being unpopular, and it can be a lonely pursuit, too. I remember once when I was hired to change a culture – it was very tough in the beginning. I am not one to care terribly much about being popular, but I have experienced some losses due to the need to lead – and I know that is what is meant by the phrase, “It is lonely at the top.” Not always – but it can be.
2. What is the best part?
The doors that open – without a doubt! So many people, causes, organizations, clients and businesses need – and actively seek – leaders! Opportunities and what some call ‘luck’ just seems to come to you when you set your course and prove yourself. Also, the luxury of not needing to look over your shoulder or worry about your reputation. Leadership does not exempt you from tough times, but I think it involves, for me, a fair amount of self inspection. I cannot lead without living ‘the talk’ myself.
3. Who leads you and how did they become a leader in your life?
I was a foster child, but I had many caring adults around me. There is no one leader I can credit but my Aunt Louise who saved me from a lifetime in foster care, Pat Fussell who was a faculty sponsor and teacher at my high school and is now deceased, and my first boss at Procter & Gamble were all admirable leaders in my life. I also value iconic leaders such as Gandhi, Gloria Steinem, Martin Luther King, those who have fought against great odds to be heard – and who have done so peacefully. I believe that our current President is leading with great dignity while institutional politicians are doing all they can to trip him up. Again, he is risking his popularity, but he is maintaining a steady gait – trying to work against tremendous odds to do what he believes is the right thing for our country. And he could be taking lots of cheap shots at others, and he has refused to do so.
4. What is your advice for those who want to lead?
Listen twice as much as you speak. Realize that the loudest is not always the smartest and most of all – model the behavior of those you respect. Get used to refraining from fast fixes. Read as much as you can – about varied topics. Travel the world and see how others live. Try everything you reasonably can. Like skydiving, running, fasting, things that sort of push you mentally and physically, too. I am not talking about senseless acts of a daredevil or stupidity – but things that may seem uncomfortable at first.
5. What books, web sites or blogs on leadership do you recommend?
I like a variety but not typically straight up leadership books. I think Malcom Gladwell does a good job for fast reads, and I am about 3/4 of the way done with “Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print & Power” by James McGrath Morris. I just finished “Bossypants” by Tina Fey on a recent cross-country flight. (Thank you Kindle!) I am also just starting “Barbarians at the Gate” about the fall of RJR Nabisco by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar. I have “The Trust” up next by Susan E. Tifft and Alex Jones – about the New York Times. I like biographies, too. I have read most of what I know about leadership in good books or by living it. I am a believer in experiential learning.
6. If you had to choose between no longer being able to lead or losing those leaders you follow, which would you choose and why?
I think leadership is everywhere so if I lost, and I have, some of my personal favorite leaders, I’d carry on – that is part of what they taught me. As for not leading – well it’s welcome at times, and I gladly hand it over, like when clients are leading or I am working collaboratively with many leaders. Or, when my husband and I agree to let the others lead on some decisions. Leaders also know when to BE led I think.
7. What is your favorite food and place at which to eat it?
Well, my vice is travel and that MEANS food…so I’d say Moroccan, followed by Indian, followed by Mexican, followed by well, just about every kind of ethnic cuisine with the exception of Korean or British. (Sorry to each – but I have family from both places and while you can find good food anywhere, they are my least favorite.) I like to eat street food wherever I go, but I do enjoy a lovely, overdone meal like those found at the well-known ESCA, Tao, Town or my local haunts Mise en Place, Berns Steakhouse, Cafe European and well, let’s face it, I could go on and on.