Thursday, July 19, 2007

Leadership, openness, and pirates

Three articles today about leadership and transparency. The first one from Fast Company cites a story about Proenza, former director of the National Hurricane Center. The lesson here is openness and building trust:

Leadership: Mutiny Before the Hurricane: "Proenza, according to a report on NPR’s All Things Considered , is a highly experienced and competent forecaster who has worked for the National Weather Service for many years. His appointment was endorsed by Mayfield, the well-respected head of the NHC who retired at the end of last year. Courtly and avuncular Mayfield led by consensus. His management style was the exact opposite of Proenza who keeps his own counsel and sometimes “shoots from the hip.” So it seems that when Proenza got into trouble over his remarks, there was no one on his staff to back him up. Proenza had burned his bridges. So what can we learn from the Proenza firing?

Survey the territory. Know the terrain upon which you are treading. If you are following a legend, pay homage to the leader by acknowledging his style and strengths. Defer to his legacy until you establish your own.

Ask for input. Make certain you introduce yourself to everyone. Meet one on one with your key staff. The first meeting, or subsequent meetings, should be spent asking questions and listening. Make it known you want straight talk.

Ask for ideas. New leaders need to ensure the loyalty of staff. They can expect it, but they must earn the trust. You earn it by your example. Asking for ideas and suggestions about how things are

Be your own person. Is this a contradiction? No. You are the leader now. It is appropriate to develop (or continue) the vision and insist on alignment. State your priorities. Allow comment on them but you can, and often should, be firm in what you want to accomplish.

Evaluate the situation. If your new ideas are not met with overwhelming support, find out why. Again, be open to suggestions. You may hold to your mission, but you can allow individuals and teams to set their own strategies and tactics."


Everybody is working toward the common goal. They need to trust that their leader will make the right decision based on the information. People need to be eased into your style and know that you consider their opinion.

The Open Door Director from Library Journal, Michael Stephens and Michael Casey

Today's library director can facilitate transparency by building openness within the organization and using the power of communication to reach out to the community. Open organizations, where staff and public feel free (and safe) to contribute new ideas and suggestions and to play a role in their implementation and evaluation, will win more long-term proponents than closed organizations that hide failures and weaknesses.
This is one of my goals. Have everything open where staff feel comfortable to contribute and understand the problems with the organization.

Then, one of my favorites is Execupundit. Here is referring to a New Yorker article about The Pirate's Code:

The most powerful check on captains and quartermasters was that they did not hold their positions by natural right or blood or success in combat; the crew elected them and could depose them. And when questions arose about the rules that governed behavior on board, interpretation was left not to the captain but to a jury of crewmen.

This is the more modern management style. Nobody wants to make all the decisions, they prefer to let someone else do it, but make too many mistakes and walk the plan matey ;)

Lastly, a very comprehensive list, 99 Ways to Become a Better Leader:

My favorites:

54. As a responsible leader, you must always be aware of what you’re saying.

55. Create responsible employees, but also be responsible for their actions.

56. Assume responsibility, even if something is not your fault.


63. Keep a leadership blog to document your learning.


I read many leadership blogs as you can see in the sidebar. My favorite management/leadership blogs are:
Slow Leadership
Reminds me that Rome wasn't built in a day. In order to get from here to there balance must exist. There is even an eightfold path:

1. Right Tempo

2. Right Attention

3. Right Balance

4. Right Perspective

5. Right Direction

6. Right Relationships

7. Right Enjoyment

8. Right Gratitude

Fast Company
Always insightful, it brings lessons from every day situations, sports, business, and more. Posts are quick blasts, memorable, and to the point.

He provides wonderful insights on management, the workplace, and more. The thing I learned the most from him was about getting a coach instead of a mentor. Posts are short, concise, and too the point.

I am always looking to improve my skills and do right by my employees and our patrons. Striving towards that will always lead in the right direction.

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