Leader's Compass Points

Leadership Lessons from the Political Follies

Posted by Bob Mason on 7/15/16 1:39 PM

Ballot_Box.jpgPolitics provide an interesting show. Like a multi-act play, there are heroes and villains, plot twists and surprises. Everyone in the audience sees the show a little differently and when it's all over, everyone applauds and returns to their normal lives, though some stay to watch the repeat performance which begins the next day.

As the players take the stage for this quadrennial show, there are a few parts of the play that remain constant for every performance. There are players who we, the audience, love to hate. Many of us find one or two players who we are convinced are the real heroes, but most audience members don't trust most of the players.

Why is that? Why do we have a general distrust of those who seek to be our nation's leaders? Most likely because the actions of many politicians seem untrustworthy. It often seems that politicians are too willing to change their deeply held beliefs to satisfy special interests and make promises they can't, or at least don't keep.

These political follies provide some valuable insight for leaders to avoid being thought of as untrustworthy.

  1. It's hard to consistently say things you don't really believe. At some point you'll slip and say what you really think, or you'll get caught up in conflicting statements as you try to please everyone.
  2. Values are not situational and core values don't often change. Leaders who don't clearly define their own core values, and stick to them, set themselves up for an internal conflict that can destroy them.
  3. You can't sell snake oil for any length of time. When people find it doesn't really work, they'll come for you and it won't be pleasant. People are allowed to make mistakes, but when you start out with something you know is flawed, you're headed down the road to ruin.
  4. You can't please everyone. Those who try end up pleasing no one. A peer of mine used to tell his boss one thing, his team something else, and when the senior leadership was around, his story would change again. It wasn't long before he lost everyone's trust and became marginalized and irrelevant.
  5. You don't know everything. My favorite leaders were those who admitted to what they didn't know. That doesn't mean they remained ignorant, just that they didn't try to act on issues until they had filled in their knowledge gaps. Remember that ignorance is merely not knowing, and it can be fixed. There is no shame in ignorance. Stupidity is acting on ignorance, and as the saying goes, you can't fix stupid.

To be a good leader and avoid being thought of as a politician, know who you are, and what you believe. Then stick to it.


Other Articles You Might Enjoy:

A Good Method for Building Trust

Are You An Authentic Leader?

Did I Really Say That?

Topics: Leadership

Congratulations to Our New Indianapolis Leadership Boot Camp Graduates

Posted by Steve Alltop on 7/15/16 1:35 PM

Indianapolis Leadership Boot Camp | 12 - 14 July 2016

"3 Green Amigos" joined forces this week in Indianapolis and made our first Leadership Boot Camp in this city a great experience! The group kept it "real" but also had a great time helping each other become better leaders while leaarning new skills. I'm looking forward to our coaching calls.  

- Steve

"3 Green Amigos" | Indianapolis | July 2016




Topics: Leadership Development

The Wright Way to Collaborate

Posted by Steve Alltop on 7/10/16 12:30 PM

Wright_Flyer_First_Flight.jpgIn 1901, most people believed that man would never fly. Wilbur Wright, who had already begun investigations into heavier-than-air flight with his brother Orville, thought that the achievement could be as much as fifty years in the future. Yet, on December 17, 1903, just two years later, he and Orville accomplished that feat. What propelled them to success? What key leadership lessons can we derive from the Wright brothers? One could wander down the usual paths of clear unifying vision, goals, planning, resource allocation and so forth. But at the turn of the 20th century there was no shortage of individuals with a vision of the future that included flight. Here in the U.S., Samuel Pierpont Langley was very well funded by the War Department but failed spectacularly, with his craft plunging into the Potomac River just weeks before the Wright brothers’ famous flight at Kitty Hawk. So why did they succeed where others had failed? I maintain that it came down to their effectiveness as a team and especially their ability to collaborate through intense conflict.

For my summer reading enjoyment I’m reading an excellent biography, The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough. As I read the chapters detailing the time leading up to the creation of the first Flyer, I asked myself how two bicycle shop owners accomplished what no one else could? Keen intellect, intense curiosity, and a willingness to question assumptions and prevailing wisdom certainly played major roles. But McCullough’s description of long evening discussions as they worked through one problem after another, and especially this passage, struck me as key:

During these months their “discussions” became as intense as they had ever been. Heated words flew, filling hours of their days and nights, often at the top of their voices...According to Charlie Taylor [their mechanic], they were never really mad at each other. One morning after one of their “hottest” exchanges, he had only just opened the shop...when Orville came in saying he “guessed he’d been wrong and they ought to do it Will’s way.” Shortly after, Wilbur arrived to announce he had been thinking it over and “perhaps Orv was right.” The point was, said Charlie, “when they were through...they knew where they were and could go ahead with the job.” (McCullough, p. 89)

Each brother was passionate in his position, but neither had to be “right”. They focused on arriving at the best possible solution, not winning the argument. Over and over again they invented options to overcome objections and stayed focused on achieving an objective. They very rarely compromised. They would stay at it until both were convinced they had arrived at the best possible solution.

What enabled the Wright Brothers to collaborate so effectively can also enable you and your teams. Build trust in each other, so that no member fears engaging in passionate discussion around issues critical to the team’s success. Build a culture where no one hesitates to disagree with, challenge, and question to find the best solutions, discover truth, and make great decisions. When you do, you will find that unhealthy conflict fades away and team buy-in and commitment to outcomes grows exponentially. Oh by the way, you might also find that you’ve accomplished something cool; like learn to fly.  

Related Articles:

The Respect Paradox

Toxic Behavior Destroys Team Trust

Conflict Management 101


Interested in creating effective teams? The Daedalus Group can conduct The Five Dysfunctions of a Team workshops for either teams or team leaders. See additional information HERE.


Topics: Conflict Management, Leading Teams, Culture

Coming Events

Posted by Steve Alltop and Bob Mason on 7/10/16 9:43 AM


Here's what the rest of the year looks like for our open-enrollment classes. Referrals are always appreciated so if you know of someone who would benefit from our unique programs. please send them our way. 

Click on the course titles below for details and enrollment.

Upcoming Open-Enrollment Events

Leadership Excellence Course Indianapolis September 13 - 15
Leadership Boot Camp  Albuquerque
September 20 - 22
Leadership Boot Camp  Denver October 4 - 6
Leadership Excellence Course Albuquerque October 18 - 20
Advanced Leadership Course Indianapolis  November 1-3
Leadership Excellence Course Indianapolis November 15 - 17
Leadership Excellence Course Denver December 6 - 8


"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other" - John F. Kennedy

Topics: Leadership Development

How Teams Are Like Jigsaw Puzzles – And How They Aren't

Posted by Bob Mason on 7/2/16 6:23 AM

Jigsaw_Puzzle.jpgJigsaw puzzles can be difficult. There are many pieces, each a little different then the next. It's obvious where a few of the pieces fit, but for many their part of the bigger picture is hard to see. Occasionally, a guess is correct, but usually it takes some trial and error before their proper location becomes obvious. Finally, after some time and considerable effort, the whole picture emerges.

Forming a team can seem a lot like a jigsaw puzzle. Each team member is unique and has a particular place on the team where they best fit. Sometimes that place is not immediately obvious and forcing them into any other place will make the team less effective.

A jigsaw puzzle usually has a picture to help you see what the finished picture should look like. The individual pieces also provide some clues as to where they fit in the bigger picture.

The same can be true for your team. A clear mission and defined goals provide the team with a bigger picture. The team leader can see where the team is going and what it needs to do to get there. Just as importantly, each team member can see not only where the team is going, but also how they can contribute to reaching those goals.

But, a team is not a collection of inanimate puzzle pieces. They are a group of thinking people. Likewise, the picture is not one dimensional. Unlike flat puzzle pieces, team members, and their interactions, are multi-dimensional and dynamic. The team leader needs to know not only where everyone fits, but also how they interact. At The Daedalus Group, we've had great success using the Energize2Lead™ team profile from Academy Leadership to help teams better understand how they interact and find points where there is likely to be synergy as well as where conflict may emerge.

Have you given your team a clear mission and defined goals? Do you strive to understand each team member's strengths to learn how they best fit and how the team interacts?


Want to improve how your team fits together? Visit http://www.dleadershipgroup.com/team-building or just contact us.


Topics: Leading Teams

Attitude Reflects Leadership; Lessons from Leaders Good and Bad

Posted by Steve Alltop on 6/25/16 11:46 PM

SHRM2016_Bad-Boss-Good-Boss.jpgI just got back from this year’s Society for Human Resource Managers (SHRM) annual convention where a few of my fellow Academy Leadership affiliates and I manned a vendor booth. Just like last year, as part of our setup we put up a white board and asked passersby to play the Bad Boss / Great Boss game. They would write a characteristic of the worst boss and the best boss they ever had, similar to what we do in the Leader’s Compass module of our Leadership Excellence Course. This spurred some great conversations with folks at the convention.  It was fun to see someone walking by read the board and start smiling as they saw something someone wrote that looked familiar. Seems quite a few of us have similar bad boss and good boss stories.

On my way home I was sitting in the airport and noticed the person sitting across from me had attended the convention. I asked her what she thought of the convention and her immediate response was “It wasn’t very good this year.” She then told me about being asked to leave a breakout session because the room was full. Then she said, “Oh yes, and the food was terrible this year.” Why am I telling you this? Because a short while later, as we were lining up to board, I found myself next to two more individuals who had attended the same conference. However, this time they told me that the conference was great! They also didn’t seem to mind the food. 

I found it an interesting study in human behavior. A single episode had soured one individual’s attitude and hence her perception of an entire convention. But that also happens with those we think of as bad bosses doesn’t it? A few instances of bad behavior can sour an employee’s attitude and their perception of an individual supervisor or even an entire company. As we’ve proven time and again, bad bosses are hard to forget. It doesn’t take too many episodes of micro-managing to be labeled “Micro-manager”. It only takes one or two times of not being honest to be labeled “Liar”. How about “Disrespectful” or “Unknowledgeable”? Does it take a long-term pattern of behavior to be placed in the “Bad Boss” column? Probably not. All it takes is something that creates a perception.

Bad_Boss_Good_Boss.pngIt’s difficult to overcome negative perceptions. However, having a personal leadership philosophy and publishing it to your folks will at least initially give you the benefit of the doubt. When you do fall short of your ideals, and you likely will at some point, fess up and apologize. It’s not a sign of weakness; on the contrary, it’s exactly the kind of behavior that earns you the trust and credibility necessary to stay on the good boss list. 


Bad Boss or Great Leader? Check Your Compass

Straying from My Leader's Compass: Lessons From the Trenches

Topics: Leader's Compass, Leadership tips, Culture, Leadership

Lead Up: The Secrets to Leading Your Boss

Posted by Bob Mason on 6/17/16 3:57 PM

Lead_Up.jpgThere are very few leaders who don't have a boss and sometimes it's helpful to lead your boss as well as your team. Isn't it a little presumptuous to think you can lead your boss? Not if you approach it as an effort to help you both succeed. You want your team to help you succeed, right? If you're a good leader, you will seek out and carefully consider your team's council. Shouldn't you offer the same to your boss?

If your boss is a good leader, he or she will welcome your input. If he or she is challenged as a leader, they may need your help even more, but leading up will be a bit more difficult.

In Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up, John Baldoni offers three questions to consider when considering how to manage up. Examining these questions will help you determine how to help your boss succeed and that will help you and your team succeed as well.

What does the leader need? I once worked in an organization made up of several teams with specific technical responsibilities. Our leader had considerable expertise in all areas except the one my team was responsible for. It was obvious to my team and I that he was uncomfortable with his lack of knowledge and that we could best help him by taking the time to explain details and fill in his knowledge. He didn't want to micro-manage my team, but he did need to be comfortable understanding what we were doing.  

What does the team need? In this case, the team also needed the boss to be more knowledgeable about our area of responsibility. He represented us to the most senior levels and if he wasn't comfortable with his knowledge, he could not effectively advocate for us. We would be more successful when he was more knowledgeable.

What can I do to help the leader and the team succeed? I have always appreciated it when team members come to me with suggestions, offers of assistance, and even complaints and critiques. I know that when I'm receptive, lines of communication are improved and the whole team benefits. That doesn't mean I accept every change that is suggested. On the other hand, I have worked for bosses who are not as receptive. Some even saw any such attempt as a threat to their position. Remember, your goal is not to fix the boss or take over that position, but to help everyone succeed. Make the effort to get to know the boss and their level of tolerance for help.

Good leaders appreciate honest feedback from their team and good subordinate leaders know how to provide it. That means understanding the boss's expectations and learning when they are most and least approachable. (That's why we believe so strongly in leaders writing out their leadership philosophy.) Then, adjust your approach accordingly.

Remember that you won't always win. A diplomatic and subtle approach is best. Your boss still has the ultimate responsibility and you must respect that.

Besides, it isn't about you winning; it's about what you can do to help your team and the organization win.


To learn how The Daedalus Group can customize a program, tailored to your specific needs, which will help your team succeed, click here.

Help your supervisors and managers improve their ability to lead teams. Sign them up for one of The Daedalus Group's open enrollment programs.

Topics: Leadership

Congratulations to Our Newest Denver Graduates

Posted by Steve Alltop on 6/17/16 11:45 AM

Denver Leadership Excellence Course | 14 - 16 June 2016

This week I spent three very enjoyable days with some hard-chargers intent on building their leadership skills. This group named themselves "Team Dog Wash"; yes, there is an inside story there. We had folks from a rapidly growing car wash company and from a non-profit foundation supporting animal health and longeity. They were energized and engaged all three days and it seemed like our time flew by. I look forward to our coaching calls.  

- Steve

"Team Dog Wash" | Denver| June 2016




Topics: Leadership Development

Leading Without Authority, You Can Do It!

Posted by Steve Alltop on 6/12/16 11:08 PM

LeadersCompass.png“You don’t understand; I can’t do this leadership stuff with my team; they don’t report to me!” I’ve heard variations of this statement on a regular basis from students coming into our leadership courses. Sometimes it has to do with particular aspects of leading, such as coaching or accountability, while at other times it has more to do with the legal environment and how contracted labor is allowed to be managed.

With outsourcing to contract labor and with matrixed project environments, it is not uncommon to find yourself leading a team comprised partially, or completely, of individuals who do not directly report to you. In fact, one of the more common requests of students in our leadership courses is to learn more about leading without authority.

“I can’t do this, they don’t report to me...” is a cop out. In the absence of leadership, someone will lead. Do you want to give that role to someone else by default? Or do you want to do what you are expected to do and be a leader? If so, here is some food for thought:

  • “Know yourself, know your people, and know your stuff” is a good starting point for leading both direct reports and those over whom you have no direct authority. Remember, most people WANT to be led and will allow themselves to be led by someone that they trust and believe in. The existence of a line connecting them on an organizational chart has nothing to do with that relationship!    
  • Those who get hung up on whether or not team members report to them are usually operating from a faulty perception of leadership. That perception is typically the command and control style of leadership that we know does not work in most modern workplaces. Any follower of this newsletter knows that leadership isn’t telling someone what to do. Rather, it’s about influence, isn’t it?
  • There are no shortcuts. Getting to know your people and building a trusting relationship with them is as important for contract labor as it is with direct reports. Having a personal leadership philosophy, and using it, is a great first step.
  • Going out of your way to not treat contract labor as the “hired help” but rather as a valued member of the team may set you apart from the norm. One student of mine recently found out that treating contract labor with the same interest as company personnel rapidly got him the reputation that he was a project manager that folks wanted to work for.
  • Contract or matrixed individuals still have motivational needs, still have career aspirations, still have unique communication styles; in short, they are still messy, imperfect, and sometimes unpredictable human beings that are a challenge to get moving in the right direction at the right time. Do the work: find their motivators, discover how they prefer to communicate, get to know them.
  • The fact that a team member happens to report to someone else or to a different company is no excuse to shirk leadership responsibilities. Doing so may be expedient or easier in the short-term, but will also make it difficult to get consistent and superior results.

Don’t let a little thing like who someone reports to get in the way of being the great leader you want to be. If you ever find yourself thinking some form of “I can’t lead...” try asking yourself, “If the tables were turned, how would I want to be led?”

Related Articles:

You're In the Arena and You're Doing Fine

The Respect Paradox

Topics: Leadership tips, Leadership, effective leadership, influence

How to be an Influential Business Leader

Posted by Bob Mason on 6/5/16 1:43 PM

InfluenceVen.jpg"I want to have more influence beyond just my small team." The client was a little hesitant to say that, fearing it would sound arrogant or maybe power hungry. To the contrary, business leaders are more effective in leading their teams when they have impact outside their own sphere of influence. The client recognized she was at the level she wanted to be and did not desire to strive for a higher level position, but she did want to be more influential in the company.

Influential leaders can open doors that help their team members succeed. Though they may not have a formal role in the larger organization they will be more aware of what is happening which will allow them to better guide their team.

How can you become more influential?

There are three actions which, when combined, will help you develop influence, but you must first be clear about what you're trying to accomplish. If you are just out for your own power, people will see through your efforts. While you might have some success, you will also make yourself a target. While becoming more influential will help your own career, your goal must be to help your team and the organization succeed.

Get to know people outside your own circle. Your goal is not to find out how they can help you, but to learn how you can help them. When others know you can be counted on for help from time to time, they will be more likely to support you as well.

Ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. This increases your own body of knowledge and provides a database of information you will find useful in helping others at some point in the future while also demonstrating your interest in other's experience.

Seek feedback and accept it when it's offered. Of course, you will personally gain from listening to what others think, but you'll also be seen as someone who is open to improvement. When you ask others for their opinion of something you've done, it is a big boost to their ego as well.

Notice a common thread in these three steps.


Yes, you can develop influence without trust, but that type of influence is based on fear and others will reject you the first chance they get. When others trust you, and understand your genuine interest in helping your team and the company, they will happily be part of you network and you will be an influential leader.

Topics: Leadership, influence