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Tim Cook, Steve Jobs, and the Hero Myth

John's reflections, leadership Leave a comment

One of the subjects I have often spoken about for the past twenty years—in keynote addresses and corporate seminars—is “the myths and realities of leadership”. In these settings, I use the term myth to mean something that society persists in believing, in spite of the fact that it is clearly not true.  For example, one of our common misconceptions is what I call the Hero Myth, a tendency to see transformational leaders as larger-than-life figures capable of “changing the weather”, as Winston Churchill said his ancestor John Churchill could. We want to turn them into icons, astonishing individuals with prodigious capabilities. They influence their worlds in far-reaching and enduring ways, by virtue of amazing vision, inspirational … Continue reading

Four things most effective leaders do on a continuous basis

John's reflections, leadership Leave a comment

It seems that whenever I talk to an audience about how managers at any level of an organization can use personal stories of identity to inspire their teams and influence their worlds, someone asks a variation of this question: “Can you just give us a few quick tips or clues about how to get started and do this?”  Of course, this is a logical and legitimate query. Nonetheless, it is one that I find tricky, because there simply is no adequate concise answer. What I invariably end up explaining is that my methods for helping people and groups work on this type of storytelling cannot be reduced to systematic procedures or “recipe” that one can … Continue reading

How to make stories of purpose work in any organization

leadership, Storytelling Leave a comment

As I wrote in a recent post, one of the questions that invariably come up from any of my public or corporate audiences is: “Can this stuff (engaging employees with stories of purpose, or ‘cathedral’ stories as we have sometimes called them) work in any type of enterprise?” In particular, people often ask about companies whose activity is in a less-than-glamorous, mundane realm, or in a business-to-business (b-to-b) environment.  An example of a relatively unglamorous commercial activity with repetitive tasks in a b-to-b setting is beverage distribution. In many such businesses, delivering cases of drinks to stores and restaurants is a demanding job, and one that varies little from one week to the next. Since I have … Continue reading

Who is the real Steve Jobs, and what are his lessons for us?

authenticity, leadership, Leadership in the news Leave a comment

As I begin to write this, I realize full well that one week ago I sketched out a plan and said that I might actually try to stick to it. At the same time, I did call it a “tentative” schedule for the coming weeks, even half-mocking my suggestion that I could actually stay on such a predefined course for very long.   As such, and as luck would have it, something completely outside of the anticipated structure has crossed my path and obliged me to write about it this week. The current issue of Fast Company has an image of Steve Jobs on its cover, with the inscription: “Kind. Patient. Human. The Steve you didn’t know.” This … Continue reading

Three classic questions

John's reflections, leadership, Storytelling Leave a comment

Dwight Eisenhower, the famous World War II general who would later become president of the United States, used to say that in battle he found plans to be useless, but that planning was indispensable. I could make a similar observation about writing a blog, at least in my case. At any point in time, I find it useful to plan things out in my head, but it is more for the thought process than for the plan itself.  So, every now and then I like to sit down and plot out my direction for the weeks or months ahead, even knowing full well that there is a good chance I will not stick to it. … Continue reading

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