Posts tagged with ‘leadership’

19 dec

How to Become a Natural Leader

JennaSmithPeople aren’t born leaders – they become them. Like many other life skills, leadership is something you learn; with the right tools and education, anyone can master the four components of true leadership:

  • Effective communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Ethical reasoning
  • Goal setting

If you work on cultivating these four key areas, you will soon find yourself increasing your natural ability to lead and guide others. Whether you hope to use leadership skills to motivate a team at work, or to help mentor young people in a youth group, you will quickly find that improving your leadership abilities helps increase your groups’ results. Being a leader, after all, isn’t about bossing people around or telling them what to do; it’s about working together to get a job done.

Here are a few recommendations to improve your leadership skills:

1. Take a leadership course

There are numerous, highly effective leadership courses available, from the Dale Carnegie leadership course to the leadership development program offered by the Army and Navy Academy. Whether you are a student, a working adult, or a full-time parent, there are leadership courses that fit your schedule and your budget. Look for courses that focus on the four components of effective leadership listed above.

2. Engage in specific activities to build leadership strengths

There are specific activities that help build each of the four primary leadership strengths. For instance, to build your communication skills, try playing the Mine Field Game:

  • · Blindfold a partner and verbally lead him or her through a “mine field” of small objects
  • · If the partner touches one of the objects, you lose the game
  • · If you communicate well, helping your partner avoid the mines and reach the other side, then you both win!

3. Seek out opportunities to lead

Leadership education means nothing unless it is paired with tangible, real-world opportunities. If you are a student, see if you can lead an initiative in student government or in your residence hall association. If you are in the workforce, ask if you can take a leadership role on a project or on one of your company’s committees. Then, use your leadership skills to unify your team around the pursuit of a common goal – and work together to accomplish that goal.

4. Mentor a young person (or seek out an adult mentor)

The teenager/adult mentor relationship is invaluable for building leadership skills, and both the young person and the adult learn how to be better leaders through the process. When you join a mentor relationship, both the mentor and the pupil are able to bring new perspectives to problem solving and goal setting. The young person learns from the adult’s experience, and the adult learns from the teenagers’ fresh perspectives. Both complete the mentor relationship ready to take these new skills back to their peer teams and become more effective leaders as a result.

5. Stand up for an important cause

One way to quickly become a leader is to stand up for an important cause. Maybe you’re a student who wants to improve school lunch quality, like Martha Payne of Never Seconds. Maybe you want your company to institute a better recycling program. Maybe you want your community to build a new park where children can play. If you find a cause in which you truly believe, you often do the work of building leadership skills without even thinking about it.

It’s easy to become a “natural leader”—all you need is an understanding of what makes a leader, and consistently practicing each of leadership’s four key areas.

Leadership education is key to living a successful life, so explore opportunities to build your leadership skills and then seize real-world opportunities in your life to lead.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jenna Smith on December 19th, 2013 in Career, New Directions | No comments Read related posts in ,

02 apr

Workplace Confidence: The Power of Faith in Leadership

MichelleKerriganLike many people around the globe, I watched as the new pope, Francis I, came out onto the Vatican balcony to address the world for the first time.

What struck me more than anything else was the view from the camera as it slowly panned around the faces in the crowd. I watched all those eyes and saw that look—a look I have seen many times before. I’ve seen it when presidents have addressed this nation and when great visionaries have shared their dreams.

I have also seen it on a much smaller, yet still powerful platform: at conference room tables and in corporate meetings.

The look is one of faith, and it is unmistakable. It shows a commitment of confidence that is a shared experience. There is nothing like it. Large organizations can appear more open and personal when a leader can evoke that brand of trust.

Just as the pope embodies the teachings of the church, so must a corporate leader represent the vision of a company. It’s what senior executives often can’t seem to grasp, and what is sorely missing in the workplace and marketplace today.

Faith is one of the greatest innovators because it drives us forward in spite of our fears. And, in this world of accelerating change, where nothing is certain, faith is the one thing that is absolute.

To invoke the power of faith—of trust—leaders must have a core set of values and a sense of identity that is consistent with their organizations’ brand. A leader needs to be the exemplary team player, with the same qualities expected from employees: respect, willingness, reliability, accessibility, patience, and empathy. Accordingly, customers respond favorably to such characteristics. The great thing about the shared experience of faith is that you inspire the behavior you exhibit.

While the business world has changed a great deal over the years, one thing hasn’t: employees and customers still want to have confidence that leaders will respond to their needs. That’s not fundamental in most of the corporate world today. And it needs to be.

One great example of a successful leader is Tony Hsieh. Hsieh built up an online shoe company, Zappos, based on his belief in superior customer service. His commitment was so strong, he made service the responsibility of the entire company, not just a department.

And it shows.

If you’ve ever ordered shoes from Zappos, you know what I mean. The staff is faithful to service excellence. There are no barriers—every interaction is easy. I love that they have open communication with customers by phone, with clarity, cheerfulness, no up-sell, time constraints, or scripts. Hsieh saw every contact as an investment in building lasting relationships with his customers—the same way he believed in building lasting relationships with his employees. He even wrote a New York Times bestseller, aptly entitled Delivering Happiness.

This is potent stuff. And it doesn’t stop here.

Zappos went on to earn over $1 billion in sales and made Fortune’s Top 100 Companies to Work For.

You see, the power of faith in leadership creates followers: repeat and word-of-mouth customers, as well as the retention of top-tier talent in an organization.

It even converts non-believers. Trust me—I’m one of them. I never thought I could enjoy shoe-shopping online!

Faith gives meaning to business—it’s why we sign on and stay. It has the power to ignite high performance and productivity, and is the motivational fuel that can carry companies to success.

Copyright 2013 Michelle Kerrigan. All Rights Reserved.

For over 25 years, Michelle Kerrigan has been helping businesses and private clients achieve workplace success by developing the practical skills they need to improve their confidence. Based on her own leadership experiences, Michelle provides an invaluable road map for conquering fear and doubt, navigating change, and solving day-to-day challenges, resulting in more effective leadership, increased productivity and revenue growth. Michelle also writes and speaks about achieving success, and is currently working on a series for public TV about self esteem and workplace confidence. More at and

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Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on April 2nd, 2013 in Career, Global/Social Change | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13 mar

OperationsRx: The Gap Nobody Knows

MichelleKerriganThe gap between promises and results is widespread and clear. The gap nobody knows is the gap between what a company’s leaders want to achieve and the ability of their organization to achieve it.”—Larry Bossidy, former CEO, Honeywell International and General Electric

The gap nobody knows is bridged by day-to-day operations. Everything comes from it. It’s where your company lives and breathes–where ideas spring to life in the form of people, process and teamwork. It is the heart of execution–where strategy succeeds or fails. It’s a space I’ve worked in for over 25 years, and where I help leaders and teams succeed today.

Day-to-day operations comprise roughly 80% of most organizations, making it one of their largest investments. Yet this asset is often overlooked. Not leveraging its value widens the gap and means your company is leaving money on the table. In today’s economy, where resources are at a premium and you need to organize and expedite at the speed of change, can you afford to do that?

So why is it undervalued and underutilized?

I’ve asked a few leaders this same question, and they all focused on strategy as the one thing that mattered most. In fact, one leader, when asked about day-to-day operations and execution, waved his hand in dismissal and said “that’s management’s problem.”

As dieting is a favorite topic of mine, I asked this leader to compare business strategy and execution with a personal goal of losing weight. You want to lose 20 pounds. You plan on joining a gym, drinking 8 glasses of water a day, controlling food portions and counting calories. That’s your strategy—the direction you wish to take. You can repeat it a thousand times, make promises to your doctor or spouse, clip out photos of the ‘dream figure’ and attach it to your refrigerator door.

But unless you take the necessary steps to incorporate your plan into your everyday routine, nothing happens. No change. Not one pound shed. Your weight remains the same—you don’t move forward and you don’t reach your goal. Promises don’t yield results without day-to-day execution.

So, what does it really take to affect positive change?:

Have the right resources: Healthy food, personal trainer, scale, calorie calculator.

Develop realistic timelines and expectations: 2 pounds a week for 10-12 weeks. The greatest mistake most dieters (and leaders) make is being unrealistic about how long things take. Being realistic limits risk and disappointment.

Decide a deadline: Your svelte cousin’s wedding. The holidays. It’s amazing how activity levels rise as deadlines loom.

Get support: Choose the best people to help you stay on track: friends, family, personal trainer.

Take action every day: Go to the gym, exercise, eat lots of vegetables, count calories.

Stay motivated and energized: Keep your eyes on the prize—what success looks like (remember that picture on the refrigerator?)

Minimize distractions: Especially procrastination and perfectionism. Try to avoid wasting time on the wrong activities and getting discouraged if you veer off course now and then.

Allow for setbacks and unforeseen events: Parties that involve red velvet cake. Need I say more?

Monitor for results: Be accountable and follow through. Have someone record your weight and measurements on a regular basis. Monitoring is the key to successful change.

Link rewards to performance: Reinforce progress by celebrating milestones with small rewards and work towards that new wardrobe when you reach your goal.

The leader appreciated the analogy: Strategy only works when you take the necessary steps every day to move it forward. That’s how you turn promises into results.

Leadership is not just about pointing the way—it’s about being an integral part of the process from start to finish. It’s about dealing with the realistic issues of the day. It’s about tapping into your greatest asset–day-to-day operations–to get your company where it needs to go.

And who knows? Maybe you’ll lose a pound or two along the way.

Copyright 2011 Michelle Kerrigan

For over 25 years, Michelle Kerrigan has been helping organizations and individuals improve performance and productivity in the day-to-day workplace. A trusted expert who uniquely combines extensive leadership and operations experience with powerful coaching and organizing techniques, Michelle helps clients develop skills and confidence critical to the bottom line. More at

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on March 13th, 2011 in Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , ,

14 jul

OperationsRx: Change and the High Cost of Conflict

MichelleKerrigan“Every man is my superior in that I may learn from him.”—Thomas Carlyle

I live and lead by this quote, especially during change, which, in today’s workplace, is often an everyday event. I have led teams through 20 years of change, and have learned that the most important thing you control is how you react to it. Your reaction is key to your success as a leader because it’s vital to the success of your team. An open mind can break barriers; a resistant one can break companies. To coin another phrase: you reap what you sow.

Conflict doesn’t just come in color, gender or sexual orientation, it comes in generations X, Y, and BB, industry, corporate hierarchy, even area of expertise (think marketing vs. finance, production vs. creative, creative vs. legal, technology vs. everyone—at least in this story).

Case in point: When I led operations for a startup, our chief technology officer created enormous conflict between his management team and just about everyone else. He ran his division tightly, and spent most of his time criticizing what other departments were doing. Here was an officer of the company who was intelligent, articulate, and expert in his field, but who disputed everything, so couldn’t learn from anyone. His intolerance and uncooperativeness were a huge drain, and were often reflected in his senior managers. It was easy to see he wasn’t a leader to help an organization grow.

Our marketing team had launched a premium product a month before I started, a high-ticket item for our VIP elite that included a custom card (similar in look and feel to a credit card), that gained them access to entertainment events, and special backstage access at concert venues. Orders were pouring in, but only the first batch went out, with incorrect information, no less. Why?

In any company, especially a startup, new processes need to be walked all the way through during implementation to ensure all the dots are connected, including who does what and when. This is where I come in. It’s painstaking and detailed, but it’s necessary and worth it because it’s where barriers to productivity are found, and where revenue can be made or lost. In this case, there were about $500,000 worth of reasons to figure out what was going wrong.

I spoke with our fulfillment partner, who had yet to receive any new or corrected files, and worked my way through every department responsible until I found the problem: data was being generated, but not being delivered. All these new members, and not one file had left the building. The files were stuck fast in the technology department waiting for someone to pull the trigger. Extraordinary!

I also discovered that certain people knew the files were still on our side of the fire wall, but they felt it wasn’t their responsibility to push past it and help resolve our problem. What???

The fulfillment house told me they could make up lost time if they received the files that day, but organized the correct way. Our support tech told me it would take only an hour to do, but warned of repercussions from the CTO and his VP. I gave the go-ahead, and got the VP on the phone. All I heard was concern over how the CTO would react…..but no realization of how our customers would react.

The CTO was, of course, furious, and wasted even more time arguing his point with anyone who would answer his call. Yes, I did speak with him. Unfortunately, his was a reaction that would repeat itself often, and looking back, quite possibly, cost us the company.

Growth means change, which means the ability to learn, adapt, and shift gears quickly. Resistance impedes progress—you want a corporate culture that reflects your best strengths, not your worst nightmare. You need all the positive energy you can muster when you’re poised for growth and change. Just think how different things would have been if the CTO’s negative energy was channeled in a positive direction.

How often does this happen in your organization? How often is a line drawn in the sand that stops the flow of progress? How often are business leaders unwilling to yield, making decisions based on resistance rather than revenue?

The chief technology officer was my superior, and I did learn from him. I learned that some managers are not leaders: they over react, don’t set the right tone, and are incapable of creating a sense of unity. I learned that leaders need to grow, to be invested in expanding their own capabilities, as well as their team’s.

I learned that an open mind is the fast track to change. It’s not about who makes the final decision, but why it’s made. I learned that you get the behavior you tolerate, and if you expect to have a global dialog in this world of change, you have to learn to be open to (and communicate with) all those X,Y, BBs, designers, lawyers and tech people sitting right in front of you.

One final note: an interesting thing happened when I ran this article by some people I know, prior to posting. When they read the opening quote, they focused on the word “man” which sent up a red flag right away. I learned from this too…if you only focus on what you don’t like, you may miss the big picture. Wow.

Copyright 2010 Michelle Kerrigan.

For over 25 years, Michelle Kerrigan has been helping organizations and individuals improve performance and productivity in the day-to-day workplace. A trusted expert who uniquely combines extensive leadership and operations experience with powerful coaching and organizing techniques, Michelle helps clients develop skills and confidence critical to the bottom line. More at

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on July 14th, 2010 in Global/Social Change, Uncategorized | 2 comments Read related posts in , , , , ,

11 apr

Give Them the Power

Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and author (with his wife Rosamund Stone Zander) of The Art of Possibility, has some interesting thoughts on power. While it would be all too easy for a conductor to abuse his position and manage his musicians with a controlling and tyrannical style, Zander says that a great leader understands that true power “derives from [his or her] ability to make others powerful.” A leader or manager should not ask, “How good am I?” but instead should look into “what makes [this] group lively and engaged?”

Read more »

Posted by First 30 Days on April 11th, 2008 in Global/Social Change | No comments Read related posts in