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“If Benjamin Franklin had picked someone to teach the lessons in self-mastery that he used in his life, he would have picked Bob Burg.”

~ Vic Johnson, Founder AsAManThinketh.net

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Understanding The Antagonist

Monday, August 8th, 2016

See the worldThe following profound quote caught my attention on Twitter:

“You don’t really understand an antagonist until you understand why he’s a protagonist in his own version of the world.”

~ John Rogers, screenwriter, film and television producer, director, comedian, comic book writer

Since the author of the quote is a professional storyteller perhaps he’s teaching a lesson on the importance of an aspiring writer understanding this dynamic.

And, I believe that what he said is brilliant.

It also pertains to everyday life. Our everyday lives.

This blog has often featured lessons regarding belief systems and understanding that we all see the world from our own personal viewpoints based on a number of factors. This is below the surface of conscious thought and I often refer to it as our “unconscious operating system.” Not only do we operate solely based on the premises of our belief systems, others operate solely out of theirs. And, neither are aware of such.

So, it’s often suggested not only to become aware that we are operating this way but that the other person is, as well. This leads to a deeper understanding and makes effective communication more likely. This concept applies to interpersonal transactions and relationships, as well as to observing life, people, and different views in general.

However…Mr. Rogers’ statement brings it to an even higher level.

The current political scene is a fascinating example.

Members of the two major parties seem to operate out of two completely different ways of seeing the world, human nature, causes, and effects. (Please note that I’m not referring to the specific candidates, national, state or local, but rather the general voter committed to their party’s philosophy.)

Not only does each person believe they are correct in their understanding; as we often see, read, and hear, each sees those of the other party as being so wrong that they often subscribe their motives as “evil.”

So, on one level we could say that simply by understanding the other side’s viewpoint it could help us close the gap when discussing issues with them.

But, That’s Not Enough

Let’s move to an entirely deeper level by taking Mr. Rogers’ advice and actually try and understand why he or she (individual members) sees themselves as a protagonist (in this context, the hero, or “good guy/gal”) in their own version of the world.

There are numerous articles and books you can read on the individual thought processes of a person who identifies as a Democrat or a Republican. But, another excellent method is to simply ask them; of course, in a way that does not elicit their defensiveness but rather provides you with an understanding of how they think, and why? I’ve done that a lot with friends in both major parties since, being libertarian, I don’t fully identify with either.

Here’s a thought though. If the very idea of asking a D (if you’re an R) or an R (if you’re a D) causes you defensiveness or even a feeling of anger, please understand that this will not be productive in terms of gaining insight. And, if your goal is to influence that person to consider your viewpoint, then you must be able to first understand it (remember, understanding is not the same as agreeing) from their side.

In other words, you must be able to understand why they see themselves as the protagonist, not the antagonist you believe they are.

Interesting is that the way you see them is most likely the way they see you. And, once you understand them better, perhaps they’ll understand you better.

Next step: Once you’ve completed this “political” exercise, begin to do this with others you find difficult to understand and relate to.

Can understanding why your antagonist sees themselves as the protagonist in their own story make you a much more effective communicator, friend, family member, coworker, supervisor, salesperson, customer, leader, etc?

What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts, opinions, and examples with us.

Leadership Lessons from Sarah McLachlan

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Sarah MclachlanI’m not particularly “cool.” And, when I say not particularly, I mean not at all. Hence, I was probably one of the few people not very familiar with singer/songwriter/entrepreneur/humanitarian…and leader, Sarah McLachlan.

Yes, of course I’d heard of Lilith Fair. However, I didn’t know anything more about it than that it was a massively-successful, all-women musical tour. (Refer back to first sentence.)

In 1997 Sarah founded Lilith Fair in response to the sexist world of radio and concert promotion that would not feature two female artists in a row. Why not, I don’t know. But in our often strange world it takes a pioneer; a leader to break through and set things right.

First, she booked a successful tour with fellow singer/songwriter, Paula Cole. Then, she launched Lilith Fair which turned out to be hugely successful both creatively and financially.

The vision and the guts to lead the field into unchartered territory, directly bucking the establishment is a great example of leadership right there…but let’s look at something else.

Stumbling upon the below video during a YouTube musical journey, I came to understand her magic and why she is so loved by everyone.

Take a look at this video from one of the latter Lilith Fair performances; this in 2010. She has just called the participants from that evening’s event to join her onstage. Based on many of the posts and interviews we’ve featured on this blog, what do you notice as some of her impressive leadership qualities?

Here’s what I saw:

  1. It wasn’t about her. Yes, she was the promoter. Yet, like the great leaders we study, she took the spotlight off of herself and placed it upon the others.
  2. They felt welcome. Sarah greeted everyone as though they were the most important person in the world to her. She most likely created that environment from the very beginning of her communication with them.
  3. She made the little girl feel special. My apologies; I don’t know who the adorable little girl onstage is or the context for her being there. However, I can only imagine that being onstage in front of all those people and with those luminaries — at that age — could be a bit intimidating. However, Sarah danced and sang with her, allowing her to feel totally comfortable.
  4. Acknowledgement of the audience. When she thanked the audience and advised them to drive home carefully…I got the feeling she really did care.
  5. Inclusivity. Perhaps more than anything else what came through for me was the energy of inclusivity that she inspired.

These five points alone can increase the effectiveness of any team or business, large or small.

So, Sarah has definitely joined my list of leadership heroes. What lessons have you taken from our brief look at this musical icon?

And, is there someone you know (or know of) who has done something similar within their own field of expertise?

Who Is John Allison? A Principle-Based Leader

Friday, January 9th, 2015

When it comes right down to it, leadership is really a reflection of…who one is! It is about one’s character and principles. It is about one’s philosophy.

I posted about John Allison in “Those With High Character Take A Stand” and in reviewing his Number One New York Times Bestseller, The Financial Crisis And The Free Market Cure. That book was selected by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top 5 books on the financial crisis.

Just a few weeks ago I posted a review of his newest book, The Leadership Crisis And The Free Market Cure. I gobble up books on leadership and have learned a ton from many of them. This one might be the most important one yet.

John Allison: The Leadership Crisis and the Free Market CureAfter all, there’s a lot to learn from someone who as Chairman and CEO led his company, BB&T, through 20 years of explosive growth (from $4.5 billion to $152 billion in assets during his tenure!). This while many of his competitors were failing left and right.

More importantly, he did it the right way; through creating value for everyone whose lives he and his bank touched. He refused to participate in sub-prime lending even though that would’ve been the easy, profitable and accepted way to do business at that time. In fact, he was — let’s say — strongly encouraged by government regulators to do so. However, because it was contrary to what he believed was right, he refused. Yet, his bank flourished.

Harvard Business Review named him one of the decades top 100 most successful CEOs!

And, this brings us to today’s conversation. You see, all the above was driven by his character, based on the values and principles he lives by, congruent with his life philosophy. And, as he discusses both in the book and in our chat, this influences all forms of leadership: personal, business, and societal.

The current CEO of the highly-regarded libertarian think tank, Cato Institute, he doesn’t pull any punches, and you’ll see he doesn’t here!

John Allison: The Leadership Crisis and the Free Market CureCato Institute

 

In this chat we discuss:

    • A nut-shell explanation of the cause of the financial crisis
    • Why leaders fail
    • That we all have, and live by, a philosophy…whether we realize it or not
    • The importance of training your emotions to support what you know is the right decision
    • The essence of self-esteem and why it is THE most important issue of all

 

To order Mr. Allison’s book click here. For more information on The Cato Institute, visit www.cato.org.


TECHNICAL NOTE: If you are having trouble playing the interview, please make sure Adobe Flash Player is installed in your web browser. If not, then download Flash Player. Or right-click here and select “Save Link As…” to download the audio file to your computer.

Curing The Leadership Crisis

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

John Allison: The Leadership Crisis and the Free Market CureWould the principles that make one an effective, successful and happy individual create those same results for a company, and for society as a whole? In this absolutely terrific book on leadership, the author says that yes, indeed they would.

The following is from John A. Allison’s introduction to his recently-released, The Leadership Crisis And The Free Market Cure:

“{T}here is a set of ethical principles that is consistent with the laws of nature and the nature of humans that is the foundation for individual success and happiness. These same principles are applicable to organizations and to society.”

“The ultimate goal in life is to achieve happiness {in terms of} a life well- lived.” … “In this overall context, this is a book about leadership in the pursuit of happiness, at the individual, organization, and societal level.

“The foundation for this concept is self-leadership, which is essential for organizational leadership. Most failures of leadership are failures of self-leadership. And, most organizational failures are caused by failed leadership.”

It’s safe to say that Mr. Allison knows from whence he speaks. The prestigious Harvard Business Review named him one of the decades top 100 most successful CEOs.

More importantly, for 20 years he served as Chairman and CEO of BB&T, one of the largest financial institutions in America, growing the bank from $4.5 billion to $152 billion in assets during his tenure. And, they were hugely successful during a time when many banks failed spectacularly.

But, perhaps the banks’ huge profits came as a result of cronyism and sub-prime loans?

Actually, no. BB&T was one of the few banks that did not involve itself in sub-prime lending, writing only conventional mortgages. Mr. Allison was very outspoken against sub-prime lending, as well as cronyism in all its forms, including that between Washington, D.C. and many of the major banks.

When the bubble burst and banks were going under, he and his bank were left standing tall; not only in reputation…but in profitability, as well.

How Was This accomplished? Through rational, long-term thinking combined with a desire to provide exceptional value to customers, employees and shareholders alike.

And…by acting from a base of uncompromising values.

Now CEO of the highly-regarded libertarian think tank, Cato Institute, Allison approaches life and leadership from a very practical, logical, and rational viewpoint. He also approaches his relationships with employees and customers with an extremely benevolent, win/win mindset (as he referred to it, “getting better together”) always at the forefront.

Like the vast majority of ultra-successful people I’ve known and in this case, studied (I’ve been a fan for quite a while), he understands that happiness is the ultimate goal; that financial success is just one aspect of overall success and happiness. And, that all leadership begins with self-leadership; mastering ourselves and our character traits.

Two Distinct, But Integrated Parts

Part One, “Values in the Pursuit of Happiness” includes a chapter on each value that he deems vital and necessary to one’s successful pursuit of happiness. They were also the principles he used to lead at the bank.

They include being Reality Grounded, Reason (Objectivity), Independent Thinking, Productivity (Profitability), Honesty, Integrity, Justice, Pride, Self-Esteem (Self-Motivation) and Teamwork (Mutual Supportiveness).

According to the author, “Not only are these values not contradictory but they are integrated. Failure to execute on one value will make it impossible for you to execute on another value.”

Part Two, “Leading for Personal, Organization, and Societal Greatness” is really a Masters Degree in business leadership. That it’s told from the personal experiences of a man who has been there, done that very successfully, and is willing to share exactly how, is truly a gift. Absolutely fascinating and enlightening.

While again, logic and reason are very important to the author, his writing is warm and thoughtful, and he certainly understands the dynamics of emotion and human nature; that most people make decisions based on their emotions being in control. Yet, as he says, “Emotions are not a valid means of knowledge.”

So, how does he suggest we don’t make counterproductive decisions based on this fact?

“The goal should be to train your emotions so they automatically support the conclusions that your rational mind determined.”

Powerful!

One of my favorite points had to do with the importance of understanding the relationship of value and money, and that a business only makes money to the degree they focus on bringing value to their customers. I loved this gem:

“In the 1960’s, the CEO of General Motors announced that the mission of GM was to ‘make money.’ Shortly thereafter GM’s earnings started to decline. GM was created to make cars in a variety of price ranges and quality categories. Its real purpose is to make ‘good’ cars, and when it does this very well, it gets to make money. At BB&T our real purpose is to help our clients be financially successful and economically secure, and when we do this well, we can make money for our shareholders.”

He also warns about what he calls the “ultimate psychological sin of evasion.” This occurs when we choose not to explore what we know we should explore because we are afraid the information will not concur with our already-established views. Evasion has a dramatically negative impact on one’s happiness, as well as the success of a business or a society.

The author is very firm regarding the importance of staying focused on truth. He says, “When we evade, we are detached from reality and cannot learn or grow.” True both for individuals and for businesses. And, for society? He asks, “Do our political leaders make decisions based on reality?”

The pages of my copy of the book are filled with notes and underlines as well as starred and bracketed sentences and paragraphs. I simply cannot do this book justice in a single post. Let me suggest — if I may — that you purchase this book, read it, study it, and then buy it as a gift for all the leaders and potential leaders in your life.

There are a lot of excellent leadership books on the market and I’ve benefited from reading many of them. This one might just be the most important one yet!

—–

P.S. Here are just a few more gems from the book I couldn’t resist including. And I worked hard to whittle it down to just these: 🙂

“It is a significant error for a leader to promote a vision and not deliver. This is a fundamental breach of trust with the organization’s constituents.”

“The organizing principle of human action is purpose….{W}e are purpose-driven entities.”

“If your work is just ‘work,’ you are missing a lot of what life is about.”

“The ultimate societal incentive is freedom.”

“It is noteworthy that we seem to tolerate a level of dishonesty in politicians that we would not tolerate at work or with our friends.”

“It is irrational to expect someone to change his or her behavior based on nonexistent feedback.”

“The primary manner in which you earn self-esteem is by living your life with integrity and living your life consistent with your values.”

“Much of leadership is based on the ability to integrate multiple specialists to accomplish complex work that no single specialist could achieve alone.”

“Successful communities (teams) are created by voluntary mutual consent…Successful teams and communities cannot be built using force.”

“The compound self-esteem impact of working to your potential day in & day out is significant.”

“Earning money is tremendously rewarding, even if you give it all away. Earning money in a free society is a symbol of productivity and has a meaningful psychological reward. It is the earning, not the having, that is valuable.”

“Remember human flourishing — happiness — is the end of the game.”

Question Regarding Capitalism vs Cronyism

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

Question Regarding Capitalism vs Cronyism - Bob BurgIn a Facebook group run by my friend, Dov Baron, he posed the following question:

Capitalism…Do you see a difference between Capitalism and Corporate Capitalism? Should we keep either, both, and if so how do you see us repairing the system?

Many responded. One I found to be particularly interesting was from someone we’ll call Steve who replied:

“The ‘elephant in the room’ difference is that Capitalism can use guns to enforce their will.”

Since that, by definition, is actually the very opposite of Capitalism, and I feel that understanding this concept is so vital to our future as a country, I responded to Dov’s question and “Steve’s” comment with the following:

“Corporate Capitalism” (a/k/a “Corporatism” or “Crony Capitalism”) is a misnomer and is actually not Capitalism at all. As I often say, “Crony Capitalism is to Capitalism what Chinese Checkers is to Checkers…nothing!”

That’s why I don’t even use that term “Crony Capitalism” and simply call it “Cronyism.”

The entire premise of Capitalism — aside from private ownership — is that it is the exchange of products/services between two or more willing parties with both sides coming away from the exchange better off than they were before the exchange. Otherwise, neither party would willingly participate.

Cronyism, on the other hand, is where corporations or other special interests purchase special favors, rules and regulations from politicians (usually via lobbyists and through campaign contributions and other goodies) in order to provide themselves with an unfair advantage over the competition.

This ultimately hurts the consumer in many ways as well as the country as a whole.

Freedom vs. Force

Responding to Steve, I must respectfully disagree and say that the difference is not that Capitalists can use guns to enforce their will; it’s Cronyism that employs “the guns of government” through the buying of politic favors from politicians.

Key Point: With true Capitalism, companies can only get people to buy from them by providing value in such a way that a consumer chooses to do so. In a truly free-market environment the consumer is the ultimate boss and votes with their dollars.

In other words, Capitalism is based on freedom of choice. Cronyism is based on manipulation, politics, and ultimately, force.

Capitalism — while not utopian or perfect — has been the driving force in an increase in the standard of living for everyone living under that system. The more economically free a country is, the higher standard of living for the masses (including the poor). The less free, the lower the standard of living.

In answer to Dov’s question about how to repair this situation, the citizenry must insist its elected representatives do not participate in Cronyism or they will be voted out of office.

Of course, for this to happen, the citizenry must first understand the difference between Cronyism and Capitalism. I’m afraid that at this point most people think they are the same. And, that is a huge problem.

We cannot repair what we don’t understand.

Want to weigh in? Feel…free! 🙂