We know so much, and have studied so much, and have imagined so much about what great leadership looks, smells, and acts like.

And yet.

And yet, we’re not very good at it, are we? As many people in organizational life often — painfully — suspect, we haven’t quite mastered it. This is not a criticism or a breathless statement of crisis. It’s just an observation.

Leading well is tough. As much as we love the idea of leading, and as full as our heads are with the knowledge and techniques of leading, it’s very difficult to do. Despite our attempts to quantify, analyze and simplify it in the laboratory, out in the wild it is a shadowy creature, escaping the traps we set for it.

The mystery, however, is not about what we still need to learn or invent about good leadership practice and behavior.

The mystery is this: why, with all we know, with all our wonderful, good and true knowledge, do we too often fail to realize the ideals of leadership in ourselves and in our organizations?

All of these approaches to leadership and personal growth, to their credit, describe a kind of utopia, where purpose, teamwork, success and joy flow like milk and honey. Why, then, do we have such trouble reaching this promised land? Where is the flaw?

Why, blessed with an abundance of insight and intellect about effective behaviors and principles of personal growth, are we unable to sustain the change and effectiveness we seek?

Why do we continue to struggle with results we don’t want or intend (but, nonetheless, our behavior and choices are perfectly designed to produce)? Why, after all those books and seminars, nothing seems to be different, or our progress is painfully slow?

Why do we find it so hard to change, when we know we should and we know what it’s supposed to look like?

Why do we mess it up?

We are addicted to cheap leadership.

At worst, we pursue this addiction intentionally. This intentional, or conscious, form of cheap leadership can be the cynical exercise of certain management behaviors that are a form of abuse, but what we claim are designed to “solve problems,” “get results,” or “win.” It can also be those behaviors we’ve simply learned or observed, and which we have come to believe without question are the best way to organize and conduct daily business.

More commonly, but no less toxic, we are simply unconscious of both the addiction and its consequences. Our intentions are good; we simply don’t realize what we’re doing, and why, nor do we always immediately notice the damage done.

Either way, cheap leadership is the biggest threat to our personal growth, an enabler of our ineffective behaviors, and a stumbling block to our success as leaders.

Cheap leadership mires our organizations in mediocrity, or worse. It erodes performance and sustainability. It steals, often silently and invisibly, from our bottom line.

Cheap leadership smothers the happiness and enjoyment of work, and the fulfillment that all of us — leaders and followers — seek in organizational life.

Our addiction to cheap leadership chokes the creativity, energy and problem-solving skills of everyone around us. It frustrates and weakens. It annoys and deflates.

Cheap leadership is poison.

Posted
AuthorJoseph Fusco

Are you or your organization, company or political candidate looking for a “message”? Are you feeling the need to “get the message out”? Are you sitting around in meetings, facing a crisis or problem, asking, “what’s our message?”

Well, stop it.

There is no discernable market among human beings — employees, customers, the public — for “messages.” Nobody is looking or hungry for messages. People want the truth.

People want a relationship. They want to be talked to honestly, with humility and without agenda or “spin.”

Organizations love the illusion of control. Crafting a “message” implies you have control over what people will think and how they’ll react. You don’t. The only control you have is whether or not you’re honest, humble, love or care about people, and whether or not you’re living your values, beliefs and your mission.

The worst message is half a truth.

Posted
AuthorJoseph Fusco
  Bill Murray and  Stephen Tobolowsky

Bill Murray and Stephen Tobolowsky

Groundhog Day” is the greatest movie about leadership ever made. Its lesson? We build mastery in our lives one moment at a time.

A great life, and great leadership, is really just a collection of smaller, individual moments of mastery. Bill Murray’s character unlocks this secret about three-quarters of the way through the film, and no longer sees the day he’s condemned to repeat as an endless hell, but as an opportunity to master his life — to build one small victory at a time, one encounter at a time.

It is a wonderful metaphor for our daily lives. We are condemned to repeat everything, every day unless we change. Unless we change, or achieve mastery, we are each living the same hellish day over and over again, with the same results, the same undesirable outcomes. Yet, each day, in as many conscious moments as possible, we’re given opportunities to rise above and set aside our ineffective beliefs and behaviors, and strive to live and lead against a standard — not perfection, but an ideal — of what it means to be as effective a person as humanly possible.

Every action, every thought, every decision -- even every little word that escapes our lips -- is an opportunity to exist in a single moment of mastery, to elevate ourselves and others.

Then, one day, with hard work and perseverance, we find that we’re able to string these moments together — like one bead after another — in a work of leadership and behavioral art. And we become free.

This is the journey of a leader, regardless of our definition of leadership, or the set of leadership principles you and I have chosen to follow.

Posted
AuthorJoseph Fusco

The common.

The unremarkable.

The crowd.

Fear.

Paralysis.

Faithlessness.

Cynicism.

The selfish.

Grasping, hoarding.

Focusing on emotional needs instead of the quality of the solution to the problem.

Love of the title.

Relying on the title for compliance.

Love of one’s own power, influence and control.

“Me first…”

Telling yourself lies.

The perceived immunity of title, power, and position.

Lip service to values and ideals.

Lip service to hard choices on leadership and personal growth.

Superficial attention to improving yourself.

Superficial attention to improving others.

Short-term horizon.

Instant gratification.

Giving up too soon.

Moving on too quickly.

Giving up upon resistance or failure.

Yielding to the demands of unimportant issues. 

Entropy.

Gravity.

Unconsciousness.

Posted
AuthorJoseph Fusco

Being a source of something scarce makes you valuable to the people in your life — family, friends, your employer, your community.

So, speaking of scarcity in today’s environment, here’s something very valuable you can do:

Be someone who starts and encourages upbeat conversations.

People are gloomy. The news is gloomy. The sky is falling.

Be the person in your environment who’s the optimist, who celebrates what is going well (it’s there — look for it…). Encourage people, pat them on the back.

Talk about how the world is being reinvented. Talk about all the opportunities on the other side of the anxiety and disruption. Tell funny stories. Laugh a lot.

I guarantee you will be very nearly alone in that effort. This makes you the source of something scarce. This makes you valuable, and valued, among the people you care about most. 

Posted
AuthorJoseph Fusco
2 CommentsPost a comment