Leading Fully

Patrick Ogburn's Leadership Blog

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One of my favorite one-liners came from a friend of mine who works a lot with senior executives: “There are two things you never get as a CEO: A bad lunch, and the truth.” People usually chuckle when they hear that – because like all good humor, it has a grain of the truth in it. This should be disconcerting for leaders. How can you run a company, division, or even department if nobody will tell you the truth? Does your organization welcome candor?

In my time flying jets for the USAF, one of the things that I learned is that feedback can be a matter of life and death. For most of us, it’s not literally life and death, but it can seem that way. When we live our working lives in a “feedback desert,” as a client once said to me about her organization, then well-delivered feedback can seem as life-giving as water when it does finally come.

Many times, leaders who attain a level of success by advancing through their technical discipline reach a level where their strengths don’t seem to be getting them the results they expect at the next level. There are some logical fallacies to avoid and valuable lessons to apply that can help you take your leadership to the next level.

Leading up to the final climactic scene of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, an on-screen adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s famous tale, Alice is preparing to face the Jabberwocky. Alice, seeing the monster, says, “This is impossible.” The Hatter’s reply: “Only if you believe it is.” Alice quips: “Sometimes, I believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” to which the Hatter replies, “That is an excellent practice.”

Sometimes, as leaders, we find ourselves in the role of making the insurmountable seem possible — not only for others, but for ourselves as well. Let’s look at six things we can learn from Alice’s story.

How can we learn from the enthusiasm of youth? As the end of the year approaches, it is traditionally the time of year that we begin thinking about what we will do for the new year. Very often, we start with a list of what we wished we had done this year. Not a bad place to start, but did you ever wonder why we so reliably can call to mind the things we wished we had done (but failed), rather than those things which are really exciting? Here are 5 tips for doing (rather than thinking about) those things that are important to you…

Over the years, I have spent many hours in dialogue with corporate leaders about how to define leadership. Most of these conversations were in the context of identifying and developing internal leadership talent or identifying and selecting external candidates based on leadership characteristics. More often than I care to admit, the conversations would end in an unresolved exploration of the “it” factor — that certain inarticulable attribute of leadership […] There is a name for the “it” factor. It’s called character.

As a leader, you are a person to whom people in your life look when asking themselves if they should be hopeful. A leader offers hope because they are able to offer (and demonstrate) a well reasoned perspective that shows not only that things can improve, but how and why so.

The whole family was together, gathered on the back patio and around the pool to celebrate my youngest son Jamie’s fifth birthday. My siblings and I were talking about the state of our economy and the political climate, which can hardly be discussed without emotion, especially among those of us who care about the future. […]

Camping with my sons often lends perspective to matters that are relevant to us all. Most recently, I had the privilege to enjoy a full week of camping with two of my sons (ages 7 and 9) at the Heritage Scout Reservation in the Laurel Highlands of PA. The camp is operated largely by current […]