Currently Reading…

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Although it’s only the 9th of June, this month has been filled with new classes to teach, a Junior League leadership training and many meetings to kick off the new League year, a course reboot for Professional Communication and Presentation, and my summer class at UCF on Communication and Conflict among about a dozen other things.  Fortunately, this Conflict class comes at a perfect time, as I’ve finally decided on a direction for my graduate thesis.  I’m spending this summer writing a research paper proposal in Conflict, and this proposal will transform into my thesis under the direction of my advisor and my committee.

My thesis is about female leadership and the challenges women face when their “female” identity conflicts with their “leader” identity.  I am still in the beginning stages of the thesis process, so I checked out some library books to help me find my direction…

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Sheryl Sandberg and Brene Brown’s books were obvious choices after watching their TED presentations and hearing about them in the news.  I stumbled upon How Remarkable Women Lead by Barsh and Cranston as well as Why The Best Man For The Job Is A Woman by Esther Wachs Book simply because of their titles.  I have one book coming in from Cocoa through inter-library loan and a few books waiting for me on the shelves at the UCF library.

Would you suggest any additional books I might read as I develop the direction for my thesis on women, leadership, and communication?

The Key to Credibility is…

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Alex Rister:

Another entry on Prezi’s Top 100 Presentation Resources list is my superteacher partner in crime, Chiara Ojeda of Tweak Your Slides. Check out this post she wrote yesterday on empathy using two great videos, one animating Brene Brown’s work…

Originally posted on Tweak Your Slides:

Empathy! Yep, that’s right–not credentials, expertise, title, or extensive research. The key to achieving strong credibility with your audience is to empathize with them. Why is this? Because, empathizing with the audience helps speakers achieve the type of true credibility Aristotle describes in Rhetoric:

“We believe good men more fully and more readily than others: this is true generally whatever the question is, and absolutely true where exact certainty is impossible and opinions are divided. . . his character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion he possesses.” Aristotle, Rhetoric

True credibility comes from a person who is “good,” a person of good character. Empathy, the ability to become your audience’s needs, wants, values, fears, and desires, is key to conveying good character. A presenter who can empathize with his or her audience is truthful–no one likes to be lied to; a presenter who is empathetic conveys…

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Simon Sinek’s “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe”

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Simon Sinek has done it again!  “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe” is a new TED Talk by the speaker who gave us wildly popular “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” or the “Start With Why” speech.  This March 2014 presentation is not to be missed.  Check it out below:

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This speech emphasizes trust and safety as the keys to establishing leadership in a company or business.  If employees live in a culture of constant fear, if they feel they could lose their job at any moment if they don’t abide by the rules or the chain of command, leadership is not good if it can be called “leadership” at all.

Sinek teaches us that good leadership is about nurturing and opportunity, education and discipline, as well as a focus on building self-confidence.  He says if an employee at a company with good leadership is having performance issues, that company focuses on coaching and support.  He also says good leaders sacrifice numbers for people.  Companies with strong leadership know that people are the bottom line and not money.  Sinek tells story after story after story of companies with leadership that empowers people.  You have got to watch his Talk.

Leadership is infinitely fascinating to me.  I recently shared several articles I’ve been reading in the last edition of Links of the Week.  I began a new leadership training at my company today.  Yesterday, I had a meeting with my professor to flesh out my leadership-centered graduate thesis topic.  I can never read enough or learn enough on the topic, and I think I am most curious because I see leadership and presentation/communication skills so closely linked.

What great resources on leadership have you enjoyed lately?  Did you like this Sinek talk on leadership as much as his first TED presentation?

Links of the Week: 2014.08

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This week, I’d like to share some great articles on leadership and management.  As I am transitioning into my new position as Vice President of Marketing and Communications with my volunteer organization this month, I have been reading and studying leadership best practices.

I’ve also been thinking back to great leaders I’ve worked with and comparing them with not so great leaders to really help me define what kind of VP I want to be.  INC.com’s Jeff Haden compiled a list of the top 50 leadership and management experts.  This list is excellent because it lets me know the thought-leaders in the field I should be reading up on and following on social media.  Some of my favorites made the list (Nancy Duarte, Sheryl Sandberg, Susan Cain, Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, Dan Pink, Simon Sinek, John Maxwell), and I was also introduced to so many new people.  It does disappoint me to see so few women on the list; however, many of the women I would have added are professors.  Haden’s list was compiled to find “globally the most popular management and leadership writers in the English language.  In other words, we did not focus on local countries or languages; we did not focus on teachers, professors, or CEOs; and we did not measure any other topics besides management and leadership” (Source).

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Since Haden’s article focused on the English language and American culture, “How To Lead Well Across Cultures” from Forbes was important for me to check out.  Power distance was the central focus.  Power distance was defined for the purposes of the article as “the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations accept and expect that power is distributed equally” (Source).  That got me thinking about the kinds of meetings I want to lead as VP of Marketing and Communications.  I want to facilitate round-table meetings where we all brainstorm, think, and talk through issues together.  Sharing the power requires confidence in yourself and your team, and this can be a difficult task.  I think back to all of the leaders I’ve worked with in the past both at work, at school, and at my volunteer “jobs.”  In my experience, my favorite leaders have emphasized collaboration and an open, honest space to share ideas.

In “Great Leadership: 7 Traits Of True Leadership,” Leigh Buchanan explains what I love collaborative, team-focused leaders.  She says the most important traits of a leader include empathy, vulnerability, humility, inclusiveness, generosity, balance, and patience (Source).  These are qualities I would assign to the strongest leaders I’ve worked with in the past.  The best boss I’ve ever had supported me by listening to me and making my needs a priority; challenging and pushing me to be better and stronger at my job; and including me in times of important decision-making.  Even though she was my boss and my superior, she trusted my input and ideas.  She earned the respect of everyone around her by showing people that same respect along with support and love.  She is the kind of leader I want to be and will work hard to be.

What qualities do you look for in a strong, effective leader?  Which of these new experts on Haden’s list of 50 leadership/management experts should I start reading about and studying?

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Can We Have It All?”

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One of my research interests, certainly inspired by Sheryl Sandberg, is this idea of female leadership in the workplace.  What identity do female leaders construct and share with others?  What “self” are they creating and presenting to the world?

Anne-Marie Slaughter‘s “Can We Have It All?” tackles an important question about women in the workplace.  She argues that no, we women can’t have it all.  Watch her moving TED Talk below:

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Slaughter opens with a powerful story that just punches me right in the gut.  As a woman without children who is dedicated to her career, I can’t fathom the decision she made.  And that’s what her entire presentation is about.

Slaughter talks about the measure of a woman’s success – being at the “top” of her career.  I agree that this is one major way I measure my own success as a woman.  She says we have to rethink this so that “success,” and she presents her big idea at about the 4:00 mark.  Then, she moves into why we should adapt a new solution and how we can do it as humanists – not as feminists.

Learn more about Slaughter’s perspective in “Elite Women Put a New Spin on an Old Debate” by the New York Times and NPR’s “The Impossible Juggling Act: Motherhood and Work.”

Did you watch any great TED Talks over the weekend?

Leading Effective Meetings

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Presentations and meetings are similar in that both mediums are broken.  The average presentation is boring, worthless, and a waste of time, and so are most meetings I attend.  Before I starting studying effective presenting in 2010, I accepted death-by-PowerPoint as the standard for presentations.  Fortunately, I had a wake up call after being introduced to Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds.  From Duarte and Reynolds, I branched out and began reading books by other people such as Sunni Brown and David Sibbet as well as articles on Forbes and INC, and I had an “ah ha” moment about meetings, too.

Jeff Haden sums up my thoughts perfectly.  Haden says, “Information should be shared before the meeting. If I need to make a decision during a meeting, shouldn’t I have the information I need to make that decision ahead of time? Send documents, reports, etc. to participants in advance. Using meetings as a way to share information is unproductive, a waste of time and, well, lazy” (Source).  So many meetings devolve into a time to share what we’ve been doing, and during these get-togethers, I can barely keep my eyes open.

I thought long and hard about the meetings I attended on a weekly and monthly basis.  Meetings were a constant part of my life – even more so than presentations – since about 2002.  I’d attended countless meetings for work and for volunteer organizations, and I realized that most of those meetings were disappointing because they were only about information sharing.  And as I transition into a leadership role myself as the Vice President of Marketing and Communications, I realize I don’t want people to dread my meetings.  How can I use the meeting medium more effectively?

First, I ordered Bryan Mattimore’s Idea Stormers: How To Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs.  The book should arrive this week, and I am excited to read and then review it.

Second, I began researching meetings (again) to collect some ideas on leading effective meetings from experts.  One of the resources I found is GoGamestorm, a website that corresponds with Sunni Brown’s Gamestorming book.  I began combing through the site to see what kinds of meetings I wanted to hold.

In Fast Company’s “11 Simple Tips for Having Great Meetings,” some of my favorite leaders give advice on how to lead a meeting.  Richard Branson says we should keep it novel, and Guy Kawasaki believes we should pretend like we’ve failed.

Third, I considered the purpose of meetings.  Simon Sinek teaches us to start with why.  So why do I attend meetings?  In a world of email, texting, and instant messaging, I can quickly find out information.  I don’t go to a meeting for information.  I go to a meeting to feel inspired, to collaborate with people, to share ideas, and to move people or to be moved myself.  When I compare the purpose of meetings, the “why” is so similar to why we hold and attend presentations.  I cannot WAIT to study meetings for the next few months and hold my first official (and hopefully successful) council meeting this summer.  I will let you know my first meeting agenda once I read Mattimore’s book and GoGamestorm.

How do you lead effective meetings within your work or volunteer organization?  What have other people done to lead a meeting that you considered effective?

What It Takes To Be A Great Leader

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This week, I am preparing to transition into a new leadership role: Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Junior League of Greater Orlando.  On Friday and Saturday, the Board of Directors has our weekend retreat where we will meet to discuss and plan to upcoming year.  After our retreat, we will get right into appointing the other leaders of the League among other important tasks.  As I step up into this new position and consider appointing others to the M&C Council, I wonder about leadership.  Why do some people work to develop leadership qualities while others do not?  How can we all continue to push ourselves to be better, stronger leaders?

Roselinde Torres delivered a TED Talk called “What It Takes To Be A Great Leader.”  Watch it here:

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Torres discusses what leadership means today, in 2014, and it is quite different from your grandmother’s definition of a leader.  She says leadership in the 21st century is defined and evidenced in 3 questions: 1) Where are you looking to anticipate change?  She says the answer to this question is on your calendar (Source).  Torres believes have to think about who we’re spending our time with, what we’re spending our time doing, what we’re reading, what we’re thinking about (Source).  The next question is: What is the diversity measure of your personal and professional network?  Torres says this question is about your ability to develop relationships with people who are very different from you.  Listen to her speech at the 7:00 mark for a really eye-opening answer to question 2.  The third and final question is this: Are you courageous enough to abandon the past?  She argues we should be able to abandon practices that have worked for us in the past.  It’s true that if we always do what is familiar and comfortable, we will never grow.  I believe it is also true that we should abandon past failures.  This final question resonated with me in thinking about it that way.  I think great leaders have a growth mindset and are able to see past failures as stepping stones toward future success.  I also agree with Torres that taking risks to solve problems is essential to leadership.

Maybe we aren’t there yet.  Maybe we’re good at one of those items on Torres’ 21st century leader list, but we have to work on the other two.  Will Yakowicz offers a solution in “How To Be A Better Leader By Rewiring Your Brain.”  Yakowicz says we have to manage our amygdala (our lizard brain).  This will help us take chances and expand our network – two things our lizard brain often holds us back from accomplishing.  Yakowicz’s second solution is to write down things we are grateful for.  He believes “[e]very employee wants a grateful leader. But since the human brain suffers from what psychologists call ‘the negativity bias,’ where we are more attuned to threat than opportunity, you may have to work at firing up your feelings of gratitude” (Source).  This practice will definitely help us with risk taking.  His final solution focuses on all three of Torres’ questions and that solution is to give back. Finding time each day to give to other people helps with the calendar issue, with the network issue, and with the risk-taking issue.  In addition to answering Torres’ three leadership questions, giving back also improves your outlook and optimism, two more great qualities of a leader.

I am fascinated by the concept of leadership, so I constantly read articles in the leadership sections of Forbes and INC.  How do you read, study, and practice leadership?  What do YOU think it takes to be a great leader?