Do You Follow a Leader Who Deals in Hope?

March 27, 2014

“A leader is a dealer in hope.” Napoleon Bonaparte

Hope inspires us to believe that better, brighter times are yet to come.

Hope inspires us to believe that better, brighter times are yet to come.

Last week I participated in three days of intense training near our national headquarters in Washington, D.C. I left filled with hope and optimism after I’d met with some of the top leaders in our organization, (the American Red Cross).

On my flight home, I began thinking about my renewed hope, and the quote from Napoleon Bonaparte pushed its way to the forefront of my mind. “A leader is a dealer in hope.”

I thought about the leaders I’ve admired. They instill hope in others because they have:

  1. A vision. Leaders know where they are going. They envision what success will look like, and they paint a vivid picture so others can share in that vision. On the final day of last week’s training, our senior vice president for communications sat at my table in the dining room. As I asked him specific questions about the monumental changes occurring within the organization, he responded by saying, “I have a dream.” He then painted a picture of our yet-to-be-realized future. I could see it! I wanted to be part of it!
  2. A plan. Not only do great leaders know where we are going, they have a plan for how we’ll get there. They may delegate much of the navigation to managers who will guide us through the treacherous terrain, yet they always have a plan.
  3. Situational awareness. I don’t trust leaders who have a Pollyanna-like optimism. I want to follow someone who comprehends the complexity and challenges of the situation, yet is not daunted by that reality. Good leaders are fully aware they will face obstacles such as the scarcity of finances, the machinations of political opponents and the stubbornness of skeptics. Yet they press on.
  4. A team. Good leaders know they cannot achieve success alone. They recruit, train and empower competent team members. Like Moses, they have an uncanny way of reminding their followers that we’re all in this together.  Although we may spend time wandering in the wilderness, our leaders create teamwork by reminding us we are headed towards the Promised Land that flows with milk and honey.
  5. Resources. Too many people wallow in inertia, waiting until they are given ample resources. Early in my career a mentor said, “Resources flow to achievers.” That concept stuck with me. Early victories often are achieved with meager resources, but as momentum builds and success becomes a way of life, resources will follow. After all, wise investors want to entrust their resources to leaders who promise a great return on investment.

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Quotes I Love

September 29, 2010

Quotations inspire me. They focus me. They motivate me.

I like the way an eloquent quote can elegantly reflect the light of resplendent wisdom. To me, each quotation has special value.

I collect quotes as a gem collector might gather precious stones. Like gemstones, quotes were never meant to be hoarded and stored in a dark, out-of-sight vault. Rather, they are most appreciated when shared and displayed for the enrichment of all.

If you also appreciate quotes, I invite you to meander through this collection of my favorites, categorized by these topics:

  1. Being Creative
  2. Planning and Goal Setting
  3. Being a Leader
  4. Learning, Teaching and Being Well Educated
  5. Understanding Life’s Transitions
  6. Marketing Effectively
  7. Achieving Success
  8. Creating a Compelling Vision
  9. Overcoming Adversity
  10. Chuckling with Yogi

A Manifesto for Team Performance

September 8, 2010

To achieve success, members of any marketing team must be united by a compelling vision and a shared set of beliefs.

With a commitment to teamwork, I invite you to join me in believing and internalizing the following affirmations:

  1. We are inspired by the mission of our team.
  2. As we visualize the role of marketing within the organization, we are proud to be a part of an exceptional consulting team working on projects that really matter.
  3. We value diversity within our group, knowing that each of us makes a unique contribution.
  4. We build synergy whereby the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In so doing, we recognize the interdependence of every member of the team.
  5. When the spotlight is on one of us individually, we appreciate and acknowledge the contributions made by our teammates, knowing that success is usually a team effort.
  6. We celebrate when another member of the team excels. After all, we know that one teammate’s success reflects positively on the entire group.
  7. When something goes wrong, we avoid pointing fingers and assigning blame. Instead, we join hands to seek solutions and to look for the learning embedded within the situation.
  8. We assume positive intentions on the part of others. In circumstances where there is a potential for misunderstanding, we proactively seek clarification.
  9. We are loyal to other members of the team, especially in their absence. We focus on the positive, affirming attributes of co-workers and teammates.
  10. We always operate from an abundance mentality that seeks win-win solutions. We refuse to believe that our win implies a loss for someone else, knowing that a scarcity mentality spawns fear, competitiveness and retaliation.



A Manifesto for Being Visionary and Strategic

August 25, 2010

Helen Keller was right when she said, “The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision.”

Everyone, it seems, talks about the importance of having a vision, but very few people have a vivid picture of what they hope their future will look like.

With a commitment to being visionary and strategic, I invite you to join me in believing  that:

  1. The effectiveness of a vision statement can be measured by its ability to inspire us to rally around a shared picture of what can be—and must be—our new reality.
  2. A compelling vision is future-focused and usually threatens those deeply vested in the status quo.
  3. Progress always requires change, but not all change is progress.
  4. Where there is no vision, people perish.
  5. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
  6. Tactics not tied to strategy are nothing more than busywork.
  7. When you and I are not pursuing the same goal, then we are not on the same team.
  8. When you and I focus on the same goal from different vantage points, we have stereoscopic vision that gives us better depth perception.
  9. Every project can be improved by periodically asking, “Why are we doing this?”
  10. We must, as Stephen Covey says, begin with the end in mind.


Please, Not Another Fundraising Campaign!

December 3, 2009

Two years ago I served on the Finance Committee of my church. Like many nonprofits facing an unbalanced budget, we debated the merits of yet another fundraising campaign. I was among a minority who felt that another campaign was not the “silver bullet.” I shared my thoughts in an e-mail sent to my fellow committee members.

Believing that some of those ideas may be relevant beyond the parochial boundaries of my church, I share them with the hope that nonprofit professionals will be more strategic and less reactive when raising money. Here’s what I wrote back in July 2007:

Dear friends. First, I acknowledge that the budget needs an infusion of cash. Without question, we need more money and we need to do something quickly and dramatically.  But…

Without the backdrop of a strategic vision, a fundraising campaign may ultimately do greater long-term damage to our finances. If we ask people for financial engagement when too few feel engaged at other levels, they may become calloused to our financial needs. How many hundreds of times have they heard us cry, “The sky is falling!” because expenses exceed revenue?

I begin, though, with the following assumptions:

  1. People everywhere are experiencing donor fatigue. They are saturated with fundraising appeals, not only at church but in their everyday lives. The needs are endless and the appeals keep coming.
  2. In the absence of a compelling, strategic vision, people become disengaged and uninspired. Members truly want to be inspired, engaged and strategically led. The congregation is comprised of good people who want to be involved and who are capable of generously giving more.
  3. Once members feel inspired, engaged and strategically led, they will come alive and be much more involved.

Within the Finance Committee we have discussed various reasons why people should give. I’ve clustered all those messages into the following three categories: Read the rest of this entry »

Why I Hate Committees (But Love Task Forces)

November 5, 2009

I think committees are a colossal waste of time. Too often they focus on process rather than impact. The typical agenda emphasizes “coloring within the lines” rather than creating collaboration. Attendees are probably there because they are required to be, not because they necessarily have something to contribute.

Over time, a committee tends to take on a life of its own. It creates work to perpetuate its existence. It looks for problems to solve in areas where problems didn’t exist until they were created by problem-solving committee members.

When I’ve chaired committees I’ve often struggled to understand why the committee was originally created and why it continues to exist. I’ve been a member of committees where I was able to catch up on my reading while held hostage by PowerPoint presentations intended to torture me with a meaningless dump of information. As a nonprofit leader, I’ve staffed numerous committees where I wondered how to best use the time of busy volunteers who thought committee work was a good way to be engaged in a worthwhile cause.

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The Difference between Mission and Vision

October 8, 2009

A nonprofit CEO recently sent a question to my Facebook inbox. “I am trying to write a new mission statement and also to create a vision statement,” she said. “My problem is I am not sure what the difference is. My vision statements tend to look like mission statements. How are they different?”

Excellent question. She’s probably among a majority of business people who are confused about the two. Not knowing the difference contributes to foggy thinking and an incomplete vision. Here’s how I distinguish the two:

  1. A mission statement is present tense. It focuses on what your organization is today. It concentrates on the company’s current purpose and addresses why the business exists.
  2. A vision statement is future focused. It paints a picture of what you want the organization to become. It defines the new reality you hope to create in the future.

The mission and the vision should be complementary.

A mission statement should be differentiating and guide management in making day-to-day decisions about the company’s operations.

A vision statement, on the other hand, is usually more inspiring. Rightly done, it reflects the shared vision of the key stakeholders. It’s something everyone feels passionately about. People should rally around their vision, and it should compel them to work together on making that vision their new reality.

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