I was recently asked to define people-centered leadership. This question came on the heels of 2 days with 13 leaders, as part of a leadership development program I designed and deliver once a year for a Michigan-based company. The timing was perfect, because the first task I give them is to finish the sentence, ‘Leadership is . . .’
So when the teacher (me) became the student, here are the 7 books that came to mind as having shaped my thinking on leading in all areas of my life:
- The Servant by James C. Hunter
- One-Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
- Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx
- Good to Great by Jim Collins
- First, Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
- Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Don Clifton
- Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom
Why Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx? As a parent and a leadership coach, I am often reminded of how both roles require the same skills and focus. I love this book because of the message and the wisdom it shares. It helped me define my own belief that I share in my book: I believe fear motivates for the short term and love motivates for the long term. I guess you could say I teach leaders how to love in the workplace. If that sounds risky, read my book – Chapter 1: ‘I Believe…’, point 4.
Why Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom? I coach leaders who are amazingly successful, but all the money and power in the world won’t make their sacrifices worthwhile. This book helped me seek a more balanced state before my death bed and is a constant reminder of the value of relationships.
What books on your list helped you define – Leadership is . . ? I would love to hear them.
Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often! (This is at the core of people-centered leadership.)
A book that I really like right now is from Rich Sheridan, and it is called Joy, Inc. How We Built a Workplace People Love. Two reasons I like it.
- It is from a CEO/leader who built his business from scratch and he is intimately involved in his business. 99.9% of businesses in the United States are less than 500 people, and I love a leadership voice from the leader that most people can identify with. Rich is CEO of Menlo Innovations.
- It reintroduces emotions into the conversation, not just theories and actions. Joy, Love, Excitement, Jubilation – – – we need more of these things. When our professional reputations, paychecks, support network, friends are all tied into our jobs, and 8.4 million of those jobs disappear in an economic downturn, there is a lot of anger, frustration, sadness, worry, fear, and hunger to overshadow the feelings that great cultures are built on. Leaders cannot make other people feel better. But here is one leaders journey to building a company around a culture.
Rich was our guest speaker at our local chamber breakfast this week, and I had the pleasure of introducing him. I have toured his business, Menlo Innovations, several times (the give public tours to see their culture up close), we share a mentor/friend, and I invited him to speak because my community/state needed to hear his message.
In talking with Rich, he shared one big question he gets from business owners:- “Great message Rich. But where do I start?” As a preview, here is what Rich says:
Try Small, Simple Experiments: To jump-start the exploration of joy in your own workplace, surprise your team with some simple experiments. Here are a few you might consider. They won’t cost anything.
The two experiments he recommends are:
- Where do you sit? If you are in an office, move out and near your people.
- Try a stand-up meeting for a week: He describes a daily Menlo meeting that is quick, effective, and done standing up.
Finally, he invites everyone to visit Menlo and see the culture in person. If you are looking for a speaker on leadership in your community that will talk about culture I recommend Rich. He has a great story.
If you are looking for a good outing for your leadership team and you can get to Ann Arbor – I recommend going to visit to help you start your own conversation around culture.