Power: Gollum couldn’t handle it; can you?

Lessons from the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) Trilogypower4 The enduring popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fable trilogy, the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) is owed to brilliant writing combined with themes everyone can relate to, from camaraderie to courage to romance to the abuse of power. The basic plot was the attempt by an alliance for Frodo the Hobbit to forever destroy an all-powerful ring that would allow its wearer to dominate the world; a ring the evil “ringwraiths” sought after.

One helpful definition of power is influence plus enforcement

Power is the greatest benefit as well as the greatest danger for the executive on the ascent. There are many lessons from LOTR that can help give it perspective.

The ring was both a symbol of power and a source of power Having a title that starts with “chief”, or “executive” or “commissioner, etc., is itself both a symbol and a conveyor of power. As a former adjunct lecturer at a college where all instructors are called “professor” I became keenly aware of students’ desire to please me, even by agreeing with positions they thought I held, that they didn’t even believe in. It was understandable given the propensity of so many other authority figures in education to espouse their philosophies (Let’s get one thing straight, there is no God!) (Republicans are the party of progress). and penalize or humiliate students for disagreeing. Be mindful that just having a corner office, an assistant or a seat at the head of the conference table lets people know you wield power and influence without saying a word. Continue reading “Power: Gollum couldn’t handle it; can you?”

Managing Your “Meeting Pouter”

You’re in your monthly strategic meeting when for the umpteenth time, Feng makes a snarky comment to a new suggestion. Everyone either glares at him with annoyance or audibly sighs. Here we go again! Will the boss ever say something to him??


While it may seem like a simple case of poor work ethic (which it sometimes is), this lack of proper meeting decorum is also a symptom of poor emotional intelligence (EI). Koman and Wolff identify  four overarching clusters of EI skills: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management (Goleman, 2001; Boyatzis, Goleman & Rhee, 1999). The lack of any of the cluster of skills mentioned can present in inappropriate behavior with a damaging impact at your meetings.  I call these resulting behaviors – for simplicity sake – “pouting”.

Categories of “pouting” we may observe at meetings Continue reading “Managing Your “Meeting Pouter””

Preparing to LAUNCH; 10 Questions to answer before your next step up

How do you get from where you are at work to the upper management-level  position where you want to be?


We should all be aspiring to take that next step up if we are on the career ascent or returning to work after a long pause or reinventing ourselves in a new field or after a life change. Here’s the rub: Moving up in management involves more than the broadening responsibilities entailed. It also includes a subtle lifestyle change, shift in alliances and mindset and it taxes our bodies and emotions in unexpected ways.

We need a plan, a holistic strategic plan for moving up in executive leadership as we plot to thrive our way from point A to Destination D. Continue reading “Preparing to LAUNCH; 10 Questions to answer before your next step up”

Put your VOICE in the room


We’ve all been at the meetings when the participants take their stereotypical roles: the constant text-messager or gadget-meister; the one who invariably takes the topic off-course; the one who always tries to steer the meeting back on course; the long-winded one who states an opinion every time someone else takes a breath (!!) and… the woman or man who never speaks up.

In large organizations, large meetings or when the person in question is a front line worker – let’s be honest, no one’s missing that silent voice. It’s unfair, sad, but true.

In meetings of any size, when you are a person in any kind of position of authority, by actual title, functional title, or especially aspiring to be in a higher role of leadership, you cannot afford to play that hidden role. More is at stake than you think.

Continue reading “Put your VOICE in the room”

Coaching Your Executive Team (Silos – Part 2)

team-buildingIn my previous post about breaking down silos  I wrote of the importance of seeing the executive team you are a part of as the priority team (Team #1) over the team you are actually leading.  This comes from Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Advantage .

Expect expressions of sense of loss and concern as you ask your team to make this mental switch. It’s real. The fear is, if the team I manage is no longer my “home team”, who will look after me? Where will my sense of belonging come from?

As the executive team leader you have an obligation to be the best meeting chair/coach/team leader  possible from your level down. Their success as leaders of their own teams will largely depending on how you model your role. Continue reading “Coaching Your Executive Team (Silos – Part 2)”

Breaking Down Silos – Team # 1

team huddle

While still a consultant, for 15 years I was simultaneously part of a pastoral team at a New York City-based Church. In my capacity I managed a few ministry departments over the years. I’ve always enjoyed leading my ministry teams but – depending on the year and how things were going – I often found myself being protective of my department, sometimes at the expense of prioritizing the larger pastoral team of which I was a member. I found myself battling for volunteers, “air time”for Sunday morning announcements, recognition for my team and for time to present our vision at staff meeings. Sadly, I wasn’t the only one who found themselves in this predicament.

Sadder still, whether I am consulting with a church, a municipality or a private company the same thing is rampant. Executive team members jockeying for attention, resources and recognition, often at the expense of unity.

Yet this could all be avoided, along with the dreaded “silos” between departments, if we observed this simple but profound principle outlined by business author Patrick Lencioni (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team ; The Advantage; Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything).

Continue reading “Breaking Down Silos – Team # 1”

But you are not a Jedi YET…

Yoda 2

When you’ve changed and grown but your boss still sees you as an apprentice.

In Star Wars lore, a Padawan is the apprentice of a Jedi Master (a master fighter, strategist, spiritual guru and MASTER of “The Force”). The Padawan apprentices under the Jedi master for a number of years, learns not only how to control a light saber, but how to control his mind, bringing negative emotions under control so that he can develop his telekinetic powers. Yoda and Luke Skywalker (above) had just such a relationship, and even as the apprentice was gaining prowess towards Jedi knighthood, Yoda famously says to him in one scene, “But you are not a Jedi yet!”

As we go through promotions from front line employee to supervisor, to manager and beyond, two sets of people tend to have a tough time adjusting to the transition: our colleagues who are now our subordinates, and our new colleagues who were once our bosses (or several rungs up the ladder from us). Even though they may have groomed us for greatness and been the ones to release us into greater and greater responsibility and autonomy, it is still hard for many to acknowledge the fruit of their own “success”; that the student has now become the master. Continue reading “But you are not a Jedi YET…”

Imposter Syndrome – Are You Afraid You’re a Fraud?

This post is adapted from my upcoming book Pitfalls of Fear-Driven Leaders and How to Overcome 


Let me begin this chapter by saying that if you are a fraud, a high school dropout masquerading as a doctor or the CEO of a company that stole someone else’s patented idea, stop reading now. You really are a fraud and need to quit.

As for most of you honest, super competent readers who simply do not believe in your self-worth, here are some insights.

There is actually something called “Impostor Syndrome”.  It manifests when despite  positive feedback and accomplishments documenting your competence and even excellence, you cannot enjoy your own success because deep down inside you think it’s all a mistake. If people really knew your background, your inadequacies, your lack of experience, your intellectual shortfalls, they would reject you as their leader.

According to Kirsten Weir writing for the American Psychological Association this syndrome occurs among “high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success. They often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud.” These are not the mediocre failing students with sub par performance evaluations. These are actually the super star performers who think they’re “just OK”.

Continue reading “Imposter Syndrome – Are You Afraid You’re a Fraud?”

Failure Coaching for Leaders

This post is adapted from my upcoming book: Pitfalls of Fear Driven Leaders and how to Overcome


The “It’s OK to Fail” club has more and more members. Its adherents are industry leaders, sports figures, executive and life coaches, therapists and people with success stories because, truth be told, they almost all had to fail before their first quantifiable success. Beyond that, business and organizational development specialists know the vital importance of freedom from fear of failing in innovation and the formation of authentic, productive work environments.

The wonderfully titled John Maxwell book, Failing Forward has as its subtitle: How to make the most of your mistakes. Vlogger Chantelle Adams, in her video series “The Courage Revolution”,  has an episode entitled, “How to Fail Like a Pro”.

So failure is finally coming out of the closet and getting the honor it’s due!

To coach yourself or others in how to make the most of failure, here are some tips

Continue reading “Failure Coaching for Leaders”