substance

Where’s The Beef?

We can call them leaders.  We can assign them to a position.  We can give them a title.  None of these actions will make them leaders.  Leadership requires substance and is about who you are more than how you are labeled.

My own experience with learning leadership is it takes time to develop the skill, and continual improvement is a necessity.  Unfortunately, we are living at a time where a great many people claim the title of leader, but when we look at the substance of what they are offering we are left asking “Where’s The Beef!?”

When Clara Peller made this commercial at 81 years old she was selling burgers, but commenting on substance.  Substance is fundamental to leadership, and without the right answers to the following three questions, people may ask of our leadership, “Where’s The Beef?”

Do I Have Character?

There are a number of qualities which one could use to describe or define character.  In my view, the simplest answer to this question is about self-awareness.  Does the individual who claims to be a leader know who they are, have a set of uncompromising principles, and the willingness to sacrifice any opportunity to remain true to their beliefs.

Do I Have Purpose?

Uncompromising principles are almost always accompanied by a deep and meaningful sense of purpose.   This purpose is not born of selfishness or selfish ambition.  The purposes that produce and even demand character are about something bigger than self.   While many people will lead and claim to be leaders, only those with this selfless sense of purpose can provide the type of leadership which produces enduring organizations.

Do I Have Humility?

Enduring organizations are built on something more substantial than a particular individuals personality or vision.  They are built on a set of uncompromising principles and a purpose bigger than any individual.   All of this requires humility.

Humility is the most essential quality necessary for great team leadership, and team leadership is essential for building an enduring organization.  Team leadership is about shared vision, shared responsibility, and shared emotional commitment to the organizational vision.   No one individual is more essential or important than any other, because only together can they make the dream come true.

Once we evaluate ourselves based on these three questions, we can determine whether we are leaders of substance or superficiality.  We can discover our strengths and weaknesses. We can become more substantial leaders capable of building an enduring organization.

How will your life answer the leadership question, “Where’s The Beef?”

Team Leadership

Red Auerbach and Team Leadership

Team Leadership

Red Auerbach, Team Leadership

“After a certain amount of money, it don’t make a damn bit of difference. (A player) makes a million dollars, anything after that, it’s just numbers. So you have to appeal to his pride, his wanting to win, and you disregard the money. The only thing I did years ago was tell them, ‘Your salary is dependent solely on what I see with my eyes.’ Statistics don’t matter, contributions matter. Winning matters.’ You rewarded people that way. Today, you can’t do that — it’s all about stats and who’s getting theirs. So I would have had to change my approach. You adapt.”

Red Auerbach (Seeing Red After All These Years)

The business world appears to have discovered team leadership around 1992, when Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith published “The Wisdom of Teams.” This is a good book, but it has never made my pulse race as much as Pat Riley’s “The Winner Within,” or the sound of Red Auerbach’s voice saying anything about team leadership.

I spent the eighties in Boston as a Lakers fan, which explains the Riley reference (inspired by my favorite player of all time Magic Johnson). Despite my affinity for the team from the west, it was the team building of the Celtic’s which shadowed my young existence.

I can still remember attending my first Celtics game in 1980, and experiencing the magical moment of watching Larry Bird against Dr. J (I can also remember the extreme racism in the stands by some unruly fans, a factor any Celtic attendee of color had to deal with). Nothing could keep me from watching the Celtics even though I wanted the Laker’s to destroy them, because the Celtics personified team. The fans and even the city personified team.

This spirit and culture of team was built by Red Auerbach. The words of Bill Simmons explain it best.

Growing up in Boston in the ’70s and ’80s, we possessed three treasures that nobody else had: Fenway, the Garden and Red. He was our trump card. He had mystical powers. He made things happen. He fleeced other teams. He found diamonds in the rough. He intimidated officials. He stamped his winning imprint on everyone and everything. He was the Celtics. Sixteen championships in 30 years … and they all happened because of him.

Bill Simmons, Seeing Red After All These Years

The Steve Jobs I heard in ’94, seems like Zuckerberg in 2016

odyssey

When I moved to Silicon Valley in 1993, the Odyssey by John Sculley was my guidebook.  Guy Kawasaki’s “Selling the Dream” came next.  Each of these books placed a man named Steve Jobs on my radar.  According to both Sculley and Kawasaki, this guy Steve Jobs was a special, but prior to my reading he meant little to me.

sellingthedream

Apple captivated me but not Steve Jobs.  What Sculley and Kawasaki were beginning to make me think was this guy Steve Jobs just might be Apple.

When I had the opportunity to attend an Executive Program on Innovation at Stanford University my eyes were opened.  Two of the classes were significant.  Jim Collins, who was just releasing his book “Built to Last,” spoke about enduring companies.   When asked a question about Apple and Steve Jobs, he said the jury was still out (he wasn’t exactly positive when he said it), and to be fair he was absolutely right.

built to last

On that same evening, the speaker was Steve Jobs. We were in the Stanford Faculty Lounge, listening to him talk about great new products he admired.  He mentioned Odwalla, Whole Foods, and a company called Pixar.

He spoke about Pixar at some length, describing the development of a movie called “Toy Story,” which was due to be released in the distant future.  He spoke about selecting employees and building a leadership team.  At that point, he had everyone’s attention as we each began to realize his level of expertise. His depth of knowledge and insight about people was incredible. I began to wonder how Sculley ever replaced him at Apple, and why he was running some small, seemingly irrelevant company called Next.

Here in 2016 we all know Steve Jobs is a legend.  His second act at Apple was incredible, and each time he made a brilliant move, I thought about the night at Stanford.  Now I find myself examining people who run companies, and wondering if they are leaders.  I wonder if they know people or products like Jobs.  I wonder if they could answer questions delineating the abc’s of who is and isn’t a capable member of a team.  How to choose them?  Who not to choose?  How to make hard and unsentimental decisions for the sake of the company?

I have been looking around Silicon Valley, and the one guy who fits the mold is Mark Zuckerberg.

Julia Greenberg, in an article for Wired titled “Why Facebook is Killing It–Even When Nobody Else Is,” might just agree with me.  Her idea of what makes Facebook tick comes down to these 13 words.

“But throughout Facebook’s evolution, one constant has remained, and he wears a hoodie.”

The world seems to believe the socially maladjusted genius depiction of Mark Zuckerberg in the “Social Network.”  While there may be truth to this looking backward, the man currently at the helm of Facebook is a savvy visionary leader.  He is the reason Ms. Greenberg can say the company is staying one step ahead.

“More holistically, Facebook has been very good at staying one step ahead.”

 

When I look at the company Facebook has become it is impossible to avoid the idea.  Which idea is this you might ask?  The idea of Mark Zuckerberg as the new Steve Jobs of Silicon Valley, or more accurately the chief thought leader of this region.  Reading Ms. Greenberg’s description of the company how could anyone disagree?

“Facebook has an aggressive vision of what the future looks like—and it’s constantly testing, iterating, and exploring its vision. It should come as little surprise then that it was Facebook, not Apple or Alphabet, that earlier this month laid out its ten year roadmap. All of which is a strategy that ultimately stems from Zuckerberg’s own sensibility.”

This type of company building would not be possible, unless an individual understood how to build teams, who to select, who to avoid, and how to inspire them.  Beginning today, my eyes are on Zuckerberg.

What can I learn from how he is building his leadership team?  What can I learn from how he is developing his vision?   How has he learned from Steve Jobs, because his effort to keep control of Facebook, seems like a lesson drawn directly from the ghost of Jobs reaching out to him from Next.

Note: Read the entire Greenberg article to understand how Zuckerberg is using class C shares to avoid giving up too much control of Facebook (A key lesson from Jobs?).  Read this Forbes article to understand Jobs was a mentor for Zuckerberg.

 

Digital Scribbler

My 8 Step Journey From Hating to Loving Social Media!

Connected with Dave Kaval President of Sharks due to Social Media

Connected E-Soccer with the Earthquakes and Dave Kaval their President because of Social Media

Technology has been part of my life since my earliest memories.  Social Media had nothing to do with technology in my mind, so I resisted.   What follows is my story.  How I learned we no longer live in a world where the ‘Digital’ is divided from the ‘Real?’

They are one!

Fortunately we are at the beginning of this transformation, so it is not to late to follow my 8 steps and jump in!

1-Social Media and Digital Living Takes Time

The 5 Levels of Inclusion is one of my favorite blog posts of all time.  This self-focused conceit is actually an admission of failure.  Throughout my time exploring the usefulness of digital communication tools, it has taken me 4+ years to produce something I appreciate (one day I will produce something others appreciate).

2-Humility Opens Doors

I resisted the first time someone suggested I use social media or blogging tools to connect with the customers and partners of Digital Scribbler.  From my perspective, time was too precious to waste on Twitter or Facebook.

Finding some humility, I listened to the Millennials in my life (Strauss/Howe Generational Theory at Work).  The journey began with the Scribbles on my Digital Scribbler Blog.

Since I am familiar with technology there was no technological learning curve.  Once I began writing posts the need to tell others about them became apparent.   This opened the door to social media with Twitter being my first choice.

3-Back To The Future

When I logged on to my Twitter account the truth began to surface.  There would be no technological learning curve, but the social transition from physical to digital was going to be cataclysmic.   Place me in a room full of people and I typically know what to do, but staring at a screen with 140 characters as my only means of engagement, sent me back to the future as an awkward insecure 6th grade nerd (Black Rim glasses and all).

4-Becoming Digitally Socialized

This was the best thing that could have happened to me.  Twitter forced me to learn.  I had to become digitally socialized.  My mistakes were countless and humbling.  The graciousness of experienced users was amazing.  Step by step I gained experience, and the power of ‘Digital Living’ was upon me.

5-Digital is Real, Real is Digital

‘Digital Living’ continues to be a time challenge for me.  I fall off the wagon like the last several months, and then I get back on.  Part of this is because I am at the beginning of Generation X, and my Baby Boomer influences make me forget we live in a world where Digital is Real and Real is Digital (Politico explains this generational effect best here).

Digital Scribbler

Started writing on “The Friendship Circle” because of Social Media

6-Taking the Leap or Full Immersion

Breaking my tendency to compartmentalize is now my goal, so I have leaped in and am trying to embrace my 21st century life.

I keep videos on and enjoy using You Tube.  My LinkedIn account has become a primary connection point for people who want to understand my mission of ‘using technology to overcome human limits.

Twitter is where I learn the most, and although I am not as engaging as I would like to be, this is the place where I have turned digital interactions into face to face meetings.

Facebook has reconnected me with old friends,  and allowed me to share thoughts and ideas with all my friends.  I am certain they grow weary with my constant posting, but I am an Infovore, and when I see something valuable I have to share.

Edutopia is a place where I can immerse myself in an education atmosphere, and find great resources.  What I enjoy most is commenting.  In fact, Edutopia has inspired me to post comments on the Wall Street Journal.

Quora is a social media question and answer platform.  I feel comfortable here because it has a Silicon Valley culture of inquisitiveness and humility.  The problem I faced was taking everything too seriously, which kept me from posting or asking questions.  Recently, my breakthrough has been to answer questions about basketball.  Rather than trying to be smart, I am having fun, so Quora has become one of my most relaxing digital destinations (This could all change if James Harden finds my answers about why he doesn’t play defense!).

7-Finding a Role Model

I love to write and digital platforms make this easy.  My struggle is finding or making the time.  No one I know is trying to do what I am doing, so I had to find a role model, someone who could inspire me by their example.

 M.G. Siegler has become my role model, although he has no idea who I am, which is the beauty of digital learning.   I have studied his digital disposition, because he enjoys and produces great writing without taking himself too seriously, and was schooled in my home state of Michigan (Go Blue!).

Siegler has given me a second wind.  I am now writing on Digital Scribbler with an emphasis on inclusion.  My posts on russewell.com are about leadership, creativity, and whatever comes to mind.  I am planing to reengage with E-Sports, where I can write about E-Soccer and other inclusive sports (I received a Jefferson Award and Congressional Citation for this work).

Digital Scribbler

Social Media spread the news of the Jefferson Award inspiring new volunteers to sign up!

8-Breaking All The Rules 

For those who are counting I am spread thin.  This doesn’t even count Learnist, Tumblr where I post about books (Fitzgerald’s Window), or my “Not So Daily Shorts” on Weebly. These have all received less attention because my heart has been stolen by Medium!

I am breaking all the social media rules and loving it, because my primary goal is learning not being noticed (although I do hope someone notices something at some point).

Have I wasted my time?

There are 10 reasons this has not been a waste of time.

  1. Audrey Waters met me on Social Media and gave Digital Scribbler our first good press, defining us better than we defined ourselves on Hack Education!
  2. Hacking Autism with HP and Phil McKinney another great experience here.
  3. Taught at Lesley college over Skype (couldn’t make the trip)
  4. Connected Hope Technology School with KIT two groundbreaking inclusion groups
  5. Published on SF Gate
  6. Published on Friendship Circle
  7. Quick Talk and Quick Type give a voice to verbally challenged people around the world
  8. Great reviews for Digital Scribbler products
  9. I have connected with a rich special needs inclusion community, which lead to an interview on the Think Inclusive Podcast!
  10. Quoted in Wired!

None of this would have been possible without the 8 step journey from hating to loving social media!

 

The Power of Reading then Rereading

Benjamin Disraeli captured my young imagination reading the writing work of Sarah Bradford. What I remember about her book, “Disraeli,” is this charismatic and resilient character, became one of the greatest leaders in England’s history.

Reading

I read this volume in college

You can only imagine my excitement, when I stumbled onto a new biography about him called, “Disraeli: The Novel Politician” by David Cesarani. For some years, I had wanted to revisit my fascination with him, and this new volume presents the opportunity.

Reading

The New Book on Disraeli

I discovered this new book, “Disraeli: The Novel Politician,” reading a book review in the Wall Street Journal by Benjamin Baliant. The book review is titled, “A Genius for Self-Invention.”

Reading the review reminded me why I originally fell in love with Disraeli. He was fighting against the odds, living by his wits, in an attempt to penetrate high society, which was closed to Jews.

Perhaps his Jewishness was what fascinated me about Disraeli. The fact that his background and lineage ran counter to everything necessary for success in English patrician society. Despite the odds Disraeli rose to the greatest heights serving as Prime Minister twice.

Lord Randolph Churchill, the father of Winston Churchill, whose career Baliant says was helped along by Disraeli, explains his success in conquering those odds and obstacles.

Randolph Churchill once summarized Disraeli’s life as “failure, failure, failure, partial success, renewed failure, ultimate and complete triumph.”

Benjamin Baliant, A Genius for Self-Invention

His enduring determination and sense of destiny is again expressed in the words of Baliant describing his elective struggles.

At 32, after four times standing unsuccessfully for Parliament—then still the domain of landed aristocrats and monied peers—Disraeli was elected in 1837, the year Victoria acceded to the throne. His bombastic maiden speech at the House of Commons was greeted with hoots and foot-stomping. “I will sit down now,” he shouted above the din, “but the time will come when you will hear me.”

Benjamin Baliant, A Genius for Self-Invention

What I find fascinating is the imprint great men and women can make on our minds. Here I am, revisiting the emotional inspiration of someone I read about in college, by reading a new book to experience my fascination all over again.

Whenever I revisit a heroic figure I always learn something new about them, and as a consequence about me. This is the power of reading then rereading.

Time to purchase my new book, learn my new lessons, and deepen my belief that each of us has a destiny to reach no matter how difficult. Thank you Benjamin Disraeli for reaching yours.

Developing a Passion to Read!

f-scott-fitzgerald-this-side-paradise-f-hardcover-cover-art

I love reading.  My mother was a teacher with a master’s degree in reading, and from my earliest years books were placed in my path.  In fact, when I was enjoying Iron Man and Captain America, she slipped Shakespeare comics into my stream.  For lighter fare, my dad offered me the fundamental importance of the sports page.  When I fell in love with basketball, one of the first things I did was purchase a book by Jerry West on how to play the game.

This is the book I purchased to teach me how to play the game!

This is the book I purchased to teach me how to play the game!

All of this made me a reader, and while school reading assignments added to my knowledge, it was the library where I found my passion.  One winter day in my senior year I entered the library with time on my hands.  My senior class load was the lightest I ever had, basketball season was over, and so with a lightened schedule load something drew me to the library.

For the first time in my life I wandered over to the fiction section of the library looking for a book to read.  I didn’t want to read a book like those from my literature classes.  The book I was looking for had to be different, unassigned, and speaking to my personal life experience.

The book I found and selected was “This Side of Paradise” by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I still remembered sitting down at the library table, opening up the hardcover book, and experiencing the tactile sensation only print books provide.  The first words of the book spoke to my soul.  For the first time, I was hearing a voice like my own.  I read this book with an unstoppable fiery passion as the windows of my mind were opened.  Approximately 5 months from college, I was traveling through time and experiencing campus life through the complicated thrills of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s pen.  A fire was lit and from this point on, I read because I wanted to discover answers to life.  My search was no longer for information or knowledge, but understanding.

When we have a passion for reading it reaches beyond the brain, into the heart and soul.  We live the story because the story informs our own.

My passion for reading is why I changed my Tumblr account today.  After a few years of experimenting with Tumblr, I now understand it is the perfect place for me to share “great reads.”  The perfect place to inspire a passion to read in others.

Please check out “Fitzgerald’s Window,” which is where I will be collecting “great reads” on a regular basis for shared consumption.

Make Hard Work Count With “Smart Work”

 

“What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.”

– Dwight Eisenhower

Christina Wodtke uses this Eisenhower quote in her book Radical Focus.  This quote sums up my personal failure to work smart, and I tie it directly to my emotionalism.

Emotion is one of, if not the most powerful force at work in our daily lives.  Whether we are giving our emotions free rein or suppressing them, they are a powerful force.

Something our emotions lead us to do is focus on the urgent at the expense of the important.

When we focus on the urgent instead of the important, we might be working hard, but this effort cannot compensate for our failure to work smart.  We must all learn to maximize the impact of our hard work by working smart.    If you are like me, one path toward an improved quality of life, and greater productivity without increasing stress is to work smarter.

Here are my top reading recommendations for developing a smart work ethic!

  1. The Effective Executive – this classic tome is deep substance about “smart work”
  2. The 12 Bad Habits That Hold Good People Back – Chapter Three, “Doing Too Much, Pushing Too Hard.
  3. Deep Work – this book has done the most to help me work smart of anything I have read in the last 5 years, although I am still chasing the vision.
  4. 5 Scientifically Proven Ways to Work Smarter not Harder – Unlike the books above, this is an article about pace (in my opinion), and the importance of taking breaks to sustain focus.
  5. We Need to Work Smarter, Not Harder – Another article, but with a focus on managing your time.
  6. Working Hard is Not Enough, 18 Ways to Work Smarter –  Comprehensive article and sure to give you 3-5 ideas of how you can transform your life by developing a “smart work ethic”
  7. Work Smarter Not Harder: 17 Great Tips – I like this Time Magazine list best, so saved it for last, because it covers everything in 1-6 succinctly.

There is no way for one individual to teach another person to work smart, so I hope you avail yourself of these and other resources, and work hard to develop your own customized “smart work ethic.”

 

 

 

The Millenium Falcon, Microsoft, and the Death of Hardware

image

While watching “The Force Awakens” something on the periphery struck me.   Hans Solo had a deep attachment to the Millenium Falcon.  Even though it was an old beat up machine, he had a bit of emotional nostalgia about it.   This started me thinking about our or perhaps only my attachment to hardware.

Device hardware is where most of us make our first attachment to computing devices.  Apple has dominated the consumer market in no small part, because they understand design, and the emotional attachment people make to their hardware.

What Google understands and Microsoft now seems to understand is hardware is about to die, or at least become irrelevant.  Here is how Motley Fool reported what I consider to be the most important part of the Microsoft vision at their Developer Conference.

What is mobile-first, cloud-first? Nadella noted that he has talked about it before, but wanted to reinforce his company’s commitment to the idea of being mobile-first, cloud-first. He explained that mobile-first is not about the portability of any one device, but the mobility of the experience across all of the devices in our lives.

The cloud, he added, “is not a single destination. Cloud is a new form of computing that in fact enables that mobility of experience across all our devices.”

When Nadella says, “Cloud is a new form of computing that in fact enables that mobility of experience across all our devices,” he is declaring the death of hardware.

We will no longer form emotional attachments to our hardware, because this new form of computing will make us hardware agnostic.

This is hard for me to believe after making attachments to technology for decades, but in the future the experience will be more important than the tool.

I know I will resist this new era of computing, but also believe it is better and inevitable.  Perhaps I will simply get attached to a favorite Bluetooth keyboard 🙂

Focus On The Future Not The Past

This is simple.  No matter how hard we might want to focus on the future, there is always someone or something insisting on the importance of the past.

There is the family who knows the exact incident to drudge up from the past, so they can put us in our place, and let us know the future we dream of is impossible.

There is the friend who freezes us in time, resisting our every attempt to change and move forward into the future.

There is our company who insists on staying the course based on the success of the past, even when the present makes clear the future will not be bright.

We can blame our family,  our friends, or our employers, when we feel our lives have stagnated.  There is another alternative.  We can take responsibility for our own lives, embrace risk, and leave the past behind so we can live our future.

Steve Jobs did the latter.  When asked about holding a 30 year anniversary celebration for Apple.  Here was his answer.

“Apple is focused on the future, not the past.”

Read the whole story here.

Note:  You can find the featured tee shirt here.

 

The Generalist

“The great strategists of the past kept forests as well as the trees in view. They were generalists, and they operated from an ecological perspective. They understood that the world is a web, in which adjustments made here are bound to have effects over there— that everything is interconnected. Where, though, might one find generalists today? . . . The dominant trend within universities and the think tanks is toward ever-narrower specialization: a higher premium is placed on functioning deeply within a single field than broadly across several. And yet without some awareness of the whole— without some sense of how means converge to accomplish or to frustrate ends— there can be no strategy. And without strategy, there is only drift.”

Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree

There are in my mind three great forces at work in the world.   They are economics, religion, and politics. Everything else is simply a trend.

Rereading Thomas Friedman’s “The Lexus and the Olive Tree,” caused me to consider my writing in light of these three great forces, and what he calls the “generalist.”  I wondered whether I was neglecting my natural inclination to be a generalist, because of all the spectacularly successful specialist in Silicon Valley?

My conclusion is I am a generalist.  This means my writing must change to see the whole, which means considering the influence of the three great forces at work in the world.   I look forward to the adventure.