8 Ways to Be an Intentional Leader

“No one sets out to intentionally be the ‘worst boss,’ but no one becomes the ‘best boss’ unless they are intentional.”

–J. Morgan, friend of 3×5 Leadership

Being an intentional leader and consistently deliberate in our approaches have become key to the few critical bedrock principles of effective leadership through more than a decade of pursuing my passion for leadership and developing other leaders. Intentional leaders who are deliberate in their approaches take ownership for their responsibilities and their team, are thoughtful in how they act and why, are careful in their decisions, remain considerate of the impacts they have, and ultimately are incredibly caring for those placed in their charge. As our friend, J. Morgan, asserts above, we cannot be the ‘best boss’ or the outstanding leader that people deserve without a consistent commitment to being intentional. Continue reading → 8 Ways to Be an Intentional Leader

What We Need to Know About Empathy & Leadership

I recently had a conversation with an organizational leader who expressed that “empathetic leadership” is one of the biggest threats to the performance of his team. He believed that team members simply sought for their leaders to be more empathetic to their challenges and circumstance (really sympathy), and that leaders felt called to be more nurturing of their people, leading to an inability to maintain high standards of performance. As I listened to this leader speak more on his unapproving perceptions on empathy and leadership, I realized the source of the issue – I think he has an inaccurate and limited view on the role of empathy in leadership.

This issue is not unique to this leader or case. We have an enduring problem in our understanding of empathy and leadership that tends to fall into one of three issues. Continue reading → What We Need to Know About Empathy & Leadership

Building Leader Vulnerability: An Important Benefit of Personal Reflection

Thus far over my career of leading and managing others, I’ve found that my toughest challenges have not been technical work issues, struggles to meet team metrics or goals, or worries over team execution matters. While those are demanding, yes, my toughest challenges have been helping people be able to bring their full selves to the team every day, which often includes baggage from life.

I have had to fill sensitive spaces as a leader by loving, supporting, and working with others through life challenges like loss of family and loved ones, divorce, health difficulties, financial issues, harassment & assault, mental and emotional concerns, performance failures, and much more. Despite no formal education in these spaces, I’ve had to wear hats as an unofficial marriage and family counselor, financial advisor, and conflict resolution mediator more often than I can count to best love, lead, and enable people on my team to be successful – both within the team and in life.

These challenges are not unique to my own experiences or a select set of teams or industries. These span across all leadership & management roles. To feel safe and to maximize potential for success on the team, people must be able to bring their full selves to work every day. Thus, to help support others through the challenges of life, leaders must be able and willing to fill sensitive, challenging spaces. This requires a developed sense of and confidence in leader vulnerability. Continue reading → Building Leader Vulnerability: An Important Benefit of Personal Reflection

The Discipline of Habits – 4 Lessons Learned from Unique Cases of Sustained Success

By Aaron Griffing

 Editorial Note: This article highlights a political figure as a case study but is not offered as a supporting endorsement of a particular party, candidacy, or policy. It is strictly offered as a leadership example of the impact of disciplined habits.

What do Coast Redwood trees, Barack Obama, and the University of Alabama have in common?

At first glance, not much. However, in applying the lens of the discipline of habits, they in fact share many commonalities, ultimately demonstrating to us the impact of a commitment to disciplined habits can have on our sustained growth and success.

I recently finished James Clear’s Atomic Habits while simultaneously beginning Barack Obama’s A Promised Land. I could not help but notice some of the principles Clear shares in his book on habits were affirmed in Obama’s presidential memoirs. The two books left me with four major takeaways:

  • You must remain persistent with your habits – they take time to bare results.
  • We often experience a plateau effect before breaking through toward truly impactful improvement and results.
  • The best don’t rest – even after achieving success, continue to seek improvement.
  • Establishing and employing a productive process is more impactful than establishing and achieving a goal.

Continue reading → The Discipline of Habits – 4 Lessons Learned from Unique Cases of Sustained Success

The Greatest of These is Love

“Most people need love and acceptance a lot more than they need advice.” –Bob Goff, Love Does.

This quote has so deeply influenced my authentic leadership style in support of my leader philosophy. First and foremost, I choose to lead with love. I truly am passionate about making people & organizations better through leader development; this comes from a genuine wellspring of love for people and their/our work. And still, the longer I lead and the more I experience, the more I find this conviction to be true.

Ultimately, I think it surfaces the need for leaders to show up, genuinely care about others, and create leadership space for them to fill. More often than not, it’s these things that best enable team success and improvement, and less about me as the leader occupying leadership space by fixing, directing, and even speaking.

But how do we accomplish this? Continue reading → The Greatest of These is Love

The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 4 – Communicating What’s Essential Always in All Ways

This is part 4 of The Organizational Clarity Series. We encourage you to start with an introduction to the idea in part 1, HERE.

“Leadership requires two things: A vision of the world that does not exist yet and the ability to communicate it.” Simon Sinek, Start with Why

How many attempts does it take to break a bad habit? Or to start a new one? Or how many times must we interact (read, write, recite, etc.) with new information to remember and internalize it?

Once we’ve gone through the important labor of creating and clarifying our team’s essential core, we unfortunately see so many leaders merely publish it to their team in some isolated, grand reveal. They may publish it through a speech, memo, email, or something. They may hang it on a poster or paint it on their team’s work area wall. But then that’s it; it ends after that “grand” reveal and introduction. The issue is, though, that no one’s mind was ever changed by a single speech, lecture, email, or memo. They certainly won’t remember it after just one either. As the opening questions allude to, this requires repetition.

It takes us a comparatively short amount of time to cultivate our team’s core and then clarify it. It may take you and select leaders within your organization a few days, weeks, or even months. But once codified, we must now enter the long journey of sustaining that core – for years and years.

Leaders create and clarify the team’s essential core. But, once established, they must anchor it every day by communicating it in a variety of ways to make it relevant and, in fact, essential. The role of leader is synonymous with “Chief Reminding Officer” – reinforcing to everyone on the team who we are, what we do, and why we do it…always and in all ways. Continue reading → The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 4 – Communicating What’s Essential Always in All Ways

The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 3 – Clarifying Our Essential Core

This is part 3 of The Organizational Clarity Series. We encourage you to start with an introduction to the idea in part 1, HERE.

If you can’t talk freely with the most junior members of your organization, then you’ve lost touch.” ―Jim Mattis, Call Sign Chaos

We’ve finally labored with our leadership team in creating our essential core as discussed in part 2 – great! Now what? Well, now we need to validate this core by clarifying it. Continue reading → The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 3 – Clarifying Our Essential Core

The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 2 – Creating Our Essential Core

This is part 2 of The Organizational Clarity Series. We encourage you to start with an introduction to the idea in part 1, HERE.

“The only truly reliable source of stability is a strong inner core and the willingness to change and adapt everything except that core.” ―Jim Collins, Built to Last

Striving for excellence is not the same thing as merely avoiding failure. All too often, our teams and organizations spend too much effort on avoiding failure, reacting to changing circumstances, simply managing the day-to-day minutia of routine and urgent work. These are not the reasons we were inspired to join our organization in the first place.

Contrary to what we are so used to seeing, we should not first respond to our changing environment by asking, “How should we change?” Instead, we must default to the questions of, “Why do we exist and what do we stand for?” These are the ideals that give us purpose and direction, regardless of circumstances, and should rarely change (if ever).

To enable our organizations to actually know why we exist and what we stand for, leaders must create clarity around those ideas; we must codify our organization’s essential core. This is the first of three steps in creating organizational clarity. In this part of the series, we explore what an organizational “core” is, why it’s important to define, and how we can approach creating it for our team. Continue reading → The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 2 – Creating Our Essential Core

The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 1 – It’s Time We Admit We Have a Problem

Imagine a scenario where you take over as the new leader of a team and you work to define the essential core of your team though a well-crafted vision and mission statement. You put considerable effort into formulating these ideas, being highly selective about the message and language. After creating, publishing, and displaying this new core of your team, a senior leader from your larger organization comes to visit your team. During the visit, they see your posted vision and mission and ask one of your direct reports – an upper-level manager on your team who helped create those statements – about it…and the person cannot remember the statements. They can’t recite or describe the statements themselves, or even articulate some of the key words or themes from them. Yikes! I’m sure both you and the senior leader are now questioning what impact these statements are even having on your team.

Unfortunately, we experienced this exact scenario last week as an observing third party. The team’s leader certainly understood he had a leadership challenge. Continue reading → The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 1 – It’s Time We Admit We Have a Problem

Inspired & Inspiring – 8 Ways Leaders Fulfill Their Responsibility to Inspire the Next Generation of Leaders

When I think back to when I relinquished company command in 2016 (for non-Army readers: completing my 18-month formal command of an Army company of about 120-Soldiers), there is one conversation that still resonates with me and continues to remind me of my “why” for military service. In the closing days of my command, one of my platoon sergeants (senior enlisted leader in the company with 12-years of experience), known as a passionate leader and tactical expert across the entire battalion, made a casual comment to me. He said, “Sir, I just want to thank you for what you’ve done. You’ve reignited my fire and have made this job and the Army fun again. I’ve been missing that for a few years now.”

I still get emotional when recalling that moment, even years later.

But through this and numerous other experiences, I continue to maintain that sometimes, the most important thing I can bring to the team is not some particular skill or ability, but energy and inspiration. Leaders must inspire, both our people today in what our team is doing as well as tomorrow’s future generation of leaders. We do that by being inspired and inspiring others. Continue reading → Inspired & Inspiring – 8 Ways Leaders Fulfill Their Responsibility to Inspire the Next Generation of Leaders