6 Ways Leaders Manage Barriers

There are few figures who have addressed the topic of leadership with the zeal of Tom Peters. Years ago, I participated in an online community of folks on Tom Peters’ website. One day, Tom posted this quote.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
—John Quincy Adams

The statement is a wonderful encouragement to define leadership as an act of inspiration and transformation. But, as I thought more about it, I began to wonder if it was a bit misleading. Who am I to argue with dead presidents? Still, since I believe in the inherent potential residing in each of us, I wrote:

“I don’t think we inspire people to ‘become more,’ I think we help them discover who they really are. In a way, we help them become who they already are. Who they were created to be. We don’t take them BEYOND their being, we help remove unnatural obstacles that keep them from being.” 

To my wondrous surprise, Tom Peters took my comment and used it as a part of his presentation on “The Nub of Leadership.”

Does Seth Godin Get It?

After reading Seth Godin’s latest book What To Do When It’s Your Turn (and it’s always your turn), a friend and I talked about it. She questioned why there is such a disconnect between how most people live their lives and the possibilities Seth talked about in his book.

It was a really smart question, and it begs another.

Does Seth Godin get it?

The reality we experience tells us otherwise. In our reality…

  • The tallest blade of grass gets cut. So fly under the radar by keeping your head down.
  • Generosity doesn’t scale. You gotta get your own in this world.
  • Art doesn’t pay. Get a real job with guarantees and certainty.
  • Picking yourself is a fool’s errand. Your energy is better spent getting the attention of the powers-that-be and persuading them of your worthiness.
  • If you don’t know if it will work… don’t do it. It has to work or it isn’t worth the investment.

Seth’s book (as well as his long-lasting blog) tells us otherwise. His possibilities tell us…

  • You owe it to the world to pick up the microphone and say something meaningful.
  • It’s your turn to give a gift. Just because you can.
  • If you are open to uncertainty, you can be a pathfinder for the rest of us. There is art in that.
  • You have to TAKE your turn, because it’s rarely given to you.
  • This might not work, and that’s OK. Dance in the duality of work/not work. Don’t run away from the fear, but don’t ignore it either. The ability to live in that tension and discover what you can do in the midst of that… that is artistry.

Godin is definitely seeing something else. The world he paints isn’t the one most people see when they walk into their slate gray cubicle on Monday at 7:59 AM. It’s not the one we see in the eyes of the department store clerk… partly because he won’t make eye contact with us to begin with. This isn’t the reality presented to us by television, human resources, our colleagues at the water cooler or by bureaucracy.

So, does Seth Godin get it? If so, why is this so hard for us to see?

Someone Like You

Don’t worry, I’m not going to break into a song by Adele. This morning, as I read Seth Godin’s post on extending the narrative, I latched onto one of his comments.

The socialite walks into the ski shop and buys a $3000 ski jacket she’ll wear once. Why? Not because she’ll stay warmer in it more than a different jacket, but because that’s what someone like her does. It’s part of her story. In fact, it’s easier for her to buy the jacket than it is to change her story.

Once I recovered from the idea of paying $3000 for basically renting a jacket for a day, the idea of doing something “because that’s what someone like [you] does.” stuck with me. The phrase elucidates how we allow our lives to become parodies of ourselves. This is how we sleepwalk through vast segments of our life, only to awaken one day and not recognize the person we have become. A person living a life based on the expectations, desires and decisions of ‘someone like you.’

When you think of living according to what you know deep inside yourself, how does that make you feel? Does it excite you or simply raise your blood pressure with anxiety? Does it fill you with ideas or simply leave you feeling like you’re staring at an insultingly blank slate? Ask yourself why you feel this way. See if it connects with a deeper truth inside of you. It may be a truth you are unwilling to uncover from the shovels of dirt the world has piled on through the years.

If the idea scares you, perhaps it is because you have no clue what awaits under the lid of this box. I don’t blame you for being nervous, but be aware that you may be leaving yourself buried alive in that box as you let “someone like you” walk away, continuing to live your life for you.

On Being Patronizing

The Mona Lisa

I rented and watched the movie The Soloist the other day. I want to buy it now. My wife asked me if I really thought we would watch the film enough to justify buying it.

I don’t.

I just want to support a good film and have it as a reminder of its message.

This made me thing about why I buy, or don’t buy, certain things from certain places. I don’t have the same intention to seek out and support something “good.”

If we endorse what we buy, then shouldn’t we buy what we endorse? As Seth Godin said, we get what we pay for.

Some of our most cherished works of art originated from the Renaissance. Without the Medici family, many of these works would not have been created. Lorenzo de Medici supported artists from Leonardo da Vinci to Michelangelo. So, without patrons, The Mona Lisa and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel would not exist for our appreciation.

What we need today are “many micro-Medicis.” We need small armies of patrons who recognize what they appreciate and are willing to support it. Buy from manufacturers with good labor standards. Buy from stores that support the community. Donate to churches involved in good work. Donate to candidates who not only stand on proper (however you define it) values… but prove it with the way they operate their campaign. And yes, purchase movies that communicate rich and powerful messages.

“Patronizing” should cease to connotate negativity. We should all aspire to be more patronizing.

A Way-Worthy Tribe

johnmoore of Brand Autopsy often cites whether a book is a Way-Worthy read or not.

Seth Godin suggests good bloggers create tribes.

I think that is why I haven’t been satisfied with this blog the last 2-3 years. It has not consistently been a way-worthy read and has not created a tribe.

Realizing this, I have a few options:

1. Make no major change of course. I could keep writing mediocre pieces with a few gems (subjectively speaking) here and there.

2. Scrap it all. I could consider my four years of blogging (3 1/2 years here) as a fun learning experience, but one which I now leave behind. Pull the plug, let it die.

3. Grit my teeth and try harder. I could give all kinds of excuses as to why I haven’t put more time, effort or thought into this blog. I just don’t see any benefit to that. Perhaps I should just get a grip and try harder.

4. Carry it forward. I could look at what I’ve learned from this experience and view this period as a natural progression in the cycle. Perhaps this horse has led me to a stream it is not willing or able to cross. Using the same analogy, the best thing may be to dismount – cross the stream – and see if there’s a ride on the other side.

I have a writing project I’m working on currently. I often wonder if I could finish it and make it better if I didn’t try to come up with ideas for this blog. The concept I’m writing is so intriguing to me that I may even start a separate blog based on that idea.

No decisions yet, but I thought I’d give you some insight into why this blog is lingering.

Good In A Room

Sometimes it’s harder to blog once a week than everyday. So, I’m going to start blogging as much as possible to get out of the funk I’ve been in. Should make things a bit more organic and not so planned.

Just read a Tom Peters “Cool Friends” interview from a few weeks ago with Stephanie Palmer, author of Good in a Room: How to Sell Yourself (and Your Ideas) and Win Over Any Audience.

Good In A Room book   Stephanie Palmer

Here are a few of my favorite nuggets from the interview:

tompeters.com asks …

Stephanie, what’s the big idea here?

SP: “Good in a room” describes anyone who presents themselves and their ideas effectively. The phrase originated in Hollywood and it’s used by agents and producers to describe people who pitch ideas well. I teach people to use, in their own industry, the tactics that work in Hollywood.


Tom Peters has espoused the elevator pitch as one of the supporting columns of Wow Projects. The goal of the elevator pitch being, if you get into an elevator on the first floor with your boss and you’re trying to sell an idea, you want to sell it by the time you get to the 35th floor. You say the elevator pitch is a myth. Why is that?

SP: I think the term “elevator pitch” incorrectly implies that it’s appropriate to pitch in an elevator. Communicating quickly and concisely is important, but you should never pitch when you don’t have time to continue the conversation. A moment’s access with someone who doesn’t know you is not an opportunity. Your first interaction with someone sets the stage for the relationship to come. You shouldn’t start pitching your idea to someone before they know who you are enough to care about what you’re saying in the first place.

High-level buyers are pitched all the time. They know when they are hearing something that’s been repeated to dozens of other people. If you haven’t taken the time to build rapport and customize your pitch to that person’s specific needs, it’s a sign that you’re an amateur. Every buyer is unique, and your pitch should reflect that.


You also say that networking is a waste of time. Why?

SP: I think most people who think they’re successful as a result of using traditional networking techniques succeed in spite of those techniques, not because of them. Traditional networking is generally a quantity-based approach. The idea is that if you meet enough people, accumulate enough names, you will eventually find people who are a good fit. On the surface this makes sense; you’d need a large pipeline of people because statistically only a few of them would be a right fit for your business. It’s a bulk mail strategy, sending out a lot of letters and seeing what comes back. But bulk mail is expandable, whereas we are not. The bulk mail approach doesn’t work so well in establishing genuine relationships because we only have so much time.

Therefore, instead of spending small amounts of time with lots of people, I suggest spending more time with fewer, carefully chosen people. Use a quality based approach. Upgrade from bulk mail to a handwritten letter with a first class stamp.


But in as much as you don’t believe in the standard group theory of networking, you do still have a network. You categorize people a little differently than most people’s A, B, and C lists. Could you describe your system?

SP: I don’t like using the terminology of A, B, and C groups, simply because I know that I don’t want to be on anyone’s C list, and I don’t think that anyone else does, either. I start with Good People to Know, which is anybody who I think for any reason might be someone I would like to know in the future. It may be someone whom I’ve met at a conference or a barbecue. If I think that person is really interesting for whatever reason, business or personal, I’m going to include them in my Good People to Know.

If I meet someone, and I know that I have no interest in them, I’m not going to include them in my rolodex or keep tabs on them. Doing so is like being a relationship pack rat. I’m not looking to have the world’s largest network so that I can brag, “Oh, I have 10,000 people in my list.” I want to be more focused.

My next group I call the VIPs. Those are people whom I would like to have a business relationship with, but maybe I don’t know them. They’re my target list. Twenty people is the maximum that you should have on your VIP list.

My last group, and most important, is the Inner Circle. Those are the people that are closest to you, who support you professionally and personally. Those are the relationships that I spend the most time nurturing. Their support has been the most valuable for me, personally and professionally.


It looks like a worthwhile book, so I’m buying a copy. Might write my own review when I finish it.

You can see more about “Good In A Room” on Stephanie Palmer’s website.