It’s Not Good Enough to Say You’re Sorry—You Have to Do Something About It

Great leaders aren’t remembered for what they do when everything’s fine. They shine when times are tough by embracing adversity and shouldering the blame.

A true leader—somebody who is in charge of the culture and the organization—has to be very quick to apologize and very slow to blame. The reality is that bad things happen, sometimes things that are beyond your control. Sometimes they result from bad decisions made by people who work for you.

But the leader is ultimately responsible… for everything—for the environment of the team and for building a culture that allows people to realize that you’re not perfect, that you make mistakes every day. If you create an environment of fear and reprehension, people will cover up mistakes because they’re scared of you. Instead you want to create an environment in which people know you’re not perfect so you don’t expect them to be. Yet you must have high standards of accountability and responsibility so when something bad happens, they own up to it.

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7 Ways to Lead People Who Don’t Want to Be Led

Leadership used to be a top-down, pyramid-style structure. The journey to the top was clearly marked. A student graduates college, finds an entry-level job sorting mail or going on coffee runs. They pay their dues, work their way up and in 15 or so years, they’re the ones ordering the coffee.

Today the leadership model resembles something like herding cats. People are no longer OK with the status quo and with paying dues. They want their opinions valued and their contributions celebrated. They want to change the company with their ideas—not 15 years in the future but now.

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How To: Build New Leaders

For any business that lasts, it’s incumbent upon current leaders to build a deep farm system of developing leaders. Mentorship programs are one answer.

Mentor programs may sound like a cozy addition to your company-culture mission statement, but they’re also powerful business practices. A 2013 study by the business analytics firm Vestrics looked at participants in Sun Microsystem’s mentoring program and found worker retention rates jumped 69 percent for the mentors and 72 percent for the mentees over seven years, saving the company $6.7 billion in staff replacement costs.

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5 Must-Live-By Rules From History’s Masterminds

If Shakespeare, Alexander Hamilton or Sophocles taught an MBA class today, what would they say on the subject of leadership?

Now we might know.

In my forthcoming book, The Greats on Leadership: Classic Wisdom for Modern Managers, I explore the best leadership ideas of the past 25 centuries, using timeless authors such as Plato, Churchill, Shakespeare, Austen, Hamilton and Lincoln as guides.

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9 Things Every Aspiring Leader Should Know

It is universally understood that the road to success is paved with failure. And although all great leaders experience speed bumps, detours or head-on collisions, every leadership journey is unique and provides valuable lessons to pass on.

These nuggets of advice from nine members of Young Presidents’ Organization range from thoughts on hiring practices to self-empowerment, running fast to drinking beer. You might agree with some things and disagree with others, but it is always enlightening to hear from those who have gone into the fire and come out the other side.

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Why You Should Make Friends With Everyone on Your Team

Over the years I’ve learned that success is about more than taking charge. It’s also about creating an environment where people want to succeed. To do that, you have to build a culture of honesty, accountability and shared vision.

And that starts with knowing your people.

I think it’s a myth that leaders can’t be close to their employees and that familiarity can get in the way of making tough decisions. In my former career as a co-CEO, we had around 300 employees who had been with the company for 30 years, some of whom I once reported to as I was rising through the ranks. So when I was steering the company through the Great Recession and trying to execute a very difficult initial public offering, I knew I was fighting not only for my employees but also for my friends. And I believe that made me fight even harder to succeed.

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3 Ways I Created a Culture of Passion

I’ve worked in the architectural and design field for more than 25 years. In that time, I’ve seen the leadership mistakes people make and I’ve come to realize much of this disconnect can be attributed to a lack of authentic relationship-building at work.

Building strong connections with your colleagues is essential to the happiness and success of your team and, ultimately, to the profitability of the overall business.

Architecture is inherently an apprenticeship, “more time equals more experience” type of profession. There are no algorithms or handbooks on how to run an architectural practice, but one thing is definitive: It takes humanity to design for humanity. Every day the goal is to listen, solve a problem, and create something meaningful, beautiful, unique and educative.

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Don’t Play with Dead Snakes — Kill Projects Before They Kill You

Train your company not to play with Dead Snakes.

What’s a Dead Snake? Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale famously called problematic ideas ‘snakes’ and warned against Dead Snakes in a speech at Harvard. But in the context I’m talking about here (and to build on his ideas), it’s a project or feature you’re building that’s going nowhere. It might have looked very much alive. There might have been significant interest from a customer. It might have played a central role in your last board meeting presentation. Continue reading “Don’t Play with Dead Snakes — Kill Projects Before They Kill You”

Questions to Decide If You Need a Business Partner

You might actually need a loan or an attorney, not somebody to split your company with.  When you write as much as I do you get barraged with people who want to partner with you. Most are hucksters who see that you have a capability that they lack and see the sales potential for it, although they don’t have any customers per se. Others think I have money that I want to invest in a hair-brained scheme with someone I don’t know. These things happen so often that I am reminded of advice given to me many times over the years: don’t have a business partner. Continue reading “Questions to Decide If You Need a Business Partner”

Lies the World Tells Entrepreneurs About How to Succeed

It’s common knowledge that 90 percent of startups die. So what do the 10 percent have that the 90 percent don’t?

We are taught that succeeding as an entrepreneur is all about working ridiculously harder than anyone else and persisting beyond the challenges. Then, and only then, will you “make it.” That is a big bunch of hooey. Continue reading “Lies the World Tells Entrepreneurs About How to Succeed”