Tag: Leadership

Engaged Employees Come from Engaged Managers: Why the Job Description is Not Enough


In his 2015 article “Obsolete Annual Reviews: Gallup’s Advice,” Jim Harter at Gallup published what should have been headline breaking news. Based on the Gallup studies of the American workplace, only 50 percent of American workers strongly agreed they know what is expected at work. This figure has not changed significantly in the 2016 and 2017 reviews.

How on Earth can leaders expect their employees to execute their visions if half of their workforces are not sure of what is expected of them?

Most people want to do “good work.” But they need to understand the meaning of “good work.” If they don’t, frustration with unclear expectations can quickly lead to apathy. In short, unclear or conflicted expectations can lead to employees working just for a paycheck, instead of working for the organization. I can say from personal experience, as a customer and as a manager, those employees do not understand the value of customer service and are minimally productive.

Wisdom: Heat Shields Cooled by Horns?


Two bits of leadership advice learned in the school of hard knocks: “Be a heat shield, not a heat conductor, for your people,” and “if you aren’t tooting your own horn, some else will use it for a siphon.” (Heard from an Iron Major.)

Leaders must act as heat shields from outside friction and flames. Those who just pass criticism and complaints along, or amplify them, are no good to anyone. Heat conductor leaders are worse than redundant to their superiors, not taking the heat as a signal to plan and direct a course correction. Such leaders may be seen as puppets, and possibly cowards, by their own people. In any healthy organization, peers see the heat conductor failing to absorb the heat that comes everyone’s way occasionally. So, be a heat shield, not a heat conductor, for your people.

But every heat shield has a failure point, so just absorbing heat is not enough. Heat shields must be able to radiate away heat and may need cooling periods to sustain effectiveness. Since heat comes from real or perceived shortfalls in missions or metrics, a good leader is interested in what interests his boss and is very interested in what interests her boss. Both substance, and terms or turns of phrase used by bosses, inform a perceptive leader’s internal unit planning, directing, and correcting. Understanding your boss and boss’s boss is necessary, but not sufficient, to lower the heat.

Dumb Data, Blind Information, Enlightened Knowledge


For years we have heard that we must have data to make decisions. We are told, “You get what you measure”. The amount of data being collected today is greater than ever. Leaders and managers have all the data they could ever need to run their teams, departments, and organizations. And yet, we do not see a great transformation in management. What is going on?

Data says nothing. Mere facts are as mute as stones. Just as the geologist must pick up and examine those stones he finds; data must be reviewed, studied, and processed into information. Information is processed data that has meaning and is presented in a context. The number of clients seen in January was down, that is what the data shows. What it means, however, takes context, and more than the numbers spit out by the computer. It could mean staff were not as productive as needed, maybe the flu swept through the office, maybe the weather decreased client turn out. In short, only looking at the staff productivity, and taking nothing else into account, does not provide enough information to make decisions.

A Tale of Two Shootings


On Tuesday, January 23, there was a shooting at Marshall County High School in Benton, KY. Two students were killed (with 19 injured) by a fellow student. Less than one month later, a shooter killed 17 students (15+ injured) at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

I live in Nashville and watched the Kentucky shooting play out on the national news (though much more on local news, obviously) and I did the same on the day of the Florida shooting. It’s been startlingly obvious that the national media reaction and public frenzy has been decidedly different from the Kentucky shooting and I’ve been wondering why for the last few days.

This week marks Banter’s 300th episode. To commemorate this milestone, AEI President Arthur Brooks joined the show to discuss everything from AEI’s human dignity project and the future of free enterprise to the need for aspirational leadership in the face of a government shutdown. Arthur also updated us on some exciting upcoming AEI projects and left us with some unconventional fashion advice.

Learn More:

On this AEI Events Podcast, Martha’s Table President and CEO Patty Stonesifer provided insights from her career in the private sector, in the philanthropy space, and as the head of a nonprofit organization. In a conversation with AEI’s Toby Stock, Ms. Stonesifer discussed her years at Microsoft when the organization was a small but growing tech company with lofty ambitions. She continued with insight into her role working with Bill and Melinda Gates on creating and selecting a focus area for what would become the world’s largest charitable foundation—the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Ms. Stonesifer discussed moving from the world of philanthropy to the world of nonprofit management, overseeing the DC-based social services organization Martha’s Table. The conversation focused on how to provide essential services for those who need it most, how nonprofit organizations can effectively communicate their work to external stakeholders, and how effective partnerships can help scale a nonprofit organization’s work. The event concluded with a look into the future of Martha’s Table, including the opening of two new locations in 2018.

Member Post


I’m finding it hard to put into words how sad, shocked and angry I feel about what happened over the weekend in the small, rural town of Sutherland Springs, Texas, where twenty-six people were murdered and 20 injured, sitting in church, in yet another mass shooting. When I pulled up the news to find out […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

In this AEI Events Podcast, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) joins AEI’s Thomas Donnelly for a discussion of the ongoing military readiness crisis and what Congress can do to begin addressing it. The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Readiness, Rep. Wilson describes how the series of cuts to the national defense budget under President Obama severely damaged the US military, eroding its ability to perform all the tasks we ask of it.

Rep. Wilson speaks about the serious threats facing the country, focusing in particular on Russia, North Korea, and China, and the importance of US leadership in facing those challenges. Consistent American engagement in foreign affairs, he emphasizes, enabled democracies and free markets to flourish in Central and Eastern Europe, South America, and around the world, but that peace and prosperity is possible only through American military superiority. To reclaim and sustain that superiority, Rep. Wilson calls for Congress and the administration to support the higher defense budget proposed by the chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. With persistence and steady leadership, he believes that the US can rebuild its military.

Leadership and Laziness


In my latest op-ed for the local fishwrap, I tell the tale of an old German general with the mouthful of a name Kurt Gebhard Adolf Philipp Freiherr von Hammerstein-Equord. Between the world wars, he was tasked with restructuring the military, at least until he tried to kill Hitler, which got him into a spot of bother. But how he decided whom to promote and whom to fire fascinates me from a business perspective.

He divided the entire officer corps into four quadrants, which I illustrated in the chart to the right:

  • Dumb and busy.
  • Dumb and lazy.
  • Smart and busy.
  • Smart and lazy.

Since Hammerstein-Equord was a highly disciplined German officer, you would assume he’d fire those in Quadrant 2 (dumb and lazy) and promote those in Quadrant 3 (smart and busy). But you’d have it backward.

Member Post


I was driving home and flipping through the radio last week and I heard some guys talking about how the Democrats are struggling to find new “leadership” after Hillary’s loss. My mind began to wander as I thought about what they really meant. I realized they weren’t talking about leadership, they were talking about likability! […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

A Litmus Test for GOP Leadership


shutterstock_225535513A big topic of conversation in the Beltway and beyond is the new Republican leadership elections scheduled for next week. While most are asking who will replace Boehner’s team, the more important question is what will they do differently?

There’s a great opportunity for new GOP leadership to differentiate themselves, which will start the process of taking advantage of their majorities in both houses. It’s past time for Republicans to move legislation that Democrats can’t duck and that will advance our strategic interests and policy goals, and it’s what Americans want to see Republicans do.

As I recently wrote in The Hill, here’s the most effective one:

Tony Abbott: Australia’s Last Good Prime Minister?


Tony_Abbott_-_2010It’s often said that Australia needs to become a republic because of our lagging reputation in Asia. Many believe, for example, that our institutional attachment to the British Monarchy puzzles the masses and implies an old-world attachment that tugs on our standing in the region.

Much less discussed, however, is how silly we must look changing leaders as often as our dirty clothes. Until recently, the turbulence of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years was behind us. We weren’t suffering from closed-door union deals and the disruptive leadership of the Australian Labor Party. Abbott had stopped illegal boat arrivals to Australia, was fiercely paying down Rudd’s debt, ending silly government programs, and restoring a relative lack of prestige to the executive arm of government.

Yet Australia’s modern media cycle won’t permit such stable conduct: it is, after all, boring. The constant scan for sensationalism means that minor issues like giving out awards (Abbott’s honor to Prince Phillip) and, most recently, harmless jokes about rising sea levels in the South Pacific choke out issues of substance and having a steady pair of hands on the nation’s wheel.

Obama’s Success: It’s the Institutions, Stupid


Over the past few weeks and months, Obama has been winning. His administration has proved unstoppable on just about every item on its agenda, from environmental and energy regulation to illegal immigration to gay marriage to Obamacare. Indeed, the president recently acknowledged this obliquely, saying that gun control “has been the one area where I feel that I’ve been most frustrated and most stymied.” It’s difficult to find any other area where conservatives have held back the progressive tide. The next president will be hard-pressed to contain the damage to our economy, our international interests, and our liberty.

Two competing narratives dominate the 2016 GOP nomination contest. The first stresses competence and experience. Obama, this narrative goes, came to office as a community organizer with no real-world experience and little political experience. He surrounded himself with ignorant young hacks, and has stumbled from one mistake to another. Thus we need to nominate an experienced administrator with a proven record as an executive: no more first-term senators.

Member Post


I have been thinking today about leading someone better than me at a task. I have people working for me right now that are better therapists than I will ever be, yet I am the Clinical Director. This is common in the work place. We lead those who are better at their tasks than we […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

What Good Are Principles If You Won’t Stick to Them?


m-8458Last November, the people of Georgia State House district 102 reelected me to a third term. A few weeks ago, my 5th Legislative session ended. During the past five years as an elected official, I’ve learned a lot – not just about the legislative process – but about what makes a good legislator.

I still believe people run for office out of a genuine desire to serve their community. Almost without exception, people across the political spectrum run because they have an idea or a set of principles they believe will improve the lives of their neighbors. To be sure, people stumble along the way, make mistakes, become corrupt, or generally abandon the idealistic views they held when they first ran for office. Not everybody loses their way, however. In my experience, many legislators try to do the right thing. In our increasingly cynical society, I wish more people could see the good things I’ve seen while in the Legislature.

One bad thing I’ve observed in the Legislature are those who, over time, drift away from the principles they once held. Most often it’s because they’ve come to the conclusion that the system will never change. There’s good reason to think that. Government is often like the Borg from Star Trek — some eventually conclude that resistance is futile and join the collective.

Seven Lessons for Statesmen and Sinners


On February 4, 2015, George Weigel delivered the William E. Simon lecture at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC: “St. John Paul II: Lessons for Statesmen.” I’ll concentrate on three of the lessons that have a direct bearing on President Obama’s response or lack of one) to Putin and the Ukraine, Iran, and ISIS.

“Ideas count for good or for ill.”

Escalation Summer


obama“Blessed are the peacemakers.” That’s what the Man said. Notice He didn’t say “peace lovers” or “peaceniks”; he said “peacemakers.”

Everywhere you look, crises rage. Ukraine, Iraq, Ferguson, the border—it’s Escalation Summer. Is there a peacemaker in the house?

Earlier this year, President Obama met Vladimir Putin’s land grab in the Crimea with all the firmness of al dente linguine. The result? The Russian bear felt free to press his dream of empire and 298 innocent souls perished when Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot from the sky over Donetsk Oblast.

Did Churchill’s Depression Help Win World War II? — A.D.P. Efferson


 In Nassir Ghaemi’s book, A First-Rate Madness, he argues that Winston Churchill’s well-documented depression (or “black dog,” as Churchill called it) may well have been the reason Churchill was able to see Hitler for who he was; whereas Neville Chamberlain, being of sound mind, could not.

Ghaemi credits Churchill’s clarity of thought to a phenomenon known as “depressive realism.” Depressive realism was discovered quite by accident, by two graduate students who were trying to test Martin Seligman’s “learned helplessness” theory of depression. Seligman believed the insidious negativity internalized by people suffering from depression as a result of early trauma precluded them from functioning as normal adults. They would learn to be helpless.