Archive for February, 2008

Leaders grow by doing.

February 29, 2008

Earlier this week Mark Smith talked about the “experience of failure” and what leaders should learn from failures. Today, I experienced several leaders succeeding – taking risks and daring to make things happen. They were learning how to be better leaders by doing. Leaders grow by doing!


Leaders Must Get Out The Vote!

February 28, 2008

As March 4 approaches, I am reminded of the important role leaders play in motivating people to participate in the democratic process (of electing our political leaders). Endorsements are not enough. Whether corporate, nonprofit, civic, or grassroots . . . one responsibility of leaders is to vote and encourage voting among the people they lead. 

Change happens . . . when the status quo becomes unacceptable

February 27, 2008

Any leader championing change must remember, while people call for change they may not want change to impact them personally. Simply calling for change doesn’t make it happen.

Leaders Let Leaders Lead.

February 26, 2008

One principle of leadership is “leaders let leaders lead”. What this means is that leaders are needed at every level of a community or organization. Furthermore, leaders at the highest level of a community or organization cannot be effective without having good leaders at all other levels.

Effective leadership is exponential.

“Cult of personality” vs. Self-awareness

February 24, 2008

The term of art “cult of personality” has been used in the media to describe the type of leadership exhibited by U.S. Presidents and other world leaders. While I don’t mind the ‘descriptive’ use of the phrase, I am put off by the ‘prescriptive’ use of it in the context of today’s Presidential campaign.

Among other attributes and experiences, effective leaders emerge from within and over time. For the leader within us to emerge, we must become self-aware. Self-awareness is intrinsic to effective leadership. “Cult of personality” is extrinsic.

Why perspective matters . . .

February 23, 2008

The theory of perspectivism states that for every perspective we encounter from someone, there exists a reality.


Recently, several of our Cobalt Associates have traveled to Haiti, Southeast Asia and Italy. It has been wonderful to see their photographs, hear about their experiences and listen to the perspectives they gathered from the people on their journeys. While it is good practice for leaders to get away and rejuvenate their health (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and intellectual health), or to engage in personal growth and service activities, it is also important for leaders to practice gaining the perspectives of the multitude of people with whom we share the earth. Too many issues bind humankind today. The more leaders can do to listen, the more relevant our actions become.

What is an issue?

February 20, 2008

I have been watching, listening and reading the campaign rhetoric of our Presidential candidates. At this point I have decided that they all need to go back to school to learn the difference between a problem and an issue. A problem can’t be solved, fixed or eliminated . . . it is too big, widespread and complex. An issue, on the other hand, is Immediate, Specific and Realizable. For example, the state of education in our country is not an issue. Lack of access to a nutritious and tasty breakfast, not being able to see the teacher or black/white board clearly, and walking an unsafe route to school are the issues (of education).

These are issues that our leaders need to take action on (notice I said take action, not fix, solve or eliminate).

Leaders keep asking me “What is the most important issue in Northeast Ohio today?” While I am tempted to say “education”, I have had to reframe my response so everyone stops talking about “fixing education” and starts talking about how to make breakfast a fun and engaging meal/social experience in school, how to help improve students’ vision, and how to make walking to and from school happen in a safe, hopeful and imaginative environment.

My one question for the candidates: “What is the most important issue facing our country and what are you going to do that is immediate, specific and realizable to change it?”

(Qualification #1 for U.S. President: Able to understand and articulate the difference between a problem and an issue.)

Leaders Are Everywhere!

February 20, 2008

There is this ongoing belief that leaders can be found only where there is a position, title or role. However, whether elected, appointed or self-appointed, a mere title doesn’t make a person a leader. In my experience working with leaders, I have found that leaders evolve over time around issues important to everyday life. . . not their position. And, they can be found everywhere. One leader I have admired for many years is Bob Lupton. The world can learn from his values, philosophy and (most importantly) experiences. Visit You will see what I mean and know instantly what real leadership is.

Help Wanted Ad: 21st Century Leaders

February 19, 2008

While I spent much of my formative teen and twenty years journaling, I drifted from the practice in later years when family, parenting and career progression consumed my solitude. I view blogging as a form of journaling. So, it is with great excitement that I am returning to this tradition.

While I hope to share more of my history and what inspired me to found the Cobalt Group in 1997 as a transdisciplinary planning, development and communications practice, today, I am compelled to focus on very timely issues like leader integrity, trustworthiness, track record and motives.

What is desperately needed of leaders in the 21st century is an ability to gather perspectives, create context and manage change. In short, history only matters if you learn from it, opinions only count if you choose to include those ideas and people in your action plan, and change really only matters if you have a record of leading and making change . . . and can demonstrate that it has been sustainable over time.

Periodically, I will dedicate these postings to important people in my life who have given me opportunities, guided my development when I did not have clarity, coached me when I was ready (or not!) to the next level of my development and, most importantly, mentored me when they saw something in me that I didn’t even know existed.

Today, this posting is dedicated to my parents, Bob and Joan, who continue to teach, guide and support the work about which I am so passionate. If not for their “leading by example” I could not be here today doing what I do.

Hello Leaders!

February 18, 2008

Today, we are launching our new Cobalt Group web site (which, by the way, happens to connect you to my new blog). I also would like to take a moment to welcome Mark Smith, my new partner at Cobalt Group, who will join me on a daily basis as we blog about Cobalt Group’s experiences helping leaders make and manage change. As a part of this process we plan to share with you our successful philosophy, process, methods and tools.

While there is never a right time to make change, the reality is that change is always happening around us . . . like it or not. Successful leaders know and understand this. At Cobalt Group, we are becoming a more diverse resource with more capacity to advise leaders about initiating change, building capacity and sustaining it over time.

This blog is about connecting leaders to ideas, resources, and each other. I am looking forward to doing just that!

Footnote: I would like to thank a fellow leader in the blogsphere – George Nemeth – for providing guidance to me on several important issues and opportunities as the content for our new web site and blogs evolved over the last two years. I appreciate his vision, passion and commitment to this medium and the important role it plays in our “communities” . . . more on this soon!