As An Aspiring Leader, How Can You Demonstrate Skills and Value?


The best way to get an opportunity to lead is to act like you already are…

Simply Ending Your Week:

Historically the way to get a promotion to a leadership position was to make it known you were interested and then stand patiently by, waiting your turn.

Over the years, some companies even established elaborate and formal evaluation, selection and development programs to identify, groom and prepare their future leaders.

As time went by some firms added other features to the mix such as specific hiring and manager rotations to their leadership development practices. Again, these were designed to identify and prepare potential future leaders.

In the final analysis, what I’ve seen and personally experienced over the last 45 years is very mixed results.

Consideration:

Formal selection and development programs aside, the absolute best way to get an opportunity to lead is to show you can.

Look for, or better yet, create your own opportunity leading a small team of people on a specific initiative. Ask for a chance.

Preferably in an area where you have subject matter expertise. And where there is a clearly defined set of objectives over a relatively short time horizon. Long enough to be meaningful. Short enough to demonstrate quick results.

This small opportunity also gives you a safer and more controlled environment to see how you do and how you like it.

Grab it and run. Show your stuff. That could be your jumping off point for other opportunities with ever increasing scope and responsibilities.

Before you do though, make sure this is what you want.

Leadership isn’t for everyone…


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Why It’s Important for Injured Lions to Continue Roaring


What would we choose to talk about if we knew it was going to be the last thing we would be able to say?

As in FOREVER

You can’t squeeze 20 years of living into 6 months.

Can you?

If we could stand in front of a group of people, perhaps the whole world, and share something of value, what would it be? What topics would we choose? How would we pick the right words?

  • Would we talk about our lives?
  • What we were able to accomplish?
  • What we left undone?
  • The people important to us and how much we cared about them?
  • Perhaps take the opportunity to thank people we never thanked?

I bet it wouldn’t be a drama-laden, cynical. triviality-packed, nitpicking-infused petty diatribe. Hopefully…

What if we could prepare and deliver a last lecture to a group of people who would gather specifically to hear what we had to say?

That’s exactly what Randy Pausch did.

He was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer in September of 2006 and spent almost 2 years fighting for his life. After exhausting all possible treatments and procedures, he was given 6 months to live.

A Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Randy delivered his Last Lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” to an audience at CMU on September 18, 2007.

Having fought a valiant and inspiring fight, he succumbed to the disease passing away on July 25, 2008.

I’m a cancer survivor. In October of 2015 I was diagnosed with Colon Cancer myself. In December of that year they discovered 5 lesions in my liver. By 2016 the cancer had metastasized to my lungs.

I’ve managed to beat it back each time.

Randy Pausch said that cancer did not make him unique. I acknowledge that it hasn’t made me unique either. In 2017, in the United States, it was estimated that there were 1,688,780 new cancer cases and 600,920 deaths.

What does make anyone with Cancer unique is the way we choose to deal with it and how we carry ourselves. Even when we come to the realization that the fight is literally over and Cancer has won.

How he conducted himself and the grace with which he carried himself over the last 6 months of his life is what made Randy Pausch unique.


A Self Proclaimed Nerd

Randy Pausch said that being the best speaker in the Computer Science department was like the being the tallest of the seven dwarfs.

If I Don’t Seem as Depressed or Morose as I Should Be, Sorry To Disappoint You

Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon Web Site

I’ve researched his life and read a lot about him. That last lecture at Carnegie Mellon, viewed by 18 million people on YouTube, was published as a book which became an international bestseller, The Last Lecture.

The book based on that lecture wasn’t just a last lecture by a retiring professor. It chronicled Randy Pausch’s carefully chosen last official words to a Carnegie Mellon audience.

More importantly, it captured the messages he wanted to leave behind to his children, his wife, and all his loved ones. Wisdom and lessons for a lifetime of living in 224 pages.

How easy would that be for any of us? Think about it for a minute.

Trying to capture valuable life lessons to impart to a demanding university-level audience, while leaving a legacy for your family, all the time knowing that an incurable disease is ravaging your body and will end up killing you.

 
Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon Web Site

Randy Pausch handled it with grace, relentless perseverance, and humor.

His self-deprecating dark humor is something else I’ve found in common with Randy. Under those same circumstances, despite my own battle with cancer, I’m not sure how I would react.

Friendship Measured in Depth Rather than Time

Steve Seabolt was Randy’s good friend and primary contact during his summer in residence at Electronic Arts the video game company headquartered in Redwood City, California in the Spring of 2004.

Despite having known each other for just three years, they had a deep friendship. Introducing Randy at The Last Lecture, Steve said this about him:

Randy brings a particular zest for life and humor, even while facing death. To Randy, this is simply another adventure.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Steve in preparing to write this article. I reached out to him out of the blue. When I told him I was writing the article about Randy he was gracious enough to jump on the phone and talk.

What Steve and Randy had most in common was a foundational joy. Life itself was fun. Meant to be lived. Enjoyed. This was evident from my research.

Steve described Randy as a problem solver. Randy always told people that every problem had a solution. After Randy’s death, this would come back to pose a difficult question for Steve to deal with.

When Randy called Steve in 2006 to let him know of his diagnosis, Steve told him that this was “a problem we have to optimize for. A binary situation with small odds at one end”.

Steve recalled how Randy quickly came to the realization that he needed to be very pragmatic about his situation. With that pragmatism came a graciousness that put people at ease despite the gravity of the situation.

Randy knew he would probably die soon. He just did not have precious time to waste wallowing in self-pity. He had to focus. There were many goals he wanted and needed to accomplish in a very short time.

Of utmost importance was preparing his wife and children to live the rest of their lives without a husband and father. As you well might imagine, they were the primary focus of his time and energy.

Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon Web Site

At one point, Seabolt recalled that Steve Jobs called Randy, advising him to stop treatments. Seabolt convinced Randy otherwise telling him that Jobs was a “genius marketer but it doesn’t transfer to other areas.”

Having had a year-long experience helping his son fight cancer, and with the closeness they had developed at Electronic Arts, Steve Seabolt was the ideal friend for Randy Pausch.

Randy told Steve, “when the time comes, I want you here”. Steve agreed. But, even with that, he admitted to underestimating how important his role would be towards the end of Randy’s life. As a loyal friend though, he stood up.


Lessons From a Roaring Lion

I share with you now the lessons I gleaned from Randy’s last lecture and from his book. I’ve directly quoted him wherever possible.

The “morals” are my interpretations and conclusions drawn from the lessons. And now for the lessons.


1. Achieving Your Childhood Dreams is Fun

Enabling the dreams of others is even more fun.

Moral: It’s not all about material success.

2. Brick Walls Are There For a Reason

They let us prove how badly we want things. They are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people.

Moral: Persevere. Persevere. Persevere. That is, if you want it bad enough.

3. Have Something to Bring to the Table

Because that will make you more relevant.

Moral: Nothing speaks louder than value.

4. Get The Fundamentals Down

Otherwise the fancy stuff isn’t going to work. As in football, concentrate on what the other 21 guys that aren’t touching the ball are doing.

Moral: Master the basics. The complex stuff gets easier to execute that way.

5. Wait Long Enough and People Will Surprise and Impress You

If you are pissed off at them, you just haven’t given them enough time.

Moral: Patience is indeed a virtue. People deserve time to prove themselves. Just keep waiting.

6. It’s Very Important to Know When You Are in a Pissing Match

And it’s very important to get out of it as quickly as possible.

Moral: Avoid unnecessary confrontations. Especially ones you can’t win.

7. There is a Good Way and a Bad Way

Two people can be saying the same thing, but in completely different ways.

Moral: Be aware of not just what you say, but how you say it.

8. Don’t Bail

Stick with situations even when they don’t appear to be ideal. The best gold is at the bottom of barrels of crap.

Moral: You do the right thing, good stuff has a way of happening.

9. The Power of Humility

After his father’s death as he was going through his personal effects, Randy discovered his father had been awarded the bronze star for valor. No one ever knew. In 50 years of marriage, it had never come up.

How many of us would keep that kind of thing to ourselves?

Moral: It is hugely more effective when you don’t ring your own bell. That is true humility.

10. Introducing Elephants

Randy said that his father always told him, “when there is an elephant in the room introduce it”. He began the Last Lecture displaying a CT Scan of his liver with the ten tumors.

Moral: Tell it like it is. Don’t avoid the obvious.

11. Driving Responsibly

This was another one of Randy’s Dad’s favorite expressions. “Just because you are in the driver’s seat doesn’t mean you have to run people over”.

Moral: Don’t take advantage and act like you have power over people

12. Not Everything Needs Fixing

Although it was Randy’s belief that every problem could be solved, Steve Seabolt said that eventually he came to the logical realization that he would not be able to fix everything. Simply put, there would not be enough time.

While most people measure their lives in decades, Randy had to measure his in weeks.

Moral: Prioritize.

13. Self Esteem

It can’t be given. It has to be built by each of us.

Moral: We are responsible for our own positivity.

14. When People Stop Telling You You’re Screwing Up

That means they gave up on you. A bad place to be. Your critics are the ones telling you they still love you an care.

Moral: When people give you feedback, cherish it and use it.

15. Experience is What You Get When You Didn’t Get What You Wanted

Moral: Even when you lose out, you win.

16. Head Fake Learning

Most of what we learn, we learn indirectly. This kind of learning is everywhere and you need to keep your eye out for it.

Moral: Football doesn’t just teach the sport itself, but teamwork, sportsmanship,and perseverance.

17. Leadership

It is a Skill Set. A set of skills. You may not be the smartest, most talented, fastest, or the most technical. But leaders can lead well because they are skilled at it.

Moral: Leadership skills are just as important as any other skills.

18. Soda in the Back Seat

Randy amazed his niece and nephew, not to mention his sister while she was admonishing them to be careful not to mess up their Uncle’s new convertible. He took a can of coke and poured it on the back seat.

Moral: People are more important than things, including a brand new pristine convertible.

19. A Great Way to Tell Someone They Are Being A Jerk

Randy’s mentor told him “It’s such a shame that people perceive you as so arrogant. Because it’s going to limit what you’re going to be able to accomplish in life.”

Moral: Tough feedback is even more effective when delivered the right way.

20. 15 Minutes of Your Life

With months left to live, Randy was at the grocery store going through the Self Checkout lane. He realized the register had double charged his $16.55 purchase. He thought about it, and then left the store.

The 15 minutes of his life it would’ve taken to straighten out the double charge was worth much more than $16.55. When you have but 6 months of life to live, every minute is precious.

Moral: Yes. Every minute of life is precious.

21. Self Assessing

The best gift an educator can give is to get someone to become self-reflective. Get a feedback loop and listen to it. The hard part is the listening.

Moral: Knowing who you are and what you are capable of is priceless.

22. Alice — A Virtual Reality Tool for Kids — Through the Looking Glass

“I, like Moses,get to see the promised land, but I won’t get to set foot in it. And that’s OK, because I can see. And the vision is clear.”

Alice is Randy’s Professional Legacy. Tell stories. Build games. Learn to program. ”Millions of kids having fun while learning something hard”. Once again, the Head Fake. “I will live on in Alice”.

Moral: Don’t underestimate the power and value of your legacy.

23. Decide if You’re Tigger or Eeyore

“I’m dying and I’m having fun. And I am going to keep having fun every day I have left. Because there is no other way to play ” ~ Randy Pausch.

Moral: Keep Having Fun.

24. Loyalty Is a Two Way Street

When you see the good in people stand by them even if there is a personal price to pay. They in turn will stand by you when you need them. Like friends Dennis Cosgrove and Steve Seabolt who both stood up big time for Randy.

Moral: What goes around comes around.

25. We Can’t Change The Cards We Are Dealt

We can only change the way we play the hand. And that’s how you should be investing your time.

Moral: Don’t waste time on things that can’t be changed or controlled.

26. The Real Head Fake

You lead your life the right way, the Karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.

Moral: It’s not about how to live your dreams though, it’s about how to lead your life.

And it was all about his kids — this was the Second and Last Head Fake


When the call from Randy finally came, Steve Seabolt boarded a red-eye on the west coast and was in Virginia by 6 AM. When he walked in he could tell the end was indeed near.

In typical problem solver fashion, they broke the problem down into pieces.

  • Insurance policy. Check.
  • Autograph books for the kids. Check.
  • Security system for the house. Check.
  • Help Jai, Randy‘s wife, by controlling the Media circus that was sure to come. Check.
  • All the boxes. Check Check. Check.

At 2 AM the next morning Steve said to Randy, “You realize I’m going to be stuck with you for the rest of my life. I’m going to be known as the friend of that dead professor.”

Randy smiled and said, “You finally figured that out!”

At 4 AM, while Steve held him, Jai asleep in the next room, Randy died.

Later, Randy’s son questioned Steve.

“My Dad said every problem can be solved?”

Steve told him, “Yes, but in their time. It wasn’t time for his problem.”


I never met Randy Pausch. I wish I had.

Having completed the research for this article I can only conclude that he was one outstanding human being. The world is a lesser place without him.

Randy Pausch left an indelible mark on his world. Our world. We should all aspire, like Randy, to keep roaring until the end.

“Professor Randy Pausch showed us that facing your mortality is really a gift. And it can be the biggest motivator to start to live your life now and remain present in the now”.

~ Oprah Winfrey

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Why You Should Demand that Leaders Be Developed


Great Leaders are seldom born great

Your Simple Leadership Lesson:

It’s not difficult to tell when a Leader has rough spots. Unless you have absolutely no experience or background leading or being led yourself. Even then, you can sense when something is missing.

Sometimes it’s the talk.

  • Too basic. Stating terms in Blinding Flashes of the Obvious.
  • Confusing. Explaining basic concepts in an elegant manner when 1+1=2.
  • Wandering. Ending up in Timbuktu when Boise was the destination.
  • Unfocused. Addressing World Hunger when serving breakfast is the issue.

Sometimes it’s the walk.

  • Preferential treatment
  • Not giving or taking credit for the staff’s good work
  • Behavior at odds with stated norms and rules

Amplification

In many cases, organizations throw new leaders to the wolves.

Promotion. Assignment. Done.

“Here’s your new group. Have fun!” I’ve seen it too many times. It’s not the new Leader’s fault. And the result? Casualties. Dead bodies. Wreckage. It’s shameful and costly. And it’s totally avoidable.

There is typically no “handbook” or instruction manual for new leaders. Sure, bookshelves are full of Self and Personal Development volumes…

But that’s not what is needed. Not by a long shot.

I know many organizations that do a great job developing leadership skills. BEFORE the promotion is given. They invest. Do it right

But all of us should demand that the companies we work for, the organizations we belong to get serious about assessing and developing leaders. Up and comers, new leaders, and existing leaders too.

Let’s not assume. Don’t expect leaders will “get it” as they go along. That through osmosis they will magically pick up the needed skills and experiences. That eventually, a new or existing leader will become GREAT.

And don’t assume that top performers will necessarily want or that they should be leaders. Ask. Assess. Then develop.

Our organizations, teams, people, deserve better than that.

Let’s get formal. Let’s do it right.

Let’s get serious and stop inflicting damage on our people

Let’s all demand that Leaders be developed.

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.”
― John C. Maxwell

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Some Things, They Just Change You and You NEVER Forget


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Some memories are good. Some sad. Many good and sad…

We emigrated to the United States from Cuba in 1958. Mother, Grandmother, brother and I. It was a rainy night in Miami. The flight attendant held an umbrella as we came down the stairs. No jetways back then.

Growing up in 1960s Miami as a Cuban kid was not exactly easy. My family was very poor and we could not afford to pay for my school lunch.

I was given a card by the school. I distinctly remember it was white cardboard. I would present it to the cafeteria cashier at the end of the lunch line to “pay” for my lunch.

I know it was cardboard because I left it in my pocket several times. The Washeteria machines mangled it on two separate occasions necessitating getting it replaced.

My favorite school lunch was meatloaf, with mashed potatoes, peas or corn. I also liked the spaghetti and meat sauce. We got 2 slices of white bread with butter and a carton of milk.

My classmates would buy an ice cream cup.

I wasn’t able to buy an ice cream cup with the card, so I would finish my lunch and sit while my buddies ate their vanilla or chocolate ice cream. Sometimes they made a sort of ice cream frosty with the milk and ice cream put together.

For kids our age this was a big deal. A cool thing. I didn’t participate because I could not buy the ice cream. I would come home and tell my mom about it.

She would listen attentively and then stare off wistfully, not able to do anything. Ice cream was 5 cents. We didn’t have 5 cents for ice cream.

One morning my brother and I were leaving, about to walk the 7 blocks to school. Kids could safely walk to school back then.

We would walk the one block to 2nd avenue, and take a right turn for 6 blocks to Buena Vista Elementary School in Wynwood on 30th street.

My mom stopped us before we left and gave us 5 cents each to buy an ice cream cup as a treat that day. I was overjoyed. Ice cream. Just like my friends!

At lunchtime my friends and I left our 3rd-grade classroom and hightailed it to the cafeteria. I could barely contain my excitement.

I walked down the lunch line with a tray, grabbed a carton of milk and then the plate with meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn and 2 slices of bread with butter. My favorite! This was going to be the perfect lunch.

Just before the cashier as my friends got ice cream cups from the cooler behind us, I reached in and got a cup of chocolate ice cream as well.

As I got to the cashier, she looked at the tray and exclaimed “You are on the Free lunch program. You’re not entitled to ice cream”. Of course, I knew that already and had my 5 cents in hand.

I extended the nickel to her and politely said, “Yes ma’am. I’m going to pay for the ice cream with this nickel.”

To my surprise, she snatched the nickel from my hand, the ice cream from my tray and said in a very loud voice, “Well if you have the money to pay for ice cream then that nickel goes towards the lunch. Go on. Sit down.

I was horrified. All my friends had watched and heard every word.

Up and down the line and even in the lunch room kids were staring. I took my tray and in total embarrassment began the long, shameful walk to the table where my friends and I always sat.

Just then Miss Sacasas, my 3rd-grade teacher swooped in from where she had been standing a short distance away.

She called my name. “Enrique. Come here.” I turned around, expecting to get a tongue lashing from this woman who I looked up to and deeply admired. I was sure I had violated all kinds of rules.

I watched as she grabbed the nickel and ice cream from the cashier’s hands and put both of them on my tray. “You go sit down my love. Go. Now.”

I rushed out of there as fast as I could but I still heard Miss Sacasas, my heroine, pounding that cashier with the most severe outburst I had ever heard this lovely woman utter.

“Don’t you EVER do anything like that again. How DARE you abuse an innocent child like that. YOU pay for that ice cream out of YOUR pocket, right now. What gives YOU the right…”.

I could hear no more as I reached the table to sit with my friends. They were all smiling at me.

It was the best lunch and most delicious ice cream I ever had. I am sure of it.

I never saw the cashier again. I have no idea what happened to her. Miss Sacasas never said a word about it to me again.

1960. Those were much different times.

Some things and people stay with you. They change you forever

“In the life of everyone there is a limited number of experiences which are not written upon the memory, but stamped there with a die; and in the long years after, they can be called up in detail, and every emotion that was stirred by them can be lived through anew; these are the tragedies of life.”
― James Weldon Johnson

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You Need to Hit the Reset Button to Stop the Insanity


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Your Simple Thought of the Week:

Chaos boils slowly like water in a pot and eventually drives us insane…

Contemplation

It is said that if you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water it will immediately jump out. But if you drop that frog into room temperature water and slowly bring it to a boil, the frog will not notice, until it is too late.

Are we frogs in lukewarm water waiting to get boiled alive?

It seems our lives are like systems. At first functioning like clockwork. Slowly, decay and entropy set in causing dysfunction. But sometimes a Chaos Monkey sneaks into our system and instantly begins to wreak havoc.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netflix

Beware of the Chaos Monkey. He will surely screw with you.

The only solution is to hit the reset button. Let our system reboot. Clear that Chaos Monkey from our lives. At least temporarily.

Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.”
― Ray Bradbury

Hit RESET. Sometimes, it’s the only way…


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Do You Want to be Merely Effective or Awesomely Fulfilled?


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Simply Starting Out Your Week:

We have choices

Every day we face a multitude of choices. Some easy. Quick. Simple.

  • What shirt do I choose?
  • Should I wear my hair up or let it loose?
  • Triple Shot Venti Americano or Grande Low Fat Latte?
  • Take the Expressway or side roads?

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
― J.K. Rowling

Others are a tad more complex. Sometimes VERY. Potentially life altering. Still others? Well, we are oblivious to those because they are not obvious. Invisible.

Obviously oblivious we are…

Sunday Consideration

We must acknowledge that living was meant to be purposeful. Our lives have meaning. We must live lives that matter. And we can. That is a choice all of us have. A choice we can easily make.

The problem is we spend much of our time on mundane decisions and choices. We ignore that most important choice of all.

Just live as effectively as we can? Settle for the casual and calm?

Or

Choose fulfillment?

I choose F U L F I L L M E N T.

And you?

“We are our choices.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre

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Why Being at Peace is Critical to Your Future


Your Simple Thought of the Week:

Get at peace with where you’ve been

Contemplation

When you are at peace with where you have been, you can be more peaceful in the present moment.

Peace is a healing force

After all, where you have been is what got you to where you are. And right now, as you read this, don’t you feel blessed with where you are?

This is critical in order to be at peace when you get to where you are going…

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”
― John Lennon

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