Quote of the Day — Max DePree

Be wary of setting out to win prizes. Truly creative people flourish in the process of solving problems. Good work is the goal; recognition is the consequence.

— Max DePree, Leadership Jazz 

PM Quote of the Day — Empress Theodora

The throne is a glorious sepulcher

Considered the most powerful woman in the history of the Roman Empire (technically the Eastern Roman Empire), Empress Theodora is perhaps the ur-feminist.  She set her own course; first an actress, then political insider, then wife of Justinian and a wielder of power in her own right.

Ambition has its uses, no doubt.  Dissatisfaction with our lot is one of the drivers of personal achievement (hey, someone blogged on that here).  And Lord knows, I didn’t mind the better title, prestige, and money that came with most promotions.

Theodora’s quote reminds me that “all that” won’t last for long.  Even reaching the pinnacle of human achievement or power won’t change the way my story eventually ends. 

Though I guess I would have a higher-end casket!

Is operational proficiency overvalued?

Great Fire -- Narragansett Pier Casino

Great Fire of 1900 -- Narragansett Pier Casino

Most of the tips in The Intelligent Leader blog’s Management Tip of the Day are thought-provoking.  However, Wednesday’s tip (here) got under my skin a bit.  And not just because the idea that “risk taking” wasn’t a valued trait seems quaint considering how intensely the Wall Street Casino is burning right now.  And I think most of us will agree that raw ambition is a mixed blessing and that inspiration is a virtue in leaders.

However, I believe that a strong understanding of operations and initiative management must be part of the package a leader brings to the table.  To that end, I can’t let the perceived swipe at operational proficiency go by without some comments about how it fits into leadership and hiring. 

  1. Execution makes “opportunities” real.  How else do openings identified in confusing and ambiguous times get exploited?  Strategy + Execution — one without the other is useless.  The hiring executive should ask the “operator” to give an example of how he/she made strategy concrete via execution.
  2. Policies and procedures have their place.  They can, of course, stifle innovation and initiative if they monitor and control too closely.  Or even, they can focus on the wrong topics.  Again, interviewers should ask probing questions about how the candidate operationalized innovation, especially focusing on lessons learned about over-control and its consequences.
  3. Risk taking is an essential part of the leadership package.  Risk management is a blind spot Continue reading
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