Silly Putty Leadership

Guest post by Great
Leadership monthly contributor Beth Armknecht Miller:

This month marks the 61st anniversary of Silly Putty being
patented. And for many of us over the age of 40, Silly Putty holds special
memories for its multi- functional properties. So what do Silly Putty and
Leadership have in common? Actually you’ll be surprised because both of them
can bounce, stretch, and transform; all skills that effective leaders master
over time! At the same time, Silly Putty can break.


One of the things I remember about Silly Putty is its
ability to bounce when rolled into a circular object.  As leaders, we have to bounce back all the
time. Leadership doesn’t come without its set backs whether it is a change in
market conditions that impact product sales, a hurricane, tornado or other natural
disaster, or a sudden loss of a major client. 
A leader’s resiliency and ability to bounce back under
pressure and during difficult times is a recipe for success. Your approach to
difficult times and situations will resonate throughout an organization.

I witnessed this with a client of mine recently. He leads a
professional services organization where his people are his major asset.
Without any warning, his key producer left with several other employees who had
been responsible for a big percent of his revenue stream. His calm approach to
the situation in the months that followed not only kept the remaining employees
confident in him and the future but also provided him with the ability to be
creative in solving the challenges ahead of him.

How do you bounce back under pressure? What are your
employees saying about you during difficult times?


The second property that Sill Putty displays is the ability
to stretch. Leaders who challenge themselves on a regular and consistent basis
stretch and develop into better and more effective leaders.

Stretching can include restoring a broken business
relationship either externally or internally to the organization, making a
difficult financial, operational, or strategic decision, taking a path where
success is not a guarantee, or having a crucial conversation. For others it can
be showing vulnerability and their true self. What ever it is, every leader, if
self aware, knows what that stretch would look and feel like to them.

As a leader, what have you done recently that has stretched
and challenged you? 


Remember taking Silly Putty and pressing it on to a
newspaper comic and then stretching the image? Unfortunately children of today
can’t experience this because of the change in newspaper ink.

Just like the image being stretched, a leader needs to be
stretching and developing their employees if they want to develop their bench
strength and retain A players. Your talent is your future and just like your
need to develop and stretch, employees require it as well.

What are you doing each day to develop your talent and help
them transform into great, engaged employees?


And lets not forget that in certain circumstances, Silly
Putty can break if it is submitted to a sharp blow. What are those “sharp
blows” that have the potential to get you off track? These are behaviors that
in most circumstances you can control and keep hidden but will be seen by
others when you are under extreme pressure and stress.

Great leaders understand the circumstances that set them off
and have learned how to manage and control their bad behaviors through
stressful times. Having self-awareness and managing your behaviors to bring out
the best in others will set you apart from many of your peers.

As a leader, are you practicing the positive qualities of
Silly Putty: Bounce, Stretch and Transform? And how are you managing your
behaviors and emotions so you don’t break as a leader?

Beth Armknecht Miller’s is CEO of Executive Velocity, a top
talent and leadership development advisory firm. Beth is a trusted executive
consultant, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer. She is a graduate of Babson
College and Harvard Business School’s OPM program. She is certified in Myers
Briggs, Hogan, and Business DNA. And she is a Certified Managerial Consultant.
Beth’s insight and expertise has made her a sought-after speaker, and she has
been featured in numerous industry blogs and publications. To learn more about
Beth visit or