Thursday, March 26, 2020

Leaders Lessons from an Outward Bound Wilderness Instructor

Guest post from Mark Brown:

Leaders in the outdoor leadership space are quite familiar with a wilderness ethic and organization called Leave No Trace. Originally a program created by the United States Forest Service in the late 1980s, the organization offers guidelines to people who venture into the wilderness to help reduce their negative impact and preserve it for future generations. LNT has become the gold standard for organizations who operate in America’s backcountry environments.

LNT is not a well-known philosophy beyond the outdoor industry. But perhaps it should be. This argument was introduced by New York Life CEO Ted Mathas, while speaking at an event hosted by Outward Bound USA that honored New York Life Foundation's work with grieving teens. Mathas, himself an alumnus of Outward Bound’s wilderness programs, made the connection as he discussed his journey to becoming an effective CEO. He highlighted the importance of leaders putting their egos aside and “leaving no trace” by respecting the culture that exists and supporting people rather than focusing on their own agendas.

Mathas’ insights could be expanded to include many of the seven principles listed by Leave No Trace:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare: Business leaders who know the environment in which they are leading can greatly minimize any negative impact, whether on the people they lead or the communities/environments in which they operate. Deliberate planning to minimize impact will ensure more positive outcomes. Too many leaders make either/or decisions regarding both human and environmental impacts, but this is a false choice that can be negated with proper planning and preparation.
  2. Dispose of Waste Properly: Waste disposal builds upon planning and preparation. LNT philosophy requires nothing be left behind that would negatively impact the environment. Business, particularly manufacturing has embraced the Japanese concepts of Muda and Kaizen, which have been widely adapted across industries as Lean. Muda is waste and Kaizen is the process of reducing that waste made most famous by Toyota’s Production System. Mathas actually takes this even further in his presentation, connecting this concept well with what is known as the “8th waste”—that of unused human creativity. An effective leader is one who taps that potential.
  3. Leave What You Find: Mathas honed in on this as an important aspect he paid attention to when he became a new CEO. New York Life has existed for 175 years. It has a rich history and culture, and as a new leader he recognized that his most important leadership was to preserve the good that was there as he guided the organization forward. Even struggling organizations have good things about them, and good people within who may be hunkered down waiting for better leadership. LNT advises us to see what is there and to preserve it for future generations.
  4. Be Considerate of Others: The wilderness holds a special place for those who travel into it. LNT asks that travelers respect not only the place, but the experience as well. Trail etiquette and minimizing noise to respect others are large parts of this principle. In a business setting, this principle has huge implications for the role an organization plays in its community and the world. The Conscious Capitalism movement has a tenet it calls a “stakeholder orientation.” This tenet reflects the importance of consideration to everyone who has engagement with the organization, from customers to vendors and the community in which it operates. Following this principle elevates the place of corporations in the lives of people.
All of our institutions are currently under tremendous strain. Rapid change and technological advances are only going to accelerate. Corporate leaders would do well to follow the words of Mathas and look to organizations that have been advising leaders about how to navigate the wilderness, where leaders have been successfully and safely guiding into the unknown.

About Mark Brown:
Mark Brown is the author of Outward Bound Lessons to Live a Life of Leadership: To Serve, to Strive, and Not To Yield. Originally a native of Northeastern Ohio, Mark moved to Naples, Florida where he worked as a writer and magazine editor. At the age of 25, he decided to attend a 23-day trip to an Outward Bound course in Utah. After taking a temporary job as a van driver for Outward Bound in Minnesota, he helped successfully search for and rescue a teenage boy that had become separated from the group. After this, Outward Bound asked him to become an instructor which began a 22-year working relationship with the organization. He accrued over 1,000 days in the wilderness as an instructor. He earned a master’s degree in business/entrepreneurship from Western Carolina University and has since served as a transformational leadership consultant in a variety of industries.

Monday, March 23, 2020

20 Articles to Help Leaders Navigate the COVID 19 Crisis

I’ve dug deep into Google search to curate 20 articles from what I believe to be trusted sources for leaders. Some are new and some are older; all seem to be practical and relevant advice for leaders trying to step up during these challenging times. After reading as many as you can, ask yourself the following question:

“In five years, how do I want to be remembered for how I handled this crisis?”

Then start doing those things today!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

A Fresh Leadership Model for a New Decade

Guest post from Dr. Ranya Nehmeh:

Why do the rest of us act like millennials are from another planet? We have a need to comment on the constant screen gazing, the matcha latte obsession, the job-hopping, the mood swings from apathy to omg…don’t even try to say you don’t know what I’m talking about. Millennials are such a distinct demographic, possessing generation wide characteristics that seem far from the norm, but let’s face it, this is the group that will start dictating the norm, especially in the work place.

Organizations have undergone massive shifts over the last decade in terms of how they operate. The workplace of today is unrecognizable compared to when baby boomers (born between 1946 – 64) started their careers. Work spaces, technology, demographics, cultural sensitivities, and remote working are but a few of the areas that have changed. Boomers instigated many of these changes to adapt the workplace to fit their needs. But now that they are starting to retire, what will happen to their stable work approach and traditional top-down leadership practices?

Thanks, but no thanks Boomer, is what the tech-savvy, confident millennials (born between 1980 - 2000) are saying. They prefer a bottoms-up approach, and want to feel involved and valued in the workplace. They have no interest in being told how things are done, or how things work.  They also have different ideas about what constitutes a good leader. This has contributed to a leadership gap: what millennials expect vs. what they are getting from their leaders.  

With the onset of a new decade, it is predicted that millennials will make up almost half of the American workforce, so it is time for organizations to pay attention and minimize this leadership gap in order to embrace, as opposed to alienate, this valuable group of workers. The key is to stop trying to lead millennials by using generic leadership approaches, and start looking for innovative ideas that speak to this specific target group, or better yet, just start by listening.

So where do we start? Well, we need to ask them what they want and not scoff at their responses.   That’s what I did. I went straight to the source and conducted an extensive survey of over 700 millennials from around the globe. And so, after dozens of conversations, and a few too many matcha lattes, I had a much better understanding of what they wanted. There was consistency in what they were asking for, which was a leadership style that was in sync with the times (technology, social media, ethics, respect) and catered to their needs, perspectives and strengths. Nine clear leadership traits emerged. I took the first letter of each trait and came up with the word … CHAMELEON.

Emotional Intelligence
Overcome Obstacles

The ideal leader of millennials would possess these nine traits…The CHAMELEON Leader.
During the survey, one of the questions asked participants if their leadership expectations were met when they joined the workplace; 62% said no. This statistic is alarming and highlights that millennials’ leadership expectations are, for the most part, not being met. Of course we like to say their expectations are unrealistic, but if you take a look at them you will realize that they are very in tune with the world we live in, and the world we hope to live in.

The CHAMELEON Leader is meant to provide the bridge between expectation and reality. Why a chameleon? Because chameleons change color according to the situation. They are adaptable!

This new decade, which will be ripe with environmental concerns, instability, and technology booms, requires a new leadership model. Leaders who are ready to embrace this young and ambitious generation and lead them energetically into the future will require a shift in mind-set, a visionary approach, a willingness to collaborate not dictate, inspire not conspire, but most importantly to get excited about the potential benefits of having this generation on board. Being a chameleon leader for millennials means finding out what is important to them and creating an authentic way to communicate that understanding. 

Dr. Ranya Nehmeh, author of the book The CHAMELEON Leader. Connecting with Millennials holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from the Swiss Management
University and a Masters in Human Resources from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). She has over fifteen years of work experience in the area of human resource management. Based in Vienna, Austria. Ranya considers herself a third-culture kid. The CHAMELEON Leader is her debut book.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Learning from History: How to Make Decisions

Guest post from Robert L. Dilenschneider:

We all have to make decisions, and of course we want them to come out right. But how do we go about reaching those decisions, and what can we do to help ensure they turn out well?  Simple questions to ask. Incredibly hard questions to answer. Among the many lessons I’ve learned in my more than 50 years of working with leaders of major corporations, financial firms, governments and academic institutions is that the quality of decision-making varies widely – I might even say wildly – from person to person and situation to situation.

In observing this process, I’ve noticed that the leaders who most often got things right seemed to be equipped with a kind of toolbox for decision-making.  They were flexible and thoughtful, but beyond that they possessed certain fundamental principles and values that gave them a framework for sorting out the facts, evaluating the options and reaching smart, timely decisions.

As I thought about this fascinating process, it struck me that by looking at some major figures over the ages I could learn important lessons about how they employed their decision-making toolboxes to make world-shaping choices.
Someone who had to make one of the most difficult and fateful decisions in history is President Harry S. Truman. He became Commander in Chief late in World War II after the death of President Franklin Roosevelt, and so it fell to him to decide whether to deploy the first atom bomb against Japan. It was such a tough decision that the arguments for and against it are still being debated. On the one hand, using the bomb would mean unleashing a terrible new weapon on the world, one that could kill or poison tens of thousands at a time. On the other hand, holding back the bomb would mean invading Japan to end the war, with the casualties estimated at one million. 

Truman had given a lot of thought to making decisions, and what he wrote on the subject is instructive. First, he said, get all the information available. Listen to other people about what they believe the impact of the decision will be.  Decide what’s right according to the principles by which you’ve been raised and educated. Once you’ve decided what’s right, don’t let yourself “be moved from that decision under any considerations.” But if the decision proves to be wrong, get more information and make another decision. In other words, be firm but also be willing to acknowledge error and start over.

One of the most impressive leaders I’ve studied is Marie Curie, who won Nobel Prizes in physics and chemistry in an era when women were thought to have no place in the world of science. She made many decisions during her career as a researcher in the then-new field of radiation. Some were made in times of extreme grief, like her choice to continue her work after the death of her beloved husband and research partner, Pierre Curie. Other decisions proved to be seriously wrong, like working with X-ray equipment without proper protections.

From Marie Curie’s astonishing career, we can learn several important lessons. One is that few decisions are made in isolation, so be willing to let other people help you, and be willing to help them. Many decisions are made under traumatic circumstances. In those cases, keep your focus, accept help from others and be patient (except in emergencies). Finally, Marie Curie was singled-minded, a quality that can lead to great achievements, but must be constantly examined for its impact on others, like one’s children and other loved ones.

We can learn not only from history, but also from figures from our own times. The story of Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani woman who has fought so bravely for the right of girls in her homeland to be educated, is such a powerful story, in part because it teaches lessons about dealing with events that shape our age, in particular the constant threat of terrorism. Because of her outspoken advocacy, she was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen when she was just 15. She survived and was later awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. What makes her story especially inspiring is that the Taliban had announced it would try to kill her if she didn’t back down. Her reply was, “I decided I wasn’t going to cower in fear of their wrath.” 

There are many lessons to learn from Malala’s example. One is that you may be attacked for your decisions – perhaps verbally, perhaps even physically – so be aware and be prepared. Follow your decision, do not give up. Seek education and take every opportunity to broaden your knowledge. And finally, whether it is a large decision or a small one, have the courage to do the right thing.

Robert L. Dilenschneider has hired more than 3,000 successful professionals, and advised thousands more. He is founder of The Dilenschneider Group, a corporate strategic counseling and public relations firm based in New York City. Formerly president and CEO of Hill & Knowlton, he is the author of the bestselling books Power and Influence, A Briefing for Leaders, On Power and newly released Decisions: Practical Advice from 23 Men and Women Who Shaped the World. For more information, please visit

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Perseverance, Patience and Passion

Guest post by Riccardo Pozzoli:

Visionary enthusiasm must be balanced by a good dose of reality, because at the beginning it is important to proceed carefully. Setting a target that is not too easily achievable can provide the impetus to secure a great result. When you start from scratch with a new idea, you have to be very patient and not let the first difficulties defeat you, because there is no certainty that things will happen within the timeframe you first planned. It is possible that for the first six months nothing will happen, and then it will suddenly explode. To patience I add another very important skill: perseverance, the ability to hold on and not give up. If you have an idea, a project, a dream, but you are not determined enough to pursue it, then there is no point in having it.

The beautiful thing about our era is that, unlike what has happened in the past, the place where you were born or the family environment you came from are no longer so important in forming you as a person. Reading, learning, travelling, coming into contact with different realities are no longer the exclusive prerogative of only certain social groups.

I am reminded of the case of Jeremy Scott, the creative director of Moschino, who is one of the most famous and acclaimed designers of the moment and is also one of the pop icons of our time, regardless of how you judge his creations, which are eclectic and unexpected to say the least. Scott was born and raised in a context that had nothing to do with fashion, in a small town in Missouri, to a middle-class family. He is proof that if you have a dream, if you believe in something, if you have passion and you work hard, then you can get there.

Of course, you need to have the desire and curiosity to grasp these stimuli and the open-mindedness to be influenced by them, knowing that they are essential in all phases of the conception and implementation of a project and not just the initial one.

At the end of 2015 I was in Bologna visiting the Musixmatch offices. I was walking around the city with my phone attached to my ear. On the other side of the screen were Marco and Stefano, and together we were trying to find a name for the lunch delivery service that we had been working on for some time now. It was a real brainstorming session, where everyone put some ideas on the table, hoping that at some point the right one would jump out. Initially the name we had thought of was Food-bowl, referring to the fashion of using bowls – salad bowls and bowls full of vegetables, grains and proteins, seasoned with sauces and various seeds – that was spreading in the United States and, from there, all over the world. However, we realized that the name sounded too much like ‘football’ and that it would therefore be misleading.

So we put everything back on the table and thought again about the fundamental concepts of the business we were developing: on the one hand, food, of course, and on the other, the city, the extremely dynamic urban context we wanted to turn to. So, from the fusion of ‘food’ and ‘urban’, the name of our startup popped up: Foorban. What does this have to do with the fact that I was in Bologna visiting Musixmatch? Well, I am sure it inspired me. Not directly, of course, but stimuli are almost never direct… and that is something I learned in high school, studying Latin, which greatly shaped my way of thinking, giving me an analytical approach.

Of course, it does not always happen that way and not all ideas that come to mind are necessarily going to be the right ones or achievable. My partners and I did many of these brainstorming sessions during the ideation phase for Foorban. Most of them were held at Tom, Marco’s restaurant in Milan. At that time we spent whole days there working on our project and, when the restaurant was closed, the chefs also used us as guinea pigs, making us try out new dishes they intended to include on the menu. Their experiments were not always successful, just as not all our ideas were usable… but the important thing was to try and not give up. This is true both when you cook and when
you have a business project!
This guest post is adapted from CREATE UNIQUENESS: How To Turn A Passion Into A Business by Riccardo Pozzoli. Pozzoli is a global entrepreneur; he has co-founded eight companies in the past ten years and is Creative Director for Condé Nast Italia’s Social Academy. For more information please visit