Leadership Lessons Introduction

Business Is A Human Endeavor

We are thoroughly trained and highly skilled at manipulating numbers, developing strategy, creating financial controls, perfecting the delivery of service. These competencies are the things we know how to teach, how to measure, how to affect, how to control. Yet, what awaits us in this global marketplace and time of rapid change is what business thinker and author Thomas Teal describes as finding our way out of The Dark Ages of management. And finding our way out requires that we teach people how to become great managers and leaders, somehow unleashing and instilling capacities of courage, integrity, humility, self-confidence, and wisdom. It is developing the ability to see that business is a human endeavor—an endeavor that is messy, most times unpredictable, can no longer be controlled, manipulated, bribed or contained. A human endeavor requires a different skill set that is as comfortable with emotion as analytics, with spontaneity and the unknown as it is with control.

Leadership Is Not A Style But A Series Of Personal Choices

Much in the same way that Abraham Maslow studied self-actualized people, I sought to identify and study leaders who could help us learn the necessary choices we must personally make in order to become more effective in managing and leading a human endeavor. I recalled the knowledge gained at 3M where it was discovered that the great managers learned from interaction and dialogue with colleagues, from inspirational stories and from experience, not necessarily from formal classroom training.

It against this backdrop that I began to review the many leaders I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and learn from. Whether it was in the boardroom or the mailroom, the corporate cubicle or government chamber, on the field of sports or in the community, I’ve searched for those whose personal choices can help us understand and embrace the essence of leadership. 

When headlines scream corruption, ethic violations, cheating on the field, insider trading and lapses of integrity, the great leaders of our time are often lost in a sea of media that favors what is wrong with the world and discards what is right. Yet these people do exist among us and they have much to teach us. From them we can learn how their personal choices have influenced how they interact with others, how they see the world, how they have chosen to conduct themselves in work and in life.

The following leadership lessons are in draft form and I welcome your critiques, comments, insights or any other information you would like to pass along. I encourage you to use the lessons with your teams and work groups as a tool to engage in important dialogue. In the future, I hope to develop workplace discussion questions for each lesson. If you use the lessons in your workplace, please let me know how you use them and what questions might be helpful to other executives. If you have your own personal stories of leadership and would like to share them, please feel free to send them to me. You may reach me via email: [email protected] DeborahStephens.com I look forward to hearing from you.

Best Regards,

Deborah C. Stephens