Admittedly I am a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell. Clearly he’s one of the most thought-provoking writers of the past decade, and I think he’s one of the most thought-provoking writers of all time. Of all his books, I like David versus Goliath the best.
He essentially makes two points: our disadvantages are not nearly as bad as we might think they are, and perceived power in other people is not nearly as overwhelming as we first think. He explains these two points through a set of remarkably diverse examples.
Without saying it, what I really think he is talking about is accepting our current reality and then figuring out how to leverage it into a better future. Don’t call your current situation “disadvantaged” or as “being in the power seat.” Just look at what you have, where you want to go, and what you can do to get there. And then begin to assemble your plan and move into action. The Davids of the world beat the Goliaths of the world quite frequently. Their modus operandi lies in thinking and cleverness and intentional actions and understanding their own realities as well as the realities of those they are competing against.
Two Questions for The Underdog Approach to Leadership
1. In what three ways are you at a disadvantage in the marketplace right now and how can you turn each of those disadvantages into advantages for your organization?
2. What three things can you do right now to carve out a unique competitive advantage that matters deeply to your customers and potential customers?
The Personal Touch Leader is the person who leverages the power of the handwritten note.
My mom is and always has been a great leader. When I was 12 years old and I received a check for $10 from my Aunt Helen, Mom said, “Now, Danny, (for the record my mom is the only one who is allowed to call me Danny) you need to write a thank you letter to your Aunt Helen.” When I was a senior in college and I received a scholarship to go to college, Mom said, “Danny, you need to write a thank you letter to each of the members of that committee.” When I was 22 years old and I got my first job, Mom said, “Danny, you need to write a thank you letter to your new boss.” When I was 50 years old and my high school teacher’s father died, Mom said, “Danny, I saw that Mr. Becvar’s father died. You need to write a thank you letter to Mr. Becvar for all that he did for you.”
I’ve been sending handwritten letters for over 40 years, and they are more important now than ever before. In a world of texts, emails, twitters, voice mail, webinars, Skype, and blogs, a handwritten letter can have an extraordinary impact on another person. I encourage you to write at least one handwritten letter every week to an employee or a customer or a supplier. A handwritten letter says you took the time to really think about another person and to reach out in a personal way to strengthen the relationship.
Two Questions for The Personal Touch Approach to Leadership
1. Who are ten people you want to reach out to in a personal way?
2. When will you write each of them a handwritten letter of more than two paragraphs?
The Challenger is the leader who gives a meaningful challenge to an individual or a group of people that causes them to stretch beyond what they are used to doing.
After Jimmy Carter graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in the 1940s, he applied for a position at the Naval Nuclear Program with Admiral Hyman Rickover. Admiral Rickover asked Carter how he did at the Naval Academy.
Carter swelled with pride and said, “I graduated 59th out of a class of 820.”
Rickover asked, “Did you do your best?”
Carter wanted to say yes, but then he paused and thought about the question. He said, “No sir, I didn’t do my best.”
Rickover asked, “Why not the best?”
Jimmy Carter went on to say in his book, Why Not The Best? that this question, “Why not the best?” was the key challenge that spurred him on throughout his career. Eventually this challenge carried him to be the president of the United States and a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Two Questions for The Challenger Approach to Leadership
1. What challenge can you provide to your team members individually or collectively that might cause them to stretch beyond where they are today?
2. How will you phrase that challenge in a memorable way so that it can spur these people on over the long term?
The Advocate is the leader who throws his or her support behind a specific person, group, or cause. What you advocate for says a lot about your values and that can influence how other people think. If you are an advocate for mentoring new employees and you demonstrate that by investing your time and energy into this activity, you can influence how other people think about mentoring. If you are an advocate for supporting cancer research and you put your time, energy, and money behind it, you can influence other people in your organization to consider valuing philanthropy.
Two Questions for The Advocate Approach to Leadership
1. What are you an advocate for? What do you put your time, energy, and money behind?
2. What else do you think you should be an advocate for?
The Promoter is the leader who explains clearly and passionately why something is really special and worthwhile.
I’ve known people who worked for a company for over 35 years and never said a bad thing about the organization. When they interacted with family members and friends and people in their neighborhood, they always spoke positively about the business. This had a very real way of influencing how other people thought about the organization.
Think back over the past month about how you talked about your organization to your family members, friends, and neighbors. The way you view your company will impact the way you interact with your co-workers and your customers.
Two Questions for The Promoter Approach to Leadership
1. Are you a promoter of your organization or do you tear it down when you are on your home turf?
2. What are three examples of how you talked about your company with people not associated with your business in the past month?