Ron's Material Leadership Blog

It is my sincerest hope that the stories I share are helpful to others. I have experienced first hand that many people toil in obscurity, searching for answers, ashamed to reach out and ask for help. This blog will contain experiences and wisdom that I have gained over the years that I hope will offer guidance in dealing with some of life's challenges.

Why the name material leadership? If you are curious the answer is on my website.
The link on the side bar.

Lead well


Friday, January 11, 2008

What does Leadership, Fedex Ground and the Twilight Zone have in Common?

Fedex Ground

The scene opens in a staff meeting, the charismatic boss opens saying, “we have got to cut costs people, ideas…” A tentative looking employee hesitantly offers, “ uh, we co-could open an account on,…save 10% on…express shipping…?” pregnant pause with all the staff looking around to see who might validate or discredit the idea then the manager confidently offers his assessment, “how about this, We open an account on, we save 10% on online express shipping.” The flunkie staffers all nod, smile and confidently affirm their assent to the bosses great idea. The tentative staffer puzzled by this turn of events exclaims, “You just said the same thing I did only you did…this” (wiggling his hand side to side). The boss confidently replies “no, I did this.” (moving hand confidently in a downward motion)

If you want to watch the video you can do so here. Fedex Video

This is one of my favorite Fedex commercials for the way it pokes fun at office politics. From the time I first watched this video I have empathized with the staffer who must feel like he had just entered the twilight zone.

SO what the heck does this video have to do with the subject of a leader’s purpose? Well I am excited to share I just finished interviewing our second featured guest on Material Leadership’s investigation into a leaders purpose. Our guest, an accomplished leadership development coach, walked me through the steps he would take to help a client develop a sense of their leadership purpose. His answers followed my questions with a conciseness I had not expected. Figuring my clumsy interview style would lead to at least a few awkward pauses, I did not expect this at all. Our guest walked through each question sharing a polished elegant model of how he helps a client come to grips with their own purpose discovery.

The video! The video came immediately to mind because to a certain extent I felt like the tentative staffer in the twilight zone. Here I was listening to an expert in leadership coaching offering his process which was remarkably similar to what I have shared with you in previous posts! Of course our guest had been living leadership coaching well before “coaching” was trendy, before I had considered that I might want to devote myself to the study and practice of leadership development.

In the next several days I will post the interview. I know you will like it, this is good stuff! In the mean time let’s talk about the video story above. What takeaways can we glean from this spoof of corporate life?

They are out there

Whether we like it or not, they are out there. People who look at the world differently than we do. People who take the exact same input and see a totally different picture. The challenge is to recognize this for what it is, diversity. Once we recognize that differing opinions and perspectives are potentially a good thing, we have a chance at an even better end result than we had alone. Is this not why a leader depends on his followers in the first place? Remember the old quote (I think it was Henry Ford’s) “If the two of us agree, one of us is not necessary”

Life, surprisingly, is not fair

Sometimes people will take credit for your work, other times they will undermine your credibility behind your back. You may be blamed for actions you did not take. You may be overlooked for a well earned reward.

It will happen yes, but how you deal with it is what matters. In your reaction lies the opportunity for leadership. Do you remember one of the early posts on this site “Are you self serving or selfless? The whole point of being in leadership is that you, for a the chance to achieve a greater purpose, are willing to subjugate your own needs and wants to the greater good of the cause. You are willing to take responsibility for others and to sacrifice.

It’s not easy, it’s leadership.

Bad leaders and even worse followers

It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so it seems is character in the eye of perception. As a leader we need to be on guard to challenge the perceptions, judgments and negative stereotypes we propagate. People are rarely as bad as we might at first think. It is my argument that they are simply not aware of how their words and actions misalign. The leader’s role is to get beyond the exterior and develop a relationship.

Once we have invested the time to know someone, we are in a better position to understand their character. With this knowledge we can either embrace the relationship and go deeper, or the opposite back away slowly. There is always the courageous option to speak into their life what you see. This with the right person can change a life for the better forever. Done recklessly it can create an enemy or worse seriously harm another person. Wisdom and patience are required here so tread carefully.

Some have not found their purpose, or even started looking

This gets to the whole point of this series. The staffers in the commercial are too busy making sure they ride on the boss’s coat tails to recognize that their actions lack authenticity. You cannot find yourself when you are busy making sure you don’t stand out, you don’t make waves, you don’t think for yourself.

Character comes at peculiar moments. Most often we are given the chance to wake up and ask questions of purpose in times of great stress; death, sickness, divorce, layoff etc. It just seems far to comfortable going with the flow. So ask yourself when do you feel most alive? When is it that you are most aware of your senses, your surroundings? Seek to understand these moments. What brought them on? What were the circumstances surrounding them? Short of death defying activities, lean into these moments, stay in them, bask in the emotion, in the discomfort, in the adrenaline. Learn how to wake yourself!

The interview will be posted in a few days in the mean time…

Lead well


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My Favorites

Thoughts on a Recent Read

The Dip by Seth Godin

This was the first of Mr. Godin’s books I have read and I must say it will not be the last. I enjoyed this book and found its message wise and on point for our age. The premise of the book is that there is a time to quit a role, project, effort and a time to stay. When we have the opportunity to be the very best and are willing to pay the price, it is time to stay. When it is clear that staying will result in mediocrity or worse yet (Mr. Godin’s term for a dead end) a cul-de-sac, it is time to move on to something where we can be our best. The dip is the place in between. The place where we face opposition, adversity and discouragement. It is here that many wrongly chose to give up when greatness is not that far away for the brave souls who persevere.

Complexity: Low

Length: Short

Compelling: Very much

Worthwhile: Definitely