Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Leadership Axioms

On my last trip down to the SC (that's South Carolina) - I listened to a podcast by Bill Hybels about his new book Axiom. I had just purchased the book and wanted a little primer before I got into it. It was excellent. Hybels defines axioms as carefully-crafted phrases of just a few words through which leaders can communicate a complex concept, value, or a learned leadership lesson, and these axioms become part of the organization’s culture. They are short repeatable sound bytes that help organizations develop a common leadership language and value system. Here are three that caught my attention:

  1. "Can I have an umbrella of mercy?" - We have actually used this one for some time at Grace. It's a phrase that was hatched by the Willow Arts team. It means, “I’m going to propose a high-risk idea, and something in me wishes there was an umbrella of safety over my head to protect me from bad reactions.” Everyone in leadership has felt the emotional risk that comes when a new idea is put out on the table. This phrase asks for some grace from those listening to "hear me out" without judgment.
  2. “When something feels funky, engage.” - This was a new one to me, but it resonates deeply. Often when leaders are walking around, they pick up on a hint of something funky going in a particular department. Sometimes they tend to avoid addressing it and hope it will go away or resolve itself. That usually never happens! When something feels funky -even if you can't put your finger on exactly what it is - it's time for a leader to engage.
  3. "Check your ego at the door" - Colin Powell developed some axioms that are called the “Powell Principles,” and this is one of them. Hybels noted how every part of this axiom is memorable — especially the visual imagery of arriving at a meeting, walking through the door, checking your ego like a coat, leaving it behind, doing your business, and picking it back up when you leave.
What are some leadership axioms that have been helpful to you?


Danny Lucas said...

"Beam us aboard, Scottie!" old Star Trek series phrase ordering return to the Enterprise spaceship from whatever planet you were on.

Leadership explains a concept or change and no one "gets it" after the explanation. It is a safe phrase to say "do it again for you make no sense , so far".
(Your audience may think this after a sermon, if not well presented, eh?)

"Remember, only YOU can prevent forest fires".

Smokey the Bear for most.
One boss meant it literally. Mess up your job, you're fired.

"That's a nominal egg"

Used when money is the issue. If costs are out of line, this phrase identifies the problem swiftly.
New Yorkers talk as funny as Bostonians. When asking a vendor a price, New Yorkers are shocked at cost and express "That's a nominal egg", meaning the price is so high, it will cost an 'arm and a leg', nominal egg.
This phrase is prominent at budget discussions.

"Find a need and fill it"

Memory tells me this was a Zig Ziglar sales tag, but I may have mentors mixed up. I think it is Zig.

If you want to sell, you need to find the person's need first, then, select which of your products may be the solution to that need.

In eternal matters, the proper product is always Jesus Christ. Find the need of every person, and show how Christ fills that particular need. Bam! You have made a match.

Danielle said...

I don't like the umbrella of mercy one. It gets used too much around here for a reason to ignore the fact that someone is late or didn't meet a deadline. I would like it more if we used it the way it was intended.

My best one is, "I think the cow's going to fall through the ceiling." (instead of a plain "Kill that sacred cow."


Matt Donovan said...

"Embrace the constraints."

We usually complain about the box and, while it's important to think outside of it, at the end of the day we sill have to work with it. Instead of complaining about the constraints, we can embrace them. It'[s kind of the same idea as "When you get lemons, make lemonade."

Anonymous said...

Lately we'd had two running around our house:

What is the wise thing to do?
-From Andy Stanley

Step your game up!
-From a sound byte that Jim Rome plays

Rome has another good one but it wouldn't be appropriate here :)

Anonymous said...

Oh I just saw Matt's after I posted. That's good.

When I had people chirping "Think outside the box" at me my reply was, "There's always a box".

carol schuldt said...

"Start with a box" an axiom used by my mother-in-law, a leader in our family.

reference: her husband's furniture making

my take: open the box; maybe it's a gift. I love Matt Donovan.

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Thanks again!

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