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Leadership Training––The Competition: How do you choose?

The very first strategy I highlight in THE SENSEI LEADER program is this:

“Never limit yourself to one leadership strategy.”

Never limit yourself to one leadership strategist either!

I was inspired to write this article by my friend Dov Baron. He posted this question to start a discussion on Facebook:

Many people would wonder why I have a friendship with Dov––he’s a leadership speaker too––one of Inc. Magazine's Top 100 in fact. Many people would consider Dov my “competition”

What can you possibly gain by cultivating a relationship with a “competitor?”

The most jaded among you might quote the Machiavellian philosophy of The Godfather: “Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer.” I am very glad to discredit your cynicism.

First of all, as far as people qualified to truly teach leadership, demand far exceeds the supply. There is simply no need––and no time for jealousy!

Note that I said “qualified.” There are lots of speakers and trainers whose only qualifications are that they attended a weekend training and are sharing a packaged curriculum––and even some of those are very good. Rare, however, are the speakers who are sharing what they themselves are able to do: Lead by example, attract willing followers and inspire those followers to high levels of performance.

I have many friends in the business of teaching leadership in one form or another. We share ideas, we talk about the latest research, we challenge one another’s ideas, debate issues and discuss how to best address new challenges and opportunities.

We come up with some pretty good stuff! And by collaborating with one another we make sure our stuff is going to work––for you.

You should be exposing yourself to as many ideas as possible. Though we largely agree on the major aspects of leadership, we each bring a unique personal perspective. We’re each on a different journey. We’ve had different experiences, read different books, learned from different teachers. We speak with different voices that appeal to different ears and minds.

I’ll add that you need more leadership teachers than me! I know that’s not a great sales pitch, but it’s the plain truth.

I am focused on the most fundamental human aspects of what it takes to be an effective leader––one who will attract willing followers. And I work on what it takes to develop and maintain the will to serve those followers. I help people become better leaders by helping leaders become better people.

Most of my colleagues have the same mindset. They focus on one or a few important aspects of leadership. We study those focused areas intensely…

Dov has a powerful perspective on fierce loyalty and how leaders can connect across generational barriers.

My dear friend and mentor Joe Calloway teaches leaders how to simplify, focus and execute.

My friend Judy Hoberman specializes in empowering women and helps men understand women so they can lead diverse groups more effectively.

My new friend Nana Wanjau teaches women how to break the barriers of traditional roles and how to stand together to achieve more.

You should be hearing from all of us!

(By the way, we can arrange that! Just call Alex Armstrong at 207-751-4317.)

Of course, there is a lot of overlap. I prefer to call it “reinforcement.” Each of us deals with the human aspects of leadership. We build on one another’s philosophies and support one another’s core principles and values.

And we stand on the shoulder’s of other remarkable teachers. John Maxwell, Stephen Covey, Daniel Goleman and so many others.

Personally I consider it my obligation to share some of the most effective leadership lessons from people who have long since left this world: Lao Tzu, Confucius, Sun Tzu and Musashi from my martial arts background. I regularly share the concepts of Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams; Martin Luther King and Malcom X, Abraham Lincoln, Joshua Chamberlain and George Patton.

Other teachers emphasize different influences.

Where is the “competition?”

It’s about learning, growing and absorbing as much as you can. You are much more effective as a leader when you can access a wide variety of techniques and tactics––when you’re prepared with a broad inventory of skills, talents and abilities that allow you to act and respond to ever changing conditions and situations.

Where I usually run up against the “competition” is when an organization already has an internal leadership development program. That’s just foolish.

First of all, it’s very dangerous to operate any educational program in a bubble. Bringing in outside perspectives injects vitality, innovation and energy.

I don’t “compete” with internal programs. My job is to support that program––as long as our values and principles are in harmony. That’s why I won’t work in a lousy culture. I’m not there to help you impose tyranny––I’m there to help you develop leaders.

So what about all this competition? Competition has no place in leadership development.

When I’m talking about my colleagues in the leadership space, I’m not talking about competitors. I’m talking about friends, mentors, teachers and peers.

Together, we are doing our part to cultivate, develop and support you as a leader––and even more importantly, as person.


You can hear conversations with all of these remarkable leaders and teachers on Walking the Walk…

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