Chris Kolenda, founder of SLA, helps principled business owners who want to drive their growth at the right time, with the right team, in the right way.

Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg shows that diversity is more than skin deep.

Facebook’s visionary founder, Mark Zuckerberg, struggled to make the social media platform profitable. He had the big ideas right but was having trouble making the company successful. He needed someone whose superpowers included creating systems so the company could do routine things routinely and to a high standard.

He hired Sandberg, and the rest is history.

Zuckerberg, a Pioneer in SLA’s PROM ArchetypesTM, had the vision but could not make the trains run on time. He needed an Operator — someone who had a natural affinity for building processes and holding people accountable for doing the right things the right ways. Sandberg was the perfect fit.

sheryl sandberg

Had Zuckerberg based his COO decision on identity groups, Facebook would probably have gone the way of MySpace. Hiring a Pioneer of a different race or gender would have boosted the leadership team’s biological diversity but not its ability to be successful.

Lincoln’s cabinet and Google’s leadership team, once founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin hired Eric Schmidt and Jon Rosenberg, are also case studies in cognitive diversity.

Physical diversity improves your legitimacy; cognitive diversity improves your performance. You need both to succeed.

Sandberg’s advice to Harvard graduates, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on,” misses the central point of her own contribution to META’s success. She was the right person for the right role, which made all the difference. Sometimes we need help seeing the real reasons for our successes.

Here are three great ways to boost your team’s performance.

1. Set up people for success by putting them in roles where they use their superpowers daily. The PROM ArchetypesTM self-assessment is a great starting point.

2. Make doing the right things simple. Standards and processes that are clear and intuitive will be light years more successful than cumbersome and confusing requirements.

3. Meet people where they are and move forward from there. You make more progress when you go to someone else’s bus stop and see things from their perspective than you do by demanding that they adopt your point of view.

If inspiring people to contribute their best to your team’s success is important to you, then you will love my 8-week program, Becoming a WHY? Leader TM. It’s ideal for leadership teams because the program helps you communicate better, create shared understanding, and develop common operating principles. These results build trust and lasting success. To see if the program is a good fit, reply to this email or go to https://callSLA.as.me/Chris to set up a call.

Here are some ways I help you thrive.

The Trusted Adviser Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain sustainable habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, strict accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results so that you reach your goals more quickly and consistently. Soar to new heights here.

The Founders Forum is a mastermind group for consultants, solo practitioners, and owners of boutique firms who want to shorten their path to a meaningful, joyful, and profitable business. You’ll accelerate the quality and speed of your thought leadership, develop a business development process that you are proud to execute (and avoids the awkward pushiness), and brand building that you are pleased to display (and avoids the slimy feeling of self-promoting).  

CEO Mastermind group is for Milwaukee-area small business leaders and consultants who want to accelerate their growth in 2022. We meet monthly for lunch, and you get unlimited access to me for coaching and advising. I’m limiting the group to 8. Four places are remaining.

The CEO Global Mastermind is for CEOs and senior leaders who want to surround themselves with people united in the common purpose of being the best they can be, learning from each other, avoiding drift and complacency, and soaring to new heights. We meet monthly via zoom, plus you get unlimited access to me.

Mastery programs include Expert Consulting Mastery, Innovative Thought Leadership, and leadership experiences at Antietam & Gettysburg, Normandy, West Point, and many others.

Bringing on the right consultant or trusted adviser can be expensive. Would you trust your future to the lowest bidder?



Your consulting business is in one of three states: drifting, developing, or thriving.

Application, repetition, and accountabilities directly lead to new habits and better results. You need to apply the strategies, using several repetitions, and have an expert at your side who helps you make the critical adjustments so that they work for you in the real world.

Accountability helps you do the right things in the right ways with the right fit until the new habits become second nature. That’s where you get results. This process gets results and is why the best performers always have terrific coaches.

Sure, bringing on the right consultant or trusted adviser can be expensive, but would you trust your future to the lowest bidder?

consulting

Ways to Invest in your Success

If I’m a good fit for you, here are some ways to work together.

The Trusted Adviser Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain sustainable habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, strict accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results so that you reach your goals more quickly and consistently. Soar to new heights here.

The Founders Forum is a mastermind group for consultants, solo practitioners, and owners of boutique firms who want to shorten their path to a meaningful, joyful, and profitable business. You’ll accelerate the quality and speed of your thought leadership, develop a business development process that you are proud to execute (and avoids the awkward pushiness), and brand building that you are pleased to display (and avoids the slimy feeling of self-promoting).  

CEO Mastermind group is for Milwaukee-area small business leaders and consultants who want to accelerate their growth in 2022. We meet monthly for lunch, and you get unlimited access to me for coaching and advising. I’m limiting the group to 8. Four places are remaining.

The Global CEO Mastermind is for CEOs and senior leaders who want to surround themselves with people united in the common purpose of being the best they can be, learning from each other, avoiding drift and complacency, and soaring to new heights. We meet monthly via zoom, plus you get unlimited access to me.

Mastery programs include Expert Consulting Mastery, Innovative Thought Leadership, and leadership experiences at Antietam & Gettysburg, Normandy, West Point, and many others.

Books

LEADERSHIP: THE WARRIOR’S ART.  Leaders anticipate and shape the future so that your team can succeed. To do so, you need imagination grounded in a  practical perspective. That’s what you get with this book, which is why it’s been in print for over 20 years. This 2nd edition addresses the post 9/11, post-pandemic world.

Zero-Sum Victory: What We’re Getting Wrong About War is a finalist for the INDIES national book award. I use the disasters in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq to give you the tools and mental models to avoid the traps and own goals that have created quagmires for the United States. You’ll gain ways to improve agency, bridge silos, pivot smartly, avoid breathing your own exhaust, and many other outcomes.

crowd

Are you hanging with the right crowd?

Believe it or not, I used to hang with bullies. I thought that trying to be friends would rub off on them. This crowd spent a lot of time tearing people down, and they rubbed off on me far more than I did them. It was a numbers game that I finally recognized I was losing.

Are you hanging with the right crowd? You tend to find three classes of people in your life: sappers, trappers, and zappers.

Sappers are the vampires who drain your energy. Success-shamers try to make you feel bad about achieving something, “that must have been your second choice.” Trauma-dumpers catastrophize, leaving no oxygen for anyone else. Slackers, downers, and negatives drag everyone to their level of laziness, gloom, and doom.

Trappers are loved ones and friends who want you to stay just as you are. They are comfortable with the current you because they know what to expect and are terrified that you will grow without them because they might not like that version of you, or you might no longer like them. You’ll hear trappers say things like, “What does that leave me,” and “I guess you’ll be too good for us,” and the like. They are the parents who want you to stay home, the spouses and friends who dishearten you from taking risks, investing in yourself, or trying something new.

You’ll want to have candid conversations with your trappers about your love for them and your desire to grow. Most of them don’t want to hold you back; they are just scared. Reassuring them is often all you need to do.

Zappers are the allies who encourage you to be the best version of yourself, hold you accountable, and inspire you to reach new heights. They zap you with new energy. Trusted advisers, mentors, and coaches help you build new skills and capacities. Exemplars inspire you and partners are your peer group who have a vested interest in your success.

The five people you hang with the most have a profound effect. How do you feel around each of those five: sapped, trapped, or zapped with new energy?

Another great way to take inventory is to ask yourself, what shows up when you show up? Do people feel like an empty husk, preserved in amber, or emboldened to take on new challenges?

A good way to find the right crowd is to ask your allies. They’ll point you to some exemplars, advisers, and partners who help them be their best selves. Check them out online, read their newsletters, and participate in some of their free and low-cost programs.

When you find the right ones, invest. You’ll get the mutual accountability that comes with a formal trusted advising relationship and the reciprocity of a mastermind group. Being with the right people connected in common purpose gives you the application, repetition, and accountability you need to soar to new heights.

Have you ever invested in yourself with the right allies and not come away victorious?

The Trusted Adviser Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain sustainable habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, strict accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results so that you reach your goals more quickly and consistently. Soar to new heights here.

The Founders Forum is a mastermind group for consultants, solo practitioners, and owners of boutique firms who want to shorten their path to a meaningful, joyful, and profitable business. You’ll accelerate the quality and speed of your thought leadership, develop a business development process that you are proud to execute (and avoids the awkward pushiness), and brand building that you are pleased to display (and avoids the slimy feeling of self-promoting).  







leadership

Dictators, by definition, are HOW leaders. They erect personality cults that showcase them as the man-with-the-plan, the hero with all the answers.

HOW Leadership is seductive. Who doesn’t want people to think of them as heroes and difference-makers? Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping show the limits of this approach.


From my article a few weeks ago, you’ll recall that leaders come in three broad types. WHAT leaders manage their teams to achieve what the boss wants. HOW leaders provide the answers and plans for WHAT leaders to execute. WHY? Leaders (TM) provide guidance and purpose so that their subordinates can take initiative, develop ideas, and take the organization to new heights.

Leaders

As Russia’s invasion enters its second phase, having failed to seize Kyiv and overthrow Ukraine’s government, Putin’s legions struggle against the mud, stubborn resistance, poor leadership, and inadequate logistics. Putin, Russia’s HOW leader, freebased his own gunpowder for so long that he believed Ukrainians would welcome his invasion as liberation. He’s surrounded himself with cronies and sycophants who owe him their lives and fortunes and thus won’t challenge his fantasies.

In China, the Shanghai lockdown of more than 25 million people continues as Xi Jinping stakes his legitimacy on a zero-COVID policy. Over 370 million Chinese face movement restrictions, more than the entire United States population. The virus, however, is evolving much faster than China’s policies — they are fighting a 2022 virus with 2020 measures.

leadership



Dictators, by definition, are HOW leaders. They erect personality cults that showcase them as the man-with-the-plan, the hero with all the answers. This approach also means that they have a tough time adapting to new circumstances or changing their policies in the face of new evidence. They tend to surround themselves with lackeys and goofballs because competence and independent thinking threaten the HOW leader’s hold on power.

The inherent contradiction to HOW leadership is that by centralizing decisions, inhaling their own gas, and preventing the rise of others, they limit the flow of information, ideas, and initiative vital for learning and growth.

Where do the new ideas arise in your business? When is the last time one of your subordinates challenged your thinking or proposed a new approach? When you talk about your business to the press or a colleague, do you show off the achievements of your employees or humble-brag about how I did it?

leadership

For CEOs and owners, Becoming a WHY? Leader (TM) is the alternative to the self-inflicted limits of HOW leadership. If you want true bench strength and an Inspiring Culture (TM) to take your business to new heights, you need your subordinates to become WHY? Leaders, too.

What are you doing to develop WHY? Leaders (TM) in your organization?

Building your Chest for Leaders

Growth Programs

The Trusted Adviser Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain sustainable habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, strict accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results so that you reach your goals more quickly and consistently. Soar to new heights here.

CEO Mastermind group
 is for Milwaukee-area small business leaders and consultants who want to accelerate their growth in 2022. We meet monthly for lunch, and you get unlimited access to me for coaching and advising. I’m limiting the group to 8. Four places are remaining. Reply to me for more details.

The Global CEO Mastermind is for CEOs and senior leaders who want to surround themselves with people united in the common purpose of being the best they can possibly be, learning from each other, avoiding drift and complacency, and soaring to new heights. We meet monthly via zoom, plus you get unlimited access to me. I’m limiting the group to 8. Reply to me for more details.





Fallen Hero Honor Ride

If you are willing to go into the arena, you never know who you might meet and their impact on your life and business.

Jerry showed me that being personal was so much more than personalizing.

Synthetic connections give you a seductive promise: you can engage with prospects en masse in a seemingly intimate way, generating more business with less effort.

It seems like paradise for a consultant.

Except it’s damaging your credibility and decreasing the impact you can make on the world.

When you get the “Dear # Firstname …” email, how do you feel?

How about the Linkedin connection request, “It’s great to connect with you, and I hope you’re doing well during these interesting times. I’ve had the privilege of working with many business owners and always like to be surrounded by smart people with a winning mindset. I’m curious, # First Name, how has your business been affected with everything going on?”

Blah, blah, blah.

I listened to a podcast interview while cycling on Saturday. College students tend to prefer text over voice calls because they feel in control. They can respond when and how they want and not have to worry about the rough and tumble of personal conversations in which they might say something wrong or miss an important signal.


You do not have to be vulnerable or uncomfortable when everyone is like you. Digging trenches instead of building bridges diminishes our lives and businesses.

If you are willing to go into the arena, you never know who you might meet and their impact on your life and business.

One year ago, I decided to undertake a bicycle ride to visit the graves of the six paratroopers from my unit killed in action in Afghanistan. I hadn’t ridden in twenty years. I was tempted to buy a bike online and save the frustration of salespeople.

Personal



Recognizing that I was sure to make a poor choice on my own, I braved the crowds and ventured to Wheel & Sprocket, a local bike store. Jerry met me and asked what I was looking for.

Jerry was genuinely curious. He wanted to know what I wanted to accomplish by riding — exercise, distance, cross-country, acrobatics?

I was reluctant to let him know about the Honor Ride I was planning, but I relented because I figured it would have a bearing on which bicycle would be best. Jerry suggested the TREK Domane SL7. I did some more research and returned a few days later to purchase the bike. I wanted to make sure Jerry was at the store so he would get credit for the sale.

Jerry custom-painted bicycles and offered to paint a legacy bike for the ride. He refused to be paid for it.

His generosity got me thinking a bit bigger. He was helping me achieve a dream — completing the 1700-mile endeavor. What if I could create some lasting value from the Honor Ride to help people achieve their goals?

Personal



Jerry’s personal approach, getting to know me and the dreams I wanted to achieve by riding a bicycle, inspired me to launch the Saber Six Foundation, which helps my unit’s veterans and their families to achieve their dreams.

Jerry’s a true artist. He painted the bicycle while reading Jake Tapper’s bestseller, The Outpost, which, in part, is about our unit.


Because Jerry cared so much, he created something beyond our imaginations.

Jerry shows that personal connections — authenticity, emotion, and vulnerability — enrich our lives and create meaningful opportunities and outcomes. You personalize with hashtags, ads, and social media. You need to be in the arena to be personal.

There’s no limit to the amount of good you can do when you care enough to learn about someone’s dreams and ways to help them succeed. That, after all, is what personal connection is all about.

I’m so grateful for your kindness, generosity, and inspiration, Jerry.

P.S. Does anyone know how to get rid of those personalized ads showing me bicycles that I don’t need?





cognitive diversity

How can I better integrate cognitive diversity in business and in life

Affinity bias is the subconscious tendency to favor people who look, think, and act as we do. Attitudinal bias, on the other hand, is conscious bigotry.

I find that most people, outside of traditional bigots and woke bigots, recognize the benefits of diversity and take steps to reduce the impact of affinity bias.

The CEOs and leaders in this community (I admit there’s a selection bias of good people here) want a physically diverse workforce, so that race, gender, and other demographics reflect the community they are serving. The differences tend to be whether you hire to a particular outcome or look at representation and broaden your inputs as necessary.

Correcting for biological diversity is relatively straightforward, and decent people don’t need punitive and demeaning programming to figure it out.

Cognitive diversity (bringing together people who think differently) is a more daunting challenge because it’s difficult to see and recognize. A subconscious disdain toward people who think differently is commonplace because there’s comfort in the status quo, and leaders tend not to like boat-rockers.

Complacency is often the consequence of doing the same things repeatedly and expecting the same results. This problem affects businesses, governments, militaries, and nonprofits.

Leaders such as Abraham Lincoln valued cognitive diversity. His so-called team of rivals was a cognitively diverse crew. George Washington built his cabinet the same way, and Dwight Eisenhower picked people of varied observable contributions to be on his staff. Cognitive diversity plus buy-in for the common good made the whole more significant than the sum of its parts.

OK. I get why cognitive diversity is essential. How do I make it happen?

We created the PROM Archetypes TM to give you a helpful framework. Pioneers, Reconcilers, Operators, and Mavericks have distinct and observable contributions when using their natural talents. Representation from all four provides you with powerful advantages over organizations where everyone thinks alike. Google, Facebook, Apple, and others have cultivated cognitive diversity alongside other forms.

The PROM Archetypes TM gives you ways to recognize these distinct and observable contributions and help people be their best selves. Leaders not attuned to cognitive diversity will tend to select and promote people who think and act as they do — the mini-me syndrome (as my mentor Michele Flournoy calls it). This affinity bias turns off people who aren’t like you, and before long, they vote with their feet, and only the clones remain.

You can start building cognitive diversity by taking our PROM Archetypes TM quiz and having your team do the same. SLA’s content will help you make the best use of this information, and I or any SLA team member will be delighted to help you gain the cognitive diversity that’s right for you.

What action steps are you taking to promote cognitive diversity?

Building your Chest

Growth Programs

The Trusted Adviser Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain sustainable habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, strict accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results so that you reach your goals more quickly and consistently. Soar to new heights here.

CEO Mastermind group
 is for Milwaukee-area small business leaders and consultants who want to accelerate their growth in 2022. We meet monthly for lunch, and you get unlimited access to me for coaching and advising. I’m limiting the group to 8. Four places are remaining. Reply to me for more details.

The Global CEO Mastermind is for CEOs and senior leaders who want to surround themselves with people united in the common purpose of being the best they can possibly be, learning from each other, avoiding drift and complacency, and soaring to new heights. We meet monthly via zoom, plus you get unlimited access to me. I’m limiting the group to 8. Reply to me for more details.



leadership

Only one type of leader creates sustainable growth and inspires people to contribute their best to the team’s success.

The WHAT Leader


WHATs do what the boss tells them to do. They get a task or mission from the boss, organize their team, and get the job done according to the company’s standard operating procedures. WHATs tend to be good first-line leaders — they execute specific tasks and come back for more.

The boss is the hero. The boss makes it rain and tells the WHATs how to do the job.

WHATs do not innovate and tend not to think for themselves outside the confines of carefully delineated boundaries. The best ones take care of their people, ensuring they have the tools and skills to do the job safely and to standard.

WHATs succeed as long as the boss is present to explain what and how to do it. Promote them into a position where they have to develop the plans, and WHATs will struggle.

The HOW Leader

HOWs have the answers and the secret sauce. Their employees look to them for the master plan. HOWs are comfortable with autonomy and don’t like being told how to do their jobs. HOWs can be effective department heads and CEOs as long as the task is within their realm of expertise.

The HOWs set themselves up to be heroes because they have the solutions and plans. They tell people what to do and how to do it. As long as you comply with the HOWs, you are good to go. HOWs tend to strike down innovation because it threatens their hero status.

HOWs succeed as long as they are in their comfort zone but struggle in environments that exceed their expertise.

Some of them will try to be the hero anyway and fail miserably, like J.C. Penny’s Ron Johnson, who brought his HOW from Apple and nearly destroyed the aging retailer. The volcanic rise and meteoric crash of Adam Neumann’s WeWork became the subject of We Crashed, a docu-drama. Some HOWs get consumed by imposter syndrome when they recognize the impossibility of being the hero in a new context.

HOWs fail in a competitive marketplace because they cannot keep pace with innovation. The playbook works well in a static environment but not in a dynamic one. Because the HOW must be the hero, there can be only one authoritative source of ideas. Everyone else gets thrown under the bus. Blockbuster could not adapt when Netflix changed the game. Sony believed its hype about the digital walkman and got trounced by the iPod.

WHY Leaders

WHY leaders are the ones with the questions, they provide guidance and purpose and let their subordinates figure out the how. WHYs have elasticity; they grow into new jobs and environments because growth and innovation are not dependent upon them having the answers.

Their subordinates are the heroes. By inspiring people to contribute their best to the team’s success, WHYs can serve in various contexts. WHYs do not tie their ego to their own particular plans, systems, or ideas.

WHYs are comfortable in their own skin, so they can pass the credit for success to their subordinates and take the heat when something goes wrong. Having everyone’s back encourages risk-taking and innovation. Clarity about the purpose and direction of the organization reduces the likelihood that people will go 100-miles-per-hour in the wrong direction. They practice empathy and use trusted advisors to avoid getting high from their own fumes. WHYs habitually grow their imaginations and develop their subordinates.

In his initial run at Apple, Steve Jobs was a HOW, and the board ousted him as the CEO. He learned from those and subsequent experiences and became a WHY leader, making Apple one of the world’s most successful companies. Jobs prepared his successor, Tim Cook, to take the company to new heights.

Eisenhower was criticized by HOW leader contemporaries for not being more like them. British Field Marshall Montgomery dismissed him as a “Nice chap, no soldier.” Patton and Bradley criticized him for being too lenient on the British. Eisenhower’s WHY leadership promoted the innovation, teamwork, and strategic thinking needed to win the war in Europe.

Becoming a WHY Leader

You become a WHY leader by practicing six habits:

  • 1. Be true to yourself. Authenticity is the opposite of selfishness. Impulse is not a permission slip (ask the former Uber CEO). Since there’s no single leadership ideal, be your best you.
  • 2. Trust Principles Over Rules. Trustworthiness, Respect, and Stewardship point out true north involatility and uncertainty.
  • 3. Practice Empathy, Not Sympathy. Pity is demeaning. Seeing and feeling an issue from someone else’s point of view is your bridge to cooperation.
  • 4. Pass the Credit, Take the Hit. Throw people under the spotlight, not under the bus, so that you empower people to innovate and take risks.
  • 5. Describe The Why; Delegate The How. Describe what to do and the outcomes you want to achieve. Let your subordinates figure out how to do it, so they have ownership.
  • 6. Multiply Your Experiences. You don’t create new wins with status quo thinking. To think outside the box, you must expand your box.

What action steps are you taking to build WHY leaders in your company? Please share in the comments below.




practices

You need better practices, and these come with innovation which is only possible in an Inspiring Culture.

Alan Weiss is right — it’s time to ditch best practices. You need better practices, and these come with innovation which is only possible in an Inspiring Culture.

Best practices are seductive. After all, who doesn’t want the best for your business? Once you adopt a best practice, no improvement is necessary — it’s the best.

This mentality leads to complacency: doing the same things over and over and expecting the same results. When someone comes up with better practices, you get left behind.

I’m sure that companies like Sears, Toys R US, Blockbuster, and the like employed best practices as they maintained a comfortable status quo. They’re out of business, eclipsed by innovations that led to better practices, ideas, and products. The military schoolhouses issue best practices at a cyclic rate of fire. None of them helped to defeat a rag-tag militant group like the Afghan Taliban. The California DMV’s so-called Strategic Plan implores the organization to “Apply best practices in the hiring and selection process.”

Being a “Hands-on” leader was once a best practice, prompting its advocates to micromanage their employees, stifle initiative, and reduce innovation. Annual performance reviews tend to heighten workplace tensions and reduce vital one-on-one leader-to-subordinate conversations that should be happening weekly, thus lowering performance. People still believe the nonsense that focusing on your weaknesses, rather than playing to strengths, leads to better outcomes. HR departments continue hiring based on skills while ignoring natural affinities. The Great Escape from bad bosses, rotten workplaces, and ill-fitting jobs continues at an alarming rate.

I’m all for learning from what others do well. If it’s a better practice than what you are using and fits well, then go for it. Don’t rest on your laurels, though. Keep promoting better practices.

Building an Inspiring Culture (TM) that promotes innovation requires clarity and alignment on your organization’s common good, authority at first-line levels and above to solve problems and experiment with new ideas, and top cover from you that includes guidance, resources, and willingness to underwrite honest mistakes and shortfalls.

Without clarity and buy-in on the common good, people will move in unproductive directions. If people do not believe they have agency, they won’t make decisions. Unless you provide top cover, people will be afraid that you’ll throw them under the bus.

What action steps are you taking to promote better practices?

Building your Chest


Growth Programs

The Innovation Mindset. Predictable unpredictability is a new reality. We’re in a period of persistent a-Normal volatility and uncertainty. How will you help your clients thrive? The Innovation Mindset is an 8-week mastermind that begins in early April. I’ll train you on the use of my powerful visual models, which we will use to examine the most important 2022 trends so that you can provide clear and compelling thought leadership to frame issues and improve decision-making. 

Each week, the group meets for 90-minutes to develop unique intellectual property that sets you apart from the pack (who’s always swinging behind the pitch) and gives you significant competitive advantages in serving your clients. Your investment will pay for itself in a single sale. I’m limiting the group to 8; the fee is $5500. Reply to this email to see if the program is a good fit for you.

The Trusted Adviser Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain sustainable habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, strict accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results so that you reach your goals more quickly and consistently. Soar to new heights here.

CEO Mastermind group
 is for Milwaukee-area small business leaders and consultants who want to accelerate their growth in 2022. We meet monthly for lunch, and you get unlimited access to me for coaching and advising. I’m limiting the group to 8. Four places are remaining. Reply to me for more details.

The Global CEO Mastermind is for CEOs and senior leaders who want to surround themselves with people united in the common purpose of being the best they can possibly be, learning from each other, avoiding drift and complacency, and soaring to new heights. We meet monthly via zoom, plus you get unlimited access to me. I’m limiting the group to 8. Reply to me for more details.

Greek

As the pandemic recedes, we’re not moving into a new normal but an a-Normal: the opposite of normal. Volatility and uncertainty will dominate, and the most principled and agile will emerge stronger. The ancient Greeks and Romans have essential insights on the kinds of leaders who succeed in these situations.

Why listen to the ancient Greeks and Romans?

Presentism is the belief that only contemporary ideas matter and that you can ignore or sit in judgment over history. It’s a form of hubris and a fast track to dangerous fads and bad decisions.

The reason is simple. People hyper-focused on the present have no basis for judgment. They are guessing and consistently wrong. Why take advice from someone who lacks perspective?

You’ll be better off speaking with someone you respect who has a perspective on what you’re facing in any endeavor. The person may have had personal experience in the matter, helped others, or can draw usefully from the experiences of others.

What are the keys to success in a-Normal times?

The ancient Greek and Roman philosophers and historians lived through a-Normal periods and left written records about what worked and what didn’t. On the subject of leadership, they were very clear. Leaders with arete (excellence) guided their polities, armies, and countries through a-Normality. Demagogues led people to ruin.

An Athenian citizen living in the 5th or 4th century BCE or Roman citizen in the 1st century BCE likely experienced existential wars, clear and present prospects of starvation and economic ruin, pandemics, plagues, new ideas and technologies, and deadly political intrigue. Contemporary thought leaders celebrated officials with arete who guided their communities successfully through such times and wrote comedies and tragedies about those whose love of vulgar fame led to catastrophe.

The concept of arete was simple: demonstrated competence and character in active service to the community. Such leaders possessed the skills needed to do their jobs well and the judgment to make sound decisions in challenging circumstances

Greek

They adhered to the four cardinal virtues: wisdom, justice, courage, and self-discipline, using those principles for guidance through ambiguity and accountability to do the right thing, even when it was not popular.

Being competent and following the virtues was not enough. You had to be an exemplar and demonstrate these qualities in service to your community to advance the common good.

If you did not have competence, no one trusted your abilities. Without character, you lacked the moral compass to make tough choices for the common good. Unless you demonstrated arete in the public square, people would think you couldn’t walk the talk.

Too often, public figures proved the importance of these three elements by showing the consequences of their absence. After Pericles died in the plague, corrupt Athenian politicians led the most powerful city of the Mediterranean world into defeat. Alexander the Great conquered a vast empire but lost trust when his soldiers and citizens grew to doubt his character. Julius Caesar was the most celebrated leader in Rome until he set himself up as a dictator. Much of ancient tragedy, comedy, and history are cautionary tales of hubris and vulgar fame.

What does arete mean to us today?

As American society rips itself apart, we see self-dealing politicians and celebrities who pander to various interest groups that egg them on to more narrow-minded actions. People seek social media fame through demeaning antics or moral grandstanding in their own echo chambers. Social and political trust are at historic lows; selfishness and cynicism are high.

Where are today’s Washington’s, Lincolns, and Grants? George Washington showed courage and self-discipline in rejecting demands from his soldiers that he set himself up as a dictator and in leaving the Presidency after two terms. Abraham Lincoln showed wisdom and courage in carefully turning the American Civil War from a war to preserve the Union to a battle to abolish slavery. Ulysses S. Grant had the courage and justice to face down bigots who wanted to turn back the clock on emancipation, thus presiding over one of this country’s most remarkable advances in African-American rights and prosperity.

Like their ancient predecessors, these three Americans were imperfect, but their arete guided this country through volatile and uncertain times. They won the battle with themselves first and then served as exemplars who rallied people to their better natures.

Learning from ancient Greeks and Romans can help you emerge stronger in a-Normal times. Leading with arete will help you make the pivotal decisions that guide your business to new heights and serve as the exemplar who inspires your employee to contribute their best to your organization’s success.


P.S. I invite you to join my online forum Chris Kolenda’s Sustainable Growth Mindset ®. I post unique thought leadership there nearly every day, using historical and world events to boost your imagination about growth and innovation. It’s free for you, and you can sign up here.

P.P.S. I also want to alert you to a new program I’m rolling out soon — a global CEO Mastermind Group that meets monthly via zoom. You get unlimited access to me and interaction with other exceptional people to exchange ideas, help you be your best self, and keep you soaring to new heights. I’m limiting the group to 8 people. Reply to this email for more information.










fumes

Personal climate change subtly undermines your decision-making, sending you into drift as you inhale your own fumes and enjoy the aroma.

Personal climate change subtly undermines your decision-making, sending you into drift as you inhale your own fumes and enjoy the aroma. Until you allow in the fresh air, you will think the increasingly toxic fumes are normal.

Decision-making was a hot conversation topic during last week’s leadership event at Antietam and Gettysburg. Union General McClellan habitually inflated confederate strength, which caused him to move with an abundance of caution and attack in the most risk-averse manner he could conceive. He lost an opportunity to win the war in September 1862, instead of presiding over the bloodiest day in American history.

Less than a year later, confederate general Lee invaded the Union again hoping to win a big victory and force the Union to sue for peace. The strategy relied on assumptions so flawed that even a big victory would have been inconsequential. Lee believe his army was invincible and attacked a larger Union force that occupied better terrain. After two days of bloody and inconclusive fighting, Lee ignored sensible advice from one of his subordinates and ordered the disastrous Pickett’s charge. The picture below is from the High Water Mark.

The high-water mark of the Confederacy or high tide of the Confederacy refers to an area on Cemetery Ridge near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, marking the farthest point reached by Confederate forces during Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863.

We see the consequences of people becoming accustomed to their own fumes. People shout at one another from ideological silos. We elect idiots to Congress. Putin surrounds himself with sycophants who have a vested interest in pleasing the boss. He gets a green light from China, which is interested in seeing how the West reacts to the invasion of Ukraine as China set its crosshairs on Taiwan.

Former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani continued to believe that America would leave troops in the country until the final moments. When the scales finally fell from his eyes, he fled and left people to fend for themselves (Ukraine’s Zelensky is a welcome distinction). President Lincoln, by contrast, surrounded himself with people who thought differently than he did and would provide alternative views. Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation in July 1862 as part of his effort to reframe the war from preserving the Union to freedom versus slavery.

Secretary of State Seward counseled waiting. Union forces had suffered recent setbacks, and European powers considered recognizing the confederacy. Issuing the Proclamation in the wake of defeats would be seen as desperation at home and abroad. Lincoln accepted the logic and waited until after Lee’s invasion of Maryland had failed. The Emancipation Proclamation gained sufficient support at home and ended European considerations of confederacy recognition.

Action steps:

1. Get outside points of view from people who are willing to tell you hard truths. You might not always take their advice, but they will keep you breathing the fresh air.

2. Test your assumptions by asking yourself: “what must be true for this plan to work.” You’ll reveal implicit assumptions that you can evaluate for validity.

3. Participate in mastermind groups of like-minded people who help you stay true to your purpose, push you to be your best self, and remind you when your fumes start smelling too good.

Also – I invite you to join my online forum Chris Kolenda’s Sustainable Growth Mindset ®. I post unique thought leadership there nearly every day, using historical and world events to boost your imagination about growth and innovation. It’s free for you and you can sign up here.