Inbound vs. Exiting Women CEO’s

Are there enough inbound women leaders to replace those who are leaving? Where do most of them come from, inside or outside their organizations?

This great infographic is a must see for board  members interested in leader development and setting up the best top leadership succession for today’s companies.

It’s a great summary of what the data show about elevating insiders compared to hiring in CEOs from the outside. But first, answer this question: what are the origins of the CEOs who generate the higher rate of returns? Inside the company or outside in the open market? You’ll find the answer when you click here on the “higher rates of returns.” Or, go to,

As always, your comments are welcome.


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Some Leaders Cannot Admit Their Blind Spots

“If you were blind, you would have no [error]; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your [error] remains.”  John 9:41, New American Standard

 When do leaders cause the most damage to their organizations and to those who trust them?

When these leaders ignore the feedback of others and try to go it alone; when they do not listen to understand the concerns of their colleagues and followers. For example, even after a criminal conviction by juries of their peers, some leaders do not get it. They go it alone, blinded by a dust storm of their own making.

One leader in particular is in the news. He continues to blame others for his errors. He is on record blaming his “employees,” his boss, and the “feds” instead of accepting responsibility for his choices. He remains in his own blinding dust storm, still unrepentant after being convicted in federal court of 19 counts of insider trading. Recently released on probation, he served only a few years in prison. Meanwhile, many employees and shareholders who lost large portions of their retirement investments due to this CEO’s blow-back are left to suffer for as many as 20+ years.

Does Presence In A Top Position Create Leader Blind Spots?

It is difficult to capture in a few words what creates and maintains top leaders’ blind spots. One overview comes from the research of the Hay group. They report evidence to suggest leaders’ blind spots grow as they move into the top positions in their organizations. Given the increased isolation and “rarified” atmospheres many executives face at the top levels, it becomes more difficult for top leaders to accept and understand data and facts that are in conflict with their own levels of self-awareness.

How Can Top Leaders Compensate for Their Blind spots?

Top leaders are setting themselves up for failure when they try to go it alone. They can compensate for their lack of vision by designing and working within an up-to-date and well-tailored structure of leadership.

Structure of leadership—those arrangements senior managers put in place to organize themselves, establish productive working relationships with other leaders, and set up the decision-making processes that will assure the reliable delivery of their organizations’ critical outcomes.

From the Preface of Leaders First: Six Bold Steps to Sustain Breakthroughs in Construction, at

Assumption: An effective structure of leadership creates the relationships, collaboration, and the knowledge-sharing top leaders need to work together.

In a well-designed leadership structure top leaders are better able to stay in touch with the…

  • Realities of their markets.
  • Needs of their followers.
  • Desires of their customers.

#Leaders discover their blind spots by seeing through the eyes of their colleagues.

No single leader is as perceptive as a seasoned group of capable leaders, organized to complement one another’s delivery of those survival outcomes for which they are individually accountable. Even while carrying personal accountability, these leaders are working together. While working together, they expand each other’s self-awareness to help manage their blind spots.

Questions for reflection:

How up-to-date is your leadership structure? Does it draw leaders together or drive them apart?

What steps have you taken to organize your own supportive group of leaders who can give you reality checks on your decisions and actions?  

As a leader, are you open to feedback from others about your decisions and actions? How would your colleagues answer this question? How close is their answer to your own perception?


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2nd Illogical Belief Dooms Leaders to Not Know When They Are About to Fail

See Leaders First at

‘Potential’ Knowledge Cloud by Anthony Beck

Leaders make many complex decisions. They okay construction plans, structure mergers, and reorganize their operations. They introduce new products, convert to new technology, and choose when to expand into new territories.

These choices often call for knowledge beyond what any human has. Still many leaders do not know to design a testing ground into their leadership structure that involves competent others in their decision-making process. They do not know to use leader development simulations to check the potential fallout from their decisions. They do not know to negotiate for the up-front commitments of the implementers who will have to make their decisions come true.

 The 2nd Illogical Belief Defined

Leaders get themselves into the grip of the 2nd Illogical Belief when:

  • They assume they know all they need to know about what could go wrong.
  • They believe they can make a final decision, in isolation, and set an irrevocable course of action without knowing its consequences for others and for themselves.

With the longer term effects of leaders’ decisions beyond their current know-how and comprehension, just the act of making a choice can start them along a potential path to failure.

 Why Leaders Are Destined to Fail

Are all new-born decisions so fragile they must depend on others to make them come true?

Yes, if leaders want to smooth the path to success with the least risk of failure.

In his distinguished and well researched book, The Logic of Failure, Dietrich Dörner uses simulations and historical accounts to show why the flaws in all humans, including leaders, will cause them to fall short of their well-intentioned goals. His research found people and leaders in particular:

  • Only process new information in small bits, have limited memory capacity, and can forget, neglect, or discount complex and costly details.
  • Have limited perspectives because they think too slowly for the situations they are trying to steer. They have difficulty forecasting how events will unfold during their implementation process and devote too little time to ferreting out the second and third order consequences.
  • Make choices and form plans about emerging needs and opportunities even though these are beyond their full comprehension. To compensate, at times they try to force fit solutions familiar to them, and not create processes which best fit their situation and strategic vision.

 How Can Leaders Reduce Their Errors and Make More Decisions Come True?

  • First, they can design a structure of leadership so involved, knowledgeable colleagues will keep them informed of emerging obstacles and barriers. This includes negotiating for the up-front commitment of those expected to carry out a decision. Pay special attention to the warnings, questions and unexpected challenges these colleagues point out. Listen when implementers point out what tradeoffs must occur to for a decision to come true.
  • They can test their logic with customers in focus groups or in role-plays to learn what reactions to expect when the news of their decision goes public. This practice gives much more information about the second the third order consequences.
  • They can break the decision into its steps, then make a series of step-by-step decisions and learn from their results after each step. That is, they make a small decision, track what happens, and then make a next decision based on what they learned from the earlier one. They engage others in conversations about the meaning of these results. They work with colleagues and implementers to reconsider and alter their course of action so it best fits the circumstances revealed along the path of its implementation.

 What Can You Do Now?

  • Share this article with someone whose leadership you would like to support and develop.
  • Add your own ideas, your unique experiences, and comments below.
    • Answer this question: What other steps can you take to compensate for a lack of knowledge when under pressure to make your decision?
  • Start a conversation at your staff meeting on what steps you can take to reduce the errors of the 2nd Illogical Belief. Here are some questions to start.
    • When have you made decisions that failed because you thought you knew all you needed to know?
    • When have you included others and improved a decision you wanted to make?
    • How do you know who to include in an upfront search for possible reactions and consequences?
  • Contrast this belief to the 1st Illogical Belief, The Super Human Complex and see how in combination the two can lead to disastrous results.

Note: My thanks go to Randall Ford who first showed me how the lack of knowledge, although obvious, is an often overlooked human trait leading us all to stumble from time to time.




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2014: Bring Your Spirit to Leadership

First a confession: I failed to make my goals in 2013. Am I a failure? Well, maybe not.


Labyrinth of Failure

According to the principles of lean leadership, finding and owning mistakes is cause for celebration. If my number of mistakes in 2013 is any measure of success, it was a great year.

Note in the above sentence I said “mistakes” and not “failures.” Our personal flaws lead us to make mistakes but we only fail when we don’t fail safe—when our mistakes cause irrevocable harm or cost from which we or others may not recover. For example, what an incredible responsibility construction engineers, contractors, architects, and other builders shoulder to assure their structures, if they ever fail, will always fail safe.

Even if making mistakes is a sign of success, I still don’t feel like celebrating.

  1. My revenues fell short of my goals, not to mention my needs and desires.
  2. In terms of creative ideas throughout the year, several great one’s emerged but only a few were implemented.
  3. Finally, my blog writing suffered for I did not meet the frequency of postings recommended by professionals.

Does anyone think that falling short of all these goal areas made 2013 a success?

What Makes a Year of Failure a Success?

I’m happy to see 2014. In fact, I’m looking forward to it. But I have to ask, in falling short of my goals in 2013, how best do I move forward to make more positive progress in the New Year?

In the words of Carol Hunter and Tim Rouse, long time advocates for leaders who take the time to reflect on their circumstances, reflection brings a person’s true spirit to her/his leadership. So I’ve done a little soul-searching. I have listed the bad news from 2013 above. The good news for 2014 is below.

  1. My loved ones are well and speaking to one another, as well as to me.
  2. I feel optimistic about 2014. Given the downers of last year, some might say my optimism is out of touch with reality. Instead, in 2014 I’ll be strategically optimistic and pessimistic in order to make the most appropriate responses to every opportunity.
  3. 2014 looks like it could be a bonus year for increasing revenues. Maybe I could earn one.
  4. My wife and I have enough to eat and a dry and comfortable shelter to weather the winter. We belong to a rich faith community. We have lifelong friends. We have our health and failing that we have some great health insurance.

“The first wealth is health.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

From these reflections I’ll settle on three areas of focus for 2014. The first implies I have to survive mistakes to benefit from them.

#In 2014, to benefit from failure, learn how to fail safe.

The second reminds me I have to go through the pain of admitting, owning, and reconciling myself to mistakes to learn how to avoid them in the future—at least to recognize when I am backsliding–“Oh boy, here I go again.”

#Own the pain of failure to move beyond it.

The third resolution encourages me to devote quality time, even prayerful time, to the regular process of reflecting about mistakes to bring a true spirit to bear on leadership.

#Reflect on mistakes to grow from them.

My best New Year wishes to all.

#May all your mistakes be stepping-stones to success.

Upcoming Discussion: The Second Illogical Belief

The first illogical belief was on the superhuman complex. If you think an awareness of that nightmare is not enough to make leaders review their decisions and actions, the second illogical belief is even more insidious. Leaders who set themselves up to fail by way of a “know-it-all” belief system often provoke the rest of us to err through our own know-it-all responses. Interaction such as this can foster much chaos—like an angry mob with torches on a night-time witch hunt. Well, maybe just an angry mob with clubs and flashlights, but you get the idea.

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3 Illogical Beliefs Doom Leaders to Fail

As human beings with blind spots, leaders make mistakes and others suffer from them. This first article in a series on leader blind spots addresses The Superhuman Complex, the first of three illogical beliefs that cloud leaders’ vision.

Evidence of the Superhuman Complex

The recent $1.8 billion judgment against the SAC financial firm is an example of what happens when leaders lose sight of their strategic vision and become blind to their reason for being in business–their mission. It shows at how their leaders were in the grip of the Superhuman Complex.

The SAC’s agreement to pay a $1.8 billion penalty is only one example of top-level errors. There are many more. A New York Times report shows how wide-spread leaders’ blind spots are. That is, there have been 70 convictions for top-level malfeasance since 1999. In other words, the top leaders of some of the best known brand names in business have shown their blind spots—JPMorgan Chase, Arthur Anderson where 28,000 employees lost their jobs; Enron; hedge fund maven Raj. Rajaratnam and his friend Rajat K. Gupta, former head of McKinsey & Company; Bernard Madoff; Michael R. Milken; and Drexel Burnham Lambert, to name a few.

“You’re saying personal blind spots were blocking these leaders’ vision?” Yes. But you’re still wondering how I can be so sure.

Maybe I have my own illogical belief, but I believe these leaders would not intentionally set goals, form plans, and ask for advance board approval to pay millions and billions in penalties, waste years of their life in court proceedings, pay millions to attorneys, lose credibility with their customers, cause the total failure of their business, and eventually end up in jail anyway.

No, these leaders’ blind spots were so strong they took few steps to avoid them and probably did not see the enforcement officers coming after them. These leaders had not intention to waste money, years, and lives recovering from their mistakes. They had fallen in love with themselves and locked arms with the Superhuman Complex.

Does this make these leaders bad people? Probably not. First of all, it makes them human. Second, they were terribly naïve to think they could hide their mistakes and avoid prosecution. Third, they probably were blind to the real-world consequences of their actions.

3 Categories of Illogical BeliefThe seal of the U.S. National Security Agency....

In general, the blind spots driving leaders to fail in their choices, actions, and ventures  can sort into three categories of illogical belief. Of course, at different times, under different conditions, these beliefs are present in us all. Leaders are of special concern here, though, because they have much broader influence over the welfare and well-being of the rest of us. Leaders’ choices and actions can win wars. They can also lose wars. Their choices can bring prosperity to us all. Unfortunately, their choices can bankrupt us, as well.

First Illogical Belief: The Superhuman Complex

Most leaders suffering this delusion believe they are special, can do no wrong, and are not subject to the same limitations as other humans. Some, in the extreme, may suffer from chronic arrogance, or even worse, from a neurotic narcissism.

They exaggerate the value of their successes and use them as evidence of their right to take ever bigger risks with others’ lives and resources, becoming ever more self-indulgent and self-centered with each accomplishment. They attribute their success to themselves and to themselves alone, and fail to give credit to the many others who have worked to help them be successful.

When frustrated, these leaders feel contempt for those who could suffer, and even for those who try to get them to think of potential negative consequences. They commit unethical or illegal acts and then excuse their poor judgment by believing they will be able to get away with violating laws, and if caught, pay only small penalties. Treating penalties as only another cost of doing business, they may even make sure their financial projections are budgeted for the cost of fines.

They believe judges, juries, and regulatory agencies will make exceptions for them due to their reputation, size, clout, or connections. They justify their actions by claiming they are serving higher purposes such as patriotism, the down trodden, economic stability, or something else. Or, like the NSA, they might tell themselves the shady actions they take will remain confidential and no one will ever know the difference.

Top Secret Explosion At The NSA

For example, Edward Snowden spied on the agency spying on the world, the US National Security Agency (NSA). The NSA was fudging on the law and spying on personal electronic transactions–phone records, bank records, internet searches, and so on–without the permissions of the courts and regulators, and for the higher purpose of preserving national security.

Through their use of electronic encryption, intimidating their staff and contractors with threats of treason, and up-front employment contracts, the NSA adopted the illogical belief their actions would stay top-secret. They held on to this belief at the same time as they were breaking through the very complex encryption codes of large, private financial institutions and high-tech companies, to copy their customer data.

One day a young contractor, Snowden, proved their assumptions wrong. They did not control and hide all of their manipulations from him. They believed he would be so intimidated by their culture of secrecy and patriotism he would never violate it. Then Snowden, for whatever personal reasons he might have had, took the NSA secrets and shared them with China, Russia, and others unknown.

Today the NSA is trying to explain themselves to a troubled Congress and President; the President is trying to explain himself to the world’s leaders. For the NSA, the Superhuman Complex has betrayed them.

Questions for reflection: Share your answers in the comments section below.

1. What is the first clue that tells you a boss, leader, or client is in the grip of The Superhuman Complex?

2. How have you seen leaders behave when they are in this state?

3. What methods have you found useful for managing your relationship with bosses, leaders, and clients when they are in the grip of this complex?

Upcoming: The Second Illogical Belief – The “I know enough,” Syndrome.

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Entrepreneurial Women Leaders Start Organization Lasting 15 Years

We were very happy when Christine Daspro, VP of The Leaders Investment (TLI), Denver, Colorado, spoke to our monthly entrepreneurs’ group.

We listened intently to her story. She explained the fifteen-year history and current services of TLI, the new brand of the Women’s Vision Foundation. Soon we realized this is a long-lasting, complex, and adaptive enterprise. It is a full-bore leader development organization with a payroll, customers, and a wide network of many resources—corporate sponsors as well as subcontractors—just like many entrepreneurial business enterprises.

U.S. National Archives and Records AdministrationWhy, you ask, is the story of TLI important?

Any aspect of a company culture that sustains an enterprise through startup and on for 15 years is important to entrepreneurs. Most startups barely last five. So we asked, “What were the founders—already an experienced and successful group of women leaders—thinking when they established the mission of this organization?”

The founders’ insight shows us a company culture that might sustain almost any enterprise.   

Christine told us the wise women who started what is now TLI, and I am paraphrasing, wanted to share their expertise and bring along the future generations of women leaders. That is, they did not want to leave them behind.

You might wonder how a culture set up to develop and bring others along could sustain itself for 15 years.

No doubt, you have heard the motto, No one left behind”, endorsed in several branches of the U.S. armed forces. It is more than just a motto. Remember the iconic image of gritty men and women soldiers helping their overwhelmed buddies navigate through a smoky field of battle? Of putting their own lives at risk while saving their “coworkers?” Maybe this practice comes from an early lesson from scouting “The group hikes only as fast as our slowest member“. In both instances, the underlying value is to bring our colleagues along and not abandon them.

While you might agree in principle with these high-minded values, you may still doubt their application to the hard-nosed and practical world of business. Unless, that is, you know how the late physicist, Eli Goldratt, connected scouts on a hike with business production processes.

For years, speed to market and speed of production have been mantras to gain a competitive business advantage. In 1959, as manufacturing companies searched for more speed, they started installing production robots. Yet, worker stress went up as production speed still stalled. Then in the 1980’s, Eli Goldratt, explained how the methods scouts followed on their hikes could speed up a company’s production robots.

Goldratt showed how a scout troop on a hike was able to walk faster by placing the slowest scout at the front of the hikers and redistributing the extra weight in his backpack to others along the line. In this way, it was not necessary to leave anyone behind or to slow the troop down from his or her natural speed, when loaded. They all arrived at their destination.

What if you created a “No one left behind” culture in your organization?

The wise founders set a sustaining culture in place when they began to understand the needs and relationships of aspiring women leaders. Then they shared their knowledge and expertise with these aspiring women leaders so they could develop their own skills.

For leaders who mentor and mentees who learn, both benefit when no one is left behind. Bringing women leaders along means they are more likely to arrive at peak performance, and in time to overcome their unique challenges. With the new brand at TLI, this same opportunity is now extended to aspiring male leaders, as well.

You too can foster such a culture at your work and home—where everyone pitches in and makes sure all can fulfill their reasonable work requirements, no matter how stressful or short their deadlines.

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