Thursday Feb 14, 2008

Napolean Dzombe - Heart of a Champion

Early this morning, as Valentine's Day dawned for me in the Santa Clara Holiday Inn, I met a new hero in my life, Napoleon Dzombe of the African nation of Malawi. Knowing that I would be out of town today, my wonderful wife slipped a small Valentine's gift into my suitcase before I left home. When I awoke early in the morning, I opened the gift, which included a DVD entitled "The Blessings Hospital Miracle," and watched it on my laptop.

The film recounts the true story of a remarkable man who emerged from personal poverty against seemingly unsurmountable odds to save thousands of his people from starvation during one of the worst droughts in Malawi. We can learn much from the courage, determination and selflessness of this true champion.

You can watch the entire 25 minute film here or purchase the DVD here.

I highly recommend it.

Thank you, Claudia, for introducing me to true greatness this morning. Happy Valentine's Day!

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Wednesday Apr 04, 2007

Leadership for a New Generation

Yesterday, I finished Bill George's book, Authentic Leadership. I was particularly impressed with his challenge to the rising generation of business leaders.

"...the torch is again being passed to a new generation. To your generation of leaders, the trumpet has sounded. If you listen carefully, you will hear the clarion call to lead in a different way than many in my generation have:

  • To be motivated by your mission, not your money.
  • To tap into your values, not your ego.
  • To connect with others through your heart, not your persona.
  • To live your life with such discipline that you would be proud to read about your behavior on the front page of the New York Times. ...

"As an authentic leader, you can change these things. You only need to be your own person, lead in your own style with purpose and passion, be true to your values, build your relationships, practice self-discipline, and lead with your heart."

Even for those of us who have been around the block a few times, this is good advice. It reminds me of the famous line penned by William Shakespeare for his character Polonius, giving his son Laertes sage advice, "To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man."

Thanks to Anand Shah, one the rising generation of new leaders, for recommending this book to me.

Photo: Stained glass representation of Polonius in the historic Elsinore Theatre, Salem, Oregon.

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Wednesday Mar 28, 2007

Passion Begets Innovation

I've been recently reading Bill George's book "Authentic Leadership." In chapter 12, "Innovations from the Heart, he titles one subection "Passion Begets Innovation." He recommends that leaders committed to innovation must work hard to not dampen innovation with bureaucracy, but rather give "preference to the mavericks and the innovators" and protect "new business ventures while they are in the fragile, formative stage."

Last night, I had dinner with one such maverick, my good friend Terry Gardner, who is a brilliant technologist and passionate advocate of innovation. Terry begged me, "Let me spend more time in front of customers. Sun has been such an innovative company. Let me get out there and tell our story. We're passionate about this, you know."

Terry didn't know I had been reading the book. He was just being Terry. Passionate Terry. And I appreciate that.

Yes. He will be with a customer tomorrow!

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Monday Mar 12, 2007

Management Training in the Participation Age

One of the exercises in the management training course I recently completed was to write an "elevator pitch" about the team I manage. One of the course participants shared a great participation age example - a YouTube video of a guy giving an elevator pitch about how to create an elevator pitch.

Great Stuff!

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Sunday Mar 11, 2007

Focus on the Mission

John Bock is a West Point Graduate, Colonel in the US Army Reserve and one of the best read people I know. He also happens to be one of Sun's Software Sales Specialists with whom I work closely as we seek to deliver Sun's software products to large communications companies.

A few weeks ago, he and I were discussing the differences in management style between the US military and modern business. He observed that despite its flaws, one outstanding element of military management style was what he called "Focus on the Mission." We discussed how focusing on the mission at hand could foster stability and purpose amidst rapid and unpredicable change - which happens so frequently in modern business and military affairs.

Back in 1990 or 1991, I read Tom Peter's book, "Thriving on Chaos," which contends that all of us must learn to thrive in the midst of rapid change. That concept is certainly true, but it is easier to read and talk about change that to experience it. I believe John's mantra to "Focus on the Mission" is probably the most valuable concept I have learned about how to cope with and manage change.

This week, I have been reading Bill George's book "Authentic Leadership" and attending the Sun "Managing for Success" course. The most compelling part of the course was the unit on managing change. It was particularly relevant to our experience at Sun as we seek to return to a pattern of consitent profitability and growth while assimilating multiple corporate acquisitions.

In the course, as we studied the "Six Phases of the Change Process," the "ERIBIA" method of presenting change to others and other techniques for managing change, it was very helpful to me to view these concepts through the lens of "Focus on the Mission." As I consider rapid business changes that have affected me personally in the past six weeks, I realized that focusing on the mission at hand was the most stabilizing force I had experienced, both for me and for members of my team.

Bill George commented on "focus on the mission" this way: "It took me twenty years in business to find the right place to devote my energies - a mission-driven company named Medtronic. ... It turned out to be the most important step of my career."

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Thursday Mar 08, 2007

Leader as Servant

In his book, "Authentic Leadership," Bill George refers to the late Robert Greenleaf, a former AT&T executive well known for his concept of "leaders as servants of the people." Describing this concept, Mr. George says, "he advocates service to others as the leader's primary purpose. If people feel you are genuinely interested in serving others, then they will be prepared not just to follow you but to dedicate themselves to the common cause."

I was introduced to this concept several years ago by Steve Sanghi, CEO of Microchip. He recommended that organization charts be inverted from the norm, to show the leader at the bottom, symbolically showing that the leaders's job is to support and help the people in his organization.

I like to start each business day by asking myself the question, "How can I best serve and deliver value to my employees, my employer and my customers today?"

Answering that question helps me to focus on what is really important in my role as a manager and employee - servant of the people within the span of my stewardship.

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Tuesday Mar 06, 2007

Wise Stewardship

Steward: "a person who manages another's property or financial affairs; one who administers anything as the agent of another or others."

Twice last Sunday, I came face to face with the term "Steward."

The first was Sunday afternoon when my good friend Mark Jones taught our men's class in church about the concept of a "wise steward" taking very seriously his duty to serve members of his family and members of the church with great care.

The second was in the book entitled "Authentic Leadership," by Bill George, a former CEO of Medtronic and current Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School. I began reading this book, which had been recommended to me by my colleague Anand Shah, Sunday evening while on the airplane travelling to my business destination. In the preface to his book, Mr. George states, "When leaders are dedicated stewards and lead in an authentic manner, they build enduring organizations that do great good for people and make an enormous differerence in the world."

Monday morning, still intrigued with the concept of stewardship, I made this topic the focus of my personal study. I learned that the word "steward" was derived from the Old English words "stig" (house or pen) and "weard" (guard) coming together as "stigweard" or literally "house guardian."

It occurs to me that if we consider ourselves to be "house guardians" over the people and affairs that have been entrusted to us by our employers and by God, we would make better decisions, act with more integrity and serve with more diligence, because we would be seeking to "guard" the virtue and value of our businesses, our families and our fellowmen.

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Monday Mar 05, 2007

Sharpening the Saw

One of Stephen Covey's recommended "Seven Habits" is to "sharpen the saw," or take time to improve or refresh skills. I am doing so this week by taking part in the Sun Microsystems course, "Managing for Success," a workshop required for all new Sun Managers. Since I became a Sun manager nine months ago, it is high him I pause to take the course.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the course content and instructor, June Ramos. Although I have been managing people in one way or another for almost 30 years, it has been a good experience to pause again and focus on the basic principles and techniques of leadership that really work - a "familiar principles, revisited" type of experience.

I'll share a few insights from the course with you over the next few days.

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About

Discovering Identity was founded on blogs.sun.com in May 2005 as a means of documenting my exploration of the field of Identity and Access Management. In February, 2010, I switched to hosting the blog at DiscoveringIdentity.com. In March 2012, I began posting Oracle-related information in both places.

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The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer, Oracle Corporation, or any other person or organization.

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