Leadership Lessons from “A Christmas Carol”

Leadership Lessons from “A Christmas Carol”

One of the best-loved classics viewed during the Christmas season is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (see summary here), a story centered around a selfish and unfriendly old man who hates Christmas named Ebenezer Scrooge. It is a story that has been recreated for film, television and the stage more than two dozen times and offers many valuable leadership lessons.

Leadership Lessons from Christmas Past

There is an urban legend regarding an incident about a young pilot in the U.S. Navy who crashed his $38 million F-14 Tomcat and had to appear before the Investigation Board. After providing his perspective on the details of the crash, the young pilot asked an Admiral who was sitting on that Board if he would lose his wings. The Admiral stared at him for a moment and then stated, “Why would we take your wings when the U.S. Navy just spent $38 million dollars training you?”

Good leaders learn from past mistakes and don’t repeat them in the future. Sometimes the best lessons learned come from our mistakes and failures. In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge saw the mistakes he had made and the opportunities that had passed him by. While unable to change the past, he still had the opportunity to learn from his mistakes and ensure they were not repeated in the future. There is no value in berating employees or constituents on what happened yesterday, as you can’t change it. Objectively and honestly analyze your successes and failures and try to learn the lessons that each have to offer.

Leadership Lessons from Christmas Future

Many have attempted to predict future events throughout history. Sometimes, a few got some of it right, but the vast majority missed the mark substantially. The one thing you can be certain about regarding the future is uncertainty. With the rapidly changing circumstances, technology, social reforms and everything else requiring attention in today’s world, an organization must be proactive if it wants to survive in the long-term. As the predictability of future events is generally a best guess based on past history, predictive analysis and other tools, organizational agility and flexibility are essential for success in today’s ever-changing environment.

Are you growing your employees? Are you equipping them with the skills, abilities and freedom to innovate; to be creative and involved in decisions that form the basis for the future of the organization? Is succession planning a viable part of your strategy? Are you grooming the right people to take the leadership reins of your organization in the coming decades? Have you studied and learned from the past? Are you doing things differently based on what you have learned? Is your organizational culture one of empowerment and change, focused on the future or stuck in the past doing the same things, in the same way, buried in layers of bureaucracy and mediocracy? Scrooge didn’t just learn from the past, he applied that learning to his future. He was willing to make the changes necessary and provide others with the support and encouragement necessary to succeed.

Leadership Lessons from Christmas Present

Recent studies show approximately 64% of executives struggle with work related stress. This impacts their ability to sleep, relax and their health. If this is true for executives, it is reasonable to suggest that many employees below the executive level of an organization also struggle with similar issues. Holidays are often a mixed bag when it comes to stress at both work and home.

In this season of Christmas, carve some time out of your schedule to relax without the worry of work. Spend additional time with your family, friends, colleagues and employees. Turn off the cell phone and don’t worry about emails for a few hours or a few days, if possible. The holidays will be here and gone before you know it and once gone, they are in the past. Make some warm memories with the ones that you love. Be kind to one another and be generous to those in need.

From all of us at the Strategy Management Group to all of you, we wish you, your family and friends, a wonderful holiday season.

A Christmas Carol Summary by Charles Dickens. Retrieved from: https://www.sparknotes.com/lit/christmascarol/summary/

Grumman F-14 Tomcat. Retrieved from:

The Stressed Executive: Sources and Predictors of Stress Among Participants in an Executive Health Program, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6196623/



Strategy Failing Because of Leadership?

Strategy Failing Because of Leadership?

Mike Tyson

Regardless of what type of strategy planning system your organization utilizes, there is one thing you can be assured of;  not everything will go as planned.  Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson put it bluntly, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”  Former U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower stated it like this“…the very definition of “emergency’ is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning.”

 Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower

While strategy can fail for any number of reasons, it is the leadership of an organization that bears the responsibility for ensuring the successful execution of an organization’s strategy. Another Eisenhower quote simply states, “Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.” 

There are a number of reasons why leaders are unsuccessful. In some cases, leaders are simply out of touch or living in the past. They have failed to stay abreast of the changing times in a changing world. Other leaders may have delegated responsibility to incompetent staff or have allowed “venomous” individuals to be able to exert too much power and influence within the organization leading to chaos, dissent and dysfunction. Another problem may be incompetence at the top level of the organization based on the “Peter Principle,” where people advance up the chain of command until they reach their level of incompetence. Finally a fourth area that can severely hamper an organization is organizational structure and bureaucracy.

Effective leadership starts with an individual in a leadership role who is effective in delegating responsibilities and empowering employees with the ability to accomplish what needs to be done. Leaders must inspire their subordinates to action, challenging them to perform at the highest possible level and developing future leaders for the organization. Simultaneously, the effective leader will also be building a culture of trust. Outstanding leaders not only are able to accomplish these things, but also create a culture with a positive view of change and accountability.

Granted, a leader cannot do it alone. He or she must build a team of individuals who are aligned for the purpose of obtaining organizational excellence and achieving the organizational goals. Effective leaders listen and observe; they solicit honest feedback and recognize what the healthy heartbeat of their organization looks like. They are not micro-managers, nor dictators, but rather have the ability to build and encourage teamwork and creativity. Leaders must learn to exercise discretion in selecting future leaders and managers in the organization and should also not be afraid to address issues and individuals detrimental to the success of the organization.

The fact is strategy often does fail. Sometimes it may be the right people were not included in the effort, or perhaps the goals set forth in the strategy were unrealistic to begin with. Maybe the organization lacks accountability, honesty and is resistant to change. Whatever the reason, leadership, in one way or another bears the responsibility for the failure. Often, the tendency is to shift the blame to lower levels of the organization, but in truth, strategy failure ultimately falls on the executive level of leaders in the organization.

The Nine Steps to Success™ methodology for building a balanced scorecard is one approach that supports the empowerment and delegation of responsibility throughout the organization. It utilizes a healthy cross-section of employees from throughout the organization, obtains their commitment and buy-in and fosters active and open communication through all levels of the organization. As a result, silos begin to disappear, employees become engaged, energized and responsive to change. Communication improves and the organization moves towards alignment and becoming an organization of continual improvement.

For more information on the Nine Steps Balanced Scorecard process or to see how it could work for your organization, contact info@strategymanage.com



Business Strategy – The Art, Science and Craft of Decision-Making: Failure of Strategies, Retrieved from: https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Business_Strategy/Failure_of_Strategy

53 Insightful Dwight D. Eisenhower Quotes that Are Timeless. Retrieved from: https://quotes.thefamouspeople.com/dwight-d-eisenhower-1270.php

Organizations from Hell: When Leadership Fails, Ronald E Riggio, Ph.D., 2019, Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/200906/organizations-hell-when-leadership-fails

South Florida Sun Sentinel – Mike Tyson Explains One of His Most Famous Quotes, Retrieved from: https://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/fl-xpm-2012-11-09-sfl-mike-tyson-explains-one-of-his-most-famous-quotes-20121109-story.html



Relationships – the Key to Generational Leadership

Relationships – the Key to Generational Leadership

One of the key elements of effective leadership centers around relationships.  It is about knowing how to get the optimum performance from the people you interact with and are responsible for, whether at work, in your community or at home.  It is being able to gain their trust; being able to motivate them; and gaining their unwavering support regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in.

Trust…what is it and how is it achieved?  Most everyone will agree trust is an essential foundation critical to any relationship, personal or professional.  As a leader, building trust is about: 1) Doing what you say you will do; 2) Being transparent; 3) Showing support for your subordinates and team members, even when mistakes are made; 4) Being respectful of others’ opinions; 5) Being able to empathize with others while balancing the need for results and 6) Ensure your words match your actions.  When people trust your leadership, they will respect and have confidence in your decisions.

Motivation is a complex topic and a lot of opinions and generalizations exist regarding what works, what doesn’t and why.  A considerable amount of the classical theories, still taught today regarding motivation, were conceived in the early 1940’s through the late 1960’s.  In today’s climate, the topic of motivation often shifts to discussions relating to generational differences. 

Generally, there are five primary recognized generations that form our society today:  Traditionalists or Silent Generation – persons  born between 1925 & 1945; Baby Boomers – persons born between 1946 & 1964; Generation X – persons born between 1965 & 1976; Generation Y or Millennials – persons born between 1977 & 1995; and finally, Gen Z, iGen or Centennials – persons born after 1996. 

While each generation has its own unique identity, it would be erroneous to say that everyone classified as belonging to one of these generational categories has the same set of values and beliefs.  While certain characteristics that seemingly apply to the majority of any particular grouping have been published, it is important to remember every person, regardless of what generation they belong to is first, and foremost, an individual; each having their own goals, values and beliefs.  Therefore, what motivates one individual from a generational group may not motivate others within that generation.

During the last two decades a large percentage of managers and leaders in several organizations most likely were Baby Boomers. Generally, the group-think of these individuals was to choose a career with a company and work until retirement age to collect a pension.  Job security was an important aspect of this persona. 

This is vastly different mindset from the general tone in today’s workforce composition, especially when it comes to motivating people to achieve high levels of performance and continuous improvement. Individuals do not seem to be as concerned about a career within a single organization.  There is a tendency to believe most will put their own needs above the organizational needs.  They are willing to switch jobs frequently if they believe it is to their benefit in achieving their career or personal aspirations. As such, the stereotype indicates loyalty is short-term and today’s employer might be tomorrow’s competitor.

Contradictory to the stereotypical profiling of the differences identified within each generation, it has been my observation over the years, the majority of individuals, regardless of generation, want to contribute to the success of their organization; they want to find meaning in their role; want their voice to be heard and their opinions to be considered. 

Regardless of how success is defined in your organization, it is critical to understand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to motivating your employees to give their absolute best day-in and day-out.  Organizations that fail to grasp these basic concepts will find issues with attracting and retaining talent essential to the growth and health of the entity. 

An important aspect of building relationships is the development of good communication skills, especially in the area of active listening.  It involves truly hearing what the sender of the communication is saying, showing genuine interest when someone is speaking, and responding by engaging in dialogue and feedback. While virtually impossible for leaders in large organizations to know everyone; they should leverage every opportunity to expand their network of contacts.  When meeting someone for the first time in the organization, make it personal and about the other person.  Engage in dialogue and leave them with an impression that you really care.

Collaboration is one of the greatest ways to build relationships in an organization.  The use of cross-functional teams working on different projects is just one way to accomplish this.  This process allows participants to provide input and provides a feeling of self-worth and satisfaction when done correctly.

The Nine Steps to SuccessTM Balanced Scorecard methodology expands on Kaplan & Norton’s foundations and provides a flexible strategy management framework that capitalizes on transparency, collaboration and relationship building. When implemented properly, a large cross-section of employees is provided with the opportunity to express their thoughts and contribute to the development of the organization’s strategy.  With few exceptions, this process energizes participants and motivates them to perform at a higher level. This process assists in developing the basis for new relationships, cross-functional communication, and a collaborative work environment where each team member has an equal voice and every opinion is counted as important. Participants feel they are valued, and this helps to form the basis for effecting positive organizational change and building trust throughout the organization.

In the final analysis, the significance of a culture emphasizing relationships, trust, teamwork and collaboration is critical for dealing with the generational makeup of today’s organizations.  It is equally important to realize there are multiple approaches for multiple reasons when dealing with the human element of an organization; no one solution will work all of the time.  Managers and leaders who consistently achieve success, are generally equipped with a multitude of tools and techniques to make them effective. The Balanced Scorecard framework is one of these tools capable of moving your organization forward in meeting the challenges of tomorrow.


Strategy Management Group, The Institute Way: Simplify Strategic Planning and Management with the Balanced Scorecard, Howard Rohm, David Wilsey, Gail Stout Perry, Dan Montgomery, 2013.

The Center for Generational Kinetics, Generational Breakdown: Info About All of the Generations, 2019.  Retrieved from: https://genhq.com/faq-info-about-generations/ 

Society for Human Resource Management, What Motivates your Workers?  It Depends on Their Generation, Kathy Gurchiek, 2016.  Retrieved from: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/behavioral-competencies/global-and-cultural-effectiveness/pages/what-motivates-your-workers-it-depends-on-their-generation.aspx

Four Hooks, The Generation Guide, Millennials, Gen X, Y, Z and Baby Boomers, 2015.  Retrieved from: http://fourhooks.com/marketing/the-generation-guide-millennials-gen-x-y-z-and-baby-boomers-art5910718593/ 

Leader Communicator Blog, Trust in the Workplace: 6 Steps to Building Trust with Employees, David Grossman, 2019.  Retrieved from: https://www.yourthoughtpartner.com/blog/bid/59619/leaders-follow-these-6-steps-to-build-trust-with-employees-improve-how-you-re-perceived

The Essential Four C’s of Leadership

The Essential Four C’s of Leadership

On November 14, 1965, Major Bruce Crandall and his flight of sixteen helicopters were lifting troops for a search and destroy mission from Plei Me, Vietnam to a landing zone designated as “Landing Zone X-Ray”. After the fifth troop lift, his unarmed helicopters came under such intense enemy fire that the ground commander ordered the second flight of eight aircraft to abort their mission and return to base. Major Crandall made the determination the group of soldiers on the ground were in dire need of additional ammunition and made the decision to adjust his base of operations to a closer location to deliver this ammunition and evacuate soldiers who had been wounded.

Medical evacuation was not the assigned mission and Major Crandall sought volunteers to assist him. He and one other aircraft proceeded to Landing Zone X-Ray with complete disregard for their personal safety. Despite the intense, relentless engagement of the enemy, Major Crandall’s flight of two aircraft was successful in loading the seriously wounded and evacuating them to safety.

His voluntary actions motivated other pilots and instilled into them the will and spirit to follow his lead, thus resupplying ground forces with much needed supplies and providing a means for evacuating injured combatants. As a result of his leadership and perseverance, Major Crandall completed 22 flights on that day, providing critical resupply to the infantry battalion and saving numerous lives of injured soldiers by evacuating them to a location where they could be medically cared for.  His actions and demonstration of true leadership motivated others under his command into following his path and turn a series of hostile, extenuating circumstances into victory.

Aristotle referred to Courage as the first virtue of leadership. It is courage that makes all the other virtues of leadership possible. Being a leader often means being out in front; it means confronting reality and taking a hard look at your organization. What is the truth about our current state? It is about saying what needs to be said when it needs to be said. A lot of individuals shy away from confrontation and circumstances where there is a potential for conflict. Being able to have honest conversations help organizations work through issues, as painful as the trek might be. Major Crandall was more concerned with what he perceived was best for the mission, more so than his own personal safety or comfort. He was willing to make the decisions to get the job done.

Commitment is the second C of Leadership. As a leader, you have to be willing to do the hard things, even when not popular. This translates to being able to confront performance issues, whether they lie with people or processes. When process issues are ignored, they become toxic over time and have a negative impact on the performance of the organization. Dealing with these issues up front and directly have a long-term positive impact on both the organization and its culture.  Major Crandall disobeyed an order which could have had a detrimental impact on his career. Major Crandall wasn’t worried about his career. He was committed to getting much needed supplies to troops on the ground and evacuating those in need of medical care, regardless of the personal cost to him in terms of career, and even his life.

As with courage, leaders must be committed to the mission of the organization. Not only must they be committed, but they must be able to live and communicate their commitment to the rest of the organization for it to be successful. Leaders must be committed to the teams of individuals who work for them. Leadership isn’t about you!  It’s about the people you lead. It’s about believing in individuals and enabling them to be successful.  Major Crandall’s “leading by example” philosophy motivated others to follow his lead and make the mission successful. He took the responsibility for the decision, but his actions enabled others to contribute and perform by emulating his actions.

Another critical area in leadership is Consistency.  John Maxwell states, “Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.” Consistency is what established our reputation not only as leaders, but also as organizations.

Customers and employees don’t want to be surprised. They want predictable results and outcomes. If I order a blue Chevrolet Corvette Z06, I don’t want a red Volkswagen Beetle.  Likewise, in the workplace, employees generally desire an environment where expectations are known, shared and not ambiguous. Leaders who do are not consistent create environments of fear, anxiety, insecurity and discontent. One of the most damaging things a leader can do is to say one thing and do something totally different 24 hours later.  It throws the entire organization into confusion. Major Crandall was very clear in his intent. Not only did he ask for volunteers and describe exactly what he was planning to do; he then did it 22 times in a single day.  His actions were consistent which resulted in others getting on board and seeing the value of what was being accomplished.

Finally, the fourth C of Leadership is Compassion. General Douglas MacArthur was quoted as saying, “A true leader has the confidence to stand along, the courage to make tough decisions and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” 

Compassionate leaders seek to influence others, not demand, but encourage others towards success and opportunity.  Because of the innate nature of this leadership trait, when exercised, it provides the basic ingredients for forming a healthy work environment: stability and psychological safety. When employees feel they are in a safe environment, they are more willing to take risks which can result in more innovation in the workplace.

Compassionate leaders have a zeal for what they do. They believe in themselves, their organization and their people. Their actions inspire and motivate people to greatness. Major Crandall was compassionate about the circumstances the troops on the ground would face in a very near future if not resupplied. He was equally compassionate about ensuring those who were wounded while fighting for our country received an opportunity to receive medical care and survive. He translated his compassion into action which inspired many others to follow him and turn what could have been a very bad day into a very good one.

There are many other “C” attributes of leadership, Confidence, Character, etc., but in my way of thinking, the four listed here are critical for any leader to be successful, whether in industry or in life.


Brandon Wenerd, brobible.  Retrieved from: https://brobible.com/life/article/30-american-military-badasses/

Bill Treasurer, Entrepreneurs’ Organization.  Retrieved from: https://www.eonetwork.org/octane-magazine/special-features/courageisthekeytogreatleadership

John Mawell, What’s So Critical About Simple, Daily Practices?  Retrieved from: http://blog.johnmaxwell.com/blog/whats-so-critical-about-simple-daily-practices 

Kevin Eikenberry, Leadership & Learning.  Retrieved from: https://blog.kevineikenberry.com/leadership-supervisory-skills/three-commitments-leaders-must-make/

Douglas MacArthur. Retrieved from: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/359193-a-true-leader-has-the-confidence-to-stand-alone-the

A World Without Measures

A World Without Measures

Welcome to a miserably hot, sweltering day at Yankee Stadium with the temperature sitting at 95° F in the shade and 90% humidity.  It’s the bottom of the ninth and the Yankees are down by three runs. A collective sense of expectation can be felt throughout the stadium as Didi Gregorius, who has 10 home runs already this season, steps back into the batter’s box with bases loaded and a full count.  Boston’s ace leftie, Chris Sale, with a 4-1 record and a 2.39 ERA going into the game, goes into his windup.  The pitch is a 99-mph split-finger fastball at the knees on the inside corner of the plate.  Gregorius swings, connects and the ball travels 420 feet clearing the center field wall by 12 feet; a grand slam and the Yankees win their 28th game of the season!

Welcome to another day at the empty lot where an unspecified number of people have shown up to play baseball. It feels hot, but since no one measures temperature no one is sure if it is any hotter than usual. The game is loose – the bases and fence are randomly placed, and the game continues until the players decide they are done, as no one tracks innings or measures time.  No one knows the score; no one counts strikes or balls; no one tracks how many runs or hits are made on a team or individual basis; much less  the type or speed of the pitch being delivered.  No talent is required to play because no one keeps track of how one performs; baseball statistics don’t exist. Alas, there is no excitement and no tension; no pressure to improve. No one loses or wins…pure UTOPIA!!

Measurements play a relevant part of our daily world, both in our personal and professional lives.  H. James Harrington summed it up like this, “Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement.  If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it.  If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it.  If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”

Everyone uses measurements every day of their life and usually don’t even pause to give them consideration.  We all check the weather to see how warm or cold it is.  We use measurements to determine our budgets, how much money we need for vacations and how well our children are performing in school.  We calculate how many minutes we need to add to our workout routine to allow us to eat that extra piece of cake; how much we can afford to pay for things, and so much more.  Face it, life in today’s world doesn’t exist without measures!

What confounds us and causes confusion, missed opportunities and misguided, unproductive efforts is our inability and/or lack of experience in determining what measurements are key.  How do we determine how effective we are in achieving our desired goals and objectives, whether in our personal life or at work? How do we measure success and how do we know when we have achieved it?

The answer centers around the concept of developing Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). The challenge is in developing and knowing what measurements are “Key” in determining the success of our performance and that of our organizations.

If you want to learn more about KPI’s and how to develop useful and meaningful measures for your organization, visit: http://kpi.org

H. James Harrington Quotes.  Retrieved from: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/42617.H_James_Harrington

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