Tag Archives: Leadership

The Honorable Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice, US Supreme Court

by Jim Cathcart

Last night I had the privilege of attending “A Conversation” with Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas. The event was held at Pepperdine University and was what the School of Law calls “The Second Annual William French Smith Memorial Lecture.”

Justice Thomas, Dean Starr, Associate Dean Shelley Saxer and Charles Eskridge III in Conversation (side view)

Justice Thomas, Dean Starr, Associate Dean Shelley Saxer and Charles Eskridge III in Conversation (side view)

The Dean of the School of Law is Kenneth W. Starr, a delightful and brilliant man whom I’ve come to know in the past few years since he accepted the appointment here. He has been a guest at my Sherwood Parlor Salon Discussion and Paula and I enjoy spending time with Ken and Alice Starr.
Dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law

Dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law

Yesterday’s event was inspiring on many levels. Justice Thomas spoke candidly about how he makes decisions, who he admires, what his daily life is like, where he grew up, how he has dealt with prejudice and injustice in his own life, his own Christian Faith and more. He truly open the robes and showed us who he was.
The surprizing thing is we discovered that he is not only brilliant, he’s also funny!
His humor and playfulness made it clear to all that he was happy to be there, in a great mood and having a good time.

He told us that one way in which he indoctrinates his new law clerks is to have them watch movies with him. Some of his favorites for this purpose are: Fountainhead, 300, Gods & Generals, and Saving Private Ryan. He singled out one special quote from Saving Private Ryan. After all the lives had been lost in effecting Ryan’s rescue, one of his rescuers said to him, “Earn it.” In other words, conduct your life in such a way that all this sacrifice is justified. Earn the salvation you’ve received.

He also said to us, “My law clerks are here to help me live up to my Oath. That is their job description.” I love that! The job is not the collection of tasks, it is the reason the tasks matter.
More people need to adopt that attitude, in my opinion. Job descriptions needn’t be mere lists of tasks, but rather should be statements of purpose. “Here is why your work is worthy of being paid for and here are the areas of your responsibility.” That gives people a better understanding of their real job, not just their duties.

After the conversation the Justice came over to the side of the room where Paula and I had the privilege of sitting on the front row and he greeted us individually. When he shook my hand he noticed my Speaker Hall of Fame ring and commented on it. He was truly connecting with people not merely greeting them in a token manner. An impressive fellow for sure.

Justice Thomas said that he studies the history and circumstances that existed when the Constitution and its related documents were written. He does this so that he captures, as much as possible, the original intent, instead of imposing his own opinion into the interpretation.
That, I believe, is why we need to teach American History and the foundation of our nation to all generations in perpetuity. The only way to preserve America is to teach each new generation not just what it is, but also why it exists and how unique that is in the history of the world.

Thank God for people with the character and humility of Justice Thomas.
To obtain a copy of his book “My Grandfather’s Son”, click here. I bought one yesterday and find it easy reading (with lawyers that is a major consideration) and a great insight into the making of a remarkable leader.


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Filed under Behavioral Economics, High-Value Relationships, Leadership, Relationship Assets, Relationship Intelligence Training

Turnover is Evidence of Errors in Leadership

by Jim Cathcart

If people are regularly departing from your team then something is wrong with your approach to leadership. How many people have come and gone from you in the past several years?

Am I saying that the problem is you? Not exactly, but if people aren’t staying then something is missing. It might be that your compensation package doesn’t hold up to the competition or size of the workloads. It might be that situational or geographic issues like long commutes could be the problem. Or it even might be poor selection processes; you just haven’t been recruiting the right people.

But more often than not, heavy turnover is a symptom of poor leadership. I know, that hurts to hear. (Just bear in mind that I am not thinking of you personally as I write this.) Now, before your defense mechanisms start claiming, “but I have great motives and I’m a generous boss”, or “I work harder and give more than anyone else around here,” stay with me for a bit.

Good intentions do not make you a good leader. Great persuasion ability doesn’t either. Hard work and personal dedication doesn’t make you a good leader. Many things are required, but let’s see if you even need to hear all this.

Question: Have you had trouble keeping good people?

If your answer is Yes, then you have a leadership problem.
Now we need to find out where the problem lives.

The Role of a Leader is to become progressively unnecessary.
Read that again.
At first everyone looks to the leader for direction, inspiration and guidance. But if they keep looking to you then you aren’t leading, you are managing. Managers have to work indefinitely. Leaders grow their own replacements. They work themselves out of a job by developing the vision, motivation and skills of others.
If you have been “leading” for more than a year and nobody is in place yet to become your ultimate replacement, then changes in your behavior may be in order.

Here are a few thought stimulators to get you started in finding elements to improve.
1. Are your meetings fun, fascinating and full of energy?
2. Do people look forward eagerly to their next meeting with you?
3. Do you look forward eagerly to listening to what your coworkers think?
4. Do you find yourself complaining that others just don’t “get it”?
5. When hiring do you look for people with talent or people who agree with you?
6. Do you feel like all the work is on your shoulders and others aren’t stepping up?

Why do others not step up and take charge?
There are many reasons. Here are a few: (How many are you guilty of?)
You don’t let them lead. You appoint them and then interfere with all their decisions.
They end up with all the work and none of the control. You don’t delegate the necessary authority to go with the duties.
You don’t celebrate or appreciate others effectively. They feel they are not valued.
They have seen others work hard only to have you change the plans at the last minute, thereby wasting all that effort.
You make decisions on your own and then announce them to the group, instead of seeking their input and approval. When it is “my way or the highway” most people will take to the highway to get away from you.
They don’t want to do something just out of obligation or need. They want the joy and satisfaction of doing things that matter and doing them happily.

If you feel that nobody knows or cares as much as you, then you need to spend some serious energy developing the knowledge and caring in others. Otherwise, you will still be alone at the top next year and your team will have left you…again.

Stop the insanity! Change the way you lead. If you can’t change then step aside. Life is too short for you to be constantly pressured and unhappy. Besides, you are probably making many others unhappy as well. So, make a change! Step aside and give up the power. Put someone else in charge and then assist (not control, just assist) them as they take the reins.

If you want to stay in charge then get some help to become more effective. Hire a coach or find a mentor. Turn to someone who doesn’t fear telling you the truth.
Admit to the team that you see how you have missed the mark, but that you are willing to work differently in order to give everyone a chance to make a difference.

The greatest leaders of all time were people who listened to advisers and admitted their own weaknesses. They sought direction as well as gave it. To be the best leader that you can be you must make job one Telling Yourself the Truth!

Take a look at what is going on today. Ask yourself;
If nothing changes where is this headed?
At what point will there be a BIG problem if we don’t change?
How much longer can I avoid telling everyone the whole truth?
What will the effects of that problem be after the initial crisis?
What can we, not I but WE, do about it? Don’t try to go it alone.

Use all your strength, call on the people you care about and those who care about you and your “cause”. Truly listen to them and consider following their lead instead of only asking them to follow yours.

Also, ask yourself, when is the time for me to step aside and be a supporter instead of “the leader?”
The purpose of your organization is to make life better for the people it serves.
How’s that working for you?
If you aren’t getting the results you want then now is the time to change the behavior patterns that created your current reality and start some new ones that will generate the outcomes you desire.

Jim Cathcart


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