What Red Said

After profiling a great College President (Ruth J. Simmons) in my first post for this blog, doing a profile of Red Auerbach today made sense.    A phenomenal NBA Legend, as both a Coach and Basketball Executive, Red’s words offer lessons for both Team Players and Leaders.

*  *  *

  • Five Who Fit (Team Chemistry)

They said you have to use your five best players but I found you win with the five who fit together the best.

  • Team Chemistry, not just Talent (Trade Linchpin)

I’ve turned down a lot of trades where I might have gotten a better player, but I wasn’t totally sure of the chemistry of that new player coming in. Even though he might possess golden ability, his personality and the way he gets along with teammates might be things you just don’t want to cope with.

  • Effective Communication

It’s not what you tell your players that counts. It’s what they hear.

  • The Culture of Great Teams

We like our players to play for fun and to be happy rather than afraid. It’s like that in any business. If you have employees who work through fear, you’re not going to get any ingenuity out of them. You’re not going to get any employees who will take a gamble or come up with ideas. All you’ll have are robots that are going to do their jobs, have a low-key approach, stay out of trouble. They’ll put in their hours and go home. But I’d rather have it the other way.


by Greg Silverthorne, MBA



Posted in Teams

Coming soon . . .

  • What Red Said (April 5)

    Quotes on Teamwork and Leadership from NBA Legend Red Auerbach.


Posted in Leadership, Teams

7 More Leadership Lessons

Business Talks

In March I offered eight leadership lessons from Dr. Ruth J. Simmons.   As I reflected on a good end-of-year post, seven more lessons -from two other accomplished woman- were too good not to share in this leadership post.

Jesse Lyn Stoner offers three simple, but powerful leadership lessons –  based in brain science.   Yes, you read correctly.    I discovered this gifted Consultant/Author  on Twitter this year.

In the introduction to her October 2013 post, “What Brain Science Can Teach Us about Leadership“, Stoner states:

Far too many leaders are unaware of the effect of their actions on others, leaving a wake of anxious people in their path. We can’t let them off the hook for this anymore. Brain science has demonstrated that we have the ability to become aware of the effect of our actions AND even more importantly, that through our prefrontal cortex, we have the ability to consciously consider our actions.

She goes on to offer 3 lesson that can enhance a Leader’s effectiveness.

  • Respond calmly, don’t react emotionally.    “When you are emotionally triggered, take a breath.   And then take another one. Hold off on responding when you are angry or annoyed. We don’t have a choice about our feelings, but we do have a choice about how we respond to them.”
  • Always take responsibility ‘for your relationships’.    Stoner states:  “Be aware of the effect of your actions on others and how they experience you. If you really want to know how you affect others, you need feedback from them. But unless people feel safe enough to speak the truth, they will only tell you what they think you want to hear.
  • Take actions, and choose words, which benefit others.     “Acting with kindness toward others,”  she states, “actually affects your brain. It increases your level of ocytocin (associated with feeling good) and further develops your prefrontal cortex.”

Deborah Mills-Scofield‘s lessons are drawn from some of the ‘best bosses’ she’s worked for.   I found her article, “Four Lessons from the Best Bosses I Ever Had” on the Harvard Business Review blog.    She’s a Consultant/Professor.

The 4 insightful lessons she’s offers in this piece:

  • Leaders should ‘let their people go’ – “When you find great talent, do what you need to in order to encourage and support them. Treat them justly and do what’s right for them and the organization over what’s right for you personally.”
  • Leaders should strive to ‘light the fire and clear the path’  –  “Guide your people’s passion and get out of the way: the autonomy and freedom I was given to create and do my job exponentially increased my passion, excitement and success.”
  • Leaders must remember ‘They’re Human’.    “Many companies treat their employees as employees — nicely and kindly, even generously — but not as humans. My manager-mentors made it clear that I mattered not just for what I could do, but also for who I was.”     This one is very much in line with some of the Simmon’s lessons highlighted in my March 2013 leadership post.
  • Leaders should realize, as Mills-Scofield states, “that Trust trumps everything.    And everything flows from trust — learning, credibility, accountability, a sense of purpose and a mission that makes ‘work’ bigger than oneself.”

If you missed the “8 Leadership Lessons from Dr. Ruth J.  Simmons“, feel free to check it out.     If you are a leader or manager, I hope the lessons offered in these two posts were helpful.    Do you have any leadership lessons of your own you’d like to share?    Feel free to leave a comment or contact me.

Greg Silverthorne

Featured in this post:

Jesse Lyn Stoner

Deborah Mills-Scofield

  • Twitter  @dscofield


Photo credit: istock


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Are you on a Dysfunctional Team?

Patrick Lencioni’s classic book on Team Building offered five (5) signs of a dysfunctional team.

Whether you’re leading a Team, or are a key member of one, it is helpful to be on the look out for signs that your Team isn’t playing it’s ‘A Game.’

According to Lencioni absence of trust is the most dysfunctional of the Five Team Dysfunctions.    When there’s no trust, team members are not comfortable being “vulnerable, open and honest with one and other.” [Emphasis added]

The 5 signs are:

  1. Absence of Trust
  2. Fear of Conflict
  3. Lack of Commitment
  4. Unwillingness to Hold Each Other Accountable
  5. Inattention to Results

Check out the full post, from the P2P (The Person to Person Engagement) Blog.

  • Lencioni’s book, 5 Signs of a Dysfunctional Team, was published in 2002.   Are you a Team Leader?  Do you recognize all five signs?
  • You can reach this Team Building thought leader on his website and on Twitter.
  • P2P Active Engagement can be found on Twitter.
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Do You Have Leadership DNA?

By Greg Silverthorne, MBA

Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”

~ Vince Lombardi

Leadership D.N.A. isn’t about genetics, i.e. your Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).     True leaders are made!

What makes one a Leader? (and not a mere manager or over-promoted employee)   True Leaders are able to do 3 things which give them what I call Leadership DNA.   Specifically, they have the ability to:

  • Delegate
  • Navigate
  • Anticipate

Since I took my first class at Brown University (in 1979), I’ve observed 5 University Presidents (at my alma mater), 6 U.S. Presidents, and many bosses – as a Financial Professional, since I received by MBA degree from Hofstra University.  

To put it plainly, I believe a leader who does not regularly exhibit any of these three (3)  abilities will be an ineffective leader.


  • The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

  • “Hire character. Train skill.” ~ Peter Schutz

Delegate often, re-delegate occasionally, and never ever micromanage those you lead.

Be ready, willing, and able to entrust others without hesitation.    Be secure enough to hire truly capable people.    Be smart enough to not waste time and resources seeking to only hire Purple Squirrels (i.e. the ‘perfect job candidate’).    Why not invest those resources in Training or employee engagement instead?

Hire right to lead right!


  • The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” ~ Peter Drucker

  • A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, 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.” ~ Douglas MacArthur

See, sense, and steer.    Before navigating, an effective Leader must ‘size up’ the situation fully and accurately.    The leader must then proceed to steer, to navigate, based on their chosen ‘destination’ and current situation.

To excel in this area, one needs to have rock-solid communications and observation skills.    Your eyes are as important as your ears.    Nonverbal communications, that which is unspoken, accounts for 93% of one’s message in face-to-face meetings.

As the quotes from General McArthur and Peter Drucker convey, good leaders fare well in the following:

  • Communications

  • Confidence

  • Compassion

  • Character

  • Courage

This ability, to navigate, is vitally important to anyone who aspires to be a respected, high-performing Leader.   True leaders are, I believe, capable navigators who can delegate and anticipate too  


Ruth J. Simmons, 18th President, Brown University (2001 – 2012)

I profiled  the 18th President of Brown, Dr. Ruth J. Simmons, in my last post.   Dr.  Simmons has Leadership DNA!   She humbly admits she wasn’t born a capable leader.   In my opinion, she ably led my alma mater for 11 years.


  • Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.” ~ Zig Ziglar

  • “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” ~ J.P. Morgan

You must anticipate first and often.   An effective leader must think and act like a chess player; thinking just about your ‘next move’, in a narrow, unstrategic way, can provide you with too many Pyrrhic victories – and losses.

Plan and prepare for a wide range of scenarios.   Be decisive and optimistic.

  • Avoid pessimism, irrational exuberance, ‘analysis paralysis’, & perfectionism.
  • There’s a fine line between a high-aiming Leader and an unyielding Perfectionist.


Again, leaders are made not born.    Do your personality traits and natural gifts affect your distinct leadership style?    Sure they do!    However your overall effectiveness as a leader is largely in your control.   

  • So, if you struggle to lead at times, you shouldn’t blame your genes.  
    • Failing to use any of the 3 highlighted Leadership DNA abilities, especially the ability to navigate, may be the real reason.  
    • Solution: Personally pledge to fully acknowledge and leverage your navigation, anticipation, & delegation skills in the future.

Do you have Leadership DNA?

In summary, those who have Leadership DNA embody the following Leadership Pillars:

  • Be a trusting Delegator, not a meddling micromanager
  • Be a skillful Navigator, not an uninformed procrastinator
  • Be a good Anticipator, who’s occasionally shocked but rarely totally surprised

Photo Credit:  Brown University, News Bureau.

Posted in Leadership

8 Leadership Lessons from Dr. Ruth J. Simmons

By Greg Silverthorne, MBA

— A graduate of Brown University, I was frankly elated when my alma mater announced in 2001 who would be the 18th President of the university.   In my humble opinion, I feel Dr. Ruth J. Simmons was an extraordinary leader of the Ivy League university; she chose to step down from that position, in June 2012, after 11 years in office.


Ruth J. Simmons, 18th President, Brown University (2001 – 2012)

A role model for me, I feel the lessons touched on -in an interview Dr. Simmons did- serve as ‘leadership food for thought’.   A 2011 New York Times article, based on an the interview that Adam Bryant conducted with Simmons, is the basis of the eight (8) leadership lessons I highlight today – in my 1st post for this blog.


8 Leadership Lessons

  • 1 – First and foremost, be an amicable leader.   Support the goals of others, when possible.   Avoid publicly criticizing people.

After speaking candidly about being “impossible” as a young girl (she was the youngest of 12), the following exchange took place:

Bryant: But at some point, particularly when you became a manager, you realized you couldn’t be so impossible.

Simmons: It was living, frankly. And the experience of understanding that the ways in which I was trying to solve problems and to interact with people were getting in the way of achieving what I want. And that’s what did it for me. Ultimately, I came to understand that I could achieve far more if I worked amiably with people, if I supported others’ goals, if I didn’t try to embarrass people by pointing out their deficiencies in a very public way. So I think it was really experience that did it more than anything else.

  •  2 – Promote and reward team orientation, not “individual glorification.”
  •  3 – Establish a high-trust environment where people are “comfortable offering criticism.”

Simmons: “I thought it was absolutely essential for all of us as a team to understand that we were there not for our own individual glorification, but to help everybody else thrive.   And that meant working together well. I emphasized that more than anything, and I stressed that I would not have any tolerance at all for people who did not, in fact, strive hard to be a part of that team.    It meant being interested in others’ work. Being willing to facilitate their success.    Being willing to generate ideas as well as generate criticism of what they were doing.    I wanted to establish an environment in which people were comfortable offering criticism, because others understood that underlying that criticism was a fundamental support for who they were, and what they were trying to do.”

  • 4 – Know “it’s not all about you”.   Ego-driven leaders are not effective leaders.
  • 5 – Always promote a ‘pleasant environment’.

After being asked about the leadership lessons she took from an experience by Adam Bryant, Simmons replied:

It’s not all about you.  It’s very important in a leadership role not to place your ego at the foreground and not to judge everything in relationship to how your ego is fed.   And that seems to be all-important if you’re going to lead well.  The other thing is just how unpleasant it is to work in an environment where you’re demeaned or disrespected.”

  • 6 – Understand that bad experiences can be important ‘learning moments’ too.

When asked about her “most important leadership lessons”, the exchange below took place. It was, she stated, a critical turning point in her career.

Simmons: I had some bad experiences, and I don’t think we can say enough in leadership about what bad experiences contribute to our learning.

Bryant:  Can you elaborate?

Simmons:  I worked for someone who did not support me. And it was a very painful experience, and in many ways a defining experience for me. So having a bad supervisor really probably started me thinking about what I would want to be as a supervisor.   That led me to think about the psychology of the people I worked with.    And, in some ways, because I had exhibited behavior that was not the most positive in the workplace myself, it gave me a mirror to what I might do that might be similarly undermining of others.    So I think at that juncture that’s really when I started being much more successful.

  • 7- As a leader, always be open and alert to the fact that ANY moment could be “the most important lesson” in your career.   Be an observant, continuous learner, not an arrogant, ‘know it all’ ostrich.

Simmons stated in the 2011 interview with the New York Times reporter: “I talk about this all the time with students. What I impart to them is that they should never assume that they can predict what experiences will teach them the most about what they value, or about what their life should be. And I would never have guessed that that experience [with a bad supervisor] would be so defining for me . . . you have to be open and alert at every turn to the possibility that you’re about to learn the most important lesson of your life.”

  • 8 – When taking on a new position, when communicating your approach, speaking to your broad principles is the way to go.

Simmons: “Initially, you have to say something about how you approach your work.  I try to do it by speaking to principles rather than trying to give people a lot of detail about management style and so forth.  I have always thought in leadership that it’s much easier to convey to people what they should do in different situations if you convey the underlying principles.”

In closing, I salute Brown University for seeking out such an awesome educator.    I salute Ruth, Dr. Ruth J. Simmons, for the awesome way she presided over the university for over a decade.    I had the great pleasure of meeting President Ruth J. Simmons in her first year in office – at the Brown Club of Philadelphia.    A humble, but confident professional, I’m not at all surprised at what she accomplished after our brief encounter in Philly!

So the next time someone asks you what type of leader you are -or aspire to be- consider telling them: “I lead like Ruth.


  • The exchanges in this post were drawn from a New York Times article:

“I Was Impossible, but Then I Saw How to Lead”, by Adam Bryant, The New York Times (December 3, 2011, Sunday Business, p. 2)

  • This interview with Ruth J. Simmons, president of Brown University for 11 years, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant. The emphasis added to quotes above are my own.
  • Dr. Simmons stepped down at the end of the last academic year. She continues as a Professor of Comparative Literature and Africana studies at my alma mater, Brown University.

Photo credit: Brown University, News Bureau

Greg Silverthorne

  • gslvrthrn@gmail.com (Email)
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