The Absent Leader

Soma Jurgensen "talking"



With all honesty, that’s what I’ve been the last six months or so, absent. I choose to let the circle around me that included my home, family, work, passions, all contract a bit to allow me to focus on the foundation of my life and work.

I believe leaders need to do this from time to time, however, when we do we are not leading consistently in all areas of our lives.


Where I’ve shown leadership:

  • With my kids: This is where my focus has been the last year due to personal priorities. I desire that my kids see that re-prioritizing and focus are good things. They saw me deal with considerable challenges and come away feeling that I’m not lost but renewed in my efforts to climb the right ladder to the right window. (If you’re unfamiliar with this image I highly recommend the book “First Things First” by Stephen Covey.)
  • With myself: I have some work to do personally so I can lead others well. A well-known principle of emotional intelligence is being able to delay gratification. For someone who has worked hard to shine at all times, it’s hard to admit that there is more work to do before I’m able to effectively lead others.

Don’t get me wrong, my business is healthy, my kids are thriving, I love my work, and my relationships are growing. It’s time now to take the next step. I’m fortunate to have mentors around me that will support me in that next step.

Here’s what I’ll commit to over the course of the next year. I’ll share with you what I learn as I journey toward the next stage of leadership.

I hope you’ll engage in dialog with me about leadership through comments as our journeys are not separate but interdependent with one another.

Please, engage.


Get Ahead of Personal Branding

I’ve done a little writing around the topic of personal branding, and what surprised me as I did my research is the number of articles that deal with branding as a clean up mission. It seems people and businesses are jumping into the online space, or business, or a career, without a clear idea of the brand they’d like to project. Instead, they are managing the information that’s been written or perceived about them.

I’ve provided links to three resources in this blog post that will allow a soon to be college graduate, or a new business owner, to get ahead of the personal branding curve. In essence, by first understanding who you are, your brand, you are able to enter your chosen professional space with intention and confidence.

Note: In the spirit of full transparency I work for Rasmussen College as the School of Business Chair in Brooklyn Park, MN. That said, I’m not sharing these resources with you because I work for them, but because I think the material is illuminating, actionable, and provides guidance to new business owners and new graduates.

I recommend exploring the material in the order presented for best results.

I wrote this article for on personal branding for new entrepreneurs to focus on the actual creation of the personal brand itself.

This short video on youtube reinforces that personal branding is not a job description and walks through the steps of how I developed my personal brand.

At this link you’ll find a Personal Branding Webinar put on by Rasmussen College for their soon to be graduates.

These resources will get you well on your way to creating an intentional brand you can support through your behavior, choices, and online presence.

Helping Local Communities Strengthen Business Engagement Strategies (via Corporate Voices for Working Families)

Businesses and communities will always be interdependent. What are those on the front lines saying works between community leaders and business partners?

On Thursday, February 11, 2011, Corporate Voices for Working Families’ Ready by 21 team facilitated a “peer learning” call with the Ready by 21 Southeast Communities on business engagement.  Corporate Voices provided an overview of its series of business and community tools, and in particular the Supporting the Education Pipeline:  Business Engagement Toolkit for Community-Based Organizations, focused on helping private and public leaders in comm … Read More

via Corporate Voices for Working Families

My Personal Brand

Logo from Soma recordings.

Last night I had my students research and draft a personal branding statement. They, of course, flexed their curiosity and asked me, “Where is your personal brand.” They could all describe it, and what happens when I’m “off-brand.” I’d never written it down, however. I’d been living it for at least 4 years now, so here it is.

“I inspire  passion for business through rigorous, globally-focused education.”

Now, to keep living the dream.

Transforming and Reinventing Me – for business

There are two ideas that crossed my path this last week that gave me a kick in the pants and caused me to transform and reinvent the purpose of this blog.

The first was an essay by Amy Chua called Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior written for the Wall Street Journal. I burned out a vehement post in response, without context, and certainly without the eloquence that subsequent writers have shown in the Journal. Although I should know better as a writer myself to compose something when my ire is up, the experience had an unusual side effect — I began to use my true voice in this blog. Angry, but authentic.

The second moment of inspiration came from an invitation by Cameron Tuck, a member of a leadership LinkedIn group. He writes a blog called the the Imperfect CEO. Imperfect – CEO. I’d never seen the two words together written by a CEO before. Mind you, I’d thought it many times. I looked at his posts, and they are truly imperfect…not bad, just not the perfection you get when the PR department writes it and you sign your name. His blog has his voice, for better or worse.

I looked over my posts again. When I first started my voice was there, however tentative. As I decided to reach out to the business community with my “wisdom” more actively the posts became more cerebral, more ordered, more perfect…and well…considerably more boring. Hell, I don’t even like to read them twice.  It’s troubling that the great information – well composed and properly cited – is lost among the sheer lack of voice. Hmmm.

So, it’s time to welcome the Authentic Me on this Bizlog. I will connect what I do in the classroom and in my family life to how I have, and will, lead. I will sometimes write while I’m angry. I will make mistakes and take accountability for them. I promise my readers, however, that I’ll not be boring.

I tell my students that if I’m bored while I’m teaching, they must be in a coma. Whoo, does that ever go for this blog. If I lapse into Not Me, call me on it. If I anger you; tell me. If I inspire you, tell me and others.

Welcome to the Authentic Me and my way of looking at business. Please, engage.

From a “Bad Indian Girl” who has become a “Bad Asian Parent”

A colleague recently sent me an article article from the Wall Street Journal about being a Chinese mother. He recommends parents give it a read. Essentially, the author states that shaming a child (for their own good mind you) is cultural, successful, and much preferred to the Western style of parenting. This no hold barred article makes the point that learning should not be fun but hard work, and given hours of practice, memorization, and parental tutoring, all kids can be the best in the class. The author also includes other Asian and some African cultures in her diatribe.

As a kid, I was considered a “bad Indian girl.” I didn’t go to Indian school the two weekend days other kids had free. I didn’t take dance lessons and didn’t stay on the “women’s side” of the house during the endless Indian parties weekend after weekend. Instead, I wanted to discuss literature and politics and business with the men. The Indian men didn’t know what to do with me, but my father always welcomed me with open arms. He let my natural curiosity lead my desire to learn.

Was I pushed to succeed in school, yes. Nothing was as difficult to handle than the pressure I put on myself, however. I started things and stopped things (not easily as my parents wouldn’t let me give up too easily) as I discovered myself and my calling. Why am I telling you this? Apparently I’ve evolved from a “bad Indian girl” into a “bad Indian mom.”

I believe that my kids should be, and can be the best. I work with them on their homework, their music lessons, and yes, on the plays in which they choose to take part. Even wrestling (be still my heart) is an acceptable pursuit. I also think that every child has a unique gift and through persistence and self-awareness he or she can make a difference in the world.

I reject the authors claim that “Chinese” parenting must be so severe that the world must revolve around the wishes of the parent, that learning must be a battle, and only then is success achieved. Instead, this “bad Indian mom” believes in unconditional love, delayed gratification, and working hard for what you earn. I will love my children without limit, but I won’t stand for laziness.

I’m an instructor of business for juniors and seniors in college. I get the value of education. I’m also compulsively driven in my work and education. I don’t like getting less than an A+. So why, with these traits, would I encourage my kids’ teachers to give them harder work so they no longer get perfect scores on their tests? Why do I prod them to take on the challenge words and leadership roles in their classrooms? Learning should be fun at times, yes, but it should also be a quest. It should be hard and messy and frustrating at times.

We don’t learn purely for satisfaction or recognition. I believe we strive to settle an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. If my kids make a mistake, my first question is, “Is it because you didn’t understand or because you made a careless mistake?” If the mistake was preventable we work on strategies to make sure it never happens again; we also practice and practice until the skill is second nature. If they forget their work at school there are consequences until organization and responsibility are reinforced.

Now, if they didn’t understand, that’s exciting! We work on learning the concepts, strategies, practice–rinse and repeat. If they get perfect scores they are the top of the class, but that’s not enough. Their main competition should always include themselves. Where is that in the Chinese model? When do the children of the author take on a difficult task when mom is not there? Why would they?

My kids don’t like to get things wrong on tests. They try to hide it because they know what’s coming…work and more work. However, when they get stuck on something they never hesitate to come to me. Why? Because we embark on the quest together. When the questions get harder the fire is lit.

This “bad Indian mom” will stand by her claim that pull will trump push in motivating kids, employees, team members…etc…every time. Pull them into wanting to succeed by lighting their curiosity. Support their efforts with love and work. Their quest to improve should never end, regardless if it’s “perfect” or not…that’s not really the point. The journey is the point.