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A leader’s gratitude

Today I’m Thankful For (Credit: zsirosistvan via Fotolia)The Wall Street Journal ran a recent piece exploring the problem of "alarm fatigue" amongst hospital workers. According to the story, from 2010-2015, 138 deaths occurred due to alarm system failures. With all the incessant beeping of these alarms, nurses can have a difficult time not becoming desensitized. With the proliferation of excellent monitoring devices in hospitals, the difficulty for nurses is how to know when there is really a problem. If, as the article claims, over 90% of alarms "are false or don't require any immediate action", how do you learn to focus on the 10% that really matter?

With the onset of the New Year we are surrounded by our best intentions, hopes, and dreams for the future. As the writer of Ecclesiastes points to, life is seasonal, marked by endings and beginnings. Our New Years resolutions are an attempt to manufacture new beginnings, and while we often don't stick to our goals, the sentiment reveals our deep desire to grow.

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Big Ideas in Leadership from 2015 (Part 2)

Two West Australian TRG officers wander toward their 4WD after their demonstration of rappelling from the Police Helicopter, November 19, 2005 (Credit: Devar via Fotolia)We live in the age of global terror. No theme has been more clearly expressed over the past year than this, from the rampant mass shootings that have plagued the United States to the gruesome attacks in Paris. The organization known as ISIS, or ISIL, has become a household name as it has grown from a small terrorist group to a quasi-state with aspirations of a global caliphate. All of these events have put a spotlight on the leadership challenge of decision-making. How do leaders respond in the face of surprises and threats that challenge their organization's existence? The first part of our leadership year in review series explored automation and how it brings greater clarity to the need for leaders to develop stronger communication skills. This second part will examine how the rise in terror threats reveals the need for leaders to think through their decision-making process.

Daniel Kahneman, professor emeritus of psychology at Princeton and Nobel Laureate in economics, penned a fascinating book several years ago entitled Thinking, Fast and Slow. The premise of the book is that you and I have two different systems for thinking and making decisions. System 1 is the intuitive, automatic, instinctual mode, and it is how we make a broad swath of our decisions. It's what causes you to prefer one car over another because of how it feels rather than how much gas mileage it gets or how many horses it has under the hood. If you've ever shopped for houses, it's that mode that makes one place feel like a home rather than simply a house. We make a lot of our decisions based on System 1 thinking, because System 2, the methodical, logical, and deliberate style, taxes our brain and takes vast amounts of energy.

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Big Ideas in Leadership from 2015 (Part 1)

Presidential contender Donald Trump, speaks to the media after arriving by helicopter during the 1st first day of the Women's British Open golf championship on the Turnberry golf course in Turnberry, Scotland, July 30, 2015 (Credit: AP Photo/Scott Heppell)2015 has been a year of dramatic news stories, with the rise of ISIS, mass shootings, racial tensions, and the Supreme Court's decision on gay marriage headlining the year's top stories. Prominent leaders have engaged the attention of the world, from the Pope's visit to the U.S., to the rise of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. All of these stories have shaped the perception of leadership in the 21st century, and have added layers of new context that need to be understood. With that in mind, let's explore two of the biggest ideas in leadership from the past year. We'll start in Part 1 by considering the steady march towards automation and how it reveals one of the greatest skills a contemporary leader can possess. In Part 2, we'll examine how the "age of global terror" has put a spotlight on crisis decision-making, correspondingly revealing the great need for leaders to be devoted to prayer.

In The Second Machine Age, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee describe the impact of automation, revealing an underlying fear that technology will render traditional jobs obsolete: "Rapid and accelerating digitization is likely to bring economic rather than environmental disruption, stemming from the fact that as computers get more powerful, companies have less need for some kinds of workers. Technological progress is going to leave behind some people, perhaps even a lot of people, as it races ahead."

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Why leaders need curiosity

A young, preteen, blond-haired boy looking through a magnifying glass playing junior detective (Credit: Jessica Lucia via Flickr)Over the past few months, candidates from both the Republican and Democratic parties have engaged in a series of televised debates. The most recent debate occurred just this week, as the Republican candidates took to the stage in Las Vegas for a vigorous and lengthy exchange. What is interesting to note in all these debates is what leadership qualities each of the candidates is trying to showcase. Across both parties, every candidate has an assumed idea of good leadership and is trying to show the American public that their leadership is vote-worthy.

While it is interesting to pick apart what each candidate says, it is equally important to pick up on what is not being said. One important principle of leadership that barely receives any attention from any of the candidates is about the importance of curiosity and life-long learning. Candidates tend to stick to trying to showcase how they will act rather than how they will think through difficult scenarios.

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How leaders can tell better stories

Hipster girl holding two stacks of books, tied with cord, in an open field in autumn (Credit: rasstock via Fotolia)The power of words has not diminished in the digital age. If anything, words are more powerful than ever. Witness the recent statements from  Donald Trump, the New York Daily News, the San Bernadino terrorists, and other recent figures who have made headlines. Their words brought passionate responses. Actions may speak louder than words in many cases, but strong words can still cut through the noise and deliver a powerful impact.

Words are one of a leader's primary tools, yet we often lapse into auto-pilot and forget what we're saying and how we're saying it. Though one of a leader's most important tools, we rarely consider our words' significance and seek to learn how to become more effective communicators. Let's consider how we can grow in our leadership in this key area.

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