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Core Values

Core Values

13 posts in this category

Leadership Lesson From the Mega-Millions Lottery - Redux

Category: Core Values

A couple of years ago, when I first started this Blog, I wrote about a leadership lesson from the Lottery. I have taken a moment to update that posting to reflect more current statistics and information.

Okay, show of hands. How many of you are buying a ticket for this week’s Mega-Million Lottery that might bring a winner between $550 and $650 million? Unless you are holed-up in a cabin in northern Maine, I’m sure you have heard about this huge pot of money. Every media outlet is covering it, again. As I watch the hoopla and observe the record selling pace from a distance, I wonder, “why?” As I think about this question and why people feel incented to buy the tickets, I also wonder what this could teach me.

People Buy More Tickets as the Pot Grows. One of the things that fascinates me is hearing that millions of new people are buying Mega-Millions lottery ticket because the pot is growing. By “new people” I mean people who had not bought a ticket when the prior pool was around $300 million. Okay, so $300 million wasn’t enough, but $550 million, now that’s another story! The pot has grown because no one has won for 21 straight drawings since the odds were changed on October 1st.

Buyers know their odds of winning this lottery are small, but they don’t really know how small. Each drawing is the same – the odds are now 1 in 259 million (worse than the 1 in 176 million prior to October when the odds were changed to generate more money for government.) You are more than 4 times more likely to get killed by an asteroid strike than win the Lottery! Some people actually believe that as the money in the pot goes up, their odds of winning do too! Have you seen the lines of people waiting an hour to purchase tickets? I was just astonished to listen to a woman of average means say on television, “I think my time is now, I bought 100 tickets.” One thing is true, her odds of winning just increased 100 times.

Who Gets the Lottery’s Money? Most citizens know that governments (mostly state) are the real winners. Of the billions getting spent on this growing lottery, it is fair to say that over $1 billion will flow into state and federal coffers including the taxes on the winnings. In his article, “Could a Lottery Be the Answer to America’s Poor Savings Rate?” Stephen Dubner, of Freakonomics fame, writes that a lottery is often referred to as “a tax on stupid people.” This is because the lottery return is far worse than the regulated returns from casinos and Bingo halls. In his article, Dubner also introduces us to Prize-linked Savings (PLS) plans, which are very popular in Europe. These savings plans allow depositors to keep all of their weekly wages in a savings account, earn interest, and potentially win large money prizes in exchange for slightly lower interest rates. The depositors that participate act like a cooperative and the profits (interest and money prize payouts) only flow to the depositors, not the government. No wonder our state governments are reluctant to approve these!

A Lesson for Leaders. People really only buy lottery tickets for one reason – it’s fun! It’s fun to be in the action. It’s fun to talk about it with your friends. It’s fun to look forward to the drawing on Tuesday or Friday night. And it’s fun to dream – to dream of having real money and the pleasure that comes with it. This is the lesson for business leaders – remember the importance of having fun with your teams. When you do this effectively, your dreams for the team will come true.

December 16, 2013 17:19

Why Congress is Not Smarter than a 5th Grader

Category: Core Values
Open Circle

Did you know that many elementary school students are learning to do something our Congress has yet to learn – reduce bullying by building relational trust? And, not surprisingly, the program was developed by women. It is a program with communication lessons that can greatly improve organizational and business success.

And I’m hooked.

Open Circle. The elementary school program is called Open Circle and it was developed in 1987 by the Wellesley Centers for Women. It is a curriculum that teaches children from Kindergarten through Grade 5 how to build “relational trust.” And in schools that have adopted the program, there is less bullying and learning is up.

I was introduced to a few of its concepts by a friend of mine, who is a fifth grade teacher. She has been teaching her students these concepts for a few years and introduced them to me while we were working together in a local non-profit organization.

Although there is a different level of curriculum for each grade, each level teaches the children life-long lessons. The fifth grade curriculum teaches children how to create a cooperative classroom community, build positive relationships, and solve people problems. Lessons all adults need to learn, now.

While the program is having a positive impact on children, it is also having an impact on the teachers who teach them and the parents who raise them. There have been over 13,000 educators trained. So, in schools where the administrators and teachers embrace the Open Circle concepts, their trusting relationships provide a good example for the students. Students also take home one-page hand-outs for parents that are easy to read – so some adults at home might be learning too.


Trust-Building is at the Core. At the core of Open Circle is trust building. If you are one of my loyal readers (thank you!) you will know that I have written about how trust or integrity is a recurring theme in leadership, team building, and employee development. Meredith Shaw, an Open Circle staff member, wrote an article called Trusting Adult Communities Improve Student Achievement in which she wrote, “Trust-building happens when people in the relationship meet or exceed the expectations of others and prove themselves.” Once again, personal responsibility and integrity mean everything.

Shaw went on to describe the four components of relational trust developed by Bryk and Schneider. This is how you can tell if your organization has relational trust:

  1. Respect – People remain respectful during all conversations including those where they disagree.
  2. Personal regard – People show a genuine level of caring for others and often go above and beyond their job description to help out.
  3. Competence in core responsibilities – People can be relied on to have the knowledge and practice the skills required of their positions. They have a desire to learn more.
  4. Personal integrity – People can be trusted to do what they say they will do and put the common interests of the group ahead of their own.

These are great lessons for all of us. Given over two million children have learned these lessons, do you think Congress is smarter than a 5th grader?

October 17, 2013 09:58

Your Mission is to Know Why Your Organization Exists! Do You Accept?

Category: Core Values
Simon Sinek


Unless you are the parent of a young child who has asked the question a million times, the one question we should be able to answer is “Why?” More specifically, “Why does our organization exist?”

I have been thinking about mission and vision and the future quite a bit recently. Because the external environment is so unstable, most of us are doing what we need to do to stay viable. We try to search for growth opportunities. We think about the products and services we offer, we might think about what our customer value proposition is, but we rarely think about “why” we exist.

Luckily I stumbled across Simon Sinek who appears to have made a living out of helping organizations answer this “why” question. What really got my attention was his 18 minute talk on Ted TV in which he teaches us about the power of knowing why our organization exists. He postulates that when we know the answer we will attract more customers and employees.

The Golden Circle. Sinek, who was first in the advertising business, uses several examples to teach us about what he calls the Golden Circle. He says it is the rare business that starts with the inside “why” question and moves outward to the “what” question.

The inner-most circle challenges us to answer “why” we exist or what we believe questions. The “how” circle is where the organization determines how they add value for their customer. The outer-most circle is where the business determines “what” product or service they will sell to customers.

He says most businesses start with the outside circle and move in - first make a product or design a service, then think about what the value proposition or differentiation strategy is. Then try to find a customer to buy it. Rarely, do they even talk about why they exist.

Sinek says that when you start with and understand what you believe in, it shows-up in your products or services. It resonates with your customers and potential employees. It provides you the foundation you need. Let’s look at Apple, which Sinek uses as a great example of a company that does this.

The Golden Circle

I have created an Exhibit here of Sinek’s Golden Circle with his Apple Computer example. He believes Apple and their late CEO, Steve Jobs, always began with the inner “why” circle and moved outward.

If you ask Sinek why Apple exists he says, “They believe in challenging the status quo and doing things differently.”

“How” Apple does this is by making products that are beautifully designed, unique, and easy for the customer to use.

After attending to these inner-most circles they present their products to customers. When we think about what Sinek says you can see how the Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad flowed from an understanding of the inner-most circle.

Steve Jobs himself was someone who rejected the status quo and energized the growth and development of the “How” and “What” Apple did.

Wright Brothers vs. Samuel Pierpont Langley. Although I have read accounts of how both the Wright Brothers and Samuel Langley tried to build the first airplane, until listening to Sinek I hadn’t thought of the “why” question before. Langley, who was the head of the Smithsonian Institute, was leading a team of people trying to invent a flying aircraft. He had plenty of money and resources at his disposal. “Why” was he leading the project? For the fame and fortune that would surely follow. The Wright Brothers only had the money and parts from their Ohio bicycle shop. “Why” did they do it? Because they wanted to fly and do it as a team.

As soon as the success of the Wright Brothers flight got back to Langley, he quit the project. Clear to see he mostly believed in himself.

Sinek reminds us, “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”

What do you believe? The answer will lead you to the “why.”

February 22, 2013 09:30

What Makes You Really, Really Happy?

Category: Core Values
Splashing in water

When my son, Scott, was about 18 months old Santa brought his father a fun toy gun that shot ping-pong balls. We still have the video of me hitting him with the ping-pong balls and the sheer joy and laughter flying out of his little body as ball after ball flew toward him. Every time I or anyone else watches it we just start laughing. It is a great example of how often the simplest things can make us so happy, especially when we see others happy.

I thought back on that video twice this week. First, when I observed this little unknown girl and her sister and brother jumping for joy through this water fountain in Curacao.

The other time was when I was listening to Radio Lab as they explored “Bliss.” What caught my attention was their interview with Aleksander Gamme, a polar explorer, who is the star of a 500,000 hit Internet video. In this video we get to see his pure joy on day 86 as he discovers special treats he stuck in the snow on his way to the South Pole. Like many explorers before him, including Amundsen and Scott 100 years ago, he left survival packs of food and other materials on his way to the South Pole for discovery and use on the return trip back to the base camp.

What he discovers were fun food treats like Cheez Doodles and sugar candies he had forgotten he packed away. We can each imagine what it must be like to discover those treats after so many hard days. The video is only three minutes and 22 seconds long, so go ahead, make your day!

For over 10 years I have been connected to some very good friends who have worked together on an important project. Recently they reminded me of a very compelling poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, that really helps us center ourselves on the joy of our daily lives. Here it is:

Write it on your heart
That every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in,
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
Begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
To be encumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear,
With its hopes and invitations,
To waste a moment on the yesterdays.

These words from Emerson help us start every day. Happiness and joy are one of the special gifts we humans can experience. When was the last time you were really, really happy? Don’t forget that when you are really happy, others around you will be too. A good lesson for all leaders.

February 18, 2013 14:18

Is It Our Duty to be Servant Leaders?

Category: Core Values
Overcoming The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Here is a faraway story you may have missed.

It starts out when a two-year old girl's father, the leader of Burma, is assassinated.  Later in life, with two sons and a husband then in England, she returns to her country to try and help her people get freed from a totalitarian regime. The people tried to elect her as their leader, but the brutal leadership made sure that didn’t happen.

For over 20 years she was either imprisoned or placed under house arrest and couldn’t leave Burma (Myanmar). Her husband developed cancer and died in England – without her. Her sons grew-up – without her. The Nobel Prize Committee had a ceremony to award her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 – without her.

Finally, this year, free elections took place and she has been elected to their Parliament and the leader of the opposition party. Having faith, now, in the government she has finally travelled outside her country. This week in Washington she received the Congressional Gold Medal they awarded her in 2008.

She is Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced “Suki”) and she is a wonderful example of someone who had the courage to sacrifice a great deal for the betterment of a group of people, most of whom she didn’t even know. And what makes this sacrifice even more impressive to me is that she didn’t view it as a sacrifice, she viewed it as her duty.

Sacrifice or Duty. Most of us admire people who have the courage to sacrifice their lives for others. Ms. Suu Kyi admired Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King, all of whom made huge personal sacrifices for the betterment of groups of people they mostly didn’t know. Like you, I especially admire the soldiers, police officers, and firefighters who risk their lives in actual life and death situations usually for people they don’t know - and they look at it as their duty, not a sacrifice.

Why do we admire these people so much? First, I think we admire their unselfishness and sense of duty to do what’s right. And, I think we wonder if we would have the courage to do the same in similar situations. I know I would want to have that much courage, but I wonder if I would. I think if I looked at an act as my “duty,” I would do it.

So the question for us is this - when does a sacrifice become a duty?

Duty and Servant Leadership. Most of us are very lucky because we don’t really need to make difficult sacrifices like the ones I’ve mentioned, let alone sacrifices for groups of people we hardly know. Most of the sacrifices we have to make are “time sacrifices” and sometimes we can be pretty selfish about those. How often do we look at “time sacrifices” for the benefit of others as our duty?

Overcoming The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

If you are a leader of a business, organization, or team and you feel a sense of duty to the success and well-being of your teammates, then you may be a “servant leader.” Servant leaders look at themselves first as servants, then as leaders. According to Robert Greenleaf, the inspiration behind Servant Leadership, servant leaders exhibit four, distinct behaviors.

Servant leaders…

  1. Put service before self-interest
  2. Listen first to affirm others
  3. Inspire trust by being trustworthy
  4. Nourish others and help them become whole

It is important to remember that these behaviors have to be genuine for you to be a true servant leader and your team members will be the judges. As you reflect on the sacrifices of Ms. Suu Kyi and others remember this - servant leaders don’t view their support of team members as a “time sacrifice”, they view it as their duty.

September 24, 2012 14:56
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About Steve


Steve Wood is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Leddy Group and Work Opportunities Unlimited, Inc. (WOU). In addition, Steve provides strategic planning and organizational development consulting services to clients.



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Steve Wood is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Leddy Group and Work Opportunities Unlimited Inc. (WOU). In addition, Steve provides strategic planning and organizational development consulting services to clients.


Prior to joining the company, Steve spent 17 years in the banking industry where he was promoted to Senior Vice President and Senior Commercial Loan Officer.



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Strategic Planning
- Many organizations have a plan or pieces of a plan, but only a few have a thoughtfully developed strategic plan. Strategic planning is a process that has a beginning and no end! It starts with the formation of a mission and core values statement. The process continues with the development of a vision statement, long-term objectives, regular SWOT analysis, strategies, and short-term objectives. We can help you achieve your Strategic Planning goals.


Organizational Development - An organization is a group of people working together for a common mission. As the organization succeeds, more people (employees, customers, stakeholders) are involved and the organization grows more complex. Culture, structure, and systems evolve to deal with these growing complexities. Leaders at all levels develop. Ask me how we can help you achieve your Organizational Development goals.


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