Byron's Babbles

1973 – KISS Leadership

Gene Simmons of KISS

Gene Simmons of KISS during pregame of Super Bowl XXXIII

Yesterday I wrote Part I of a two part post entitled 1973 – Dolphin Leadership. Click here to read that post. Today, with only a few hours until Super Bowl 50, I continue to reflect on 1973 with Part II – 1973 – KISS Leadership. Leave it to me to be different. While everyone else is writing blog posts about the leadership of Peyton Manning and Cam Newton, I’m writing posts about the Miami Dolphins and KISS. Make no mistake, there is a KISS connection to past Super Bowls. The pregame show for Super Bowl XXXIII between the Denver Broncos (see the connection to Super Bowl 50?) and the Atlanta Falcons on January 31, 1999 at Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Florida included a indexperformance by KISS, along with their trademark elaborate make up, costumes, and theatrical pyrotechnics. By the way, Denver won that game.

Today’s post is about why I am so thankful that 1973 brought Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and KISS into our stadiums, arenas, homes, and lives. KISS has sold over 100 million albums worldwide. I would argue, and trust me I have, KISS is one of, if not THE biggest, greatest, and most successful bands ever. Why else would the announcer say “You wanted the best, you got the best! The hottest band in the land… KISS!” This was audacious! This was one of the first lessons I learned from Gene, Paul, and KISS – lead with audacity, but back it up! Led by the marketing genius that is Gene Simmons, they continue to reach new audiences while engaging lifelong fans. Think about the lifelong fan piece – there are literally, thousands of people just like me who would defend KISS as the greatest rock and roll band ever. Gene Simmons may be best known as the fire-breathing, bass playing demon in one of the most influential rock bands in history, but he can also teach us a thing or two about leadership. If you have not followed the journey as closely as I have, I would recommend you reading, Me, Inc.: Build an Army of One, Unleash Your Inner Rock God, Win in Life and Business. We can also learn a great deal from what Paul Stanley has learned during his journey as well. I learned a great deal from reading his book, Face the Music: A Life Exposed. In fact, I am going to put these two books on my to read shelf to reread. There are many other books written by the members of KISS that I would recommend. I’ll let you Google and make those choices.

So, let’s discuss KISS Leadership:

  • Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are truly “Rock Stars” and great examples of leaders. They are key members of my personal Mount Rushmore from the era of my youth, which also includes, Don Shula, Ronald Reagan, and Patrick Henry. To give an example of the KISS leadership example, I go back to an interview in April, 2014 during a great town hall interview on XM RADIO 39 HairNation following their induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where Gene said that he and Paul were always needing to try new “trepidatious” ways to perform! That’s what great leaders do! I promptly tweeted this (I’ve included an image of the tweet in this post). IMG_1844If you look up trepidatious you find the words: anxiety, anxious fear, and apprehension. So, that means they were being unorthodox, bold, and brave. Do you see the connection? Honestly, if you have not been to a KISS concert it will be hard for you to understand. Just suffice it to say, they are cutting edge. Heck, they redefine the edge…heck, there is no edge!
  • In my blog post Language Matters, I wrote, “I still remember being inspired by the battle cry that the greatest rock and roll band ever, in my opinion, KISS, uses: “You wanted the best, you got the best. KISS!” Think about that – I wanted to go to the greatest rock show, and I always got it. Language Matters! But then we also know, we must then Walk the Talk!” Gene Simmons has taught us that the words we choose really do matter. Leaders must make the investment in time and energy and pay the price for choosing the right words based on the context and stakeholders. When we, as leaders, make this investment, the payoff is of “rock star” proportions. Choosing the right words will help us set up everyone we lead for a level of effectiveness that will bolster a culture of excellence and steady it against the winds of change.
  • Gene Simmons teaches us that, “You have to understand that nothing appeals to everybody.” In other words you cannot be everything to everybody, but you must be the best you can be. Your content cannot be everything to everyone. KISS has always maintained a steady fan base by giving their fans what they wanted, and knew that they would never be able to please everyone. You are inevitably going to have critics; the important thing is to not let them derail your strategy. KISS has truly modeled for us how to be the greatest that you can be. There are none better at building a brand and trying bold and new ways to satisfy their customers.
  • Paul Stanley taught us in his earlier mentioned book, Face the Music: A Life Exposed that, “No victories are won by individuals. The key to success is always teamwork.” Stanley learned that people coping with success need to surround themselves with people who have their best interests at heart. “Anyone who is pursuing success knows how lonely it can be and that having a support team or people who are blazing the path with you is very reassuring and gives you a shoulder to cry on and a team to celebrate with…” Paul Stanley also warns us to also beware of our own ego – I believe hubris could also come into play here as well.
  • Gene Simmons taught us that we need to worry about imagery over content. In other words you don’t need to be the best or most qualified. Gene would tell us qualifications are highly overratedThere are thousands of people who had vision and leadership skills, who worked hard but didn’t have the exact skills to make their dreams reality. imagesThink about it, Steve Jobs wasn’t a developer or a programmer, but as a leader he knew how to articulate a vision clearly with imagery. Leaders adapt the content to the audience, emphasize the vision’s intrinsic value, select words and symbols that are uplifting, and use language that is inclusive. If a leader is able to do these things, he or she will increase the chances that the vision will be embraced and the goal achieved. The real test is then implementation. As Gene Simmons says in his aforementioned book, Me, Inc.: Build an Army of One, Unleash Your Inner Rock God, Win in Life and Business, “There are many really stupid ideas that wind up being brilliant, if you can implement them.” Gene has shown us how to articulate the vision and then implement. Thus why thousands of us still consider ourselves part of the KISS Army.
  • Continuing with the thought of implementation we must, as leaders, keep swinging the bat. We must not have a fear of failure, but a desire to try enough to fail and learn. In Me, Inc. Gene also teaches us, “Don’t let the fear of failure keep you from trying in the first place. Most baseball swings sound like this: ‘Swoosh.’ But, if you swing enough, you will hit some of the balls.” Enough said!Gandhi-Quotes
  • Edge starts with self. Finally, I am reminded of an interview that KISS had with Jay Leno. Leno asked Gene Simmons where KISS got their edge. Without hesitation, Gene answered, “Edge starts with self.” Wow, that was several years ago, but is a perfect anthem for how we as leaders need to be. Let’s say that again: “Edge starts with self!” That gives me goose bumps! We have to be the leader our organizations and teams need us to be. Ghandi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I say, “We need to become the leaders we need in the world!” Wow, I kind of like that – sure hope 34787_447033466411_64075031411_5975115_6499440_nsomeone quotes me!
Yes I am a member of the KISS Army! I did not know it at the time growing up, but beginning in 1973 KISS was providing me with the greatest leadership lessons one could probably receive. My personal mission statement and battle cry of, “I deliver wowful educational leadership!” and anthem of being an, “Energetic change agent” have a little resemblance to “You wanted the best, you got the best!” don’t you think? I have never had the honor of meeting Gene Simmons or Paul Stanley in person, but it is certainly on my bucket list! Wouldn’t it be great if I could get them to spend a day with our Focused Leader Academy. Wow, what great discussions and learning would go on. What do you think Gene and Paul? Are you up for it? I would thank them for what they started in 1973 and the leadership lessons I have learned and continue to learn from them.





Keep Your Fork: Leadership Anticipation

Posted in Coaching, Education, Education Reform, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 24, 2013


As we have been taking part in different family and work traditions during this holiday season I am reminded how important the feeling of anticipation is. I tweeted a few moments ago that the greatest words ever said by a mother are, “Keep your forks.” We all know what that means – DESSERT IS ON THE WAY! Then we begin to anticipate what it will be; her famous Mince Meat Pie, Cheese Cake, Carrot Cake, or some other delicacy that only moms know how to make. Think about how important the feeling of anticipation really is.

Today, Christmas Eve, is probably the greatest example of anticipation there is. Children around the world are spending the day anticipating that Santa Claus will arrive during the night and leave toys. The anticipation is even greater for those kids who sat on Santa’s lap and told him what they wanted him to bring. Those kids are now in anticipation those gifts will arrive.

My son and I did our annual Christmas shopping excursion last night. We shop for mom and then go to Buffalo Wild Wings. While we were eating and watching the Indiana Pacers win, my son, Heath, made the comment, “Dad, I look forward to this every year!” I asked why and he said, “it’s fun to do this with you and we do the same thing every year.” In fact, I would add we get the same thing every year – a new Vera Bradley backpack purse! This story even has more to do with anticipation. The sales person at Merle Norman was the same one that has helped us buy mom’s purse for the last three years. In fact we always bring her an Aunt Millie’s pretzel and she wraps all our presents from other stores too. Are we true helpless guys, or what? When we walked in she said, “I knew you would be here!” She anticipated our arrival, and we did not let her down!

So how do we use anticipation in other areas such as education and leadership? When I was teaching I loved to use anticipation guides. I now recommend these to the teachers I serve. With an anticipation guide the students are introduced to the concept of previewing and guided in completing a prepared anticipation guide for a particular topic or reading. Students are then given an opportunity to complete a portion of the anticipation guide independently. In the days that follow, students work in both teacher-guided and student-facilitated groups to extend their use of the previewing strategy with other resources and texts. Finally, students discuss as a class how using anticipation guides helped them better understand the readings, resources, and ultimately the subject at hand.

As a leader, change represents an opportunity and it must be anticipated and prepared for. Foresight and change anticipation is a hallmark of effective leadership. Technology, radical innovations, new business models, globalization, demography, consumer demands, education reform, politics, and choices all contribute to making today’s society one of accelerating change. The drivers of change are numerous and complex, and their impact varies from one sector to another. The way change affects your company depends largely on the capacity of key actors to anticipate and prepare for such an eventuality. There is big difference between anticipating and guessing. Anticipation means expecting, being aware of something in advance, to regard it as possible. The ability to anticipate is one of the key ingredients of efficient speed in leadership.

As we celebrate Christmas today and tomorrow, allow me to bring Christ into my post leave you with a couple of other thoughts on anticipation and anticipating:

Some of you are too busy dreaming about where God is taking you next to appreciate how far He has taken you recently. Stop for a moment and celebrate.

Others of you are so busy celebrating what God has done in your life that you’ve yet to realize it’s just a taste of what He still has to do in you and through you. Stop for a moment and anticipate.

Merry Christmas! May all the great things you are anticipating come to pass!

Good Is Not Enough!

Posted in Education, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on July 4, 2012

This past week I had the opportunity to speak to the faculty of University of Phoenix prior to delivering the keynote address for their graduation ceremony. I would like to share with you my notes from this speech here:

I would like to start today with an excerpt that I have done some creative editing on from Onward: How Starbucks fought for its life without losing its soul I believe you will find that this comparison of teaching to a successful business model fits right in with what I consider my and my school’s ADVANTAGE: “Putting Students First.”

Here is the excerpt adapted from Onward:

Pouring espresso (Teaching) is an art, one that requires the barista (teacher) to care about the quality of the beverage  (education). If the barista (teacher) only goes through the motions, if he or she does not care and produces an inferior espresso (student) that is too weak or too bitter (not ready to compete), then Starbucks (teaching) has lost the essence of what we set out to do 40 years ago (in 1635): inspire the human spirit. I realize this is a lofty mission for a cup of coffee (education), but this is what merchants (teachers) do. We take the ordinary – a shoe (boy), a knife (girl) – and give it (them) new life, believing that what we create has the potential to touch others’ lives because it (their lives) touched ours.

I believe this is such a great representation of what we all do in this room – EDUCATE. As Henry Adams put it, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

As a teacher my personal mission statement was, “I strive to use rigor, relevance and relationships to be a steward of high student achievement.” I have given a lot of thought about what my personal mission statement should not be as a principal, and then realized it really does not change. All I am doing is adding one new “R” – Results Driven.

Someone recently asked my to use a word to define myself. I chose “Trailblazer”

Goes before others go!

Don’t send someone where you are not willing to go yourself.

A “Trailblazer” is not a travel agent. Travel agents send people places they have never been. Trailblazer set the path for others to follow or even go down simultaneously with the leader.

We must follow Kouzes and Posner’s Ten Truths of Leadership:

  1. You make a difference
  2. Credibility
  3. Values
  4. Focusing on the future
  5. You can’t do it alone
  6. Trust rules
  7. Challenge is the crucible for greatness
  8. Lead by example
  9. The best leaders are the best learners
  10. Leadership is an affair of the heart

Remember, if better is even possible, good is not enough!

What If Teaching Was Our Most Important & Valued Profession?

Posted in Coaching, Education, Education Reform, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on May 9, 2012

Great teachers build nations. Great teachers provide the inspiration for highly engaged and effective learning. They awaken and raise our children’s expectations. Great teachers also inspire creation through tapping into students’ imaginations that lead to discovery. They shape our next generation of great decision-makers.

Let’s be clear, teaching is hard work done correctly. Most high level professions are. So again, let’s be clear teaching is a high level profession. As I reflect on my career, my choosing to be a teacher was a very deliberate choice based on the mentoring of a college professor (teacher).

My teaching career did not begin with the same story that many teachers share. I did not have an epiphany when I said to myself, “I want to be a teacher.” My journey as an educator began during my sophomore year at Purdue University when Professor Hobe Jones pulled me into his office and asked if I had ever considered teaching. When I said, “no,” he explained that he saw a talent in me for educating and wanted me to double major in Animal Science and Agricultural Education. It is amazing how someone like Dr. Jones can make a huge impact on someone’s life.  His inspiration and personal interest helped me to deal with the challenges of a double major, making my 27 year educational career possible. Without Dr. Jones’ personal interest in my abilities, I probably would have missed this opportunity. It is his example of true caring that I strive to emulate every day of my teaching career.

Teaching is a high level profession and we need to become very deliberate in recruiting students into this profession. Only the best will do for our children. As Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Tony Bennett says: “What if Indiana’s most important work was also our most valued work?” In closing I would like to share a video I was part of making with the Indiana Department of Education in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week entitled: What if? To view the video click here.