Authenticity is missing in Populist Political Leadership in 2016.

dailLeadership is often about managing tensions. Making value judgements where there is no “right” answer or when there a number of “right” answers. How do we make decisions in these cases and where do we get our decision from? From our own value system or from what we believe others want? This is a natural conflict but good leaders transcend this by being authentic to their values.

Spare a thought for some politicians who feel they would never get away with doing the right thing – due to electoral perception – although its what they would wish. Compare these to those politicians who have no value system at all and blow with the prevailing wind – like Groucho Marx’s character:

“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them, well, I have others”

How difficult is it to demonstrate true values based leadership in a world where the media, spin and an aggressive opposition can characterize a good idea as “a travesty of justice” for group x or y – just so they can procure a few more angry votes for their side.

Donald Trump

Look at the rise of Trump in the US. Popularity generated from populist sound bites. There is not a shred of authenticity in his campaign or his leadership. A misogynist, a racist and bigot, he is not a reflection of the views of the US population as a rule but of one section of it. While in reality this is a lot smaller section of the overall population than most reports would have you believe – he is (or was) getting up to 60% of the vote from something like 28% of the population (registered republicans) which is actually less than 17% overall. But he has used cynicism and media spin to rise to the top of the nomination pile for the republican candidacy. However this is demagoguery not leadership. Demagoguery is an appeal to people that plays on their emotions and prejudices rather than on their rational side. It is about manipulation that appeals to the worst nature of people. Demagoguery isn’t based on reason, issues, and doing the right thing; it’s based on stirring up fear and hatred to control people. Demagoguery is one of the most negative aspects of politics, but it’s also one that’s all too common. History shows however that Demagogues often come to a bad end.

trumpsandersIn Ireland there are a number of parties and politicians that use populism mostly or even exclusively and dare I say it, demagoguery, to reach their goals. We as a country are trying to climb out of a vicious recession – and we have a fair bit to go yet. People are hurting everywhere. We have some politicians trying to show leadership, in the interests of the country, and some, who no matter how good an idea might be, point fingers, disagree, lie, spin and stir up hatred and anger. And for the most part they are not called on this by our media, but rather given a soap box from which to express their “opinions”.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders hope and vision based campaign appeals to many in the US. His rhetoric is anti-establishment, but is raising a few home truths about the behaviour of those who benefit from aggressive capitalism (and those who do what they can get away with rather than what is right) at home and abroad. In a country where there is no real cap on political contributions from vested interests and where these contributions and that support is key to getting elected – power is controlled by few. Ironic in a country that is the global standard bearer for democracy and where the majority in the “parliament” of the country (that produces 16% of global carbon emissions – by far the highest per capita) do not “believe in” climate change – it is not a bad thing that he is pointing this out. This is a guy blanked by the media to an extent that his first six months coverage was mostly internet based. One major newscaster preferred to show an empty podium at a Trump event rather than a victory speech from Sanders. But you can’t keep a good thing down.

What Sanders exudes is Authenticity. His leadership is in setting a vision. His cause is front and centre. His WHY is written on him and all over his campaign. I am struck by other candidates talking about the rights of minorities, and one compares that to the authenticity shown by the photos and records of his role in the civil rights movement in the sixties and of Sanders relationship with and support of Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesse Jackson.

Authentic Leadership in Irish Politics

We could do with some more authenticity in politics in Ireland. Political leadership that has a vision, a why and is about demonstrable values and service to the nation that is sometimes contrary to the interests of the politician himself or herself. It needs a vision that can generate trust, passion and courage. We could be talking up the next stage of renewal and recovery and about how we need to continue to pull together – setting out a view on how and who we want to be and what we stand for. We are a super little country with some of the nicest and kindest people you can find anywhere (ask any travel guide). We also have some of the hardest working people in Europe.

In a recent substantial international poll we do the most good in the world (of any country on the globe). We should be talking about and then putting our nation’s interests first. We should be addressing the needs of the most needy, putting them first on the list to give our rising tax take to – the homeless, the home helpers and the long-term disabled for example. That’s what our leaders should be talking about. This helps those who have had hard times for the last ten years – yes its ten years since 2006 – because they can see we are going somewhere, getting there, doing good and why. Some politicians are trying to lead but most are dumbstruck and many of them have gone the opposite way – they’re taking cheap shots, or moving in their own interests or continuing to make their own base angry while keeping them feeling disenfranchised – making people victims rather than empowering them. That’s not moral leadership.

We have in the recent 1916 commemorations been reminded of Irish leaders and their followers who sacrificed everything for a national cause and a WHY that resonated with so many and was supported by values and beliefs and a moral center – against a far greater challenge – which drove that and later passionate action – eventually creating the country we live in today. We could be doing better in 2016.

Aidan Higgins BE MBA of ADEO Consulting is a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist working with Leaders and Teams in Ireland and the UK. He has over 25 years experience working in various capacities with individuals, teams and organisations of all sizes.

2019-04-10T09:21:24+00:00April 12th, 2016|Authentic Leadership, Discussion, Leadership|

Why Mindfulness is key to conscious leadership.

Mindfulness is seen as a dirty word in some organisations. It’s often put over in the box with words like “meditation”, “awareness” and other such “tree hugging hippy crap” (Cartman). To some it belongs in the word of the spiritual and should be kept away from words such as “competencies”, “capabilities” and “skills”.  It doesn’t help that the word is appearing all over social media, in the papers and I saw it again yesterday – on a colouring book.  It doesn’t help that it is misunderstood and worse, grabbed by some who do not understand it and shoe-horned into irrelevant contexts.

It is important for leaders and managers in organisations not to throw the baby out with the bath water.  Mindfulness is a key part of awareness and Emotional Intelligence which many will know is critical to successful Leadership.

So what is it? And what the difference between it, awareness and meditation (often confused).

I define Mindfulness as the process of observing your own thoughts and emotions as they arise – without judgement.  Antony DeMello likened it to driving a car. You are watching where you are going, hands on the wheel and eyes on the road but you are scanning for a change in engine noise, a flat tyre or a change in weather conditions. It’s a process going on underneath your conscious active thought process.

Similarly, in the work environment if you are mindful, you become conscious of your habit of mind, your stressors, and your emotional state and so you are more likely to take right action rather than follow an automated response. This is just one reason why Mindfulness as part of Emotional Intelligence benefits leaders – because once they are mindful, they do not avoid or ignore emotion but use it as information, and understand it so they can make whole, clear decisions. Ironic then, particularly with the preconceptions of some, that being Emotionally Intelligent results in being less impacted by emotion.

Meditation is the actual practice of sitting (or sometimes for the more advanced student, walking) and bringing your focus of attention to something in the present which clears your mind so that you can step back and watch your thought processes and feel your emotions so that you know what is stressing you most and also how you feel about things.  When I teach leaders Meditation as part of our Leadership and Emotional Intelligence courses at ADEO Consulting there is often discomfort first (at having to be still) and then surprise and even delight.

According to the Insead business school (2013) “As little as 15 minutes of meditation can actually help people make better, more profitable decisions, by increasing resistance (for example) to the sunk cost bias”

So we practice Meditation and Mindfulness regularly to become aware. An aware individual knows who they are, how they feel and what they want.  Awareness is critical to happiness, amongst other things. Often we seek happiness in ways that are unsuccessful because we are not aware of what we want. We get to the top of the ladder and there’s “no THERE there”.

It is well known that CEO’s like Rupert Murdoch, Bill Ford, Arianna Huffington, Rick Goings (Tupperware) and Mark Benioff (Salesforce.com) as well as many others all meditate and use Mindfulness. In my experience the practice itself is easy, but a challenge is finding the time to do it. It is also true that leaders find it hard to let go of the doing/action drug for long enough. Perhaps a clearer understanding of its benefits to you as a leader and as a result to your organisation will help you move it up your list of priorities.

Aidan Higgins BE MBA of ADEO Consulting is a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist working with Leaders and Teams in Ireland and the UK. He has over 25 years experience working in various capacities with individuals, teams and organisations of all sizes.

Staying grounded is key to balancing life and leadership

Authentic LeadershipSuccessful leaders live complex and demanding lives. As the frequency of communication has intensified, the pace of business has increased. Authentic Leadership requires an ability to stay grounded and balanced.

Yet many of us have not learned how to deal with this. There is never enough time to do everything you want to do, because the world around you makes ever greater demands on your time. Nor will you be able to achieve a perfect balance between all aspects of your life – career, family, friends and community, and personal life. Inevitably, you will have to make trade-offs. How you do so will determine how fulfilling your life will be.

How to successfully navigate the sharing economy

Authentic leadership needs awareness of the importance of staying grounded. In doing so, they avoid getting too cocky during high points and forgetting who they are during low points. Spending time with family and close friends, getting physical exercise, having spiritual practices, doing community service, and returning to places where they grew up are all ways to stay grounded. This grounding is essential to their effectiveness as leaders because it enables them to preserve their authenticity.

To avoid letting professional commitments dominate their time, authentic leadership means giving priority to their families and take care of themselves personally, in terms of their health, recreation, spirituality, and introspection. There is no silver-bullet solution to this issue, but neglecting to integrate the facets of life can derail you. To lead an integrated life, you need to bring together the major elements of your personal life and professional life, including work, family, community, and friends, so that you can be the same person in each environment. For authentic leaders, being true to themselves by being the same person at work that they are at home is a constant test, yet personal fulfilment is their ultimate reward. Doing so will make you a more effective leader in all aspects of your life.

Stay Grounded

To integrate your life, you must remain grounded in your authentic self, especially when the outside world is chaotic. Well-grounded leaders have a steady and confident presence. They do not show up as one person one day and another the next. Integration takes discipline, particularly during stressful times, when it is easy to become reactive and slip into bad habits.

Leading is high-stress work. There is no way to avoid stress when you are responsible for people, organizations, outcomes, and uncertainties of the environment. For global leaders, long overseas trips intensify the stress. The higher you go, the greater your freedom to control your destiny but also the higher the stress. The question is not whether you can avoid stress but how you can manage and relieve it to maintain your own sense of equilibrium.

When Medtronic’s Chris O’Connell gets stressed, he said:

“I feel myself slipping into a negative frame of mind. When I’m at my best, I’m very positive and feel I can accomplish anything, both at work and home. When I become negative, I lose effectiveness as a leader and become even less effective at home. Both positive and negative emotions carry over between work and home.”

Focus on What Matters

When Sheryl Sandberg worked as a McKinsey management consultant, her manager implored her to take more control over her career, telling her, “McKinsey will never stop making demands on our time, so it is our responsibility to draw the line … We need to determine how many hours we are willing to work and how many nights we travel.”

After the birth of her son, Sandberg adjusted her in-office hours at Google to 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., enabling her to nurse her son. To compensate, Sandberg got up in the early morning hours to check e-mails and worked at home after her son went to bed. She learned that by focusing her time, she did not need to spend 12 hours a day in the office.

“I focused on what really mattered and became more efficient, only attending meetings that were truly necessary. I was determined to maximize my output while away from home,” said Sandberg. “I also paid more attention to the working hours of those around me; cutting unnecessary meetings saved time for them as well.”

Stay true to your roots

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz goes back to Brooklyn from time to time, Intuit Chairman Bill Campbell stays in regular contact with his old friends in Homestead, Penn., which helps him keep perspective on life in Silicon Valley. To restore themselves and keep their sense of perspective, leaders may have a special place they can go with their families on weekends and vacations. Many renowned leaders found they can think more clearly when they escape: Thomas Jefferson had Poplar Forest and Winston Churchill had Chartwell. For decades, former U.S. secretary of state George Shultz and his wife went to an old family farm they own in Massachusetts.

“I once told the president, ‘This is my Camp David,’” said Shultz. “When I go there, I put on an old pair of pants and old shoes. I am so relaxed, I don’t worry about anything.”

Find time for yourself

To manage the stress of our authentic leadership roles, we need personal time to reflect. Some people practice meditation or yoga to centre themselves and relieve anxiety. Others find solace in prayer. Some people find they can release tension by jogging. Others find relief through laughing with friends, listening to music, reading, or going to movies. It’s not important what you do, as long as you establish routines to relieve your stress and think clearly about life, work, and personal issues. It is critical not to abandon these routines when facing an especially busy period, because that is when you most need your stress reduction techniques.

Adapted from Discover Your True North, Expanded and Updated Edition by Bill George. Copyright (c) 2015 by Bill George. Bill George is a senior fellow at Harvard Business School and former chairman and CEO of Medtronic.

Amazons work culture raises interesting questions.

amazon-warehouseAmazon’s work practices, as detailed in the recent controversial NYT article generate interesting questions on Talent Management, Innovation and Culture.

Inside Amazon- Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace” in the New York Times made unsettling claims about Amazon through interviews of 100 former and current employees. Jeff Bezos, founder (1994) and CEO of Amazon (now a bigger retailer than Walmart at $250Billion) refuted those claims is a rather short and uninspiring memo which has led to criticism of his response and gives weight to the claims made in the article.

The article explores the culture of Amazon where it seems consistent and bruising conflict, tension and pressure are the norm. It claims that the company is conducting an experiment in how far it can push its white collar workers, who are encouraged to tear one another’s ideas apart in meetings, toil long and late (up to 80 hour weeks and emails arriving at midnight followed by texts querying why they are not answered).  They also have an internal system (they claim frequently misused) where people can do anonymous performance reports on their colleagues to their colleague’s bosses without their knowledge. Those who do not meet what Amazon call their “unreasonably high” performance standards are forced to leave or fired in annual cullings – called “purposeful Darwinism” by one former employee.

 

It would seem customer service and innovation is a major focus of and driver of the culture at Amazon. Amazon consistently drives to innovate and want to create opportunity to do so, for any employee with a good idea. Conflict is encouraged. However one interviewee reported his “enduring image was watching people weep in the office”. He continued “nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk”.  Some interviewees, however, said they liked the culture because it pushed them past what they thought they could achieve. In 1997 Bezos wrote to shareholders “you can work long, hard, or smart but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three.”

 

Bezos open memo in response to the article is short. He says he does not recognise the Amazon described and that it is illogical. “I don’t think any company adopting the approach portrayed could survive, much less thrive, in today’s highly competitive tech hiring market”. He also linked one employee (of 18 months) who openly refuted the article.

 

This is an interesting article and response for a number of reasons. It raises questions about HR practices, talent attraction, talent retention, new world business cultures, monopolistic environments, conflict and innovation.

Is this the best way to attract and manage talent?

21st century organisations understand there is a “War” for talent. Talented people create competitive advantage for their organisations. This means attracting and retaining the best people. It has also been long recognised that most of the core competencies of an organisation reside in the heads of their people. This means we should treat our people well, create an environment for engagement, loyalty and collaboration to give the organisation the best chance to continue to be successful.

“Rank and Yank” policies which were fashionable in some companies with household names have been discontinued in many in recent times due to significant flaws. The idea is that the company continuously evolves by cutting the bottom 10% say, of their people. They ask managers to rank their teams and fire the bottom rankers. Sounds harsh? It is.

I worked with a management team last year whose company still did this. The upside they said was that “dead wood” was removed. The downside we agreed was that good people were also fired, that there was often unhealthy competition in teams leading to lack of collaboration, fear and lack of flexibility because the team members were too focused on the metrics which determined their fate. In the “rank and yank” philosophy, there can also be a lack of perceived fairness due to the subjectivity of the team managers who obviously can have favourites and were more likely to keep the politically savvy. Constant loss of team members also means there is constant grieving and probably unrecognised anger in the team. One might also mention the simple lack of humanity of this process.

Keeping people working too-long hours is counterproductive due to its unsustainability and diminishing returns. Henry Ford is reputed to have designed the 40 hour week for this reason and recent research has shown that after 40-50 hours work per week the work done becomes far less effective. It also shows that burnout occurs if renewal time is not included in the working week. There are specialists who make a career out of helping talented people return from burnout and breakdown an expensive fix in many ways. Practices like midnight emails and such interrupt the quality of the rest people are getting, damaging problem solving ability and creativity, and making burnout more likely and talent retention less likely.

Does Innovation require this much conflict?

Conflict is required to innovate but so is safety and agility. Discussion and argument must take place in a safe environment or people will not take risks. Innovation is as much about failure as it is about success. It is also well known that true creativity often requires white space and time, not pressure. Those who are under huge competitive pressure in an adversarial environment are watching their back, not what’s in front of them.

Companies who recently changed their environments from adversarial ones have seen team performance and collaboration rocket. Collaboration, sharing of ideas and innovation go hand in hand.

Where did this culture come from?

It was Richard Branson who said, “Look after employees and employees look after customers”. How does this align with the practices identified at Amazon? It is a well-known adage that customers will never think more of your company than the people that work for the company.

One wonders what sorts of people survive and thrive in this environment.   The theory of Darwinism has been used before, particularly in the 19th century, to justify the mistreatment of people for the “greater good”. Later far more dangerous ideologies used this work as a justification to judge and eliminate the “weak” also.

Measuring and treating people like machines is a hangover from industrial era thinking as is Social Darwinism. Darwinism used socially is a misappropriation of the ideas of survival of the fittest. It is a pseudoscience completely lacking in empathy and out of touch with any modern behavioural thinking. Smart Authentic Leadership gets power into the hands of the team – with leaders being servants of the team, empowering their success rather than being autocratic top down managers treating their people like automatons. That’s not good business.

Amazons culture is relatively new. Having been founded only in 1994 the culture developed from there. Cultures (how things are done around here) evolve over time. One wonders if Bezos background on Wall St and in financial data influenced the culture. Amazon admits it is driven by data and they took advantage of the capabilities of the internet to not only serve customers but to understand customers. Metrics, data and data analysis are the order of the day. Great when applied to marketing data, products, accounts, process and internet behaviour stats. Not so good for measuring and understanding and managing the complex interactions of employees perhaps?

It could be posited that Amazons massive first mover advantage and the competitive advantage it has developed over time does not allow the company to see in financial terms the reported negative impact of its culture and policies. It is recognised that big brand companies have pulling power for talent. However if Amazon had to wrestle with other similar sized companies in its niche for talent and ideas, it may have had to work harder to keep its talent. Talent bleeding out of the company and taking ideas and competencies to competitors who offer a work life balance may have forced them to address the issues a little earlier in their growth cycle, impacting how their company developed.

So what does it all mean?

Amazon was born in a fast moving, changing environment and wants, correctly, to stay ahead of the curve and the competition. They have been innovating and “improving” in order to do this. Perhaps they should also be focusing on staying ahead of the curve in terms of HR and talent management practices.

Bezos is correct in that the sort of culture described seems illogical. The culture does not best support the aims of innovation, talent attraction and retention or customer service.

As an outsider one cannot know how much of the article is subjective and painting a severe interpretation of how things are done at Amazon. One wonders, if it is true, how Amazon can survive with such a harsh inhuman culture. It does not seem to align that the people that thrive in such a culture truly seek to serve and empower others, a sine qua non of modern successful organisations.

Aidan Higgins

2019-04-10T09:21:25+00:00September 16th, 2015|Authentic Leadership, Discussion, Strategy, Team Performance|

Leadership: Politics Or Performance?

Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone And Lead
As we enter organizations, we each face a simple choice: Do we primarily play politics, or do we try daily to perform at our best?

Why do we often choose to play politics? Because the politics of the organization often appear to dictate who is hired, promoted and rewarded, and so playing politics seems to be our best chance to control our plight, especially in a volatile business climate.

Business is not predictable; in fact, outside forces are always creating disruptions that require major shifts in how we work together. We join a company that is headed in one direction, and the next minute it’s turning 180 degrees in another direction.

We can’t control all the market shifts; as leaders, we can only proactively respond to them or try to influence them and ensure that everyone moves with agility in the right direction.

But the big question is this: How do you get everyone to successfully shift, learn new skills, and embrace change for the good of the company?

In the process of change we, as leaders, are bombarded with an incredible amount of detail. Do we have to educate and train employees on a new business direction? Do we leave it to the Human Resources department, or do we educate a few who teach the rest? Who announces the shift and how? What happens if people are afraid of change or don’t want to take on the new challenges, for fear that they won’t learn as fast as others or, worse still, that they may fail?

And, what if you are the one having difficulty? You want to stay with your organization but don’t like the direction it’s headed. What do you do? Do you try overtly to influence other executives to change their minds? Or do you play politics behind the scenes, trying to keep everyone from changing?

Step out of Your Comfort Zone

Answer the following seven self-assessment questions and try to get a realistic picture of how you fare when faced with changes and pressures in the workplace.

1. When challenged by others: Do you doubt your own abilities to lead and allow fear to drive you into defensive behaviors? Or Do you engage with others to build partnerships for success?

2. When competition is fierce: Do you hold on to your old avoidance behaviors or rely on old strategies that have helped in the past? Or Do you focus on engaging with others to discover new strategies for success?

3. When expectations for performance are high: Do you get upset with employees because they are not delivering results? Or Do you focus on having developmental coaching discussions to help them reconnect to their aspirations and skills for success?

4. When your bonus is on the line: Do you step in and get involved in your employees work for fear they may make mistakes? Or Do you focus on engaging with others to discover new strategies for success?

5. When you manage a team: Do you give people the freedom to make decisions and then take back their power when they do things differently than you would? Or Do you focus on Letting Go and allowing them to discover their own answers?

6. When you are leading: Do you find employees retreating, avoiding confrontation, or losing faith in your management? Or Do you focus on encouraging employees to discover their leadership instincts?

7. When employees’ performance is low: Do you confront these problems by deciding it is easier to fire them? Or Do you focus on having courageous conversations and help them grow?

What does this self-assessment show you about how you function when faced with changes and pressures in the workplace?

I encourage you to engage with others to build partnerships for success—to co-create new strategies, to reconnect people to their professional aspirations, to enable people to discover their own answers and their leadership instincts by developing and using your conversational intelligence to have courageous conversations and help them grow.

Original Article here

by Judith E Glaser

psychologytoday.com

How to succeed as an authentic leader

10 do’s and don’ts for leadership success

by Arjen van BerkumLeadership: the never ending journey

Do you know who you are, what you believe and why you believe it? Are you able to be yourself in any given situation? Recently I read an article that contained a nice comparison for leaders that are facing their greatest challenge, namely integrating their personal and work lives:

Think of your life as a house. Can you knock down the walls between the rooms and be the same person in each of them?”

It takes a lot of courage to be a visionary, to walk your talk every step of the way. Especially when you still need to build your follower base. How can you find the inspiration to make an impact in the world as an authentic leader? Don’t strive to achieve success in tangible performances that are recognised in the external world. Strive for significance. Make a difference with your contribution: constantly build legacies by adding deep value to everyone you deal with. This is what makes good performers great leaders. Therefore self-awareness is a vital part of successful leadership.

Here are some principles that evolved from the values that I have ranked during my leadership journey.

  1. Never be afraid to lose your job.
    (Or don’t let your fear determine your next steps in business) First of all, if you are constantly scared to lose your job, you are not convinced of your own vision and capacities. In that case, leadership might not be the role that suits you to begin with. Second – if you put the safety of your own job first, you will never be successful as a leader. The choices you make should depend on what’s best for the business and for the people working in it.
  2. A good personal reputation is your most valuable possession. Keep it or fix it.
    Be self-confident and well organised, smile a lot, be friendly and remain professional in every circumstance. This will bring you a long way toward establishing strong working relationships. To manage this, communication skills and an innovative mind-set are indispensable in your toolbox.
  3. Being honest is better than being nice. Build trust.
    Leadership is not about being popular, but about building trust. As a leader with contradictive behaviour that regularly breaks promises, you will lose followers. People do not want to follow a leader they cannot trust to fulfil their guarantees. Once trust is lost, it is nearly impossible to gain back. So don’t play games and don’t work with hidden agendas. The benefits in the short run will cost you loyalty in the long run.
  4. You don’t know everything yourself. That’s okay. Manage your weaknesses.
    Acknowledge that you cannot be talented in all areas. So you need to build your support team and hire talents. Leaders never succeed on their own, they need other people that support and guide them with knowledge and experience.
  5. Be open for other people’s opinion, suggestions and vision.
    This is a prerequisite. Do you have a thick skin? There is no sugar coating in the business world. If you are offered feedback, accept criticism instead of denying the truths in it.
  6. Helping someone will never make things worse. Make an effort.
    Motivate the people around you. A person that believes in himself or herself, is more likely to work hard to live up to the hype you are creating. Be a mentor for those you see a lot of potential in, be a coach for the people who need to make things happen in the business and be a friend for peers.
  7. Don’t just strive for the success, but for the end goal.
    Success is temporarily. It is the significance of what you do that counts, not the success measured by the outside world’s parameters that you gained through a single ‘touchdown’.
  8. Sharing is the new gaining. Share something every day.
    Knowledge, results, positive feedback or even a ride. The smallest things can deliver a valuable experience to someone. This is a great way to establish relationships and collaboration.
  9. Talk to people not about people. Lead from the heart.
    Business is about people. If you have something to say, say it directly to the person involved. Don’t be afraid to show humanity and vulnerability. This will decrease the emotional distance between you and your (future) followers. There’s a big chance that scepticism will slowly change into belief.
  10. Give others the space they need.
    Give employees space to do their work, to develop or to test a strategy they believe in. Facilitate their professional needs. Empower them to peak in their performance and to lead in their area of expertise.

So I ask again, do you know the person you see in your mirror every day and his or her core believes? Believes are not something you decide on overnight or set your mind to. Authentic leadership requires a journey that writes your personal story. It started from the moment you decided you had a vision that you want to share with the world. Hopefully you realise that you will be on a never ending journey that is continuously steering and shaping your future leadership. Don’t be afraid to fail and don’t forget to enjoy it along the way! Discover not only what you believe, but – more important – why you believe it. Make a strong connection between your personal values and your behaviour. Together this will outline the principles you need to live by, so you can be a true leader to yourself and others. Always.

Original of this GREAT Article was written by Arjen van Berkum

Good Leaders understand and use Autonomy

I was coaching a number of C-Suite Leaders from a large multi-national a few weeks ago and part of our work included the topic of Autonomy and its importance to Leadership. Great discussions and feedback reminded me there are some assumptions and some blind spots with regard to autonomy.

Autonomy and Motivation

The level of autonomy is the degree to which an organisation or leader gives their people the discretion or independence to schedule their work and determine how it is to be done. It can also mean allowing them to determine which work to do, trusting them to select their solution to a problem using their understanding of organisational strategy in the context of the organisations vision and goals.

Autonomy is important to motivation, one of the top three people motivators in fact. It helps your people feel they have some say in what happens and that they can make a difference in the world.

Autonomy is a key part of empowerment and engagement so including it and using it as part of one’s Leadership style is very important.

In a bureaucratic or hierarchical organisation autonomy is limited. Not only is this de-motivational but it retards decision making, response times, service quality and people growth over time. The more decisions people can make the more they learn and grow. Sometimes people make mistakes. People make less mistakes with experience, and when supported by training and communication and an understanding of the goals and objectives even less. Autonomy also allows the growth of your next stage of leaders who take over when decision makes leave or go missing.

 

How much Autonomy is needed?

This is something to judge in context. There is a difference between delegation and abdication. Throwing someone in at the deep end can teach them to swim, but sometimes they drown.

A good leader will encourage autonomy in their people. They will make a decision about the level of risk suitable to the roles involved. They will look at risk and work to mitigate through mentoring and support. So it is a complex decision but in general there is not enough autonomy given. Leaders who keep intervening to fix the problem are often well meaning but this is not the best solution in the long term. Serving your team is about putting in place that which is needed for the team to thrive. Some leaders only give Autonomy to some of their people and often need to review how their perspective or opinion of some of their people (particularly those not being given autonomy) is influencing who gets autonomy and who does not. This can be a blind spot.

 

Leaderships own Autonomy

It is also a good exercise to examine one’s own relationship with autonomy. A Leader who has no autonomy is not a Leader.  He or she is a manager. In a bureaucratic organisation, a “leader” who is all about control and “the rules” cannot inspire or motivate or engage the people around him. If this person becomes about growing his or her people, about carving out autonomy and with resources, empowerment – then he or she becomes a leader.

On the other hand a leader who is overly focused on their own autonomy may have problems aligning with the organisations goals and objectives. This can become apparent when change happens and the organisation is forced to change direction. Sometimes these leaders become about their own power, whether this is used for their own ends or to protect their own team this can cause tensions in the organisation.

A key part of leadership growth is to become aware of their relationship with autonomy. Both their own and that of their people. Part of this relationship is often emotional and often this can be a part of mindfulness or awareness work.

Aidan Higgins

Leadership diseases – according to Pope Francis

Pope gives two thumbs up as he leaves general audience at VaticanPope Francis is gaining admiration for his Leadership Qualities, and his focus on service, his humility and his leading by example. As a leader he is at the head of a massive community and “corporation” going through huge change. He recently listed out things to be avoided by Leaders and called them diseases of Leadership. Translated by Professor Gary Hamel they are direct and to the Point and worth reading if only for comparison with your own style:

The leadership team is called constantly to improve and to grow in rapport and wisdom, in order to carry out fully its mission. And yet, like any body, like any human body, it is also exposed to diseases, malfunctioning, infirmity. Here I would like to mention some of these “

[leadership] diseases.” They are diseases and temptations which can dangerously weaken the effectiveness of any organization.

The disease of thinking we are immortal, immune, or downright indispensable, [and therefore] neglecting the need for regular check-ups. A leadership team which is not self-critical, which does not keep up with things, which does not seek to be more fit, is a sick body. A simple visit to the cemetery might help us see the names of many people who thought they were immortal, immune, and indispensable! It is the disease of those who turn into lords and masters, who think of themselves as above others and not at their service. It is the pathology of power and comes from a superiority complex, from a narcissism which passionately gazes at its own image and does not see the face of others, especially the weakest and those most in need. The antidote to this plague is humility; to say heartily, “I am merely a servant. I have only done what was my duty.”

Another disease is excessive busyness. It is found in those who immerse themselves in work and inevitably neglect to “rest a while.” Neglecting needed rest leads to stress and agitation. A time of rest, for those who have completed their work, is necessary, obligatory and should be taken seriously: by spending time with one’s family and respecting holidays as moments for recharging.

Then there is the disease of mental and [emotional] “petrification.” It is found in leaders who have a heart of stone, the “stiff-necked;” in those who in the course of time lose their interior serenity, alertness and daring, and hide under a pile of papers, turning into paper pushers and not men and women of compassion. It is dangerous to lose the human sensitivity that enables us to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice! Because as time goes on, our hearts grow hard and become incapable of loving all those around us. Being a humane leader means having the sentiments of humility and unselfishness, of detachment and generosity.

The disease of excessive planning and of functionalism. When a leader plans everything down to the last detail and believes that with perfect planning things will fall into place, he or she becomes an accountant or an office manager. Things need to be prepared well, but without ever falling into the temptation of trying to eliminate spontaneity and serendipity, which is always more flexible than any human planning. We contract this disease because it is easy and comfortable to settle in our own sedentary and unchanging ways.

The disease of poor coordination. Once leaders lose a sense of community among themselves, the body loses its harmonious functioning and its equilibrium; it then becomes an orchestra that produces noise: its members do not work together and lose the spirit of camaraderie and teamwork. When the foot says to the arm: ‘I don’t need you,’ or the hand says to the head, ‘I’m in charge,’ they create discomfort and parochialism.

There is also a sort of “leadership Alzheimer’s disease.” It consists in losing the memory of those who nurtured, mentored and supported us in our own journeys. We see this in those who have lost the memory of their encounters with the great leaders who inspired them; in those who are completely caught up in the present moment, in their passions, whims and obsessions; in those who build walls and routines around themselves, and thus become more and more the slaves of idols carved by their own hands.

The disease of rivalry and vainglory. When appearances, our perks, and our titles become the primary object in life, we forget our fundamental duty as leaders—to “do nothing from selfishness or conceit but in humility count others better than ourselves.” [As leaders, we must] look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others.

The disease of existential schizophrenia. This is the disease of those who live a double life, the fruit of that hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and of a progressive emotional emptiness which no [accomplishment or] title can fill. It is a disease which often strikes those who are no longer directly in touch with customers and “ordinary” employees, and restrict themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality, with concrete people.

The disease of gossiping, grumbling, and back-biting. This is a grave illness which begins simply, perhaps even in small talk, and takes over a person, making him become a “sower of weeds” and in many cases, a cold-blooded killer of the good name of colleagues. It is the disease of cowardly persons who lack the courage to speak out directly, but instead speak behind other people’s backs. Let us be on our guard against the terrorism of gossip!

The disease of idolizing superiors. This is the disease of those who court their superiors in the hope of gaining their favor. They are victims of careerism and opportunism; they honor persons [rather than the larger mission of the organization]. They think only of what they can get and not of what they should give; small-minded persons, unhappy and inspired only by their own lethal selfishness. Superiors themselves can be affected by this disease, when they try to obtain the submission, loyalty and psychological dependency of their subordinates, but the end result is unhealthy complicity.

The disease of indifference to others. This is where each leader thinks only of himself or herself, and loses the sincerity and warmth of [genuine] human relationships. This can happen in many ways: When the most knowledgeable person does not put that knowledge at the service of less knowledgeable colleagues, when you learn something and then keep it to yourself rather than sharing it in a helpful way with others; when out of jealousy or deceit you take joy in seeing others fall instead of helping them up and encouraging them.

The disease of a downcast face. You see this disease in those glum and dour persons who think that to be serious you have to put on a face of melancholy and severity, and treat others—especially those we consider our inferiors—with rigor, brusqueness and arrogance. In fact, a show of severity and sterile pessimism are frequently symptoms of fear and insecurity. A leader must make an effort to be courteous, serene, enthusiastic and joyful, a person who transmits joy everywhere he goes. A happy heart radiates an infectious joy: it is immediately evident! So a leader should never lose that joyful, humorous and even self-deprecating spirit which makes people amiable even in difficult situations. How beneficial is a good dose of humor! …

The disease of hoarding. This occurs when a leader tries to fill an existential void in his or her heart by accumulating material goods, not out of need but only in order to feel secure. The fact is that we are not able to bring material goods with us when we leave this life, since “the winding sheet does not have pockets” and all our treasures will never be able to fill that void; instead, they will only make it deeper and more demanding. Accumulating goods only burdens and inexorably slows down the journey!

The disease of closed circles, where belonging to a clique becomes more powerful than our shared identity. This disease too always begins with good intentions, but with the passing of time it enslaves its members and becomes a cancer which threatens the harmony of the organization and causes immense evil, especially to those we treat as outsiders. “Friendly fire” from our fellow soldiers, is the most insidious danger. It is the evil which strikes from within. As it says in the bible, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste.”

Lastly: the disease of extravagance and self-exhibition. This happens when a leader turns his or her service into power, and uses that power for material gain, or to acquire even greater power. This is the disease of persons who insatiably try to accumulate power and to this end are ready to slander, defame and discredit others; who put themselves on display to show that they are more capable than others. This disease does great harm because it leads people to justify the use of any means whatsoever to attain their goal, often in the name of justice and transparency! Here I remember a leader who used to call journalists to tell and invent private and confidential matters involving his colleagues. The only thing he was concerned about was being able to see himself on the front page, since this made him feel powerful and glamorous, while causing great harm to others and to the organization.

Friends, these diseases are a danger for every leader and every organization, and they can strike at the individual and the community levels.

____________________
Professor Hamel suggests you use the Pope’s inventory of leadership maladies to find out if you are a healthy leader.
Ask yourself, on a scale of 1 to 5, to what extent do I . . .

Feel superior to those who work for me?
Demonstrate an imbalance between work and other areas of life?
Substitute formality for true human intimacy?
Rely too much on plans and not enough on intuition and improvisation?
Spend too little time breaking silos and building bridges?
Fail to regularly acknowledge the debt I owe to my mentors and to others?
Take too much satisfaction in my perks and privileges?
Isolate myself from customers and first-level employees?
Denigrate the motives and accomplishments of others?
Exhibit or encourage undue deference and servility?
Put my own success ahead of the success of others?
Fail to cultivate a fun and joy-filled work environment?
Exhibit selfishness when it comes to sharing rewards and praise?
Encourage parochialism rather than community?
Behave in ways that seem egocentric to those around me?

As in all health matters, it’s good to get a second or third opinion. Ask your colleagues to score you on the same fifteen items. Don’t be surprised if they say, “Gee boss, you’re not looking too good today.” Like a battery of medical tests, these questions can help you zero in on opportunities to prevent disease and improve your health. A Papal leadership assessment may seem like a bit of a stretch. But remember: the responsibilities you hold as a leader, and the influence you have over others’ lives, can be profound. Why not turn to the Pope — a spiritual leader of leaders — for wisdom and advice?

Adapted from the Original Article by Gary Hamel – Harvard Business Review – Original Article

Calculating the Market Value of Leadership

leadership300Leadership is critically important to company performance. Putting a value on it may lead to greater investment in leadership development as a result of a change in priorities for resource allocation.

In recent years, investors have learned that defining the market value of a firm cannot just be based on finances. These financial outcomes have been found to predict only about 50% of a firm’s market value. Another challenge is that this financial information has become widely known and shared, meaning that the investor insights it affords are hardly unique.

To gain more insights into a specific firm, investors have shown more interest in intangibles like strategy, brand, innovation, systems integration, collaboration, and so on. Investors have also worked to track and measure these intangibles, even if more subjective. The next step for investors is to analyze the predictors and drivers of these intangible factors — which means focusing on leadership.

Wise, long term investors recognize that leadership affects firm performance. But too often, assessments of leadership are haphazard and narrow. For instance, in our research, we found that investors allocate about 30% of their decision making based on quality of leadership, and they have much less confidence in their ability to assess leadership than in their assessments of financial or intangible performance. Investors may say “this leader is charismatic, has a vision, or treats people well” but there is little analysis behind what has often become a “gut feel” approach.

Numerous studies have shed light on what good leadership is; synthesizing this research into useful insights for investors would help counteract intuitive leadership assessments. A leadership capital index would inform investors about the readiness of the firm’s leadership to meet business challenges.

The leadership ratings index we have developed has two dimensions, or domains: individual and organizational.

Individual refers to the personal qualities (competencies, traits, characteristics) of both the top leader and the key leadership team in the organization.

Organizational refers to the systems these leaders create to manage leadership throughout the organization and the application of organization systems to specific business conditions.

Individual:

  1. Personal proficiency: To what extent do leaders demonstrate the personal qualities to be an effective leader (e.g. intellectual, emotional, social, physical, and ethical behaviors)?
  2. Strategist: To what extent do leaders articulate a point of view about the future and accordingly adjust the firm’s strategic positioning?
  3. Executor: To what extent do leaders make things happen and deliver as promised?
  4. People manager: To what extent do leaders build competence, commitment, and contribution of their people today and tomorrow?
  5. Leadership differentiator: To what extent do leaders behave consistent with customer expectations?

Organizational:

  1. Culture capability: To what extent do leaders create a customer-focused culture throughout the organization?
  2. Talent management: To what extent do leaders manage the flow of talent into, through, and out of the organization?
  3. Performance accountability: to what extent do leaders create performance management practices that reinforce the right behaviors?
  4. Information: To what extent do leaders manage information flow throughout the organization (e.g., from top to bottom, bottom to top, and side to side)?
  5. Work practices: To what extent do leaders establish organization and governance that deal with the increasing pace of change in today’s business setting?

 

While it may not be easy to precisely track each of these 10 elements, when investors include them in interviews, observations, surveys, and reports, they will dramatically increase their ability to realize full firm value.

Boards of directors can have a more thorough process for evaluating the quality of leadership within their organization. C-suite executives who have primary responsibility for firm value can include leadership as part of this discussion. Leadership development specialists charged with developing leaders can focus less on personal characteristics of leaders and more how investors might view them.

Realizing the market value of leadership could also have a significant impact on many organization processes: risk management, governance, social responsibility, reputation, and leadership development. Each of these processes could be upgraded with a disciplined and through approach to assessing leadership.

Transitioning from a “gut feel” or narrow assessment of leadership to an index that can start to predict the impact leaders have on intangible value creation changes the game of leadership assessment and development.

The leadership capital index will help investors and others improve their approach to firm valuation. When leadership capital becomes a factor in investor judgments, it will naturally receive more emphasis in day-to-day corporate life, to the benefit of many. It is now time for investors and others to use a leadership capital index.

Adapted from an original article by David Ulrich and Allan Freed , HBR April 2015

Original Article here

What is this Employee Engagement that is so critical to Organisational success?

IMG_1207The now well circulated Gallup Poll of 2013 on Employee Engagement found that on average up to 70% of employees were not engaged with their organisation effectively meaning 35% of spend on people was wasted. Further a large portion of these employees were actively working against the interests of their organisation. These numbers are scary. The estimated cost to the US economy is 500Bn (yes Billion) per annum. It also means that in an average 100 employee company it costs around 1.5 Million per annum – excluding the cost of negative activity.

Employee engagement is an enabler for the factors an organization needs to thrive – better customer satisfaction and retention, better employee retention, increased sales and increased productivity. Engaged employees excel at what they do.

So what is engagement?

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.

To engage employees it is necessary to provide an environment and a culture, through Leadership and good management practice, that encourages alignment with the Organisations goals:

Employees are clear about what is expected of them at work. They also know their boundaries and limits. They can take a risk and know someone has their back.

Employees feel they are listened to and that their opinion counts and makes a difference.

Everybody feels they are moving forward, learning and growing. This is more than just experience, its learning new skills, adapting to new challenges and keeping up with changes.

The people who work in the company are given the materials and resources to do their job. They can focus on doing the job, not resourcing it.

Everyone understands the “why” of the organisation. What it is the Organisation is about.  This aligns with the individual’s purpose and values.

Employees get to be their best, work their best and reach their potential while doing their job. The Organisation does not get in the way of them doing their job – for example systems, paperwork, form filling etc. do not become the main activity.

People work in teams that are jointly committed to quality work, similar effort and which are led, or managed, to ensure strong relations, fairness and team as well as individual recognition.

Praise or feedback is received regularly (weekly) and is tied to evaluating and discussing  overall progress and upskilling. Personal development is encouraged and the “Boss” or “Manager” cares about the employee as a person.

The key to engagement is to create an environment and a culture which encourages Autonomy, Motivation, Empowerment and Positive Realism. It requires Authentic Leadership and a Service focus to encourage the fairness, trust and safety in which to grow the potential of your people and your Organisation.

Aidan Higgins

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