Positive Leadership has also been recognised as a Top 50 Leadership Expert to Follow on Twitter.

Follow us on Twitter @posleadership


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Becoming an Energiser

Some people become leaders no matter what their chosen path because their positive energy is so uplifting. Even in tough times, they always find a way. They seem to live life on their own terms even when having to comply with someone else's requirements. When they walk into a room, they make it come alive. When they send a message, it feels good to receive it. Their energy makes them magnets attracting other people.

Just plain energy is a neglected dimension of leadership. It is a form of power available to anyone in any circumstances. While inspiration is a long-term proposition, energy is necessary on a daily basis, just to keep going.

Three things characterise the people who are energisers;

1. A relentless focus on the bright side.
2. Redefining negatives as positives.
3. Fast response time. Energisers don't dawdle.
For more on this fascinating theme of leadership see Harvard Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter's article in -  http://www.businessweek.com/managing/content/sep2009/ca20090929_458961.htm

Leadership is not exclusive - Sporting Lessons

In the best teams, while leadership is important, it is not the exclusive preserve of one person.

The best sports teams will often change their leader or have different leaders for different situations. For example, one player will be in charge of the social aspects of the team, in cricket the batsmen on the field will have to be their own leaders, or the captain may be substituted for tactical reasons. In the Olympic champion British rowing four, Redgrave, Pinsent, Cracknell and Foster, each athlete had a leadership role at a different time. When motivation was needed they deferred to James Cracknell, for technique Tim Foster, pace to Mathew Pinsent and for team tactics Steve Redgrave. For cohesion, organisation, feedback, etc. they went to their coach.

In business it is all too easy to appoint the chairperson, the manager of the team, and load that person with all the leadership responsibilities, no matter what the task of the team. The reality is most of us can handle some kinds of leadership, few of us can handle all kinds of leadership. Starting up a project is a very different matter from turning it around or enlarging it 100-fold. Few of us have all of the leadership skills necessary to achieve all three tasks. We should learn to swap and substitute the way that sports teams do.

Sometimes these things are also ego driven. Think about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who spent a lot of his time sitting on the bench at Manchester United. He would enter the game as a substitute when the team needed a goal and would normally manage to produce the goods. Paul Rendall, a not so well known rugby player sat on the bench for England so often he gained the nickname “judge”, but he was greatly valued by the team and when he did get the chance to play performed extremely well indeed. Substitutes have become a vital tactical element of the team performance and are often referred to as “impact players”, such is their heightened value, rather than the apparently derogatory “sub”. In business wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had people whose role was primarily to lift flagging team spirits or to carry out a specific tactical role against the opposition where a weakness has been spotted?

So make comparisons between business and sport but, unless you want to demoralise your players, choose examples from which the business environment can learn. The next time the whistle blows for the start of play in your office ask yourself if you have the persistence to get the information and make the changes necessary to create world-beating performance.

At the start of the game nobody knows who will win, but those who have worked harder in preparation will have a much better chance.

What can Leaders and Followers expect of each other?

A leader expects a follower:

1. To have the courage to deliver bad news.
2. To have innovative ideas.
3. To do the right thing and trust that it will be noticed (even if the initial impact on the team is negative).
4. To be willing to take the risk of lead initiatives – even when all of the outcomes or issues have not been clearly defined.
5. To take as much interest in their subordinate’s development as they do their own – training, goal setting, and HR reviews.
6. To seek perpetual education and development.
7. To respond positively to all types of business conditions.

A follower can expect a leader:

1. To provide clear direction;
a. Who are we (values)?
b. Where are we going (direction and strategy)?
c. How will we measure success (outcomes and goals)?
d. What do I need to do right now (immediate priorities)?
2. To give frequent, specific and timely feedback.
3. To be decisive and timely – not careless and impetuous, but clear and unambiguous.
4. To be accessible.
5. To demonstrate honesty and candor.
6. To offer a compensation plan that is fair and based on a clearly understood framework.

Leadership Lessons from the Financial Services Market

We are now 12 months on from the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the downfall on some of the world's major financial institutions.

One of the emerging 'stories' of these failures is about how we manage and lead, or rather don’t manage and lead, our businesses in the 21st Century.

Today, there is far too much of a disconnect between those at the very top of our businesses and the rest. As Lehman's collapse seems to illustrate so well, there is a vacuum between top managers and the rest. If you look back at similar stories over the years (Sumitomo, Barings, Daiwa, Allied Irish, Bank of Montreal), you will find that subsequent investigations blamed the failures on bad management. Take away the world management and replace it with “leadership.”

What do we mean by a “failure of leadership?” Several things. First, look at today’s big business model and compare it with 40 or 50 years ago. In the 1960s and early 1970s most businesses were led by engineers, bankers and chemists. They all had one thing in common – they knew stuff! They had become leaders by accident. Employees worked for them because the boss knew what he was doing. Today, those in top management often have only the slightest idea of what their employees are up to. Now most of business is so complex that we rely on people with finely honed, niche skills. CEO's have been known to boast that their traders were, ‘so clever they create complex financial instruments that none of the top managers can understand.’

Second, is the culture, the climate, of the organisation. Société Générale’s Jerome Kerviel (who had an ability to run up a trading loss in excess of €5 billion) has made it clear in interviews that all he wanted to do was be a big success, make lots of money for his bosses and earn a big bonus. If that is the only culture there is, and if that is all he was judged by, then all the controls in the world will not stop it going wrong. When you have a culture based on profit and little else you are in trouble from day one.

Third, in Kerviel’s case (as in others), bosses quickly distanced themselves from him. There was not the merest hint of support. Then, as it became clear that others may have been involved – and even that there had been three suicides in recent years caused by apparent stress to succeed – the leadership moved further away. The message is clear, ‘we’re cutting you loose, we don’t want to even begin to understand your problems.’ By doing that they have de facto told the rest of the firm, we don’t want to understand anyone else’s problems either. They live in their bubble, disconnected from the rest.

So there are three elements at play here that add up to a failure of leadership. One, an inability to understand what your employees are doing, because of the complexity of the process or service; two the creation and reverence of a culture based on pure profit; third a total lack of leadership support for the people.

The question today is whether a solution exists for these huge, complex organisations. Is there a leadership model they can follow?

The answer is that what is needed is to reconnect senior managers with the people in the business. And this does not mean some HR initiative, no matter how well intentioned. What it means is a real connection that pierces the bubble, implodes the vacuum and puts the organisation together again. This is called leadership. But it MUST come from the leadership and be maintained by them day after day. Do not give this to Human Resources; this is not for them. We do not want people playing at this, we want real commitment. Take our three issues as examples.

One, senior management MUST spend real time with those that make the money, generate the ideas, meet the customers. The new power elite, the traders, IT engineers and biochemists have to be able to talk openly with those at the top. Smart companies of course have done this forever as part of their leadership culture.

Two, there is more to a business than profit at any price. These recent events show that this model is not only bad, it is very expensive too! Change the model, change the culture, be more profitable, long-term.

Three, take responsibility. Real leaders (at all levels) do not run away. In the complex world of big business, a blame culture is just as poisonous as a profit above anything culture. It does not have to be like that. Talk, support, take responsibility; that is real leadership and a lot of our big business needs it today.

And if they do not take this advice? Well, there will be another Lehmans or SocGen and another and another. But it does not have to be that way. If you have poor leadership and a culture based on profit, you will pay the price in the end. Far better a well-led, open culture where effective leadership is the only control you really need.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Heart-warming to know Sir Alex Ferguson sees the true value of defeat

This is an excellent article showing why Sir Alex Ferguson has such a record of success as the manager of Manchester United -


Are you a Leader or a Manager?

Find out whether you are a leader or a manager by answering these questions -


Leadership Best Practice

These are examples of best practice used by successful leaders. Some of these may already be in your toolkit, others you may have forgotten. Keep this list handy as a reminder of time tested solutions that will make you and your team shine.

1. Use the Power of the Pen.
Recognition is the number one motivator. A simple thank you note is more important than money to most people. Break out the fancy pen you got for your birthday and say thanks to the people who helped to get you there.

2. Understand the Importance of Emotions.
Feelings are a part of daily life and daily business. When people get hurt feelings they become poor performers, so make sure you deal with these issues sooner rather than later.

3. Great leaders have one thing in common - Passion!
If you're not turned-on about what you're doing your team won't be either, so show them that you're excited and watch them get fired up.

4. Communication is the most important thing in any business relationship.
If you don't use effective Business Communication Skills you're leaving money on the table and not getting the most out of your people. Don't be afraid to take a brush-up course and listen to hints from those who are in the positions you want. Chances are they got there because they're great communicators.

5. Do a Company Evaluation at least once a year.
Ask your team members to respond in writing to important questions like, "What do we need to change?" and "What do we need to keep doing more of?" This is your most powerful tool for a fifty thousand-foot view of your business.

6. Create a Company Mentoring Program.
Every person in and entering your company should have a mentor. A mentor's job is to help a new or junior staff member feel welcomed as well as to answer any questions. Having a mentor builds confidence and creates motivation to go above and beyond.

7. Make sure your teams are balanced with both Innovators and Implementers.
If everyone on a team is an Innovator, nothing will get done. Similarly, a team of only Implementers will create nothing new. Make sure you have a balanced team.

8. Remember that Customer Service Rocks.
The two most profitable customer service tips people use are; first, a full return/refund policy, which eliminates risk on the part of your client and encourages them to "step up to the plate". Second, never say "NO" to clients. This policy creates the opportunity for you and your client to find other ways to do business together, rather than you telling them you can't or don't provide a particular service or product.

9. Achieve goals by getting team member buy-in.
If your people have input into your goals they will put more energy into helping you achieve them. Ask them what they think and you'll get their dedication in return.

10. Implement a Knowledge Lunch.
Keep your team up to date by having a lunch meeting once a month where you discuss your business. You can even bring in vendors and external advisors to help keep your team connected and current.

11. Deal appropriately with Fear in the Workplace.
When team members are in fear for their livelihood, they do not perform at their highest level. Providing a forum to safely talk about these fears will go a long way toward helping achieve superior performance.

12. Don't just be a manager, be an Evangelist.
You need to believe in what you and your company are doing and to share the power of that belief with your team members. A good leader can't become great if they don't inspire faith in their company.

13. Pursue Failure.
Failure is not an ending, it is a stepping stone to the right answer. Stop beating yourself up for mistakes and see them as an opportunity to begin again with additional information, knowledge and experience.

14. Remember that the Fish Stinks from the Head Down.
That means that you are responsible for everything that goes right, and anything that goes wrong. Remembering that leadership is the most important component of your business, and that the buck stops with you will help you keep your "fish" fresh.

15. Having Fun Increases Productivity and Profit.
In companies where people have fun, the productivity and the profit are higher. The American Psychological Association has published surveys about this, and it¹s a fact. Take the example of Southwest Airlines - do you know that "a sense of humour" is on their job application?!

16. Beware of Invalidation.
The number one motivation killer is making a team member feel "less than". If you mistakenly say the wrong thing to someone, apologize immediately. You'll look like a responsible leader rather than an insensitive bully.

17. Learn to maintain your composure under pressure.
Thomas Jefferson said, "Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain cool and unruffled under all circumstances."

18. Join a Mastermind group.
To keep your skills sharp and get answers to difficult questions get into a group of non-competing peers. The greatest minds in business have used Mastermind Groups to help them excel in their chosen fields.

19. Learn to ask Powerful Questions.
The right question at the right time can eliminate major problems or help a team member find the best answer available.

20. Learn to Deal with Difficult People.
There are specific techniques to deal with different types of people. Learn how to tell avoidance from arrogance and denial from insecurity.

These tried and true twenty tips will help guide you to make the right decisions at the right times, for the right reasons. Leadership is an art form, and the best of the best use many of these proven techniques.

Learning from Failure

Failure is a great start. This may seem ridiculous to someone in the throes of a professional defeat, particularly if they’re used to succeeding. Yet at the heart of a loss is an opportunity, one that a leader doesn’t hesitate to seize. While it’s easy to get caught up in negativity, don’t dwell on what others may think of your defeat, and don’t pitch a tent in your own fear about it. Leadership means finding the blessing in the defeat. Your response to a failure, more so than any success, points the way to achieving your full potential as a leader. As Michael Dell (the founder and ceo of Dell Computer Corporation) says; 'at Dell, innovation is all about taking risks and learning from failure.'

•Reflect on a recent failure, loss, or defeat. How did you respond to it? Did you get caught up in the externals of it / did you try to sidestep it? Or did you find new possibilities in it?

•What shift in your own beliefs about inevitable professional loss or failure would allow you to see them as openings for a better future for yourself and your organisation?

The Top Five Managerial Fallacies Concerning Layoff Survivors

Today’s epidemic of layoffs requires managers to formulate strategies that will help their organisations recover from the ravages of downsizing and return to productivity and in order to do that, they need to reevaluate some misperceptions associated with downsizing.

Here are the top five layoff fallacies (according to author David Noer) along with critical managerial strategic responses:

1. Fallacy: There is a direct relationship between reducing “people costs” and organizational productivity. A layoff on a Friday will result in productivity gains on the following Monday.

Reality: The overwhelming consensus of downsizing research is that layoffs do not achieve their going in productivity goals. Survivors of most organisations are angry, depressed, anxious and fearful. They are not able or willing to take risks or focus on increasing customer service. At the very time organisations need them to be the most creative and energetic; they lie down in the trenches, absorbed in their own toxic survivor symptoms.

Strategic Response: Organisations need to move beyond layoff administration and planning into formulating strategies for layoff recovery. This involves re-recruiting demoralized employees and working to help them overcome debilitating survivor emotions.

2. Fallacy: Survivors will work hard because they will be grateful that they were lucky enough to keep their jobs.

Reality: Layoff survivors are not motivated by luck. In fact, evidence is clear that the opposite happens – they are demotivated by survivor guilt and its cousins: anxiety and depression.

Strategic Response: Managers need to examine and, if necessary, reframe their assumptions concerning survivor motivation. In order to return to productivity, survivors need coaching and empathy. Reminding layoff survivors that they should be grateful won’t motivate them; it will only make them feel deeper levels of survivor guilt.

3. Fallacy: Organisational leaders should not tolerate any whining and complaining.

Reality: Without the healthy externalisation of layoff induced anger, fear, and anxiety, employees will remain crippled by layoff survivor sickness. In fact, research shows their symptoms will get worse.

Strategic Response: Counter cultural though it may be, managers need to develop organisationally sanctioned processes that facilitate the venting of repressed feelings and emotions. Healthy venting is a necessary means to the end of moving employees back to productivity.

4. Fallacy: In tough times, the most effective managers “suck it up,” are tough minded, and don’t tolerate “touchy-feely” distractions.

Reality: “Sucking it up” is precisely the wrong strategy for dealing with downsising, change, and transition. It is a defense mechanism - a form of evasion that anchors behaviour in the past and prevents productive engagement and personal growth.

Strategic Response: Leadership in the post-layoff environment is a helping, not a controlling relationship, and requires reaching out, not closing down and hiding behind a facade of toughness and control. Organisations that have successfully helped employees rebound from the trauma of layoffs have required their managers to learn and apply basic helping skills.

5. Fallacy: Once things get back to normal, the epidemic of downsisings will stop and job security will return.

Reality: We are experiencing a fundamental shift in the psychological contract that connects employee to employer. When the economy becomes more positive, the frequency of mass layoffs will diminish, but long-term, lifetime employment with one organisation is a thing of the past.

Strategic Response: It is important that the wrong message not be communicated. Managers need to emphasize that employees will have to rely on maintaining transferable marketable skills and continually cultivate their professional network. That will provide the only true employment security in the brave new world of the new psychological employment contract.

Managers today are operating within a pandemic of layoffs. It is essential that they formulate strategies that help re-recruit organisational survivors. Confronting the fallacies concerning layoffs and formulating strategies to facilitate a return to organisational productivity and employee motivation will directly impact competitive advantage and sustainability.

Leadership Development

Economic turmoil. Global competition. Shrinking markets and margins. Layoffs, increasing cynicism and mistrust.

These difficult times require exceptional leadership.

We understand the challenges leaders at all levels face in staying true to their personal convictions, acting swiftly in times of uncertainty, being accountable for the business - and all the while inspiring others to greatness.

Although traditional management skills and business competence get executives promoted, research indicates that being trustworthy, showing empathy and creating meaning are the characteristics that differentiate truly exceptional leaders.

It’s not an either-or proposition. These leaders integrate what appear to be paradoxical leadership characteristics of Competence and Connection:

  • Business Aptitude and Trustworthiness
  • Internal Attunement and External Attunement
  • Clarity and Depth
  • Responsibility and Empathy
These leaders also modify their behaviour to respond to the needs of their followers and the circumstances they encounter – while simultaneously remaining true to who they are. They don’t try to emulate celebrity CEOs or bosses they admire. They understand that leadership is a relationship with their followers.

Are You Practicing Positive Leadership?

Over the past decade, scientists have explored the impact of positive-to-negative interaction ratios in our work and personal life. And they have found that this ratio can be used to predict — with remarkable accuracy — everything from workplace performance to divorce. This work began with noted psychologist John Gottman’s exploration of positive-to-negative ratios in marriages. Using a 5:1 ratio, which Gottman dubbed “the magic ratio,” he and his colleagues predicted whether 700 newlywed couples would stay together or divorce by scoring their positive and negative interactions in one 15-minute conversation between each husband and wife. Ten years later, the follow-up revealed that they had predicted divorce with 94% accuracy.

So what is the optimal positive-to-negative ratio in organisations? A recent study by psychologist Barbara Fredrickson and mathematician Marcial Losada found that work teams with a PNR greater than 3:1 were significantly more productive than workgroups that did not reach this ratio. Positive emotions, however, need to be grounded in reality: Their research also uncovered an upper limit for positive-to-negative ratios of 13:1. When workgroups exceed that PNR, things are likely to worsen; completely blind optimism can be counterproductive — and downright annoying — in some cases.

But managers shouldn’t worry about breaking the upper limit. The levels of positive emotions in most organisations are woefully inadequate and leave substantial room for improvement.

Leaders need to be very conscious of how their emotions and behaviour impacts their followers. As mentioned leaders need to actively manage the tension between “being positive” and the need to “face reality”. To manage this tension positive leaders remain engaged, but focus on the future they’re trying to create. Always accepting responsibility to be the difference they want to see in others.

How positive are your interactions? What’s your ratio? Have you consciously chosen to be positive?

Classic CEO 'Pitchmen'

Ever since former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca appeared on US TV ads in the early 1980s, daring viewers to buy a better car if they could find it, there have been waves of corporate chiefs 'going Hollywood'. Here are a few classics with links to commercials:



“R-E-S-P-E-C-T….Find out what it means to me.” Aretha Franklin

If you were to take a look at 100 corporate value statements, you would most likely find the word “respect” on at least 90% of them. Respect usually ends up high on the list of those “what do employees value most” lists. Everyone wants and deserves a little respect at work, especially from their leaders.

So what does it mean to show respect as a leader?

R = Relationships. Do you have a transactional relationship with your employees? That is, you pay them X pounds, and they give you Y amount of work? Are they just another “human resource” to you? Or have you taken the time to cultivate a relationship, based on mutual respect and support?

E = Everyone counts, no matter who they are, at any level in the organization. Great leaders don’t selectively dole out respect, in a way that serves their own agendas. Want to judge the true character of a leader? Watch how they treat the cleaning people.

S = Support your employees. This means making sure they are paid fairly, are given the resources needed to do their jobs, barriers are removed, and sponsorship is obtained for their work. When they succeed, let everyone know. When they make a mistake, stand by them.

P = Please and thank-you. As a manager, you don’t have to ask your employees to do anything – you can simply order them. As a leader, if you treat them as if they do have a choice, they’ll end up exceeding your expectations. Saying thanks and showing sincere appreciation is another way to show respect. Most managers think they do a good job at this…. most employees think they don’t. Try doing it until it feels like overkill, and then you can pull back if people start complaining (it’s rarely happened).

E = Encourage every employee to grow and develop, in order to reach their full potential. Be a coach, a mentor, and a teacher. Set aside time on a regular basis for career and development discussions. Help your employees become more that they thought they could ever become. Better yet, help them become greater than yourself.

C = Care. That’s right, care about your employees. Care about their success at work, their families, their health, their goals, and their satisfaction. Here’s a test: do you know the names of your employee’s children? Do you give them a card on their birthday? What’s the first thing you do you do when an employee or family member becomes seriously ill? Ask how soon they can get back to work, because there are important project deadlines that can’t be missed? Or organize a delivery of flowers and food to their home?

T = Treat people how they want to be treated (the platinum rule), not how you want to be treated (the golden rule).

Monday, September 28, 2009

MHTA's ACE Leadership Programme Provides the Connection

Here is a great initiative from Minnesota, designed to help local companies remain globally competitive:

'Leadership: It’s the X-factor that can make or break a company. It’s more than just squishy soft skills. It’s about being real – we can all spot a phony a mile away; it’s influencing and inspiring to get long term, sustainable results. And it’s a company’s biggest lever for increasing productivity and performance.

The Minnesota High Tech Association is leading efforts to develop next-generation leaders through the ACE Leadership Program, an initiative now entering its fifth year. The purpose of the ACE Leadership Program is to develop and connect our region’s next-generation technology company leaders and to assist them in preparing for the important roles they will play in making and keeping our region globally competitive.

The ACE Leadership Program believes effectives leaders:
  • Are aware of and understand their individual strengths and leadership skills.
  • Effectively communicate their beliefs and use their leadership skills as advocates.
  • Collaborate effectively, respecting differences in leadership styles.
  • Create lasting value for their companies and their communities by doing so.
The ACE Leadership Program is designed around these principles, and creates opportunities for participants to develop their strengths while interacting with senior technology company leaders as well as 30 other next-generation leaders. Beginning in January 2010, the program consists of seven daylong sessions over the course of the year, during which participants will:
  • Increase awareness of, explore and develop their leadership strengths (and uncover blind spots) in an applied, real-world setting.
  • Explore issues that are important to keep their company’s and our region’s tech-based economy globally competitive.
  • Test and improve their ability to communicate and advocate for these issues.
  • Connect and collaborate with regional leaders and other next-generation leaders to drive innovation and have a positive impact on their organizations and communities.
The ACE Leadership Program involves leaders teaching leaders, with current senior executives from technology companies, government and education sharing lessons learned in their areas of expertise.Using action learning, participants will discuss ideas, test and apply them in their own organizations and collaborate with other next-generation leaders. Individual and small-group initiatives create visibility and play a pivotal role.

“Innovation,” “partnering” and “collaboration” must be more than buzz words if Minnesota technology companies are to remain globally competitive. Through the MHTA ACE Leadership Program, broad networks are being forged and leadership skills are being honed among the CEOs and community leaders of tomorrow.'

Xerox’s Groundbreaking Woman to Woman Leadership Succession

Earlier this year, Xerox announced a remarkable leadership transition. After a 33 year career at the global document management company including eight very challenging and successful years as CEO, Anne Mulcahy (56), passed the helm to Ursala Burns (50), a 30 year company veteran and previously, the company president.

Not only is this a groundbreaking woman to woman leadership transition, but Burns is also the first black female CEO to run a large publicly traded company in the USA.

Today, Xerox announced its biggest acquisition ever, the $6.4 billion acquisition of Affiliated Computer Services.

Congratulations are in order to Mulcahy, Burns and Xerox in blazing the trail and making American corporate leadership history!

The Value of Mentoring Future Leaders

This past June, Proctor & Gamble announced that A.G Lafley, one of the most highly revered CEOs in America, would be succeeded by operations chief Robert McDonald. One of the interesting facts emerging in the story of the transition came from the Wall Street Journal. (P&G Chooses a New CEO as It Adapts to Era of Thrift – June 9, 2009)

'The day of his P&G job interview, Mr. McDonald dined with Mr. Lafley, who was to be Mr. McDonald’s company mentor because they shared military careers prior to P&G. As their company careers crisscrossed over the years, the two would rib each other about their military days.'

That should add more weight to the argument about the value of formal mentorship programs.

Better Today than Yesterday - Tiger Woods

Most people are hugely impressed by Tiger Woods, who yesterday collected a $10 million bonus as the winner of the season long FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour.

Tiger is the greatest golfer of his generation, and most likely of all time. As with other super successful sports stars and Hollywood celebrities, he is driven to succeed.

The leadership question about Tiger is whether that drive is born from a desire to overcome some tragic past or flaw, or simply to be at one's best every day.  This ESPN interview provides an answer. The interview is almost 28 minutes long and is worth every moment.

Conversation with Tiger Woods

Here are the things that seem most impressive about what Tiger had to say:

1. Tiger is a man who values friendship and respect. His relationship with Steve Williams, his caddie, is a perfect example of a team where respect and trust matter.

2. Tiger is driven to be better tomorrow than he is today. It takes a deep reservoir of confidence to constantly put yourself in a position to fail so that you win.

3. Living in the moment is better and easier than watching it. Wow!. Let that sink in. How often do you live in the moment? There is a peacefulness, a quiet confidence that comes in knowing that at any moment you can be your best.

4. What may be the most amazing thing about Tiger Woods is his self-perception. He doesn't seem to be influenced by what others think of him. Scott Van Pelt, the ESPN interviewer is obviously friends with Tiger. There was a sort of awkwardness as they spoke on camera, for the record. It became clear that Tiger sees himself as possibly the greatest golfer of all time. He has the desire to become that, and so he is driven everyday to be his best. It isn't about being the best so you or I will acknowledge it. It is for his own self-perception. It may be that his focus away from what others think is what enables him to concentrate so well on the course.

In Jim Collins' 'Good to Great' chapter on the Hedgehog Concept, he sets up a way to organize one's self-perception in a practical way. There are three circles. One has to do with what you are passionate about, another that represents the economic engine of your passion, and the third that one thing that you are the best in the world at doing.

You don't have to be a champion golfer or the CEO of a FTSE 100 company to have the kind of drive to be better every day like Tiger does. That has nothing to do with what your talent may be, and everything to do with your character. What Tiger has is a paradoxical belief in both the nobility and importance of being the best, and a humility to recognize that his greatest opponent is his own character. That is what is most impressive about the man.

Share this video with people you know. Help them come to understand that they can achieve great things if they just focus on being better today than they were yesterday. That's all it takes.

Tomorrow's Global Leader

What are the most important skills needed to be an effective “global leader” in the future?

Would you agree that the following traits could be the most essential:

· Ethics
· Honesty
· Transparency
· Integrity
· Humility
· Respect
· Flexibility
· Collaboration

Innovative Leaders

'Some of the sharpest insights on innovation come off the playing field....That ability to spot insights and lessons from fields far outside your own is one hallmark of an innovative leader. Of course, leaders have to do more than see the parallels--they have to adapt them to fit their own needs and then convince their teams to put them into practice, time and time again.'

Here is a fascinating insight into the approach to learning adopted by one innovative leader, the late Bill Walsh (ex San Francisco 49ers coach) - http://www.forbes.com/2009/06/09/innovative-leaders-bill-walsh-intelligent-technology-walsh.html

Lessons From Lance's Coach

Here is a fascinating insight into leadership; a book written on France's muddy roads and mountain passes. It is entitled,We Might as Well Win: On the Road to Success with the Mastermind Behind a Record-setting Eight Tour De France Victories  and it is written by Johan Bruyneel.

Bruyneel, the team director for all seven of Armstrong's Tour de France victories, was a mid-level pro cyclist himself in the 1980s and 1990s. With unexceptional talent, Bruyneel managed to stay at the sport's highest levels with a superior grasp of strategy, planning, tactics and psychology. At age 34, Bruyneel retired from racing and took up Lance Armstrong's invitation to become team director for U.S. Postal. In 1998 U.S. Postal was a rag tag bunch whose best cyclist, Armstrong, was a cancer survivor and impatient hot dog who had yet to win a multi-stage race of any kind. Bruyneel brought a new style of organization to a sport forged in romance and tradition. He promptly bagged eight wins in the Tour de France, seven with Armstrong and one with Alberto Contador.

Once in a generation, a competitive sport is transformed by a visionary leader. Think of John Wooden in college basketball, Doc Councilman in swimming, Bill Bowerman in distance running, Bill Walsh in professional football. In every case it turns out that the transformative leader is just plain smarter than his peers but is also a person of great personal courage and conviction.

Bruyneel is that person. His book is a delight to read. You will be the richer for it.

View from the Corner Office

Here is an extract from an interesting Q&A with Lawrence W. Kellner, chairman and chief executive of Continental Airlines:

Q. What are the most important leadership lessons you’ve learned?

A. A lot of the lessons probably came from my dad. When I was a kid, he was a manager in a Campbell’s Soup plant and had several hundred people working for him. When I watched him at work, he never really seemed to tell people what to do. He always seemed to figure out how to get them to want to do it. He always spent a lot of time figuring out who his best people were, and he spent a lot of time figuring out what it was they wanted to do, and then it all seemed to work flawlessly. So it comes back to getting the right people, and getting them doing the right thing, and getting them the right training.

Q. Any other key lessons that you learned along the way?

A. The importance of listening and, in many cases, getting the quiet person who doesn’t necessarily always contribute to speak up. You’ve got to go ask them sometimes, and I counsel them on the side: “Don’t make me come find you. When you’re in a meeting and you see where we’re going and you’ve got a view on it, don’t wait until I ask your opinion.” As I moved up the chain, I quickly realized that I knew less about a lot of areas than the people who worked for me, and if I was talking, they were just going to do what I wanted. So it was really important to listen to them and get their feedback. By listening to all sides, I could try to figure out the right answer.

For more, see - http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/business/27corner.html?_r=1

Practical Leadership Lessons from Sport

Some of the most practical leadership lessons come to us everyday. We may not regard them as such but they are presenting fundamentals in both personal and organisational development. Where can you find these lessons? In the sports pages of your daily newspaper or on the screens of your favorite sports shows. Everyday you will find stories about athletes who push themselves to the limits to achieve stardom or just the opposite, athletes with plenty of raw talent but no brains, nor sense of restraint so they end up frittering their gifts away through drink, drugs or sheer laziness.

You will also find stories of coaches who set the right example for their teams by setting standards for athletics and teaching to those standards. And on the professional side you will see stories of owners who build organizations designed to put coaches and players first so that the team wins. And of course you will find stories of owners who care only about polishing their egos at the expense of everyone else. Taken together these stories provide valuable insights into character, motive, energy and commitment. 

Ultimately sports are about performance. There are three elements to performance at the highest level: drive, determination and discipline. You will find these elements in every successful athlete as well as every successful organisation.

While drive, determination and discipline are essential internal motivators, they can be taught to the entire team and ultimately the entire organisation. In doing so, these elements will help create a culture where people can and do make a positive difference.

Drive. How do you define it? Drive is what gets you up in the morning and at your given task. Drive derives from the inner motivation to succeed. It is your internal motor that keeps you going and focused on what you need to do. For athletes, this means training, be it lifting, running or stretching as well as practicing a skill. For employees, drive is our desire to come to work and achieve. Our exercises may be mental, such as reading and studying. The key to drive, however, is universal. It is your desire to succeed. You develop a goal and you strive for it. Athletes want to win; employees want to win by doing their jobs well so their team succeeds. Goals are what make drive click. It’s like turning on the ignition to your car but leaving it in park. You have no place to go and you are wasting petrol.

Determination. If drive is your motor then determination is the fuel – your will to succeed. Success in sports requires the will to persevere. If you are a hockey player, you don’t step onto the ice without learning to skate or spending hours upon hours on stick handling drills. Your determination is honed by years of practice. Call it “stick to it ness.” While others are relaxing or partying, you are working at your craft. Determination is, or should be, nurtured through school and university. You choose your path – engineering, science, or the arts – because you have an interest in it. Where it leads you is up to you. Determination is what you make of your talents and how you apply them. Your determination will dictate to some degree how far you go in your chosen field. Your determination will steel your pursuit of your goals. The more you want to achieve the more events and circumstances will stand in your way. For example, you will always find someone more talented than yourself; how you prepare yourself for that competition will depend upon your determination.

Discipline. Engaging your drive and fueling your determination comes down to discipline. In other words, how badly do you want to achieve your goals? For an athlete who wants to compete in the Olympics, discipline is continuous. It pushes you to endure grueling training and eating only the right foods along with preparing the mind to compete. Discipline is all-consuming. In the workplace, discipline is not simply showing up. It is the rigor that you apply to doing a job and doing it well. It also means not cutting corners for expediency but giving full measure. Discipline is not easy; that’s why it takes discipline.

While it is necessary to demonstrate drive, determination and discipline, personal success depends upon an ability to create new opportunities as well as to adapt to changing conditions. Risk is an element of success, as is courage. All athletes demonstrate risk when they put themselves on the line to compete. The risk may come in the form of ego, as in, “Do I have what it takes to compete against the best?” Pro golfers feel this every time they put tee to ground as they enter a tournament. Courage may enter in competition that exacts physical pain, be it football or tour cycling. Injuries are part of the competitive process. Despite such limitations, keeping drive, determination and discipline in mind will focus you on both the immediate tasks as well as the long-term goals. That is a lesson that all athletes eventually learn: as you train your body, your mind conforms, too. Your mind works two ways. It sets the body in motion, but it also provides you with excuses to slack off. By adhering to the rigor of competition, be it sport or business, you eventually develop a system that allows you to compete at a high level but also achieve things you never thought possible, be it a gold medal or an all time sales record, or brand-new process that no one had ever envisioned.

And that’s exciting as anything you might read in the sports pages.

7 Types of Leadership Stories

"Through a story, life invites us to come inside as a participant." -- Steve Denning, author of the Springboard: How Storytelling Ignited Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations and Squirrel, Inc.: A Fable of Leadership and Storytelling

In his recent book, "Squirrel, Inc.," author Steve Denning, describes seven types of stories:

Sparking Action. Leadership is, above all, about getting people to change. To achieve this goal, you need to communicate the sometimes complex nature of the changes required and inspire an often skeptical organization to enthusiastically carry them out. This is the place for what we would call the "springboard story," one that enables listeners to visualize the large-scale transformation needed in their circumstances and then to act on that realization. Such a story is based on an actual event, preferably recent enough to seem relevant. It has a single protagonist with whom members of the target audience can identify. And there is an authentically happy ending, in which a change has at least in part been successfully implemented. (There is also an implicit alternate ending, an unhappy one that would have resulted had the change not occurred.) The story has enough detail to be intelligible and credible but not so much that listeners become completely wrapped up in it. If that happens, people won't have the mental space to create an analogous scenario for change in their own organization. For example, if you want to get an organization to embrace a new technology, you might tell stories about individuals elsewhere who have successfully implemented it, without dwelling on the specifics of implementation.

Communicating Who You Are. You aren't likely to lead people through wrenching change if they don't trust you. And if they're to trust you, they have to know you: who you are, where you've come from, and why you hold the views you do. Ideally, they'll end up not only understanding you but also empathizing with you. Stories for this purpose are usually based on a life event that reveals some strength or vulnerability and shows what the speaker took from the experience. For example, Jack Welch's success in making General Electric a winner was undoubtedly aided by his ability to tell his own story, which includes a tongue-lashing he once received from his mother after he hurled a hockey stick across the ice in response to a disappointing loss. "You punk!" he reports her saying in his memoir Jack: Straight from the Gut. "If you don't know how to lose, you'll never know how to win."  Unlike a story designed to spark action, this kind is typically "well told," with colorful detail and context. So the speaker needs to ensure that the audience has enough time and interest to hear the story.

Transmitting Values. Stories can be effective tools for ingraining values within an organization, particularly those that help forestall future problems by clearly establishing limits on destructive behavior. A story of this type ensures that the audience understands "how things are done around here." These narratives often take the form of a parable. Religious leaders have used them for thousands of years to communicate values. The stories are usually set in some kind of generic past and have few context-setting details--though the context that is established needs to seem relevant to the listeners. The "facts" of such tales can be hypothetical, but they must be believable. For example, a story might tell the sad fate of someone who failed to see the conflict of interest in not disclosing his or her financial interest in a company supplier. Of course, narratives alone cannot establish values in an organization. Leaders need to live the values on a daily basis.

Fostering Collaboration. Every management textbook talks about the value of getting people to work together. But most don't offer advice on making that happen in real-life work environments--except, "Encourage conversations." Yes, but how? One approach is to generate a common narrative around a group's concerns and goals, beginning with a story told by one member of the group. Ideally, that first story sparks another, which sparks another. If the process continues, group members develop a shared perspective, one that enables a sense of community to emerge naturally. The first story must be emotionally moving enough to unleash the narrative impulse in others and to create a readiness to hear more stories. It could, for example, vividly describe how the speaker had grappled with a difficult work situation. For this process to occur, it is best if the group has an open agenda that allows the stories to surface organically. It is also desirable to have a plan ready so that the energy generated by the positive experience of sharing stories can be immediately channeled into action.

Taming the Grapevine. Rumours flow incessantly through every organisation. "Have you heard the latest?" is a whispered refrain that's difficult for managers to deal with. Denying a rumour can give it credibility. Asking how it got started may ensure it is spread. Ignoring it altogether risks allowing it to grow out of control. Rumours about issues central to the future of the organisation -- takeovers, reorganizations, major managerial changes-- can be an enormous distraction (or worse) to the staff of an organisation and beyond. So as an executive, what can you do? One response is to harness the energy of the grapevine to defuse the rumour, using a story to convince listeners that the gossip is either untrue or unreasonable. This kind of story highlights the incongruity between the rumour and reality. You could use gentle satire to mock the rumour, the rumour's author, or even yourself, in an effort to undermine the rumour's power. For example, you might deal with a false rumour of "imminent corporate-wide reorganization" by jokingly recounting how the front office's current struggles involving the seating chart for executive committee meetings would have to be worked out first. Keep in mind, though, that humour can backfire. Mean-spirited ridicule can generate a well-deserved backlash. The trick is to work with, not against, the flow of the vast underground river of informal communication that exists in every organisation. Of course, you can't ridicule a rumour into oblivion if it's true or at least reasonable. If that's the case, there is little that can be done except to admit the rumour, put it in perspective, and move on.

Sharing Knowledge. Much of the intellectual capital of an organisation is not written down anywhere but resides in the minds of the staff. Communicating this know-how across an organisation and beyond typically occurs informally, through the sharing of stories. Knowledge-sharing narratives are unusual in that they lack a hero or even a detectable plot. They are more about problems, and how and why they got--or, more likely, didn't get--resolved. They include a description of the problem, the setting, the solution, and the explanation. Because they highlight a problem--say, the challenge employees face in learning to use a new system--they tend to have a negative tone. And because they often focus in detail on why a particular solution worked, they may be of little interest outside a defined group of people. Though unashamedly entertaining and lacking most elements of a conventional story, they are nonetheless the uncelebrated workhorse of organisational narrative. They present a difficulty, however. In a corporate setting, stories about problems don't flow easily, not only because people fear the consequences of admitting mistakes, but also because, in the flush of success, people tend to forget what they learned along the way. As a result, the knowledge-sharing story cannot be compelled; it has to be teased out. That is, a discussion of successes may be needed to get people to talk about what has gone wrong and how it can be fixed.

Leading People into the Future. An important part of a leader's job is preparing others for what lies ahead, whether in the concrete terms of an actual scenario or the more conceptual terms of a vision. A story can help take listeners from where they are now to where they need to be, by getting them familiar and comfortable with the future in their minds. The problem, of course, lies in crafting a credible narrative about the future when the future is unknowable. Thus, if such stories are to serve their purpose, they should whet listeners' imaginative appetite about the future without providing detail that will likely turn out to be inaccurate. Listeners should be able to remold the story in their minds as the future unfolds with all its unexpected twists and turns. And clearly, they should portray that state in a positive way: People are more likely to overcome uncertainty about change if they are shown what to aim for rather than what to avoid. Note that telling an evocative future narrative requires a high degree of verbal skill, something not every leader possesses. But the springboard story, described above, provides an alternative. Hearing about a change that has already happened can help listeners to imagine how it might play out in the future.

Seeing things Differently

Here are two lessons to illustrate an unusual characteristic of leadership.

The two stories, one about Tom Watson Jr. and the other about Thomas Edison, both illustrate how great leaders deal with costly mistakes.

The way both leaders responded to their situations demonstrated an essential characteristic of leadership - the ability to see things differently. An ability which illustrates the importance of vision over short-sightedness.

A Costly Mistake or a Learning Investment?

Tom Watson Jr., CEO of IBM between 1956 and 1971, was a key figure in the information revolution. Watson repeatedly demonstrated his abilities as a leader, never more so than in our first short story.

A young executive had made some bad decisions that cost the company several million dollars. He was summoned to Watson’s office, fully expecting to be dismissed. As he entered the office, the young executive said, “I suppose after that set of mistakes you will want to fire me.” Watson was said to have replied, “Not at all, young man, we have just spent a couple of million dollars educating you.”  (Source: Edgar Schein in his book Organisational Culture and Leadership)

The story provides a strong message of support and a reminder that some of the most powerful lessons we can learn are from our so called failures or difficult times.

Remember Edison's famous saying: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Thomas Edison also demonstrated a great response to adversity which compliments Watson Jr's actions.

When his factory was burned down, with much of his life's work inside, Edison said: “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew."

A characteristic of leadership is to see things differently. Seeing mistakes as an investment in learning. Seeing that, even in disaster, you can start anew.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Yom Kippur and the prerequisites to positive leadership under the Jewish faith

Today is Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement; the most solemn of the Jewish holidays.

Yom (Day of) Kippur is a breakthrough Jewish contribution to humanity. It highlights the most essential human attributes, which constitute prerequisites to positive leadership: humility (as featured in the Netaneh Tokef prayer), soul-searching, recognizing fallibility, confessing wrong-doing, asking and granting forgiveness, accepting responsibility, collective responsibility, magnanimity. Yom Kippur is not driven by punishment, but by behavioural-enhancement.

Yom Kippur is observed on the tenth day of the Jewish month of Tishrei, which is an ancient word for forgiveness and Genesis. Ten has special significance in Judaism: G-D's abbreviation is the tenth Hebrew letter, Ten Commandments, Ten reasons for blowing the Shofar, Ten Percent Gift to G-D (tithe), etc.

The prayer of Veedooi is recited Ten times during Yom Kippur, re-entrenching the genuine plea for forgiveness. The prerequisites for forgiveness, according to Jewish Sages, are the expression & exercise (talking & walking) of confession (assuming full-responsibility), repentance and significantly altering one's behavior through the heart as well as through the head (no "buts," no "ifs" and no plea for mitigating circumstances). King Saul sinned only once – ignoring the commandment to annihilate the Amalekites – but was banished from the crown and killed. King Saul raised mitigating circumstances, while responding to Samuel's accusation. King David sinned twice (The "Bat-Sheba Gate" and "Census Gate"), but was forgiven. King David accepted full-responsibility and unconditional blame and the death sentence (as expressed by Nathan the Prophet), which was promptly rescinded.

Tefila Zaka, the initial prayer on the eve of Yom Kippur, enables each worshipper to announce universal forgiveness. While transgressions between human-beings and G-D are forgiven summarily via prayers, transgressions among human-beings require explicit forgiveness. Ill-speaking of other persons may not be forgiven.

The Memorial Candle, commemorating one's parent(s), is lit during Yom Kippur. It reaffirms "Honour Thy Father and Mother," providing another opportunity to ask forgiveness of one's parent(s), as well as asking forgiveness on their behalf.

G-D's forgiveness and G-D's Covenant with the Jewish People are commemorated on Yom Kippur. It reflects the end of G-D's rage over the sin of the Golden Calf, and it was the day of Abraham's own circumcision, signifying G-D's covenant with the Jewish People.

Yom Kippur underlines unison, as synagogues become a platform for the righteous and the sinner.

The Scroll of Jonas is read on Yom Kippur. Its lessons demonstrate that repentance and forgiveness is universal to all Peoples, commanding one to assume responsibility, to get involved socially-politically, to sound the alarm when wrong-doing is committed anywhere in the world, to display compassion to all peoples and to adhere to Faith and Optimism, in defiance of all odds. It behooves good folks to roll up their sleeves, lest evil triumphs!

A long sound of the Shofar concludes Yom Kippur. It commemorates the covenant with G-D (the almost-sacrifice of Isaac), the receipt of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, Liberty and anti-slavery (Jubilee) and the opening of G-D's gates of forgiveness.

Who was the real winner - the Lions or the Springboks?

Can heroic defeat ever surpass conventional victory? It is a question for life just as much as sport – must the outcome always define the whole experience?

Here is a fascinating article challenging the notion of what being a 'winner' in sport really means and highlighting the role of 'deft leadership' in building a successful team - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/international/britishandirishlionsrugby/6231056/Ian-McGeechans-Lions-show-that-you-can-win-even-when-you-lose.html

Magic Without Magic

Phil Jackson is the current coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Jackson is widely considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA). His reputation was established as head coach of the Chicago Bulls from 1989 through 1998; during his tenure, Chicago won six NBA titles. His next team, the Los Angeles Lakers, won four NBA titles from 2000 to 2009. In total, Jackson has won 10 NBA titles as a coach, surpassing a record he had shared previously with Red Auerbach, the former Boston Celtics coach.

In his coaching philosophy, Phil Jackson has made explicit what most great coaches and managers have understood intuitively, namely that the hardest challenge of leadership is to place the work where it belongs, resisting the impulse to take the work off of the shoulders of those who own the problem. His "spirituality," if you want to call it that, has enabled him to see the big picture even while he is in the midst of a heated moment.

One of Jackson's most memorable moments occurred in the Eastern Conference National Basketball Association finals between the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks in 1994, the year after Michael Jordan retired (for the first time).

Jackson's Bulls were desperately trying to show the world -- and themselves -- that they could win without Jordan. With the Knicks ahead in the best-of-seven series 2-0, the score was tied in game 3 with only 1.8 seconds left. Jackson called a time out to plan the last shot. Jackson called a play that had Scottie Pippin, the Bulls number one star post-Jordan, inbounding the ball to Tony Kukoc, the team's other big star, for the final shot. Pippin was angry that Jackson had not called his number and refused to take the floor as the timeout ended. Jackson sent in a reserve player, who made a perfect pass to Kukoc for the final and winning shot.

Right after the game, the Bulls' dressing room was thick with tension over the incident rather than with euphoria over the victory. Jackson walked in, said to the team, "What happened has hurt us. Now you have to work this out." And then he left.

Jackson's approach to management acknowledges what all good leaders know: that their job is to get others to take responsibility for the future of the organisation and not be seduced to believing the hype that they alone have the magic.

Leadership from Tiger Woods

Leaders and senior executives--here's a quote that will grab your attention. "I just can't wait until the season starts," said Tiger Woods, who won 7 events in 2007..."Obviously I've got a lot of room for improvement, which is great fun. My bad shots aren't as bad as they used to be. ...Just imagine if I could hit the ball the way I wanted to."

These words of wisdom appeared in the January 3, 2008 Sports section of The Washington Post. Tiger Woods believes that working towards his image of an improved self is fun. And in spite of all his accomplishments, he believes he needs to improve. The article also quotes other highly rated golf pros, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh, as having spent time over the winter working to improve the details of their game.

Are you a leader with a passion for improvement? A leader who says "in spite of years of experience, I still have room to grow."

Just think about the message that attitude sends to everyone who looks up to you. It's a message about dynamism, commitment, enthusiasm and optimism. "We can continue to get better, there are new things under the sun, we will stay engaged and make a difference."

Communication behavior, including your presentation style, is rooted in habits and repetition. Do you ever look closely at your speaking style and ask yourself how you can improve your swing, hit the ball more accurately, and more consistently reach the green and the cup? Taking a look at yourself through the eyes of a coach--just like Tiger, Phil, Jim and Vijay do--will make a difference in how you communicate and win in the game of leadership.

What leadership tips have you taken from the world of sports? Preparation, sportsmanship, team development and the like?

Leadership Lessons from 1955

Here is an interesting article from the Financial Times, first published in November 2008:

'So there I was at one of those nice off-the-record dinners the other evening, discussing the financial crisis with various business figures. It was a good conversation, though some of the comments were a bit predictable. We all agreed, unsurprisingly, that “the long term” was what mattered in business. We did not agree what the long term was, or how we would know when we had got there.

I was lucky enough to be seated next to a distinguished business leader, the sort of person we used to call a Captain of Industry (CoI), when that term still meant something. The CoI participated fully in the evening’s debate, warning against the dangers of over-reacting to the crisis with excessive regulation.

‘You will always have something more to learn, so be prepared to profit by experience’

..Life in the boardroom is rarely easy or uncomplicated, he observed soberly. His first thought, on seeing friends and acquaintances struggle in the current conditions, was “There but for the grace of God...”

What really interested him, though, was the question of leadership. He told me that he had recently found a few notes in his attic, dating back to 1955, which he had been given as part of his officer training course at Eaton Hall, near Chester, in the north-west of England.

This CoI belongs to a generation that had to do National (military) Service, a practice that ended in Britain in 1960. (What our CoI had not bargained for back then was being sent to fight guerrillas in Cyprus in 1956, prior to being parachuted into Port Said during the Suez crisis later that year.)

He said he would send me a copy of these notes, and, in the manner of busy, successful people, he duly did the following morning.

No wonder historians are worried about the disappearance of documentary evidence now that everything is being e-mailed and text-messaged. These typed pages, with all their blotches and imperfections, summoned up the past. Some of the language felt a bit dated. There was a Trevor Howard/Celia Johnson quality to it: quaint and charming, but perhaps a little remote.

All the same, my CoI was right. I have rarely read such clear, purposeful and persuasive thoughts on leadership, delivered in only a few sentences. Making allowance for the fact that these notes were written in a military context, with only a few minor changes they could serve as a valuable aide-mémoire to any leader.

Leadership is “the art of influencing a body of people to follow a certain course of action”, the notes state. “The art of controlling them, directing them and getting the best out of them.” Yes, I know. “Controlling” is not very 2008, is it? But this is the army we are talking about. Come to think of it, a bit more control in the banks in recent years might not have been such a bad idea.

Leaders have to make decisions and stick to them “regardless of popularity or of difficulties”. But: “Orders must be constantly renewed and, once they have become inapplicable or out of date, they must be abolished.” So no harmful rigidity there.

“The leader must know and understand his men and treat them as human beings.” Tick. “An officer must want to lead. He must be proud of his command.” Tick. “The leader must have his heart in his job and be cheerful and enthusiastic even when conditions are difficult and the task unpleasant...The leader must be loyal to both his superiors and to his men. He must inspire loyalty.” Tick and tick again.

The notes contain a special section on “man management”. Some of this stuff feels quite radical, a) for 1955 and b) for the army. See what you think: “The business of man management takes time and it requires the taking of infinite trouble ... you cannot deal with material you know little or nothing about. Your men are your material; you must know all about them ...You must give each one individual study and be prepared to make an individual approach to each. You must be something of a psychologist.”

‘Being a leader is a big job, a fine job and a thoroughly worthwhile job. See that you become one in the best sense of the word’

..Getting relationships right with team members will require a leader to, among other things, “put their interests before your own”, “be their champion but also their chief critic”, “know their names and use them”, “be yourself and don’t act a part”, and “be self-critical”.

Do all this, and you’ll be an ideal leader? No. “You will always have something more to learn,” the notes conclude, “so be prepared to profit by experience.” And always remember: “Being a leader is a big job, a fine job and a thoroughly worthwhile job. See that you become a leader in the real and best sense of the word.”

Ninety years ago, the first world war ended. Hundreds of thousands of British soldiers were killed in that conflict – “lions led by donkeys”. Since then, arguably no organisation has learned and understood more about leadership than the British army. If you want to offer state-of-the-art leadership in 2008 these wise words from over half a century ago can help.'

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Six Strategies for Leading in Tough Times

When the economy gets rocky, it is game time for leaders. Leading fearlessly when sales are strong is one thing, but it takes real skills to lead during tough times. Here are six tips for leading through today’s volatile economy:

1. Be reassuring. First and foremost, people want to know that everything is okay, and their jobs are not in jeopardy. However, things may not be okay, and their jobs may be in jeopardy. Assure them that you understand their fears, that you are looking out for them, and you have a strategy for the business.

2. Present a plan. People are looking to you for direction. Are we going to pursue new customers, cut back on production, offer a new service? People need something to rally around. Waiting around for the bottom to drop out is not a strategy, and it will do little to motivate them.

3. Look out for your people. Do everything you can to keep people employed. If you must cut back on hours, cut pay  including your own), or dip into savings, make them aware that you are doing whatever you can to treat people right in this time of need. This is your chance to show your loyalty, and that loyalty will be repaid in spades through employee commitment.

4. Be open and real. Keep your employees informed about the state of the business. Good, bad, or ugly, people need to know. By not telling them, their imaginations can run wild, and that is bad for morale and productivity. And if you do tell them, they just might have ideas that can help.

5. Be vocal and visible. You may be working your tail off on employees’ behalf behind the scenes, but they will not know about it unless they can see you and hear you. Stay connected with your team, even if you would rather crawl up into a ball and be by yourself.

6. Be calm. The economy makes people nervous enough without you adding to it. It is time to buckle down, not freak out. You do not need to be artificially cheerful, but by staying positive and on message, you can help people stay focused on work.

Dr. Michael McIntyre is faculty at the University of Tennessee and leads the course Strategies for Effective Leadership: Solutions to Today’s Top Leadership Challenges. He can be reached at 865-974-5001 or mmcintyr@utk.edu.

Character Matters in Leadership

Character matters in leadership. Alexander the Great had exceptional leadership skills that enabled him to conquer the eastern half of the ancient world, but he was ultimately destroyed by his inability to manage his phenomenal success. The corporate world is full of similar examples, such as the now incarcerated Dennis Kozlowski (former ceo of Tyco), who, flush with success at the head of his empire, was driven down the highway of self-destruction by an out of control ego.


Friday, September 25, 2009

How Top Companies Breed Stars

The world's best companies realise that no matter what business they're in, their real business is building leaders. Here is an article from 2007 showing how the really successful companies do it.


Leadership Development in the Military

US Military special forces; Army Rangers, Navy SEALs and other elite fighters are famed for achieving top-level performance when stakes are high. The most important part of their development is that they always train in teams. Some of the best companies have been moving toward team development, but it's been central to the special forces from the beginning. They assume they can achieve goals only as a team and their creeds include a promise of loyalty to the team. For example, the Rangers say, "Never shall I fail my comrades." Devotion to teammates, not a boss, institution, or share price, is the strongest motivator.


EU President calls for 'positive leadership'

The president of the European Commission of the European Union spoke at the University of Pittsburgh today. Jose Barroso told the crowd that Europe and the U.S. had the clout and global reach to offer effective and positive leadership for the world. He warned that this is no time for complacency and that they must keep up the momentum for reforming the financial markets. Barroso says the nations' leaders need a "grand bargain" that will challenge developing countries to mitigate emissions in order to receive foreign aid. Barroso recieved an honorary doctorate in pulic and interantial affairs during a ceramony at Alumni Hall.

What does ' winning' mean?

Legendary San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Joe Montana says the following about 'winning':

'My father often told me in my youth that the only way to accomplish anything in sports is to be a winner. Not just to win, but to be a winner. There's a difference. He wasn't constantly telling me to win, win, win at all costs. It was more of a slow teaching process, as we threw the ball back and forth in the backyard, and the lesson was always to strive to be the best. To be a winner.'

The Making of Champions

'Champions aren't made in gyms,' Muhammad Ali once remarked. 'Champions are made from something deep inside them: a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have late-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.'

FORTUNE Business Rules

Here are 10 Business Rules courtesy of FORTUNE magazine:

Rule 1:  Never miss an opportunity to make an ally.
Rule 2:  The more arms and legs it has, the further it will go.
Rule 3:  A solo performance is good; a group performance is better.
Rule 4:  Whenever possible, let the numbers speak for themselves.
Rule 5:  Where there's market, there's opportunity.
Rule 6:  You're only as hip as the media thinks you are.
Rule 7:  Reinvent yourself.
Rule 8:  There's no such thing as too much face time.
Rule 9:  Expand your horizons.
Rule 10: Always stay two clicks ahead.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How Bad Leaders Stifle Dissent

How do bad leaders stifle dissent?

1) Your people never see you say no. You never disagree or challenge the people you work for, so your people never learn from you how to do this with purpose. You send the very clear message that “no” is not acceptable around here.

2) People that have told you no are gone. You have systematically removed from your inner circle everyone that disagreed or challenged your policies and decisions. But that’s ok, because everyone knows they were not team players, or were disloyal or disrespectful. This is the rhetoric of conformity and exclusion.

3) Failing to accept differences of opinion and pushing beyond a reasonable point to obtain uniform public agreement. Your people don't feel free to voice disagreement because you hound them until they change their mind (or at least that's what they appear to be doing.)

There will always be times when leaders need to override their team members--and making that decision wisely is a key element of effective leadership. When a leader makes that choice, it's usually advisable to devote some time to discussion to see if common ground can be found and/or to persuade the team.

But if common ground can't be found, and persuasion's not effective, and the leader still believes that overriding the team is the right way to go, they need to accept their team's right to disagree and trust that the team can still deliver on their mandate. Pushing further to extract (superficial) agreement demonstrates a lack of trust (in them and in your own authority), leads to intractable arguments and/or hypocrisy, and insures that you'll hear fewer honest opinions in the future.

(And if you don't recognize Humprey Bogart as Captain Queeg, get The Caine Mutiny on your LoveFilm queue ASAP!)