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Friday, September 04, 2009

The Language of Leadership - 3 Steps for Inspiring Change

Here is some thoughtful advice from Dr Maynard Brusman on three steps which will enable the language of leadership to be most effective in times of change - when staff will be most wary and suspicious of leadership: http://www.expertclick.com/NewsReleaseWire/the_Language_of_Leadership_3_Steps_for_Inspiring_Change,200928447.aspx

Accentuate the Positive

We chose the name Positive Leadership Limited for our company because we believe that the right attitude is essential to great leadership.

Here is an interesting article - http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1112311.html%20- - from the Israeli press about Tal Ben-Shahar (http://talbenshahar.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=38&Itemid=52 ), formerly a teacher at Harvard but now based in Herzliya, just north of Tel Aviv. Ben-Shahar began his career lecturing shipping officers on leadership and motivation but is now a recognised global expert in the area of positive psychology.

'On-field' leadership at age 18

For those of you unfamiliar with University sport in the USA, the story of 18 year old Matt Barkley is impressive. Tomorrow night he will start his first game at the key position of quarterback for one of the top college football teams in the nation, the Unisversity of Southern California. At 18, Barkley will be appearing in front of 76,000 fans and a national TV audience of millions.

A key role of the quarterback in American Football is to direct all the offensive plays and to be a leader on the field. Here is what Barkley says about taking on a leadership role for the first time in such a high profile game -

http://www.espn.go.com/blog/ncfnation/post/_/id/5689/pac-10-qa-matt-barkley .

Very mature!

Winning Ugly and Playing to Win

“Winning is not a sometime thing; It’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; You don’t do things right once in a while; You do them right all the time. Winning is a habit.”  Vince Lombardi

Winning Ugly is the smart attitude in tough times. It’s fast and furious, rough and ready, profoundly emotional. What does it involve?
  • Expect the unexpected. No one has been here before. If you feel you’ve got it under control – you’re probably headed in the wrong direction.
  • Control the controllables. There are some things you can control – so control them! Costs. Suppliers. Sometimes your people!
  • Focus on what’s core
  • Act fast. Consumers aren’t waiting for your next planning session. Fail fast, learn fast, fix fast.
  • Face Forward. Stand tall. Be brave. Don’t let your clients play it safe. Inspire them with your confidence.
  • But Winning Ugly is not just for tough times. It’s for every time.

Think about this year's Wimbledon men’s singles final between Federer and Roddick. Andy Roddick played the best tennis of his life and epitomized many facets of the classic Winning Ugly attitude. He stood his ground, fought for every point, never gave up, changed his game to absorb the better player’s game, and took his chances when they occurred. His greatest strengths were his endurance, preparation, and determination. However, what made more of an impact was a beautiful player, Roger Federer, Winning Ugly.

In reality, Roger Federer didn’t really Win Ugly. What he did was refuse to lose. He didn’t fold, didn’t give in, and didn’t back down. He only broke Roddick in the very final game of the final set. Roddick played liked a champion but Federer never gave up believing. As Vince Lombardi said, “Winning is a habit”, and that’s what got Federer through. He simply wasn’t prepared to lose. He reached into his memory bank and remembered that he had won 14 Grand Slam tournaments. Roddick didn’t have this to fall back on. Federer's strategy was Winning Ugly personified. In real terms, it was “not losing”. Even though Federer was mostly outplayed during the game, he just would not admit defeat. He didn’t beat Roddick, he just refused to lose.

When these tough times end, those people that have adopted this approach will come out even stronger than before.

IMD Professor George Kohlreiser writes about a similar concept - he calls it 'Playing to Win' in a recent article - http://www.imd.ch/research/challenges/TC044-09.cfm .

In the article, he talks about how in today's economy there is a danger that the prevailing mindset becomes a negative one and that in order to lead a switch to the idea that we are poised for a recovery, leaders need to “lead at the edge” – or – in other words, lead the way to a positive mindset and a state of inspired energy. Moving forward requires a mindset change and that means taking control by strengthening one’s resolve to “play to win”.

The first step is for leaders to actively understand the pain that they and their people are going through. With this empathic state, leaders can then direct employees to look towards the benefits and opportunities often buried within a crisis. Playing to win requires good risk assessment, a clear game plan and most importantly, the ability to inspire people through knowledge and new ideas to join the ride.

Leaders who can genuinely help people to see that “a change has a benefit” can turn “being a hostage” and being helpless into an active engagement. This is what it means to “play to win.” The opposite is focusing on fear and avoidance of pain which is then in fact “playing not to lose.”

Once again, notice the close parallels between the concepts applicable in sport and in business; the hallmark of the Positive Leadership approach to developing a 'game plan for winning'.

Reinventing the Managerial Mindset

Here is an interesting article by Professor Bill Fischer of IMD - http://www.imd.ch/research/challenges/TC039-09.cfm .

In it he argues that in today's extremely volatile world, business leaders need to think about re-engineering the mindset of their managerial team as well as re-engineering the DNA of the organisation. This means being willing to 'fail often in order to succeed sooner'. A key to competitive success will be the ability of the leader of the organisation to energise the people around them with inclusion, respect and empowerment.