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Monday, October 26, 2009

Inspirational leaders … Mandela, Moses, Martin Luther King, and, er, Simon Cowell

Here is an interesting article from today's Scotsman newspaper ( http://news.scotsman.com/celebrities/Inspirational-leaders--Mandela-Moses.5764802.jp ):

'The power of modern pop culture has been underlined by a survey of teenagers who ranked Simon Cowell alongside Moses and Martin Luther King when asked to name the world's greatest leaders. The Youth of Today survey, commissioned by The Prince's Trust, found that the reality TV and music mogul won the same percentage of the vote as Mother Teresa and the 16th-century monarch Henry VIII.

It led commentators to suggest young people can no longer distinguish between leadership, celebrity and fame.

The survey of 1,095 13-to-19-year-olds coincides with a new government-backed campaign to create a generation of inspirational young leaders. The top ten chosen is a mix of historical and contemporary figures, with Martin Luther King in pole position, obtaining nearly a quarter of the vote. US president Barack Obama was second and Nelson Mandela third. Alan, now Lord, Sugar is fourth while Moses and Bill Gates tied for fifth. The list also includes England footballer John Terry and actress Joanna Lumley.

Some 70 per cent of teenagers claim they are more likely to be inspired by someone they know than by a celebrity, challenging popular perceptions of British youth. Sixty-four per cent were inspired by someone in their family. Two in three (67 per cent) believe there are more celebrities setting a bad example than a good one today.

1. Martin Luther King 23%
2. Barack Obama 14%
3. Nelson Mandela 12%
4. Lord Sugar 7%
5= Moses and Bill Gates 4%
7. Joanna Lumley 3%
8= John Terry, Simon Cowell, Mother Teresa and Henry VIII 2%.

Dr Keith Kahn-Harris, from the Centre for Urban and Community Research, said it might sound cynical, but he would expect a young person to be less familiar with Mother Teresa than Cowell. He said: "I'm not sure why Henry VIII is on that list. Young people probably have very little sense of what makes a leader. You would think pop stars would be on there. We are living in a celebrity culture and it's very easy to confuse that.

"People learn important figures in school so this list is just a bizarre combination. It's quite clear who's more important, Nelson Mandela or Simon Cowell."

Lumley said last night: "I'd never thought of myself as a leader but I'm thrilled and touched that young people think of me that way."

Adam Nichols, from The Youth of Today, said: "People think young people only aspire to be like celebrities but they're wrong. Shows such as The X Factor prove that Britain really does have young talent – but we cannot rely on The X Factor alone. We need to find new ways to unearth the next generation of potential."

For more on this English based initiative, see - http://www.theyouthoftoday.org/fund-great-projects

From a Scottish perspective, Positive Leadership would like to suggest that the Scottish Government should consider a project similar to The Connector Project, launched by Leadership Philadelphia in 2006 (http://www.leadershipphiladelphia.org/connect_press.html ).

The Connector Project took its cue from The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, a highly successful sociological study of sudden and pervasive social change by Malcolm Gladwell, which popularised the notion of “connectors” - people in a community who know large numbers of people and make a habit of connecting them. Connectors usually know people across an array of social, cultural, professional and economic circles, and frequently introduce people who work or live in different circles. Connectors, Gladwell wrote, are the “hubs” of human social networks and are often responsible for the bringing about rapid and widespread change.

The Connector Project, which has now been replicated in other cities in the USA, is a rigorous effort to identify and understand more of the region's trusted ‘leaders next door,’ to map the connections that link them and to foster dialogues among them. The ultimate goals are 'to spark a regional conversation about leadership, find out what makes good leaders tick and teach our children the lessons we’ve learned'.

Such a project could be of huge value in Scotland, particularly at the end of Homecoming Scotland 2009.


Your Choices are Being Watched

As a leader, you are being watched for the choices you make and for the meaning behind your choices. Your followers want to know if you are making choices that express your values, those of your organisation, and those that are in their interest. Even the smallest choices you make in your every day are being watched, and can lead down a path that is affirming or destructive:
  • the three minutes that you stop, turn, and really listen to an employee rather than choosing to check your Blackberry
  • the expression of gratitude to someone for a job well done instead of choosing to find small faults in how they did it
  • credit deflected to the individuals who actually did the work instead of choosing to take personal credit for it
  • firm belief that your employees are capable of stretching themselves rather than choosing to assume that they aren’t capable
  • rolling up your shirtsleeves and pitching in when the going gets tough instead of choosing to get frustrated
  • living in the questions instead of choosing to have all the answers
  • and yes….. even choosing to have a great day when you would rather wallow in self pity.
Think about it. All the choices you make in a day without conscious thought impact your leadership. Stop, think and become intentional in your choices. What small choices will you make today that will make a positive difference in the way you lead?

Developing New Leaders for Tomorrow

Here is an excellent example from the USA of enlightened corporate leadership and governance:

'One of American Express' three platforms for its philanthropy is Developing New Leaders for Tomorrow. Under this giving initiative, which recognises the significance of strong leadership in the nonprofit sector, American Express is making grants focused on training high potential emerging leaders to tackle important issues in the 21st century.

American Express kicked off the third American Express Nonprofit Leadership Academy today, its nation-wide program to develop the next generation of leaders in the nonprofit sector. The Nonprofit Leadership Academy is a week-long training program that immerses participants in a series of leadership training and development courses. Through the Academy, participants gain a better awareness  of their own strengths and weaknesses as managers and hone the skills necessary for effective leadership. The week features sessions with American Express senior executives, including the company's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Kenneth I. Chenault.'

For more, see - http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS129543+26-Oct-2009+BW20091026

Effective Mergers and Acquisitions

At the moment, many companies’ outlook is limited to survival, so growth – let alone inorganic growth – is far from their minds. However while many organisations are struggling, enterprises with strong balance sheets may find the current environment highly conducive to creating value from acquisitions. In a climate of reduced competition for acquisitions, lower prices can enable acquisitive companies to make bolder “strategic plays”, gaining market positions they previously would have not had the resources to fund. While these opportunities constitute the “silver lining” of the current economic climate, executing effective mergers and acquisitions is nevertheless fraught with challenges.

Business leaders need to be alert to the pitfalls of M&A and learn from past mistakes, so as to avoid:
  • Doing the wrong deal
  • Bargain basement buying
  • Less than diligent due diligence
  • Post merger (dis) integration
  • Culture clash
  • No-talent talent management.
Remember that 'buying is easy, owning is hard'!

For more, see - http://www.chiefexecutive.net/ME2/Audiences/dirmod.asp?sid=&nm=&type=Publishing&mod=Publications%3A%3AArticle&mid=8F3A7027421841978F18BE895F87F791&AudID=F242408EE36A4B18AABCEB1289960A07&tier=4&id=6491857CCCD144698EF6926874805F53

Positive Leadership Limited delivers leadership advice in the areas of business strategy, M&A, capital raising, talent development and performing under pressure.

Does a President's Personality Predict his Performance as President?

Here is some interesting research from the US contained in the 2005 book Personality, Character and Leadership in the White House:

  • Men who become presidents have traits that set them apart from other Americans.
  • There appear to be eight distinguishable types of presidents (http://www.personalitiesinhistory.com/Types_of_Presidents.asp.)
  • A president’s character has no relation to how good a president’s historians judge him to be.
  • A number of personality traits and qualities do predict presidential success.
  • The ability to lie and deceive is an important quality for success in the White House, and presidents who are less straightforward typically make better presidents.
  • Despite his recent popularity and reputation for integrity, John Adams’s personality closely resembled Richard Nixon’s.
  • Presidents are much more extraverted today than in the past and less intellectually curious than in the past. They may also be lower in character.
  • Jimmy Carter is the only modern president that much resembles Founding Fathers Jefferson and Madison and the greatest president of the 19th century, Abe Lincoln. Eisenhower is the only modern president much like Washington.
  • Franklin Roosevelt seems to be the template for modern presidents, with recent presidents showing high (Kennedy, Clinton) or moderate (LBJ) similarity to him. Reagan resembled his as well.
  • Modern Democratic presidents tend to be very extraverted, achievement-oriented, ebullient, and sympathetic to the poor, but are willing to deceive and relatively unprincipled.
  • Modern Republican presidents tend to be less sympathetic to the less fortunate and much more inclined to rely on traditional sources of moral authority than average Americans.
  • George W. Bush appears to have fewer traits related to presidential success than most presidents. He most resembles Andrew Jackson and Ronald Reagan.
For more, see - http://www.testingthepresidents.com/

'Personality, Character and Leadership in the White House is by far the most comprehensive scientific study of presidential personality ever published. It must provide the starting point for all future debate about the intricate connection between a president's personality and his leadership.' Dean Simonton, professor of psychology, University of California at Davis, author of Why Presidents Succeed and Greatness: Who Makes History and Why

Mentoring contributes to Success

Here is a revealing story about the importance of mentoring. It centres on Roy Williams, the coach of the University of North Carolina men's college basketball team (and formerly the Kansas University coach).

Williams mentors his players with his urging and example. An instance of this happened in late 2002 with Jeff Graves, one of his tall, inside players at Kansas. Graves showed up for the 2002-2003 season more than a few pounds overweight. Williams had told him that 250 to 260 pounds was a proper playing weight. Graves agreed. Then he arrived at practice at the beginning of the season weighing about 290 pounds.

Williams gave him a requirement before he could fully participate as a player on the team: he must run a mile in 6:30. To help him do that Williams ran with him periodically until Graves was able to get his time down to 6:30, losing his weight in the process. The fact that Williams did more than tell Graves what to do... that he, at over 50 years old actually got out and ran with him, meant a great deal to Graves. And Graves went on to be a key player later in the season when star forward Wayne Simien got injured. Graves ended up starting and helped the team get to and nearly win the championship game.

We will never know how many little things Williams did for his players over the years to help make them successful in basketball, in school and in life. However, the high graduate rate his players enjoy (over 85%), an 81% win percentage during his career and his two National Championship successes are support for the idea that Williams is a mentor as well as a basketball coach.

What seems like a selfless act often really isn't

At the America's Cup race in 2000 when Team New Zealand beat Prada of Italy in a 5-0 clean sweep, Skipper Russell Coutts did something astonishing. Instead of leading the way to the victory and achieving the limelight for himself, he handed over the wheel to his young understudy, Dean Barker, age 26. Barker was up to the task he was given and won the final race.

When asked about the decision to hand over the wheel to Barker, Coutts said that he enjoyed the view from off the boat. "When you're off the boat you look at it and you see the total concept. It was great to watch." The popular way to interpret a decision to give someone else the moment of glory in a great victory is to say, "What a selfless act". However, is this kind of act really selfless?
Yes, what Russell did was an act of fine leadership. Russell Coutts demonstrated confidence in Barker, faith in Team New Zealand, and the absence of a grab for adoration and personal glory. These values are good and healthy. However, they do not come from someone with less of a 'self'. Quite the opposite may be true.

If someone doesn't need the limelight cast by others, couldn't that be because there is an inner limelight present in the person? If someone doesn't need the glory of achievement, couldn't that be because the person already feels an inherent glory. If so, such inner light and inherent glory would make the external versions of these experiences redundant.

No, the act that astonished the yachting world, was not a self-less act but a self-full act . . . this act came from a self that is full of inner confidence, of self-esteem, and of inherent glory. Russell Coutts has given us an example of great leadership that provides a key insight into the condition of the self that underlies effective, values-based actions. Genuine sustainable fulfillment comes from developing a healthy self. That means a positive self-concept, the words we use to describe our self, a warm self-esteem, the feeling we have about our self, and a positive self-image, which is seeing our self as good. The healthy self creates the fulfillment of timeless, healthy values through the activities and relationships that are part of our daily life.

When Skipper Russell Coutts lets his understudy Barker take the wheel of the yacht, he watches the boat from a distance and says the experience was "marvellous". That is an experience a person with a healthy self can enjoy. He doesn't feel so incomplete or inadequate that he needs more of the limelight and glory that he already has. He feels so whole and adequate he can enjoy the success of the team.

Team New Zealand leader, Sir Peter Blake said after the race, "We are Team New Zealand and many people think 'team' is a strange little word, it's only four letters. But when you get people pulling together, it becomes a very powerful force indeed and these guys (Team New Zealand) epitomise this completely".

The quote by Sir Peter indicates that he can enjoy and be proud of the team and he feels so self-confident that he has no need to take credit. He basks in the appreciation he feels for them.