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Sunday, November 01, 2009

If you have to announce that you are the leader - YOU’RE NOT!

Leadership is often viewed as the “up-front” position or that leaders are the people in charge. Such thoughts are both dangerous and reflect a poor understanding of who leaders truly are or how effective leadership functions. Leaders are public people but that is not always by design or even a requirement for an effective leader. Some of the greatest leaders are not public people – they are influencers and consensus builders who linger in the shadows allowing others to have the face of the leader. Leadership is about influence and relationships. If you have neither, you are not the leader of the group–regardless of title or position. When you get to the point where you have to remind people that you are leader — you’re not!

Mandela: His 8 Lessons of Leadership

Here is a fascinating insight into the mind and tactics of one of the great leaders if this or any other time, Nelson Mandela:

'No. 1 - Courage is not the absence of fear — it's inspiring others to move beyond it

Mandela was often afraid during his time underground, during the Rivonia trial that led to his imprisonment, during his time on Robben Island. "Of course I was afraid!" he would say later. It would have been irrational, not to be. "I can't pretend that I'm brave and that I can beat the whole world." But as a leader, you cannot let people know. "You must put up a front."

No. 2 - Lead from the front — but don't leave your base behind

For Mandela, refusing to negotiate was about tactics, not principles. Throughout his life, he has always made that distinction. His unwavering principle — the overthrow of apartheid and the achievement of one man, one vote — was immutable, but almost anything that helped him get to that goal he regarded as a tactic. He is the most pragmatic of idealists.

No. 3 - Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front

As a boy, Mandela was greatly influenced by Jongintaba, the tribal king who raised him. When Jongintaba had meetings of his court, the men gathered in a circle, and only after all had spoken did the king begin to speak. The chief's job, Mandela said, was not to tell people what to do but to form a consensus. "Don't enter the debate too early," he used to say. The trick of leadership is allowing yourself to be led too. "It is wise," he said, "to persuade people to do things and make them think it was their own idea."

No. 4 - Know your enemy — and learn about his favourite sport

As far back as the 1960s, Mandela began studying Afrikaans, the language of the white South Africans who created apartheid. His comrades in the ANC teased him about it, but he wanted to understand the Afrikaner's worldview; he knew that one day he would be fighting them or negotiating with them, and either way, his destiny was tied to theirs. This was strategic in two senses: by speaking his opponents' language, he might understand their strengths and weaknesses and formulate tactics accordingly. But he would also be ingratiating himself with his enemy. He even brushed up on his knowledge of rugby, the Afrikaners' beloved sport, so he would be able to compare notes on teams and players.

No. 5 - Keep your friends close — and your rivals even closer

Many of the guests Mandela invited to the house he built in Qunu were people whom he did not wholly trust. He had them to dinner; he called to consult with them; he flattered them and gave them gifts. Mandela is a man of invincible charm — and he has often used that charm to even greater effect on his rivals than on his allies. Mandela believed that embracing his rivals was a way of controlling them: they were more dangerous on their own than within his circle of influence. He cherished loyalty, but he was never obsessed by it. Mandela recognised that the way to deal with those he didn't trust was to neutralise them with charm.

No. 6 - Appearances matter — and remember to smile

We sometimes forget the historical correlation between leadership and physicality. George Washington was the tallest and probably the strongest man in every room he entered. Size and strength have more to do with DNA than with leadership manuals, but Mandela understood how his appearance could advance his cause. As leader of the ANC's underground military wing, he insisted that he be photographed in the proper fatigues and with a beard, and throughout his career he has been concerned about dressing appropriately for his position. George Bizos, his lawyer, remembers that he first met Mandela at an Indian tailor's shop in the 1950s and that Mandela was the first black South African he had ever seen being fitted for a suit. Now Mandela's uniform is a series of exuberant-print shirts that declare him the joyous grandfather of modern Africa.

When Mandela was running for the presidency in 1994, he knew that symbols mattered as much as substance. He was never a great public speaker, and people often tuned out what he was saying after the first few minutes. But it was the iconography that people understood. When he was on a platform, he would always do the toyi-toyi, the township dance that was an emblem of the struggle. But more important was that dazzling, beatific, all-inclusive smile. For white South Africans, the smile symbolized Mandela's lack of bitterness and suggested that he was sympathetic to them. To black voters, it said, I am the happy warrior, and we will triumph. The ubiquitous ANC election poster was simply his smiling face.

No. 7 - Nothing is black or white

Mandela's message was clear: Life is never either/or. Decisions are complex, and there are always competing factors. To look for simple explanations is the bias of the human brain, but it doesn't correspond to reality. Nothing is ever as straightforward as it appears. Mandela is comfortable with contradiction. As a politician, he was a pragmatist who saw the world as infinitely nuanced.

No. 8 - Quitting is leading too

Knowing how to abandon a failed idea, task or relationship is often the most difficult kind of decision a leader has to make. In many ways, Mandela's greatest legacy as President of South Africa is the way he chose to leave it. When he was elected in 1994, Mandela probably could have pressed to be President for life — and there were many who felt that in return for his years in prison, that was the least South Africa could do. In the history of Africa, there have been only a handful of democratically elected leaders who willingly stood down from office. Mandela was determined to set a precedent for all who followed him — not only in South Africa but across the rest of the continent.

Ultimately, the key to understanding Mandela is those 27 years in prison. The man who walked onto Robben Island in 1964 was emotional, headstrong, easily stung. The man who emerged was balanced and disciplined.'

For more, see - http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1821467,00.html

How to Discover Your Strengths and then Maximise Them

When two apparently similar people face the same challenge, why does one appear resilient while the other finds it hard to cope? This is a question psychologists have been turning their attention to since Martin Seligman founded the School of Positive Psychology back in 1998.

Traditionally, psychology focused on how to overcome psychological and emotional problems. Positive psychology, however, is the science of understanding how to achieve excellence by helping people to identify, develop and best use their abilities.

Here are a few basic lessons from positive psychology:

Focus on the present

Worrying about something you can’t change drains energy, but learning to focus on the present gives more personal satisfaction, while providing building blocks for a better future.

Know your strengths

Once you know your character strengths, you can then decide on how best to use them. There is a free questionnaire to identify character strengths on the Authentic Happiness website http://www.authentichappiness.com/  – registering is free and once you’ve finished you get a detailed report.

Be optimistic

Optimism is a key factor in positive psychology, and even the most pessimistic of individuals can learn to turn around their negative thinking. It is one thing to be realistically cautious and another to see nothing but negative outcomes. Optimistic people tend to live longer, get more out of life, be more successful and have better relationships.

For more, see Martin Seligman's book, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

Putting the Team before the Individual

Here is an extract from an interesting column in The Sunday Telegraph today:

'Not many top-class leaders in our society today. Some political parties don't have a single one. English cricket has two in Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower. Strauss was only installed as England's captain in January, Flower as coach in April, yet already they have brought home the bacon – and are intent on bringing more hams and chops.

Our sporting world contains so many wasted and platitudinous words. Strauss and Flower have such lucidity of thought and expression that their vision – the attribute essential in a leader – soon becomes apparent.

When Flower was interviewed for his job, he set out his vision to the five-man committee. "I took some of the notes from that interview to South Africa for the Champions Trophy to see if I was living up to my word, and although there were one or two areas which I had to look at, in the main I think I had actioned what I said I was going to.

"There were some important principles, like putting the team before the individual. I was concerned at the possibility of individuals becoming mini-corporations, and that would negatively affect the team – and it was negatively affecting the team." No names, but those of 'Andrew' and 'Flintoff' spring to mind.

"So one of the principles we have to operate by is that the team always has to come first. Also, I wanted an ethos of constant improvement, not maintenance, because there could be a tendency for players to be motivated by holding on to their central contracts." '

For more, see - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/cricket/international/england/6474601/Andy-Flower-still-striving-to-improve-the-England-team.html

The Dangers of 'Dark Side Personalites'

New research shows that 85% of leaders in the UK demonstrate ‘Dark Side Characteristics’. Defined as deeply rooted, self-destructive aspects of a personality, these dark side character traits could spell disaster, placing individuals and organisations at risk and contributing to the alarming self-destruct rates for high flyers.

The study suggests that the greatest risk factors for more than a quarter of managers is that they are so dutiful, compliant and appeasing that they are likely to have difficulty ‘speaking truth to power’ or in making independent decisions. Another quarter is too aloof, detached and socially awkward to be effective in dealing with ‘people’ issues. And a further quarter are charming and persuasive, but to such an extent that they are easily seen as manipulative, calculating and disingenuous.

A Decade of the Dark Side’ also assessed employees on leadership programmes within four major organisations: a global car manufacture; global consumer good manufacturer; global investment bank; and a financial services organisation. While employees identified as having leadership potential varied across different organisations, there are three characteristics particularly in evidence.
  • Firstly, all are at or above the Total Sample level in the independent-decision making and faith in their own beliefs.
  • Secondly, all show greater stability and resilience and are likely to be valued for their calmness and evenness of temper.
  • Finally, all show greater flexibility and a capacity to adjust to fit in with others, rather than being determined to work to their own agenda.
However, overall there are a great variety of characteristics and attributes demonstrating that styles of leadership are appreciated differently in different organisations.

For more, see: http://pcl.live.trunky.net/DarkSideReport.pdf