Tag Archives: Leadership Training

leadership lessons from the military

What surprised me the most about this article by retired four-star General and former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, General Ray Odierno, weren’t what the lessons themselves were, but how few of them he provided, and how, through this utter simplicity, he managed to hit the nail directly on the head.
I have to admit, I almost glossed over the piece, feeling as though the military analogy has almost been overdone in business and, perhaps, may be somewhat dated and exclusionary. I decided to read it anyway, and while what I was expecting was yet another “leadership list” of the top 10 qualities that make great leaders, I was pleasantly surprised to read a simple yet detailed description of a mere 3 qualities that are absolutely integral to great leadership, whether that leadership takes place in business or in war.
The first quality is Balanced Risk-Taking, the key to this being the word “balanced”. Both risk adversity as well as excessive risk-taking can equally result in failure and financial loss in business, and cost lives at war. Balanced risk-taking requires you to constantly assess and understand the current situation, continually developing ways to gather and use information to contribute to well-thought out, yet timely and efficient risk-taking and decision-making.
The second lesson offered is to take a Holistic View to Guide Bold Decisions. General Odierno addresses balance again, contrasting leaders who wait and require every single piece of data and information for making a decision that is now too late to be effective, to those who jump in with no due diligence, costing organizations time, money, and resources when they are wrong. Neither of these leaders can compare to those individuals who can effectively balance when they have just the right amount of information to allow a bold decision to be made. Sometimes, he says “when you make a decision is just as important, if not more than, the information available. Great leaders understand this dynamic”.
Finally, General Odierno emphasizes the importance of Fostering an Atmosphere of Trust. In his own words, he says that the “foundation of any organization is trust. Trust between peers, subordinates and your leaders. Establishing and communicating right and left limits. Empowering subordinates and decentralizing decision making within those limits. Treating everyone within the organization with dignity and respect. All of this contributes to an atmosphere of trust and pride”.

Whether or not you are interested in the military, or even opposed to the military, this is a great business article that really gets to the heart of what needs to be mastered in order to achieve great leadership.

read here

the secret to reducing employee productivity

Have you ever seen a child put their hands over both ears and say “blah blah blah” while someone else is speaking so as not to hear them? Have you ever seen a CEO doing the exact same thing, minus the hands on the ears and the “blah blah blah”?

You know what I’m talking about – right? The team member is allowed, perhaps even encouraged, to speak. No one interrupts them. Perhaps there is a small delay to ensure they are finished making their point. And then the CEO / Manager / Team Leader politely thanks them for their contribution, but disagrees, goes back to what they were originally saying, or possibly even takes the conversation in a different direction completely.

When this type of behaviour becomes part of the culture, employees simply stop disagreeing or speaking up, because they have come to feel it is pointless.

The following article brilliantly taps into a couple of the fastest and most effective routes to ensuring employee unproductivity:

1. Having employees that nod and agree with everything you say may feel like “alignment” but, in reality, mandating an “all on the same page” culture, at best stifles autonomous thinking, creativity, innovation and, at worst, sets you up for avoidable mistakes to be made, because employees know that pointing out drawbacks and risks will fall on deaf ears.

2. You may feel, as a leader, that having rigid, well-defined policies will result in a “tidy, well-functioning, and highly productive organization”, however, when the policies you impose on employees are too strict and inflexible, human nature is to retaliate by holding you accountable to the same strict “rule” adherence. For example, don’t expect your unwillingness to allow employees the discretion to leave before 5 “as required”, to be rewarded by having employees who are willing to work past 5 on other days “as required”. At best, this kind of rigidity results in employees who are unwilling to go over and above for you and, at worst, it sets you up for a culture where skirting the rules and lying becomes a common practice to bypass the stifling inflexibility of regulations.
This is not to say that organizations can or should be run without rules, or that every employee idea can or should be incorporated. But, by finding a way to truly value individuals and their contribution to the organization, as well as acknowledging their needs for autonomy and flexibility, according to this author at least, you will have the opportunity to tap into the “90% of each person that is what can make him or her a great employee, partner, team member: the initiative, the questions, the passion, the concerns, the hope, all the quirkiness and joy and excellence that people will bring to their work if you invite them to do so”.
read here

the authenticity paradox

Authenticiteit

Imagine speaking to a room full of aspiring business leaders. You ask “who of you wish to be an authentic leader”? Of course, you picture hands raising as very few of us wish to be perceived as disingenuous or insincere, in either our business or personal lives. In a time where authenticity has become a gold standard for leadership, however, it is important to understand the inherent paradox, a tipping point at which too much authenticity, or rather a too limited definition and understanding of what is required in order to be an authentic leader, can hinder both your credibility, as well as your organizational impact and leadership success.

So, when exactly does rigid adherence to the pursuit of authenticity turn into a stumbling block to successful leadership?

First and foremost, true leadership almost always requires us to step out of our comfort zone, take risks, and challenge ourselves and others around us to grow, adapt, improve and change. As a leader, you may regularly be forced to choose between the self you are today, and how you are comfortable doing things, and the self you could be tomorrow, stretching, growing, and leading yourself, your team, or your organization down a new and more successful path. Choosing to remain true to your current self may feel more authentic in the short-term, but growing and changing are integral aspects of leadership. Understanding that growing and changing do not compromise your authenticity is crucial. Personal growth needs to be appreciated as key component of authenticity.

Successful leadership also requires us to inspire others and generate confidence in those who work around us. Blanket self-disclosure and transparency of your every thought, feeling, and insecurity may feel like a very authentic way of leading, but too much disclosure of uncertainty can undermine your team’s confidence in you as a leader. There are few certainties in life, and, as a leader, it is your job to regularly weigh information in order to determine a course of action and then confidently lead others through it, while remaining open to necessary changes as circumstances require. Telling your employees they are an integral component of the team’s success may be both positive and authentic, however, telling a new team that you’re depending on them because you have no idea what you are doing is going too far.

Finally, selling yourself, your visions, and your ideas are another integral component to leadership success. The act of doing this, however, can feel forced and unauthentic to some people, so much so that they avoid doing so at all costs, hoping their work will speak for itself and have the impact they wish it to. This is a naïve and ineffective ideal that can impede leadership and team success. As leaders, we need to understand and accept that the promotion of our ideas, and the act of influencing others, are not selfish pursuits, but ways to create collective team and organizational successes.

For more interesting insight into The Authenticity Paradox read the full HBR article below:

read here

Faint Signals Matter

Most warning signs are not in your face, flashing wildly in different colours to get your attention. As a leader you have to keep your eyes ahead as well as pay attention to what is happening in your periphery. Often, when a brand loses its lustre or deteriorates, the signs and signals were there long before the demise. What may seem insignificant or ‘normal’ could actually be a warning for troubled times. As a leader you have to take note of these signals and respond. Those vague signals can be tough to see. But if you have your head down these signals become impossible to detect. You cannot be a successful Transformational Leader if you don’t implement a radar system to catch these faint signals.

Leadership Tip

Leadership Tip: Turn Down the Noise

Leading an organization is never easy, let alone in times of uncertainty and chaos. The only way to help ease the mental pressure and the emotional stress of the ambiguity is to accelerate and ensure each stage of the journey adds layers of additional coherence to the situation. In order to provide coherence and confidence, the leader must dramatically turn down the noise level, eliminate unnecessary distractions and banish the fear of uncertainty. This is best accomplished by committing to a narrow, sharp set of aligned strategic imperatives, rather than making things overwhelmingly complex. Things will be complex enough without adding more to the mix. In other words, the leader must jettison all of the extraneous activities, pet projects and non-essential activities that might exist, in order to help focus the organization on a singular set of interrelated objectives.

As a leader your job is to get your organization properly coordinated. You will need to hone the focus such that no matter how far into the future you look, the picture is still clear and unclouded by the frivolous or the unimportant. It is amazing the lack of clear-headedness you can find in some leaders. It is shocking how often organizations allow themselves to become trapped by adding unnecessary layers of complexity on top of far too many priorities, and then mixing them together with countless trivial diversions. It’s a sure recipe for underachievement.

Karaoke Capitalism

Transformational leadership is different than the day-to-day administrative or transactional leadership we have been accustomed to. Transformational leadership is the very special type of leadership required at those moments when you reach a key intersection or a strategic inflection point. It is not the old style, reactive, copy cat leadership that Dr. Jonas Ridderstråle of the Stockholm School of Economics warn us about in his book Karaoke Capitalism. It is not the sad, watered-down herd mentality or imitation leadership that is a second rate copy of the original.

Different types of leaders are required at different times. Transactional leadership is for a “business as usual” time and place. Transitional leadership is suited for the purposeful pause between periods of change, when we just need to catch our breath and reorient. Transformational leadership, on the other hand, is for those unique “business as unusual” circumstances, like right now.

Soundview Leadership Webinar

On Dec 17th, 2013, I had the pleasure of doing a webinar with Soundview Book Summaries, entitled “Transformational Leadership – Solving our Leadership Crisis.” It was the second highest attended webinar they had hosted, with 600 attendees.

In the webinar I outline four principle challenges facing the modern executive and the eight essential leadership competencies required to navigate the future. I also provide tools and techniques for how to reframe the way we need to rethink leadership and reform. There’s a lot of exclusive content in there so give it a view!

Personal Credibility & Trusted Judgement

Decision Making Intelligence is the second credibility builder and it is the ability to solve problems, resolve issues and come to conclusions that satisfy the various stakeholders and leave them feeling fully and clearly committed to the decision. It is about personal credibility and trusted judgment. In order to be credible, leaders must combine their Emotional Intelligence with a proven track record of superior decision making under a wide variety of circumstances and across a wide portfolio of business matters.

A leader must have the ability to understand and master the complex elements involved in the decision-making process, including the rational and interpersonal components, as well as the divergent and convergent phases. These abilities embody the essence of decision making within what is known as the field of Behavioural Economics. Our current understanding of this science comes from a growing pool of notable experts, such as Daniel Kahneman and Daniel Ariely, who have helped us better understand the mechanics of decision making and the phases we go through as we make business decisions in particular

Together, the powerful combination of Emotional Intelligence and Decision making Intelligence represent the fundamental building blocks upon which leaders develop their legitimacy. In other words, as Barbara Kellerman points out in her book Followership, leaders will not able to lead effectively unless their followers have determined them to be worthy. Legitimacy, defined in this way, is something granted to the leader by their followers. As such, it could be argued it actually puts the followers in control.

Understanding the Future: Bold Imagination

The innovation we need to transform our organizations is not developed by digging for the provable facts and empirical evidence hidden deep in the well of our retrospective data banks. It is not the deep analytical source of insight that will somehow help us make sense of the future. It is quite the opposite. Our ability to understand the future will come from the more intuitive, fluid, experimental process of looking forward, visualizing and anticipating the many changes that are just out of sight, around the corner and over the horizon.

Transformational leaders have a certain bold imagination that fuels their creative genius and combines it with a distinctive flair and a rebellious, revolutionary zeal to make something different, and to do so on their own terms. These are the types of leaders who reorder and reshape the pieces of the puzzle to arrive at solutions the rest of us hold in awe and envy. These are the leaders who violently shake the Etch A Sketch® to clear the old image and then proceed to draw a new one.

Navigating Direction : Mastering Pivot Points

Throughout history, the truly great leaders have known when and how to pivot when the situation and the context change. They seem to have a sixth sense and know exactly the right moment at which to abandon what is no longer working and comfortably embrace new tools more suited to the conditions they find themselves in. It is part experience, part intuition and part luck, but successfully identifying and then navigating these crucial inflection points is the responsibility of leaders. The average leader can perhaps do a respectable enough job when conditions are normal, but it takes an exceptional leader to navigate confidently in uncertain, uncharted and turbulent waters.

It seems as though the dangerous, pivotal moments of transformational change have been presenting themselves with increasing frequency in recent years. The more interconnected global economy, rapid technological advances and constantly evolving social, political and demographic changes have all come together to alter the once reliable maps we used to guide us in the post-WWII period. The question that should concern and even haunt us all is why, in the face of these changes, so many leaders, organizations and nations have not been brave enough, vigilant enough or just plain smart enough to switch tack from what may have been right and relevant in one set of circumstances to a new course, better suited to the changing conditions of the future.