Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

How inspiring leaders work

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Successful leaders have the power to inspire, motivate, and positively influence people. Well practiced leadership contributes to job satisfaction, motivation and productivity. JFK knew how to do it. Devote 4 minutes to watching Stacey Bredhoff explaining how he thought and communicated:

John F. Kennedy was an inspiring leader who, as shown in the video, knew how to communicate. Men went out of their way to please him and women fell in love with him. Forgetting about the falling in love aspect, what is special about him and other inspiring leaders? 

What characterize a great leader?

  • A strong set of values and openness, trust and true respect for others
  • Genuine humility and not afraid to show vulnerability
  • Regularly reflect and have an unquenchable thirst for learning
  • Bend rules, take calculated risks and sometimes guided by gut-feelings and tolerate this in other people
  • A certain amount of flexibility to adapt to circumstances and make real strides forward
  • Accessible and informal which is a very powerful motivator for their colleagues
  • Not only skills and training are valued but focus is heavily on attitude, because, without the right attitude and motivation, nothing worth while will be achieved

So why do these traits produce results?

Simply because pay is only one component of job satisfaction. Other equally important factors are respect and prestige and making staff feel good about themselves, their jobs and the company they work for. In other words inspiring leadership produces results by contributing directly to fulfilling many of people’s emotional needs. Consequently it’s also fundamental for a leader to have people skills and emotional intelligence.

Passion to inspire

Unless you are passionate and inspired about something you can not inspire others. But even that’s not enough if you don’t manage to create and convey a memorable vision that people identify with and want to be part of. A good way to make your vision memorable is to tell stories to illustrate it.

It’s not about you – it’s about them

Your colleagues are asking themselves what’s in it for me? Answer them and don’t make them guess, because if you do there could be misunderstandings. People should feel they own your vision and understand where and how they fit in.

Bring everybody into the process

Employees, customers and investors should all be part of the process of reaching the vision outlined. It’s your job to solicit input, listen to feedback and incorporating what you hear into your vision. That way you make people feel important and that they are doing something meaningful.

Convey optimism and hope

Everybody wants a better future. Churchill gave people hope during the darkest days of World War II. Optimism has a ripple effect throughout an organisation so you have to use positive and optimistic language.

Encourage and praise people

Praised people flourish just as when you criticize staff they shrivel up. By encouraging you connect with them. Genuine praise diminish doubts and spirits soar. And that’s exactly the kind of people you want to surround yourself with. Happy, optimistic and ready to go the extra mile to make your vision come true.

An interesting fact is that by inspiring your people you become the kind of person they want to be around. Customers will want to do business with you, employees work with you and investors back you. And it all starts with learning how to inspire and motivate. You want a company full of positive energy and buzz where people cooperate and encourage innovation and growth because they identify with what you are trying to achieve. And don’t forget the importance of fun. In successful companies people work hard but enjoy themselves while doing so. It’s a key innovation driver and as a leader it’s your job to inspire staff to enjoy what they are doing.

Video: usnationalarchives – You Tube 

Can Mary Barra lead General Motors?

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

She will take over as CEO of General Motors this month. It’s actually the first time ever that a woman will lead a global automaker. What kind of woman does it take to lead such a male business? Listen to her views on leadership:

The video speaks for itself and shows that she understands not only leadership but the business of making cars.  But will that be enough to stop her  from having the problems most female leaders in large companies come across? Having to be twice as competent as a man and coping with men trying to get rid of them happens frequently to powerful women.

Do you believe Mary Barra has what it takes to lead General Motors? Is what she outlines in the video the kind of leadership it takes to lead the automaker? Will male colleagues in the male dominated sector respect her? Do you believe we will see more women leading automobile companies? Or is it an insurmountable task for a woman to lead a car giant?

Video: FortuneMagazine – You Tube

Does a leader need to know everything?

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Is being a leader a service job or an insurmountable task of being perfect in every respect? Does a leader have to know more than everybody else?

Successful leaders surround themselves with people who know more than they do – and listen to them.

In my opinion the mission of a successful leader is to make sure colleagues know more than he/she does about the tasks each of them are carrying out. Have interviewed a multitude of heads of states and without failure they had several advisers present who, if necessary, filled in regarding details and areas the president didn’t know about.

Nobody’s perfect

So why do so many heads of companies and organisations believe they have to know everything there is to know? In today’s business climate it’s impossible to master everything. On top of it it’s futile to try to know everything. Nobody does. So don’t make your business dependent on one or two people only.

It’s the leaders job to make sure that the company rests on a huge platform of knowledge and competence. And to ensure the staff really know what they are doing, not that you beat them to it in every respect.

Are you competing with your staff?

Are you a leader that gets stressed by colleagues knowing more than you do? How about looking at it as the day your staff are more skilled in what they are doing than you are, you have succeeded?

Leaders that competes with their colleagues are detrimental to the organisation they are running. Compare that with Ronald Reagan, a good example of a leader who didn’t know everything but surrounded himself with experts that did and listened to them. Another prime example is Richard Branson who delegates to qualified people. And it’s no secret that they are both regarded as very successful leaders. So how about following in their footsteps and make sure you thoroughly master the art of leadership and allow your colleagues to be experts at what they are doing? If you do, you will not only succeed as a leader but make sure your business flourish as well. Provided of course you listen to the experts you surround yourself with.

Photo: PhotoXpress – Alexandr Shebanov

What makes you follow a leader?

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

Lately we have witnessed some terrible leadership. Can’t help wondering why some of the worst leaders get followers? Maybe Gareth Jones, London Business School fellow, has the answer? Watch this short Harvard video with him outlining what gives leaders loyal followers:

The current lack of fait in leaders is lamentable. Gareth Jones is absolutely right when he states that “if we lose faith in our political and economic institutions, we are in deep trouble”, and adds that we need great performance from our leaders.

Effective leadership excite people to exceptional performance

His definition applies not only to businesses, but politics, schools, hospitals and all other areas of life.

Leadership has been studied for about 150 years, and according to Gareth Jones, mainly asked the wrong questions. It’s hence presumed that people who make it to the top are leaders.

So one thousand people were asked what they want from a leader alternatively what do the people they aspire to lead want from them as leaders. The result was the following four aspects:

  • Community
  • Authenticity – a real person they can trust
  • Significance – that their leader appreciates the contribution they make
  • Excitement

In other words, an effective leader should be an authentic, skillful role performer with the capacity to transform organisations and enrich lives. That kind of leader get followers, according to the study.

Do you agree with the result that community, authenticity, significance and excitement is what makes you follow a leader? If you are a leader, are those characteristics what makes people follow you? Or do you disagree with the results of the study? Are you of the opinion that we need to restore trust in leaders and leadership? Would it make a difference if they displayed the characteristics outlined? Or maybe you have a different opinion of what makes people follow a leader? And how would you restore trust in leaders?

Video: Harvard Business Review – You Tube

Do you agree with Harvard about the worst mistakes leaders make?

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

It’s interesting to note that it’s apparently fashionable to regard leadership as glamorous. Maybe that’s the reason most people regard themselves as leaders?

Seems that the fact that leaders are human beings and hence not perfect has been forgotten. Harvard Business School experts held an interesting symposium where they discussed the worst mistakes leaders make. Devote 7 minutes to watch and then let us know if you agree with them.

The following experts participate:

Bill George, Professor, Harvard Business School and former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Medtronic
Evan Wittenberg, Head of Global Leadership Development, Google, Inc.
Dr. Ellen Langer, Professor, Harvard University
Andrew Pettigrew, Professor, Sïad Business School, University of Oxford
Gianpiero Petriglieri, Affiliate Professor of Organizational Behavior, INSEAD
Carl Sloane, Professor Emeritus, Harvard Business School
Jonathan Doochin, Leadership Institute at Harvard College
Scott Snook, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School and retired Colonel, US Army Corps of Engineers
Daisy Wademan Dowling, Executive Director, Leadership Development at Morgan Stanley

Who, in your opinion, pinpoints the worst mistake a leader can make? Or maybe you agree with more than one of the participants? Or with all of them? Is there anything you would like to add? Will future leaders have a higher success rate if they avoid those mistakes? Do you think it’s glamorous to be a leader? If so, what aspects are glamorous? Are leaders that make huge mistakes and get bad press still glamorous? Or does glamour exit the minute a leader becomes infamous?

(Video: Harvard – YouTube)

Do you like Harvard’s new approach to leadership?

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

Leadership in the 21st century has changed. In less than a minute Bill George, Faculty Chair, Authentic Leadership Development at Harvard tells you how:

What Bill George has to say speaks for itself. He is very clear on how he and his faculty at Harvard believe leadership is currently changing.

Do you agree that leadership has changed the way he describes it? Or does it only apply to the Western world? If so, how long will it take before developing countries follow suit? Maybe it doesn’t always apply to the West either? Do most leaders in the West lead the way Bill George outlines? Are the number of leaders applying the new approach to leadership increasing? Has demand and control been abolished from leadership? Or should it? Is team work now more important all over the world? Or on the increase? Is looking at the long term instead of short term results becoming the norm? Has the recent financial crisis been a wake up call that is changing how leadership is done? Or are you of the opinion that leadership will always focus on demand and control and maximizing dividends to shareholders at the expense of a sustainable long term focus?

Video: HBSExecEd - You Tube

Should leaders be empathetic or firm?

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Empathetic leaders are in high demand in the US. In the Nordic countries however, where empathy is an aspect of leadership, the debate is instead if leaders have become too compassionate.

leadership, empathy, firm, tough, Harvard Business Review,

How empathetic should a leader be? Will future leaders be compassionate or firm?

Is the grass always greener on the other side?

It seems you can’t win. Isn’t it interesting that when empathetic leadership is the norm, it’s benefits are being questioned while in countries with less considerate leadership styles it’s considered ideal? Some Americans even go as far as stating that the era of empathy is upon us.

Empathy a handicap?

In the Nordic countries empathy has long been part of management. Leaders have had to be considerate, weather they wanted to or not. Now however, some Scandinavians argue that being considerate is a weakness because it makes it hard to be firm and take tough decisions.

The ideal US boss is empathetic

Harvard Business Review concluded that empathy is high currency for a leader as is softer and more compassionate leadership styles. When it comes to CEOs being considerate, understanding and sympathise with employees and their feelings is considered optimal.

If you google empathic leader and empathetic leadership you get about 6,500 hits. And in general they are about leaders needing to be more considerate. The author Daniel Pink in his book “A whole new mind” writes that in the future empathy will be crucial for success.

Scandinavia a step further?

So have Sweden and Norway with their generally speaking more empathetic leaders taken the debate a step further by questioning if it’s a handicap? Or is it a step back to question if leadership have become to considerate?

Some claim that considerate leaders worry too much and can even be negatively affected by their environment as a result. If so, does that handicap them as leaders?

It’s common sense that leadership is facilitated by compassion. But taking the current debate in Scandinavia into account, maybe empathy combined with an ability to take tough decisions when necessary is ideal?

Most leaders either adopt a persona that’s excessively tough or overly empathetic, or feared or loved, if you like. Obviously neither leadership style is ideal. Maybe a leader focusing on helping other people to achieve their full potential would be best? A happy medium is obviously the ultimate but how many leaders are both compassionate and tough?

Do you believe empathy is an asset or a handicap for a leader? Will we see more empathetic leaders in the future? If so, will the considerate trend then, like in Scandinavia, be questioned because such leaders worry too much which has a negative effect on their ability to manage? What lies ahead for leadership? Will it, like it always has and still is, be a mix of different kinds of leadership styles? Empathetic – to be or not to be – that’s the question leaders have to ask themselves. Or maybe the debate about the ideal leader has gone to far? The different debates going on in the US and Nordic countries certainly makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s time to accept that leaders are different and empathy works for some and not for others?

Photo: Flickr -The White House

Are leadership and democracy truly compatible?

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Can true democracy really be practiced in a business? Would one employee – one vote make it possible not only to run a company but also make sure it’s profitable? Definitely, if you are a small jointly owned company. But how about a huge multinational with say, 250,000 employees?

leadership, democracy, company, government

Is democratic leadership that makes everybody happy just an illusion?

Imagine if all employees had to vote before a decision was made. Everybody would be looking after number one and the company would not only be ungovernable but lose money as well.

Fair decisions based on dialogue

Different stake holders should have their say and to aim for fair and emphatic decisions based on dialogue is definitely not only possible, but already practised in a multitude of companies.

Democracy – next fad in leadership theories?

With all the current emphasis on empathy in leadership I can’t help wondering if democratic leadership will soon become fashionable? The timing is right because many employees feel they have been badly treated by management during the current economic crisis.

Leaders are solely responsible

As a leader you are responsible to the board, share holders and all employees. There are no excuses for chosing the wrong path. You, and only you, are accountable and pay the price if your decisions fail. Or as President Truman put it, the buck stops with you.

Show me a truly democratic government

In all democratic countries politicians are elected because they promise the electorate they will do X,Y and Z. However,  once in power they frequently proceed with doing something else. Sometimes because they discover that what they would like to do isn’t possible for, usually, financial or legal reasons. Isn’t democracy more of a concept than reality? How much say does the electorate really have? The fact that a lot of politicians say what the electorate wants to hear and then do something else, doesn’t help. To get votes by pretending you stand for something you don’t is not what democracy should be about. But that is what happens in most countries.

In fact I don’t believe you can find any democratically elected government in the world that hasn’t failed to deliver on quite a few of their promises. As we all know, private companies operating that way would eventually cease to exist.

Staff can’t have more influence than board and shareholders

It’s impossible to allow employees to have more impact on decision making than the owners and board of directors do.

Sometimes taking decisions can be severely difficult and you will have to defend them not only to shareholders but colleagues as well. It’s particularly hard if you don’t agree with some of the decisions implemented. But you still have to be able to handle criticism for them and make sure as many as possible understand, accept and are motivated by your decisions.

Do you believe perfect democracy exists in any company or government in the world? How much more democratic can the corporate world get without jeopardizing the businesses? Is it possible to ever satisfy all and sundry and still be profitable and grow? A bit of a Catch 22, isn’t it?

(Photo: yeowatzup – flickr)

Are leaders told the whole truth?

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

The truth is hard to find, not least if you are in charge. Your colleagues will frequently, whether they are conscious about it or not, give you the answer they believe you want.

leaders, truth, feedback, leadership,

Which ones of your colleagues will be completely honest with you?

On the other hand there are those who always contradict and complain to demonstrate that they are not yes sayers.

Then the defenders who are protective of themselves, members of their own department or whatever is important to them. On top of it, the ones looking after number one will say whatever it takes to further themselves.

Neither category are of help to a leader trying to find out what’s really going on or if an idea or proposal is of value to the company. Nor is the fact that we all interpret what we see or hear in different ways. Most people actually see and hear what they want or fear.

Do your colleagues feel safe enough to be honest?

If you are a good leader your colleagues know that they can tell you the truth. But even so, leaders fall into a different category than employees and it’s difficult to achieve the kind of complete openness you can have with close friends.

Employees are to some extent dependent on the leader. Even in a country like Sweden where it’s difficult to fire anyone getting the whole truth from colleagues is easier said than done.

So how do you overcome the fact that your colleagues are to some extent reliant on you and enable openness?

Let them be anonymous

Sometimes it’s a good idea to let staff give their opinion, or account of what’s going on, anonymously. That enables both constructive criticism and may bring out honesty in those afraid to appear like yes sayers. And anonymity could stop people from, say, protecting someone in their department.

Having said that, the kind of system some companies have where employees report colleagues for something they believe is wrong can also be abused by someone who, for instance, want to be promoted, simply doesn’t get along with a colleague or want to take revenge.

Leaders need to have psychological insight and intuition

It’s essential for a leader to be a good judge of character and have a gut feeling about what motivates another person and what’s going on. But unfortunately not all leaders have such qualities.

What can be done short of spying?

Apart from spying on staff, is it really possible for a leader to get the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Questionable, isn’t it?

The truth is in the eye of the beholder

Whenever something takes place and you have ten witnesses you have ten different accounts of what really happened. So maybe the closest it’s possible to get to the truth in such cases is what the accounts of the majority have in common? It’s hence important for a leader to have the judgement to make the best possible conclusion of what really happened.

As a leader you need to talk to someone who is not dependent on you and will be truly honest. Someone who gives you constructive positive and negative feedback. Who tells you the whole truth and gives you constructive criticism? Do you feel you get valuable and honest feedback from colleagues on proposals and ideas? How do you determine the whole truth about what’s really going on in a department where there is a problem? Do you know, or have a feeling about, who’s honest with you and who’s not? Is it ever possible for a leader to get the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Photo: World Economic Forum – Flickr

Communication – The key to Successful Leadership!

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

It seems to me that we are making the art of leadership too complicated. There are umpteen theories that all have one thing in common – they work for some and for others they don’t.

Would Virgin group be what it is today if Richard Branson hadn’t mastered the art of communication?

Most people who suddenly find themselves in a leadership position swiftly realize that the top position is completely different from what they imagined. And worse, there is no manual.

Lonely at the top

There is no school for becoming a successful leader. New leaders frequently feel lonely since there are fewer people privy to high level information. It can be overwhelming. So much so that the fact that a leader’s success depends on communication is frequently forgotten.

Too many theories confusing

Richard Branson is an excellent example of a very successful leader who masters the art of communication. To the extent of jumping from high buildings to get the attention needed to promote a new Virgin venture. Don’t think anybody would dispute how successful he is. But the confusion caused by all these theories and schools of leadership actually led one guy straight out of university to have the audacity to make a comment in a discussion on Linkedin that he had a lot to teach Richard Branson. Indeed? What are the odds of he, or anybody else, becoming as successful a leader as Richard is? Pretty slim, I’d say considering that very few ever become as successful as Richard Branson is. And the success of Virgin is very much down to his exceptionally good ability to communicate.

The tasks of a leader is, simply put, to vision where a company is heading (strategies, future accomplishments, managing the destiny of the organisation and so forth), find the people the organisation needs to fulfil it’s vision, make choices and take decisions. Leaders also have to continuously serve, learn, correct, evaluate and motivate.

The leader’s most powerful tool

And how are you going to succeed with all that if you don’t master the art of communication ? Both internally and externally it’s the most powerful tool a leader has. It’s crucial to communicate with others about trends that affect the future of your business and stretch your thoughts by discussing your ideas with friends, associates and other great thinkers.

What can be achieved without constantly communicating?

Ideas are an extremely powerful force. By communicating ideas to people you engage their minds and help them see new possibilities and new opportunities. Strong and evocative ideas energize people and incite action. As leaders, our ideas are important. Leaders need clear ideas and philosophies about how to win in the marketplace, how their organisation should operate and how to develop their people.

Leaders succeed because they are able to focus and deal with the 5% of issues that are crucial, build support, create followers, put out fires fast and finish what they started. How would that be possible without communicating? Especially since many decisions are instant so a non-communicative leader would fail miserably.

Successful leaders spend much more time communicating their decision than actually taking the decision. Lots of time is also spent on coaching and motivating others. And, tedious as it can be, repeating the decision to get maximum effect. But despite that most people wrongly believe leaders spend most of their time making decisions. Leaders who only take decisions will fail miserably since communication is the key ingredient. Not communicating enough is hence the main reason for failure and not, as many believe, that they were following the wrong theory. And don’t forget that leaders live in the future so the more your communication enlightens you about tomorrow the better a leader you will be!

(Photo: Flickr linniekin)