It’s harder for young leaders

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Super Hero Boy

I had the honour, on the weekend, of speaking at two events.

One was on a panel at University of NSW at the 21st Century Leadership Summit on Saturday afternoon.

What a panel! Phil Crenigan, Vanessa Wolfe-Coote, Lynn Wood and Andy Hedges. Out of my league but a great honour to meet these wonderful people and the attendees at the event!

The other was at Mark Taylor Oval at Waitara in Sydney talking with the captains of the Northern District Cricket Club.

NDCC was the club I played for all those years ago…

Both were great sessions.

And both took me back many years.

I studied at UNSW when I left school as a part-time student…AND….at that same time, I was playing grade cricket for Northern District CC.

Now, I can’t honestly say that they had the same impact on me in terms of memories! 🙂

My memories were far better at Mark Taylor Oval!

Although it wasn’t called Mark Taylor Oval in those days.

Mark Taylor hadn’t graced the scene at Waitara when I first started playing, though he ended up becoming a great team-mate.

Although I am sure that my poor wicket-keeping was the reason Tubby ended up becoming such a brilliant first slip fieldsman!

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The Club has a leadership program to assist the various team captains.

It was just sensational to spend some time with the Club’s captains and talk about leadership and its challenges.

I have to admit that it also brought back memories with some of the great photos on the walls in the Club room – I did look so much younger in some of the (ageing) team photos on the wall!

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But here’s the challenge.

In my playing days there were very experienced, older players captaining teams.

As a young player, I served on the club committee but with people like Tim Caldwell who was then Chairman of the Australian Cricket Board, Austen Hughes who went on to be Club President for 30 years, and on the NSW Cricket Association with Alan Davidson who was president for half a lifetime and a test-great himself.

I played under retired Test and Sheffield Cricketers like Ross Edwards, Kerry Mackay, Mark Clews, and Neil Marks who, some people say, played youth cricket with Bradman (That was joke Harpo! ).

Experienced and wonderful people who had a big influence on young people.

However, the captains of today don’t have the experienced guys playing in the same teams any more.

Life is busier. Players retire and move on to the next stage of their life. They tend to have families later; children’s sport is played anytime form Friday to Sunday; it’s a 24/7 lifestyle.

It’s harder.

Which means the captains are young.

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And they will generally not have had the role models I had in my day – deeply experienced campaigners in life and cricket.

Hence the wonderful work done by the Club to have leadership development as a program. Is it little wonder that NDCC won the NSW Club Championship in 2016/17?

So, what’s my point?

First, I learned so much about life playing cricket. And I learned a great deal from the experienced “elders” I was privileged to play with. About cricket, sure, but also plenty about life.

Our wonderful young leaders need support, mentors, guides.

Secondly, I wonder whether, as a society, have we dropped the ball in staying part of the great institutions which added so much value to our lives? Our schools, unis, sporting clubs, social clubs, RSLs, PCYC, churches….

Perhaps a call to action – how can we all take the responsibility of contributing something back to the young people who are following in our footsteps, but in a different time?

Our leadership of the future need us.

Food for thought….

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Release the potential !

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As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honour and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate. When the best leader’s work is done, the people say, ‘we did it ourselves.’ – Lao Tzu

I was talking to a director of a company recently about the situation inside a company they were involved with.

They were making some interesting observations about the company and, surprise surprise, the core subject was leadership.

What was interesting was the discussion about style of leadership.

You see, it’s easy to think that the best leaders are the loudest ones, the most confident ones, the ones with all the ideas.

But that’s not the case.

A true leader is one who has people on the journey with them.

Being the dominant leader works in some situations, for a period of time.

But not everywhere. And not for ever.

So, thinking about being the long term, sustainable leader involves a few framing structures:

  • Make sure people know the path forward in terms they understand. If they can’t explain it to their mates at a BBQ, is it really understood?
  • Make sure there is genuine trust in the business. Not words on a poster, and not nodding agreement and actually feeling the opposite. How do people actually operate when no one is watching?
  • Make sure the old 2:2:1 (2 ears, 2 eyes, and 1 mouth) ratio applies. Is input sought and valued? Is it ok to provide constructive criticism, even of the leadership? Or are people scared of providing input?
  • Make sure values are espoused and lived. No point in having values that are good for posters, or good for everyone else, but not lived by the leadership, right
  • Importantly, make sure the perception of leadership is what other people say, not what the leader thinks.

So here are the key questions:

  • As a leader, are you really sure that your views of your leadership align with what other people think?
  • Or are you too arrogant to ask?
  • And, if you did ask, would they tell you the truth?

It’s actually the power of the team that follows the leader that makes the organisation successful.

And it’s the focus on them that really is the spark that drives success for every team, right?

Food for thought.

Being a leader is about being impregnable, right?

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Perhaps not.

The stereotype for a strong leader is someone who has all the answers; has a “shield of steel” level of confidence that just can’t be breached.

But that’s actually not the full story.

Sure, being confident is important.

People will follow a confident leader.

Let’s face it, it’s hard to inspire people to come on a journey with you if you don’t fill them with confidence that you know what you’re doing, you believe in the mission, and you are skilled in overcoming the inescapable problems that will arise along the way.

But we have all met the impregnable leader as well, haven’t we?

You know, the one that you just know is putting up a front; a façade that that they will not allow to be breached.

Why do they do that?

It strikes me that people relate to real people and we all have our vulnerabilities.

You know, the ones that niggle away late at night, the ones that shout at you when you are standing on stage about to give a speech; the ones that actually make you think twice before acting; and the ones that have saved you on many occasions.

Actually, being vulnerable is an important element to be authentic and successful and grounded.

And people follow authentic leaders.

So why hide a great strength?

It doesn’t mean that you become a blubbering ball of uncertainty or an amoeba!

But it does mean acknowledging that you have some areas where you feel the same as everyone else – vulnerable, exposed, knowing that you have a weakness.

People will help, they will complement you and compliment you. They will better understand you. They are more likely to come on a journey with you.

So being impregnable might not be providing you the benefit you think it is. Because your brand is what other people think of you, right?

My question is this – are you brave enough to be vulnerable?

To get the slingshot effect of Synergy…

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As you know, in my view leadership is very much about creating followship.

And once you have followship, you have a group of followers, right?

I’m not a great fan of groups.

“In mathematics, a group is an algebraic structure consisting of a set of elements equipped with an operation that combines any two elements to form a third element. The operation satisfies four conditions called the group axioms, namely closure, associativity, identity and invertibility.”

Que?

Ok, ok. I’m making a point.

I like musical groups. And I guess a group of ducklings is cute!

But an effective group must become a team. And when you have a team, you can have synergy. Let’s face it, Coldplay is an amazing team producing magnificent music.

So, it’s logical that leadership is also about building a team.

But how do you make that team cohesive?

Here a re a few simple tips on making sure your group becomes a COHESIVE TEAM:

Be close to the members of your team

  • Take the time to get to each member on a personal level; know them very well
  • Be a listener and ask lots of questions
  • Encourage innovation and some individuality
  • Celebrate with them
  • Recognise their personal and professional success and achievements
  • Be hands alongside your team members on when you need to be

Get the balance right

  • Encourage everyone in your team to have a great life balance (I dislike the term work-life balance…) and make sure you do to
  • Recognise and encourage extra-curricular activities for everyone
  • Make sure everyone learns from what they do outside work, including you

Be open, honest and transparent

  • People sense BS when they hear it and see it. In Australia and New Zealand in particular, people are cynical and see through cheap talk very quickly
  • So, be upfront and direct
  • Give people the news, good or bad, quickly
  • And expect that in return
  • Make sure you take bad news well

Adopt a curious mindset

  • Constantly seek new ways and experiences
  • Keep in touch with changing demographics
  • Stay up to date with technology
  • Understand what’s happening in other industries and business
  • Listen to your people with an open mind, and always hear them out
  • Be supportive, and do not be overly critical

Be passionate and consistent about the Purpose

  • To create followship, people need to know where you are taking them and feel confident you are passionate about getting them there
  • And if you say something, mean it.
  • And if you commit to do something, do it.

Begin with the end in mind, and curate

  • Stay the course on your plans
  • Sure, curate along the way to adapt and improve
  • But, only change radically when you have to, and when you do change, change fast and very effectively
  • Confidence in the plan is important to followship

Expect more of everyone’s leadership

  • And make sure everyone knows what that means, and what is expected of them
  • Remember, everyone needs some ground rules
  • But focus on what’s important, not everything
  • And here’s a novel idea, if you add a new focus area, take one away
  • Delegate authority with accountability and responsibility

Synergy doesn’t come from individuals. It comes from teams.

So to deliver the slingshot effect of synergy, build cohesive teams!

Innovate your brand!

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One of my Rules of Transformational Leadership is that “Your Reputation is Everything, So Protect it!”

Another of my rules is “Innovate Incessantly”

Now, what happens if the two don’t align?

What happens if your brand isn’t one that is associated with innovation?

Houston, we have a problem!
Because our brand isn’t what we think it is; it’s what other people think.

Ok, so when I read this article on the weekend, I found a solution.

Here’s the ARTICLE

And here’s what it says (I’ve adapted it slightly but the core principles are spot on):

  1. Associate yourself with the concept of innovation – read extensively, write a blog, send emails to lots of smart people every week. Day to day incidents will bring the anecdotes to life and you will start BEcoming the innovator.
  2. Take the time to practice innovative thinking – set aside some time each week – it’s a skill, and it is something you get better at with time. And spend time innovating with other people – shared experience and shared learning.
  3. Think about past life experiences and learn from them – what would you do differently next time? Why didn’t it work? What did you learn? You innovated and can do it again!
  4. Learn how successful innovators execute. Ideas need execution and execution is critical. Research it; ask questions; be intensely curious.
  5. So are people critical. Hang around with smart people who execute brilliantly. Engage them early.
  6. Look the part. Ok, seems glib, but people do judge a book by its cover. The book still needs to be a good read but looking the part helps.

Travel well!

Worry is interest paid on a problem before it falls due!

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Unless you have zero EQ, it’s very normal to occasionally experience the impostor syndrome.

You know what I mean – that gut wrenching feeling (particularly in a public speaking environment) where you are waiting for someone to call out that you are a fraud, you don’t know what you are talking about, that everything you are saying is wrong.

Now, like most things we worry about, it never happens.

And as professionals, we are a lot better and stronger than we think.

Experience provides so many benefits – once something is in your database of experience, you become more resilient, more comfortable.

We are able to adapt to differing situations more readily and play different roles in different circumstances.

We are able to take on challenges more confidently.

We have greater access to skills and resources.

Don’t get me wrong – never be complacent.

By all means plan and prepare. Do that really well.

But don’t be consumed by self-doubt and fear – worry is genuinely interest paid on a problem before it falls due.

Observations on Transformational Leadership

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I read this fascinating article on the weekend in the HBR.

You can read it HERE

I have my 10 rules of Transformational Leadership, so it was interesting to get a observational perspective from an analysis of 2017’s ranked top transformational leaders.

The analysis focused on the leader’s ability to re-position their organisations. Interesting, as Transformation is all about the re-positioning when it’s all said and done.

So, rather than just looking at simply revenue or a subjective measure like “innovativeness”, the assessment looked at:

  • New Growth generated – that is new products, services, and business models
  • Core Re-positioning – the adaption of a legacy model to change and disrupt, and
  • Financial Performance against best in class benchmarks.

Good stuff!

The summary of the findings is:

  1. Transformational leaders tend to be Insider Outsiders – they don’t come from the traditional core of the business, rather from an emerging business within the organisation or from an adjacent business. This helped drive transformation with an understanding of how to do so in the organisation.
  2. They strategically pursue TWO separate journeys – they look to re-position the core business whilst at the same time actively investing in new growth businesses. Just changing the core doesn’t drive real transformation and, arguably, doesn’t reflect a real journey to change (think Apple with the re-invigoration of the Mac coupled with the new iPhone).
  3. They use culture change to drive engagement – they move from the traditional risk-averse (we have to protect the core) approach to one where they are nimble and fast and able to produce small increments all the time – this changes the risk appetite in the business and therefore its culture.
  4. They communicate a powerful narrative about the future – they become the story-teller-in-chief and they tell different aspects of the story to different stakeholders to make it relevant to them. Consistently.
  5. They develop a roadmap before disruption takes hold – transformation can take a long time, so that means getting started fast is important, sometimes without a really clear vision of the end state. Developing the milestones and roadmap is therefore important but so is ensuring that it is adaptable as it will evolve as lessons, technology, and other things change.

Fascinating perspective – not theory but observations.