April 29, 2012
I’ve been hearing quite a lot lately about the desire to be Number One. “My goal is to get to the top” or “I want to be number one”. Ambition can drive us to achieve remarkable things both in leadership roles and in our personal quests. What comes first: the goal to get to the top or the the desire to achieve or do the things that can make a difference at the top?
I was fortunate enough to be at a function recently where graduating students were having their final celebrations. Prizes were awarded for top marks. Speeches were made about achievement.
I have goals, both personal and professional and those goals help to guide my actions and, I hope, the meaning that my actions bring. Striving to achieve a goal can bring real focus and attention to what matters, not just doing the “things” that need to be done.
If my only goal was to be “number one” for whatever that means, now might be a good time to pause and reflect on what it will mean to be top dog; who is it for; and what purpose can only be achieved by getting to this place.
I might also think about who I’m wanting to be Number One for. And think about who is watching and why I need them to notice that I’m going for the top.
Not much was said in the achievement speeches about doing what has purpose and making a difference through new skills. Or leading others to grow. I left with a feeling that what was admired was the pursuit of going to the the top over and above what that might mean.
Being number one. We already all are in our own world. Wise leaders know that and use what they bring to add meaning and purpose to those around them.
Without worrying about what others are thinking about position or title.
April 16, 2012
“I hope that the journalists present here report only the absolute truth,” said Ri Jinju, her voice trembling, her hair frozen with hairspray. “The truth about how much our people miss our comrade Kim Jong Il, and how strong the unity is between the people and leadership … to build a great, prosperous and powerful nation.” so it was reported in the NZ Herald this week as the journalist’s bus inadvertently took the wrong road on the carefully managed tour in North Korea.
It’s the 193rd richest country per capita in the world. Which I guess makes it close to the poorest country in the world. South Korea is 40th, New Zealand 48th. It has a little over 700 km of paved roads, New Zealand over 68,000 km. So when I read tonight that the new leader of this sad place said it had built a “mighty military” capable of both offence and defence in any type of modern warfare, it really struck me at how serious demented and deluded leadership can have such serious implications for those being led (nowhere!). The whole drama of a family handing down its power and treating its dead former leaders like some sort of Messiah is very Monty Pythonesque. But I guess, that it really is quite serious, not just for the danger to the region but to all the poor starving people who have to live there.
The hired help who lived on the 6th floor in the French movie “The women on the 6th floor” know a bit about narcissistic leadership too. Confined to tiny rooms with no facilities and a shared, permanently blocked, toilet they work tirelessly without complaint. It’s 1962. When one of “the bossess” ventures to their living quarters he discovers as much about himself as he does about the women.
Perhaps Kim Jo Un should take the road the Western Journalists went down and ask himself, like the Boss who visited the 6th floor, “what I am really doing to these people?”.
Leader? Yeah right!.
A delightful movie, with a Whatever Works theme about it.
January 12, 2012
Eight January was both David Bowie’s and Stephen Hawking’s birthday. Bowie, who turned 65 had a hit in the 70s 1984 inspired by the George Orwell novel of the same name. An artist of many faces he remains an icon of rock and I’m happy to have quite a few of his albums in my collection. Hawking turned 70 but didn’t make it to his celebrations on account of recovering from a bout of ill-health. Hawking already is and will no doubt go down in history as one of the most remarkable minds we have been fortunate enough to have amongst us. His ability to turn the complexities of the universe into language we can all appreciate and marvel at is a gift.
Thinking about spacetime and the big bang can make you feel pretty insignificant and that’s probably correct.
Who really is out there!
It’s a strange thing being at home for a few days. I’ve discovered that people do indeed phone the home landline. Mainly looking for money but this afternoon Hector called from the “Microsoft Support Centre” – yeah right. Trying to play with Hector for a moment didn’t seem to work: “where are you based Hector? I’m wondering as you asked how I was this evening when it’s not yet evening”. “I’m from the Microsoft Support Centre, how are you this evening?” he repeated. You only get a few moments to play with Hector and his friends before they cut you loose and move on to the next potential victim. And it’s awful being hung up on so my inclination is to get the last word in then hang up.
Susan from LinkedIn has been communicating with me via email over a problem I’ve had with my contacts list. It seems I’ve invited too many people and hit some sort of scam alert – or that’s what I can deduce from the online forums – as Susan assures me that there is “no restriction at all on your account” and wishes me good cheer. But not before assuring me that the “Setting of being asked to provide an email address, while sending invitation will be disabled automatically. However, I’m unable to provide you an exact time frame for that to happen as its purely system generated.” So I enquired as to what the event or action was that had caused the system to do this to my account. Having once enquired of Google as to why my adverts had stopped running I knew the perils of asking specific questions of such an organisation.
The answer could have been straight from Winston Smith, the protagonist in 1984. Denial that anything had been altered on my account but a repeated assurance that the system would disable it. Followed by an upbeat appreciation of my being part of their network and an invitation to reply should any further assistance be required. WTF! I like LinkedIn and have got excellent value from it. I politely suggested that perhaps Susan might like to let her manager review our communications, if for no other reason than to help the organisation understand its clients better. More good cheer and an offer to complete a feedback form, declined, but still sent, curiously within an hour of one from Google! Winston is surely watching me.
It’s a new year and clearly I have too much time on my hands thinking about this stuff. Susan is sure to be a good person. Hector’s probably trying to support his family – shame he’s chosen an organisation that steals passwords and what goes with them. At least with Hector you pretty well know what you’re up for. But when it comes to large multi-nationals who spread themselves all over our little globe (think spacetime and it doesn’t feel so bad) then wouldn’t it be okay to just answer the question truthfully? Or maybe even say that they won’t answer it?
Thanking and general politeness can be patronising tools to avoid dealing with a real issue. A good lesson for all of us in leadership. How many times have you heard “I just wish they’d told me it as it is”?
That’s off my chest. If my LinkedIn disappears you’ll know why!
September 2, 2011
On the flight to Wellington last week I engaged in a conversation with someone working on the Tintin movies. Turns out I knew more about Tintin than she did, which isn’t surprising as Tintin has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Tintin’s creator Herge, was an insightful and thorough man.
Tintin is responsive, engaging, determined, has vision, loves life and is affronted by evil. He’s a risk taker too and manages up to his much more senior friend Captain Haddock and his policeman friends Thompson and Thomson.
The stories are full of psychopaths – first mate Allan and other drug dealers, slave runners and meglamaniacs who will start a war for commercial profit.
These stories span 1930s to early 1980s and the storylines are still relevant today.
I’m not blogging about Tintin for a leadership reason particularly, but I can’t help but see that there’s lots of what I deal with today in those books I have enjoyed for over 40 years. Maybe that’s not a coincidence!
If you’ve got children you could do a lot worse than to introduce them to Tintin for the art, the stories, the culture and the learnings about the human condition.
I usually avoid the question “who is your most admired leader?” on the basis that this can only lead to a discussion on heroes in leadership which is by and large irrelevant to leaders here and now. But I might go for Tintin next time!