We once knew how to look after a refugee at Christmas

Panoramic view of  Pohutukawa red flowers blossom on DecemberThe notion of a Christmas for peace and tolerance is lacking in world affairs. What were once expressions of wise leadership are expressions about controlling others and rule by dogma, supported by special interest  groups (to put it neutrally) including white supremacists, Evangelical Christians, billionaires etc. If you were religiously minded the phrase “unholy alliance” must come to mind.

I wonder why people are voting for autocratic leaders. Leadership isn’t for everyone and for some people, even self leadership is a challenge. Which is why leaders have such a privileged position of responsibility for creating meaningful dialogue, compassion and to treat others fairly. But what happens when enough of the population votes for something else? Voting, it seems, to treat minorities whether because of poverty, religion, sexual orientation or race as exceptions to the norm who can be ignored at best, and at worst, ridiculed. Something has broken down.

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I took this in Malmo, Sweden last year

It’s complex – there’s globalisation, economic malaise for many, refugees, terrorism – but surely this is the time to call on the best that we all have and what some people say Christmas is about – tolerance, which for the Christmas story is about protecting a homeless child and caring for a new, possibly single, mother – not turning a blind eye or worse attacking those who seem “different“.

Special interest groups including religion have long held a seat at the table of power. I hope those special interest leaders use their new found power to promote tolerance, liberty and compassion. I’m not holding my breath.

It does make me realise how fortunate we are in New Zealand. It’s easy to forget. Summer too. I hope you’re having a good Christmas with those important to you.

Stephen

 

 

Sacrificing your reputation for short term gain

When I visited and stayed at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia in 2000 before 9/11 I was issued with an access card to get around the facility. Part way through the stay I mislaid the card. I went to the public reception and a harried receptionist thrust a box of cards at me. “Take what you need“she said, so I reissued myself with a card and carried on. She had no idea who I was, whether I was entitled to be there, whether I should have access or if I did what my purpose was. You wouldn’t have needed a leaker inside to find the secrets of the FBI then!

I assume things are a bit tighter now. It certainly seems that way traveling through LA.

Since the FBI Director James Comey released information that a batch of emails on an unrelated investigation may be relevant to Hillary Clinton (but that he had no actual idea whether or not they were), it’s come out that FBI Agents have been leaking information to the media because they dislike Clinton.

The FBI has always held a special place in the world of law enforcement. It has led and continues to lead, many facets of forensics – in fraud, technology, weaponry – and the physical environment. It has shown itself to be impartial, thoroughindependent and thorough.

That deserved reputation has been built up over decades by thousands of Agents on thousands of case.

That reputation is at serious risk right now, and may be damaged for some time if the allegations of leaking and partiality prove to be true (or even not disproven).

Whatever you might have in your trust bank can unwind a great reputation quickly by hasty actions in the heat of the moment. For law enforcement independence is often the first thing that fails.

Whatever your big thing is, treasure it and don’t give it up for short term gain.

Stephen

 

 

Mortal

It was Aunty Joy’s funeral last week. Uncle Ken’s a month or so back. A couple. Parents, grandparents, great grandparents, sister, cousin, Aunty, Uncle. And more, much more.

Their lives were so eloquently and movingly paid tribute to at their respective funerals by family. I struggle to add to it.

Two family members gone so close to each other. I said to Dad as we went in for Aunty Joy’s funeral service that it felt raw. We could still feel it from Uncle Ken’s service. Any sense we felt pales of course – from immediate family – who showed remarkable resilience and grace.

Young girl hiker on mountain trail
What is your next adventure?

If there’s any good to come it’s a strong reminder of living now, in the present and embracing every moment. Friends come and go, work is ever present and will never be complete, the things we have or want don’t really matter, and you need to live now with what you have. Start your next adventure.

And if you have even half the things said about you at your funeral service that were said about my Aunty and Uncle, you will have lived.

Stephen

 

Look after your stuff

Taking responsibility for what comes your way too.

I’m back to Mum’s 85th birthday again. After a lovely lunch at Dux Dine (where Mum and Dad are regulars) we assembled in a corner of the restaurant for photographs and words. Thinking about what I was going to say to Mum I noticed she grabbed all her cards and gifts together in a neat pile and clutched them tightly.

Look after your own stuff. Make things happen for yourself. Take responsibility for your own actions and if you want something then find your own way to get it. That’s Mum.

She’s a great Mum and firm and compassionate all at once. Direct too. “About time you bought a house” she said once. She was right and I did. If only more people knew she predicted the Auckland housing market long before it was even talked about!

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A fine leadership example.

I like taking responsibility for achieving something myself – they’re the best achievements you can ever have.

Stephen

ps I got a lovely thank you card after the birthday too. That was a nice surprise.

Is just being yourself authentic?

Sometimes on the Authentic Leadership Programme we discuss whether a toxic leader who acts out in his or her’s own so-called “authentic” leadership style is an authentic leader. This argument has special validity for a leaders with sizeable followings.

Cutting to the chase can it really be authentic to be toxic, petty, vindictive, micro-managing, untrue etc?

blehCan it be leadership, nonetheless?

We see political leaders in the US bringing together followers of an ideology. Some of those leaders appear very thinned skinned, prone to name-calling, vindictive and divisive – putting groups of people based on nationality or religion against their followers.

Can this be authentic leadership? Surely not!

I think you have to say it is leadership – not the sort of leadership many people find helpful, but leadership nonetheless.

What about authentic leadership? No, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Authentic leaders have self awareness and examine their own strengths and weaknesses, acknowledging who they are to their followers.

Authentic leaders are transparent.

Authentic leaders have a strong ethical compass that guides them in decisions and life. Followers will know that ethical compass and it will be available for scrutiny. It will involve embracing diversity, not engaging in toxic or narcissistic behaviours such as bullying or name calling.

Authentic leaders build a following on making their organisation or whatever it is they lead better through cooperation, engagement and empowerment.

Finally, an authentic leader strives to be, and helps others, to achieve the authentic human condition. That condition is something build on trust, seeking the best in others, relying on facts, high levels of emotional intelligence (think “social awareness” or “self control”) and seeking happiness, freedom and contentment for all.

So check, when someone says about a leader,”they’re just being themselves”. That will never be an excuse for poor leadership.

Stephen

Grandma’s insight

Lovely to see you come, and lovely to see you go“. So said Grandma in about 1974 after nine of us were about to depart after three weeks or so in her flat and bach. Such harsh words I thought. Surely she was sad to see us go? After all she was quite old I thought and you never know, this could be the last time (turned out she had another 16 years!).

Of course as a boy I didn’t appreciate the stress that a large group of visitors in Grandma’s flat in Sandringham and at her bach in Stanmore Bay might have caused. They were just great holidays. A long road trip from the South Island, beaches, swimming, hot days, sun burn, Waiwera hot pools and barbeques.

I had dear friends stay in the weekend (so in case they’re reading I’m not about to do a Grandma). W12657243_10206633536649957_1152946458479811167_oe cycled, dined, did some gardening and watched movies.

A colleague commented to me the other day that when you’re an extrovert it’s not always straightforward to explain to those close to you that you need downtime. Which I have found to be true.

I’m an extrovert and part of me needs recharging with time alone. More so as I’ve got older (which might be another post).

Thanks to Grandma for the wise leadership insight all those years ago.

Stephen

p.s. this is her in 1979 with my mother. I can imagine she’s smiling from being reminded about this story.

Trumbo

Dalton Trumbo was a Hollywood screenwriter who refused to answer questions before a congressional committee “investigating” un-American activities. Along with 10 other writers he was put on a blacklist and, like thousands of others, treated as a traitor, a communist and un-American.

Before seeing the movie I hadn’t heard of Trumbo, but I know a bit about the anti-communist hysteria that existed in many countries during the Cold War.

Misguided people who marginalise and build fear against minorities have existed over many millennia.

It’s a great story told as a movie, and there’s important reminders in it for leaders, especially now.

Stephen