Struggles with change

Man character need help. Vector flat cartoon illustration

It’s trite to say that there’s a lot of change right now. I’ve told myself to stop reading Trump news but I can’t. It’s seems every day brings more deconstruction, as Stephen Bannon calls it, of a democratic government. He seems to be quite reclusive, probably an introvert and if you read what he has to say about the state of the Western World he’s very hostile to immigrants, trade agreements, non-Christians, non-whites, the LGBTQ community. Anyone unlike him.

According to Wikipedia “Bannon was a founding member of the board of Breitbart News, an online far-right news, opinion and commentary website which, according to Philip Elliott and Zeke J. Miller of Time, has “pushed racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic material into the vein of the alternative right“.

I’ve been wondering how a person ends up that. You might also wonder how he ended up as the right hand person to the US President. But that’s not what this is about.

Fear. Bannon is scared. Living through all that change and feeling forced to accept progress and equality when you believe they are poisonous. So now it’s revenge and trying to change the world to stop being scared.

And you thought that Trump feeding his insatiable ego was bad enough.

Ironic Satirical Illustration of a Retro Classic Comics Woman Being a Drama Queen

Change can be scary and leaders should be ready to understand, confront and allay fears. Especially now.

Stephen

 

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.

DSC_0683.JPG
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

 

 

Angry men out of control

You might think that if you’d just won the election for the most powerful position in the world you’d be reasonably content (assuming that’s what you wanted). Recently, Donald Trump appeared to get angry because people at the musical Hamilton booed his deputy (it’s comical – politician gets booed (that’s never happened before), goes running, upset, to Uncle Donald who in turn demands an apology via an early morning tweet – really!).

In South Auckland, a church leader, Brian Tamaki had a rant about earthquakes being caused by gays. If it wasn’t for the tragic consequences of Kaikoura Earthquake for the victims it might be comical too, tectonic plates et al.

Finger pointing.Whatever the leader’s area of influence he or she can’t control everything. Or even want to you’d hope. Control is a necessary resource for a leader to use sparingly as and when required.

These two examples might be ridiculous and even funny. But they’re deadly serious. The leader-elect of the free world endeavouring to bully critics into silence (btw, it’s a democracy). A leader of a church stigmatising and abusing an entire community (and those in support including families) based on sexual orientation.

Angry men out of control have been known to do unconscionable things to get their own way.

Leadership is a privilege. When it’s abused to undermine democracy and freedom in any form we owe it to ourselves to speak up and declare it unacceptable.

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

 

 

Is that really the best you have?

Ryan Lochte has won 12 Olympic medals, making him the second highest US swimming medal-winner behind Michael Phelps. Lance Armstrong ‘won’ 7 consecutive Tour de France races although he was stripped of the awards after he was found to have cheated. Lochte is not a cheat and this blog is not about being a cheat or not.

Cyclist riding a bike to the sunset on the highway
It’s a great sport

As best as I can ascertain Lochte and others caused some damage to a bathroom in Rio. A security guard who was armed (and may have pulled his weapon) demanded that Lochte and his friends pay for the damage. Lochte fled and complained to the police that they had been robbed at gunpoint. When the actual facts surfaced, Lochte had left Rio.

He apologised to his teammates and said he was “hurt” that they were left in Rio to deal with the consequences. He says he “over-exaggerated” the situation and insists he didn’t lie.

I heard an interview of Armstrong on the radio the other day. If you listen to him talking about his doping, you quickly pick up that the man has not really come to terms with what he did. Armstrong struggles with acknowledging what he has done: “I view this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times,” he said. “I’m sitting here today to acknowledge that and to say I’m sorry for that.”. That’s pretty clear but he also says that without his winning all the cycle races he wouldn’t have raised the profile of cycling to where it is now, nor raised all the millions for cancer sufferers.  True.

At our last Authentic Leadership module we talked about the goldfish bowl effect: leaders are magnified the higher up they go.

The weasel words and justification, abstract apologies to select groups or about things you’ve said, do not properly acknowledge the wrong. They are simply part of trying to minimise what you got caught doing.

If you’ve stuffed up, then acknowledge it and apologise. Leave it for others to find the good in what you did.

Stephen

 

Let’s make leadership great again!

I’ve been thinking a lot about large shifts. Times are changing. In politics, health of our planet, inequalities, global power shifts and terror events there seem to be large changes happening. Many of these changes won’t be apparent until after….. looking back it’s clear ….but looking forward it’s not clear where the landing is.

How do you feel? Anxious, excited or optimistic perhaps? Or a bit of all three. Some of it makes me anxious. The politics of division worry me. Find a grievance, identify the culprits by ethnicity say, and promise the fix.

In leadership development it used to be popular to “break you down” so you could be built back up again.  A great feeling on the day and even for a week or two afterwards. You could have branded it “Let’s make leadership development great again!” and in a less enlightened age you’d be onto a winner.

At least that nonsense didn’t have an entire nationality or ethnicity branded as the enemy. I wonder what the people who follow this idea think the fix will actually look like. It cannot look good. It’s a catastrophic failure of leadership. A psychopathic appears at the helm and some people either haven’t noticed or worse go along with it.

Man and the Universe

Authentic leadership is aspirational, building on strengths, working together in community to find solutions to the most intractable problems, recognising we are one small group of people in smallish planet in an otherwise unremarkable corner of a galaxy. There’s no one else looking out for us. It’s us. All alone. Only we can do what needs to be done.

More than ever authentic and courageous leaders are needed. Leaders who connect, give hope and guide us through the big changes we’ve entered into. Because they’re not in the future. They’re now.

Very few of us can be global leaders. But we all have a voice.

Be heard and make leadership great again, for good.

Stephen

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