Would you do that?

We visited the Erebus memorial at Waikumete Cemetery yesterday on the Authentic Leadership Programme. Then we travelled back to Waitakere Estate through the beautiful Scenic Drive and watched a powerful movie of corporate greed and fraud.

Our natural instincts are that we wouldn’t get involved in that sort of activity – we wouldn’t cover up the mishandling of the flight path that might have caused a plane crash – we wouldn’t sacrifice our values and integrity for money, would we?

We’d hope not. But circumstances can make people do things that they wouldn’t think they are capable of. I know, I’ve seen it in multiple fraud cases over the years. When I was at the Serious Fraud Office, most of the people we prosecuted didn’t start out as crooks. But a combinations of circumstances (pressure or greed), opportunity (no one can see) and justification (I deserve it or it’s mine) can turn ordinary, honest men and women into criminals.

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So what to do about it? I think of my values as my valuables – I try not to leave them lying around, I protect them and I know where they are at all times. Of course there’s a lot more to it but that’s a good start.

We should also pay attention to our lies. Sound confronting? Wise leaders are intentionally clear about their communication and don’t use weasel words that allow for mis-interpretation.

As I write this the leaders on the Programme are recording those five ethical considerations that they won’t allow to be compromised. Then they’re drafting a legacy.

One goes with the other.

Stephen

High up leadership

I’m writing this high up, on a Dreamliner to be precise, heading away for a few days. It’s been a frenetic week and getting away was a challenge but a flight departure time is compelling, even for those who like me, enjoy being pressure prompted.

This morning we ran a PwC Fraud Academy event where I interviewed a whistleblower to help our clients understand what they might need to do to encourage a “speak up” culture and protect the whistleblower.

This work sits at the nexus of my forensic and leadership work and I’ve blogged about it in also on LinkedIn.

In my dealings with high-up leaders they’ll usually say that they are approachable and open to feedback and concerns from anyone. And the people around them will often agree.

But what we heard from our whistleblower today was stark. “Why would those higher ups listen to me? What do I know?” she asked.

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What our whistleblower had to say went right to the heart of the trust, integrity and culture of her organisation. Her organisation was and is a great place. Open, trusting with good systems and processes.

But nonetheless she felt disempowered.

Someone asked me at a “laser coaching” session recently how they might improve their social awareness. I said that leadership is most often seen in those micro-moments: on the spot feedback, time to say thanks, a meeting with mechanisms for everyone to be heard, and constant engagement and communication. It seems to me that it’s these leadership behaviours that are also needed to develop the trust for a “speak up” culture too.

If it all sounds like it’s quite a lot to pay attention to, well, actually, it is.

High up leadership sounds grand, the rewards can be significant, but to be effective for your organisation you need to be always on, everywhere you go.

Stephen

Our PwC Leadership Development page went live today thanks to the work of Sarah Guerin in my team.

 

A rage about leadership

The group I was in the other day was asked by the facilitator “are you for or against Trump?”.  Yes, I replied, I don’t think you can be benign about him. Some people feel angry, not just in America, but everywhere.

Anger creates reactions and high interest when we see it. It has a place when our ethics are seriously undermined, or behaviour around us deliberately sets to undermine us or our organisation. It can create fear and further anger if not contained. But anger is not rage which is uncontrolled, scary and shouldn’t be in our toolkit.

iStock-930597440.jpgWhat to make of Trump I often think. He seems like he’s in an uncontrolled rage much of the time, although we don’t see it directly expressed, other than in the middle-of-the-night texts. The administration he leads seems fueled by rage – rage at minorities and those that support them, at political opponents, at other countries, the FBI and Special Counsel – and so on.

You could argue that he’s standing up for what he believes in. Despite that proposition being very difficult to determine (I originally wrote laughable here!), it’s not authentic leadership by any stretch. Authentic Leadership requires empathy, a strong ethical compass, firmness when needed, and nurturing those that need support. Not abandonment and undermining.

That’s my rage about leadership!

Stephen

A conversation

We finished another Authentic Leadership Programme this week with presentations to the participants’ Executive Leadership Team. It was a time of some anxiety: Presentations! Public Speaking! Jerry Seinfeld says that public speaking is the number one fear of most people.  Number two? Dying. So if you’re at a funeral most people would rather be….

But what happens when you decide to have a conversation in lieu of a presentation? Participants speaking about deep experiences from a journey of discovery.

It was really quite simple and at the same time very complex. An authentic conversation is easy, and sounds easy. In leadership development it only comes from a shared experience, a deep examination of self and exploring and identifying one’s leadership strengths and challenges.

An authentic conversation
An authentic conversation

Everyone on the programme should feel proud of where they had got to and for taking a risk with their vulnerability. It paid off and will bring dividends in the years to come.

This programme couldn’t have happened without the enduring wisdom of David Carter who recently moved on. He won’t be stoked that we’re talking of yet another journey, but it was, and a powerful one for which he had a significant role.  Thank you.

Stephen

 

Getting ready

On Monday we’ll continue an Authentic Leadership Programme for 18 leaders. There’s a good chance that many of the group coming back together will have been busy – especially busy because of the time out from work on the Programme – to have spent much time focussing on the development work ahead.

I’m feeling a bit like that too. I’ve turned my attention to make sure that the mechanics of the module will work, as you might expect, but getting my head in the right space has had to wait until now.

So will it work to front up on Monday morning good to go? Probably. The key is to be present in that moment, for that moment, during the two days.

Ready?

A bit like leadership. Being present is incredibly important. And we don’t always get the luxury of time to prepare for that moment. It just happens, and authentic leaders are able to adjust their focus and presence as required.

That’ll be all of us on Monday I hope.  Ready!

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

Starting inside

We started another Authentic Leadership Programme this week. Eighteen senior managers with eighteen sets of unique strengths.

It was foggy during the day and quite difficult to see much into the forest. That brought our focus inside.

As we move forward throughout the rest of the Programme our managers will learn a lot more about their strengths and their unique authenticity.

Real leadership development comes from a deep understanding of self, including strengths (especially) and blindspots. It can be challenging work examining ourselves but it’s not only worth it, it’s essential for leadership development. As tempting as it can be, you can’t fake leadership development with make believe exercises to put you under momentary stress.  Examining and exploring inside yourself is real leadership development work. It can be hard work too, and things won’t necessarily be clear to begin with.

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The rainforest at Waitakere Ranges
With the right tools and time for deep reflection our managers have all they need to clear the fog for themselves in the coming months, and they’ve made a great start.

Later in the Programme we’ll spend some time out and about exploring the forest as our managers take their insights and learnings back to their organisation.

Stephen

PwC Authentic Leadership Programmes are run as modular programmes or in one block to suit client needs. Contact me here for more information.