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.

footpath in rain forest at Waitakere Ranges
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. 

 

 

 

 

 

Authentic or bust

Commentators in the US say that Hillary Clinton is as well qualified as any presidential candidate has ever been. A Senator, First Lady, Secretary of State with vast experience in international affairs. But like Donald Trump she has very high unpopularity ratings.

The comedian Jon Stewart puts it down to her lack of convictions – he says he doesn’t know what they are – in a nutshell, her lack of authenticity.

Knowledge, attention to detail, the ability to argue a position – all essential attributes for a leader. But followers also want to know your convictions, what you stand for and to see transparency. In other words they want to see the authentic you.

And in case you’re wondering, Jon Stewart didn’t have anything good to say about Donald Trump either – calls him a man baby!

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!

DSC_5554

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