Do we need leadership?

Do we need leadership?

It’s surely worth asking the question, especially on a leadership blog! Maybe it’s an age thing, but I find myself questioning more frequently whether I need anyone to “lead” me. I think I’m pretty good at getting on with work, life, a career and looking after myself without any sense of another person or persons leading me.

It might be a function of the lack of leadership globally right now that is part of this thinking. In the United States, past Presidents, who compared to the current incumbent, appear in hindsight to have been great leaders. But they’re mute right now.  In the United Kingdom, a Trumpish front runner looks like having a good chance of making it to the leadership of that country. Neither of these two individuals are leaders to me. Yes they might have that mantle, but if leadership is about vision, values, an ethical compass, respect and inclusion, I think we need another word for these sorts of individuals. Quite a few come to mind, but they’re not repeatable in this forum!

So, in my smug little world where I don’t think I need leadership can that be right? Probably not. Leaders around me have and continue to create the environment for me and my team’s success, with strategy, vision, purpose and an environment for personal and professional growth.

iStock-926404310.jpgSo you might not feel leadership all the time. But good leadership doesn’t need to be in your face, just providing the appropriate context is often sufficient.

Poor leadership, including ruling by division and clinging on to power at all costs, we definitely notice.

And rather than seek to just remove ourselves from the influence of such behaviour, as leaders this is the time to step up, be noticed, drive inclusion and values.

More than ever it’s needed right now.

Stephen

Adult supervision

We don’t usually hear leadership referred to as adult supervision.

But the level of leadership some in leadership positions have reduced themselves to requires others to exert supervision. Like an adult does for a child.

iStock-691523992.jpg

I guess we should be grateful that in the most powerful democracy we have some adults!

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

View from the 6th floor

“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.

Two days of leadership

In many backward countries there are military leaders who are also political leaders. It usually arises because of  view that “managing” a country can only be done though force, micro-managing events and the public necessarily involving a loss of freedom, both physical and emotional.

We’re pretty fortunate in New Zealand to be a democracy with a reasonable amount of freedom. I can write pretty well anything I wish to express a view here on this blog, without interference. I felt uneasy when it was announced that the new governor-general was to be a man who was a public servant heading the spy agency and very recently had headed the defence force. Part of that was his reputation for being a micro-manager which didn’t inspire the sort of leadership that we might expect from our head of state’s representative. He said on his first day in the job that he was looking forward to getting to know New Zealanders and it’s been reported that he will bring an informal style to the role.

On day two he’s back to where he was – responding with indignation that anyone should question the integrity of the defence force. This followed Nicky Hagar’s book making allegations about the defence’s actual role in Afghanistan and Iraq. The rights or wrongs of whatever Hagar says is not relevant to Mataparae’s reaction. What I think is most concerning is that our supposedly independent governor-general has breached that impartiality almost immediately. What if a government is to be sworn in that has a commitment to dismantling parts of the defence force? Would Mr Mataparae have a view on that, that he would similarly feel the need to share?  On current form, you would have to say he would, which would be totally inappropriate as his comments now are.

In leadership development we often talk about a leader’s inability to obtain appropriate feedback at the most senior levels from those around them. Having watched the sycophancy displayed by those that support politicians and senior civil servants, I can imagine no-one said anything. And being a micro-manager, he wouldn’t have welcomed such feedback. I hope that those who are there to support our new GG will have the courage to help the man in what is obviously a difficult leadership step up for him.

The defence force can speak for itself and the head of state’s representative, whatever his intimate knowledge, has no role in launching into the topic. Count to ten next time! You’ve got 4 years and 363 days to go.

Stephen

Tintin

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!

Stephen