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.


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


Imagine if Trump lived here!

Imagine if Trump settled in New Zealand. Shiny white teeth and big hair, he’d toy with an election or two, but not really go anywhere, then when the moment was right, leap to the top.

Crowds would gather on Wynyard Wharf “Trump for PM!” on their T-shirts. Massive promises would be made, probably about things that were already underway or not possible.

Supporters would have a crack at Bill English – after all he represented all that was wrong with politics – which was mainly that it was way too boring, like Hillary. That wouldn’t be the main accusation though. Trump’s supporters would drag up some ancient email server-type scandal – say Bill’s housing allowance – that was, like Hillary’s emails, thoroughly investigated and dispatched. Criminal! You’d see it all over social media “Should be in Jail!”. Trump would remain silent on the issue as his supporters were doing all the heavy lifting. He’d know very well that whatever the truth of the matter, if you said it loud enough it became the truth.

He’d look for an enemy. Farmers would be a good start – after all they wreck the environment and drive Range Rovers – “Tax their water!” and throw in Chinese water-bottlers, who, despite using only 0.01% of NZ’s water were a convenient reach out to those who have supported racist policies. Full-blown attacks on immigrants would come later. Like the manufacturing job losses back home, he’d work out quickly that it was also the Chinese here who were responsible for New Zealand’s housing and and related poverty woes. And obviously Bill and his mates were in cahoots with them and got donations from them, no doubt.

The debates would be planned. He’d be new and exciting against boring (CRIMINAL!) Bill. His supporters would start campaigns against the media. On-line campaigns would rage to have any debate hosts who didn’t support him removed. Supporters would find a local news outlet that supported Bill and do a Clinton Network News on them, so to speak.  Maybe “National’s Boring Rag” would work!

Bill would bring his mate Sir John in to help. Just like Hillary who tried rolling President Clinton out.  Wouldn’t work though, the title would be like a red rag to a bull. “Another CRIMINAL!” his supporters would scream “wrecked the country and left with all our money!”. They’d allege he was responsible for a death somewhere just to spice it up.

His supporters, not initially natural allies of anti-immigrant and other populist policies, would subtly, then openly, embrace populist political parties. After all, there’s a criminal bunch on the other side who have absolutely wrecked the country, and we need their votes to bring the messiah to power. A small price to pay!

Might be a bit more interesting to what we usually have which is pretty boring, safe and secure.

Never happen though. We’re much too nice a people.

Have a great weekend.


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.


Crushed in the rush

Ever since Helen Clark became Prime Minister (well I did religion yesterday!) the plan of attack by politicians when something goes wrong is to go on the attack. Murray McCully, the Minister of RWC2011 did it on Friday when 2000 people got caught on trains. The Transport Minister Steven Joyce joined the fray soon thereafter.  Mayor Len Brown was left to take responsibility and made appropriate signals that Auckland Council would look at compensating those who didn’t make the opening ceremony.

Crushed in the rush

If leadership is about being the loudest voice then central government politicians won hands down. In the crush on Friday night in Quay Street I felt part of something pretty big and powerful. People were in good humour and although it was a bit overwhelming it was worthwhile to experience it first hand.  Unfortunately those people we saw from the bus on the stalled trains on Tamaki Drive on the way back, didn’t look like they had such a good experience. There were lots of loud voices in Quay Street, Hakas, cheering and laughter. If the loudest voices were the best Rugby players then Tonga and Samoa would be meeting in the final based on support in town on Friday.

But the loudest voice isn’t always the strongest leader. What will come to repair the image of a failed transport system (and stop it failing again of course) will come from leadership that looks at itself, takes responsibility and leads to new action. I get a sense that’s been happening after the initial crush in the rush to blame.

Us ordinary folk took the lead and used public transport. Maybe it’s time for those pointing fingers to give it a shot too. That would be another type of crush that they could learn from.


Rugby on 9/11

If you enjoy Rugby Union it’s a feast right now. There’s always something less tense about watching two teams other than your own battle it and the England vs Argentina and South Africa vs Wales games had plenty of tension with a result that any one-eyed ABs supporter could live with. Although you’d have to say surely that penalty goal was in?! Lots of the action was happening while American was remembering the murder of its people on September 2001 in New York and Washington DC. Was I the only one that realised I was much more interested in the Rugby than in remembering 9/11? I guess 9/11 will go (and perhaps already has gone) down in history as one of those dates like Friday 13 where we remember bad things happen and to be cautious about.

On Friday 13 October 1307  French King Phillipe IV conspiring with Pope Clement V commenced the arrest of the Knights Templar. Most of their alleged crimes were related to the sort of claptrap we now view as laughable such as denying religion, idolising false gods (how do you choose which one is false!?) etc. As you can imagine, many were killed including being burned at the stake for (as the arrest warrants asserted) causing displeasure to God (not a false one I presume). There’s no universal agreement that this is the cause of our fear of Black Friday, but it’s a good start for thinking about 9/11 in a weekend consumed by that (false?) god of Aotearoa, Rugby.

A man called Rick Perry  who is the governor of Texas would like to be the next president of our most powerful country, USA. He has expressed skepticism about evolution as scientifically valid and claimed that the two “theories”  – evolution and creationism were taught in Texas. Turns out he was wrong on the teaching part as it’s been ruled unconstitutional to teach a religion, which is what creationism is part of, in school. He has used phrases like “it’s only a theory” and “there are gaps” to somehow put down what is, frankly, beyond any doubt. As far as scientific theories go, the court will rule beyond any doubt that it’s true.

The events of 9/11 were obscene and as I’ve blogged here in the past, murder. It is inescapable that those who put this together and executed the plan used religion as some sort of twisted justification either to themselves, their families and the global population.  Included in this justification was a “belief” that there would be a reward in the metaphysical world for their actions. Communities far and wide including the Muslim world were and are repulsed by this. As intelligent beings we are entitled to a belief. But that belief must be based on credible and justifiable propositions, facts and reasoning. As a potential leader of the USA Rick Perry shows the same dark-ages belief system as those who controlled the events of 13 October 1307 and 11 September 2001. No, Rick Perry isn’t burning anyone at the stake (although his state has executed 473 of the 1266 people executed in the US since 1976), or flying plane loads of innocent passengers to a terrifying death.

My gig in leadership is authenticity. Everyone knows that. Being authentic in leadership means being real. Being yourself. It also means being real and true. Hanging on to absurd, middle-aged and demonstrably false “beliefs” when aspiring to the highest leadership in this world is dangerous role-modelling at its worst. There’s always going to be crackpots who say, deny the Holocaust, but our most powerful, would be “world’s policeman” shouldn’t be anywhere near this. Even being in the argument as he must inevitably be provokes the worst in those who are denied or have limited access to science. He has no excuse.

We know Rugby is our false god. That’s okay. We’ll be gutted if we don’t win the World Cup. But we’ll survive and no-one will (I hope!) get hurt or suffer irrational consequences for enjoying their false-god religion. In fact, come to think of it, we should encourage everyone to support a false god like Rugby. It’s a heck of a lot safer than the true one!

Go the ABs!


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.


Murderous leadership

There’s a big scrap and when the offender is handcuffed and dragged to the police car, there’s always that humourous moment when the police officer, in a moment of compassion, gently places his hand on the suspects head, to make sure he doesn’t hurt it when he enters the cop car. Like I’ll taser you, put you in a headlock, but my friend, don’t knock your head on the rubber seal of the car!

Wanted “dead or alive” said former President Bush after 9/11 when speaking of the terrorist Osama bin laden. You have to admit as unpalatable as it might appear, that he was a very clever man bin Laden. From dusty caves (we thought), he lead a large number of young men to kill themselves while murdering about 3000 others. Like a Texas ranger, the west lead by the US, went hunting for their man. In the years of the hunt an organisation like the world has not known (or has it?) grew and killed (and kills) it seems, at places it can get to, when it can. The objective is clear enough – drive forward a view of how the world should live (suppressed women, old testament rules other religions abolished), vaguely underpinned by fanatical religious beliefs, that I doubt many really believe. Though I guess those young men who drove the aeroplanes into the Trade Towers must have. Pity they will never know how deluded they were. Murderers.

When I heard that bin Laden was dead, or more particularly that he had been killed by US forces, I wondered immediately how it was done – was there a fight? did they execute him? was he bombed? We might never know, but somehow even if it did happen in a fight, it was okay to kill him. I don’t feel the slightest sympathy for the murderer, in fact I feel very strongly about any religious extremism or fundamentalism for the physical and emotional violence that always follows.  I do wonder about the “dead or alive” message that the west sends to the middle east though. The dancing in New York and Washington looked a bit like the celebration in Iran (for example) after 9/11. We might think we’re right, but can we honestly put our hands on our hearts and say that a large number of people in the middle east are dishonest in their beliefs about how the west has treated them? Even if they’ve got it wrong from their dictatorial propaganda machines at home, shouldn’t the west set an example? Or is it easy for me to say ‘cos I didn’t know anyone lost in say 9/11. Maybe, but I bet the pictures of dancing in New York are going down a treat in Libya right now.

Mature and forward thinking leadership will recognise that the signals the west sends to the middle east on killing this murderer, must not include gloating at an ‘eye for an eye’. But when the President of the United States gives a sober and thoughtful delivery about it, and ends with “God Bless America” I groan inside.

It’s the same invisible force that justified 9/11 for the terrorists, justifying America. It’s not needed or helpful. You did the right think America, don’t thank invisible forces, as it’s the same invisible force that’s been used to kill your citizens.

President Obama should take it for himself, for the west and for the middle east and proclaim that justice was delivered, not in an orthodox or civilised way, but in the way that only a mass murderer in hiding could be dealt with. Much of the world will be happy that bin Laden is gone – I am sure that most of the thoughtful citizens of Pakistan are happy about it too. They’ve been tarnished badly by this murderer and his organisation.

And he was buried in accordance with Islamic tradition, that was important the US military said. Really? Will it all be okay when he gets to heaven now!? Or am I totally lacking in understanding of what really matters here. I think the ‘eye for an eye’ dancing in the streets is far more significant for our peace.  Like mind your head as you’re dragged into the cop car.

Can we learn from this? Watch out who you’re fighting for or with. Bin Laden befriended the Taliban who the US helped in driving out the opposing forces. Wonder if that’s being done in Libya now. Hope not. Political leadership that learns and sees patterns (like we can all see happening in Libya now), is the leadership I want.

There we go: religion, politics, a reference to sex via the 72 virgins hoped for and a bloody story of a murdering leader that’s ended.


ps the FBI don’t seem to know as he’s still on the top 10 wanted list as of this evening. There’s $25mil up for grabs if you want to tell them.