A Leadership Word

The final session of the Authentic Leadership Programme was a round of words. What word will finish the Programme for you we asked.

iStock-685797112.jpgI didn’t capture all the words but most of them.  Whether I can make a blog out of them remains to be seen but I thought it would be good to share a very powerful session.

Cheating in Cricket wasn’t known about at the session, but Ethical Compass and Legacy have startling relevance right now. Not just in sport leadership but in our behaviours as leaders in the work place.

When the team is under pressure, our strategies for Resilience pre-prepared will need to come into play, as will our Humanity and, well just being the best Human we can be.  For me, there are times that the key strategy is Grit.  A vital attribute for any leader.

That doesn’t mean losing sight of our Emotional Intelligence recognising that tough times can lead to the best Learning.

Leaders need to be Confident with their Authenticity, show Vision, Empowerment and ask “What’s Next?“.

I got there!


ps there’s about 5 more words from the session which I can add in if I get them


A stunning victory!

I’m a bit sad the yachting is over. But what a result!  I’ve missed only one of the 30+ races that ETNZ has competed in.  It’s sweet after writing four years ago too

Winning against Sweden when they got a penalty that the umpires said later they shouldn’t have given; the two defeats to USA in the playoffs; the capsize; and then watching Aotearoa get faster, smoother with such a cool crew. Watching Peter Burling win 7 of 8 starts against all predictions. 

The TV comentators have been great too.  I’ve really warmed to the American yachting legend Ken Read who provided analysis with Alastair Eykyn. Nice work. 

Credit is due to Sir Russell Coutts and Bermuda. What a fantastic event. 

And all the on screen graphics including heart rate monitors, pressure charts. It’s exciting to imagine the technology we’ll see next time around. In Auckland! 

Ridiculous leadership

Pastor Jack Edward from the Shema Evangelism Ministry in Papua New Guinea along with a group of fellow church ministers requested that the then acting prime minister Sam Abal approve a new public holiday to be known as Repentance Day.  Mr Abal apparently went along with this and gazetted this new public holiday so the citizens of PNG could have a day to ask for repentance of sins.  Pastor Jack meanwhile, is the co-ordinator for the day, presumably co-ordinating the various transgressions to be repented on the day.

No this is not a Monty Python skit, it’s true. A country where most of the population live in poverty, a country who’s unique flora and fauna is under serious threat from mining interests, a country where crime is rampant and this is the (acting) leader’s priority. Was he drunk or what?

Maybe Mr Abal want’s repentence for his son’s transgressions (allegedly killed a waitress in July).  But wait there’s more – Port Moresby was ranked near the bottom of a most liveable cities in the world survey. The top ten cities are in Australia, Austria, Canada and New Zealand (Auckland #10).

I checked and as far as I can see none of these four countries concerns itself with a Repentance day. These are generally prosperous, safe and educated countries – not perfect of course – but countries whose leadership concerns itself with things that hopefully make a difference. 

I ran a workshop this evening for a group of partners at a professional services firm. We talked about leadership. I talked about the components of authentic leadership and focussed the group’s mind on vision. A vision will separate a leader from a manager.

In the end I feel sorry for the people of PNG. Struggling with so many problems which won’t change without a vision and leadership. I don’t know how Mr Abal got to be selected for the acting role, but I can imagine why he will only ever be acting.

No vision, grasping at superstition from silly old men in a pathetic attempt to do what?  PNG people should say stick it and ignore such ridiculous leadership (and the stupidity of the day off) for what it is. The power of the people sometimes need to show leaders that more is demanded.


Are you expected to be 24/7?

I’ve taken a few days off to, well not to do too much, but sorting out things at home, having lunch, even some cleaning, changed a couple of light bulbs that had been staring at me, dead, for quite a while. Even cleaned the fish tank.

Recently the Auckland District Health Board announced that they were considering not employing people who smoked. If health workers are to engage patients then they need to role-model the behaviours that are expected. I must admit I feel less confident if I’m seen by a Doctor who looks like he or she might be overweight, have high blood pressure or in otherwise risky condition. Of course what do I know, but you do get a sense!

I’m still responsible for the Centre for Innovative Leadership while I’m on leave but I’m sure you’ll agree I can do my own stuff, how I like and when I like. Role-modelling in leaders is arguably the most powerful of all leadership attributes and happens whether you like or not.  I often simplify leadership to the concepts of resilience, relationships, change, teams, adversity and vision. Most things flow from a leader’s ability to exhibit positive engagement and pro-activity in these aspects of leadership.

So if you’re not in good health, a narcissist (but relax you can’t help it, just stay away!), can’t maintain relationships with those you work with, or pretend to like teamwork but really only like that there’s a team doing your work, then leadership might not be for you.

And if you work for the health board looking after the sick and injured then it’s probably a fair bet that your patients are wanting to trust what you say, as well as what you do. Smoking doesn’t really cut it in that sphere.

So you don’t need to be on full alert 24/7. Afterall, authenticity doesn’t need such vigilance, it’s authentic and natural, just like the work means. You do need the characteristics of leadership 24/7 though, otherwise you aren’t role-modelling. Which is why I’m running on my days off to keep my resilience up (and my trousers fitting too!). Not just because it’s a role-model of leadership, but because it’s who I am.


ps And I’m determined to get in as sharp a shape as I was here for a PB!

What is the governor watching?

Someone started a LinkedIn discussion today with the proposition that the natural focus of Australian companies for their boards is statutory, financial and taxation compliance.  The question that followed was about the sort of director training and experience required. In the weekend I facilitated a workshop for an Auckland-based not-for-profit. Topic: Governance. Delivery by me: You need to know the law including your responsibilities and powers, you need to understand the money and you need to work out how you’re going to get the organisation to meet its vision through empowering yourselves and the organisation.

I can show you how to read the financial statements, I can tell you the law, I can suggest you the questions you might ask of each other and the management. And I did.  Where you’ll ensure that you become that special organisation you want to be  is to work out what you really stand for, what success will look like, how you will work together, and what you will do to make a difference in (this case) your community.

As I researched to make sure I had the latest material for the workshop I realised that most of the research about boards is about checking, monitoring, managing risk and compliance. Oh but you won’t go anywhere without that you will hear if you attend any training on governance in New Zealand (and by the sound of it Australia too). True, but I say that’s just the start. The men in suits are good at this, probably better than I’ll ever be – and it’s the context that makes it complex for sure – but if your board is focussed only on monitoring I reckon there are some key questions you should be asking:

  • What is in the board papers? Are they only full of reports that cover off the law and finances to cover your compliance requirements?
  • What is the order of the board agenda? Do we deal with monitoring first?
  • When you get to discussions about vision, strategy, culture or empowering the CEO is your head so full of compliance (and maybe you’ve had enough) that the energy is gone?
  • Will you really be creative at the end of a long session of ticking off stuff?

As a new board member you might feel very proud to be on a board.  You’ll be reminded to stay out of the operational matters. In doing so you might also be staying out of the very thing that you can truly add value, by encouraging an appropriate culture – sometimes paradoxically to your assumed role by encouraging risk taking – setting the scene by behaving in an open and inquiring manner, and bringing your focus on what management is doing to create leadership.

Even if you’re doing this your CEO – who will almost certainly have the tax, finances, legal requirements covered by functional experts – will recognise that not only is it his or her job to grow a team, but it’s what you’re watching too.

So if you spend your life as a director or trustee ensuring no-one including you gets sued, great, we need you. One or two per board will do. For the rest of the board, we want people who are going make the difference. The difference that started the organisation might be a place to start. Is the video clip below what you experience?


Wedded to tradition

In working with mission, vision and values we often hear stories. Some include traditions and there’s something in many of us that is attracted to tradition. For stability perhaps, sometimes as a guiding torch from the past to show the path forward. It’s a got a solid, perhaps staid, but reliable feeling, that word tradition.

Home in time to cook for your man

Last night I saw the delightful New Zealand movie My Wedding and other Secrets. Chinese Kiwi girl meets Pakeha Kiwi boy but it has to be kept secret because of traditional Chinese thinking about mixed-race relationships. That it’s Chinese traditional thinking is probably of little consequence to the message here – it could easily be in reverse in some families.

It got me thinking (again!) about this tradition thing. My first reaction to it was that it was more about control – or more particularly losing it – than any value-driven tradition, that made Chinese Mum and Dad so difficult. I found it difficult to understand what the basis or purpose of the tradition was. It looked solely like a desperate bid to control a family and replicate the parents’ own experience. Apparently it’s based on a true story and I’m not surprised – it’s probably true many times over.

Having reflected for 24 hours I’m still in the same place. It sounds really obvious but when we refresh ourselves, our teams or our organisations we have to let stuff go – you know that – we say it too out loud don’t we? Traditions need to be on the table for culling too. They might be plain wrong.  Are you hanging on to some apparently wise tradition from the past, when actually, you have more to offer, more enlightenment and wisdom than those that went before?

After all: Zeus, witches, a flat earth, smoking, hitting kids, only men voting or managing, racial segregation, state-sponsored religious indoctrination were the hallmarks of wise traditions in the past. And still are in some places.

Wise people live today, not just in the past. Chances are you’re one of them.

Don’t waste it.


ps it’s a lovely movie

Take your time

It’s a crazy time of the year – hot, wet today, busy, traffic is mad. And all the time our planet is hurtling through space at 1m km/h (that’s the relative speed of earth around the sun and our galaxy through our universe I think but I digress!). It’s been a busy couple of weeks. After 12 years of waiting, my son Tim had a replacement cornea graft which is promising for his vision. I was surprised how emotional I felt when he went into surgery. It’s been a long time, or felt it, waiting for his eyes to be in good health for the procedure. Before and after the surgery I’ve been helping lead teams develop their charters and learn about themselves. Which takes time.

The charter is usually just the beginning, but it’s a really important beginning, setting the rules of engagement and developing a vision of what the team would like the future to look like. One exercise that was supposed to take 15 minutes yesterday with one group took an hour and a half. You might ask if that mattered? Well yes it did. It mattered a lot that the team went where it needed to, taking the time. At the end of the session, they said that this first part was the most valuable.

Management requires action. Leadership needs patience. We need both but the best actions are those that follow a patient time of leadership. Professor Charles McGhee, Tim’s masterful surgeon who espouses opportunity and optimism on each encounter knows about patience. He knew not to rush in. But when it was time, he showed the best action you could hope for.  Two hours of careful surgery and Tim’s new cornea was in situ. And all around was a medical team who worked as one, including a theatre nurse who was there for Tim in 1995.

Vision for vision.