Can the leader be less than perfect? Yes you say, but what if they have a major impediment, like a stammer. King George VI did as you’ll see (if you didn’t know already) if you see the movie The King’s Speech. Sometimes you can’t “get another job” as suggested by his speech therapist before he knew what his job actually was.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable movie and it made me think. When you look through the leadership development businesses and blogs the author is typically portrayed as healthy, positive and portraying all the characteristics one might expect of a leader.  Expect?  What if the first thing that was brought to your attention was a stammer, say?

Could that work?  We talk about tolerance, diversity, empathy in leadership.

So could you lead up and be lead by someone you needed to help in a significant way? Maybe you do.

Are we truly tolerant of diversity? If leaders think they’re showing courage and vulnerability try being speechless with a stammer.  That’s a leader to follow.  If they can lead with that, what else could they do?


Looking down?

Bounding into the hotel this morning on my way to present to the Senior Executive Assistant Roundtable this morning the person walking towards me suddenly stopped, turned away and looked down, frantically texting. The person had been in a dispute I was involved in which, although settled a long time ago, had resulted in some silly stuff fired at my direction for a while after.

The women (yes all women) of the  Senior EA Roundtable were in good form. When you’re running a concurrent session you know people have a choice so it’s great when at least someone turns up! Actually we had lots turn up to hear about personal leadership and management.

We discovered that we all have different core values but there was quite a lot of commonality – family, integrity, freedom and honesty were a sample – and that it can be helpful to take into account someone else’s value when communicating with them. In fact it’s everything – treating others as they wish to be treated.

It just happened to be there in the paper – the pictures from the CCV camera of the woman stroking then dumping the cat into the wheelie bin  – and so we had a talk about that too. What sort of person would so such a thing!?  A cat hater? A psychopath? Maybe he did his business on the woman’s lawn? Whatever was the answer we learned that we can’t always anticipate why people do stuff unless we know about them. In the middle of the room, I suddenly completely and absolutely lost my train of thought. Mindfulness is such an important component of personal leadership – you know what it’s like when you’re in a meeting and someone is texting. Sometimes managers talk about this but Colleen today made it clear and present for me – it’s about respect. Yes that’s it, not hard at all.

And so we moved onto conflict – speaking to the other person’s values, commending, recommending and then commending. The group shared experiences and we heard some great examples of how to communicate powerfully.

As I type this there’s a young woman on the TV who drove drunk and killed the mother of the young man seated next to her.  He has forgiven her and they plan to give talks together. Two young people role modelling what grown ups in business struggle with.

Is your head held high? There’s no use putting your head down if there’s difficult stuff to do. Maybe you’re just not present or maybe you’re hiding. Either way if you interact with others you’ll need to be there. And when you’re there, do they know you? I told the group where my folks lived (you had to be there!), so I hope Mum and Dad don’t mind the occasional visitor! The greatest gift you can give.  Be present. Be yourself.

What is your leadership theme?

Just over a year ago on 10 August 2009 I wrote my first blog Who is doing your dirty work. I had started contracting to AUT University a few months earlier to establish the Centre for Innovative Leadership and started the blog partly, at least, to gain a web presence for the Centre.

I came to enjoy blogging and combined some of my other interests – movies, photography and general commentary – into other related blogs.

But the leadership blog remains my core. I’ve learnt a lot about the technical aspects of putting stuff on the web including photographs, linking, doing automatic feeds into twitter and facebook and recently, video – which I believe will be the key to communication on the web going forward.  These words will become more limited.

Speaking of words, I’ve created an electronic book with my 56 (including this one) blogs and done some reflection about the themes within my work (sorry about all the headshots of me – it’s to do with the linking I did on LinkedIn and I can’t remove them … yet!). Writing about leadership has both consciously and unconsciously been a reflection of my own journey in the last year and the other nearly 47 years before that.

Which brings me to themes.

My conscious themes are about authenticity, vulnerability, having fun, photography, narcissism, anti-dogma, transparency. But what else comes through? What are my unconscious themes?

Looking through the blog book and doing some searches I also found a story embedded about my sons, my father and mother, holidays, Space, Evolution, Officials hiding, values, fake personal branding, religion, tolerance, running, forests, driving and disclosure.

No surprise then that that’s been my life this past year: my authentic leadership themes.

What are yours?


Do you get it?

Sometimes when I’m talking to people about leadership courses they ask whether they’ll learn about leadership styles like charismatic, authoritative etc. I know about those things, in fact, I’ve even got texts that discuss those things in quite a lot of detail.

Today we ran a workshop on authentic leadership for a group of managers who knew each other well. This group works with young people. We started off quite late but, hey, it’s Monday and who’s in a hurry. We started off talking about what leadership is about. This was a group of self-aware, switched on managers who knew about trust, disclosure and being vulnerable. After that we hardly mentioned the word leadership.

At the end of the day, I asked if they’d noticed that we hadn’t mentioned leadership much. They agreed but they then talked about all the important facets of authenticity and leadership that we had canvassed. One of the managers talked about diversity – not just accepting diversity – but embracing it as part of an individual’s whole being. Others talked about enjoying their own preferences, having followers because you’re real and personal leadership. It felt humble, yet strong at the end of the day.

So, is there a place for labels of leadership? You be the judge, but I reckon we are what we are and that’s the place to start. I’ve said that many times I know, but when you get a group like we had today it really brings it home. Straight-up, real, embracing and lovin’ diversity and all that it brings to their group. And wanting more.

People starting out on their leadership journey often start with the labels. That’s natural. As leaders we can do so much for those starting out on their leadership journey by modelling our authenticity rather then worrying about labels and styles. I reckon the young people this group looks after are very fortunate. And so was I today. Without hardly even mentioning that word leadership.

Do you?


The real story of Bill and me

After a fortnight which included our Authentic Leadership Course and two workshops on Authentic Leadership I was ready for lunch today with the Finance Minister. That sounds very grand for a minion like me and yes, there were about 120 other people there. But sometimes you just get lucky and I arrived in my little panel-beaters loan car about the time the big silver BMW arrived and we walked in together.

Not being one to let an opportunity go amiss, he Continue reading “The real story of Bill and me”

A strange impact

On Thursday I was driving to work on Puhinui Road, Manukau.  A young woman was tailgating me and when I stopped at a pedestrian crossing behind another vehicle, she didn’t. Well, actually she did by driving into the back of my car. I felt like I was in one of those slow-motion TV adverts for car safety as my head was pushed forward and then lashed back with considerable force into the head restraint.

It hurt and gave me Continue reading “A strange impact”