A review and discussion of interesting leadership-related articles featured in the media.

Intro

Hi there!  Welcome to the Voices of Canadian Leadership podcast.

  • Over the past few weeks, I’ve had several conversations with folks interested in promoting their own voices on Canadian Leadership.
    • David Barrett – he is an excellent speaker on the subject of leadership.  I first met David as he introduced the Master’s Certificate in Project Management that I took at Saint Mary’s University in 2010.  I also met with David when I gave a presentation at Project World Atlantic later that year, a valuable conference that he organized.  If that didn’t keep him busy enough, he also found the time to co-author two books.  I am looking forward to having David on the podcast to discuss his leadership views.  David is branching out as a professional speaker on the subject of leadership – exciting times!  If you want to know more about David or to hear a different Canadian voice on the subject of leadership, please check him out.  David Barrett | Inspiring Leaders.
    • Daniel Fay – Daniel is a co-owner of Brendaniels Productions Corp., and is a fellow Project Management Professional  (PMP) in the Halifax, Nova Scotia area.  It was interesting to see how much we actually had in common – not just leadership, but also our life journeys that have led us to where we are today.  Daniel’s company specializes in project management and project leadership training – he has lots of great training tools for beginners and experts alike.  If you are in need of Professional Development Units, then please consider Brendaniels.

In the near future I plan on introducing a mailing list – this way, VOCL content will come directly to your inbox.

 

VOCL Resources and Articles

This week – a random selection of 14 articles on different aspects of leadership.  Why 14 – that’s the number of medals that Canadians have at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games at the time of recording.  A significant number of these articles have come from Forbes – they have put out some great leadership content over the past few months.

5 Things Every New Boss Should Know” by Rachel Schultz at Men’s Health

This article provides some advice on transitioning from being a co-worker to being the new boss.  In order to avoid becoming a power-mad tyrant that distances everyone, the author suggests the following:

  • You can always learn from your employees
  • Deliver instructions, not questions (you are telling, not asking)
  • Don’t play favourites
  • Discover people’s strengths
  • Be available, but not overbearing

(Original article has been deleted)

7 Reasons Employees Don’t Trust Their Leaders” by Glenn Llopis at Forbes

The article highlights on why trust is important in the workplace, and seven reasons on why leaders can lose that trust:

  • They lack courage
  • They have hidden agendas
  • They are self-centred
  • They have reputation issues
  • They display inconsistent behaviour
  • They don’t get their hands dirty
  • They lack a general purpose

I can live with most of these as the author presents them, but the “reputation issues” needs to be highlighted for discussion.  I realize that leaders are always being assessed by their followers – I have no issue with this.  I would caution, however, that leaders should not solely base their actions based on perception.  There are times that leaders need to make tough choices and unpopular choices.  These decisions must be made on the basis of what is best, and not necessarily what is popular.  What do you think?

Doing the Leadership Tango” by Irv Rubin at Government Executive

This article presents the survey findings from the author’s leadership course.  Students were asked to rate, in order of preference, eight sets of behaviours that they found desirable in a boss.  From most to least desired, they are:

  • Prescribe
  • Ask
  • Inspire
  • Appreciate
  • Describe
  • Attend
  • Understand
  • Empathize

Based on the survey, it seems that what people want most is for the leader to be perfectly clear in providing directions and stating the desired outcome (25%).  I personally would have placed inspire before ask, but they are both at 18% so it’s a moot point.  Empathy is rated last at 0.6%, but that still means that for six people out of a thousand, this is the MOST important factor, so you can’t ignore it.

From a survey perspective, however, there is a potential for bias.  The respondents have come from a leadership course called “The ABCs of Effective Relationships”, and as such may be more heavily biased from a “leader” pool.  Would the answer be the same if the respondents came from a “follower” pool?

Leadership Starts With One” by Kaan Turnali at Forbes

In this short article, the author states that you have to be able to lead yourself before you can effectively lead others.  If you can’t inspire yourself to achieve a goal, how can you expect to inspire others?

7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Children from Growing Into Leaders” by Kathy Caprino at Forbes

The author of this article is a former family therapist; she brings her experience forward in her new role as a leadership trainer.  She had a discussion with leadership expert Dr. Tim Elmore, and they came up with the following problem behaviours that can result in children not becoming leaders:

  • We don’t let our children experience risk
  • We rescue too quickly
  • We rave too easily
  • We let guilt get in the way of leading well
  • We don’t share our past mistakes
  • We mistake intelligence, giftedness and influence for maturity
  • We don’t practice what we preach.

At the end of the article, the author provides ten steps that can be taken to avoid these seven mistakes.

As I was reading the article, I was immediately drawing comparisons to what I am doing as a father.  As I thought about the various points, however, I got to thinking about how applicable they are to new employees joining the workforce (well, guilt and raving not so much).

Poor leadership, more sickies” by Cassandra Mason at Bay of Plenty Times

This article provides the argument that poor leadership causes greater levels of “sickness” in New Zealand.  No, people aren’t actually getting ill from poor leadership, but they are much more likely to put in for sick days – even if they aren’t really ill.

Poor leadership can cause a financial loss due to resistance and reluctance; it seems that you can absenteeism to that list.

The Leadership Philosophy of 3 P’s: Passion, Purpose, People” by Ekaterina Walter at Huffington Post

The author was sufficiently moved by Simon Sinek’s TEDTalk that she decided to write her own post about the subject, focusing on passion, purpose, and people.

  • Passion – that is what motivates YOU to do something
  • Purpose – that is the framework that helps bind people around a cause for which they are passionate
  • People – passion and purpose are based on people.  “You can imagine the most amazing products or services in the world, but it requires people to make your dream a reality. That’s where culture and leadership become vital”

How Meditation Can Make You a Better Leader” by Randel S. Carlock at Forbes

The author provides insight on how he has used meditation and mindfulness to become a better leader.  By improving his state of mind, he experiences greater clarity and less stress, allowing him to make better decisions.  Although his Executive MBA students demonstrate initial reluctance at implementing mediation, his experience shows that they become rapidly converted to this new way of thinking (or should that be non-thinking…)

Why Pepsi’s CEO Writes To Her Employees’ Parents” by Kevin Kruse at Forbes

Providing feedback to our followers is important.  What I found interesting about this article is that the leader in this case (PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi) decided to expand the scope of the feedback to include the parents of her employees.  I like the aspect that it provides positive feedback from multiple angles (assuming that the parents tell their daughters/sons how proud they are that their boss thought enough of them to call), increasing the impact of that feedback.

I’m not convinced, however, that calling a candidate’s mom to get someone to become an employee is the best approach.  Yes, it’s innovative, but I’m not sure that you would get the same level of engagement that you would otherwise have if you were to get the candidate to join the company (or organization) on their own terms.

Finally, from a work perspective, there’s a difference between having the person invite their family to a ceremony and reaching out directly to the family – would this be crossing the line between work and personal life?  Let me know your thoughts.

Top 10 Skills Needed for Effective Leadership” by Dr Jenna Filipkowski and J.P. Donlon at Chief Executive Magazine

I like this article because it provides the survey results on a study done by Chief Executive Magazine on the top ten leadership skills required by CEOs, as ranked by the CEOs themselves.  There is no accompanying text, so you’re left to determine how they came about the results, how many people were surveyed, etc.  Where the value of the article comes in is the relative ranking of those ten skills, and how they have changed from the previous year.  I’ll mention the skills as ranked this year in descending order of perceived importance – for the actual percentages or comparisons to last year you will have to go to the article yourself:

  • Adaptability to change (most important)
  • Strategic thinking
  • Integrity
  • Very good communicator
  • Being trustworthy and open
  • Vision
  • Develops and fosters diverse teams
  • Delegation
  • A positive mindset
  • High self-awareness (least important)

Let me know if you would have a different order (or different skills).

How a quarterback’s power of perspective helped the Seahawks win the Super Bowl” by Katie Bennett at The Globe and Mail

You’re not going to read this article for a leadership lesson per se.  Rather, you should read this because it’s a great example of the power of perspective.  Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson provides the following mantra – “Why not you?  Why not us?”

There are times that we may set artificial boundaries to keep us from achieving the greatness that is inside each of us – why should we limit our potential?

Why not you?

Leadership Qualities That Matter the Most: Lessons from Davos 2014” by Jeffrey M Cohn at Huffington Post

What kind of leadership lessons can you glean from a global assembly of CEOs?  For the author, who attended the 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, there were eight recurring leadership factors:

  • Judgement – the ability to focus on the most salient points and understand their impact
  • Empathy – the ability to understand the other stakeholders (cognitively and emotionally).  Note: the author stresses the point of differentiating between empathy and compassion
  • Self-awareness – the internal counterpart to empathy
  • Adaptability – “Organizations – and leaders – must be able and willing to change direction if and when required.”  Of course, you also need good judgement to know WHEN to adapt…
  • Integrity – the moral compass that provides a clear path in a sea of grey choices
  • Passion – A burning desire to get things done
  • Courage – The ability to make and stand by difficult choices, especially in the face of adversity
  • Resilience – The ability to recover from setbacks

I’m surprised that two points didn’t get mentioned – vision (although the author may have incorporated that into judgement) and communication.  I see these two as indispensable for leaders.

A cult of leadership in councils leaves management skills by the wayside” by Martin Cresswell at The Guardian

VOCL emphasizes the value of leadership; this article proposes that too much emphasis is being placed on leadership skills and not enough on management skills (at least in the public sector).

Are You a Leader With Issues?” by Manfred Kets de Vries at Forbes

This article focuses on the attachment behaviours that each person possesses.  It breaks attachment down across two different dimensions of anxiety and avoidance – you can visualize a quad chart with anxiety on the “X” axis and avoidance on the “Y” axis.  (The article didn’t have a graphic so I created one.)

Quad chart with anxiety on the “X” axis and avoidance on the “Y” axis

Quad chart with anxiety on the “X” axis and avoidance on the “Y” axis

 

You may get by in the early stages of your career even if you have “issues”, but this will become increasingly problematic once you assume (greater) leadership roles.

If you don’t fall into the low-anxiety / low-avoidance category, don’t worry – you are not alone.  As can be expected, the article does not prescribe quick fixes to these concerns, but rather points in the direction of coaching, psychotherapy or even medication.  If you have read this far, however, I have a feeling that you are the kind of person that is willing to take action to develop yourself into the best person that you can be.

 

VOCL Listener Feedback

In response to the article review on “How meditation can make you a better leader,” Daniel Fay offered the following via LinkedIn:

“Most managers do not realize the amount of time they spend in response mode, dealing with ‘problems’ and stress. A calm meditative approach allows for peaceful (and clear) decisions and direction, moving from management to leadership.”

That’s a great perspective, Dan – thanks for sharing!

 

VOCL Closing Thoughts / Future Episodes / Call to Action

I have been wondering why the Olympics compel me to listen/watch at nearly every opportunity, regardless of nationality being shown at the time.

Is there an element of national pride? Yes, I will focus on Canadians whenever possible.

Would I still watch if there were NO Canadians?  Absolutely.   This is where it gets interesting.

The fact that the Olympics dominates the TV spectrum is noticeable, but not a factor.  I’m not fanatical about sports – aside from occasionally watching the Ottawa Senators play hockey (they are my team, after all) I hardy watch sport at all.  So why the Olympics?  Perhaps it’s because it’s a gathering of the best in the world, joined in the spirit of healthy competition.  But that doesn’t capture the whole story for me.

For me, the Olympics represents people from all over the world who have spent years and even decades at becoming the best that they can be.  They have faced numerous challenges, have sacrificed much for their sport, have likely injured themselves repeatedly and yet still come back.  They come together every four years (or more frequently if you are incredibly talented in multiple sports like Clara Hughes), they perform at their very best (sometimes only for seconds), and then everyone celebrates the achievements.  Artificial borders come down as evidenced by seeing Canada’s cross-country ski coach Justin Wadsworth running down the snowbanks to give Russian skier Anton Gafarov a spare ski so he could finish the race in front of Anton’s home crowd.  The Olympics are a celebration of sport, but more importantly are a celebration of humanity and the potential of humankind.

Voices of Canadian Leadership was born through my interest in leadership.  In so many ways these athletes embody qualities such as passion, vision, and dedication – these are the qualities that I admire most in leaders.  The Olympics provides many examples of leadership qualities in a short period of time – that is why I am compelled to watch.

At the start of this episode, I mentioned that I was making some modifications to the VOCL family of products.  I’m doing this because I learn something new about voice recording, podcasting, website design, and/or social media every day.  What I may not always be doing is communicating the value of these changes to you, and how you can use these changes to make VOCL more useful to you and the other members of the community.  Speakpipe is one of those examples – did you realize that you could use this feature to contact the show, using your own voice and the microphone on your phone or computer? [The rest of this is an actual “live” demo on using Speakpipe via Facebook.]

Takeaways and introspection

  • 7 Reasons Employees Don’t Trust Their Leaders” by Glenn Llopis at Forbes.  There are times that leaders need to make tough choices and unpopular choices.  These decisions must be made on the basis of what is best, and not necessarily what is popular.  What do you think?
  • Leadership Starts With One” by Kaan Turnali at Forbes.  If you can’t inspire yourself to achieve a goal, how can you expect to inspire others?  Pick an achievable yet challenging goal for yourself, then take the action necessary to achieve that goal.  You will find that your leadership skills will develop along the way.
  • Top 10 Skills Needed for Effective Leadership” by Dr Jenna Filipkowski and J.P. Donlon at Chief Executive Magazine.  Go back and listen to (or read) the ten leadership skills.  Start ranking them for yourself – it’s a great way to start thinking through your leadership opinions and beliefs.  Once you’re done, take another careful look at the list and see if there is another skill that you would introduce that would make it to your top ten.
  • How a quarterback’s power of perspective helped the Seahawks win the Super Bowl” by Katie Bennett at The Globe and Mail.  A simple question with potentially profound implications – WHY NOT YOU?

 

I’m Chris Hache, asking you to be VOCL for a better Canada

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