VOCL 017 – Looking at Leadership Articles #2

Twitter   Show Summary: A review and discussion of interesting leadership-related articles featured in the media. Intro Hi there!  Welcome to the Voices of Canadian Leadership podcast. Last leadership article show was on Natal Day, so I thought I’d make this one for Labour Day. Listening to several podcast episodes about website design and podcast […]

Written By chris

On October 5, 2013

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


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

  • Last leadership article show was on Natal Day, so I thought I’d make this one for Labour Day.
  • Listening to several podcast episodes about website design and podcast creation, looking forward to incorporating over the next few weeks.
  • Busy with ringette (decreased emphasis on VOCL), more on that later in the show


VOCL Resources and Articles

This week – a random selection of thirteen articles on different aspects of leadership.

“‘Leadership’ is the military’s snake oil” by Bruce Fleming at Washington Post

An interesting read, yet it doesn’t provide leadership advice.  Instead, the author believes that there may simply be too much emphasis on leadership.  Although the article has a primary focus on the military (and the malfeasance of several senior US military officers), it raises several good points.  One example provided is of doubting that all children at preschools are “future leaders” regardless of signs proclaiming them to be so.  Another is that you don’t have to be a leader to be great at what you do, citing examples of doctors, physicists, and even Julliard violinists.


 “Public sector leadership lessons from a permanent secretary” by Sir Leigh Lewis at The Guardian

The author provides an overview of his leadership experiences (both good and bad) in the public sector of the United Kingdom.  He posits that the key aspects are not about being popular, but about having a vision and being visible (and accessible).  Additionally, he states that where he experienced most problems was when he didn’t communicate enough, even though he had good reasons not too (i.e., bad news).


“Why Leaders Must ‘Get Real’ – 5 Ways to Unlock Authentic Leadership” by Margie Warrell at Forbes

The author provides her perspectives on why leaders need to be themselves to come across as genuine.  You can connect better with people if you are authentic and vulnerable.  Don’t try to blend in with the crowd – stand for what you believe in.   Make sure that you listen to people, not just hear them.  Don’t just criticize people, praise them and appreciate them.  Finally, make sure that you focus on serving the people that you lead.


“Great leadership books for your summer reading list” by Tom Fox at Washington Post

Several books are recommended by the author:

  • “Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work” by Chip and Dan Heath
  • “The Decision Book: 50 Models for Strategic Thinking” by Mikael Krogerous and Roman Tschäppler
  • “Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works” by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin
  • “Simpler: The Future of Government” by Cass Sunstein
  • “The First 90 Days, Updated and Expanded: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter” by Michael Watkins
  • “Leadership and the Art of Struggle: How Great Leaders Grow Through Challenge and Adversity” by Steven Snyder

Aside from all of the books having colons in their title (note to self), I haven’t had a chance to read any of them since I’m focused on reading (and conveying to you) leadership articles.  I did read another book by Chip and Dan Heath called “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard”.  Here’s the review that I posted at Amazon.ca

ISBN 978-0-307-35727-4

A very engaging read on change initiation and management.  There are three main focus areas:

  • “Direct the Rider” (the rational/intellectual aspect),
  • “Motivate the Elephant” (the emotional aspect), and
  • “Shape the Path” (making it easier to follow the desired change).

The book uses several examples of change and highlights how each of these focus areas that, when combined, lay the foundation for success.  These examples are drawn from government, business, non-profit, etc., allowing the reader to identify with the desired change environment.

There is a fair amount of repetition, but it is by design.  As the book develops, with a few words, the reader is made to recall previous situations. By the time that you get to the end of the book, a one-page summary on how to make a switch (“Rider”, “Elephant”, and “Path” with three bullet points each) vividly brings back the scenarios and all of the learning points (e.g., “Script the Critical Moves…1% milk”).

Consider getting this book if you are thinking of change, or are looking at ways to improve the efficiency of the change process.


“It’s Not Your Grandmother’s NAACP” by Jenée Desmond-Harris at TheRoot.com

The author interviews the NAACP National Board Chairman, Roslyn Brock, about her efforts to recruit “movers and shakers” in the 30-50 year old demographic through “The Leadership 500 Summit”.  She discussed her role in overcoming some common misconceptions about the organization, and why she feels that this demographic, covering fields such as education, healthcare, government and even faith leaders can serve as leaders within the organization and beyond.  NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is over a century old.  What I didn’t know is that they the do not intend to serve the “black-only community”, but rather serve all people regardless of the shade of their skin – look at the increase of the board’s “racial diversity”

(Original article has been deleted)

“Leadership vacuum across the West” by John Rapley at Jamaica Gleaner

The author, John Rapley, is a political economist at the University of Cambridge and was on a visiting professorship at Queen’s University.  He discusses several leadership scandals across five of the G7 nations and spends a fair amount of time looking at the Canadian Senate scandals.


“Women find leadership roles in Northern BC” by Joel McKay at Vancouver Sun

Response to an article that women rarely reach the top of the ladder.  The author states that this is not the case in Prince George, and gives examples to back up his statement.

Do we just find leadership examples that we are looking for, or should we be looking for exceptions to our beliefs?

(Original article has been deleted)

“Physicians get leadership boost” by Pamela Fayerman at Vancouver Sun

A new leadership program aimed at improving the leadership skills of British Columbian doctors, allowing them to be better equipped and prepared to assume middle and top management positions.

Aside from the 10-day course, I really like the practical application of the programs.  The students need to identify something that can be improved in their own hospital, implement and monitor the change over 2-3 months, then report back to the class with their findings.  There are 30 students per class, so each doctor gets to hear 29 stories of how their peers implemented change.  Since they know their fellow students because of the intimate setting, it makes the stories more tangible than if it was being read from a textbook.  I believe that this will lead to a model of “success breeding success” in future initiatives.

(Original article has been deleted)

“Why leaders should embrace their critics” by Barbara Morris at Globe & Mail

Main themes of “1. Seek different perspectives; value contrarians, 2. learn from mistakes, 3. take thoughtful action, and 4. Actively and optimistically pursue new opportunities.

An interesting exercise to get different perspectives is using Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Thinking_Hats ) where 6 different coloured hats (actual or metaphorical) are used to represent: information, emotions, discernment, optimistic response, creativity, and meta-thinking.  What I really like is that the person assigned the discernment or “black” hat is supposed to provide contrarian thoughts – you’ve empowered that person to do something difficult without having the pressure to “conform to the norm”. I don’t recall meeting anyone who ever enjoyed criticism (myself included), but you have to sit back and think on why criticism bothers you.  Is there any validity to the criticism – even a small part?  If there is, take the salient points away and create an action plan to fix the situation.  If there is no validity, it may be worth educating the person on why the criticism isn’t valid – they may not have an understanding of all of the factors at play.  You may not win them over, but at least they should notice that you care enough to spend some time with them to go over their concerns.


“Debate: The changing face of the leader” by Andrew Saunders at Management Today

A panel of business leaders with diverse backgrounds have a discussion on various facets of leadership.  Some of the topics included: 1. are leaders born or made? 2. leading distributed teams 3. use of social media.

Aside from having 3 of the 8 persons involved named Andrew (a little more difficult to follow), I found it a great read.  I liked the part where they discuss leadership arising from a crisis.  One of the panellists was in the Royal Navy, so I could see the parallels between his crisis training (flood repair) and mine.


“About Leadership: Having Fun Yet?” by Bernie Bulkin at Huffington Post

Are the “fun” events at corporate meetings actually fun?   As a leader, you need to be in tune with your team – pick the right activities at the right time.


“The 4 Pillars of Stable Leadership” by Mike Myatt at Forbes

The desirability of stability within a leader.  The author sees 4 stability traits being: 1. Strong conviction and principles, 2. continuous development, 3. caring for those that you lead, and 4. allowing people to make mistakes.

I agree with the four pillars, yet I have a hard time reconciling the concept of “stability” in the face of “passion”, another desirable trait in leaders. Can you have passionate, stable leaders or must stability equal “boring”?


“Leadership@Cisco: Wim Elfrink” by Cisco as featured on YouTube

A YouTube clip about Wim Elfrink, Cisco’s Executive Vice President, Industry Solutions & Chief Globalisation Officer.  He believes that key leadership principles include self-actualization, authenticity, and branding.  From an educational perspective, I like the fact that is part of a series of videos about Cisco leaders, and that they are posting it to a wide audience instead of just internally. From a personal perspective, I like his belief is that he is still learning who he is – it’s congruent with his first two points of self-actualization and authenticity.  For those of you who like this clip, which lasts 3:22, there are more in the series – I’ll let you discover those for yourself.

If you have any suggestions for the resources and articles section, please let me know.

VOCL Closing Thoughts / Future Episodes

  • Ringette volunteering.  Extra demand based on evaluations of U16AA.  Creating a detailed spreadsheet.  Coordinating lots of people. Addressing variables such as potential conflicts of interest.
  • Takeaways
    • Several of the articles spoke to being genuine and having a vision.  Are you starting to notice a common leadership theme?  What speaks to you, and why?
    • “‘Leadership’ is the military’s snake oil” by Bruce Fleming – can we put too much emphasis on leadership, and does everyone need to develop leadership skills?
    • In addition to the articles, I have mentioned several leadership books.  Aside from listening to VOCL, how are you going about developing your own leadership skills?  What logical next step do you need to take to achieve that next level that you are looking for?


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


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