Show Summary: A review and discussion of interesting leadership-related books and articles featured in the media.
Episode Focus: Introducing two book reviews, one from a project management perspective and the other from a philosophical perspective. Also looking at several leadership articles from around the world looking at topics such as leadership trends for 2014, what research has indicated as being the two most important competencies for success, volunteer leadership, leadership from a mother’s perspective plus leadership in sports (two good examples and one bad).
Hi there! Welcome to the Voices of Canadian Leadership podcast.
- Reminder about our newsletter – you can subscribe near the top on the left-hand side of the website – it’s a big red box! I’m only looking for your first name and an email address. You’ll get all the great content on a weekly basis, plus you can opt out at any time.
- I’m really excited about another person that I know throwing his hat into the podcasting ring. David Barrett (an author of one of the books that I’m mentioning today) has created a podcast. It’s called Leadership Perspectives, and in his first podcast he interviews Bill Bates, a significant influencer in the field of project management. David’s podcast can be found at (original link is no longer available)
- Finally, I’ve updated the license under which the VOCL podcast is created and distributed. VOCL uses the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. What does this mean to you? This license allows adaptation of VOCL podcasts to be shared for either personal or commercial use, as long you ensure that you attribute the work to VOCL. I’m a big proponent of giving credit where credit is due, and I hope you are as well.
VOCL Resources and Articles
This week – two book reviews and a random selection of 10 articles on different aspects of leadership, including one about the dark aspects of Canada’s national sport of hockey (yes, I know it’s supposed to be lacrosse but come on…)
Book Review: Power of the Plan by Douglas Land and David Barrett
Managing projects can be a daunting task, especially for new leaders. Your success on your first few tasks can help you land more and more challenging tasks, allowing you to climb up the “organizational ladder”. Unfortunately, I don’t think that we teach logical planning processes in school – you need to get some additional information to close the knowledge gap. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the prospect of planning an office move, an event such as a party or a wedding or even doing your own home renovations, I would strongly recommend that you consider this book.
Weighing in at 108 pages, this is a fairly quick read that nevertheless incorporates a lot of key concepts required in executing a plan. In line with the best project management practices, Douglas Land and David Barrett walk you through the steps in a logical fashion. They have created several storylines so that you can see tangible examples of project management at work. You can easily picture yourself replacing the people in the book and achieving success.
The authors start with considerations on whether you should even start a project in the first place – not every idea should go ahead, especially if the assumptions are wrong or the value isn’t there. Big tasks can be overwhelming, and it can be easy to skip important steps in seemingly simple tasks. Douglas and David explain to you how to break down the project into bite-sized chunks, and how to look at following aspects (each line is a chapter):
- Who will do the work?
- How much time will it take?
- How much will it cost?
- What are the risks to our plan?
- Follow-up and control
- Managing change
- Ending the project
The authors have also found a way to increase the value of the book by including various templates on the book’s website. The authors can also use this book as a background for a keynote presentation or a workshop.
In my opinion (and that of the authors), this book is not designed for certified Project Management Professionals (PMPs) since the requisite training goes into much greater depth – I must admit, however, that I really did enjoy reading the book. If you considering a career in project management, or are looking at starting a project, give this book a read – you can get a print copy here. If you sign up for David Barrett’s newsletter at (http://davidbarrett.ca), you can get this book as a free .pdf!
Before I do the next review, I’ll read you the blog post (originally published on 4 March 2014) about my experience meeting with the author.
As I write this article, the smell of a new perfume subtly impacts my consciousness. It is a smell that should be foreign, and yet at the same time is very familiar to me. Normally I would not include this particular level of detail, but today is the first day that I am wearing Vetiver of Haiti, produced by The 7 Virtues’ Barb Stegemann. Today is also the day that I had an opportunity (and good fortune) to listen to Barb – she was the Defence Women’s Advisory Organization’s keynote speaker in celebration of International Women’s Day later this week. Her presentation infused the room with leadership lessons as well as perfume.
I first heard about Barb on CBC’s television show, “Dragons’ Den” – I remember cheering for her since she is from the Halifax area. Interestingly, we are both affiliated with the military – I have served for over 25 years; she is an Honorary Colonel with Royal Canadian Air Force’s 14 Wing in Greenwood, Nova Scotia. My work in Haiti before, during and after the 2010 earthquake (chronicled elsewhere in the blog and podcast) has resulted in Haiti being a significant part of my life and an influence in becoming the person that I am today; I consider Barb’s efforts at empowering the Haitian farmers in the creation of a workable and sustainable economy as a cornerstone in their building a better future.
From a leadership perspective, I loved the messages that she gave to a crowded room of civilian and military personnel, women and men alike. I will attempt to convey some of those key thoughts here:
- Women can yield significant influence and power; use that power to make peace, not war.
- Not everyone will like your idea; focus on the people that do (20% will never like you regardless of what you do).
- Don’t be dissuaded by people telling you that you can’t achieve something, especially if they haven’t tried to do it themselves.
- If you have to make a cold call, give yourself a time limit (e.g., before 5 PM). This creates a definitive trigger for action – a critical component of making SMART goals.
- Move quickly towards your vision – there is no hesitation when you know what to do. Having said that, there is an “art of war” battle rhythm that sees periods of maintenance (steady action) interspersed with pushing boundaries (exertion) towards continued growth.
- There are many valuable lessons that can be gleaned from philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, Marcus Aurelius, etc. Philosophy can help get away from opinion and focus on the facts. Along the same line, leaders are readers. Barb is also the author of a book, “The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen” – you can buy it on her website. I now have a copy, and I look forward to reading it in the near future.
There is a significant confluence between her business and her vision; indeed, the two may be the same and that’s what makes her so remarkable. She is looking at other countries (e.g., Rwanda) that she can work with, and is using her influence to broaden the number of products that come from existing partner countries. The impact that she (and other entrepreneurs that respond to her clarion call to action) will have will be significant, and I wish her every success.
The scents that I recall from the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake were of devastation and despair. Thanks to Barb and her Vetiver of Haiti perfume, I now have a new scent (and sense) that I can associate with Haiti – a scent of hope.
Book Review: “The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen (4th Edition)” by Barbara Stegemann
Note: Although the subtitle for the book is “A woman’s guide to living & leading in an illogical world”, there are plenty of good insights for men as well.
I first met Barb Stegemann at a presentation she gave for the 2014 International Woman’s Day – that story is captured here. The book came with the perfume – she was so engaging in person that I decided to give it a read. I’m glad that I did.
The book focuses on the seven virtues that Barb espouses as being crucial to being successful and, more importantly, happy. In the list below you will not find “leadership” yet leadership aspects are interspersed throughout the various chapters. The virtues are:
- Wonder: “When we allow ourselves to live the virtue of wonder, we are on the path of discovering the true reality of the world around us.”
- Moderation: There is a difference between pleasure and happiness. Having lots of “things” may bring you pleasure, but not happiness. This chapter speaks to trying to achieve “balance”.
- Truth: Focusing on logic to strip emotions from an issue, allowing you to make the best decision based on the facts. Additionally, never forget that you are your child’s first teacher. What you show as acceptable behaviour will be mirrored by your children. Your perceptions will be based on where you focus – find positive influences.
- Courage (the heaviest chapter): Believe in yourself and your convictions, work to your talents, take risks, and have the courage to enter politics to make positive change within the community.
- Justice: “Once we understand our place of responsibility and do things to move people towards right action, we are helping to build a just society.”
- Wisdom: You must have a good understanding of the past to make sure that you do not repeat mistakes and that you build upon the work and knowledge of others. There is a section on the ten visualization steps required to achieve a goal. The last section of this chapter is filled with meditations that make you reflect on what you have learned from whom and what you are grateful for.
- Beauty (the lightest chapter): “Your expression is your beauty – this should be valued far above form. Superficial appearances will fade – you must discover what is beautiful inside of you (you are a work of art).”
The book extensively references several great philosophers including Marcus Aurelius and Plato. The latter is my personal favourite, especially his book “The Republic” that I first read in university. My favourite section is the allegory of the cave – a description can be found here. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Barb made this one of the first lessons in philosophy. For a female perspective, her most quoted female philosopher is Mary Wollstonecraft. You can tell throughout the book that these philosophers, amongst others, have had a significant influence on the person that she is today.
Now, for me, this book is not perfect. It is repetitive in setting up and using the same stories to make different points. Also, there are some sections that feel out of place such as the description of municipal politics. I understand that Barb is trying to inform her audience on how to effectively influence politics within the community but to me, it was akin to hearing cell phones go off in a theatre – it took me out of the moment. Having said that, the overall value of the book overcomes these minor obstacles. You are not simply a passive reader – you are asked to reflect upon, write down, and address several critical issues as you start working on becoming the person that you want to be.
Perhaps what I liked most about this book is that she advocates for women to take up more / significant leadership positions throughout the community and in business. She is also a passionate advocate for increased female representation in politics – achieving a minimum 30% representation is seen as the tipping point to achieving greater equality across the nation. Personally, I’m in favour of anyone that helps illuminate a path towards self-improvement and improvement of their environment, and I think Barb has done a great job of doing that.
“3 Leadership Trends of 2014” by Will Yakowicz at Inc.com
The author provides his assessment of the three top leadership trends in 2014, as taught in business schools and implemented by organizational leaders:
- Unlocking hidden strengths – getting the best from your employees/followers while simultaneously making them feel empowered
- Giving second chances – everyone makes mistakes – if you show faith in people they are likely to perform
- Implementing democracy – if you hire the right people, “you can implement a democracy focused on individual participation and empowerment.”
During the second point of “giving second chances”, the author’s interview with Fred Keller (CEO of Cascade Engineering) brings forth the idea that government can’t solve all of the problems and that business must step up and fill the gaps – that’s a recurring theme that I heard during the 2012 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference.
“Research Reveals the 2 Most Important Competencies for Success” by Bill Gentry at Center for Creative Leadership
It can be difficult to narrow down the most important aspects of leadership – what is most required in one industry may not be the same in another. What works in one country may not work in another country. What is effective at one level of a hierarchy may be less effective at another. The author’s company did research across these variables and have come down to two recurring themes:
- Leading employees – delegating (with an emphasis on mentoring), communicating, and motivating
- Strategic perspective – understanding the big picture, understanding the problem, and understanding networks
“Leadership 101 for Professionals (and Anthony Weiner)” by Jeremy Kingsley at Fox Business
This article highlights the importance of integrity in your personal life as well as in your business life. The author commends people remember four things about integrity:
- People follow people of integrity.
- Leaders and companies with integrity have fewer crises than those without.
- People don’t often quit on organizations, but they do quit on people.
- A person of integrity knows the right thing, says the right thing, and does the right thing.
I’m not convinced about number 4 – you may not always know exactly what to do (the world is rarely black or white). If a course of action doesn’t sit quite right with you, then perhaps it’s not the right choice and you should try to expand the possible courses of action. Personally, I use what some call the “Globe and Mail test” – would you be able to justify your actions if they were printed in the newspaper?
(Original link has been deleted)
“Leadership Lessons from the Olympics” by Tom Fox at The Washington Post
The author draws leadership examples from the US Olympic team and provides some metaphors for government leaders:
- Relish, don’t stress, the big moment
- Failures are an opportunity to improve, not an opportunity to make excuses
- Give yourself and others a second chance to succeed
- You can break through any barrier to achieve your goals
- Don’t forget the personal touch
“4 Leadership Lessons from Canada’s Olympic Team” by Pam Ross at Huffington Post
Another Olympics-inspired leadership article, but with a Canadian viewpoint on how we can incorporate the best of the Olympic spirit into our organizations:
- Create a rallying cry
- Be exclusive
- Give your team opportunity
- Demonstrate care and respect
For me, you can tell that a simple rallying cry is incredibly powerful when #WeAreWinter is so successful even though we are continuously being battered by winter storms across the country – something about which we would normally grumble…
Regarding being exclusive – I see the point that the author is trying to make, but to me, it doesn’t speak to leadership best practices. Yes, it’s great if you can get the best people in the first place, but a true leader seeks to develop the people who (s)he has to the best of their potential – I’m glad this is covered in the section on giving your team opportunity.
“Five crucial leadership lessons from a working mother” by Melissa Kushner at The Globe and Mail
This article gets straight to the point – so will I.
- Use your gender to your advantage – men and women leaders should both be at the table, and women should embrace their skills
- Be resolute in your decision to be a working mother – you have to be able to accept that there will have to be trade-offs
- Being a mother can make you a better leader – you have to become more efficient to get everything done
- Embrace your strengths and your weaknesses – work on your weaknesses, build on your strengths, but don’t be afraid to be who you are and what you believe in
- Trust your team (and if you don’t, get a new team) – surround yourself with people who “complement your skills and compensate for your weaknesses”
“Truly Human Leadership: Why You Should Value Your People” by Rebecca O. Bagley at Forbes
This is a rather lengthy article that focuses on the author’s leadership readings and conference attendance. The main theme of the article is about John Mackey’s book “Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business” that highlights four main principles used by successful organizations:
- Higher purpose
- Stakeholder integration
- Conscious leadership
- Conscious culture / management
“Everyday leadership: When failure occurs, leaders must look within themselves” by R. Glenn Ray, PhD at The Marietta Times
It can sometimes be difficult to look into the mirror and see that we as leaders are responsible for the actions and results of our followers. The author gives an anecdote from his consulting practice where he presents the company’s leader with three options on why results weren’t being achieved. Only one of those options largely absolved the leader, and that is the choice that the person made.
Although the article cannot offer comprehensive details, which choice would you have made based on the available information?
(The original link has been deleted.)
“The Benefits of Volunteer Leadership” by Patrick (no last name was given) at The Constant Analyst
This article focuses on young professionals and the opportunities for self-development when taking on volunteer leadership roles. The author sees two main benefits:
- Collaborative decision-making – “…can give you great insight on how to navigate politics in the corporate world”
- Diversification of experience – benefits of working with different kinds of people, as well as learning different ways of doing things.
(The original link has been deleted.)
“A hockey moment this crowd won’t soon forget” by Charlotte Helston at Infotel Media
There are many times that I’m proud to be Canadian; this is not one of them. I normally try to focus on articles about positive leadership, but in this case, I will focus on a negative (with one positive aspect).
We have just been given many examples of Canadian courage, determination, and sportsmanship in the form of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. I love hockey, and both our women’s and men’s hockey team have given us much to be proud of. At the same time halfway around the world in Vernon, British Columbia, poor sportsmanship and poor leadership reared its ugly head.
Leadership failure #1 – Based on the report, it seems that one team stormed off the ice after losing due to a disputed goal – without the customary shaking of hands. The coach is responsible for showing leadership and being an example – this was not done here.
Leadership failure #2 – The coach insisted that all children come off the ice with him, including the one child who decided to stay and shake hands. Through that player (in addition to tradition) the coach was provided with a visual reminder of what the proper action should have been and did not correct his own actions. His actions also forced the (re)action of their hockey players to get off the ice. Without the negative coaching/leadership influence, it would have been interesting to see how many children would have stayed out to shake hands.
Leadership failure #3 – Even if all but one child did not dare take action contrary to the desire of the coach, there were assistant coaches present. This means that either all coaches displayed poor leadership, or that they did not step up to hold the head coach accountable to behaving in a sportsmanlike manner.
Leadership success #1 – For me, the true leader in this situation was a 12-year-old boy, Matthew Marotta, for behaving in a manner consistent with the fundamental ethics and values of hockey, and for showing everyone what sportsmanship looks like. He may not have liked the game’s final outcome, but what he did took courage. He has given the nation something to think about. He may not have been able to get others to join him on the ice that day, but through his actions, he has provided perspective to a hockey-mad nation.
Matthew – you have demonstrated your leadership potential – I wish you much future success.
VOCL Closing Thoughts / Future Episodes / Call to Action
I have just started to listen to a new podcast (I love podcasts, listening to over 20 episodes per week) called Entrepreneur on Fire by John Lee Dumas (http://www.entrepreneuronfire.com). Although focused on entrepreneurs and not leadership, there are still many useful “nuggets” that I hear during every episode. I am looking forward to incorporating these into VOCL, making it a better experience for you.
One of the constant themes is to know your audience, and then how can you help them with their “pain points”? My vision for VOCL is to improve the quality and quantity of leaders in Canada (with a minor emphasis on the rest of the world), so how can I help you become a better leader? What are your leadership challenges? What are the issues that you are facing? Let me know, and I will be happy to help.
Takeaways and introspection
- Although the Olympics are over, you know that the Winter Olympics athletes are already training with an eye to 2018 – you should be as well. Which of the sports-based leadership lessons resonated with you, and how will you use that going forward in your everyday life?