VOCL 028 – Looking at Leadership Articles #12

Twitter Episode Focus: Looking at several leadership articles from around the world including topics such as: Communication – Talking slower to get faster results and cultural differences in body language How to implement leadership development Motivation – yours and your followers The compounding effect of having multiple leaders in a crisis or in chaos The […]

Written By chris

On May 4, 2014

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Episode Focus: Looking at several leadership articles from around the world including topics such as:

  • Communication – Talking slower to get faster results and cultural differences in body language
  • How to implement leadership development
  • Motivation – yours and your followers
  • The compounding effect of having multiple leaders in a crisis or in chaos
  • The advantage of thinking ahead
  • The use of fear in motivating your followers
  • Guessing game – leadership styles of various Game of Thrones characters

VOCL Intro

Hi there!  Welcome to the Voices of Canadian Leadership podcast.  I notice that I’ve been getting some new subscribers lately – I’m glad you’re joining the community!  My vision is to improve the quantity and quality of leaders in Canada (with a minor emphasis on the rest of the world) and you are part of the solution.  Not for me, but for a better world.  I want our community to grow and develop, spreading leadership messages across Canada much like food dye spreads through water.

  • Episode Focus: Looking at several leadership articles from around the world including topics such as:
    • Communication – Talking slower to get faster results and cultural differences in body language
    • How to implement leadership development
    • Motivation – yours and your followers
    • The compounding effect of having multiple leaders in a crisis or in chaos
    • The advantage of thinking ahead
    • The use of fear in motivating your followers
    • Guessing game – leadership styles of various Game of Thrones characters
  • 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’ve included a free bonus for signing up – you can now get a mindmap generated through the observations during the New Brunswick Study Group’s 2012 Governor General Canadian Leadership Conference.  You get to see what most leaders (government/business/labour/non-profit) assess as being the most important leadership attributes that you can possess.

VOCL Resources and Articles

This week –a random selection of 10 articles on different aspects of leadership.

Leadership English: Talk slower, get faster results” by Frances Ponick at Washington Times Communities

Words themselves are important, but how you say those words can significantly alter the comprehension and impact of your communication.  The author stresses that there are times that you may want to speak quickly (for emotional impact) and more slowly (for intellectual impact).  The author provides several advantages on speaking slowly, including that you sound more like a senior person.  She even provides seven tips on training yourself to speak more slowly – you can experiment with a tip a day!  One tip is to pronounce your words and not skip consonants at the ends of words.  For me, a great example can be heard on the radio each day – it can be hard to understand the lyrics if the singer mumbles (think “Sting” even though I like his music) or fuses multiple words together because there is no breaking consonant (think “Let It Be” instead of “ledibe” by the Beatles).

My experience working in the UN affirms with the article.  When I slowed down, not only did the non-native English speakers have better comprehension, but the Americans and Canadians did, too!


Today’s Leadership Development Approach Does Not Work” by Brad Hall at The Street

Organizations spend much money on leadership development, but few believe that they are achieving the desired results.  Leadership training (delivered in concentrated doses with no follow-up) does not seem to have the same retention rate than other development programs such as piano or golf (weekly lessons with daily reinforcing practices).  The author believes the following would lead to better success:

  • Buy leaders, build managers (get people who already know what they are doing to instruct people within the organization)
  • Measure (even imperfect assessment tools are better than none)
  • Teach, practice, teach (break complex leadership skills into bite-sized tasks, have the person practice on a daily basis, then do a follow-up a few months later.


Your leadership motivation starts within” by Lolly Daskal at lollydaskal.com

Sometimes the best articles are the simplest ones – this happens because they tap straight into the heart of the matter.  In this case, this is a blog article about motivation – you aren’t a leader if you can’t motivate people.  Lolly points out several motivating factors for you to think about: recognition, freedom, impact, service, passion, and meaning.

My favourite quote from the article:

“Motivation is caught, not taught.”

As always, remember that one approach does not work for everyone – you need to tailor your message to the recipient!


Leadership and the Cultural Conundrum of Body Language” by Li Huang at Insead Knowledge

We are living in an increasingly global community, and we can find ourselves leading multicultural teams.  There are many benefits as long as you make sure that you stay aware of the impact of culture: yours, the other people, the team in which you work, and the overall organization.

You have to be careful of body language that could inadvertently convey a different meaning than your words, and that may have an impact on your ability to lead and influence others.  The author provides an example where a cross-cultural teacher assumed a pose that would imply authority, but that it had the opposite effect of undermining his authority.  You have to be careful, however, that you do not arbitrarily constrict your body language for the sake of cultural awareness – placing yourself in a pose that you find uncomfortable can reduce your confidence and comfort, potentially leading to words and behaviour that would actually undermine your authority.

This article does not give immediately actionable advice but it is something to consider, especially when working with culturally diverse teams in Canada and abroad.


Crisis Meta-Leadership Lessons From The Boston Marathon Bombings Response: The Ingenuity Of Swarm Intelligence” by Leonard J. Marcus, Ph.D., Eric McNulty, M.A., Barry C. Dorn, M.D., M.H.C.M. & Eric Goralnick, M.D. at the President and Fellows Of Harvard College

This is a slightly different review since it focuses on a white paper report and not the traditional books or articles.  It does not speak to individual leadership per se, but rather a “leadership of the commons” without a truly centric leadership – called “swarm intelligence” in this article (a definition of which is found on page 7 of the report).  The backdrop is the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, but I can easily picture this happening in crises throughout the world.

What makes me keep coming back to this report is a quote from the Executive Summary about swarm leadership where “…leaders are able to accomplish more together than any one leader could have achieved separately.”  Is it more effective because we set aside personal objectives and agendas for the greater good?  If it is so effective, why don’t we use it more often in everyday life?

I have seen the transition from a central authority to a swarm intelligence and back to a central authority during the 2010 Haiti earthquake.  It truly warmed my heart (although I didn’t have a chance to think about it at the time) to see how people largely broke down organizational silos to simply “get it done” during the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.  Slowly, however, the silo walls started going back up – bureaucracy started being reintroduced.  Perhaps this was due to the need to start setting some controls – resources were finite and you had to start shifting to a longer-term perspective.  Also possible was the need for people to return to a sense of “normality” – swarm intelligence in large organizations is not perceived as the norm.

Of all organizational types, I would assess the non-profit model to best lend itself to an easy transition to swarm leadership based on the rules outlined in the article:

  • Unity of mission that coalesces all stakeholders
  • Generosity of spirit
  • Deference for the responsibility and authority of others
  • Refraining from grabbing credit or hurling blame
  • A foundation of respectful and experienced leadership that garner mutual trust and confidence

//original link has been deleted//

5 Leadership Lessons Pope John Paul II Taught A Young Swiss Guard” by Carmine Gallo at Forbes

I’m always extra careful about articles that feature religion or religious figures in the title – the content may automatically be discarded by some.  Whether we know it or not, we all have personal views, opinions, beliefs, biases – VOCL attempts to be as non-secular as possible, and this article pretty much does the same.  If you’ve made it this far, then I think you’ll appreciate the message that the author conveys.

The article surrounds the storyline between Pope John Paul II and a young Swiss Guard named Andreas Widmer, but it could easily be between any great boss and a new member of the organization.  The five leadership observations provided include:

  • Encourage people to dream big and to keep their eyes on the long term.
  • Be fully present for every conversation.
  • Show people that you believe in them.
  • View “work” not as a burden, but as an opportunity.
  • Celebrate entrepreneurship.

My favourite quote:

“Inspiring leaders believe in people, often much more strongly than those people believe in themselves.”

For me, believing in people is the most powerful of the five.  I have been fortunate enough to have been under the leadership of some AMAZING people – they all had their own strengths, but this aspect was what they all had in common.  They saw more in me than I saw in myself, they asked more of me (stretch goals for sure but achievable), and showed me that they believed in me.  If you have been on the receiving end of this kind of leader, then you know exactly how powerful this can be.

In the military, you can get yelled at a lot.  It starts in basic training (although it’s much “gentler” now) and can carry on throughout your career depending on how quickly you learn.  As a defence (and survival) mechanism, you learn to tune out the volume while taking in the salient points so that hopefully you don’t get yelled at again.

I recall a time almost twenty years ago when I did not live up to the expectations of a leader who believed in me – the task was well within my capacity, but for some reason that I cannot recall, I did not do the task to my usual standard.  “I’m disappointed in you – I know you can do better than this.”  These words, delivered in a quiet, earnest tone, stung far sharper than any amount of ranting that you may have heard coming from Hollywood drill sergeants (think R. Lee Ermey in Stanley Kubrick’s movie Full Metal Jacket).  Knowing that I had disappointed this person that I admired me hurt me to the core, and I vowed to never let that happen again.

That’s the power of belief.


Three Leadership Principles for Times of Chaos” by Bob Miglani at Seapoint Centre

It can be difficult for leaders in uncertain times (due to uncertainty causes from internal/external/both), but the best leaders have an action plan to get themselves out of uncertainty as quickly as possible.  The author provides three steps that can be taken:

  • Focus on ideas not resources (can you modify your idea so that you still accomplish the aim while using fewer resources?)
  • Stop over-thinking (thinking is good but there comes a time when action is better).
  • Take action (be flexible and adapt).

#2 is especially powerful.  I’ve been guilty of this myself – I wanted so hard to craft VOCL to be perfect from the start, instead of getting going and refining along the way.  I’ve just started reading “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries – more on this later.


How to get your employees to think strategically” by Will Yakowicz at Inc.com

This article starts with a key statistic – planning strategically is what 9,700 of 10,000 senior executives stated as being the most important leadership skill that one can possess.  Thinking ahead, what could the future hold for your organization (business, non-profit, etc,) if you could get your follows to think strategically as well?  In the process of communicating your thoughts on the road ahead to key people within your organization, the author offers the following 5 tips:

    1. Dish out information (people will make better decisions if they are based on complete (or at least better) information)
    2. Create a mentor program (develop your followers!)
    3. Create a philosophy (people will be able to think “what would the leader do” in your absence)
    4. Reward thinking, not reaction (think ahead to foresee potential roadblocks or pitfalls)
    5. Ask “why” and “when” (forces people to truly consider their thoughts and options)

I like the 3rd point – people can come up with amazing solutions if you give them guidelines – in the military, it’s called “Commander’s intent.”  Having read this section, subordinate commanders will still have the Commander’s guiding principles in mind when making a decision, even if the Commander isn’t available (absent / injured / unreachable / etc.) for consultation.  This frees you up to think even further ahead.

For those of you who like quotes, the 5th point is an abbreviation of Rudyard Kipling’s advice on councillors:

I keep six honest serving men

(They taught me all I knew)

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who.


Leadership by fear means you do not trust your employees” by Tommy Weir at The National

Sometimes your personal thoughts can lend themselves to significant insight into a perspective much broader than the situation that you are facing.  In this article, the author has an “aha” moment when he realizes that telling his child to come home by 11 PM “or else” is using the fear of punishment to shape behaviour.  This leads to a dialogue on the theories of motivation by Douglas McGregor.

A quick recap on McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y:

  • Theory X – people are lazy, will avoid work, and need to be coerced into taking the desired action
  • Theory Y – People are ambitious, self-motivated and have self-control – just point them in the right direction and let them go!

The author saw the “or else” aspect of parenting as being centred on Theory X.  Fair enough.  What the article doesn’t go on to discuss is what a Theory Y approach would have been.  So, you get to finish the story – what would a Theory Y approach have looked like?

(If you’re listening this far, you get bonus points and information.  In addition to Douglas McGregor’s X and Y theories, there is William Ouchi’s Theory Z (Japanese Management style) and Abraham Maslow’s Theory Z).

//original link has been deleted//



Leading Westeros: Leadership Lessons from ‘Game Of Thrones’” by Cameron Welter at Forbes

Note: If you have seen up to the end of Season 3, there are no spoilers in this article.  If you haven’t, read at your own peril!

There really aren’t any “nuggets” here – I just happen to like the HBO series ‘Game of Thrones’ and this article does a good job of summarizing the various leadership types.  Key thoughts include:

  • being sure that you stay aware of the changing environment
  • be careful of ruling with an iron fist
  • the potential division between doing what’s right for you and your followers
  • the impact of negative leadership on your organization
  • the reluctance of some people taking on a leadership role (even when they’re in one).

If you’re a GoT fan, rewind this section, listen to the five different leadership aspects, and see if you picked out the same characters as the article’s author.


VOCL Closing Thoughts / Future Episodes / Call to Action

  • Reading a study about sound quality – CD quality is 128 bit, voice can drop down to 64bit.  I was using the higher quality, but this means doubling the download size.  More podcasts are being listened on portable devices, larger file sizes are detrimental to data limits.  So, at the risk of losing some sound quality, I have published this podcast at 64 bits.  Let me know if you can tell the difference – I can always re-master and re-publish at 128bit if the new sound quality is not to your liking.
  • Finished reading The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber – review will be provided in a future episode.  Started reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.  Interesting to see how I had previously started incorporating these aspects, but they serve to remind me that VOCL is not about me; it’s about YOU!  What do you need?  What do you want?

Takeaways and introspection

  • Leadership English: Talk slower, get faster results” by Frances Ponick.  Read her article, try out a tip a day and see what difference that has made in the effectiveness of your communication
  • Today’s Leadership Development Approach Does Not Work” by Brad Hall.  Don’t be a passive listener or reader – take action on what you have read or heard (part of the reason for the takeaways and introspection section).
  • How to get your employees to think strategically” by Will Yakowicz.  Have you communicated your vision so clearly that your followers would be able to accomplish the goal even if you aren’t around to provide them direction?

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


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