VOCL 036 – Looking At Leadership Articles #18

Twitter VOCL Intro Episode Focus: Looking at several leadership articles from around the world including topics such as: A TED talk from Roselinde Torres about three questions you should ask yourself if someone is a great leader Managing your leadership agenda through the agendas of others The “how” and “why” of incorporating fantastic customer service […]

Written By chris

On September 22, 2014

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VOCL Intro

  • Episode Focus: Looking at several leadership articles from around the world including topics such as:
    • A TED talk from Roselinde Torres about three questions you should ask yourself if someone is a great leader
    • Managing your leadership agenda through the agendas of others
    • The “how” and “why” of incorporating fantastic customer service within your organization
    • Knowing about yourself before leading others
    • Two articles on the need for ‘servant leadership’ in all walks of life, but especially in the public sector
    • Leadership as a life skill
    • Cultural differences in leadership
    • The challenges of C-Suite responsibilities
    • Content that leaders choose to put into their heads
  • VOCL is designed with YOU in mind, yet I am not you. I want to get to know you better so I can give you what you need.  Let me know if there is something that you want more of or less of.  Are there people you want me to reach out to for an interview?  Is there a particular topic that concerns you?  Let me know, and I can tailor the show to meet YOUR needs!
  • It’s been a while since the website has undergone a significant re-design, so you should go have a look. It’s not quite finished, but I’ve decided to go forward with the Divi theme by Elegant Themes.  I really like the way that they make it fairly easy for people to create websites that look nice, plus I also use this theme for my other websites.  I’ve already walked some people through the process, and they love the simplicity.  If you are looking for an updated website design, or are looking at starting a new website – give me a shout!

VOCL Resources and Articles

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

What It Takes To Be A Great Leader by Roselinde Torres at TED.com

I came across this very interesting TED talk from Roselinde Torres – she provides three questions that she asks in determining whether someone is a great leader in today’s culture:

  1. Where are you looking to anticipate the next change to your business model or your life?
  2. What is the diversity measure of your business model of your personal and professional stakeholder network?
  3. Are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past?

I really like these questions.  The first has you looking at the person’s vision and their ability to anticipate both opportunities and challenges.  The second is about surrounding yourself with people who challenge you to grow as a person.  The third speaks to the ability to “pivot,” and the ability to withstand criticism (both well-intentioned and otherwise) when taking your followers in a different direction.

At just over nine minutes, it’s worth a listen.

Manage Your Leadership Agenda through The Agendas Of Others by Glenn Llopis at Forbes

Although the article uses the term “leadership agenda”, for me it mostly speaks to office politics. Perhaps the term “agenda” was used because politics is considered a dirty word, although not many people use “having an agenda” as a positive phrase. For me, politics can actually have a good meaning. Not the constant bickering and playing up to the cameras that we seem to get inundated with, but rather through the noble sense provided by philosophers such as Plato. You need to be able to understand what you want (your vision) and be able to communicate and work with others (teamwork) wherever possible so you get to a “win-win” outcome.

The article does speak to several facets of leadership, such as understanding others, alignment of goals, influence, and the importance of teamwork, making it an interesting read.


Customer Service Leadership: How To Transform The Behavior Of Customer-Facing Employees by Micah Solomon at Forbes

A great article on the “how” of incorporating fantastic customer service within your organization, yet it does a good job of explaining the “why” of customer service. The article uses an example to which most readers can relate – the difference between “blinkered” waiters who only focus on their specific tasks versus a waiter who looks to address all issues, even if it’s in another section. Although both employees could be great at their job (e.g., “waiting on their tables”), it’s the latter who understands his/her role in the organization i.e., making customers feel special. Some of the methods that can lead to improved customer service include:

  • Reinforcement (repeat the message in several different ways but consistently across time – you can’t just do it once and forget it)
  • Positive peer pressure (have people who can model the desired behaviour for others)
  • Standards (have guidelines for what good customer service should look like, but also explain the “why” that standard exists)
  • Employee empowerment (tell your employees your customer vision, and give them the latitude to turn your vision into action)

As the leader, you are responsible for creating the vision and setting the culture for your organization. Your followers are often the first and sometimes the only point of contact for your organization. If you were a customer, what would you want the customer service to look like? What would keep you coming back?


First Know Yourself, Then Your Team by Manfred Kets de Vries at Forbes

An article that highlights the importance of knowing yourself before you lead others.  As the author set the stage for the article, I thought I knew where he was going.  It sounded like it was going to discuss the impostor syndrome (where you feel like an impostor and subconsciously sabotage or discount any success that you may have – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome).  Instead, the article stays true to the title and provides eight leadership “archetypes”:

  • The strategist: leadership as a game of chess
  • The change-catalyst: leadership as a turnaround activity
  • The transactor: leadership as deal making
  • The builder: leadership as an entrepreneurial activity
  • The innovator: leadership as creative idea generation
  • The processor: leadership as an exercise in efficiency
  • The coach: leadership as a form of people development
  • The communicator: leadership as stage management

There’s some interesting stuff to think about in here, but the article cuts off as it gets going.  It will be interesting to see if the author takes this piece to the next level and provide actionable guidance for leaders in the eight archetypes above.  Another discussion area would be whether there are ideal pairings to strive for in small teams (such as business start-ups), pairings that would tend to clash, etc.  I’m looking forward to seeing where the author will go next.


Crisis, cynicism call for ‘servant leadership’ by Tom Urbaniak at Cape Breton Post

An article that highlights the importance of servant leadership in the public and private sectors.  Tie in the fact that the author is from Cape Breton and you know I had to include it here.  Using diverse leaders such as James MacGregor Burns, Pope Francis, Naheed Nenshi, and Colette Roy-Laroche to make his point, he makes the point that servant-leaders don’t “…have to be a global spiritual leader, nor a Gandhi or a Mandela…” but that they must possess traits of self-denial and humility as well as practical smarts and vision.

(Original link has been deleted)

Great Leadership Isn’t About You by John Michel at Harvard Business Review

An article that highlights that leadership is not about the leader, but rather the follower.  Using the story of General George Washington at Valley Forge to set the stage, the author provides four pieces of advice in going from being a good leader to becoming a great leader:

  • Listen to other people’s ideas, no matter how different they may be from your own (‘two heads are better than one’)
  • Embrace and promote a spirit of selfless service (servant leadership)
  • Ask great questions (get others to think about the challenge at hand)
  • Don’t fall prey to your own publicity (can take away from your objectivity and focus)

For me, I really like the first point.  As a general rule, I tend to read and pass on at least two to three articles for each one that I decide to bring forward to you – they may be more of a sales pitch, they may be too narrowly focussed on business, they may not apply in a Canadian context, etc.  Since VOCL has published over 250 article reviews, that means that I’ve looked at nearly 1,000 articles thus far.  Even though I may not feature them, each article has helped me broaden my perspectives on leadership from both global and uniquely Canadian perspectives.  It is my goal to have VOCL offer various perspectives on leadership, helping you fill out your leadership ‘toolbox’.

My favourite quote:

“…leadership, be it as a general in the military, an executive in the boardroom, a pastor serving a congregation, or a parent providing for a family, isn’t about exercising power over people, but rather, it’s about finding effective ways to work with people.”

This article did get some feedback, this time from Bill England.  He writes: “The author sums up leadership in the 21st century nicely when he concludes “The need to re-imagine and recast how we think about leadership has never been greater.”  Far too often I think that many who call themselves leaders are more concerned with leading their budgets or leading their resources than they are leading effective ways to work with people and being other-centred.  The problem is how to change the current leadership culture away from the iLeader mentality and back towards being a youLeader.”


Leadership is a life skill by Kendra Moyses at Michigan State University Extension

An interesting article on how to gradually develop youth leadership skills through the ages of 5-19. Most of you reading this post are most likely to have children within this age bracket. I’m willing to go on a limb to state that since you are interested in leadership, you are likely to want to help develop leadership skills in your children, nieces, nephews, youth groups that you lead, etc.

This article breaks down the skills that should be developed at the four developmental stages – from 5-8 year olds learning to be part of a group up to the 15-19 year olds organizing a group to meet a specific goal. What I really like about the article is that it provides a series of age-appropriate questions to get the youth thinking about leadership in general and their leadership in particular. There is also a link to a 4-H Experiential Learning resource (a .pdf document), as well as several other websites to get more knowledge.

As cliché as it sounds, these children are the future. Let’s help them become better leaders so that they can create an even brighter future.


Leadership Lessons From Much Further Afield by Drew Marshall at Forbes

Many readers / listeners of VOCL are leaders in their own towns and cities, but what does leadership look like if you are in another country with a dissimilar culture?  The author of this article provides three key areas to think about:

  • Don’t impose (just because you’re used to doing things one way at home doesn’t mean that your method applies equally well across nations and across cultures)
  • Build to sustain (you need to be flexible and consider the comments of all stakeholders.  It’s initially more challenging and time-consuming, but the results are better and will last longer)
  • Promote ownership (people have to buy in to your vision to bring about permanent change – they have to ‘own’ their role in the collective work)

Although set in Afghanistan, I consider that these lessons apply equally at home.  A ‘bull in a china shop’ approach may work for a while, but will not deliver the desired long-term results.


Overcoming C-Suite Leadership Insomnia by Rajeev Peshawaria at Forbes

So you’ve worked hard for many years and you are now a C-suite executive – perhaps even the CEO. What now?  This article provides eight areas of personal development that you should have already transitioned through.  The great thing about this article is that it helps shape the thought process for those looking towards becoming a C-level executive.  The eight transitions (six for personal orientation and two for organizational leadership) include:

  • From blissful unawareness to emotional self-awareness (a solid understanding of your core values provides the “why” of your actions)
  • From problem solving to pursuing a purpose (you will feel unfulfilled if you don’t have a purpose, even if you are considered ‘successful’)
  • From bland to authentic communication (the ability to communicate the ‘why’ effectively and with emotion)
  • From a competitive to collaborative mindset (focus your problem solving on finding ‘win-win’ situations instead of playing a ‘zero-sum’ game where someone has to lose)
  • From managing to inspiring performance (VOCL readers/listeners know this as the difference between managing things and leading people)
  • From anger and resentment to forgiveness (it’s harder to forgive than to seek revenge, but you will find yourself in a more peaceful state of mind – I love the reference to Nelson Mandela)
  • From organizational performance to vision (“a real leader sees the organization’s mission as a purpose that creates a better future for customers and other stakeholders”)
  • From reactive to proactive organizational development (you have to develop, communicate, and live the core values of your organization – interestingly, this aspect loops back to the first point about a leader understanding his/her personal core values).

This is one of the longer articles that I have come across, but it provides great insight into the mental mindset that successful organizational leaders have.


What Do Leaders Choose To Put Into Their Heads? by Chris Haché at Voices of Canadian Leadership

Earlier this week, I had a very interesting conversation with someone who was ranting about the latest edition of the local radio station’s show during his morning commute.  This show features callers who have very different perspectives on life, complain about what the government (pick any level) has or has not done, what the neighbours are doing wrong – you get the idea.  It’s the kind of callers that radio ‘shock jocks’ dream about because they get people listening and talking about their show and the people that they feature.  Even though many people talk down about these morning shows, they still listen.  Otherwise, no one would be talking about it and the show would be pulled off of the airwaves!  Unfortunately, it’s like a car wreck along a busy highway – people should be focusing on the road ahead but they strangely feel compelled to take their eyes off of the road and look at the carnage.

As leaders, we cannot afford to choose to spend our time listening to these shows, for several reasons:

  • Leaders have a vision, much like a road – it’s not safe (or efficient) to get distracted by car wrecks.
  • “You are an average of the five people that you spend most time with” is a great quote by Jim Rohn – it speaks to the influence that your surroundings have on you.  This radio show does not help you become a better person, let alone a better leader.
  • You can only focus on so many things during the course of a day – time spent on this show is taking your focus away from other things that would bring value to your life.
  • Why aggravate yourself first thing in the morning?

Instead, you can choose to do something better with your time that would have been otherwise spent listening to that radio show:

  • Listen to podcasts.  These internet shows can be focused on very select topics – you could find several that match your particular interests. If you want niche shows specifically about health and fitness, science, entrepreneurship, or even leadership – it’s most likely out there as a podcast created by someone passionate about the topic.
  • Change the channel.  Something else (a news channel, music station, etc.) is a button push or knob twist away.
  • Turn off the radio.  You can take time to meditate, or reflect on opportunities and challenges that you are having in your life.

From the second that you wake up to the second that you fall asleep, you have many choices to make.  As leaders, we accept responsibility for our choices.  In this case, the person this morning chose to listen to the radio show, and thus by extension chose to get aggravated by its contents.

What about you – what do you choose to put into your head?

What do leaders choose to put into their heads?

VOCL Closing Thoughts / Future Episodes / Call to Action

What’s been happening:

  • Getting ready for the 2015 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference (GGCLC). Working on the tour right now – those who visit Nova Scotia will have an interesting tour!  Anyone interested in applying should go to leadershipcanada.ca – but hurry!  The deadline for completed applications is 30 September 2014.

Takeaways and introspection:

  • Rosalinde Torres talks about three questions that she asks herself when considering if someone is a great leader. What do you think?  Would you add questions?  Remove questions?
  • Manfred Kets de Vries talks about the eight leadership archetypes – which one are you? Are you purely in one category, or do you cross several boundaries?
  • Finally, what are you putting into your head? The fact that you are listening or reading about leadership tells me that you are well prepared to become a successful leader!

Call to action:

  • A little different this week – I want to you to go to the VOCL website, browse around, and give me your feedback. I’ll be happy to take positive feedback, but what I am really looking for is constructive criticism about how I could make the website better for you.  My website development skills have really improved over the past year, and I should be able to incorporate most requests!

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


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