Kofi Annan spoke to truth to power. He was unerring in his commitment and advocacy for peace and well-being for all human beings. We may not stand on a world stage as he did, but we can bring the essence of his leadership to life in the actions we take every day, and by so doing, also lead for the world.
Much has been made of the transition from expert to manager. In Rising to Power by Eric Hansen and Ron Carucci, the authors shed light on the hazards and adaptations leaders need to undertake as they assume the mantle of authority.
Not nearly enough leaders are looking to the impact of automation on job losses, including their own. Yet it’s not just that - we have a culture of blame to navigate too. How do you stack up? Are you disposable? Or indispensable?
When it comes to leadership, connection with others is the most crucial skill. Yet we don’t focus nearly enough on it. This makes us disposable at worst, replaceable at best. Connection has one key component to make it work best.
The pivot point that shifts isolation to connection
I watched the afternoon sun light up the autumn tree leaves like a ballerina ablaze. It was magical! There was no fanfare, no trumpeted procession. Just nature expressing itself in full glory, boundless.
I’ve spent a lifetime in love with nature. I’ve had some profound personal experiences face to face with the Great Mystery: northern lights and their ghostly swirls above a remote wild lake, serenaded by loons and their haunting soulful cry. I’ve spent many summer afternoons staring out to sea, bedazzled by the diamond sparkles.
I see dead trees on arid Australian landscapes as frozen dancers, a shadow of consciousness, expired and retreated. Like a tide that comes in, swirls about, and ebbs away.
I feel the breeze and marvel at its invisible touch, sometimes gentle, sometimes fierce and ferocious.
Hanzi Freinacht has written a fantastic book, The Listening Society: A Metamodern Guide to Politics Book One, on adult development and why it matters. He lays out an analysis of the various leadership development models and adds a few other layers of development needed. His main point is that development matters. We need to develop our mental and emotional capacities in order to contend with the world we have created. We need to develop our inner dimensions to keep up and manage the complexities of what has evolved in our various cultures and economic systems.
In this brief video I give you an overview, and then a practical strategy to get started: morning routine.
What would cause a professional sportsperson to risk their career with ball tampering? When did winning become more important than integrity? How does one let a decision like this stain their moral fabric?
We’ve seen this before of course. Who could forget Lance Armstrong when he finally confessed to drug doping on the Tour De France, with the explanatory, “Everyone does it.” The argument was that it’s not a fair playing field if you don’t dope.
It’s amazing what we will justify if we don’t have a strong moral code. In my new book, Loyalty, I explain how the best cultures, the most consistent and enduring ones, have a Culture Compass to which they hold themselves accountable. They know their values, they know the behaviours that line up with those, they know their purpose and who they serve, and they know what results they want to produce. They have a system and a practice of building the Culture Compass into their recruitment, induction, and regular team engagements.
Every once in a while an elephant shows up. You know, the thing that is blooming obvious, but no one wants to talk about.
Like the fact that Uncle Fred drinks way too much and smells of urine. Or Susan spends more time socialising on Facebook than she does doing the accounts. Or the boss’s right-hand man – the ‘Golden Boy’ – has tantrums that keep everyone cowering behind their desks and taking really, really long lunches – out.
What do you do? If you say something, then what started as something uncomfortable may become a Major Issue. If you pipe up about smelly Uncle Fred, then the family is going to have to deal with alcoholism. If you point out Susan is wasting company time, you may become the tattle-tale. If you complain to the boss about Golden Boy’s tantrums, then maybe you’ll get the sack.
Our fears of creating even more uncomfortable feelings keep us paralysed.
Losing good staff is a serious bummer. It’s disruptive and costly. Our Boundless Team falters as we scramble to fill the void left behind. As a leader, it’s hard not to feel hurt and betrayed by someone we value deciding to leave. The default is to simmer with resentment and blame them for lack of loyalty.
If we don’t ask, “Could I have done anything differently?” we miss an opportunity to improve. The first area to look at improving is an underrated one: recognition. It’s a simple thing to implement, with astounding results.
Let’s face it, when we finally get that role we've been seeking as leader in an amazing organisation, we can’t wait to get our hands dirty and put our stamp on the place. After all, that’s why they hired us, right? To bring new perspective from different experience. We’re meant to improve things. They expect change.
One of the things that holds leaders back from reaching their highest potential is lack of capability. We need to be growing and learning constantly to keep up with the transformation of work today. Not learning, not growing. Not growing, we’ll be left behind.
Books are one of the best ways to immerse ourselves in the world of ideas and gain new skills quickly. Below are my top favourite books I have sent to clients to help them with their productivity, strategy, and influence.
I flipped to a page in my journal from some time ago where I’d listed my worries of the day. I remember them feeling huge and overwhelming. Getting them out on paper is always my go to strategy for stress management. I recall they still felt onerous, even down on paper.
Months later, nothing had turned out as badly as I thought it might. The consequences happened. But there were no long-lasting ill effects. I moved through the crisis.
It’s confession time. I would much rather have positive feedback than constructive. I’ve been working on this preference for years now. I *know* that constructive feedback helps me improve, shows me what I cannot see myself, and offers the pathway to elevated performance.
I know this and I teach this.
And goddamit it still bloody well hurts!
Being able to to give and receive feedback is probably the most important leadership conversation we can have. But we can get all bent out of shape about doing just that.
We are working on Big Things this year with all my clients. The energy of stepping up and leaning in is rife and dazzling.
Big Things need Big Ideas to bring them to life. Here’s what’s on the table for captains of industry, mavens of business, wizards of enterprise. These are the folks who are going Boundless - achieving more with less struggle. They are busting blocks, bridging gaps, and sailing past the headland to wild seas beyond. These are the Big Ideas they are using to keep them steady through turbulence.
In this last week leading up to the holidays, I wanted to share my heartfelt gratitude for YOU! For reading my newsletters, for sending me comments, and for doing the gritty hard work of leadership. It takes so much courage to stand up and be seen and heard, to choose to make a difference, to nudge the world forward in a better way, even with naysayers, critics, and our own inner demons.
The office Christmas party: loathe it or love it? It is a universal principle that end of year celebrations are done to foster good company culture.
This is mostly true. Our workplaces are modern tribes, and a tribe needs a sense of purpose and moments in time to know that we are progressing towards that purpose. End of year parties provide an opportunity to pause, reflect, and celebrate.
Engagement and interpersonal relationships form the core focus of my work with teams. I’m obsessed with dissolving barriers to workplace results and relationships. Morale is often a casualty of things gone wrong.
A workshop participant asked, ‘is there anything I should or should not do when it comes to encouraging positive workplace morale?’
Let’s look at an example to tease out the solution. Consider one of your workplace first day stories. Do you remember what it was like arriving in to a new workplace? What happened in your first interactions? Were they inspiring? Energising? Or cold and depressing?
In my experience, how you start is how you go on. And in this we discover the secrets of morale.
In exploring beyond boundaries, boundless, there have been many experiences of letting go. To explore a life in Australia, I left my culture, community and family behind in Canada. I let go of the known to seek out the new.
Boundless Leadership has at its core the premise of expansion and growth. It has the energy of seeking, of evolution.
Within that concept there lies another one: expansion is not uni-directional. It has movement backwards and forwards. Boundless Leadership is an oscillation between limitless possibilities, and returning to the core of who you are, and the fabric of your being.