Category Archives: Leadership

THE TWO FACES OF LEADERSHIP

The first face is heroic. It’s what leaders use to inspire and motivate, role-model behavior and express an enthralling vision. The second is more practical. It’s the face leaders assume behind the scenes as they preside over the processes that keep the organisation running smoothly. For their plans to succeed, leaders must face in both directions at once. The problem is that as leadership development ballooned into a global US$366 billion industry, it has fixated on the public face at the expense of the process-oriented one. Leadership is a hotter topic than ever, but its popular image only brings half the picture into focus. Star leaders should do the following heavy lifting in the background of their organization: scanning and sense-making, building and locking in commitment, handling contradictions, harnessing culture, and developing talent and capabilities. Scanning and sense-making allows leaders to reality-check their strategy. Building and locking in commitment to a strategy requires more than a dynamite PowerPoint presentation. First and foremost, generating consensus, or at least a good-faith acceptance, hinges on the level of openness involved in the process. Handling contradictions consists of trade-offs to help leaders cope with contrasting mandates, e.g. the need for hierarchy vs. the comparative agility of decentralized decision making, the wisdom of thinking long-term vs. the imperative to deliver quarterly shareholder returns. Harnessing culture occurs through indirection. Developing talent and capabilities encompasses more than spotting superstars in the making and giving them opportunities to shine.  Read More >>

AS THE CRISIS DRAGS ON, HERE’S HOW LEADERS CAN MAINTAIN MOMENTUM

Once upon a time, back in early March, many people expected that the coronavirus would place a temporary pause on normal life. People would be out of the office for a few weeks, kids would switch to remote learning for a bit, but then everything would go back to how it was. Now, three months later, it’s clear that we’re in this crisis—the public-health crisis and the ensuing economic one—for the long haul. It is important to make sure that whatever one is doing, one is acting in line within the values of one’s organization and personal psyche. This can be particularly hard in a crisis, when emotions run high, and stress takes a toll on people mentally and physically. Leaders should also be asking specific questions in the midst of a crisis because the landscape has likely shifted from where it was pre-crisis or even early on in the crisis. For one thing, risk may look very different than it did three months ago. Crucial in all of this is that leaders not overlook the human dimension of a crisis, which has been particularly acute during this pandemic. And business leaders should be seeking to help their communities these days.  Read More >>

COVID-ERA CEOs ARE ‘KEEN, TOUGH, OR EDGY’

Not all CEOs are created equal, but everyone can come out of this crisis stronger. Keen CEOs spend sleepless nights thinking about the new opportunities the pandemic has created. They search for acquisition targets, design new products and services, and negotiate with suppliers and other partners to create new win-win arrangements. To them, the key challenges are keeping their team’s creativity up in times of remote working, reproducing as much as possible face-to-face interactions online, and retaining talent. The second category – tough CEOs – downplay the impact of the crisis on themselves. These executives consider themselves coolheaded leaders who are determined to persevere and lead their organisations to a better future. The main challenge for these leaders is to find the time, discipline and will to lead their organisations through the crisis. They consider protecting employees’ well-being and helping them stay productive their top priority. Edgy CEOs reported considerable levels of stress and anxiety, so we call them edgy. Their top concerns are the fate of the business, the health and well-being of their families, and their personal mental and physical health. They struggle with staying energized and motivated. They tend to focus on pressing issues, leaving strategy and institution building for better times. Personality seems to play a role too. The keen leaders whom we interviewed came across as optimistic, energetic and highly resilient. Most tough CEOs were self-confident, strong-willed and somewhat authoritarian. Edgy leaders often doubted themselves and their ability to navigate through the crisis. They expressed negative emotions and showed vulnerability. To lead effectively in what is likely to be a multi-year crisis, CEOs need to adjust how they think about their role and how they go about playing it. They need to motivate and enable their teams to learn and perform to ensure the renewal and sustainable development of their business. To achieve these objectives over the long run, leaders need to become more resilient. Finally, no CEO, however resilient, is immune to the novel coronavirus. Having a designated and trained successor or deputy ready to stand in for the CEO whenever necessary is more important than ever before.  Read More >>

HOW TO APPLY EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE TO YOUR LEADERSHIP

When it comes to building strong, lasting relationships with clients and team members, it’s time to start thinking like CEOs but under a different definition: Chief Emotional Officers. We business leaders are often trained to focus on data, numbers, and “hard skills.” As leaders, we must equally engage our other skill sets, to focus on the skills of emotional sensitivity and empathy. It’s these “soft skills” that are crucial to cultivating psychological safety — the sense of trust and well-being that helps teams thrive. These skills can’t run on autopilot. They require self-awareness and intentional behavior. The following is a model that can help leaders build these skills: the AAA Model for Cultural Agility. It consists of three steps: aware, acquire, and adapt. Aware. Reflect on your own state of mind, biases, and assumptions. Acquire. Ask questions. Explore and engage with others. The information you gather should help you to understand where others are coming from. Adapt. Bridge the difference by adapting new behaviors and mindset. We can all be Chief Emotional Officers. It just takes daily intention and practice. Remember “AAA” — aware, acquire, adapt — and the title can be yours.  Read More >>

OVERWHELMED? ADOPT A PARADOX MINDSET

With lockdowns closing schools and offices around the world, it’s become commonplace to see dogs and kids barge into business meetings as the boundaries between work and life have blurred. A seamless balance is impossible. We have to do both – work plus managing our lives, our spouses, kids, pets and home – all at once.  Doing both depends on our ability to adopt a paradox mindset, to consider the world with a “both/and” approach instead of an “either/or” one. In times like these, times of change, uncertainty and scarcity, we need to do many tasks together. And people need to feel comfort with discomfort – these hurdles aren’t going away.  The paradox mindset suggests an alternative perspective, accepting and learning to live with the tensions associated with competing demands. It is an understanding that these competing demands are not really resolvable, in the sense that they can’t be completely eliminated.  A paradox mindset can be cultivated.  In the current crisis, a paradox mindset won’t solve every problem, but it is a helpful and relevant way of thinking.  A paradox mindset allows us to look at the challenge, understand the need to adapt and uncover a different way of working.  Read More >>

HOW TO TURN ADVERSITY INTO ADVANTAGE DURING TIMES OF CRISIS

None of us are experts. None of us have all the answers. We are all feeling immense uncertainty and none of us are truly in control, really.  You cannot solve a complex, multi-step equation in your head. You need to be able to isolate variables, simplify pieces that can be simplified, think differently about terms inside versus outside the parentheses. You can only tackle one thing at a time.  In the business world, we talk about the power of networks—strong ties that provide us with deep connections, weak ties that provide us with informational flow. This has most often been applied to getting you the job/contract/opportunity you’ve been looking for. But extend this further.  Don’t let guilt get in the way of understanding and being a part of humanity.  There are going to be drawdowns, low points, periods of depression and anxiety. We are all being impacted differently, which means that we are all going to need to handle this differently.  If you’re the leader of a large organization, what are the two or three things that really made your first 5 to 10 customers passionately fall in love with your product or service. That’s where you’ll find your North Star, which will allow you to dust off old things or seek out new oceans.  Look for inefficiencies. Where are we lacking, where are things not operating as efficiently or as effectively as they could? There were inefficiencies that existed before this pandemic, and there are new efficiencies that have cropped up since. The ones that come to my mind immediately are things like supply chain issues, deliveries and goods out of stock.  Write a different story, with a different story angle, based on who you are and your before-and-after viewpoint before this tsunami uprooted all of our lives.   Read More >>

IS YOUR INNOVATION PROCESS A CORPORATE ILLUSION?

There are six common blind spots that severely constrain the performance of innovation labs. Research and Development accelerators and incubators have generated poor innovation results and poor investment returns. These blind-spots are weak navigational direction, a focus on tweaks and enhancements, a lack of credibility with the corporate core, the mismanagement of the fear associated with disruption, the failure to reconcile mindset differences, and sheer impatience. The best way to fight the effect of these blind-spots is to leverage team diversity and facilitate leadership capabilities.   Read More >>

Start-ups: The Founding Team Is a Real Magic Bullet

The majority of new ventures fail prematurely.  A lot of this failure is due to a lack of collaboration within founding teams.  Important, early decisions are prone to conflict. Examples of these decisions include funding, development, etc.  Because tensions are so high, investors often look at the team-dynamic as much as the start-up product itself. Strong teams can overcome and navigate turbulence, leading them to success.  Founders of start-ups are in a unique situation, as they can build and craft their whole team from the ground-up. Teams should be made of both unique skills, and people with interpersonal skills.  The culture that the originating team sets usually lasts long after the staff rotates out.  Read More >>

Your Work Friends and Enemies are Affecting your Performance

Conflict may appear to be two-sided, but this is not usually true.  The basis of most conflict at work is tryadic: when there are three parties involved.  The third party is often the key to relieving tension and restoring balance. When employees feel socially balanced at work, they tend to perform better.  Researchers from Northwestern University, Harvard Business School, and University of California teamed up to discover how social triangles change over time.  They ruled relationships into four categories: a friend of a friend is a friend, a friend of an enemy is an enemy, an enemy of an enemy is a friend, and an enemy of a friend is an enemy.  If all four rules are satisfied in a tryad, the tryad is balanced. There are two possibilities for this, which are when all three people like each other, and when two friends have a mutual enemy.  Balanced relationships are important because employees tend to make better and more profitable decisions than when they are in an unbalanced situation.  Read More >>

What You can Learn from Being Asked to Resign

Being asked to resign can be an incredibly painful experience.  However, dealing with this confrontation can lead to insight of how the company is doing, and what is going wrong.  Many people asked to resign are caught off-guard, and receive criticism. This honest constructive criticism can lead to one’s future success.  While alarming at the time, constructive criticism is a gift that allows one to listen to others’ concerns and re-evaluate one’s own actions. Listening and allowing oneself to be vulnerable will help one bloom into future jobs, or keep the ones they already.   Read More >>