Friday, 21 October 2016

S-A; for some a blessing; for others a curse.

Regular readers will know that I am biased towards character over competence when it comes to essential leadership qualities.   I speak frequently of accountability, integrity and passion as leading traits of those who inspire others to the accomplishment of mutual goals and objectives.

Fundamental to these leadership qualities is an often overlooked and poorly understood art.  And it is something which can be either a blessing or a curse.  I speak of self-awareness.

The best explanation of self-awareness that I could find expressed it this way.
Self-Awareness is having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. Self- Awareness allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment.  

The reason that the best leaders rate highly on this trait is because they are confident enough to go through the self-examination process and admit weaknesses.  They are then willing to work on improving these areas.  As a result, they continue to improve their overall leadership quotient and they enter a phase of continuing improvement.  The more they are willing to change and improve, the better they become.  The better they become, the more confident that they are in looking deeper. Thus they are blessed by their efforts.

Poor leaders go through the process and then deny their weaknesses. These leaders typically respond in one of several ways.

Some simply bully.  Rather than accept a need to change, they forcefully impose themselves on others.  As is true with most bullies, they are masking weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Some will get defensive.  Objective feedback that is critical of the leader provokes an agitated and angry response.  The walls go up rather than down.  It becomes a case of self-preservation at all costs.

Some will become controlling…or more controlling.  By focusing on the details and micro managing, it is easier to ignore the elephant in the room. 

Some become passive-aggressive.  These people abhor confrontation and so they will say or do whatever it takes to side step the issue.  They hope that by offering tacit agreement to an issue that it can be subsequently ignored and forgotten.

Others will become grandiose.  By embellishing the situation they feel that they can overwhelm the character trait(s) that needs attention.  They try to become bigger thus making the issue at hand smaller.  We know this as the ‘emperor’s clothes’ response.

Finally, they deny or make excuses.  By pointing fingers, playing the ‘blame game’ or trying to humiliate others, these people will do whatever they can so as to not face the truth.

Any of these responses demonstrate the curse of self-awareness.  If you are unwilling to address that which requires a remedy, the disease just continues to eat away.  There cannot be a cure until and unless there is treatment of the symptoms.

Do you have the courage to proactively practice and positively respond to the issues that self-awareness will expose? No one knows you better than yourself.  You can be your most accurate critic and your best encourager.  But there are consequences.  

The best leaders welcome the challenge and endorse the process!

A blessing or a curse?  It really just boils down to your response.    

Friday, 14 October 2016

This little light of mine.

Case A

I received one of those emails from Nigeria announcing that I had won a lottery.  All I needed to do was to send $1000 in advance to cover the legal charges and then the millions would be deposited to my account. 
Like most other ‘winners’, this email went straight to the trash file.  I recognized the poorly disguised attempt at a cash grab.  In North America we call it fraud.  Elsewhere it may be considered business as usual or simply buyer beware.  If the perpetrators were found here, the full weight of the law would punish with both hefty fines and significant jail time.

Case B

I read about the issue at Wells Fargo Bank and the creation of thousands of fake accounts and credit cards.  Apparently there was a serious executive driven mandate to grow ‘sales’ and this led to the unauthorized creation of these accounts.  Management and executives knew about the practices but used the statistics to convince the stock market and other shareholders that the strategic plans that they had put in place were exceeding expectations.  As you might expect, the stock value responded well to these representations and those in positions of authority were richly rewarded.

When this issue came fully to light, over 5000 employees were dismissed for their roles in the fake account scandal.  Subsequently, the President of the retail branch and the corporate CEO have been forced out.  Sadly they have had to forfeit $19 million and $40 million respectively in bonuses earned on the basis of these fake accounts.  Both will still leave their positions with compensation packages that exceed $100 million so there will be no need for tag sales to support their retirement.

Help me understand the difference?  In Case A, the actions, while unscrupulous, are done in such an unsophisticated manner that the likelihood for any substantial success was relatively low.  Yet we would have no difficulty in prosecuting those behind the scam if we could manage to get them into our jurisdiction.

In Case B, the actions were systemic and clearly designed to deceive even sophisticated investors.  The ultimate beneficiaries were those already receiving outrageous compensation packages.  And yet, just as during the financial meltdown that precipitated the current economic malaise in which we find ourselves, the real criminals are being allowed to walk away free and unfettered; reputations may be tarnished but bank accounts are preserved.

The US election is demonstrating just how tired voters are of the political ‘establishment’ and the entitlement attitude that prevails in Washington.  It will be interesting to see how much longer it takes for the same level of disenchantment to take hold in the corporate world before these fraudulent ‘leaders’ are treated like the common criminals that they really are.  From my perspective it is long past time.

The Takeaway

Positions of authority come first and foremost with a higher degree of accountability.  I don’t discriminate this level of accountability on the basis of your scope of responsibility.  If you lead a team or a division or a company, you are still in a greater position of influence than those who report to you.  Your conduct is always the gold standard for them.  

Poor examples abound. Use your opportunity to shine.  We need more lights in this area that is too poorly lit by the entitled.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

"...second fiddle..."

As I reviewed the recent Vice President’s Debate, I was struck by how much more accomplished, or at least palatable, these two candidates were when compared to their Presidential running mates.  Americans, and frankly most of the rest of the world, wish that there were better choices for President.  The debate provided some small comfort in knowing that the person in the second fiddle seat is probably better suited for the office than either of the primary candidates.

What about in your case?  How strong is your second fiddle?  Have you the confidence of leadership to actually groom someone who may be your equal?  Do you have the resolve to install a successor who could be even better than you?

The fact of the matter is that this is a difficult task but a necessary one.  The most effective leaders know and understand the consequences of poor succession planning and therefore face this issue head on.  The less effective ones prefer to build a legacy at which all will wonder in awe and only hope that the second seat will learn to grow into the position when the torch is passed.

The irony is this.  Those who build an organization that is passed on to a poor successor will not be remembered for what they built, but rather for the regression that occurred afterwards.  In contrast, the leader who valued the company over their ego will be remembered as the consummate builder because things continued to grow, despite their absence.

Regardless of the significance of the position of leadership you hold within your organization, you are the maestro, you are the conductor responsible for ensuring a smooth transition to the next…to your successor.  How well you do this speaks not only of your competencies as leader, but even more importantly, of your character.