We live in a time of enormous change, great uncertainty, and even tremendous hardship for some, and its not getting better. Most people’s lives have been impacted in some way by the financial crisis after 2008, and even more by the cycle of seemingly continuous crises since then. Grexit, Brexit, refugees, terrorism, election shocks, world-wide we are jolted from one crisis to the next, all seeming to converge into one endless spiral of looming disaster.
The one thing that has been at the centre – and has impacted directly each and every one of these crisis’ – is leadership, and very often even, the lack of it! Be it the big banks, the tech companies, Greece, the UK, Russia, the US and Europe – leadership is in crisis.
Leaders themselves, are responding and showing up in very disappointing and even shocking ways. At a time where we had hoped that leaders had learnt from the mistakes of the past, many seem to be hell bent on making choices that lead to even bigger mistakes and catastrophe. Each time we think that it cannot get any worse, it actually does.
The thing is, do we not expect our leaders to be leading us out of crisis?
Steve Jobs will most probably go down in history as one one of the greatest business leaders of the last 100 years. When people talk about Steve, a couple of themes always come up, for instance: his visionary brilliance, his belief in making the impossible possible and his ability to communicate this in such a way that the people who worked for him believed themselves that it were possible and moved everything to achieve that.
Often, people who equate leadership with strong management, fault Steve Jobs for manipulating people to do his bidding and achieve his vision. From their point of view, his team could only have been manipulated against their will to deliver the impossible. That Steve Jobs was a hard task driver is no secret, but it is not how he drove, controlled or manipulated his staff that ‘made’ them achieve the impossible, it is how he motivated, inspired and empowered them to believe in that it was possible, and believed in this so strongly that they actually moved heaven and earth to make it happen.
Great leaders inspire and empower their people to do exceptional things because they believe in them as well as in him.
When I ask participants on workshops which leaders they admire themselves, Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela most often get a mention. For some, however its a lot easier to name the worst leaders than the great leaders.
What is fascinating however, is that who we admire as leaders also tells us a lot about ourselves and our own leadership style. Its a simple way of finding out where you are right now and what you aspire to. Not everyone in the world is destined to be the next Mahatma Ghandi or Nelson Mandela, however we can draw inspiration from them and with conscious reflection, develop our own version that fits our own situation and challenges.
I remember one participant stating his admiration for Vladimir Putin, and yes, over the next days it became clear that this person aspired too be seen as strong and tried to achieve this by being very dogmatic, controlling and inflexible.
In their book Strengths Based Leadership, Tom Rath and Barry Conchie used a Gallup poll to identify the concepts that people seek in leaders before being able to follow them. In a nutshell, they summarise the 4 main concept clusters as Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope. This defines the impact a leader needs to have on others before they are willing to stand up and follow voluntarily.
Compare for example the message that Barrack Obama based his campaign on in 2008: Yes We Can resonated worldwide. And it can easily be translated back into these 4 concepts. Now compare these concepts to the message that Donald Trump uses in 2016, and the impact is very different. Make America Great Again, plays on fear, xenophobia, name calling and bullying to cajole or manipulate voters to believe in his message of a future stability.
It is fairly easy to understand why so many people worldwide were turned off not only by his style of leadership, but also by the people he seems to appeal to.
It is then also simple to understand that these values are what differentiate authentic leadership from the various forms of manipulative leadership styles we have experienced throughout history.
The impact of leadership is that people follow and support of their now volition.
So how can we as leaders improve the impact we have on others? Leadership development is about building awareness and consciousness for the choices we make. For how we behave, wether instinctively or after reflection, how our consciousness, attitudes, thoughts and emotions influence these choices and behaviour. And most importantly how to consciously choose to have a different impact on others, by actively influencing all these variables.Is leadership for me?
However, regardless of who you lead, a sports team, a Fortune 500 Multinational organisation, a country, or simply a family, the value principles demanded from the Team Captain to the family mother are all essentially the same.
A professional coach has no expectations of his or her clients, but approaches and serves them where they are in life, as they are and how show up. Most clients are focused on their private lives or their careers, the roles they play in their respective organisations and to lead within their organisations.
Some clients however, hold themselves to a higher cause, and believe they have a greater role to play in leadership than just to, for example, lead their respective organisations or political units. They are passionate about their purpose in life, about making a deeper contribution to society or the world, and to stand up and meet the challenge of this calling.
They consciously want to develop their awareness, leadership skills and abilities to have the greatest impact they can and on as many levels as they can.
To help leaders meet this higher purpose and challenge, developing an even deeper level of awareness and consciousness is required. It also requires working with additional tools and models to facilitate this.
So if we reflect on this, if we had stronger conscious leadership in the world at the turn of this century, with less leadership focused on the sole purpose of maximising personal wealth, our world would have been a very different place for everyone.
1. They have a highly developed consciousness and awareness of themselves, their authenticity and their higher purpose in life. They consciously strive to align their purpose, values and passion with their choices and what they stand for.
2. They inspire and enthuse individuals and groups to be and achieve what they would not be able to on their own.
3. They live the concept of selflessness and humility to make it about empowering people and not about themselves.
4. They care about people, and create an environment where people can be respected and trusted and in turn respect and trust others. People follow them out of respect and trust and not fear and control.
5. They acknowledge and motivate people, not just as a tool to drive performance, but as recognition of the their value as people and the contribution they can make
6. They inspire creativity and innovation and empower people to become creative and innovative.
7. They have a very strong sense of responsibility and understand what it means to support their people and what it means to be able to say that the ‘Buck stops here’.
8. They have the clarity of vision and open communication to give direction and purpose to each and every team member, individually and as a team, able to align people behind their vision and direction.
9. They have the passion, dedication, and tenacity to develop their clear vision into clear success and results that benefit all, and not just a few.
10. They have the ability to be calm and flexible, unattached and reflect on choices and challenges, letting go of opinions and ideas that do not serve their ultimate purpose.
11. Their passion for people helps them create and develop businesses, communities and systems that serve the people and not limit or disenfranchise people.
12. They are able to communicate with people in an understanding and respectful way, bringing simplicity and clarity to issues that serve to build understanding, trust and cooperation
13. They engender curiosity and not only really listen, but actively seek out differing opinions and perspectives from their own to continuously increase their own knowledge, ideas and understanding.