Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

Leadership Oxygen

October 6, 2017

Khama

Inspiring examples of leadership are vital oxygen for individuals, organizations and communities. Seretse Khama’s life is a compelling story.

In 1925, at age 4, Seretse was named successor to his father as chief of the Ngwato people who lived in Bechuanaland, a protectorate of Great Britain. By design, his childhood education was in South Africa which prepared him to later attend law school at Oxford University in England. As he was about to return to his homeland in 1948, to assume leadership of his tribe, Khama caused significant controversy. He married Ruth Williams, a British citizen.

Because South Africans and the British were deeply opposed to inter-racial marriage, Khama and his wife were continually harassed by powerful governments. They lived in turmoil and exile for nearly 8 years. In 1956, so he could return to his birth country, Khama made an anguished choice to relinquish his role as chief. Then, as a private citizen, he negotiated a parting with England that launched the new nation of Botswana. In turn, the citizens of that independent nation honored their native son and elected him their first president. He served successive terms until an early death at 59.

Khama’s extraordinary personal sacrifice and clear vision ensured human rights and a multi-racial democracy.  He also delivered significant economic gains for citizens of Botswana through natural resource stewardship and universal free education. Today, his eldest son, Ian, serves the people of this African nation as president.

Check out the movie of this amazing man’s life and love: A United Kingdom. Based on the book, The Colour Bar, it has met with wide praise. Khama’s example reminds us that effective leaders are often required to endure hardship to achieve justice for others. His commitment and endurance are worth  imitating.

-Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed.D., leads Wyatt Advisors, a resource for effective people and organizations. See: www.wyattadvisors.com. Lisa is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. She has cross-sector and international experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relatively Better

September 30, 2015

lemonlime

The conversation I had with a board member of a deeply influential organization some months ago was troubling.

In that exchange, he described behavior of senior management as incompetent. Later, he said “But all these organizations are a mess.”

No Worse Than Jones

Relativism is a common discard. You can set the bar anywhere you want. It’s possible to rationalize almost anything by noting those who are also behaving badly or worse. Read this list and add to it the relative comments you have heard:

  • Nope, the Catholic Church has not done right by women. But, look at the Muslims.
  • Yes, teen pregnancy rates are terrible in Michigan. But, look at New Mexico and Mississippi.
  • While cronyism is common, it’s nothing like financial fraud.
  • Football and basketball coach salaries may be excessive, but look at Wall Street.
  • Air pollution is awful in California, but it’s nowhere near as bad as Pakistan.

Insecure people and brittle organizations rush to defend. Regardless of goodwill and constructive capacity, when a critical remark is made, one can expect a counter punch. Unskilled  managers wear an over-sized winner’s ribbon with an inscription proclaiming: “Not the Worst!”

Context Warp

Compensation is a typical yardstick to underscore relativism. Almost everybody looks “up,” rarely down or sideways at money. A bonanza for one man becomes the standard for another’s excess. So when the former president of Yale received an “additional retirement benefit” of $8.5 million in 2013, Columbia’s annual presidential compensation of $3.4 million looked nearly paltry. Does anyone ever mention the context is warped?

Now and then, we hear some contrast. Noting the “best in class” can be inspiring and motivating. It can encourage a different attitude, e.g., why can’t we? If New Hampshire has the lowest teen pregnancy rate, then what’s going on there we might need to learn?

While defending territory can be a common reaction to critical comments, a far more useful response are great questions. A learning attitude and listening ears are important assets. They both have the potential to support improvement which delivers, in turn, results. In serving a planned vision, leaders set standards by word and actions. Everything is not relative. It’s vital to have expectations for what’s right and what’s wrong, not simply what’s better or worse.

 Less Evil

Certainly, acting less evil isn’t the same as being virtuous. Regardless of whether others make the effort, leaders offer a principled example. Recognizing this and pressing for accountability requires important perspective: some people call it leadership.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

 

Courageous Convictions

April 23, 2015

tusk

In 1964, Dr. Irwin Schatz, was a new cardiologist who had completed medical school just a few years prior. He read the December   issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine and was outraged.

An article that described a syphilis experiment on uneducated African American men who lived in Tuskegee, Alabama was so startling he said, “I couldn’t believe what I had read… but the message was unmistakable.”

Researchers in the Tuskegee Clinical Study deliberately withheld treatment for a group of poor, Black sharecroppers. Of the 600 men enrolled in the study about two-thirds had already contracted syphilis. Although penicillin was known as a proven treatment for the disease, uninformed participants were told they had “bad blood” and the antibiotic was withheld. Those conducting the study aimed to observe the evolution of the disease in untreated human subjects.

For Schatz, this raised huge concerns about the denial of treatment, racial discrimination and morality. He wondered how doctors trained not to harm others could intentionally deny care. Dr. Schatz wrote a short, strong letter to the study’s author. He directly challenged the moral judgment of the Public Health Service and doctors associated with the effort.

At the time, Schatz was a young professional criticizing an investigation overseen by leading figures in America’s public health system. In 2009, he was honored for actions that were, “to say the very least, potentially harmful to his career.”

The Tuskegee Study is well known, now, as one of the first U.S. examples of flagrantly unethical and unacceptable human research. It was conducted over a period of 40 years and mirrored the medical experiment atrocities by Nazis during WW II. In the 1970s, Schatz’s letter was discovered. An investigation by the New York Times found the letter was received, shared with senior management, and its merit promptly dismissed.  His brief communication framed a vital national debate over patient’s rights and standards for human subjects. It also exposed the deeply destructive implications of racism.

“His style was that you just do the right thing and move on, then you do the right thing again and just move on,” said his son.

Dr. Schatz, 83, died a few weeks ago. His legacy offers us a great example: leadership requires courageous action grounded in clear convictions.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Play To Win

February 27, 2015

accountsign

“It often happens that I wake up at night and begin to think about a serious problem and decide I must tell the Pope about it. Then I wake up completely and remember I am the Pope.”

This comment by Pope John XXIII makes me chuckle. It also encourages personal growth.

In any organization, performance potential has a lot to do with accountability. It also has a lot to do with individual character and prevailing norms (or organization culture). Accountability is an attitude and it informs behaviors. Successful people and organizations are accountable.

A favorite author, Susan Scott, defines accountability as “a desire to take responsibility for results; a bias towards solution, action.” She writes it is “a personal, private nonnegotiable decision about how to live one’s life.”

In Fierce Leadership, Scott lists some signs accountability may be a challenge for you or your workplace.

  • People play to avoid loss.
  • Productivity and morale are poor.
  • Lack of clarity, lots of confusion, tunnel vision.
  • Nasty surprises and cultural frustration.
  • Bitterness toward coworkers, partners, and failed relationships.
  • Difficulty leading.
  • Rule-driven, dependency and justified victims.
  • Stalled strategies, initiatives, progress.

When people complain they want their organization to be authentic, focused, engaged, on the right issues…but explain it isn’t, then whatever “reason” is offered is an excuse. That person is articulating a belief and acting on it. They may signal earnestness and other manners of a gracious person but they are not a leader.

Accountability is a leadership attitude. It begins with individuals – regardless of title or position. It starts right now  with each of us. It’s not finger pointing at leadership because you are the leader. Leadership has a cost. It’s price is relative but always more than simple self interest. When people “hurt” their self interest to be accountable, you know someone is leading.

Scott points out a sophisticated and too-common version of finger pointing happens. People in “high places” often say, “I acknowledge mistakes were made here.” She says this technique is popular because the passive voice avoids accountability. The trite comment removes any actor. Mistakes are made by individuals – they don’t emerge from thin air. One of the important things about learning is the necessity of noting errors so they can be corrected.

So, this next week, skip the automatic responses like: run, hide, huddle and cover. That’s what animals do when fearful. Choose to build an essential habit. In effective organizations, accountability is a bedrock, pervasive value lived daily by every member.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Courageous Colleagues and Best Bosses

June 24, 2014

fishjump

I’ve had the chance to work with and learn from some really amazing people. I bet you have, too. Some of those who come to mind were bosses, some clients and others are valued colleagues.

Here are a few signs from those that make my “best” list and why:

1. He holds people accountable for bad behavior.

There are rules of engagement, reinforcement and enforcement. This person sets and carries culture. On his team and in their workplace “anything goes” isn’t allowed. He isn’t afraid to be the police, an example or the coach.

2. She is consistent in messaging, whether or not people want to hear the content.

This person will not whisper tailored private messages to curry favor. She acts in a way that unites and encourages. She is intentional about challenging the status quo because it will yield progress.

3. He never makes negative comments about others in conversation.

In contrast, he makes a point of finding ways to teach. He cites good examples and praises others. He is self-aware and confident so it’s not necessary to put others down.

4. She sometimes shares personal items about herself.

She is humble and able to make personal connections with people. She isn’t hiding who she is…She is genuine.

5. He is consistently honest.

While embellishing or comments framed a particular way to save feelings are common, people who serve their colleagues and teams create trust through reliable, candid, active communications.

6. She is accessible and has face-to-face meetings to resolve conflicts.

She manages priorities but dictates no hierarchy in getting her audience. Her intentions and actions have integrity. She’s willing to acknowledge differences and work with multiple perspectives.

7. He makes a decision and protects his people in public if it fails to work.

Someone you can trust has confidence and takes reasoned risks. This person will not send other’s into harm’s way. He is willing to own choices and consequences.

8. She actively seeks excellence and develops others.

Envy isn’t part of her playbook. She motivates others by engaging people’s talent, knowledge and experience. She finds ways for them to mature and supports transitions. She manages across and down. Her sole focus isn’t self and her own boss.

9. He keeps commitments.

Follow through is vital for credibility and he knows it. There’s no waffling or excuses. He does what he says he will do.

10. She asks lots of questions and spends time listening.

A learning leader is curious and inquires often. She believes others have a contribution to make. And, she knows understanding context is relevant to being effective.

These 10 examples profile behavior that indicate character – most reflect courage. It is the willingness to be afraid but to act anyway. Like you, my life has provided me with the chance to observe hundreds of people over many years. These days I can generally rely on a brief experience and some intuition to identify a brave leader.

Make courage your first virtue – it will serve you, others and your organization’s mission well.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Growing Leaders

November 24, 2013

plant

We live in a world where leadership is essential but in short supply. And, says Gary Hamel, once named the “world’s most influential business thinker” and a professor at the London Business School,  hierarchies get in the way.Regrettably, organizations and communities are not well served by pyramids. It’s because there is a lot of energy and competition spent managing up rather than collaborating.

Stalls & Lags Are Costly

In our complex world, change is constant and competition is ferocious. But, Hamel says, progress is often belated, infrequent, stalled or convulsive. Structures and cultures that rely on just a few individuals in a hierarchy take a long time to recognize both problems and opportunities. The scale of those problems and opportunities has to become huge before they secure any attention. Unfortunately, too late is often the same as failing. Concentrating lots of authority in a top few is problematic.

Structural Constipation

What minimizes the structural constipation? Build a culture that that supports those who add value, not competition for a “top spot.” In other words, create and incent a culture that rewards merit, competence, and accountability. These are fundamental features of a performance system in contrast to a political system. A performance system seeks progress; a political system seeks control.   Intentionally pushing authority and responsibility down can distribute it more broadly.

Hamel counsels:

  • Give people leadership skills that let them get things done – even when they don’t have formal, positional authority.
  • Train people to make the right kind of choices and hold them accountable for their choices.
  • Shorten the feedback cycle between decisions and rewards.
  • Seek peer-based feedback on what people really know and do.

These actions can grow our leadership capital. As challenges grow and persist, our organizations and communities desperately need more, better leaders – fast.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Setting the Leadership Bar

October 22, 2013

highbar

It’s the largest annual prize in the world.

And, the Foundation’s website is clear about selection criteria. You need to be a democratically elected African head of state that has left office in the last three years and demonstrated exceptional leadership. If chosen, you get a $5 million award, plus an annual pension of $200 thousand.

The Ibrahim Prize, established by Sudanese Celtel entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim, has set some standards for leadership in Africa. Standards are specified levels of performance which define expectations.  Across the world, and in the US we have standards for safety, education, manufacturing and for food quality. Professional disciplines, like evaluation and engineering, cite standards as a reflection of their maturity. Leadership has standards, too.

This year, for the fourth time since its inception in 2007, the Ibrahim Prize was not distributed. The aim of the award is to provide a financial incentive to African leaders to shun corruption. But, the Committee was unable to find a winner from any of Africa’s 50-plus countries. Ibrahim said, “We need to really point the finger at where the responsibility lies…Let’s put the light there and let us seek heroes.”

Fareed  Zakaria, CNN host of Global Public Square (GPS), covered this story recently. His analysis: “Africa’s leaders are locked in a marathon to see who can reign longest… a crisis of governance.” He says, many African countries have had the same men in charge for more than 30 years. While these and other states are “nominal democracies” their citizens experience dictators. Their elections and day-to-day culture includes intimidation, fraud, graft and violence.

Despite poor governance, some of the world’s fastest growing economies are African. The continent, according to Ventures Africa has 55 billionaires. There are also advances in education, healthcare, and poverty reduction. So, what’s the new wrinkle?  Zakaria notes that China is now Africa’s biggest trade partner. In contrast to the history of NGOs and Western countries which have tied aid to standards, China is willing to sign trade deals with no strings. This upsets a system which previously valued transparency, democracy and peace.

We know inept leaders and toxic politics can destroy nations, organizations, communities, and individuals. What leadership standards do you set for yourself and the organizations you support? What are the attributes and behavior of people you respect and will follow?

Don’t confuse leadership with a job title. Be ready to withhold the prize if nobody meets the standards. Otherwise, anything goes.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Dare To Be Different

April 15, 2013

fish

At 21, he worked at a poultry processing plan during college. After experience in nearly every role in operations, he was named general manager and supervised 500 people. Knowing what people did gave him a platform to understand their routines, challenges and risks.

“Leadership is getting people to exceed their own expectations,” says G.J. Hart, CEO, California Pizza Kitchen.The high-performing CPK chief focuses lots of attention on talent development. Earlier this year, he shared six leadership steps he relies on with the New York Times.

(1) Be the best you can be. You can’t lead anybody if you can’t lead yourself. Know what you need to work on.

(2) Dream big. Identify big possibilities and get started, now.

(3) Lead with your heart first. People respond to authenticity.

(4) Trust your team and help them grow.

(5) Do the right thing – always. Integrity will prevail.

(6) Serve the people on your team. Put the cause before yourself.

Hart, a Dutch immigrant, says his own style has evolved. Today, he’s more patient and tolerant. His most important tip? Courage.
“Any leadership role is about stepping out…having the courage to be different, because you have to be different to be a leader.”

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: http://www.pwkinc.com

The Leadership Olympics: A Gold Medal Model

September 24, 2012

 

 

 

Do you know who taught U.S. Senator John  McCain “a thing or two about courage?”

A woman, who last week, was the most recent recipient of a Congressional Gold Medal.

In the misty vapors of big politics, the Medal is an undeniable signal of approval.

Manage Fear

McCain, who spent six horrible years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, quoted Aung San Suu Kyi’s famous dictum in an emotional tribute to her:” It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”

Since the American Revolution, our Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions that will endure long past the achievement.The Medal requires an Act of Congress. It honors an individual – although not necessarily a US citizen.

Price Tag

The Gold Medal has often been awarded to those who serve the common good. Past winners include Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Jonas Salk and Rosa Parks. Notably, selfless heroism reflects the pinnacle of leadership but it always has a price tag.

In 1988, the brutal rule of a strongman who murdered protesters launched Myanmar’s difficult struggle for freedom. A remarkable woman, Suu Kyi committed more than two decades to challenging a repressive regime. She endured 15 years of house arrest in a shunning which completely restricted her speech and physical mobility. Although offered freedom in exchange for exile, she would not leave her people and their dreams of democracy.

Growth & Sustainability

In organizations and in communities, deficits in leadership affect sustainability.  First, because of intricate and growing interdependencies, weak or corrupt leaders have intolerable implications beyond their own sphere of influence. Second, because none of us has a grip on the macro trends that will deliver challenges we don’t anticipate. What is sure? The costs of poor leadership are failure, implosion, and decay while others, in a competitive world, make progress.

Aung San Suu Kyi gave up decades of her life for others. The NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote recently “few leaders now dare to throw caution and polls to the wind and tell people the truth about anything hard or controversial…Many won’t even give up a news cycle.”  His analysis underscores the patterns of political behavior that are deeply true and relevant: it is the fear of losing power that corrupts. He, like many others, thinks leaders are at their best when they dare to lead without fearing politics.

Courage Wins

So, how do any of us “honor The Lady from Myanmar in a way that really matters?”  Friedman suggests imitation. If you were fearless, what would you do?

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

Rowing Together

December 16, 2011

For most people, who you work for and how engaged you are at work matters hugely.

Anyone who has ever worked for a mature, skillful manager-leader fondly recalls and longs for that relationship, again. In contrast, people deeply dissatisfied in their jobs frequently report to someone who is simply misplaced, unethical, or vastly inexperienced.

 Collective Commitment

The “right” people in important roles make a vital difference. They can be particularly effective when paired with the unified and concurrent energy of your entire workforce. A thriving organization has robust employee engagement. I don’t mean corporate volunteerism, successful United Way campaigns or authentic celebrations although those can be useful indicators of vitality. I do mean everyone rowing in the same direction to achieve a specified result. We know alignment and integration are important but they require commitment or engagement – first.

 Glue & Grease

If you want your enterprise (or community) to thrive, new research by Doug Ready and his colleagues at the University of NC describes something they call “collective ambition.” Ready says two priorities are essential in generating collective ambition: the “glue” or collaborative engagement and the “grease” which is disciplined execution. Glue provides the culture and grease ensures positive change occurs.

Collective ambition has seven elements

  1. Purpose
  2. Vision
  3. Targets and  Milestones
  4. Strategic and Operational Priorities
  5. Brand Promise
  6. Core Values
  7. Leader Behaviors

It’s important that these are carefully integrated. In a circle, Ready puts purpose at the center and leadership behaviors on the outside “rim” to guide progress. The others occupy, equally, the space between purpose and the rim with relative targets and milestones for each.

Why should people come to work at your organization?

How can people pull forward – together – to build a future?

Answers to these questions inform collective ambition. They describe a compelling story of the organization’s future and the processes to build capabilities to achieve it. They ensure engagement translates the organization purpose as a personal agenda for your employees. A collective ambition forms the umbrella which allows individuals to fully participate.

 Make Like Montana

There’s no question that contributions of functional areas in any enterprise are meaningful and most potent when everyone sees and acts with the perfect power of synergy. A talented wood artist recently gave me a great example of the shared urgency and focus collective ambition can yield. He was describing the culture he appreciates in Wyoming and Montana. “Everyone there, he said, “runs towards the fire – to help their neighbor – and put it out.”

Employee engagement is a responsibility of capable managers who lead well. So, “Make like Montana,” it can ensure your organization soars in its performance.

 –Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com


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