Posts

How do I become a better leader?

Recently I was asked, “How can I be a better leader?”
My thoughts returned to a childhood memory…
As a child I remember having a kaleidoscope. With each simple turn of the kaleidoscope a new beautiful pattern appeared. Hence the name for a group of butterflies, as they flutter around together – a kaleidoscope!
Kaleidoscopes constantly generate changing symmetrical patterns from small pieces of coloured glass.
In a similar way a kaleidoscope can symbolise anything that changes continually. Consider leadership!
“Trying to describe leadership is like having several viewers trying to compare what they see in a kaleidoscope when the mere act of passing the kaleidoscope shakes up its design.” Neal A. Maxwell.
Growing older, I am beginning to see that life can be like a kaleidoscope. We can get shaken up from time to time. By pausing, slowing down, reflecting and looking inside our kaleidoscope of life and holding it to the light – beautiful new patterns emerge.
Sometimes however, we play the busy card and don’t stop long enough to see the beauty appear.
So it is with the kaleidoscope of leadership. Endless patterns, endless models, endless ideas, endless determining factors constantly shifting and shaping our leadership styles.
What matters most are the constant principles that create the most respected leaders – namely; 𝒍𝒐𝒗𝒆, 𝒌𝒊𝒏𝒅𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒔, 𝒑𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒆𝒏𝒄𝒆, 𝒎𝒆𝒆𝒌𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒔, 𝒉𝒖𝒎𝒊𝒍𝒊𝒕𝒚, 𝒉𝒐𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒕𝒚, 𝒇𝒐𝒓𝒈𝒊𝒗𝒊𝒏𝒈, 𝒄𝒐𝒎𝒎𝒊𝒕𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕, 𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒑𝒆𝒄𝒕, 𝒔𝒆𝒍𝒇𝒍𝒆𝒔𝒔𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒔 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒐𝒃𝒆𝒅𝒊𝒆𝒏𝒄𝒆.
So you want to become a better leader?
Then I suggest you focus on each of these character traits. In turn each will produce a kaleidoscope of beauty, no one can eclipse.

Frustration

What frustrates you?

Frustration: “…the feeling of being upset or annoyed as a result of being unable to change or achieve something.”

I know that an upside of frustration is that it tells you that you still have some important lessons to learn in a specific area.

Are you like me? Gripping a few prickly problem perhaps? You try extremely hard to resolve the issue yourself. Then anxiety and stress start to build. We become our own worst enemy, when infuriatingly despite our best efforts, we can’t resolve the matter. Grrrr!

I was like that for a little while on Saturday morning. What was this huge grizzly challenge? Of all things – a wooden gate! My woodworking skills aren’t amongst my top abilities and my stubbornness meant I wasn’t for listening to any suggestions either.

Yet, sometimes a rescuer comes along and helps. With patience, kindness and tender words, they help you to see things differently, offering alternative solutions to the issue at hand. The answer can only be received if you humble yourself, set aside your pride and listen!

As the tension subsided, working together we resolved the matter. Gate fixed! Thank you to my darling wife, for her forbearance, restraint and composure to deal with grumpy old me. Lesson learned, again!

Shortcomings – do you have any?

Shortcomings – do you have any?
“A fault or failure to meet a certain standard, typically in a person’s character, a plan, or a system.”
I haven’t met anyone who is perfect yet, have you?
We all have our limitations, one of life’s greatest challenges is accepting those limits.  Frequently we may not want to appear weak, sometimes, personal pride or even a stubborn heart can get in the way.
No matter what your own weaknesses are, there is a way to change your shortcomings and turn them into strengths.
As you find the courage to wake up to your weaknesses, you have to be willing to admit to yourself that you are not infallible, that you have faults, failings and limitations and humbly accept that you are not perfect. In turn, this will lay a foundation for progression.
In many coaching conversations, I have found that when someone shares with me they have a shortcoming, a weakness or a flaw, then that first step of recognition is a giant surge forward, a massive leap of admission and progress is made.
Overcoming shortcomings is possible.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.”
It takes time, humility and practice. So, how about you?

Accountability 1984!

Yes – that’s me, I was 19.

It was November 1984 and I was in my first leadership role, working in Luton, England. Every month our team would meet together and the principle of accountability was front and centre.  We held each other responsible for the success and failures of the month gone by. As an extremely young and enthusiastic team leader, I decided that I’d spice up the accountability reports! Not only did I hire an American Footballers costume, but I adopted the hype and persona of a typical player! Yes, hard to believe that mild mannered old me, has an extrovert crazy streak running through me (thanks dad!). Subsequently, I recall (and my journal entries confirm) that the monthly reporting session was a tremendous success, even although the numbers and KPI’s themselves weren’t the best!

Our Actions

Through many experiences over numerous years and in a multitude of leadership roles I’ve served in since then, I’ve learned all too well, that “It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.” Moliere.  Actions or lack of action even, almost always have consequences.

The dictionary defines accountability as: “Someone who is accountable is completely responsible for what they do and must be able to give a satisfactory reason for it.” Accountability then has to do with one’s exercising his own will in making decisions and following a course of conduct. It implies self-initiative and a measure of self-reliance. But it requires more than the ability to act for oneself. It must be guided by a knowledge of true principles.

In my home, family, community and business life, I have learned that true principles of accountability, are essential for success. So, what are these guiding principles of accountability?

Take Ownership.

  • No matter whether you succeed or fail, it is much, much better to take ownership of the responsibilities given to you. Simply stated, people want to know who is responsible for certain actions and who is accountable for the consequences of these actions. I’ve failed on numerous occasions, but I can also choose to pick myself up, dust myself down and get on with starting over.

Build Trust. 

  • Little by little, day by day, follow up on actions, be responsible, live your personal values and do what you say you are going to do.

Be Honest. 

We live in the most difficult of times and also the most amazing of times. It is absolutely critical to be truthful, honest, moral and ethical in all of your dealings at home, at work and in the community. To be anything different will cause you grief, heartache, misery, pain, leading ultimately to failure and despair.

Have Fun. 

  • No matter how difficult the challenges may become (and oftentimes they will), carry with you a sense of humour that will allow you to see the bright side of things even on the darkest of days.

Be Humble. 

  • In a recent article Humility vs Pride I suggested that “Humility is selfless not selfish. In fact I believe that humility is being authentic without any pretence or arrogance. It is really about being true to yourself and knowing your limitations, from the inside out.”  see – https://www.darylwatson.org/2019/05/13/leadership-essentials-humility-vs-pride/  I believe that a humility builds loyalty and responsibility.

Take Time. 

  • The most effective accountability moments are held one by one. Whether that is with your children in a personal interview, or with your boss or a subordinate in an important conversation. Be aware of the importance of taking time to do that. In Paterson etal’s “Crucial Conversations” there are numerous tips and ideas about how to make the most of those critical accountability moments.

My early attempts at motivational accountability in 1984, taught me valuable lessons about being present, in the moment and having some fun at the same time. Throughout the ensuing years, I’ve had to sit through some pretty tedious accountability interviews and meetings, some of my own doing too (thankfully only a few!)

I’ve found that consistently following these simple guiding principles will build great relationships over the long term.  In closing remember this quote from Thomas S. Monson; “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates!”

Wisdom

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” – Albert Einstein.

Day in, day out, I work with leaders. I know many good leaders, in fact great ones. Conversely, in my 30 year career, I have also met others who have been mean and condescending, whose motto was simply “Its my way or the highway” as they say. Perhaps you have met someone like that?

I believe that wisdom is crucial to the field of great leadership.

Simply stated, wisdom is the ability to use your knowledge and experience to make good decisions and judgements. However much you might want it, wisdom is not something that you go out and get. It’s something that you must be open to receiving. It’s also something that comes not only through success, but failure too.

What then are some of the characteristics I’ve observed in wise leaders?
– They are self-aware
– They love people
– They serve others
– They are selfless
– They empower others
– They work hard
– They know their why
– They are trusted
– They are kind
– They are humble
– They are compassionate

Leadership is a way of behaving, whereas wisdom is a way of thinking.

Who do you know who are wise leaders?
What do you need to do to become more like them?
Are you becoming a wise leader?

Leadership Essentials – Humility vs Pride

“Pride is your greatest enemy, humility is your greatest friend.” said the late John R.W. Stott.

In many of my coaching conversations these last few weeks I have become increasingly aware of the dangers of pride. In turn, I have spent some time reflecting on my own situation and simply invite you to do likewise.

Today, I want to sound a warning voice. Simply stated……..beware of pridewe must be alert and we must be on guard against the perils of pride. I’m not talking about the glow of pride you feel as your daughter receives an award, or upon graduating from University. Rather, this form of pride is much more insidious, crafty, cunning and sneaks up on you, creating a lofty and arrogant assumption that you are somehow superior in some or indeed many respects, before you realise it is even happening.

“There is one vice of which no man in the world is free,” C.S Lewis remarked, “which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people….ever imagine that they are guilty of themselves…”

Try this little self test.

  • Are you critical of others?
  • Do you look down on others? Do you scorn or ridicule them?
  • Do you find yourself critiquing many things your boss or colleagues share, thinking you can do much better?
  • When you do something good, do you hear a little a voice inside congratulating yourself?
  • If someone corrects a mistake you made, do you feel defensive and resentful?
  • Do you find ways to let others know of your success without appearing to boast?
  • If someone you know receives something good, do you hear a voice inside saying, “What about me?”
  • When someone does something that creates inconvenience for you, do you feel annoyed.

These points were all adapted from an article by Kim B. Clark, but I’d like to echo his sentiments and sadly confess that I have first-hand experience of the questions asked and could go on. A heartfelt sincere asking yourself these questions, is like peeling back the layers of an onion, there just seems to be more and more.

Lifetime observations help me to conclude that positions of authority, leadership and power can lead to pride and unrighteous dominion. Economic prosperity can somehow and oftentimes does lead to pride. Pride is all about selfishness, looking inwards and thinking – its all about me. Somehow, it is much easier to see pride in others, than it is to see it in yourself. Proud people are pretty resistant and everyone else is the problem. Looking at the news from around the world these last few years it is brutally evident to see examples of the dangers of pride in some of the political and business leaders on the world stage. In addition, pride and arrogance are obvious in many of todays political leaders, whether liberal or conservative, making matters much worse than they need to be. In my opinion, pride is very, very dangerous and can produce widespread suffering in society when people in leadership and power are corrupted by it.  Further, there is an overarching culture in society today that simply states…. “its all about me”. Sadly, I’m sure many will recognise that malaise. Pride’s family of behaviours includes conceit, self-righteousness, boasting, selfish ambition, showing off, vanity, and impatience.   Thankfully however there is a powerful antidote…..All of these can be replaced by cultivating humility.

Humility. These day I guess it’s an unfashionable word. The dictionary defines humility as “modesty” and “lacking in pretense”, but that doesn’t mean humble leaders are meek or timid.

Ezra Taft Benson shared “Humility does not mean weakness. It does not mean timidity. It does not mean fear. A man can be humble and fearless. A man can be humble and courageous.” I also love this anonymous quote that states: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking about yourself less”. Humility is selfless not selfish. In fact I believe that humility is being authentic without any pretence or arrogance. It is really about being true to yourself and knowing your limitations, from the inside out.

In Harry M. Jansen Kraemar’s book “From Values to Action” he dedicates a whole chapter (4) to genuine humility as one of the principles for values based leaders. He states “you recognise the value in everyone; you know you are no better than anyone else; and the higher you move up the organisation, the more you stay grounded.”

In a Harvard Business Review article from a few year ago, it states that “The Best Leaders are Humble Leaders” https://hbr.org/2014/05/the-best-leaders-are-humble-leaders

In addition to the four suggestions made in the HBR articles I’d like to ask further – how do we cultivate humility?  In our own consultancy, the first of our strapline words is Reflect. As I have written about previously, I am an avid journal writer. By chronicling in my journals what goes well and what could have gone better enables me to learn from my actions. Over many years of doing this I’ve discovered that there is always room for improvement.

I have been fortunate to work with many humble leaders over many years. It has been my experience that humility inspires loyalty, it also helps to build and sustain cohesive, productive teamwork. Jim Collins was a fan of CEOs he saw demonstrating modesty and leading quietly, not charismatically, in his bestseller Good to Great. He called these CEOs Level 5 executives.

Collins found Level 5 executives built enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. They channelled their egos away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. At a deeper level, he found that for leaders to make something great, their ambition had to be for the greatness of the work and the company, rather than for themselves.

Humility, like other virtues, can be developed. We can actually become more humble if we focus on appreciating the strengths of others and serving them, on being teachable and admitting our mistakes. We need…… no, we must continue to share this message in our homes, communities and business organisations to better prepare those who lead now and in the future.

Final Points to Ponder….

  1. What are some ways I could recognise pride in my speech, my attitudes and my actions?
  2. As outlined, humility is the antidote of pride. How can I develop humility?