Empowering the Leader Within

by Olaojo Aiyegbayo

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Copyright Notice: This entire work is copyright 2010 by Olaojo Aiyegbayo and released under the terms of a Creative Commons U.K. (England and Wales) Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/). Some Rights Reserved. The main photo is attributed to stevendepolo. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/3860985606/sizes/o/in/p hotostream/)

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This is a collection of several short leadership blog posts written by Olaojo Aiyegbayo in 2010 and compiled as an e-book. This document can be printed. If you like these leadership articles then visit www.horebinternational.com/blog for more posts. You can also subscribe to have them delivered directly to your email box on the website. Horeb International’s mission is to empower you to succeed as a leader in both professional and personal contexts. You can contact the author at ola@horebinternational.com If you enjoy this e-book then please pass it on to colleagues, friends and family. Don’t keep it to yourself, share it with others!

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Table of Contents
T.E.A.M .................................................................................................................................................... 5 Developing your Leadership Potential .................................................................................................... 6 Walking the Path ..................................................................................................................................... 7 Leaders as Coaches ................................................................................................................................. 8 The Leadership Context .......................................................................................................................... 9 Recognition vs Contribution ................................................................................................................. 10 Creative Leadership 1 ........................................................................................................................... 11 Creative Leadership 2 ........................................................................................................................... 12 Creative Leadership 3 ........................................................................................................................... 13 The Leader as Change Agent................................................................................................................. 14 Leveraging Influence ............................................................................................................................. 15 Putting the Horse before the Cart ........................................................................................................ 16 Reaction vs Response............................................................................................................................ 17 The Law of Buy-In.................................................................................................................................. 18 Reframing Responsibility ...................................................................................................................... 19 Using questions effectively ................................................................................................................... 20 Silence & Solitude ................................................................................................................................. 21 Dealing with Critics ............................................................................................................................... 22 The Price of Inflexibility......................................................................................................................... 23 Under Pressure ..................................................................................................................................... 24 The Leadership Pipeline ........................................................................................................................ 25 The 2 Headed Dragon (part 1) .............................................................................................................. 26 The 2 Headed Dragon (part 2) .............................................................................................................. 27 Recruiting the Right Team .................................................................................................................... 28 Management by Wandering Around .................................................................................................... 29 The Power of Empathy.......................................................................................................................... 30

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T.E.A.M
Most of the literature on leadership focuses on identifying the types and traits that make successful leaders. There is limited focus on followership. Yet without followership, there is no leadership. One of John Maxwell’s favourite leadership quotes is, “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.” Robert Neuschel said that “The sine qua non of leadership is to recognize that accomplishments can be made only through your people.” This is because people are the primary work materials at a leader’s disposal. A leader’s followers are his team and as part of the team; it is his or her responsibility to make the team greater through his/her leadership presence. A leader who makes his/her leadership all about ‘me’ instead of the ‘team’ destroys the unity of the team. A perfect acronym for team is ‘together everyone achieves more’ but divided they end up with less. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but this is dependent on both the leader and team working together or singing from the same hymn sheet. Team sports provide great illustrations of the ‘me’ vs ‘team’ situations. Michael Jordan is widely regarded as the greatest basketball player to ever play the game. He was the superstar leader of his Chicago Bulls team, winning individual accolades such as four straight NBA scoring titles but no championship trophy to show for it. His coach, Phil Jackson, realised that Jordan’s spectacular individual performances were harming not helping the team in its quest to win NBA championships. Yes, he was winning individual scoring titles but he was not the complete team player. This is because he was trying to do it all by himself and hence stifling the team from contributing their best. Great teams, not individual superstars, win championships. Jordan, as a good leader, agreed to sacrifice his personal ego for the team’s greater good. He would go on to win six NBA championship trophies and establish his place in basketball history because of his willingness to be a better team player. An effective leader is a good team player.

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Developing your Leadership Potential
Everyone has leadership potential but few are willing to develop it. Why do so many people waste their leadership potential? I believe that another reason is the price that such personal development demands. It is hard work to develop your leadership potential. Think of it as a muscle. Now consider the price involved to develop a muscular framework. The amount of time you have to spend in the gym and constantly watching what you eat are just two key costs of having a toned body. You have to endure some pain in order to build your muscles. The ‘perfect’ body requires a disciplined lifestyle; likewise you can’t develop your leadership potential without the discipline of hard work. Effective leaders make the art of leading seem easy. The masses are distracted by the simplicity of their leadership that they fail to spot the discipline that sustains it in the background. We are all tempted to think that we can do a better job if we had the type of luck they had. They focus on the luck and forget the discipline. All the exemplary leaders who left a great legacy behind had two things going for them – they were ‘lucky’ to be at the right place at the right time and they were very disciplined. Carl Zuckmeyer was spot on when he said that “half of life is luck (or providence); the other half is discipline – and that is the important half, for without discipline you wouldn’t know what to do with luck.” Developing your leadership potential lifts you above your peers who shy away from both the responsibility and discipline. The people who are willing to pay the price eventually earn the privilege to lead the rest.

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Walking the Path
In the movie Matrix, Laurence Fishburne’s character, Morpheus, said to Neo (Keanu Reeves) – “There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” This quote can be linked to the change process. We have all experienced the difficulty of walking the path. There is a big difference between knowing what to change in a personal or organizational context and successfully implementing that change. In an organisational context, leaders need to sell the change initiative so that their subordinates can buy into it and implement it. Followers take their behavioural cues from their leaders and watch them to see if their change rhetoric matches their action. Any inconsistency between speech and leadership behaviour creates an atmosphere for mistrust. Both the leader and his change initiative suffer the impact of this inconsistency. Leaders need to model the change they are selling. They need to walk the path if they want others to follow them. Most of the time, leaders can see the intended destination before their followers are aware of the race. They don’t have to have been to the Promised Land but they need to be able to lead the way to it. Leaders’ decisions and actions shape organizational culture, therefore, it is important they set the right example for their subordinates. Unless the leader is modelling the changed behaviour that he/she wants replicated in the organisation, things are not likely to change very much. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “what you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.” Applying ‘The Pareto Law’ (80/20 rule) to any organizational change initiative means that there is a key 20% component that will determine the success or failure of that change initiative. Determining and communicating that 20% to the entire organisation is the leader’s responsibility. This is because if the unnecessary is not distinguished from the essential, the workforce will be overwhelmed by the irrelevant. People need specificity or they wouldn’t implement any desired change successfully. Leaders need to ask themselves if they are living what they are selling? If there is a mismatch then they should either start selling something else or start living the change.

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Leaders as Coaches
Leadership is a people oriented affair. No matter what your leadership vision is for your family, church, business or organisation; it is your responsibility to develop and release the potential of those around you – your team. A leader’s legacy is dependent on the quality of people he leaves behind when he is no longer in that leadership position. The best way to develop those around you is to coach them. Good leaders are good coaches. They have developed their abilities to spot and harness the strengths and talents of their team members. Leadership is not about solely being the best but about bringing out the best in the people around you. A sports coach is always not the best player of the sport but he has the skill sets to bring out the best in his players. He has developed his skills to read the game and his players, as well as their opponents. He knows his team’s strengths and weaknesses and how to maximise their strengths and improve their weaknesses. If you believe you have good people around you, then it is your job to make sure they become better as a result of your leadership influence. There is great amount of dormant potential in the people around you and you can’t have an enduring legacy if you are not willing to coach your people to become the best. Some leaders abstain from coaching their team because they lack the skills or falsely assume that their people should tackle this responsibility themselves. Leadership is not about barking orders at your people and leaving them to swim or sink, it’s about empowering them to become effective leaders and coaches in their own right. Coaching requires you to give your people the right responsibilities to challenge them and the right feedback to empower them to grow. You can’t give what you don’t have therefore as a leader you also need to get a coach as well as develop the skills to be an effective coach but I assure you the rewards are great in the long term.

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The Leadership Context
Context matters! A lot of leaders sometimes falsely assume that because they are successful in one context, they will automatically be successful in another leadership context. Leadership experience and skills are not always transferable because what worked in one context will not always work in another. It is important as a leader to know what contexts you thrive in. There are some contexts that play to your strengths and you are superstar when you operate in such contexts but there are some contexts that you lack the experience and skills to function effectively. Ulysees S Grant (1822-1885) was the General-in-chief of the Union Army during the American Civil War and he led the Northern Army to victory against the Confederate States army. He was a brilliant and successful general, as well as a great leader of men. He was encouraged to campaign for the US presidency as a result of his military successes which he won comfortably in 1868. Though Grant would go on to have two terms in the White House, he was however unable to transfer his successful leadership experience in the military context into a successful political presidency. A brilliant judge of character and recruiter of talent as an army general, Grant selected poorly as a president and he suffered dearly for it. He tried to run the White House like he ran the army by recruiting former military subordinates instead of better qualified politicians. He simply lacked the necessary political skills to lead the nation yet had enough to successfully lead the US army. Grant’s presidential tenure is regarded as one of the worst and most corrupt in US history. Before jumping into an unfamiliar context, it is important to identify what you have {or don’t have} to be successful and effective in that new context. It is not impossible to transition into another different leadership context but you have to be willing to invest the time and effort required to master this new and unfamiliar arena.

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Recognition vs Contribution
What are your motives for leading or wanting to lead? Are you recognitiondriven or contribution-driven? Recognition-driven leaders usually put their self interests before that of the organisation or the team. Such leaders’ selfish desire for power and glory takes precedence whereas contribution-driven leaders submit their self interests to serve the organization or team they lead. Robert Greenleaf referred to such selfless leaders as servant leaders. One of the taglines for the 2002 Spiderman movie is that “with great power comes great responsibility”. I believe that leadership comes with great responsibility, whether you are influencing just one person or a billion people. But your motives will determine your actions and behaviours therefore if you pursue leadership with the wrong motives; your leadership decisions and actions will have negative consequences. It is important that we are always conscious of the things below the surface that guide our leadership ambitions and actions if we are to make a positive impact and leave behind an enduring legacy.

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Creative Leadership 1
I would like to conduct two thought experiments to illustrate the power of creativity for leaders in an increasingly complex world. Scenario A, imagine I present you with a jigsaw puzzle as a gift. I mean one with lots of small pieces. The type that comes in a box with an image on it which the small pieces are meant to look like once fitted together. Do you think you will be able to put them together with relative ease? In scenario B, I simply present you with lots of small jigsaw pieces without the box and the image on it. Now do you think you will be able to put them together with relative ease without the picture on the box to guide you? I suspect not. In the first scenario, you need a high degree of logic and perseverance to succeed while in the second scenario, you need a high degree of creative imagination to be successful. Scenario A is relatively straight-forward and predictable because you have the picture on the box to guide you. Scenario B is unpredictable, ambiguous and complex because you are presented with all the pieces without the picture and hence have to deduce the whole from the fragments at your disposal. Leaders are confronted with more Scenario B challenges than Scenario A ones. They are finding out that what was predictable and straight-forward in the past is not so anymore. We live in an information rich world and leaders, like the rest of us, are simply overwhelmed by the amount of data they have to process. It takes great creative skill to filter the information flood in order to separate the essential from the irrelevant. Leaders have to make educated decisions on the basis of their interpretation of these pieces of information. They have to spot future trends that can affect and disrupt their organisations. Art Fry said that ‘the creative mind doesn’t have to have the whole pattern—it can have just a little piece and be able to envision the whole picture in completion.’ The rules of the game are rapidly changing and only forwardlooking creative leaders and their organisations will survive in the coming years and during the global recession.

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Creative Leadership 2
Joyce Wycoff defined creativity as the act of “seeing things that everyone around us sees while making connections that no one else has made.” This involves seeing the problem or challenge from different perspectives. Goethe said that “the hardest thing to do is to see what is right in front of your eyes.” This is the reason why creative leaders have primed minds and open eyes. They find ways of staying mindful of the problems or challenges that confront them while staying open to the unexpected. It’s amazing how easy it is for us to miss the obvious solution that is in front of us because our focus is on something else. This is the reason why it is essential to look at our problems with fresh eyes and perspectives. We all intuitively assume that we “see” everything in front of us but this is not always the case. This is a mistaken intuition. Arien Mack, a psychologist at the New School in New York, defines this as ‘inattentional blindness’. This is the inability see things that are in plain view because we are not attentive to them. Humans have limited capacity for attention which limits the amount of information we can process. Creativity is shackled by self-imposed constraints. Our internal frames of references can be psychological blind spots which prevent us from seeing creative solutions to our problems. Human perceptions and seeing are guided by habitual frames of reference, hence it is important to test your assumptions and internal frames of reference. It is sometimes difficult to solve a problem because we make incorrect assumptions that prevent us from seeing the solution. Our assumptions distort our perception of both the problem and the solution. You need to have fresh eyes to be creative. Seeing the world from the same perspective limits you to the same solutions. If you keep solving problems the same way you have always done, then you will keep getting the same results you have always got. Therefore the key to freeing our minds lies in developing an ability to identify such constraints and deliberately removing them. How a problem is defined can determine the solutions that we get hence the creative solution to any problem starts with asking the right questions. Leaders need to train their eyes to spot opportunities and their hands to seize it.

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Creative Leadership 3
I believe that leaders need to acquire fresh eyes to see the creative opportunities and solutions that surround them. Creativity is not always about running with the first solution or idea that occurs to you, rather, it’s searching for a better one. This is because most of the time, the first idea or solution is not usually the best one. It is hard work to dig deeper for more ideas because the natural default is to settle for the first ones. Creativity demands perseverance. Thomas Edison, the famous inventor of the light bulb and who is widely regarded as a creative genius, said that “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”. This also applies to creativity. Creative leaders may make it look easy but there is a lot of sweat and toil involved. According to Michael Michalko, a distinguishing characteristic of creative individuals is their immense productivity. They tend to produce a lot more good ideas than their counterparts but they also produce more bad ideas as well. They are prolific; discarding the bad ideas out of the large quantity of ideas that they produce and retaining the good ones which are presented to the general public as solutions or products. Thomas Edison at the time of his death in 1931 held 1,093 patents which is still a record for one individual. His immense creative output was as a result of setting idea quotas for himself. This required him to come up with a minor invention every 10 days and a major invention every 6 months. The art of thinking creatively became habitual for Edison because he had trained his mind to think at a higher level as a result of the challenging idea quotas he set for himself. The mind is quite elastic but only if you stimulate and challenge it. We live in a world powered by ideas, hence, leaders need to emulate Edison by setting idea quotas for themselves as they seek to move their organisations and teams forward. You will only really grow as a creative leader when you set challenging, measurable and specific idea goals that stretch your mind.

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The Leader as Change Agent
The most consistent thing in the 21st century is change. We simply can’t escape it. It occurs so quickly that leaders and organisations have to be adaptable or risk becoming increasingly irrelevant. Leaders are expected to be change agents in their organisations. They are required to instigate and implement change initiatives that improve the effectiveness, competitiveness and profitability of their organisations. Change initiatives usually fail because leaders fail to account for the role of transition in implementing them. Change and transition are sometimes used interchangeably but they don’t mean the same thing. William Bridges in his brilliant book, Managing Transitions, clarified the difference between both terms. Change is situational while transition is psychological. He metaphorically described change as a wall and transition as the gate in that wall. Transition is the process through which people come to terms with the disruptive nature of change. It involves going through three key phases in order for people to accept any change initiative; (1) The ending: This involves letting go of the comfort of the present to embrace the unpredictability and uncertainty of the desired change initiative. The way things were for the way things can be. Every change is a consequence and every change ends something. Leaders’ concern for future benefits of desired change programs sometimes prevent them from seeing their subordinates’ difficulties in letting go of the present to grasp the future. This is why they may face stiff resistance in response to new change initiatives. (2) The neutral zone: Everything looks uncertain and confusing in this middle phase because people are adjusting to letting go of their past realities and warming up to embrace the change initiative. People are in a state of limbo and leaders need to support their people as they struggle to make sense of their new state. Critics, sceptics and cynics will pose the greatest threat during this phase. The leader must continually sell the benefits of the change initiative because if the people don’t buy it, then they will not embrace it wholeheartedly. (3) The new beginning: People finally embrace change initiative and start to demonstrate new behaviours required for it to be successful. They still need time and support from their leaders in order to fully internalise these new attitudes and core competencies. Punishing initial mistakes at this stage will only traumatise the people and hinder their growth and development.

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Leveraging Influence
There is a major misconception that only people with titles are leaders, so if you don’t have a title e.g. CEO, General, Pastor, Professor, then you are not a leader. A lot of leadership that goes on in the world is done by people who have no formal leadership titles, but yet are bringing about change in their communities, cities and countries. John Maxwell believes that leadership is influence and the Oxford Dictionary defines influence as the ability to affect someone’s beliefs and actions. Barack Obama won the 2008 US national elections courtesy of a number of factors, but influence was a critical factor. Before he secured the title role of President, he was a lowly ranked junior senator from Chicago. All the other contending senators in the presidential race such as John McCain, John Edwards and Hilary Clinton were ahead of him in terms of seniority. He was not as powerful as they were but became more influential than all of them as the race progressed. Obama’s speech as the Illinois State Senator at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 put him on the political map and he was able to leverage the influence he gained after the DNC convention to successfully win the US senate seat and eventually the US presidency. He was able to connect with the masses who desired political change from the Bush era and presented himself as the best candidate to bring about that change in the government. He maximised social media technologies to increase his influence with the electorate and empowered enthusiastic supporters to spread his change message virally. They helped him reach their sceptical family members, friends and colleagues who were unsure of his leadership credentials. Archimedes said “give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world”. Using his metaphor, I will argue that effective leadership is the lever that moves the world and influence is the fulcrum which sustains it. Influence can be used to bring about positive change or abused with detrimental consequences. The leader has the responsibility to maximise the influence invested in him for the greater good of his followers. Influence is hard to gain but easy to lose because it is based on the currency of trust. Hence the moment a leader loses influence; his leadership credibility and authority starts to wane.

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Putting the Horse before the Cart
The demands on a leader’s time are infinite but his/her time is finite. The ability to maximise finite time is essential for both personal and professional success. Leaders should aspire to be both effective and efficient in executing their responsibilities. It is, however, important to know the difference between these terms because some leaders don’t. This knowledge prevents such leaders from putting the cart before the horse. Effectiveness is defined as doing the right thing; while efficiency defined as doing things right. It is possible to be efficient but not effective. You can be doing things right but doing the wrong things right. Efficiency focuses on performance but effectiveness is focused on priorities. You need to know your priorities first before taking action. This prevents wasting both time and energy on tackling the wrong things. Effectiveness requires both careful thought and sufficient time to determine what the appropriate priorities should be at any given time. Due to the demand for results, leaders sometimes, in the haste to appear efficient, take impulsive actions without due diligence producing disastrous results. According to the late management guru, Peter Drucker, the effective leader asks, “What needs to be done versus what do I want to do?” Focusing on what needs to be done helps clarify your priorities from distractions. There are a lot of things on a leader’s plate, but in order for him to be successful, he needs to isolate the critical from the frivolous. I read a long time ago that you can’t chase two rabbits at the same time because you end up catching none. Effectiveness enables you to decide which rabbit to chase and efficiency helps you catch the chosen rabbit. Drucker, in his June 2004 Harvard Business Review article, stated that “I have never encountered an executive who remains effective while tackling more than two tasks at a time. Hence, after asking what needs to be done, the effective executive sets priorities and sticks to them. Other tasks, no matter how important or appealing, are postponed. However, after completing the original top-priority task, the executive resets priorities rather than moving on to number two from the original (to do) list. He asks, ‘what needs to be done now?’ This generally results in new and different priorities”. It is important for you as a leader to know that doing things right is not as important as doing the right things.
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Reaction vs Response
I mentioned in a previous article that most business or leadership plans rarely go according to plan, but effective leadership is needed to deal with both foreseeable and unforeseeable disruptions. Unplanned disruptions cause stress and the choices a leader makes when his best laid plans go astray define his leadership. Does he have a plan B when plan A fails? Leadership choices in moments of crises usually fall in two categories. Does the leader respond or react to the stress? The difference between response and reaction is control. Reaction is automatic while response is considered. A leader reacting to stress is controlled by his emotions which are usually of the negative kind, while the one responding is controlled by his rational and thoughtful mind/self. Emotions are powerful behavioural drivers but if allowed unsupervised control, they can run riot. It is easy when things are not going a leader’s way to assume the role of a victim and look out for scapegoats for failed plans. Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great, talks about the window and mirror principle. Poor leaders during crises react by looking out of the window for people other than themselves to blame for the failure of their well laid plans. Good leaders look at the mirror and take responsibility for the failure of their plans because they realise the buck ends with the leader. Hilter was a leader who looked for scapegoats when his war plans started to fall apart during the final years of World War 2 but when Germany was winning, he claimed all the glory as the tactical genius. The serenity prayer believed to have been authored by the theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, is a perfect mantra for the control/crisis dilemma that leaders confront. This prayer popularized by the Alcoholics Anonymous states that: God, grant me the serenity To accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference.

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The Law of Buy-In
It is interesting that people will rather follow a person who they believe in but has a mediocre vision than a person who they are not sure of but who has a great vision. This is a result of the law of buy-in. According to Mike Walton, leaders need others’ buy-in to succeed in the twenty-first century. He defines ‘buy-in’ as the understanding, commitment and action in support of the leadership goals and vision. The ability to influence people’s thoughts and feelings, to generate their buy-in is a required leadership skill. Before people will believe in your leadership vision, they first have to believe in you. You can compel people to follow you by virtue of your position, but if your leadership is solely dependent on just your position (of authority) then you will struggle to get buy-in. Some leaders believe that if they have a great vision then people will automatically follow them. This is rarely the case. People need to first believe in the vision caster before they can believe in the vision. This is the reason why venture capitalists look beyond the business plan in front of them to the man or woman who is pitching the business plan. They need to be confident that they buy into the leadership ability of the entrepreneur because they are not only backing the business plan but the entrepreneur executing the business plan. Most business plans never go according to plan so this is where the entrepreneur(s)’ leadership ability to deal with potential disruptions is critical. The leader is first and foremost the message before his vision. Buy-in is based on the leader’s credibility with the people. This is the reason why trust is a leadership currency. If the people don’t trust you then they will not buy into your leadership vision. John Maxwell states that “you can’t separate the leader from the cause he promotes. It can’t be done, no matter how hard you try. It is not an either/or proposition. The two always go together”.

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Reframing Responsibility
I would like to draw a leadership lesson from the life of Moses in the Bible. The Book of Exodus narrates a story of how God got the attention of a shepherd named Moses by using a burning bush. He investigated this strange occurrence of a bush burning up but yet was not consumed by the fire. God then directs him to go to Egypt, a superpower at the time, to tell Pharaoh to release all the Israelite slaves. This was an audacious directive for a simple shepherd who was also a wanted man in Egypt, having murdered an Egyptian about 40 years earlier. Moses naturally came up with several excuses as to why he was the wrong man to lead the Israelites out of bondage. He was overwhelmed by the enormity of this leadership responsibility so he requested that God get a better candidate for the job. Moses failed to see the opportunity in the directive because all he saw was the responsibility. God was offering him the opportunity to lead men but he was content to simply lead sheep in the wilderness. A number of people avoid leadership assignments because of its attached responsibilities but fail to spot the tremendous opportunities inherent in these assignments. This perceptual problem has prevented many leaders from seizing the opportunity to move up the leadership ladder because of a lack of self confidence. Sometimes you need to trust that those offering you these leadership responsibilities believe in your leadership abilities. God saw the leadership potential in Moses which he failed to recognise in himself. Leaders, especially new ones, should learn to reframe responsibility from being a burden to being an opportunity to stretch and grow their leadership skills. Moses obeyed God by taking on the leadership assignment and he would go on to become one of the greatest leaders in Jewish history.

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Using questions effectively
A leader’s ability to effectively ask questions is a powerful tool. A leader can maximise the use of questions in two key areas of his leadership. I will talk about the use of questions for creative purposes in this post and deal with the second aspect in another post. Leaders are required to be problem solvers hence the reason why they are in charge. You need creativity to solve problems but creativity is kick-started by curiosity, which is built on by asking the right questions. Insight comes from the willingness to ask the right questions. Most breakthroughs originated from questions that others missed or ignored. A lot of problems remain unsolved because the wrong questions are being asked. An effective leader looks out for the right question because with the right question{s}, a problem is half solved. Children are famous questioners because they are open to possibilities and curious to know more. As we grow older we avoid asking obvious questions because we fear appearing stupid before others. Children have no such fear nor should leaders because questions enable us identify and fill our knowledge gaps. There are empowering questions which get the creative juices flowing and demoralising questions which hinder insight. It is up to us to use them wisely. In any given day, we ask ourselves countless questions and these questions are used to evaluate our options. According to Anthony Robbins, successful people tend to ask better quality questions and as a result get better answers. This is because our questions are determined by our thoughts, which influences our actions. He further argues that the main difference between people is dependent on the type of questions they ask themselves and others consistently. Hence if you ask a terrible question, you will get a terrible answer. Questions direct our perception. They are like a laser beam which concentrates our focus. Wrong questions provoke worry but the right ones provide wisdom.

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Silence & Solitude
Leaders are very busy individuals. They have the responsibility and burden of delivering results through the effective management of human {and other resources}. This level of busyness pushes out the time for silence and solitude in the life of a leader. Yet without it, a leader is toying with burnout. Silence and solitude provides a much needed opportunity for a leader to recharge his batteries, refocus his priorities and reflect on his decisions. It is easy to get sucked into the vortex of busyness as a result of the pressure to deliver results. The fact that you are busy doesn’t always mean that you are productive. The hamster running around the spin wheel in a cage is busy but only running in circles, likewise, a car spinning its wheels in the mud is busy but it is not moving forward. Silence and solitude enables you to stop spinning your wheels and consider alternative approaches to solving your problem. I don’t know about you but I am guilty of not consistently injecting required periods of silence and solitude into my busy schedule. I have noticed that my most insightful moments are usually during these limited periods of silence and solitude. I tend to operate best when I have a reflective time to ponder things through. My mind is able to calm down and I am able to see the woods from the forest. Silence and solitude allows you to rise above the minutiae of leadership in order to focus on the big picture. We live in a fast paced world that demands we are on call and on the ball every waking second but sometimes it is necessary to unplug and get some me-time. A lot of leaders are active but not productive hence they are not effective leaders. This is because they fail to carve out time for silence and solitude. Metime is not selfish; it is necessary if you are going to last as a leader. Effective leaders are not ultimately judged by how busy they were but how productive they were. This is because they create time in their busy schedule for silence and solitude.

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Dealing with Critics
I will draw my leadership lesson from the Bible and focus on Jesus. On your leadership journey, you are going to have to deal with critics. They have nothing constructive to contribute to your vision but their goal is to hurl stones at you with the intention of halting your momentum. There is a time to answer your critics but there is a time, like Jesus, to keep quiet and ignore them. ‘The leading priests accused Jesus of many things. So Pilate asked Jesus another question, “You can see that they are accusing you of many things, aren’t you going to answer?” But Jesus still said nothing, so Pilate was very surprised.’ (Mark 15:4-5). Your critics win when they successfully get you to become defensive and distracted. Learn to focus your attention on the main things and not get sidelined by their comments or accusations. Constantly defending yourself before the wrong audience drains you of much needed energy and attention for your leadership priorities. Your critics win if they succeed in distracting you from your vision, hence, don’t give them the satisfaction. Giving them attention usually empowers them to come after you but ignoring them starves them of the attention they crave. Don’t waste your energy on the wrong people (critics) focus it on the right people (your team) and the right thing (your vision). Jesus spent more time focused on his mission and disciples than he did with his accusers (Pharisees and Sadducees) hence, the reason for his effectiveness.

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The Price of Inflexibility
I discovered this quote by Napoleon Bonaparte which states that “The majority of men meet with failure because of their lack of persistence in creating new plans to take the place of those which fail.” A number of leaders fail because they lack the flexibility to adapt in the face of changing landscapes. They allow unexpected changes to their plans to paralyse them. We all get emotionally attached to our plans that we can lose all objectivity when results and others tell us that we are heading the wrong direction. Some leaders get bogged down by failed plans that they are unable to pick up the lessons from them to create and execute new ones. It is said that we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Our successes can make us complacent and create the illusion that we are smart, whereas posterity will prove that we were just lucky. Mistakes can, however, provoke us to reflect on what happened and how we can prevent it from happening again. The leader who succeeds is the leader who realises that there is a lesson to learn in both his mistakes and his successes. The leader who succeeds is the one who refuses to be bogged down by his mistakes or become complacent by his successes. It is ironic that Napoleon would eventually fail to heed his own advice. He underestimated the strength of his foes and overestimated his own. His inflexibility and unwillingness to compromise would cost him the French empire and lead to his death on the Island of Saint Helena as a prisoner of the British.

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Under Pressure
Leadership is a results oriented role, hence there is so much pressure on leaders to deliver extraordinary results. You only have to examine the high turnover rate of football coaches in the English premiership and championship leagues to see the amount of pressure to deliver results. The demand for results brings pressure. King Solomon in the Bible stated that “if you fail under pressure, then your strength is weak” (Prov. 24:10). I can guarantee that you will come under pressure and face many trials in your leadership journey, but it’s your resilience and perseverance that will inspire your team to follow you. The people around you can sense when you are under pressure and your handling of the pressure will determine whether they continue to support you or wish your downfall. Pressure provides the opportunities for your leadership character to be formed and shaped but some leaders allow it to destroy them rather than develop them. Too much pressure can break you but too little can make you complacent. A pressure free leadership journey deprives you of the valuable experience to become a great leader. The trick is not to bite more than you can chew and also not to promise what you know you can’t deliver in an attempt to impress others. It is essential that you know your strengths and play to them.

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The Leadership Pipeline
It is rare for a sports team to go through a season where its star players go the entire season without some injury, suspension or leave on a transfer. A team that doesn’t have a strong bench will struggle when its stars are injured or leave the team. This is where the strength of the team’s bench is critical. The replacements need to be able to step in and perform when there is a vacancy in the team. This ensures that the team doesn’t suffer and fall behind in the league tables. Top teams maintain their edge over the other teams because they have a better and stronger bench. Likewise, organisations that achieve greatness have a strong leadership pipeline. High quality leaders are the lifeline of any organisation but they don’t always stay forever at a particular organisation. They move on for various reasons and great organisations ensure that they have an effective leadership pipeline in place to make sure that they have capable leaders to replace outgoing ones. A strong leadership bench is in place to compensate the loss of high quality leaders and ensure the organisation does not suffer their departures. General Electric {GE} is a Fortune 500 company that has one of the best organisational leadership pipelines in the world. The leaders developed in GE are constantly sought after by other companies who lack an effective leadership development program. They have a strong bench of leaders to compensate for the leaders who regularly get headhunted for top jobs elsewhere. The company has a great track record of producing CEOs for other companies due the abundance of trained leaders at their disposal. Excellent companies are better prepared to weather the storms of leadership departures than average companies. They have the system in place to replace outgoing leaders with capable in-house leaders, whereas average companies recruit outsiders because they lack suitable leadership replacements. You never know when your top talents and leaders will move on, but a robust leadership pipeline ensures that the organisation is able to weather the storms of leadership departures. This also ensures the organisation’s prosperity and effectiveness in the long term.

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The 2 Headed Dragon (part 1)
As a 21st century leader you will confront the two headed dragon named uncertainty and complexity. A lot of leaders are unable to successfully combat this dragon; as a result, their organisations and teams suffer the consequences. They simply get overwhelmed and fall prey to the dragon. I will tackle the first dragon head (uncertainty) in this post and then address complexity in the next post. Leaders are required to make decisions in the face of great uncertainty and are judged on the success or failure of such decisions. A great lesson in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008 is that the elimination of uncertainty is an illusion. Global financial institutions tried to control both risk and uncertainty using complicated algorithms developed by some of the smartest people in the world but they failed spectacularly and dragged the world into a massive recession. A lot of energy is spent by some leaders to try to eliminate uncertainty in their decision making but their time can be better spent on seeking clarity. Leaders who pursue the elimination of uncertainty dogmatically are on a fool’s errand. The antidote to uncertainty is clarity. Leaders take others on a journey they sometimes haven’t travelled, but the clarity of a compelling leadership vision shows the direction to go as leaders navigate uncertain terrains. “None of us want to be wrong especially as leaders. But next generation leaders must fear a lack of clarity more than a lack of accuracy. You can be wrong and people will continue to follow. If you are unclear, however they will eventually go somewhere else. You can survive being wrong. You can’t survive being unclear.” (Andy Stanley) It is important to note that as leaders, we can’t know everything about the activity or vision we are engaged with. We can’t foresee or predict or prepare for every possible scenario that can occur in the future hence the need for adaptability. We need to plan, but we also need to be flexible because things rarely ever go precisely to plan. There are so many variables that can derail a leadership plan or strategy. Some leaders allow the uncertainty of life to paralyse them from taking action based on the limited information they have and their organisation suffers for their indecision. Effective leaders thrive when confronted with uncertainty. You can’t escape uncertainty as a leader but you can embrace the opportunities it provides you to lead with clarity.
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The 2 Headed Dragon (part 2)
This is the second and final part of the 2 headed dragon series (if you have not yet read the first part I will encourage you to do so in order to have the full picture). I stated that the first dragon head was uncertainty and today I will tackle the second one – complexity. The 21st century leader operates in a complex world. The resources at the disposal of any leader is limited hence there is need for creativity in managing these limited resources. The challenges he faces can be daunting and frustrating as he struggles to grapple with the overwhelming information overload he has to process on a daily basis. A certain degree of these frustrations are, however, self-inflicted. This is because some leaders fight the complexity with complexity. They falsely believe that communicating using complex jargons and concepts validates their leadership position and makes them seem smarter. It does not! It just confuses the key stakeholders, such as their subordinates and clients. The only effective weapon against complexity is simplicity. Leaders are hired to simplify the complex challenges their organisations and teams face and communicate this simplicity to their team so that they can execute the appropriate actions. Every leader needs to strive for simplicity in the process of leading their teams and organisations. Your team members will respond better to simplicity than complexity especially with regards to your daily communication and long term vision casting. The more complex a leader makes his leadership vision or daily instruction, the more confused he makes his team. It is easy to make things complicated, but it takes skill and wisdom to make the complicated simple. The Jazz musician, Charlie Mingus, got it right when he said that “making the simple complicated is commonplace, making the complicated awesomely simple, that is creativity”. Simplicity is the process of doing more with less. It requires ignoring the nonessentials in order to focus on the core issues of the organisation’s challenges – this requires leadership discipline. This enables the leader to make things compelling and clear, instead of confusing and complicated for all concerned. Simplicity is not easy, if it was, then every leader will practice it and not default to complexity.

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Recruiting the Right Team
A leader is only as effective as the quality of the team members he surrounds himself with. The achievement of a dream is based on the quality of the team working on it. Barack Obama’s campaign success is based on several factors but having a great team by his side helped him secure the White House. Steve Jobs the famed CEO of Apple, recently named the CEO of the decade by Fortune magazine is an effective leader because of the team he has surrounded himself with. He is widely acclaimed to be a visionary leader who has led Apple to create blockbuster products such as the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iTunes etc. He has transformed a company heading into oblivion in the mid nineties into a juggernaut. A lot of Apple’s extraordinary turnaround has been attributed to his brilliance, which is true, but he has also been brilliant enough to surround himself with a top class team. The recruitment of people such as the highly efficient Tim Cook his trusted COO who manages the company and ensures that Apple’s organisational system runs like clockwork. The recruitment of the right team members enables a leader to focus on his strengths while they tackle his weaknesses. No leader is so gifted that he lacks any weaknesses, hence it is important that he is self aware enough to know what they are and find the right people who are strong in those areas to address those deficiencies. Tim Cook frees Steve Jobs to focus on his strengths as a leader which is vision casting and an obsessive focus on product designs. Jonathan Ives, the Head of Design, complements Jobs’ passion for design and he has been the force behind Jobs in producing all of Apple’s top blockbuster products in the last decade. As a leader, who do you have around you in the pursuit of your vision? Until you have the right people with you on your leadership journey, you are not going to be truly effective.

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Management by Wandering Around
Tom Peters and Robert Waterman Jr in their business classic “In search of excellence” popularised the term ‘Management by Wandering Around’ (MBWA). In their book, Peters and Waterman encouraged leaders to venture out of their offices by spending a significant amount of their time visiting and listening to their employees in both global and local locations. Such visits will allow leaders gather the necessary qualitative and insightful information required to steer the ship and communicate the vision to everyone in the organisation. Jesus Christ practiced this in his ministry. He could easily have established his headquarters in Galilee and demanded that people come to him but instead he resisted the temptation to heed the demands of his followers for this. He knew that he had to be accessible if he was to be effective in reaching his target audience. He could only connect with the people if he went to them. MBWA allowed him to communicate his message to the people, identify with their plight and see the situation first-hand. This enabled him to feel the pain of the people, realise the hold of the devil on his people which made him willing to sacrifice himself on the cross. A lot of new leaders prefer to stay in HQ and don’t venture to other locations in their organisation. Such leaders make themselves inaccessible and they are usually surrounded by staff in HQ who feed them limited or inaccurate information. Until a leader starts to connect with other employees outside HQ, he/she will never find out what the real mood and situation of the company is. Leaders have fallen from grace because they never knew the true state of their followers’ hearts as a result of never practicing the art of management by wandering around. The best champion of any organizational vision is the leader (CEO) and the CEO needs to be accessible in order to connect with his employees. Physical connection and communication reinforces vision casting better than any other means of communication available. MBWA allows leaders to know the pulse of their organisation’s heartbeat and nip problems in the bud before they escalate into crises.

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The Power of Empathy
Earlier this year, I read “Playing the Enemy” by John Carlin which has been made into a movie called Invictus by Clint Eastwood. The book focuses on how Nelson Mandela uses the game of rugby in 1995 to unite a divided nation when he became the President of South Africa. The book is an interesting read but one leadership lesson I derived from it was the power of empathy. Mandela went to prison a bitter, frustrated and angry young man fighting against a racist regime but came out a wise, empathic old man. In his youth he hated the Afrikaners {white South Africans} and he employed violent tactics against the system but in the confined space of prison, he started to seek to understand the Afrikaners. He spent time on the inside learning the language and the history of the “enemy”. It was during his time in prison that he was able to empathise with the Afrikaners by understanding their motivations and their fears. His understanding enabled him to deal with the infamous Robben Island prison guards and helped him on his road to freedom and uniting a divided nation. Leaders need to learn how to empathise with both their supporters and critics. Daniel Goleman classified empathy as a key component of emotional intelligence while Stephen Covey describes it as seeking first to understand then to be understood (Habit 5). Empathy requires leaders to put themselves in the shoes of those they are trying to lead and those who are fighting against them. It is a required skill set for leaders who desire to lead effectively.

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