January 23, 2018

From self-belief to self-direction

 In a sense, leaders are in the empowerment business. If you lead a team, you should spend a great deal of your time doing things that empower them. Why? Because people consistently underestimate their capacity to make things happen. They defer instead, to people, events, feelings, or some other excuses. Then, not much happens. The […]

Shakespeare in war

Wherever your mind goes, the rest of you follows. Shakespeare knew this, and so, apparently did Henry 5th. He crushes the French at Agincourt, despite being absurdly outnumbered and ill-prepared. His rousing, “Once more into the breach” passage is one of his most famous, and not least from a leadership perspective. It reveals something about thoughts […]

Lead like a novelist

 I once attended a lecture on how to write a novel. They woman said something like, “Your work must introduce the reader to a world of flesh and blood characters, individuals who face daunting obstacles. These characters should grow from the struggle and triumph in the end”. Too true. That’s certainly how my, erm, novels would […]

The nature of leadership

 If you’re struggling to simplify your life, a quick search can uncover a world of insights, links, people, and solutions. This ability to connect into communities with shared needs and interests means that we get to learn about ourselves in hyper efficient ways that were never possible in the past. You soon realize that you’re not the only one who sees the world in a certain way or struggles with […]

Leadership is for rejects

Leadership evolved out of the things that management rejected. 50 years ago, there were no ‘leaders’ in business. There were ‘administrators’ in gray suits (as in Masters in Business Administration) who spent their time on paperwork and what we would now identify as management.  But the term got old and and practices changed and so we got ‘managers’, then ‘executives’, then ‘C’ people, […]

Leadership as mining

 As a manager, your job is to manage the material resources of your organization – inventory, cash, facilities. As a leader, your job is to manage its psychological resources, aka, the people. But as Ken Robinson pointed out (somewhere), inner resources (like natural resources) don’t lie on the surface. And since they’re out of sight, […]

Why we need new leadership

 I don’t know of a single institution that isn’t under the threat of massive trauma or even annihilation. From the Catholic church to the US economic order, from the welfare state to the corporation, it’s all rattling. The old centers of control are breaking down and power is devolving to the edges. New leaders, new […]

How we write about leadership in the modern era

Memo to self: Five things you must do when writing about leadership in the age of social media. (This is, erm, a parody.) In reverse order of importance, here they are:  #5. Use quotations up the wazoo. Big sweeping, philosophical quotations can be tweeted very conveniently and are hard to refute. Leaders really need these […]

Has Obama failed the leadership test?

It seems the US election results are partly a referendum on the President. What, from a leadership perspective, did he do wrong? A quote from JK Galbraith may reveal the answer: “All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people […]

We need original voices on leadership

There’s some pretty bad writing on leadership out there. From books to social media there’s also a lot of the same people re-hashing self-referential, bland ideas. With a few notable exceptions, there’s a sad lack of originality in what people say or how they say it and a need for some input from outside the discipline […]