What I am writing here is based on my own experience and what I observed and learned. It is my point of view and it makes sense to me. It has worked for me and is still working for me. It remains being your responsibility to do your own critical thinking, don’t just believe.

And that is exactly my intention: making you think for yourself.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Why we are stuck in the middle of nowhere or The Daily Drama of Leadership

A new project is announced. A leader is assigned. A team is selected. Promises are made. A kick-off event takes place.  Excitement builds up fast. Then unexpected roadblocks appear. The excitement turns into confusion. And then people look for their leaders. The drama unfolds. Disillusionment kicks in fast. Blaming starts. The little bit of trust is destroyed once again.
Stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do.
Some wannabe leader eager to be promoted identifies what he believes is a problem. Consultants are hired. Someone else, usually an ‘Irooc’, creates a big PowerPoint presentation. Multidimensional charts of course. Useless information cramped into charts. Meaningless graphs added. A Board meeting is called. The wannabe leader gets up on stage and talks. Long sentences with highly sophisticated wording pour out of his mouth. Mental masturbation. Unclouded by not even a tiny bit of expertise. The Board meeting becomes a bored meeting. Board members time is wasted.
Stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do.
A discussion starts. The Board members have questions. Good, tough questions. And what they get are lame answers. Prefabricated answers out of the drawer. And it isn’t even entertaining. Blood pressure of the Board members goes up. It’s a long day and that was just one of the presentations. Problems we didn’t have in the past they think. Answers to questions no one asked. And someone gets killed on stage.
Stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do.
That’s how many organizations / corporations / companies work. This is not the exception. Unfortunately, it’s rather the rule. Too many mediocre players around. Incompetence meets ineptitude.
Stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do.
The result are derailed projects. It costs the company a lot of money. And after the fact the same wannabe leader gives another PowerPoint presentation. It’s called “what we have learned through this disaster”. Well, screw that shit!
Stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do.
In most cases none of these assigned or wannabe leaders have ever personally gone through the problems they talk about. Yet, they always seem to feel that they have all the answers. They don’t. That, and the lack of character, is the root cause for bad performance. Just plain old fire these guys.
Stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do.
B-players might feel it like paradise. A-players get frustrated easily. And frustrated A-players leave. They don’t leave the company though. They leave the leaders, the lack of leadership.
Stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do.
It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s about time to lower the tolerance level for incompetence and ineptitude in leadership to zero.
True leaders know that their success depends heavily on their A-players. True leaders understand that life is a mess. You think you are in control and you are not. That matters not. What matters is your attitude how you approach a problem. What matters is the mutual trust you build as a leader.
True leaders know that they don’t know what they don’t know. A wise old man told me once: “When you have heard something, you don’t know it. When you have read something, you don’t know it. When you have seen something, you don’t know it. Only when you have experienced it, internalized it, and you live it, then you know it.”
The other day I came across a story about teaching kids. How do you know that your teaching is successful? When a kid says to you “let me do it one more time” and with shining eyes, you know you were successful.
Guess what: it’s no different with the people you lead.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Judging Others

So, you are telling me that one should never judge other people. Judging others is a bad thing. Let’em be the way they are. In a way be good and don’t judge. And here we are again: sitting around the campfire,  joining hands and singing kumbaya …
That’s not what life is about. And it certainly is not what leadership is about.
We all make judgements about others all the time. It’s hardwired in our system. It helped our ancestors to survive. The moment you see a person the first time you judge, yes, you! Who is that? What might be his or her intentions? Can this person be trusted? And so on. And you get this gut feeling, this knowingness. And voilĂ , judgment made.
When I am going mountain climbing I want to know before who is who. I want to know who is going to be at my rope. I want to know who I entrust my life. For that you need good judgement. You must judge the person at face value. Is this person up to the challenge? Does he / she have the mental strength required? How does this person most likely react in a dangerous situation? Can he or she being relied upon no matter what? And I judge and decide. Because I know that the entire tour could be jeopardized if I don’t.
The same is true when you lead a team. You need to know whether your team members are ready and able to deal with whatever problem comes up. There is only that much the paper form will tell you. Hence, you judge. You judge based on your experience with people. I especially pay attention to their character and mental strength. I want to understand how they react under pressure. That’s also the reason I am so adamant when it comes to team training. It’s the closest you can get to a good judgement. And always get your thinking in gear.
As a leader you cannot afford failure because you wanted to be nice.
Judging, good judgment of people is a core skill a leader must have. And as any skill it can be trained. Over time you will get proficient. I would say that in 8 out of 10 cases I am spot on. And that’s based on the feedback I get. It’s not perfect. But it’s close enough. Keep in mind that nothing is certain.
All of us have that skill. We are born with it. You might suppress it from time to time and playing ‘nice and good’. That’s because you are longing for appreciation and approval. Based on my experience I can tell you that I paid a price when I did that. Each and every time.
Judging others is an important skill. It can be honed through training.
Don’t tell me you don’t judge others. That’s nonsense. Because you do and all the time.
Keep your eyes wide open when choosing a partner. Or whomever you let into your life. In business and in personal relationships. And make your judgement. It’s an excellent tool.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Glass Ceiling

What's going on ladies? You can't handle a perceived glass ceiling? You feel stuck, blocked by some male chauvinists of average intelligence? You feel unable to outperform them? A bunch of mediocre “afraid of women” jerks? That's why you need a quota? Protection? Like an endangered species?
C'mon ... you can do better than that! You are better than that! Don’t play small.
Unfortunately, that's the situation. Yet, it takes two to tango. And it’s costing society billions of $.
At one hand we have the typical male behavior. And it’s as old as mankind. Fighting out who is the alpha. Biting away others. Marking the territory. At least they don’t pee at the office plants. Or maybe they do? A pack order is established. And the pack members work together. And sometimes even packs do.
At the other hand we have the typical female behavior. Most of the time feeling inferior. Intimidated by the male packs. Harassed. And then they back down and don’t dare anymore to stick their heads out. Victims of the system. The system in place since the beginning of mankind.
Men form ‘unholy alliances’ when necessary. Women prefer often to fight each other. Men play to win. Women play to not lose. Note the difference.
The result is the myth of the glass ceiling. And it plays right into the hands of the ones in power.
There is no glass ceiling. There is just aggressive ‘cavemen behavior’ of males. Males lacking the personal development required to lead. The development to the level of consciousness required by the society of the 21st century.
Ladies, don't accept for yourself your perceived glass ceiling. When you do, you also accept being victims. It’s an excuse. It’s the easy way out. It won’t gain you respect. It’s utter defeat. It’s the obedient acceptance of the female role as second class citizens.
Two groups:
There is a significant number of remarkable, intelligent, outstanding female leaders. Female leaders, who got there without any quota. They succeeded by simply ignoring glass ceilings or breaking through when necessary. And no, they don’t behave like men. Trust me, men are so much better behaving like men, than women ever will. These ladies remained being ladies. Their success lies in understanding this rather primitive game and taking advantage. In their own excellence and intelligence. More than just leaning in.
There is also a significant number of men who acknowledge women, respecting them, and supporting them. Men, intelligent enough, with character. Men at a much higher level of development than the average. Men, who understand the importance of tapping into the enormous potential of female leaders.  Men, who want to advance society knowing that they can only do that together with women.
That is a viable and sustainable solution for our problem. Together these two groups can create the foundation of leadership in the 21st century. Some are doing it already. It needs the initiative from both groups to get and work together. It needs the initiative and the willingness of each one of the members to overcome their old belief systems. Mutually beneficial cooperation / cocreation is the way.
Ladies, you can either learn, understand and play the male power game right. Or, you can create and play a completely new game. The game of leadership of the 21st century. A game developed together and played by members of both genders for the benefit of society at large. That’s the ultimate power: forcing the opponents to play your game by your rules. Forget your quota.
You can disagree with that, agree with it, but you cannot ignore it.
We need you, ladies. We need you now.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Who is Leading?

You did also ask yourself that question, didn’t you? Asking yourself who is leading in your organization / company, or in government. Ask yourself if anybody is leading.
Do you know this guy? This one got the leadership position by decree of some higher power in the organization. First thing these guys need are the ‘insignia of power’. Things like corner offices, secretary, company car, etc., or everything pointing towards their status. That’s what they are after. And based on that they demand respect. They are camouflaging their own incompetence behind command and control. They don’t care for their people. They only care for themselves. They don’t stand for anything. Nothing sticks to them. It’s never their fault. Failure is always blamed on others, their people, their team. They do what they are told to do by their masters, no matter what it is. Character? Negative.
Those are the assigned leaders. Puppets on a string.
Here’s another type. The well-meaning guys. Always looking out for a cause. Always wanting to help. They identify with the cause. And they put themselves in front of a movement. Or a group of people struggling with a problem. Usually uncoordinated crowds. Often they are eloquent talkers. At first sight it sounds good what they say. Then you give it a second look. And you discover lack of depth, meaningless words. They don’t have a strategy, a plan. Instead, they have a vague idea developed out of what they believe people want. They don't understand the environment they are in. Also, they have no idea who the main players are and what those might be cooking. Pretty soon people then discover that there is no substance. Hence, the crowd does what crowds do on their own: create utter chaos. And people with hidden agendas take over. And then they stand there with their mouths and eyes wide open …
The wannabe leaders. Incompetence meets ignorance.
Then there is a different breed. Their most important goal is to maintain the status quo. And they are good at that. They want to avoid any possible problems. They work by the book and expect this from their people. System operators who love rules and constraints. They need this tight framework, the handrails they can hold on to. New ideas are killed on the spot. No experiments. Not invented here. Business as usual. What worked well yesterday can’t be so bad today. They don’t cause any trouble. That’s why their masters love them. And the last one turns the lights off.
The managers. Obedient citizens.
And then there is a rare group. They stand for something. They stand up for what they believe. Nonconformists scrutinizing everything. Status quo averse. For them nothing is set in stone. They break the rules. They relentlessly look for new ways to solve the big problems at hand. No one can stop them. They are fearless. They put stress on the systems. They cause trouble. They don’t accept mediocrity. They do their homework and know and understand what’s at stake. They have a strategy, a plan to reach their goals. They listen. And they make their goals the common cause for all involved. They know what they are doing and people instinctively recognize that. They are the ones people immediately turn towards when times are tough and rough. These leaders will never let down their people. And with that they earn the trust and the respect of people. And they can’t be bought.
True leaders. they have no need for the “insignia of power”. They are power.
Similarities with the real world are a mere coincidence …