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The power of these questions cannot be underestimated, especially if you want to lead and not manage."
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Archive for the 'Leadership' Category

Life Work Balance

A recent meeting of the British Psychological Society enjoyed a talk from American-born British psychologist Sir Cary Cooper.

You won’t have needed to have read too many of my blog entries to know that Sir Cary’s subject—’Social media damaging our work-life balance’—and particular topic—’Mental capital and wellbeing at work’—are both close to my heart.
  • In his talk Sir Cary stressed the need for:
  • control or autonomy for employees in their jobs
  • management through praise and reward rather than fault-finding
  • manageable workloads and achievable deadlines
  • work life balance.*

*(funny how we all tend to put the word ‘work’ before the word ‘life’!)

Sir Cary highlighted the usual suspects. Long hours and their damaging effect on health, electronic mail overload and how the downside of email and social media now outweigh the benefits.

Finally, Sir Cary alluded to a John Ruskin (British social reformer) 1851 quote which I will reprise here:
In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed: they must be fit for it, they must not do too much of it, and they must have a sense of success in it.

Don’t just take my word on these issues … eminent workplace psychology specialists are making the same points!


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Some folks need special approval to wear pink in honor of their loved ones that died of cancer; or display their respect in any other way.

That’s not leadership but micro-management at its worst.

Check the NFL or Hillsborough County FL

PS: My dad is a cancer survivor


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DNA profiling

If Captain James T Kirk was a great leader, he apparently might have been in possession of a DNA sequence specific to leadership qualities.

The sequence, known as rs4950, was discovered during research undertaken in 2012 by University College London’s Dr. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve.

rs4950 was found after analyzing some 4,000 DNA samples which were matched to career information.

Now… before you think your CEO recruitment searches have suddenly become a lot easier (you can see the line in the job ad now—’Applicants should send a swab of their saliva to…’) and much less expensive… the scientists involved in the research have emphasized that they still believe that leadership is an acquired skill. The research does suggest, however, that leadership is, at least in part, a genetic trait.

I wonder how Fortune 500 share prices would fare if CEOs had to declare whether they had rs4950 or not.

And we thought DNA profiling was just a threat to life insurance premiums!


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Captain James T Kirk

‘Was Captain James T Kirk a great leader?’

Yes, I have just put this question into a search engine and, no, I haven’t got too much time on my hands.

I just wondered whether it had crossed anyone else’s mind that this fictional character often exhibited good leadership qualities.

Well, with the number of ’search results’ at some 1,950,000, it seems that quite a few people have a view on my question.

Incredibly, the original Star Trek series was aired over three ’seasons’ from 1966 – 1969 and yet the style of leadership exhibited remains imprinted on many minds. I recall a leader who:
  • was happy to have a diverse team around him including a quite different second in command (Spock)
  • could manage the differences among team members to the best advantage of the all
  • would lead by example
  • was sufficiently charismatic that people would rally behind him
  • could be tough and make tough decisions when necessary
  • sought the opinions of others but was able to make up his own mind
  • was empathetic and sympathetic when this was called for
  • never forgot the mission and his role in it.

Sounds like a pretty good leader to me.

And he also did not mind the occasional grammatical lapse (’to boldly go’ – split infinitive!).


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Here’s a leadership dilemma for you.

You are the Director General of the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). Some $225m in revenue for the corporation is generated by a show which is massively popular in the UK and—as the revenue figure suggests—around the world.

One of the reasons for the show’s popularity is that political correctness is set aside for an hour and the presenters say what they like. This is particularly the case with the lead presenter and he has already been given a ‘final warning’ not to cause any more diplomatic or other kind of upsets with his comments.

Then you hear that this presenter lost his temper with a producer on a shoot. After a long day’s filming only cold food was available. This led to the presenter browbeating the producer for half an hour and then punching him in the face. The producer had to go to hospital to be checked over.

You hold an enquiry to understand the facts.

And then your dilemma…

If you sack the presenter you’re waving goodbye to huge domestic and international audiences. The BBC is funded by a license fee from every household with a TV so you won’t do this lightly. The show’s popularity means you’ll have a lot of disaffected viewers.

There’s also a political dynamic. You know that the show’s audience found its tone of voice refreshing given the Corporation’s reputation for political correctness and left-wing bias.

And, finally, there’s the straightforward problem of an assault having occurred in the workplace and whether that should be tolerated.

What was the decision?

Well, the presenter’s contract has been terminated, notwithstanding all the other issues. It was deemed that, already on a final warning, he crossed a line.

My view? I agree with the decision.

Do you?


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Narcissistic Leadership

Narcissism is an unpleasant personality trait—yet one that seems particularly prevalent in our time.

I was thinking this as I reflected on a world of Facebook and other social media and their ‘look at me’ ethos. A world where people seem quite comfortable spending their time taking endless pictures of themselves… the so called ’selfie’.

The Encarta online dictionary defines narcissism as excessive self-admiration and self-centeredness. You have to extrapolate this a little bit further when considering narcissistic leaders. They will have only one priority in the way in which they run things.


I thought I might have invented the term ‘narcissistic leadership’ (which is a bit narcissistic of me!) but a quick look at Wikipedia proves me wrong. Apparently Linda L. Neider and Chester A. Schriesheim in their 2010 publication ‘The Dark Side of Management” already defined narcissistic leadership as being driven by ‘unyielding arrogance, self-absorption and a personal egotistic need for power and admiration.’

Other commentators on the phenomenon of narcissistic leadership include Neville Symington who writes in ‘Narcissism: A New Theory’ that ‘one of the ways of differentiating a good-enough organization from one that is pathological is through its ability to exclude narcissistic characters from key posts.’

Mr Symington is definitely on to something here. If I visit your company and find some narcissistic tendencies at senior management level then I know something fundamental will have to change if things are to improve.

So, are you a narcissistic leader, surrounding yourself with nodding cronies and focused on your own self-aggrandizement? Well… we all know what happened to the original Narcissus, don’t we.

Careful you don’t drown admiring your own reflection.


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Blame Culture

My last blog entry prompted me to reflect, once again, on different types of organization culture.

In particular, I have to say that in my experience, no matter how positive and forward thinking an organization’s culture might be, there is often an unfortunately rich seam of ‘blame culture’ to be found.

And, believe me, blame culture is really bad news.

A blame culture leads to fear in even the most robust members of staff. Fear that if they get something wrong they will be subject to at best, humiliation, and at worst some kind of disciplinary process which might cost them their job.

This fear is incredibly inhibiting. Organizations need to have individuals who are prepared to take risks and to explore new ideas and areas. If people aren’t doing this then the companies they work for will stagnate. Those companies will also suffer because staff will be spending an inordinate amount of time and energy documenting what they are doing or even covering their tracks rather than getting on with their roles.

And in a worse-case scenario, people won’t speak out where they feel that things aren’t being done right for fear of blame. This has cost lives in care homes and hospitals.

So, dear leader, is a blame culture or sub-culture stifling the operation of your business? Ask your senior managers what they think.

If they seem reluctant to talk, by the way, then you already have your answer!


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What Happened?

I am not a great fan of workplace motivational ’sayings’ and quotations but I quite like the following which I spotted on the club noticeboard at a local swimming pool.
The notice said that there are:
  • those who make things happen
  • those who watch what happens, and:
  • those who wonder what happened.

I have traced the quote to the late Mary Kay Ash, an American businesswoman and founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics.

The quotation is particularly apt when considering leadership styles, of course, and it goes without saying that a very necessary leadership quality will be to make things happen rather than be passive. I also suspect those leaders who watch what happens all too quickly find themselves in the ‘wonder what happened’ category.

I would like to add a fourth bullet point to Mary Kay Ash’s three. In my experience, there are those at all levels in an organization but all too often in middle and senior management positions who criticize what happens as others strive to act or implement change.

Not acting yourself but expending all your energy criticizing those who do. Now that really is a serious fault. Don’t do it!


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