Leadership

Be bold. Move forward.

It was a defining moment I shall never forget.

It's springtime in 1991 and I am standing in the kitchen with my girlfriend. Since meeting a year earlier we had moved in together and had each celebrated our 30th birthday. On this particular day, she starts saying something that both surprised and impressed me.

She spoke from the heart about where she was on her life journey. She was feeling ready to settle down and whilst she felt that she could do that with me, she said that I needed to decide what I wanted. If I wasn't really feeling ready, she would understand but she would need to move on to create the life she wanted.

Be Careful. They're watching you ...

Do you know what your personal brand is?

Whether or not you think much about it, you definitely have one!

As Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, put it:
"Your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room."

Of course, these days many of the conversations about people are not just happening face to face. The exponential growth of web-based communication has led to more and more conversations happening anywhere, at any time.

Social media is a powerful way of passing information around more widely and more quickly. You can reach more people with the words and images that you want to share.

This opportunity is paired with a danger.

Power and Humility - The Case of Simon Cowell

The jester used to play an important role in the court of the all-powerful king. Using humour, he could get away with saying things that nobody else would dare to say. In doing so, he would help keep the king grounded and willing to recognise his own shortcomings. On Saturday, the funny and self-assured David Walliams became the jester in the court of King Simon Cowell.

As I sat down with my family to watch the often amusing and sometimes inspiring TV programme, Britain's Got Talent, there was clearly a very new dynamic on the panel of judges.

Head judge and creator of the show, Simon Cowell was back along with regular, Amanda Holden, and new judges, Alisha Dixon and David Walliams.

Previous judges have included Piers Morgan, David Hasselhoff and Michael McIntyre, but none have made Cowell seem much less cool and powerful, and more ordinary in the way that Walliams did last night.

He got away with it for three reasons:

Paying Attention: The Best Return On Investment!

In 2005, a client told me I had to put a plastic cover on my takeaway coffee to carry it to our meeting room. To me, the request was ridiculous … and ironic. His employer was BP. Not long before, an explosion and fire at their Texas City refinery had killed 15 people, injured 170. Why worry about someone spilling a bit of coffee?!

In two organisations (both in the oil industry) I have also been asked to hold the rail while walking on the stairs. Like covering the coffee, it seemed like “health and safety” gone mad!

I thought to myself, “I’m not a child; I don’t need to be told what to do!”

It was the attitude of a defiant teenager.

Then last year, I finally got the lesson. I was a bit slow to learn. In fact, it took me TWO injuries to REALLY get it!.

Courageous .... or Naive?

This week I was gathering some feedback for a client.

As one of his colleagues rattled off a list of adjectives such as "extraverted, intelligent, visionary, brave, and naive" I stopped him there.

"Hang on a minute!" I said. "Surely being brave is fully knowing the dangers before you take the action. If you were naive about the risks, can we say you were being courageous?"

The very next day, I was having lunch with a friend and former client, Will Freeborough. Will is the Managing Partner of Orchestra (www.orchestra-agency.com), a fabulous marketing and advertising agency in central London.

Four Lessons from Four Apprentices

Last week, the final of “The Apprentice” was watched by 10 million viewers, Alan Sugar selected inventor Tom Pellereau as the winner of the £250,000 investment.

Before the finalists disappear from our awareness, let’s just consider some simple lessons that can help point the way to success and failure in the corporate world.

Now, I’m well aware that what we see on TV isn’t the whole truth about the individuals, their personal qualities and behaviours. However, what we did see can be used to illustrate certain points.

Lesson 1. Fancy talk is not enough

Do YOU have talent?

The hit TV programme, "Britain's Got Talent" has launched the international careers of people like Susan Boyle, Paul Potts, and dance group, Diversity.

This programme format has been a huge hit in many countries and now brings to the attention of millions of people, talent that was previously unseen; talent that, otherwise, may NEVER have been discovered!

Just one simple and incredible example is a lad on the current Australian series.

"Chooka" James Parker lives on a farm north of Melbourne (the same environment I grew up in!). (For you non-Australians, "chook" is our word for hen!) 16 years old at the time, he stunned the judges with his self-taught, "make it up on the spot" piano virtuosity. To be similarly amazed, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uE1xsuEywQ

What makes Chooka extra fascinating is his unassuming nature. He seems unaware of just how talented he is!

For everyone of these amazing people we get to discover, think how many more are hidden away from our view?

Go Slow to Go Fast!

Today in London I had coffee with a fellow Australian who holds non-executive chairman roles and has held some very senior executive positions in his distinguished career. I was keen to learn his views on what emerging leaders need to know and do to ensure their career success.

Having committed myself to accelerating the development of the next generation of leaders, I find it helpful to either reinforce or extend my existing knowledge on the subject.

His comments did both.

We agreed that some things have changed since his days as a young leader stepping up into big roles in his 20's and 30's, compared to today's new generation of leaders. These include:

  • There used to be more middle management roles to enable progression
  • Career path choices were more simple and straight forward

Baby Boomer Time Bomb = Opportunity for Emerging Leaders

An article in the Business Recruitment Section of the Evening Standard on Tuesday highlights the rapid demographic shift as more baby boomers head towards retirement age. There is a danger and opportunity associated with this.

Francois Moscovici, an expert in retaining talent in business, points out that we are heading towards a shortage of 30 - 44 year olds. As more senior people start to retire or scale back their hours, the next generation of leaders will need to step up quite quickly. In many cases, they will be managing people older than themselves. This can lead to conflict as the younger leader is typically more ambitious and driven. Moscovici points out that will be essential that they acquire coaching and influencing skills to be effective.

Bringing A New Person Into The Firm (Lessons from Kate & Wills)

Tomorrow, watched by over 2 billion people, Kate Middleton officially commences her new life as a member of the British Royal Family. There is a sense of optimism that this marriage will be more successful than the one that emerged from the "fairytale wedding" of Charles and Diana 30 years ago. I'd like to suggest that there are powerful lessons that can be applied to the process of having people accept a new job within an organisation.

Recently I met with a client who recruited a new team member with a view to this person being a potential successor. What appeared to be a great "marriage" has thus far proved to be a disappointment for all concerned. There are many reasons for this but it highlights why a successful marriage (whether to a prince or to an organisation) requires a bit more forethought and attention than the fairytales would suggest.