3 things people need from a Leader

Alan Mulally, ex-CEO of Ford, spoke to the Vistage membership recently. He shared his own life story, and his advice to CEOs on how to lead in these times of uncertainty.

People need from Leaders:

  1. Who are you?
  2. Where are we going?
  3. Do you see me?

I share what people are looking for in the video below.

If you liked this video, you will also like Indra Nooyi ex-CEO Pepsi on Leadership in Times of Crisis and Leaders must develop 2 capacities in the people around them.

Making Committed Decisions

…is much better than making “correct” decisions

On making Committed Decisions…

A committed decision is much more powerful than a “correct” decision.

A committed decision takes full responsibility.

A committed decision knows that there are risks and challenges that you will have to find a way to overcome.

A committed decision changes your life.

More on making great decisions…

Are you overwhelmed with problems?

Are you overwhelmed with the weight of the world? Are too many problems weighing you down and making life feel heavy? Are you tired?

I heard this story on the Tim Ferriss podcast recently, and I found it quite profound for such a seemingly “simple” story.

It reminds me of another video that I made several years ago – on the most important lesson I have learnt in life.

The most important lesson for me is the Wisdom prayer of St Francis of Asisi…

Give me the strength to change the things I can change,

Give me the patience to accept the things I cannot change,

and Give me the Wisdom to tell the difference.

Here’s the old video (from Paris): The most important lesson.

Humanistic Management, Xavier Marcet

This week we had Xavier Marcet as the keynote speaker for our anual Vistage all-member event on the subject of Humanistic Management.

the author with Xavier Marcet

Xavier Marcet has a regular column in the la Vanguardia newspaper that regularly gets up to a million views. He shares thoughts about “humanistic management” and has published 3 books – the last two being “Avoiding Mediocrity” and “Grow helping others grow”.

Xavier’s definition of Humanistic Management is “getting results, but taking great care of the means by which you get results.”

Xavier shared 16 reflections on what it takes to be a “humanistic” manager… although something got lost in my notes and I only have 15 in my notebook 😉

Putting Humanistic Management into Action

  1. Consistency – evolving alongside your clients… but not 15 steps ahead… just half a step ahead. If you get 15 steps ahead of your clients, you get attention and applause… but no sales. His question for the group: are you being consistent in your own life?
  2. More Strategy, less planning – the work of Henry Minzberg showed that some companies follow plans, some companies don’t follow plans… but what makes the positive difference is that there is a “future framework” – there is a common understanding in the company of what type of future we are heading for, and what type of future we really do not want.
  3. The 3 Runways of Strategy – there are 3 runways that are part of a business strategy –
    1. Today’s operations – what generates cashflow and profits today
    2. Future operations – innovation and exploration to develop tomorrow’s cash and profit engines
    3. People development – developing the talented, motivated people that you need today and tomorrow.
  4. The 3 Roles of the Leader – the three roles of the leader are
    1. Executive – setting KPIs and driving efficiency in today’s operations
    2. Director – building the future operations model
    3. Leader – developing the people around you.
  5. Ambidextrous Organisations – the ability to balance between exploiting today’s profitable operations and exploring future opportunities. Xavier’s question for the group: Do you control your agenda, or does your agenda control you?
  6. Efficiency and Effectiveness“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker
  7. Strategic Agility – the ability to take decisions under uncertainty and doubt.
  8. Innovation requires Empathy and Technology“we are overdosing on technology” Xavier Marcet; Don’t ask your clients what they need… watch them… pay attention. It is through observation of that they really do, and what they are trying to do that you truly see what is important. Observe more. Don’t ask what your clients want. They don’t really know.
  9. Innovation is really hard, but you don’t have a choice – the greatest risk you can take is to not innovate.
  10. Sustainable Innovation – if you automate 800 people’s jobs and then let them go without preparing them for their next role… this is an abdication of leadership. We have a responsibility to help others prepare for the future.
  11. The “Talentless” – Talent is Knowledge + Competency + Capacity to Adapt + Capacity to multiply other’s capacities; How do you become “talentless”? You stop learning. The day you stop learning, you begin to become “talentless”. You age very quickly. How to lead high performers so they create “ecosystems not ego-systems”? “without the team, you are nothing”.
  12. Leadership is service, not being served – Leaders need to combine Vision and personal example; Ambition and humilty. We are only great through people. Who “pulls you up”? Who do you “pull up”?
  13. Grow by growing others – improving your clients, your professional community, your shareholders, your society. Seek to grow the quality and capacity of everyone around you.
  14. Great Place to Work – we want 2 things to feel that we work in a great place – respect and dignity. “See the people around you for who they are”.
  15. Build a Legacy – the difference between a business and a company… a company has a way of facing life, a set of values, a way of being; a business makes money. Build a company. Make sure your company has a soul. Create opportunities that are meaningful for those around you.

I’ve never met a rich optimist

“I’ve never met a rich optimist”

Russell Kane

I heard this quote this morning on the High Performance podcast, and it made me stop and reflect.

I was an optimist for the first 40 years of life… and I’m working hard to change… Optimism is good for happiness, but not for taking disciplined, difficult actions that make a positive impact on your future.

Check out the video above, filmed in Seville next to the Cathedral.

If you liked this post, you will also like I know what I want to do, so why don’t I do it? and There is no Freedom without Self Discipline.

Set Goals for Direction, not for Destination

Over 15 years ago, a book was written by Eduardo Ponset called “the formula for happiness”. I don’t remember the formula, but I do remember something that had great importance for me.

One of the elements of the formula was a “B” for “busqueda” – the spanish word for “searching”. The feeling you get when you are making positive progress towards a meaningful goal. Eduardo said that it was key to happiness.

Around the time of publishing, the author of the book was interviewed on local television. He shared a story about his little dog. Each day the author arrives home to his building, and must climb several flights of stairs up to his apartment on the 2nd floor. As soon as he enters the main door of the building, his dog starts to get excited… he hears some barking. As he climbs the stairs, the dog gets more and more excited.

As Eduardo gets to his door, and then opens his door… the dog is crazily excited, jumping all around and tail wagging wildly.

His dog knows that food is coming.

Eduardo enters the kitchen, opens the cupboard where the dog food is kept. The dog is at the door of the kitchen (he knows he is not allowed into the kitchen itself). The dog is jumping, barking and wagging in the doorway.

Eduardo fills the dog’s bowl with food, walks to the sitting room, places the dog’s bowl on the floor.

The dog sniffs his bowl… calms down… and then goes and lies down on his dog bed.

Where did all the excitement go?

The joy is in the pursuit, not in the attainment of our goals.

Set Goals for Direction, not for Destination

Set goals to get you moving. Don’t worry too much about the exact details… if the goal gives you a sense of which way to head… it is enough. Once we are in movement towards a goal, we start to learn, resources start to become visible, help comes our way… and a sense of clarity comes to us.

In the video I compare this to the life of a shark… a shark needs movement for water to flow over its gills… and to breath. If a shark stops swimming, its gills stop working… and it begins to suffocate.

A human is similar in that positive movement in the direction of our goals brings us clarity. We stop moving, we lose clarity.

Indra Nooyi “Leadership in Times of Crisis”

Yesterday I had the privilege of spending an hour with the former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo as she spoke with the global Vistage community.

Indra Nooyi

The title of her talk was “Leadership in Times of Crisis”.

Indra shared her 5 “C”s of leadership in organisations:

  1. Competence – “you have to have at least one ‘hip pocket’ skill, a unique competence that you gain a reputation for delivering on…”
  2. Courage and Confidence – you need people to follow you. People follow confidence.
  3. Communications Skills – especially in tough times, the ability to convey a vision that people want to follow… with authenticity, sincerity and passion.
  4. Curiosity – things are changing fast… you need to be a Life Long Learner… you need to be hungry to keep learning and adapting
  5. Compass – an inner personal compass that points to your true north… no matter what… you never lose sense of what is 100% north, what is right for you. Only 100% integrity counts as integrity… if you lose your true north under pressure… you might as well not have a true north.

Sam Reese asked Indra how she was able to convince PepsiCo to make a big strategic change when she first stepped up into the role as CEO, a move away from financial metrics… towards sustainability, towards investing in people for the long term. Indra shared that she keeps with her a poem that was written on a wall in her childhood school. She shared three lines from the poem…

“For men may come,
and men may go,
but I go on forever”

The poem is about a river… and the nature of its permanence beyond that of men.

Indra shared that she saw her role as CEO to build a company that would go on forever… not just for this generation of investors… or managers… or customers… but to be part of building an enterprise with true permanence.

How should CEOs be Measured?

In response to this question, Indra shared three metrics:

  1. Develop People
  2. Enduring Investments
  3. A Strategy that Endures

Just like the river of the poem, CEOs should be building something that will endure beyond this generation.

“No one is coming to save us”

Conor with Nando Parrado, survivor of the Andes crash

In 1972, a plane carrying rugby team from Uruguay crashed in the high Andes. 25 passengers survived the crash… and then found themselves trapped high on a glacier. Initially they waited for search parties to arrive. On day 10, they heard on the radio “the search has been called off”. This day they realised that if they were to survive, they had to rescue themselves.

A lesson from the Andes

“No one is coming to save us”

Carlitos Paez

You can see my notes from Nando Parrado’s speech that I heard twice back in 2009: Reflections on Nando Parrado, the real hero of the film “Alive”

More on the Survivors of the Crash in the Andes

Nando Parrado’s book “Miracle in the Andes” was how I first came across the story of the crash and the 72 days trapped in the high Andes.

The movie “Alive” (1993) shares the story of the crash and how the group handled the challenges up in the high mountains.

Set Goals of Character and Ability, not of Achievement and Status

I’ve felt that I’ve been more anxious about life over the last week or two… and have been reflecting in my journal about what might have triggered these negative thoughts.

As we begin the new year, I’m in a mix between anxiety about setting goals and feeling an urgent need to rapidly get started on actions in the new year… and not being able to reflect and enjoy time away with family. I found myself struggling to relax and was overusing my mobile phone… a typical sign of anxiety in my case.

This video is a reflection on 2 ideas I came across about different mindsets to take into setting goals and ambitions in one’s own life. I haven’t figured out (yet) how to make them work, but I see that anxiety about the future is inevitable if you play the “high achiever” game… and that’s the game I’ve been playing on and off over the last 48 years. What’s the new game? Not clear yet… But step one: is set goals of character and ability, not achievement and status.

The book I mentioned in the video is Living in a Real Time World by Jim Selman, and the Canadian Psychologist is Jordan Peterson.

If you liked this post you will also like Video: 4 ways to handle Anxiety and My notes from today’s Sadhguru Session for EO.

The most Powerful Paradoxes of Life

I loved this twitter thread from Sahil Bloom on life’s great paradoxes. I believe that developing the mental ability to deal with the existence of paradox is an important part of becoming wise.

Sahil’s initial tweet…

What is a Paradox?

A paradox is two seemingly opposite things that seem impossible but are actually both true.

I’ve been interested in paradoxes for the last decade. In 2008 things fell apart for me and I needed to change my mental approach to life. Not everything is in my control. Paradoxes have something of the zen koan idea to them. The harder you think about them the more lost you get – you can only approach these ideas through intuition or acceptance. Part of a mature, wise approach to life is acceptance that I control very little in life, but I that cannot let that sense of powerlessness lead me to apathy.

Sahil’s List of Life’s Paradoxes

The most powerful paradoxes of life:

1. The Persuasion Paradox

Have you noticed that the most argumentative people rarely persuade anyone?

The most persuasive people don’t argue—they observe, listen, and ask questions.

Argue less, persuade more.

Persuasion is an art that requires a paintbrush, not a sledgehammer.

2. The Effort Paradox

You have to put in more effort to make something appear effortless.

Effortless, elegant performances are often the result of a large volume of effortful, gritty practice.

Small things become big things. Simple is not simple.

3. The Wisdom Paradox

“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

Albert Einstein

The more you learn, the more you are exposed to the immense unknown.

This should be empowering, not frightening.

Embrace your own ignorance. Embrace lifelong learning.

4. The Growth Paradox

Growth takes a much longer time coming than you think, and then it happens much faster than you ever would have thought.

Growth happens gradually, then suddenly.

When you realize this, you start to do things differently.

5. The Productivity Paradox

Work longer, get less done.

Parkinson’s Law says that work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

When you establish fixed hours to your work, you find unproductive ways to fill it.

Work like a lion instead—sprint, rest, repeat.

6. The Speed Paradox

You have to slow down to speed up.

Slowing down gives you the time to be deliberate with your actions.

You can focus, gather energy, and deploy your resources more efficiently.

It allows you to focus on leverage and ROI, not effort.

Move slow to move fast.

7. The Money Paradox

You have to lose money in order to make money.

Every successful investor & builder has stories of the invaluable lessons learned from a terrible loss in their career.

Sometimes you have to pay to learn.

Put skin in the game. Scared money don’t make money!

8. The News Paradox

The more news you consume, the less well-informed you are.

The Taleb noise bottleneck: More data leads to a higher noise-to-signal ratio, so you end up knowing less about what is actually going on.

Want to know more about the world? Turn off the news.

9. The Icarus Paradox

Icarus crafted wings—but flew too close to the sun, so they melted and he fell to his death.

What makes you successful can lead to your downfall.

An incumbent achieves success with one thing, but overconfidence blinds them to coming disruption.

Beware!

10. The Failure Paradox

You have to fail more to succeed more.

Our greatest moments of growth often stem directly from our greatest failures.

Don’t fear failure, just learn to fail smart and fast.

Getting punched in the face builds a strong jaw.

11. The Hamlet Paradox

“I must be cruel only to be kind.”

Hamlet

In Hamlet, the protagonist is forced to take a seemingly cruel action in order to prevent a much larger harm.

Life is so complex.

The long-term righteous course may be the one that appears short-term anything but.

12. The “Tony Robbins” Paradox

In investing, the willingness to admit you have no competitive advantage can be the ultimate competitive advantage.

Strong self-awareness breeds high-quality decision-making. Foolish self-confidence breeds nothing of use.

Be self-aware—act accordingly.

13. The Shrinking Paradox

In order to grow, sometimes you need to shrink.

Growth is never linear.

Shedding deadweight may feel like a step back, but it is a necessity for long-term growth.

One step back, two steps forward is a recipe for consistent, long-term success.

14. The Death Paradox

Know your death in order to truly live your life.

Memento Mori is a Stoic reminder of the certainty and inescapability of death.

It is not intended to be morbid; rather, to clarify, illuminate, and inspire.

Death is inevitable. Live while you’re alive.

15. The Say No Paradox

Take on less, accomplish more.

Success doesn’t come from taking on everything that comes your way.

It comes from focus—deep focus on the tasks that really matter.

Say yes to what matters, say no to what doesn’t.

Protect your time as a gift to be cherished.

16. The Talking Paradox

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

Epictetus

If you want your words and ideas to be heard, start by talking less and listening more.

You’ll find more power in your words.

Talk less to be heard more.

17. The Connectedness Paradox

More connectedness, less connected.

We’re constantly connected, bombarded by notifications and dopamine hits.

But while we have more connectedness, we feel less connected.

Put down the phone. Look someone in the eye. Have a conversation. Breathe.

18. The Taleb Surgeon Paradox

Looking the part is sometimes the worst indicator of competency.

The one who doesn’t look the part has had to overcome much more to achieve its status than the one from central casting.

If forced to choose, choose the one that doesn’t look the part.

19. The Looking Paradox

You may have to stop looking in order to find what you are looking for.

Have you noticed that when you are looking for something, you rarely find it?

Stop looking—what you’re looking for may just find you.

Applies to love, business, investing, or life…

20. The Constant Change Paradox

“When you are finished changing, you are finished.”

Benjamin Franklin

The only constant in life is change.

Entropy is reality.

It’s the one thing you can always count on—the only constant.

Embrace it—be dynamic, be adaptable.

21. The Control Paradox

More controlling, less control.

We have all seen or experienced this as children, partners, or parents.

The most controlling often end up with the least control.

Humans are wired for independence—any attempts to counter this will be met with resistance.

22. The Fear Paradox

The thing we fear the most is often the thing we most need to do.

Fears—when avoided—become limiters on our growth and life.

Make a habit of getting closer to your fears.

Then take the leap (metaphorically!)—you may just find growth on the other side.

More from Sahil’s blog:

  1. The Power Business Writing Guide: His most viewed article of 2021. A guide to writing more effectively at work.
  2. The Cold Email Guide: One cold email can change your life. A guide to sending better cold emails.
  3. Principles of Effective Storytelling: Storytelling is a powerful, underrated business and life skill. A piece on how to do it better.
  4. Principles of Life: An honest, open reflection on the core principles I want to teach my son as he grows up.
  5. How to Win (without talent or luck): A playbook for winning at life.

Follow @SahilBloom for more threads on growth, business, and decision-making.

If you liked this post, you will also like Finding Balance between Ambition and Peace of Mind, External vs Internal Success and Agonizing over Decisions.

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