What makes a person into a leader?

Charisma? No.

Communication? No.

Experience? No.

They deserve a promotion because of past efforts? No.

What ideas do you have?

There is one characteristic without which you cannot be called a leader.

Followers? Yes…  but what do you need to have as a leader so that others actually follow?

The Fundamental Characteristic of a Leader

A Destination.

You know where you are going.

…and then the power to Communicate

…and then you need to develop the ability to engage with people so that the destination becomes a shared destination.  

If you can begin to paint the destination in the minds of others with stories you begin to engage not just their hands, not just their skills, but their whole self in the committed pursuit.

A Shared Vision of a Worthwhile Destination

How do you engage those around you to commit to the journey?

Don’t “motivate” people.  

Figure out something that is worth doing.  Figure out how it will make your life better, how it will make their lives better and how it will make society better. 

Help others understand that being part of it will be better for them and their life.

How do you share this destination with others?  How’s this as a script:

  • Let us move forward: This is a good use of our time…
  • Here is what is in it for me…
  • Here is what is in it for you…

Business as an Infinite game

Simon Sinek shares a powerful concept in his book “The Infinite Game”.  He has popularised the distinction between Finite games and Infinite games. 

Chess is a finite game.  Soccer is a finite game.  Tennis is a finite game.  They each have a set of agreed rules, and a clear victory condition at which time the game ends.  The objective in a finite game is to end the game as victor.

Business is not a finite game.  Life is not a finite game.  Leading human beings is not a finite game.  

Success in life is keeping it engaging to play for all those involved (including yourself!). 

A game everyone plays voluntarily is more successful than a game where some must be compelled to play.

If you are going to set up an organisation, you can compel people to perform with threats and fear.  It is much more effective to engage them to play a game that is meaningful for them, and for you… and for society as a whole.

How to lead the whole Person

Imagine these two requests from a leader:

  1. “Go home and take 4 hours to think about how you will contribute to this organisation over the next year” or
  2. “Go home and take 4 hours to think about your life and formulate a plan for your life with this business being a part of the plan”

Which is the question of the bigger leader?

Jordan Peterson reports a 10% increase in contribution where leaders ask the 2nd question to their teams. 

You want yourself and your team to see that working for you serves their higher order purpose.  

If not, this is not the job for them.  Help them find a place where they can serve their higher purpose.

If you liked this post, you will also like Finding Purpose and Defining a Vision for your Life and What is Leadership?

This post was inspired by Jordan Peterson in this Bigthink video: 

 

Life is too short to figure everything out on your own. 

Humans spend the years from birth to 12 learning how to survive.  Our parents have a vested interest in helping us develop the Stop there: we merely survive. 

We live in a highly complex society.  There is intense competition for status in whatever hierarchy you compete in. It doesn’t matter whether you choose to compete or not, society and humanity are designed to compete for resources.  It is not those born strong that rise to the top of status hierarchies in today’s human society.  It is those who learn to use their capacities most effectively and adapt quickly to changes in the environment.  

There are two ways we learn to make positive progress in this society – 1) our own experience, or 2) through the experiences of others.  Our own experience is a slow and expensive way of learning. 

If I am to choose to learn most effectively, through the experiences of others, I must learn the art of meaningful conversation. Through my work with Entrepreneurs’ Organisation forum and Vistage groups I have worked extensively over the last 15 years on creating the type of meaningful conversation that allows one to learn from the experiences of another.

I’m sharing 4 ideas that I took from Jordan Peterson’s book the 12 Rules for Life when I read it this year.

“Your current knowledge has neither made you perfect nor kept you safe”

Your knowledge is insufficient. You must accept this before you can converse philosophically, instead of pushing opinions, convincing, oppressing, dominating or joking.  

“Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t”

It is necessary to respect the personal experience of your conversational partners. You must assume that they have reached careful, thoughtful, genuine conclusions (and, perhaps, they must have done the work that justifies this assumption). You must believe that if they shared their conclusions with you, you could bypass at least some of the pain of personally learning the same things (as learning from the experience of others can be quicker and much less dangerous).

It takes conversation to organise a mind 

“people organize their brains with conversation. If they don’t have anyone to tell their story to, they lose their minds.” The input of the community is required for the integrity of the individual psyche.    

“Life is short, and you don’t have time to figure everything out on your own” 

They say Aristotle was the last man who knew everything there was to know. Since the time of Aristotle (over 2300 years ago) society has become too complex for any one individual to know all that is known.  

When I was in school, I took huge value in solving from first principles. I would prefer to solve mathematic problems from first principles and avoid using formulaic recipes that allowed you to shortcut to a solution.  This was symptomatic of my whole approach to life. If I hadn’t figured it out myself, I didn’t value the knowledge.  There is a heroic valor to this approach, but it is dumb heroics.  

If you liked this post, you will also like How do I become a better listener and 50 Questions for better Critical Thinking.

Check out the full list of books I read in 2020.

 

 

MIT Endicott House

I was in Boston to teach on the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation EMP (Entrepreneurial Masters Program) this week. MIT Endicott House is one of the most beautiful locations for leadership retreats and programs. I brought my drone to capture the scenery around the main buildings. You’ll see the drone shots right at the beginning of the video below.

Why Do We Need to Clarify our Purpose?

Dandapani in Barcelona, 2016

Dandapani was one of the speakers at the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Masters Program event this week at MIT Endicott House, outside of Boston. Dandapani spent 10 years as a Hindu monk, meditating with his guru on the purpose of his life.

Dandapani spoke about the importance of consciously deciding what is important and what is not important in your life. Why?

Because life is finite.

More from Dandapani

Dandapani on Instagram (he takes great photos) https://www.instagram.com/dandapanillc

“How to Concentrate”, Dandapani at TEDx

Did Netflix kill Blockbuster?

or did Blockbuster forget about customers?

Did Amazon kill Sears?

or did Sears forget about customers?

One of my early business mentors told me “you have to be half the price or triple the value for someone to switch from their current provider”.  People don’t switch from Sears to Amazon for a couple of pennies… the new had to be much better than the old.

If you were competing with yourself, or competing with your business – how would you attack?  Where is that weakness?  Fix that.  Don’t wait for the customers to discover that someone else does it for half the price or triple the value…  because it will be very hard to get them back.

If you liked this post you will also like 12 Questions for Any Business and 6 Keys to Leading Positive Change in Organisations.

You are at one of these 5 places in your life

If you are reading this post via email, you can watch the video here: The 5 States of Human Performance (From the Coaches Perspective)

The 5 States of Human Performance

The 9 minute video shares a tip for how to move forward from each of these 5 states.  I share my story of 2009, of coming back from bankruptcy and loss of family and how I moved out of stage 5 (starting at minute 5:24 in the video).

  1. You know your goal and you’re going after it: Enjoy it.  (Find someone you can help.)
  2. You know your goal and you’re stuck and can’t find your way there: Find a Mentor. Ask someone who has already had success about how they overcame this obstacle.
  3. You know your goal and you are letting distractions win: Use the Pomodoro Method.
  4. You don’t know your goal and you’re miserable: Ask a few friends (not the cynical ones) what they think you are good at and what they think you should work on
  5. You’ve given up on your goals and you’re miserable: Move your body: Go for a walk. Set one tiny goal to help one other person.

 

PS if you can’t decide which state you are it, you in state 4.

Find a goal. Aim at it.

Let me know a) which place you are at and b) the goal you choose in the comments below 😉

Genetically we differ 2% from chimpanzees and 3% from worms. Our big difference is the cortex, the upper layer of the brain.  The cortex is the home of imagination.

Imagination gives us the choice to live intentionally.  We can make a choice: lead a life that is not just response to stimuli, but building towards a vision: an imagined future.

Why is imagination so important?

A leader sees a future that is not yet here.  This requires imagination. The clearer you can see and touch and feel this potential future the more compellingly you can communicate it to others.

Imagination is what makes us human. 2,300 years ago in the Greek city-state of Athens, Aristotle asked himself “what is the purpose of human life?”  Aristotle defined the purpose of an object as being that which it can uniquely do.  A human is alive – but plants are also alive – so that cannot be human purpose.  A human feels – but animals also feel – so that cannot be human purpose. The unique gift of humanity is reason, the ability to solve problems in the mind, to imagine.

How can you develop your imagination?  The video below shares a tool that Jim Collins uses to develop his power of Imagination.

If you are reading this via email, the video is on the blog here: Start with the End in Mind

Two Approaches to Life

My friends live their lives in one of two contrasting ways:

  1. Guided by a Long term Vision for their Lives
  2. Take Opportunities as they come

In the short term, the opportunists made great early progress.  I have one friend who changed job every 1-2 years in the investment banking industry.  Each job change achieved an increase of 30-50% in salary.  Problem: he is now stuck and has no serious chances of moving up to the really senior ranks.

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Another friend in investment banking has stuck it out in the same bank for 14 years.  He didn’t take each opportunistic head-hunter call looking to get him to switch jobs.  His salary languished behind our opportunistic friend.  Today he is moving into the senior ranks of the bank and has enormous political support to take job choices that improve his work-life balance.

It was a hard choice when I was young.  I worked for Accenture for 9 years.  Every year I watched peers leave to join competitors for 30-50% increases in salary.  I had offers and I thought about leaving.  In the end, I valued flexibility over salary and used my network in Accenture to live in London, Chicago and Sydney.

Case: Henry Kissinger and US Foreign Policy

I finished reading Kissinger’s biography by Niall Ferguson before the summer. The central debate in the book: Was Kissinger:

  1. an idealist hit by impossible problems? or
  2. a realist who responded as best he could to opportunities?

Remember the 1960s?  I don’t…  only through my history courses and books.  I highly recommend a Coursera course with Professor Philip Zelikow: The Modern World, Part 2: Global History since 1910.  It is one of my 3 favourite MOOC courses that I have studied over the last 5 years.  Prof Zelikow is passionate and engaging.

Kissinger’s Major Criticism of US Foreign Policy: 100% Opportunist

Kissinger’s criticisms of the Kennedy and LBJ presidencies was that they were pragmatic opportunists, but there was no overall vision of what they stood for. The Soviet Union (at the time) stood for fairness, and the US argument was that its economic policies would make citizens wealthier.

It was a lost argument.

People were not inspired to fight in order to improve their economic situation. This was not a psychologically motivating appeal.

Kissinger identified freedom as the value that the US most espoused. He felt that the foreign policy decisions should be taken in the framework of whether the individual decisions improved individual freedom – not on a case by case basis.

Opportunism leads to a Dead End

Those who know why they are fighting will win over those who don’t.

The Vietnam war was militarily un-winnable, and Ho Chi Minh was always a step ahead of what the US were interested in negotiating.   He understood that the US would always be short term and opportunistic. He was fighting for a cause, the US had got themselves into Vietnam bit by bit by bit and then found themselves stuck fighting for a cause that didn’t exist.

I’m no history or politics expert, but I would suggest that the US role in the world from the end of the Vietnam war up until 2000 was largely positive.  The recent decade has seen the US fall back into an Opportunistic foreign policy – George Bush’s photo opportunity driven foreign policy was the start of a collapse in Visionary and values driven US foreign policy.  Trump is here because the political consensus had gradually become what is politically easy, not what is right.  The increasing polarization of the US political system makes it hard to establish a long term vision.

Only a life led towards a vision based on your own set of values can lead to work you love in the second half of your career.  A life led entirely on the basis of opportunism will inevitably take you towards a dead end (or Trump).

How do you Establish a Framework for your Life?

Kissinger began by identifying the most important value that he believed represented the US culture: Freedom.

What is your single most important value?  

Is your life showing this?  Is the majority of your time going to your most important value?  Are you spending your money on your most important value?  Are you building friendships and mentors that support your most important value?

You need a coach or a mentor to help you work out your vision, framework and how to take the tough decisions to orient your life around this vision.  I have never seen someone do it alone.

One of my favourite examples of a powerful personal Vision comes from Cameron Herold. He calls it his Vivid Vision. You can read his updated 2016 Vivid Vision Statement here.

“Leadership is about communicating with people, uniting them behind a shared mission and values, and mobilizing energies toward accomplishing the mission or purpose of an Organization.” Peter Drucker

Leadership is a means to an end–the mission it serves is the end.

People who accomplish great things have a combined passion for a single mission with an unswerving dedication to achieve that mission, whatever the obstacles and however long it might take.

In “Leading Change”, John Kotter outlines 6 aspects of a good vision
statement:

  1. Imaginable. It needs to paint a visual picture of the desired future in the minds of those who read it.
  2. Desirable. It should appeal to the people that are striving to reach it and the customers they are serving.
  3. Feasible. While aspirational in nature, it needs to articulate a realistic and achievable future purpose.
  4. Focused. It should provide concentrated direction to those following it.
  5. Flexible. By being broad in scope, it allows for modifications due to the dynamic nature of the business environment.
  6. Communicable. The vision statement should be easy to articulate to others.

We need to be careful about taking the easy path and not the right path.  We need people that practice it in their own lives, and we need to reward leaders who practice it in the public arena.

If you liked this post, you will also like Freedom is not Fun and Meaningful Contribution.

 

Most people do not have a compelling vision.

A boring vision attracts mediocre people and mediocre performance.

pablo (3)

“I want to make €1 million” is not a compelling vision. It is about you, and you alone.  Why would anyone else give their best effort so that you can have €1 million in your bank account?

Guy Kawasaki once told me that a compelling vision is based on one of three things:

  • Right a wrong
  • Give back to people something they have lost
  • Improve quality of life

How do you improve the quality of life of a group of people?  How do you fix something that is wrong with the world?  How do you give people something they once had but is now lost?

It takes courage to build a compelling vision.

It takes deep self reflection about what is deeply important to me.  The closer I get to what my deepest values ask of me, the more I will feel fear of ridicule by others.

If anything was possible, what type of world do you want to see?

Describe this world.

If it feels easily achievable, you do not have a compelling vision.  If this seems important but very difficult – you might be on to a compelling vision.

If you work for the money, you will get bored and apathetic sooner or later.  If the money is for a bigger purpose, then your journey can overcome many obstacles.

What do you really want?

pablo

Michael Gerber, in his book The E-Myth asks this question: What are your primary aims?

Imagine walking into a room.  You pause at the entrance.  In the room, seated, are all your friends and family. You enter the room.  You walk up the middle of the room.  At the front of the room there is a box. You approach the box. As you come closer you realise it is you in the box, and this is your funeral.

You hear people talking about your life.

What do you want them to be saying?

You have to decide.

“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.” Viktor E. Frankl

If you want to live an incredible life and achieve amazing things, you have to decide.  Nobody ever stood on the summit of Everest and said “oh wow, this is a surprise.”  It was a vision years before it became a reality.

Living an incredible life is no accident. I have to start knowing what I want to achieve. I need to be clear on who I need to become in order to achieve what I want. And then I need repeatedly to take action, even when I am plagued by doubt.

“A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining. What he becomes – within the limits of endowment and environment- he has made out of himself. In the concentration camps, for example, in this living laboratory and on this testing ground, we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.” Viktor E. Frankl, from his book Man’s Search for Meaning

Do you know what you want?