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Friday 29 July 2016

It’s a curious thing

I’ve spent time over the first half of this year being curious. Wondering how things will fall, exploring options and having conversations without a specific end in mind beyond finding things out. And, as is the way I’ve found when I start paying attention to something, the idea of curiosity has popped up in a variety of places.

While not a big fan of the self help genre, I have enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. She says that creative living is “living a live that is driven more by curiosity than by fear”.

At the recent AHRI HR in Focus conference one of the speakers urged us to stay curious. My father, a chemistry teacher in his first career, had a classroom mantra “Always ask why.”; something he didn’t always appreciate from his elder daughter! But asking why, and then asking it again, helps us find clarity. This is something parenting has taught me: Always, always ask “why?”, or “what do you mean?” or “where did you hear that?” before answering a question, because very often the answer that springs to mind does not respond to the question your small person is actually asking.

I’ve spent 6 months setting conversations going, exploring possibilities, applying for roles and being disappointed (or relieved) not to be shortlisted, asking “why?”, “why not?”, “why me?” but most of all being curious about where things would lead. And this is what happened…

A one-month opportunity to analyse survey findings and feedback and report to a senior university committee grew into a 10 month contract to complete a really interesting, organisation-wide student orientation project with talented and experienced colleagues. I’ll complete this at the beginning of the 2017 academic year, leaving behind structures, documents and ways of working that will, I plan, be of benefit for future orientation cycles. This timing is perfect as it gives me an opening to begin PhD studies in 2017; something I’ve been thinking about for more than 15 years but haven’t been in a position to pursue.

I’m now very clear and excited about what I am doing into the first quarter of next year. I’m continuing to have conversations to gather advice, find out what I don’t know and make connections. I’m applying to undertake a PhD, and I can see some of the ways these studies and what I will learn, write about and share will help me shape my future career.

There is the saying that “curiosity killed the cat”. Curiosity in my experience doesn’t kill but opens up possibilities.

Sunday 15 May 2016

Magpie choices

Almost grown magpies always amuse me. Nearly as large as their parents, they squawk and fuss, incessantly demanding bugs.

Four months ago I received unexpected news at work that significantly changed my focus and priorities for the rest of this year and beyond. As a result I’ve been more aware than usual about the choices that I make.

There have been choices about what to pursue hard and strategically, and what to let go. About how to spend time and energy so I look after myself as well as supporting others. Choices about what I will do so I finish well and am well positioned as I begin something new. I’ve made choices about the sorts of conversations I have and who I have them with. Some of these conversations have been about new opportunities and some about how things are going today. Many have been full of excitement and possibility. Others have been about the difficulties and sadness that comes along with forced change -but not too many of these. I know bird shit when I see it, I don’t need to go out of my way to step in it!

When we find ourselves in a place we didn’t expect we always get to answer the question “Will I be a teenage magpie?” Making a lot of noise, demanding others’ attention, resisting change and finding ways to argue… I’ve chosen to find my own bugs, sing my song and fly.

Saturday 26 March 2016

Behave yourself

The photo in the exhibition of student work took me by surprise. There I was! Snapped while walking and talking in a place I often pass through, on a day I don’t remember. It felt very odd seeing myself, for a moment, as a stranger might.

So what did I see?

IMG_20160312_132831444.jpg

We don’t often see ourselves as others do. It made me think of another moment that shifted how I’d seen something familiar. I read “be have” and read it again before realising that a line break meant I was actually reading “behave”. Turns out the word could have come from Old English meaning to contain. How we behave could be how we be with what we have.

I’ve received a number of positive comments recently on my professional response to a tricky work situation. My reaction has been that it’s nice my colleagues noticed, but more fundamentally some surprise. After all, what did they expect? How we respond when things are difficult should be consistent with the way we carry ourselves whatever the circumstances. Heightened by the situation of course, but still consistent. And any significant gap between the “good times” me and the “difficult times” me would point, I think, to a lack of authenticity.

How do you be have?

  • Jaimee Young is the photographer, undertaking undergraduate studies at the University of South Australia. The image is reproduced with her permission. The reflections on the glass are a result of my (lack of ) photographic skills not hers!

Friday 18 December 2015

Sing your song

At the end of every year, the gospel choir I belong to sings at the Adelaide railway station. The sound rolls down the concourse as trains full of “last week before Christmas” workers pull in. It’s great fun; the Victorian building with its barrel ceiling echoes wonderfully, many commuters smile, take video and sing along.

A choir seems to me a lot like a work team that’s performing well. We have a conductor without whom we lose our way and sound ragged. He leads the choir but his whole purpose is to make us sound good, not to draw attention to himself. And he needs the choir as much as we need him, or he’s just some guy with music in his head waving his arms around.

We have a common goal and we each have a part to sing. As accurately as possible, following direction, and with the group, but also taking personal responsibility. When we don’t and we rely too heavily on those around us we literally go flat! From time to time there are soloists who sing something different and unique before joining the group again. These aren’t always the same people, nor are they necessarily those with the “best” voice. But everyone who takes a risk to sing out is supported by the rest of us.

Singing is part of my life and part of my Christmas celebrations. I hope that through the year you will find your song and likeminded people to sing it with!

Friday 11 December 2015

Hidden treasure in plain sight

I know a fabulous shop that sells second hand clothing on consignment. Some of my favourite outfits have come from there. And my best buys have been things I found when I wasn’t really looking. I once bought a pair of shoes (that instantly make anything I wear with them look better) when I was really buying rhubarb!

I’m beginning to think that we find the good stuff, or the good stuff finds us, when we are open minded about it. Things I’ve particularly enjoyed doing professionally haven’t necessarily been a major part of my day job. They have been things I’ve done in my own time and arisen because I’ve had the attitude “that looks interesting, I could do that” without it being part of any grand plan. As one example: I tutored an undergraduate business subject earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed facilitating workshops with students each week. I learned lots too. About being a casual academic when my usual role is a professional university staff member, about another university, about students as individuals not Equivalent Fulltime Student Units.

A colleague researches in human resources and one of his areas of interest has been the element of luck in job search. Luck seems to be something that finds me when I’m looking but, paradoxically, not looking too hard. Perhaps I see things when I’m in a “lucky” frame of mind that I just don’t see or pay attention to when I’m not. And “luck” doesn’t seem to happen without effort.

I’m certainly not arguing that it is all down to hard work, or good luck. Bad things do happen to good people and as George Monbiot observed “if wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.” I do think though that we are more inclined to take optimistic chances, to say yes to opportunities, and to see fabulous shoes when we are shopping for rhubarb, when we are open to the possibility.

Friday 30 October 2015

25 not out

I celebrated a milestone this week. 25 years with the one organisation. This has crept up on me, indeed I checked my HR record thinking someone must have made a mistake.

I’ve been ambivalent about it. Much like the comments I’ve received my feelings have ranged from “that’s awesome!” through “Really? You don’t look old enough” down to “haven’t had a life”.

I decided to embrace the moment. After all if the University was going to throw a party and offer me a rather lovely gift, it seemed churlish not to attend to accept it. So I went, caught up with colleagues I haven’t seen in years, met interesting folk I’d never met, heard a little about other people’s proudest professional and personal achievements (everyone had a life!) drank champagne and had smiley photos taken.

Coincidently, on the same day I attended the AHRI HR in Focus Workshop on workforce planning facilitated by Julie Sloan. One point Julie made was that workforce planning needs managers to understand their staff members’ career stage. Whether each individual sees themselves as new, mid or end of career in their role, and in the organisation. A key point is that it is really important not to make assumptions about where others are at, based on their age or their managers’ limited understanding of their lives. This of course requires conversations that are deep, respectful and trusting.

So, 25 years. I’ll take it, gratefully, but don’t jump to conclusions about my next 25!

Friday 16 October 2015

More than a one trick pony

My teenage daughter just returned from three weeks away on school exchange. While she was gone the house was quieter, and tidier! But most of all I noticed that as a family our interactions were different when she wasn’t here, as were her occasional long distance conversations with us by phone or text.

This happens in the workplace too. Group dynamics shift depending on who is in the office. And meetings can change their vibe completely with the addition or subtraction of a colleague. You know which colleague! The one who always speaks first, regardless of how much they know about the situation. The person who invariably find problems, or solutions. The colleague who brings different ideas and points of view together. The one who rarely speaks but is always worth listening to….

Of course we need a mixture of styles and approaches. That’s why we work so often in groups. But if we get stuck in our preferred style, the way we regularly respond may not be helpful to our work mates or to maintain our professional brand. Continual optimism, regardless of circumstance, can be seen as naiveté, always finding (real) problems can be interpreted as being unsupportive. Optimism and seeing risks are both valuable, but not every time we speak on every topic.

Rather than jumping into playing a role that feels as comfortable as a pair of old jeans, taking time to think about what is needed by the group, and what we can offer, lets us take a more proactive and constructive approach. This may mean speaking up sooner if your tendency is to wait and listen; the group may need to hear what you have to say right now. It may also mean holding back and letting less forthcoming colleagues find the space to contribute. Likewise, it might mean suggesting a solution as well as identifying a problem.

It’s lovely to have my daughter home, but I hope to maintain some of the changes her absence prompted: independence and problem solving, less sibling “bickering as entertainment” and space for each member of the family to do their own thing, individually and together.

Friday 14 August 2015

Head, hands, heart

When did you last learn something valuable? How did you learn it? What did you do with it?

We tend to divide things up and label them. Seeing intellectual (head) learning or education as one thing while practical (hand) learning or experience as another. I helped behind the scenes at a graduation ceremony this week: lots of proud graduates, families and friends, buzz of excitement and anticipation. And many reminders in the speeches given that university graduates are expected to do something with their learning, to forge careers and in large ways and small improve their communities.

What I think makes head and hand learning valuable is heart.

Heart is the place where engagement lives. It is what drives a theoretical mathematician to work toward an elegant solution. Masterchef winners demonstrate knowledge and technique (and amazing unflappability under pressure) but their dish is deemed a success when it also reflects the cook’s personality and creativity and nurtures those who eat it.

Learning and dreaming and planning are all good and necessary, but nothing changes until our goals are achieved step by step - and with unplanned surprises. That won’t happen unless our “heart is in it”.

Saturday 27 June 2015

What do we want? Leadership! What do we need? Management.

Problems at work? Poor leadership is often the diagnosis and leadership development the prescription.

But it turns out transformational leadership isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I recently heard Professor Deanne Den Hartog speak on research within organisations that shows charismatic or transformational leadership is useful when there is a crisis, or when followers are not confident in their abilities to do the job. When we are lost or confused we look to someone to provide direction. But when the crisis is resolved, or when followers are confident and capable, this style of leadership either doesn’t improve team performance and at worst is detrimental.

If leadership is not what is needed, management might be. Management, as I hope my tutorial students remember in their exam, is “the process of getting things done, effectively and efficiently, with and through other people”. Managers are in the people business! Good mangers have followers who will work with them to achieve agreed goals. So to be a good manager I’d argue that relationships are vital. Managers need to be human, they need to like people (without needing to always be liked) they need to be respectful and to behave consistently in ways that mean they are respected. It sounds a lot like basic good manners and social skills.

Managing oneself and others is a skill that is not as common as followers would like. But when done well it can be mistaken for leadership!

Tuesday 14 April 2015

The more things change…

I’ve been in a lot of professional and personal conversations about change recently. When something changes quickly it might be scary, or exciting, but it is something we can respond to. Other change isn’t an event; it’s an ongoing, incremental process. Some of my conversations and thinking have been around what change is when it’s slower than we’d like; when it’s less than we expected, and if it never actually gets finished.

I’ve been reminded of two things. One is the importance of not getting bored or distracted by new activities or problems, but keeping going even when the change isn’t new and exciting (or threatening) any more. The other is the importance of keeping everyone involved pointing in the same direction and moving more or less together over the long term.

We point new employees in the right direction quite well if we induct them properly. There’s an introduction to the team, a clear statement of what they will do and where their role fits. A corporate induction session gives opportunity to meet colleagues from other areas and hear from senior managers about the organisation’s plans. Sometimes there is even cake!

I’ve been wondering how well we re-induct long standing colleagues so the long term “couldn’t do without them” folk are as up to date as their new co-workers with the organisation’s plans, structures and shared understanding of what is important. I suspect we don’t do this as well as we should. All organisations change and develop in response to a whole host of influences from inside and out. But we assume that the folk who have been there for a while just pick up shifts in direction. Some will of course, but others won’t see keeping up to date as a priority. After all they have a job to do, and they quietly get on with it. Will everyone read the CEO’s latest blog post? It’s probably a disappointment to the CEO, but the answer is “probably not”.

So how do we re-induct the folk who are long term, maybe low key contributors who the organisation needs to keep business flowing but who also need to understand what that business looks like now and how to do it well. Not with brochures and slogans that nobody reads but in a way that is real, and connects with people. Part of the answer is in planned, structured, ongoing conversations. And occasional cake.

Saturday 29 November 2014

We are what we…

Like many old sayings “we are what we eat” has some truth in it. There’s a sense in which we become what we take in, what we spend time on, what we do.

Recently I was with a group of people asked to consider the question “What do you want to build?” It was in a community setting, looking at the sorts of relationships and long term outcomes we want to create. Then came the follow up question: “What are you building?” What if the answers to those questions are different? If there is a gap between what we sincerely want to achieve and the choices and actions we habitually take which divert us.

One of my goals is to run 5km without feeling as though death is imminent. I have somewhere I could run, I have shoes I could wear, I’m inspired by a colleague who has recently achieved this goal and my daughter is willing to run with me. But I use the time I could be outside exercising to read, write blogs, or indeed any number of things which may be good in themselves but don’t get me any closer to the 5km mark.

Someone who wants to be a runner has to run. A writer has to write. A leader has to lead.

It’s easy to put it off. “I don’t have time, it won’t be good enough, it will be difficult” but no one begins by running a marathon. Small steps in the right direction – literally in this case – will move me toward my goal. And it is my goal that is important, not someone else’s: 5km not the City to Bay.

Better aligning what we want to build and what we are building also requires us to feel – think – act. Feeling I want to run is just a dream. Thinking about it is the planning stage. But until I act I’m not running! Likewise setting off on a 5km run without preparation (or acting without thinking) will have painful consequences. Feel – think – act is an ongoing cycle. What I feel may change over time, how I plan and act may change too. I may discover that running is not something I want to continue to do. Or that a marathon beckons (but don’t hold your breath!).

Friday 19 September 2014

Sitting with discomfort

We live in a society where “there’s an app for that!” speed is good and solutions are more valuable than problems. But we know that isn’t true. In our work, our homes and our communities we see (and if we are honest, we experience) unease and discomfort; often around important, complex situations which truly concern us.

I’ve had a number of experiences and conversations lately which have highlighted the value of sitting with discomfort. This might be as simple as resisting the urge to do something else when I’m not sure what to do or how to begin. It might be as profound as being prepared to be with someone who is in distress and risking feeling some of that distress myself.

My tendency is to rush in to make things tidy and “nice”. I’m learning to pause. Not as a negotiating tactic, but as a way of being alongside the person I am with and in the situation. I often don’t get it right, but when I do I find that the conversation has authenticity and space is created to think and respond more effectively. In contrast, a glib response or rushing to suggest a solution or give advice doesn’t honour the person who is sharing in discomfort.

Yesterday I attended a session on facilitation skills. One comment that struck me was when a colleague said that she had learned ask herself whether making an intervention as the facilitator was in the service of the group or to make herself feel better. Sometimes maintaining the discomfort is in the service of those we work with.

And sometimes there are no words. I recall a facebook message from an ESL teacher who has many students with family and friends in dire situations in their homelands. In the face of her students’ concerns she asked “what do I say?” It requires strength and courage to be alongside others but not to say anything when words are not enough.

I’m not advocating wallowing. Feeling uncomfortable or unease is part of changing, doing things differently or recognising the complexity of a situation. I’m learning to sit with it a while before making a more considered response.

Friday 28 March 2014

What does success look like?

International Women’s Day provided an opportunity to rue the small proportion of women in positions of power in Australia. With a single female federal cabinet member and 93% of CEO positions in Australian corporations held by men, the statistics are damning.

While we debate the reasons why women are not more visible in the political and business realms I’d suggest that the lack of diversity in leadership is symptomatic of how we view success.

People with high emotional intelligence, strong interpersonal skills, and a holistic desire to succeed - not only in their work but in their relationships with others and in terms of their self fulfilment - may not align their goals with traditional success. They may choose to opt out. We see talented women leaving or reducing their time in the workforce right at the time a traditionally successful career should be taking off. We don’t see many men from a broader range of cultural, social or religious backgrounds in traditionally “powerful” positions.

Despite evidence that those who demonstrate a range of skills including EI and a life outside the office make better leaders, they seem to be a rare breed. And if potential leaders with more holistic skills choose to leave formal organisational structures we end up with a smaller pool of folk who lack those skills filling the middle and senior leadership ranks. In turn this perpetuates the myth that success looks like a corner office with a white middle aged man behind the desk.

Saturday 15 February 2014

It’s a lot like riding a bike

When my daughter was small she was desperate to learn to ride a bicycle. But she was very nervous about falling off. So she would sit next to me and demand, over and over, “tell me how to ride a bike…” There is only so much theory that is useful before you have to actually get on and peddle!

My recent foray into twitter reminded me of this. You can’t understand it without getting in there and trying it out. This approach challenges me; in my work especially I like to gather information, make connections and craft a response. Not necessarily taking a lot of time over the process, but my preference is to give a considered view, not an off the cuff reaction.

How is it going? I’m finding twitter interesting. I’m not a frequent twitterer (or tweeter, or twit - I’m still learning the vocabulary!) and hashtags remain somewhat mysterious. I’ve responded when I meant to retweet and I still feel I’m making it up as I go along. I’m keeping my involvement contained. I have a (very) small group of followers, and I follow only a small number of people and organisations. Do I want to spend a lot of time there? No. But I’ve subscribed to a fabulous blog that I wouldn’t have come across otherwise. And I’m looking forward to using twitter at events to connect and communicate with other participants in new ways. Notwithstanding my L plates, a couple of my tweets have also been picked up by folk far outside my usual circles.

I mentioned to a colleague last week that I need to get brave in order to make the most of opportunities to do new things. Like engaging with Twitter or learning to ride a bike getting brave means not just thinking about it or listening to other’s experience, although both might be helpful. Getting brave means getting out there and doing it, risking falling off, and learning as I go.

What are you being brave about this year?

Sunday 15 December 2013

Messy Christmas everyone!

The lead up to the end of the year is messy. Wrapping up the year that was, planning for the year ahead. So much to do, so little time. And in Australia, where Christmas coincides with the end of the school year and the beginning of the long summer break, holidays loom and the beach beckons.

For those who celebrate the Christmas season, and for whom January 1 marks the beginning of a new year at work, it can be an ambiguous time. We look back with satisfaction, or regret. We look forward with anticipation, or disquiet. It’s a time for personal and professional reflection. A time of endings and new beginnings. Of family, friends and noticeable absences. It’s a time of joy and (dis)stress.

The story my family and many of my friends tell at this time of year contains tensions and ambiguities too. There are ordinary folk and angels, shepherds and kings, wisdom and folly, riches and poverty, the extraordinary and the mundane.

It seems to me that these tensions highlight the need to pay attention to the small, seemingly insignificant things that point to larger truths. Trust is built one conversation at a time. Reputation is formed through behavior day by day. Organisational culture is an amalgamation of all the “ways we do things here” and plans are implemented one decision at a time.

I plan to have a messy Christmas, with all its complexities, and use the season as an opportunity to pay attention to individual relationships and celebrate community. I hope you have a messy Christmas too!

Sunday 24 November 2013

Plan B: lessons learned

The last few weeks have not gone entirely to plan. Now I like a good plan, so this has been both frustrating and a useful reminder of things I know but don’t always practice. So what have I learned and hope to hold on to as life resumes its normal pattern?

I’ve been reminded that perfection is over-rated and that often something is better than nothing. Yes I know, “if something is worth doing its worth doing well” and I agree. It's worth doing as well as it needs to be done. It is possible to get stuck believing that because some things are truly important, they need to be done absolutely properly and therefore need more (and more) time and information. But often action, even if flawed or incomplete, is what is needed otherwise activities get planned but not done. In a seminar on leading in uncertainty recently I was struck by the presenter’s assertion that as things become more uncertain we can rely less and less on data (which tells us about the past). Rather action is necessary because uncertain futures are created by the actions people take.

Not pursuing unnecessary perfection links to reminders to spend my energy wisely and to pick my issues carefully. Always true, but especially if I’m unable to do everything I would like and have to decide what to say “no” to. The flip side to this not to close the door prematurely on future opportunities because I can’t do it today (I don’t have to), it might not work out (it might) and if something else happens I won’t be able to (make the decision then, not now).

When I can’t do it all I need to get the support I need. I see self reliance as a virtue so this is a tricky one for me. Strategic vulnerability is the key. By this I mean letting some key people (who I was confident would be supportive) know what is happening rather than maintaining a façade. My openness allowed them to be their best, responding in a professional and personal way. It deepened our engagement, built mutual understanding and gave me the support and strategies I needed to get over the bumpy patch.

I’ve also been reminded that the important things (activities and relationships that give direction, wellbeing and joy) are rarely urgent and can too easily left for another day while I get on with being busy. But busyness without firm underpinning is exhausting and ultimately ineffective. So I will take time and try to spend it wisely with a long term view.

Friday 27 September 2013

A map and a torch

It’s a myth that we don’t cope with change. If it were true we wouldn’t be living in cities unimaginable even 100 years ago. We wouldn’t be doing jobs that our grandparents would hardly recognise as work using tools that have been developed in the last 5, 10 or 20 years - remember work without email? without mobile devices?

What we do struggle with is uncertainty. And that makes sense if what you don’t recognise might eat you! It makes less sense when life is complicated and there is so much that we just can’t know. So what role do leaders have in changeable, complicated, uncertain workplaces?

One of the things I think leaders do is hold a map and a torch. They have a destination in mind with a broad idea of how they and their team are going to get there. And they shine a clear, bright light on the next step.

Leaders often do the big picture stuff well. They have vision statements, organisational goals, strategic plans… it’s switching on the torch that sometimes gets forgotten. Things like

  • communicating regularly to remind people where they are going and why, and to set out the next step and the one after that.
  • consulting with those affected who probably already see the problems and have some useful answers.
  • ensuring colleagues have the tools they need in their backpack to make the journey.
  • listening

Communicating, consulting, listening and responding…step by step, casting a pool of light that colleagues can step into.

Friday 30 August 2013

Affective organisational stewardship

I’ve been involved recently in a number of conversations about knowledge management. One of the interesting things I’ve noticed is the tensions around

  • capturing information which is fast changing and fluid
  • the best ways of sharing information, or knowledge, usefully
  • being innovative, creative and responsive in a corporate environment where consistency and corporate memory are also valued.

These tensions have led me to think about stewardship; an old fashioned term which points in two directions.

In an organisational setting, stewardship picks up the idea that a steward acts on another’s behalf to use resources wisely. Stewards must be mindful that whatever we have at our disposal is ours to use but does not belong to us. Resources need to be used for the good of the organisation. This is what good managers do. Not for themselves, but for their team, while also ensuring that what their team achieves contributes to the organisation’s objectives.

Stewardship is also about building something so it is better when you leave than when you arrived. This is one thing good leaders do. But again, not for themselves. Although recognition may follow, the best leaders are not primarily motivated by what they gain but by what they create. Fundamentally, people are important. Managers cannot manage without them; leaders who have no followers are delusional!

I’m not suggesting that people are “soft resources” to be used or managed for organisational ends. Far from it, but people working together is how information is generated, shared and used, how innovations occur, how organisations serve their various customers and meet their goals.

In a different context I heard someone comment that we are rightly focused on being effective but that we also need to be affective. To have what we do come from the heart. I’d argue that the quality of our interactions with others and our stewardship will be better if they are affective too.

Saturday 10 August 2013

Follow the leader

The cult of the leader is alive and well. Not just in despotic regimes but in the business section of any good bookstore. So what of the followers?

Most of us will never be CEO, the maths are against us quite apart from other constraints such as talent and luck! We can talk about the importance of leadership at every level and in every role within an organisation. We can proclaim the necessary death of hierarchy, as Shawn Murphy’s recent post on Switch and Shift did. We can bemoan a lack of leadership when we feel we are not being properly represented or appreciated.

Perhaps we are really seeking answers to the question “What is good followership?”

In their recent book 10 Virtues of Outstanding Leaders Al Gini and Roland Green touch on this with their definition of leadership as “a power-laden, value-based and ethically driven relationship between leaders and followers who share a common vision and accomplish real changes that reflect their mutual purpose and goals.”

Leadership always, and only, occurs when people follow. We followers therefore have a responsibility to choose our leaders wisely.

We also need to

  • Understand the organisation’s purpose
  • Understand the part our work team plays in that
  • See where our job fits
  • Be open to doing things differently if that will better meet the purpose
  • Take initiative to make such changes
  • Develop moral courage to know when not to follow, and act wisely on this
  • Be able to work effectively with others (including our leaders) to achieve goals that contribute to the organisation’s purpose.

This takes effort. Followership is active and relational. It is not simply doing as one is told!

The flip side of these look a lot like mainstream leadership advice – articulating meaning, ensuring fit between team and organisational goals, managers and team members creating solutions together, openness to other points of view. They require effective, engaged leadership as well as followership. But a leader is a loner if no one is behind them!

Shawn Murphy’s post

Monday 24 June 2013

The virtues of leadership

Leadership. We know it when we see it. We applaud it with flurries of commentary, social media posts and tweets. We bemoan the lack of it in an environment where leadership has been overtaken by politics, short term gain and lack of vision.

Perhaps it’s time to take a larger view.

I recently reviewed 10 Virtues of Outstanding Leaders by Professors Al Gini and Roland Green. They explore the moral basis for leadership (and followership) with good leadership characterised as being anchored in ethical behavior. At heart it is about motive: ethical leaders exercise leadership for the common good, not for their own greatness. Results are important; Gini and Green also argue that someone who demonstrates virtue and has the organisational capabilities required yet who fails to deliver is not a leader. And followers have responsibilities too. We get the leadership we allow!

The virtues Gini and Green identify are • Deep honesty • Moral courage • Moral vision • Compassion and care • Fairness • Intellectual excellence • Creative thinking • Aesthetic sensibility • Good timing and • Deep selflessness

It can sound idealistic and removed from reality but writing about the protests in Turkey and the government’s response , Thomas Friedman quoted advisor on governance Dov Seidman “ …moral authority is now so much more important than formal authority… Moral authority is something you have to continue to earn by how you behave, by how you build trust with people….every time you exercise moral authority, leading by example, treating people with respect, you strengthen it”.

It is easy to denigrate others for their lack of leadership. But if Gini and Green are right and “what was true thousands of years ago remains so today. The quality of life of a community whether it is a political unit or a business corporation depends on the character of all its members and on the virtue of its leaders”; whether a leader or a follower we need to identify key virtues to develop, practice and make habitual.

Al Gini and Ronald M Green, 10 Virtues of Outstanding Leaders: Leadership and Character, 2013, John Wiley & Sons

http://www.theage.com.au/comment/turkeys-strongman-learns-democracy-is-about-more-than-just-elections-20130622-2opct.html

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