Paul's Blog - Subterranean Landscape

A Leaders Mindset: How to Think like a Leader in a Changing World

18th September 2019

When you think about leadership now there has never been more changing factors which influence how to be a successful leader. Whether that be through the hierarchical system of organisations, being a business leader or leading in your own right, leadership is a myriad of challenges that requires good decision making and resilience to succeed. Leaders are now exposed to so many internal demands and external influences, especially in regulated environments along with people and process issues so it is difficult for them to keep up. This can create blind spots due to the pace of work, conflicting demands and leadership by process. Leaders can also find themselves in chaos being pulled from pillar to post but at all times their people will look for consistency in behaviours and action. They will also look for certainty in a very uncertain world.

Where possible leaders need to provide certainty, but where certainty is not possible to then as a minimum show positive behavioural consistency. ‘Be a leader’ being the maxim rather than the default position a leader falls behind, because it comes from setting the example as a role model, and a genuine desire to help and support people.

Four Key Leadership Behaviours that get you 90% of your Results

From McKinsey & Co’s research, they identified four key leadership behaviours to be the ones that get leaders 90% of their results in the workplace; Be Supportive, Operate with Strong Results Orientation, Seek Different Perspectives and Solve Problems Effectively. This was determined through the research with 189,000 people in 81 diverse organisations based on 20 distinct leadership traits. The collaborative collective achieve more through the support and facilitation of the leader. Albeit the survey was in 2015, so wecould now ask ourselves ‘what has changed in the world of leadership in those four years and what does the future bring for leadership now that we need to take into consideration?’

Navigating the Rate of Change & Complexity

Well we expect more change, more demands on time, less time for tasks, even more multi-tasking, gig leadership, technological advancements with the onset of AI and probably much more that makes the role of a leader more complex in the future. But that depends on howyou see it, as any leader will only have the same amount of time in a day, which means leaders will need to cut through the complexity to establish winning habits in the time they have to be successful. Navigating change is and will continue to be the norm so personal effectiveness will be critical in striving for success whilst utilising both new technologies and people to collaborate effectively.

Leadership Purpose

What rings true with leadership if you want to be effective is there has to be passion for actually being a leader with a desire to help others. Leaders should put their people’s agenda before their own. As Simon Sinek says

“When we help ourselves we find moments of happiness. When we help others we find lasting fulfilment.”

And the fact that people don’t buy what you do, they buy ‘why’ you do it, which is found in a person’s reason for actually being a leader in the first place. The importance of allowing team members to shine when they are producing brilliant work, and then being visible when things go wrong to ensure you have their back, will always be the best way to set a good leadership example. Some things don’t need change with time when it comes to leadership.

But part of the leaders purpose is to remain human in a world increasingly reliant on technology and process. But it is that genuine purpose in helping and empowering others which should be at the core of being a leader.

But then how many get management or leadership wrong would you say? Have you left a boss who micro manages or whose values are not aligned with yours?

Dysfunctional Leadership

An example of dysfunctional leadership is someone who switches their political interests to become a leader of a political party where they may now be in a better position to win the vote, but it goes against the reasons they got into politics in the first place. Their ‘why’ is purely in their own self-interest, not that of helping others and putting their country first. Toooften we now see politicians only interested in their own agenda and some will switch allegiance from one position to an opposing position if it will get them in power. Politics just provides the backdrop here to a dysfunctional setting that is easy to draw upon when it comes to the classic example of manipulative, command and control style leadership or an "I don’t care as long as I have or I am in power". No names need mentioning, you get the point. Its leadership basically moving backwards in time instead of progressing forwards….but then maybe I’m missing the point here expecting leadership to be about doing something good in the world instead of a leader's personal agenda.

And I’m sure there are many more people who are leaders with positive intentions, who are just looking to navigate the murky waters of the continual flow of information and the pressures of work in a society that feels like it is becoming more dystopian by the day.

So how do we think like a leader in a changing world?

If leaders are to sufficiently navigate and lead through change, ‘purpose’is what defines a leader along with a step change in mindset. We live in times where integrity, respect, and decency need to cut through the jungle of mis-information so not only we can thrive in business knowing we are collectively doing the right thing but also knowing we are adding value for future generations. A leader's mindset is critical to this and being able to deal with the exponential change we will all continue to face. As Korn Ferry, the leadership specialists, call out in the Third Wave leaders now need Agency, Authenticity and Agility to be successful in the times we live.

To build upon this and navigate change here are five essential mindsets required of the leaders of today we can all use.

1. Purpose-Led

Ensure that you have a sense of purpose in being a leader, connect to the bigger picture both in your organisation and out into the world. Being a leader is about how you add value to others and the organisation, which is the essence of leadership wrapped in purpose driven behaviours. Understand why you work where you do, ensure that it matches your values, ensure you have that purpose as a leader to make a difference and help others. It is about helping and supporting others to be their best or to be a leader in their own right within the organisation to help shape the future. Leaders in this day and age should create leaders.

“Leadership is not about rank or title: It is a choice. It’s a choice to provide care and protection for those of whom we are responsible.”

– Simon Sinek

Question: As a leader are you in a role that aligns to your values, gives you purpose where you can make a difference?

2. Empower

Empowering your people giving them freedom, autonomy and trust will be key but also demanded from the younger generations coming through to work starting with the millennials. Naturally it may be more difficult in some environments but treating your people like adults generally means they act like adults. Treat them like children and guess what you get? Treat them like leaders who you trust with responsibility, accountability and ideas then you will maximise your results and have the freedom to focus more strategically on what you do.

The secret to motivating others is simple it is genuine special attention and when you treat someone like a leader where you listen and show genuine interest allowing freedom of expression you will quickly notice how positively they respond. Yes some people need more clarity of instruction, some may need more feedback and coaching through your support, some may need you to lead until they feel they can be outright leaders themselves, but then helping them get there is why you are a leader in the first place.

Question: How do you treat your people, show genuine interest and how do you empower them to be leaders?

3. Authenticity

As mentioned above leaders in the future will be judged on their authenticity and how they show genuine interest in helping others, demonstrate integrity in their decision making, show all people at all levels respect and are found to be trustworthy. This can always be difficult because there will always be different types of personality at work. If we take a tool like Myers Briggs Type Indicator there are 16 different types of defined personality and then millions of variation even within a type but the simple point being sometimes type A will not trust type B purely because they see the world differently, trust and gather different sources of information and make decisions either in a subjective or objective way.

So working across these multiple differences takes a high level of self-awareness and EQ with a genuine and authentic commitment to collaborate and listen. It was Lou Holtz, former American football player, coach, and analyst who explained to build great relationships as a leader you need to demonstrate you care, that you are committed to your peoples agenda and that you can be trusted. This in itself is a test for every relationship you have because if you can answer yes to all three then you have a great relationship. What is it built upon? Genuine interest in helping others rather than engineering or duplicity. People can tell whether you are an authentic leader…why? Because they can feel it.

Question: How do you appreciate the diversity in or with your team and do you demonstrate that you care, you are committed and can be trusted?

4. Learning Agility

Essentially this is about having a growth mindset and being open to new ideas but also being able to adapt to first time situations applying past experience to the present moment. Because of the amount of change and complexity in work, leaders who demonstrate the greatest agility will have more success, because those that adhere to conformity will struggle to adapt. Leaders who know that making mistakes and trying new things, who learn from failure quickly, will adapt to their changing environment better than those fixed in their ways. Hearing the words ‘We have always done it this way’ is a mindset prison for those moving in the opposite direction to the tide of change that is happening in the world.

The attitude of looking to continually learn and improve along with being focused on the objective is a clear road map for success. As Ben Hunt Davis, the British Olympic Rower, explains in his book, ‘Will It Make The Boat Go Faster’, the UK rowing team were not the best team, however they applied a growth mindset to one very clear objective, 'how to make the boat go faster'. If it made the boat go faster they used the idea but if it didn’t then they didn’t waste their energy. Focusing on this as a team led to Olympic Gold in Sydney 2000.

Question: How open are you to looking to learning to enhance and improve what you do with clear focus on your objectives?

5. Take Risks, Think Strategically and Innovate

The world is changing every day so it’s so much better to be shaping the future than have your future shaped for you. Taking risks is not about taking a mindless gamble or throwing caution to the wind, it is about taking calculated risks to put yourself and others forward, try new things, be creative, suggest ideas and innovate where possible. It is about asking ‘why?’ and ‘why not?’ or ‘What if?’. It is about thinking strategically about the future. It is about having vision for what is possible. It is about innovating with data to support you or using the data to shape your strategy. It is also about tapping into the diversity of the group and collaborating. Together we are more…

As a leader it is about facilitating to bring innovative ideas to the table through other people. Let your people challenge you, challenge the convention, think differently and shape the future together.

Question: How are you currently collaborating and facilitating to bring out collective ideas to shape the future rather than conforming to the status quo?

The Burning Platform

Authentic, empowering and values based leadership has never been needed more in the world and the expectation from leaders not to buckle under the pressure of conformity and remain true to their values is essential. Change in the world is everyone’s burning platform and the mindset we choose will determine our success as individuals and as leaders. By applying the mindsets above to your organisation, your leadership, your way of doing things around here will provide a blueprint for success. When you have a shared understanding of what good looks like you have the right foundations for success in the future. The question is whether you are willing with a growth mindset to continue to challenge yourself and lead on the edge where you continually push the boundaries.

What to do next to adopt a leaders mindset…

Assess yourself each month on the questions above. Do this each month for the next six months to adopt the mindset of a leader.

Future Shock, Leadership and Thinking like Artificial Intelligence

17th July 2019

We are very swiftly approaching an age of ‘future shock’ were we will see significant change in a short period of time which will no doubt impact individuals and entire societies. This 'future shock' is an individual's psychological state due to the accelerated rate of technological, economic and social change which provides information overload leaving people ‘future shocked’. They feel disconnected, stressed and disorientated by the amount of change. Future Shock is a 1970 book by the futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler who argued that society is going through a revolution and structural change from an industrial society to a "super industrial society" Fast forward to today how close are we to being to being ‘future shocked’ by the exponential change which appears to be happening everyday but by the technological shift about to monopolise our lives. Although we as the human species have a strong tenacity to adapt to change and move with the times but there is always a required amount of time required to be able to adapt to change.

The fear that may concern us now is that whole parts of society will find themselves replaced, disorientated and future shocked as artificial intelligence, robots and bots become the new “super industrial society” albeit a “super machine powered society”. For the first time in our history we have very little idea of what the world will look like in the next 50 years. The future is changing everyday but what we do know is technology has a massive role to play along with bioengineering in the way our life and society will change. Will this be for the good of mankind? We will find out as we go, as we sit on the precipice of a revolution that will change humanity forever.

When we think of the most important resources of our times, land, machines, companies, natural resources will come to mind, but politics is now becoming a struggle between cyber warfare and who controls data. The future will belong to those who monopolise our data and use this data as a resource to shape the society of the future. Eventually we will live in a world when we need to make less decisions because these decisions are being made for us because of the way our data is being used. The data will know me and you better than we know ourselves. So how do we survive when we know future shock is on the horizon and in some cases is happening now?

As companies become agile so do we as individuals. We need to understand that what guaranteed us success now will not guarantee success in the future. Survival of the fittest is about those who adapt the best to change and also are proactive to get ahead of the curve. As the late great Stephen R Covey’s final of his 7 habits said we need to continually sharpen the saw and with a growth mindset always be looking to improve, to be open to challenges, to try new things, to learn from failure and keep learning so we can adapt. But more importantly we need to look to the future to consider what that future may bring and consider the changes we can make now. Unfortunately for those who do not they will be part of a society that is future shocked.

When I look to the future I consider what will happen to leadership when there is no hierarchical leadership or management in organisations? When we live in a world where AI either owns or runs the organisation you are working for and therefore has a completely flat structure of workers doing the work. Think about this as the ‘Hive’ version of society similar to how ants or bees do all of the work for the ‘Queen’ who is able to sit at home and observe in readiness for the next generation to arrive albeit in the future for AI the next version or upgrade to the system. When the AI that runs the organisation is more than able to lead and manage every human, cyborg and robot worker who still has a role to play with a quantum ease through its superior intelligence. Whether a human will have power over this AI in the future our discovery awaits.

So then if we work backwards not only do we need to consider as AI is developed and created to a greater level of intelligence what it means to be human (and perhaps consider now is the time for the rise of humans) perhaps it is also time to consider what it means to be 'Artificial Intelligence' in the future. Why? Because if AI becomes more intelligent than we as humans (although we may be upgraded at the same time) I can’t but think that the AI will make the appropriate decisions either for the organisation or because it is the right thing to do based on super intelligent algorithms. Whether this will be the right thing to do from a human perspective in the future once again we will find out. But here is the point when I think of AI I know instantly that it would flatten organisational structures as an example of the right thing to do because it can. We will answer everyone of us to the AI who will lead and manage us all.

So if that is what the future holds should we not move quickly to this as a human model supported by machine powered software? I’m sure there are possibly Fintechs or creative individuals currently looking to create this software were hierarchical leadership or management is no longer required by humans because it can become a machine powered activity.

Where then does that leave all the managers and leaders?

Leadership as we know should not be about the badge you wear or the hierarchical position you have. We are all leaders so to get ahead of the game people managers now should treat their people as leaders, not as followers and definitely not as subordinates. Organisations should, if not already, be providing this message to their people, 'we are all leaders' and 'we will empower you to be the best leader possible so we together can shape the future of our organisation'.

Organisations should start looking to flatten structures completely with a move to a 'hive' culture of collaboration. As organisations look to move away from formal and outdated systems of performance management it is also time to consider how to take out the hierarchical levels of the organisation to develop new models of organisational design. Reward and compensation should be based on 'value added' to the organisation and behaviours role modelled by its employees along with their adaptability in being able to deal with change.

And as we now move into the future we should all be thinking what does it mean to be human and how can we be more human especially in a world that requires respect, humility and integrity towards other humans, all animal species we are sharing the planet with and the Earth itself. But also how can we think like the AI of the future to tap in to this super intelligent algorithm thinking to ensure we are a society who lives by its values and demonstrates a fortitude to doing the right thing.

You see there are many aspects to leadership but we now live in a time where we need everyone to be a leader, were we need people to lead with their heart (Human) and their mind (AI) where we come together to collaborate to make our world a better place for the future.

Whatever the future brings the world belongs to those who look to create the future.

Leadership Lessons from Jurgen Klopp - What we can all learn about leadership and culture

4th June 2019

After the amazing comeback against Barcelona in the semi-final of the Champions League it is only fitting that Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool went on to win the Champions League for the 6th time in their history. I was fortunate to be at the game at Anfield when Liverpool came back from 3-0 down to win and also at the final in Madrid. What is obvious from this winning team is the bond between the players and the manager. Jurgen Klopp has turned LFC into a European powerhouse with his energy, enthusiasm, style and exceptional leadership. There are so many lessons we can learn from this man about his leadership style and in life in general.

Klopp is all or nothing in his approach to football, labelling it 'rock and roll football'. As we know the players along with the fans love him. In fact most other fans find it hard to dislike Jurgen Klopp because he is a genuine likeable and funny guy. And after years of losing finals Klopp finally won the biggest prize in club football. It was an amazing final to be at, as both teams if not producing the greatest final still gave it their all.

And as the Liverpool supporters took over Madrid in a sea of red with their passion, brilliant support and behaviour, so the same can be said of the gracious Spurs fans. This is how fans should be at a final enjoying the moment and accepting either way the final outcome.

Jurgen after winning the Champions League ran onto the pitch to share the moment with his players like he does every game Liverpool play. His leadership is visible, infectious, sincere, demanding and inspirational. He’s the manager players want to play for.

What then can we learn from him as a leader?

Growth Mindset

He continually focuses on progress referring constantly to the team being in a state of development, it is about growing, learning and developing as a team. He likes to learn about his players rather than dictate to them "In the beginning when a new player is coming in I don't give them information. It's like 'let them play.' You learn more about the players each day and how to treat them, how to deal with them." He also understands he does not know everything “I need experts around me” to help create a winning team.

Passion

Earlier in the season Klopp ran on to the pitch to celebrate with the team, he couldn’t help himself as the passion took over and was then fined by the FA. His passion can be seen every game with his fist clenching, bear hugs and his enthusiasm for the game seeping out on the touchline. “The only thing I can do is to put all I have – my knowledge, passion, heart, experience, everything – into this club. It should work at one point. When we win something, Liverpool will explode in a very positive way.”

Human

Klopp has labelled himself the normal one because he is so like everyone else, he has an infectious personality and empathetic nature which can be seen how he iswith his players. “It’s also really important that you have empathy, that you try and understand the people around you and give them support.” He connects with his players on every level and because of this they want to give their best for him.

Leads by Example

Klopp always has a big smile on his face and projects energy to his players understanding the importance of leading by example, “As a leader you cannot be the last who comes in and the first who goes out. You don’t always have to be the first and last, but you do have to be an example. I try everything to be successful as possible. I live 100% for the boys, with the boys, doing what we can for the club. It’s not really a philosophy, it’s just my way of life."

Culture

Klopp understood the type of club Liverpool was before signing, he understands the importance of the club to the fans, he makes those connections and nurtures them. He creates a togetherness with the team, club and fans so everyone feels they are in this together. As Daniel Sturridge is quoted who was only used sparingly all season and never got on to the pitch in the final, “The belief in the group, the togetherness, there’s no egos, there’s banter. I contributed – even the players who haven’t played a minute. There are guys who have been on the bench who haven’t played a single minute but they have been part of it. From training, to acting like the opposition that we have been playing against, to doing a job, to sacrificing themselves and the way they play just to train to do a job on the training field to help them prepare themselves the best way they can. It’s amazing.” This is the environment Klopp creates and the commitment he gets from his players.

Never give up

Klopp says when it comes to losing,“I lost the last 6 finals I was in. They were hardly the best days of my life, but they didn’t make me a broken person. For me, life is about trying again & again.”

Belief

Jurgen Klopp from the moment he came to the club said “We have to change from doubter to believer. Now.” Along with making the prediction within 4 years he would win silverware for the club which he has done. Klopp works on the mentality of the team, the whole club and its supporters to ensure they believe and are in it together.

Humour and respect

In his interview after the final he can been seen singing “Let’s talk about six baby…”…he provides humour and respect towards others in his interviews and is known as being great company to be around. Even when he doesn’t win like last year in Kiev he was seen out with Liverpool supporters singing and having fun.

So Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool are Champions of Europe 2019 and he is the master at creating a commitment culture not just at team level but right throughout the club. For those at the game last Saturday it could only be described as something unique, special and almost spiritual. Which only goes to highlight with all the differences we face in the world that together we will always be more.

What lessons do you take from Jurgen Klopp? And how are you or can you apply these leadership lessons to what you do as a leader in life?

Responsive Leadership Development - How to assess what type of leadership development your organisation provides

30th May 2019

The future is changing every day and we can all make predictions as to what the future may hold. Some are more qualified than others to make their predictions with some having safe predictions like self-driving cars to the more visionary like we will all live in space and the Earth will be a place we visit on holiday which was recently revealed by Jeff Bezos to help save the planet in the future. One thing is sure, no matter where you work now or in the immediate future organisations will continue spending millions on Leadership Development. Yes you would think by the total money spent to date we might actually be there by now but we know with learning, building capability and developing potential it is an ongoing process.

The current trend is that digital technology is the holy grail, employees own their own development, technology provides all the learning so away you go and knock yourself out. Learning and LD box ticked big time as we have landed the technology, it looks great and you can’t complain there is not enough stuff for you. Plus it has AI which through machine learning will push out and remind you that what you said you wanted to learn can be found verse and chapter through articles, video, podcasts, books and more at your own fingertips. So we tell ourselves 'job done' leadership development and learning truly boxed off for the future generations to come…now let’s get back to the real business stuff we should be focused on. And we have the awards to prove we are a learning organisation what more could our employees or leaders ask for?

If this was the case it would be article over but we all know there is so much more to developing leaders and our employees. The essence of having a growth mindset is about continual learning and that is what the new AI machine learning powered technology is helping to support and providing some amazing platforms that help leaders grow. One of the challenges in the future will be to know which platform to use as they are now popping up more and more with providers now looking to capitalise on the market.

In the 2018 State of Leadership Development Report from Harvard Business Publishing it found that millennials are more critical of L&D programmes citing that they lack innovation, are not relevant and should be using well sourced content to address the strategic needs of the business. They are looking for a more responsive, innovative and credible development approach compared to a one size fits all.

So lets explore different types of Leadership Development and you can assess where your organisation currently resides…

The Reactive LD Organisation

This type of organisation has developed leaders historically by building what the business wants. There is no set LD strategy because by HR supporting the business LD has grown reactively but because it has been overtime it is viewed more organically. The business requests a meeting and drives the agenda HR goes away with a 'to do' list and looks to provide solutions in house firstly or then looks for the best external provider to plug the skill gap. Occasionally there will be a flagship leadership programme driven out by one of the Executive team based on an event or speaker they have seen but delivered then by the Learning or LD team within HR. There will be pocket industries found across the company doing different things so it can get frustrating that what is being provided is not always connected to the bigger picture and is for short term results.

The Static Model LD Organisation

This type of organisation has taken the time to build a leadership framework or model. There will be clear competencies or leadership behaviours. There will be various ways to learn as a leader and it will be linked back to the leadership model. You will through your performance conversations based on how you rated have development actions or a plan of competencies you will need to develop. Therefore based on your performance conversation you can now easily help yourself by going through the LMS or Intranet to be able to self-serve and attend the development options the company provides. The options are blended and the company provides a wide range of learning opportunities. This is the static model of leadership development and once in place there may be Exec or Senior Leader development but everyone else self serves and owns their own development.

The Digital Model LD Organisation

This type of organisation has run to digital or is already a digital organisation. The belief here is that technology can provide all learning and leadership needs for individuals no matter their learning preference. Digital is the future and it is all encompassing plus it will measure and track your learning. This organisation provides digital self service solutions and then little else in the form of meaningful development unless there is an urgent need that the digital solutions are unable to provide but they will still be directed to some self-directed learning as part of process. The 'netflix' approach to leadership development is seen as the way forwards.

The Responsive Model LD Organisation

This type of organisation will ensure that they have aligned their business strategy and desired culture to their leadership development. They will have considered what good looks like for leadership and defined it for their leaders ensuring all leaders understand the organisations leadership success factors. There will be a clear leadership development strategy built year on year that is responsive to the needs of leaders to build capability based on these leadership success factors. There will be a blended range of solutions and self-directed digital solutions are only one option provided to leaders. What is provided is collaborative and in time development throughout the year through communication, events providing external thinking, internal social media content and experiential learning. The responsive approach ensures leadership development is a vehicle to embed the desired culture and to future proof leaders.

So I'm curious what other types of LD within organisations have I missed? Where is your organisation right now based on the four above? And which of these approaches will ensure your leaders are fully supported now and in the future?

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