Archive for the ‘ Leadership ’ Category

Moral Courage

“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird


Courage is a well-admired human trait; but when asked what courage is, what do you think of?

Is it a soldier, fighting a battle far from home against a fierce, unknown enemy?
What about a fire-fighting hero running in to save someone from a burning building?
Perhaps your imagination stretches to a fictional hero, rushing in to save the day?

All of these are an example of physical courage – someone’s life is in imminent danger, and our courageous hero puts everything right again.

But forget about your cape-wearing, pants-on the-outside, lycra-clad hero. What about normal, average people?  The British have a wonderful phrase for this: “The man on the Clapham Omnibus” – people going about their everyday business.

This could encompass individuals who blow the whistle on corporate corruption, at risk of losing their job; or – an example from one of my favourite books (Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird”); a Lawyer, who stands up to defend someone who is innocent, even though society condemns them for doing so. Could these people be described as ‘courageous’?

In a word: yes!

The courage demonstrated by holding on to one’s own values – regardless of whether this is on the battlefield, or in the boardroom – is Moral Courage.

Lisa Dungate defines Moral Courage perfectly in her blog on Lions Whiskers, where she explains that: “Moral courage means doing the right thing, even at the risk of inconvenience, ridicule, punishment, loss of job or security or social status”.

Novelist, J.K. Rowling’s Harvard Commencement Speech for the Class of 2008 provides some moving examples. The  video of her speech, from TED.com, is 21 minutes long; but at 12 minutes she gives an emotional recollection of her time working at Amnesty International, with people who risked their own lives to speak out about the persecution, abuse, and torture taking place in their home lands.

Everyday moral courage often isn’t this extreme, but that does not mean that it is any easier to practice: moral courage might mean being different or disagreeing publicly.

As difficult as it is – displaying moral courage can earn respect, trust, and admiralty; and by practicing moral courage very day it gradually will become easier.

Let’s take moral courage away from the corporate setting, for a moment; and consider practicing in every day situations:

  • You and your friends are deciding what movie to see, or where to get dinner, but you don’t like the choice they all prefer. Instead of going along silently, or pretending to agree, say, “Well, it wouldn’t be my first choice, but if you all like it, that’s OK with me.”
  • One of your friends has gotten a tattoo, and everyone is admiring it, but you don’t like tattoos. Instead of letting everyone believe that you also think tattoos are really cool, have the courage to express a different view. “I’m glad you like his tattoo, but personally, I just don’t see the appeal.”

You don’t need to be being rude; or enforcing your own opinions on others, to demonstrate moral courage.

But, as professionals, how can we use these skills to make values-driven decisions consistently?

The Ivey Business Journal gives examples of moral courage in leadership: In August 2008, when Michael McCain, CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, stood in front of the press to accept responsibility for the contaminated meat scandal that resulted in numerous deaths, he undoubtedly needed courage.  Southwest Airlines CEO, James Parker, would have needed courage when he went against the industry job-slashing trend following 9/11 when he courageously announced that he would keep all employees

Why is moral courage important in leadership?

Moral courage is crucial in developing authenticity – it empowers individuals to discover and demonstrate what they stand for – even if this is at the disapproval of others. By developing self leadership through action in moral dilemmas, professionals and leaders can ensure both integrity and impact.

Actions speak louder than words.  Leaders at all levels need to act out their expectations, behave honestly and openly, and demonstrate loyalty. They need to establish and maintain open communications, so that those working with them know that their suggestions will be listened to – that they have a voice. People need to know that their leader isn’t going to act on a whim, just because it’s the majority decision. All of these qualities are facilitated by a leader who has courage.

Leaders with moral courage can be trusted by colleagues to do the right thing. It takes courage to tell the boss something that they do not necessarily want to hear; or to redirect an employee; or to make unpopular decisions.

An awareness of the importance of doing the right thing – which is not necessarily the popular thing – can help leaders demonstrate moral courage when they face ethical challenges in the workplace, and uphold ethical working environments and business standards.

Top 5 Office Pet Peeves (Leadership Quote)

What Vampires Can Teach Us About Leadership

Vampire in Office

I was reading the obituary of the late and great Sir Christopher Lee this past week (The Times, Friday 12 June), who had a 70 year career on screen and made more than 300 films. One of his best known roles was Dracula, a role which he played 10 times.

In doing so I was reminded of a Freakonomics podcast called ‘what can vampires teach us about economics’ (October 2014), a light-hearted, yet oddly fascinating look at how we can turn relationships with vampires and the undead into advantages in society.

In memory of the iconic role of Dracula I thought it only my duty to ponder the link between vampires, and the ‘undead’as a whole, and what they can teach us about leadership.

Everyone fears a vampire

You may not be sucking people’s blood in a literal sense, but you may be sucking the life out of your co-workers each day. Treating your colleagues with a lack of respect or using a top-down leadership approach could lower morale and erode trust.

Promote open conversations and build relationships – put those fangs away!

Be a visual leader

Vampires are well known for having no reflection and living ‘in the shadows’.

Make yourself a visual leader, whether via webcam or being in the office regularly. People like to chat face-to-face and you may be working hard, but from my experience a lack of ‘visual presence’ can make others question what you are achieving and distance you from the highs and lows of office life day-to-day.

It’s amazing what you overhear or the conversations you can have when you are in the same room as your colleagues.

Need blood? Let’s chat about it and find a solution

Listen to your team’s needs and wants.

The Freakonomics podcast touched on the subject of the desire for blood – a possible solution is to stop the killing of innocent victims by selling vampires blood. Providing them with the one thing they need; if they don’t get it from you, they will certainly find it elsewhere.

Your team may not want blood, but they do have needs and wants that need satisfying. Understand your team and what each individual values. It may surprise you, not everyone is motivated by money. They may want career progression or a new challenge.

Satisfying you team’s needs will make the team and organisation more successful, it will reduce staff turnover and prevent bad habits from affecting the business (i.e. boredom and therefore shirking from tasks…or attacks to the neck!).

Vampires are the epitome of power dressing

Vampires dress to impress, the chances are they will get a job over the zombies and werewolves of this world. We may not deliberately judge rotting skin and hairy feet, but they are hard to ignore.

Dressing well also boosts your confidence – so shave those feet and grab your suit!

Werewolves work as a team and vampires work solo: try both and the art of delegation

There are times when we are more productive working alone, there are also times when team work or delegating tasks are a better option. I hear so many people say ‘I could get it the job done so much quicker myself, so I didn’t delegate’.

Think about the best use of your time and that this may be a great development opportunity for someone else. You are doing them a favour by providing a new challenge, teaching them a new skill and believing in their abilities. You are also doing yourself a favour by honouring your own time.

The ‘unknown’ causes panic

The fear of things unknown can cause mass hysteria, widespread gossip and for people to draw their own conclusions. Are you creating your own zombie apocalypse by not communicating effectively during times of change, addressing individual’s concerns and being transparent? There needs to be trust and communication is the key.

I am going to end this lighter look at leadership with something Sir Christopher Lee said, ‘I decided to make Dracula more believable and sympathetic’ (The Times, 12 June 2015) –  it sounds like Dracula would make a great leader after all!

Who drives your career?

1-driving-career_V3I had an interesting question asked in my master’s degree this week. How much responsibility should a company take in managing their employee’s  careers? In an ever changing society, where people are now wanting careers and not just a job it’s important for managers to help their employees grow,  but should they be the driver?

Quast (2014) looks at the research by Phoenix University and EdAssist. 71% of employees say that employers should provide job opportunities and  career paths; whilst 85% of employers say it’s the employee’s responsibility to identify job opportunities and career paths. This lack of alignment can cause huge problems. Employees & employers need to have open discussions around desires and expectations.

I personally think you need to drive your own career, with a manager’s support. Below are a couple of steps you might find useful to help drive your career.

Step 1 – What do you Want?

First of all what makes you tick? Where do you want to be heading? Only you can decide what career you want. This is probably the toughest question of all. Sit down one weekend and just map out in your ideal world what you would be doing, what would the role look like and how you can get there.

Step 2 – Tell People What you Want, Find out Options

You’re not alone if you are nervous or uncomfortable about talking to your manager about career progression – 44.8% of UK workers feel the same! If you have a good manager they will understand and want to help you achieve your goals. Talking about career progression isn’t having all the answers now, but knowing that you are growing and moving in the right direction. A company needs to support you in this if they want to keep hold of you. If your manager is aware of what you are thinking, they can look out for opportunities when having meetings with other managers.

Step 3 – Keep on Track

It’s so easy to go off track!  Make sure you put your goals around growth and progression into your quarterly performance appraisal.  This will help you stay on track, and help communication around your career aspirations.

10 Things You Can Do to Look Smart in a Meeting

The 3 Habits of Highly Effective Millennials

We’re doing something a little different this week.

Instead of a written post, Gus Jaramillo and I collaborated on a video post as part of the Leadership Quote vlog series. Subscribe for future videos!

Why Your Leadership Strategy Matters

Take a look at the model below. What do you notice is the end state? Results. Results are always the end state in every organization. That’s all that anyone cares about. One famous organization has a mantra of “don’t tell me, show me.” It may sound callous, cold, or unnerving, but it all depends on the mindset that takes you there. And really wAction Modelhat makes the good organizations great is they innately understand how the experiences and beliefs of the employee are the most instrumental part of creating results. In the same way that quality ingredients make a great dish, a wonderful experience can make impactful results.

So what’s the best way to impact your direct reports’ experiences? Your leadership style, of course. And by shaping their experiences, you are helping them form beliefs about those experiences (either being aligned or not aligned) which impact their actions and results.

It’s quite simple conceptually, but it’s often overlooked since people focus too often on just one part (particularly the results) and do not look at their leadership strategy as whole. What we often forget is foundation for those results. I’ve heard some say, “I want to hire someone with the “It” factor”, but there isn’t a psychological measurement in existence that accurately and reliably tests for that. A person successful in one role may fail miserably in the same role at another company. Instead, you have to consider the experiences and beliefs that person is bringing to the table and how well those will mix with the rest of the team.

And what is the culture of your team or department? Don’t think that’s an important question? Try to change it. It will be incredibly difficult and take significantly longer then you would ever imagine. This is because the culture is made up of, and held in place by, the experiences and beliefs held within your team or department. By providing the correct leadership styles, you can influence not just the results, but the organizational culture around you for the better.

Think strategically and act permanently.

Next time you head up a team or a project, understand what experiences and beliefs you are leaving for your team. You may be surprised at what results are yielded if you create a people-centered, result-oriented experience.

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

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