Part of changing companies is the opportunity to ‘purge’, to start your system over (with refinements), to shed a few things that have been hanging around.

Part of my ‘purge’ is to collect up notes from a few leadership conferences that I have attended over the last year. It is interesting to hear all of the different views on leadership, ranging from military obedience to radical concepts such as ‘you must let go of control, to gain control’. The following were processed, according to my estimates, over Greenland on Monday night on the way back to Canada one final time. A few that I found interesting and noteworthy:

The 5 practices of exemplary leadership ….

  1. Model the way:  Talk the talk, walk the walk.
  2. Inspire a vision:  I have seen many leaders false start on this one, promising vision and then letting it fall by the wayside as they become so numbers, process and check mark focused that they forget about the fact that people need to understand where they are going. Without a vision, it is just a daily ‘check-in’, and those leaders find out quickly how uninspiring that is. Set the vision, inspire.
  3. Challenge the process:  When I was part of the UK team, I remember my early months were every question seemed to be answered with a ‘no’ or ‘no, that is not how we do it’. To which the right response is ‘It takes 5 no’s to make a yes’. I had the same experience in Canada too (smile).
  4. Enable others to act:  Allow people to take smart risks, make mistakes, learn and be supported. You cannot outperform a market if you do it the same old way. It requires great people who know that you will be there to back you up and are trying new things.
  5. Encourage the heart:  No one follows the heartless leader, unless they have a gun to their back, and then only until the opportunity appears to change the situation.

 Another speaker on key leadership lessons from his career:

  • Be willing to ask the obvious questions:  Until you understand the business, be willing to ask all types of questions and go deep into the details.
  • Take more risks on people:  Companies don’t do this enough. Empower people to make decisions, support them and make successful.
  • Know when to trust:  Just let your people get on with it. Trust them with the jobs you gave them.

On the course, there was a discussion on attitude and the notion that as a leader you ‘make the weather’. Don’t trust people, constantly criticize, micromanage with little positive reinforcement? Expect a climate of fear. Support, encourage risks, be open with people and watch the clouds clear. One speaker explained it in a great story:

Two cities were separated by a road with a hermit living in the middle. A traveller comes from the city and asks the hermit ‘What is the next city like?’  The hermit responds ‘What was the last city like?”. The traveller responds ‘Beautiful, friendly, amazing’. The hermit smiles and says ‘Well, the next city is probably the same’.

The next traveller walks up the road, stopping to ask the hermit the same question. The hermit responds ‘What was the last city like?’. The traveller responds ‘cold, miserable really’.

The hermit responds ‘The next city is probably the same’

The final executive shared his leadership philosophies as follows:

  1. Be curious, listen and learn:  He was taught, ‘start as an owl, end as an eagle’. Look at business like a puzzle, embrace ‘figuring it out’.
  2. The customer is the north star, the competition is the baseline:  When he has things upside down, he looks to these two to reorient himself, remembering that it is the manager’s job to react and the leaders job to participate and lead.
  3. Play to win and win through/with people:  It is all about the people. He then added a few key insights:
    1. Remember that competition is outside the company, not inside.
    2. Have restless discontent, what is good enough today is not good enough tomorrow.
    3. It is your job, as a leader, to attract, coach and retain talent – to build and grow the best team.
    4. Make sure you bring everyone along, as a team, to the finish line.
  4. Enjoy the journey:  We often get wrapped up in what is next. Smile every day, enjoy the now. It will be tomorrow fast enough.
  5. The most important thing you have is your reputation:  Be your hardest critic. You build a reputation based on how you achieved the results. Achieve the results as a team, in a sustainable manner, the right way.

A few interesting thoughts from a few very successful executives.

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