31 October 2007

Leadership and poverty

Is it not about time, that leaders who have their mouths full of combating poverty put their wallet were their mouth is?

12 July 2007

Leadership and listening

A log by Michael Wagner gave me the inspiration, that listening is the most important competency a leader can have. A competency followed only by the competency to ask questions based on what you hear. Michael Wagner called it: “Go in stupid, come out with a sale.”

Asking questions is probably one of the most difficult competencies a leader can develop. Everything in his surroundings works against him developing it or if once developed keeping it up to speed.

Listening is one of the most difficult competencies, because it asks from us to take our own thoughts and hold them to the light of our own scrutiny. Really listening means not listening to your own thought, ideas, believes and expectations, but listening to the other. For a leader this is almost impossible, because the own thoughts, expectations and ideas form the basis for their successes. And success strengthens the behavior through which it is created together with the thoughts, ideas and expectations.

So you have learned to be a leader that listens to others. Your own thoughts ko not hinder your attention. But what now? Of what use is the competency to listen to others, without your own internal commentary? Even if those internal thoughts were judgments, solutions or expectations. Maybe its an idea to translate what your heard into questions. Questions that give the other the chance to clarify what he thinks, expects, believes or wants.

And the moment you start asking questions, a leader will face a new obstacle. Because most people do not go to a leader to get listened to, they want their leader tot talk to them. Most people would prefer not to talk when their leader is near, but would want to listen to what their leader has to say. And that is exactly what you can see happening with leaders, they become talkers the longer they are leaders. Or they started out as talkers and their behavior became strengthened, because others will only listen when they are around. This however means, that as a leader you know little about what motivates others. So it is important for a leader to be able to listen and ask questions and preferably in the reverse order. Because asking questions will start the other talking after which you can start listening.

But instead of expecting our leaders to be listeners, we expect them to be talkers. They need to make us feel comfortable with their stories. They must motivate us with their ideas. They must comfort us with their thoughts. The must cheer us up with their expectations. But listening is not what we expect of them. It would be nice, but that is not what they are there for.

09 July 2007

Leadership and dreams

It is sad to see, that most people who according to the Dutch are leaders, not really have dreams. Take for example a dream “everyone has a paid job.” That is more a wish then a dream. Because if it were a dream the work that is important would be paid for. But in the Netherlands that kind of work is seen als valueless, and not worth to pay for. Look at the great number of activities that are done by volunteers, that should be done by professionals who get paid. And jobs that deliver a great value to others in happiness are the worst paid.
But not only is “everyone a paid job” not a dream, it is a charge against everyone who does not earn money with his work. And so someone can and may only be valued if his work makes money. It has come so far, that the amount of money paid for something is what makes something valuable. But slowly but surely it becomes clearer and clearer that most of the work that is paid for is of less and less real value to society.
Take for example the very well paid dj’s and presenters. Their work does not make people work harder. Their work does not lower stress. They only distract people from what they are doing, with their work.
Or take CEO’s who leave their post after a few years with large golden parachutes. Often leaving an organization behind without dreams, waiting for the next CEO to install his dreams. Often that dream is no more then the wish to save money, so he can justify his salary and platinum parachute or at least have it paid.
Or what to say of soccer players, seen weekly on tv, who keep others from behaving correctly towards others. Their dreams often not going any further then scoring the most beautiful goal ever.

But what can a leader do to find your dreams, that will be inspiring and motivating? Dreams a leader will take responsibility for? Dreams that help you to motivate yourself and inspire and motivate others to take up their dreams and help you realize yours? Where do you find such dreams?

Probably the only possibility nowadays is cutting yourself loose from the society, in which it is not about realizing dreams but earning money. And as you have successfully freed yourself from societies shackles you need to take a hard look at society, but now from an independent point of view to see what motivates her members. You will need to find those factors in society that form its core and that can form the basis for a dream. Because in the end the dream will need to fit to the society that will realize it.
As important as knowledge of the society is the positive attitude of the dreamer towards his dream. You need to believe it can be done. In the Netherlands this is a problem, because everybody needs to be taken into account when you want to realize your dream. That includes the people who do not want to cooperate with realizing other peoples dreams or do not want to couple their dreams to others.

In that sense the Netherlands is a country in which to many dreams go lost, because to many people who want to be involved. But also because to many people find that the dreams of others who do not fit their ideas, should not be realized.
Maybe that is the reason why the Dutch have leaders that dare not dream big. They do not believe in their own dreams. Where the solution is so simple: Be positive and expect your dream to come true, the rest will follow as in a dream.

26 June 2007

Leaders and time

Money and timeThe way a leader handles time is maybe the clear difference between a real leader and a manager.

Many managers create the image with their employees, that you can only do good work if you are in before a certain time and time after a certain moment. Managers seem to take the saying: “time is money” literally.
Leaders seem to read this saying differently. They seem to think that with time you can make money and not that time costs money.

A leader does not look at time in the sense of how much time do I have and how much time do I think would someone need and how much would that time cost me. A leader looks to find the right person, who can produce with the wanted quality. And he or she tries to find someone who will be motivated by the project.
This approach has the advantage, off course, that the producer does not look at how much time he puts into the project, but how much time he would need to produce the wanted quality. The producer will not ask how much time he may use, he will keep going until he produces the wanted quality or the client says that it is good enough.

When it comes to time managers can learn a lot from leaders. It is a pity that most managers think, that time costs money and that learning takes time and that there is not enough money for that.

09 May 2007

Leadership and balance

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI sometimes wonder to what amount the seeking of leaders is good for humans? Or should I say seeking leadership?
Whenever a leader is near, many humans seem to see this as a justification to stop thinking. They no longer try to lead themselves, but blindly follow the rules the so called leader has created. The rules become untouchable and unchangeable, no matter what the consequences of using those rules.
A few questions come to mind though: “How come humans stop with thinking, the moment a “leader” is near?” And “How come leaders think, that other humans can not think?”

The strange thing however is, that leadership in itself is not bad, if applied correctly. Leaders can set an example for other people, so they can become more than what they are. They can help others to achieve more. They can motivate others to reach higher, than they would on their own. They can help humans to live in peace with each other. That is the good side of leadership.

However leadership also has a bad side. To much help wil lead to dependency and humans, that no longer can help themselves. To much motivation leads to humans that are not able to motivate themselves. To much example leads to demotivated humans, that crawl away in a corner fearful, waiting for the world to forget about them. To much peace leads to humans that in complacency let themselves slide into lazy waiters for what else can be received. And that is some of things that can happen next to what could happen to the leader him- or herself. Something Lord Acton described as following: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Leadership seems to be a high rope act. You need to find the balance between to much and to little leadership and that for everyone you lead. Luckily leadership does not really need to be a precise art, as I made it look. It is more of a balancing act on a foot broad wall top. But still you can fall of on either side of the wall and only if you stay on the wall you well reach the desired effects. The problem however seems be, that the wall gets steeper and steeper as you walk over it. As if the wall knows that you get better at keeping your balance.