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Sunday, 28 February 2010

Leader or Bully?

The past week or so has seen a media frenzy about whether our Prime Minister is a bully (or not as Downing Street says).

Many and varied have been the reactions ranging from the very soft to the extremely hard and there does not seem to be a consensus on even the definition of bullying.

Whatever the definition, bullying can take many forms not the least of which is downright subtle, which could include exclusion from meetings, sidelining, not speaking or ignoring someone. On the other hand bullying can be outward as a visible expression of anger.

Aristotle said (and I paraphrase) the anger can be a good emotion provided that it is focussed and is NOT widespread and continuous.
My friend Will Hopper, co-author of The Puritan Gift, in a recent blog (
http://thepuritangift.wordpress.com) recalls that Winston Churchill would shout at his Generals but expected them to shout back at him.

The clue lies in the relative positions of the shouter and shoutee (if the solecism can be excused). What is quite unacceptable is using the same methods to subordinates, especially junior subordinates.

Without doubt, that can be construed as bullying and has no place in a civilised organisation. Will Hopper makes the point that great organisations have an active upward flow of information and to inhibit that by the imposition of fear, in any form, is totally counter-productive, as well as showing the “leader” to be morally bankrupt.

In the end, the values of an organisation should be sufficiently well grounded as to ensure that the leadership requires the team to feel free enough to bring both good and bad news without expecting the messenger to be shot.

For more information visit www.vistageblog.co.uk and you can contact us at ivan.goldberg@vistage.co.uk

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Tough Love or the Easy Life?

Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, was equally legendary for his quotes, one of which was “I want you to be fired with enthusiasm, because if you aren’t, then you will be fired – with enthusiasm”. He took a failing team and during his tenure, they won five out of eight Super-Bowls.

Another of his quotes was “The only place where success comes before work, is in the dictionary”.

Question – did he love his teams and did they love him? You bet they did, even if they were probably terrified of him.

Here in the UK possibly the most successful football manager ever is Sir Alex Ferguson and no-one could ever say about him that he is a gentle soul. The stories about him are legion and the dressing room has echoed many times to the sound of his fury, not to mention the notorious hair dryer.

Again, how do his people see him? Manchester United, love them or hate them, have a culture of togetherness and if anyone bucks that trend, then their time with the club is limited. The departure of some high profile players over the years is testament to that fact.

The easy way out, of course, is to go with the flow and hope that people will conform. Generally, they don’t and it is the leader who gives firm direction with respect who succeeds.

The tough leaders engender respect while giving honest, fair and consistent feedback to their people and the most significant of those talents is probably consistency.

Most importantly, not only do they earn the respect of their people, they GIVE respect back to them, and that can be the most motivating criterion of all.

For more information, visit www.maa-uk.co.uk
You can contact us at ivan.goldberg@maa-uk.co.uk

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Exercise and Define Your Vision

The core of leadership, it seems to me, lies in the ability of the leader to visualise where the company is going and what it will look like in the future.

Adherents of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) will tell me that is only applicable if the leader happens to be a “visual” individual and the ability will be different if the inherent style is aural or kinaesthetic.

However, the ability to define the future is an inbuilt advantage which most successful leaders possess. Please note: I did say “define the future”, not “predict the future”.

Any sort of prediction especially in a chaotic economic environment is fraught with danger and reminds me of the old line that economists have predicted seven out of the last three recessions.

To define the future is an entirely different exercise. It is predicated on the assumption that the business has firm objectives, a bright shining star which everyone is dedicated to reach.

The setting of specific, SMART objectives is a team exercise but the definition of “where we are going” on which the objectives are based, must, I believe, be the responsibility of the leader, even if it is encapsulated in just a few simple words.

That vision of what the business will look like in the future has to be communicated incessantly and consistently at all times, in all places and to everyone so that there is never any doubt as to “where we are going”.

It is the elevator or stump speech (no more than 40 words in 15 seconds) given by the leader which will define the future and enthuse the team.

But remember, it begins and ends with the vision and that is the responsibility of the leader. After all, vision is seeing what life could be like while dealing with life as it is.

For more information, check www.maa-uk.co.uk
To contact us, email to ivan.goldberg@maa-uk.co.uk

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Involve (or Engage) Your People

It is important, I reckon, to make sure that your business is not a “top down” organisation, with all the decisions being made by the senior team, or worse, by the top man/woman. Kenneth and Will Hopper, in their wonderful book, The Puritan Gift, extol those companies which involve their people to the extent that they develop “bottom up” management.

Think on these things:

People cannot implement what they do not know - when strategy is implicit and not explicit

They do not implement properly that which they cannot understand - when strategy is developed in isolation

We do not implement that to which we are not committed - when strategy is imposed from outside those accountable

We give up on a strategy whose implications have not been anticipated - when the critical issues have not been identified in advance

Operational people are generally not good strategic thinkers - when they are excluded from the strategic development process!

People find it very difficult to hit a target they cannot see, or embrace aspirations which they don’t share or are not shared with them

All of this means that people must feel and, indeed, be involved (the current fashionable word is “engaged”) and it can take a leap of faith to implement it.

It all comes down to that emotive word “TRUST”. Unless we trust our people and allow them to make decisions (and mistakes, by the way), they will never feel involved and will always just be doers and not thinkers.

For further information visit
To contact us, email to ivan.goldberg@maa-uk.co.uk