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I will try my best to update this webpage with  thought provoking and interesting content, as often as I can.  Please feel free to leave comments as  there is much that can be learnt from the sharing of ideas.

By pa360, Feb 23 2019 12:59PM

Last week, I attended a leaving party for my dear friend, former colleague, and current Believernomics business partner. It was a terrific event, not just for the turn out of well-wishers, the genuine sentiments expressed by all present, but also for the sheer power of my friend's charisma. I had always known him to be charismatic and had told him so, but I did not fully appreciate the scale nor the extent of his wonderful gift. In fact, so impressed was I by what I observed, that evening, that I felt inspired to write this blog to deconstruct the key characteristics of charisma.


So, why should anyone care about charisma? In simple terms, it is often the 'secret sauce' of success and the key ingredient for a powerful personal brand. It can be the difference between being heard and being believed; being one amongst the many and standing amongst the few; following and leading. Let us be clear, charisma is not like other personal brand characteristics such as reliability, integrity or courage. Quite unlike those characteristics, charisma cannot be acquired, learned or taught. You either have it or you don't and for those that don't have it, you will know it when you see it. So here is my take on the 13 key characteristics of charisma.


1. it attracts others

People often conflate charisma with celebrity, but they are not the same thing. Celebrity can attract others, but if you take away the underpinning activity or event that creates celebrity, the attraction of it will invariably fade as well. By contrast, people with charisma attract others through their affability, manner or other personality traits. As such, the underpinning characteristics of charisma reflect who you are, not the status or position that you have achieved. Another important aspect of the way in which charisma attracts is through the universality of its language. In other words, the language of charisma cuts across demographics and boundaries.


2. it keeps others

With charisma, whilst the ability to attract people is always a very strong measure, it is the ability to 'keep' those you attract that is the higher standard. The relationships that charismatic people cultivate are rarely transient and more likely to be long-lasting and give expression to intense personal loyalty. This ability to maintain enduring relationships ultimately speaks to the quality of those interactions and by extension, the regard to which charismatic people are often held.


3. it is effortless and authentic

Charisma comes naturally and is not something that you can fake, because you either have it or you do not. In that way, I would liken charisma to humour. People who have a natural sense of humour never need try to be funny, they just are. They seem to have an innate sense of what makes people laugh and do it effortlessly, without preparation. So it is with charisma, it requires no effort, because it is not what you learn, it is what you have, because it is who you are.


4. it needs no introduction because it announces itself

Much as you might tell someone that they are charismatic, you are only really stating the obvious to them and others. The point to note here is that charisma speaks for itself; it is the presence that fills the room and the energy that causes others to gravitate towards it. If you have charisma you do not always have to be the most articulate person in the room, nor the one with the most powerful oratory. That is because, charisma also communicates though non verbal cues such as mannerisms, dress sense and idiosyncrasies.


5. it is influential

Charisma is an effective measure of influence and influence is evidence of soft power. Given that charismatic people are in their element when in the company of others, the scope for leveraging influence over them can be far-reaching. In a positive context, charisma can create highly productive relationships and drive change across wide spans of control.


6. it cannot be easily explained

Anyone who says that they can fully or properly explain how charisma works, really does not understand it at all. We often see the effects of charisma and can therefore witness it at work; but there are various intangibles that make it work. These are the things that are often described as the 'X-factor' (ie: the things that you know are there, but cannot see, weigh or measure). If that were not the case, then everyone would be charismatic and all anyone would need to do, to exhibit it, is follow the formula and apply the science.


7. it makes the difference

The fact is that a compelling, well-evidenced argument is often the most effective way to secure a favourable decision and drive an agenda forward. However, in truth, even that may not be enough. By contrast, with charisma, it is often the case that people choose to trust you because they want to trust you and are willing to do so, even when they disagree with you. Truly charismatic people understand this and use this brand 'super-power' effectively to build momentum and get things done.


8. it is mobile

Few brand characteristics are as transferable, or as mobile, as charisma. As a case in point, when people work for a new employer they sometimes worry about the challenge of starting again and the uncertainty associated with forming new relationships and establishing their reputation in a new place. However, this is not something that charismatic people often worry about. The reason for that is because charisma doesn't just work anywhere, it works everywhere.


9. it exudes the 'feel good factor'

At its most potent, charisma has the extraordinary capacity to make people who experience it, feel good or better about themselves. It is impossible to describe the mechanics of this, other than to say that charisma connects with people at an emotional and psychological level and is as much non-verbal as it is verbal. People want to and enjoy being around those who make them feel positive and people who make others feel positive, can much more easily build strong relationships.


10. it leaves a footprint

One of the most common characteristics of people who are charismatic is that they are memorable. Long after the event or interaction, 'charismatics' tend to be remembered by those they come in contact with. Notwithstanding that the interactions themselves might be mundane or uneventful; charisma can make those experiences memorable. With charisma, you will always know where it has been, when you see what it has done.


11. it is spontaneous

The ability to 'freestyle' and think on your feet is an impressive talent. There are some who can do it very effectively, but most cannot. However, it is one of the things that charismatic people do very well. This is because those with charisma are naturally good with people. The bigger and the more diverse the audience, the better they like it and the more comfortable they will be. The capacity to be spontaneous means that people with charisma will be utterly at ease in the presence of strangers as much they are in the company of friends.


12. it has a presence and an aura

If you have ever been in the presence of someone with charisma, you may sense that they have a certain aura about and around them. This is more likely to be evident when they are in the presence of others. An aura, is one of the most important and impactful non-verbal cues of charisma. It is intangible, but can you can feel it; it is invisible, but you know it is there.


13. it listens

One final thing that I have realised from observing my friend, over the years, is that truly charismatic people are also very good listeners. The ability to listen underpins the capacity to learn, Willing listeners are active learners who are better placed to harness and maximise the value of their gifts and talents. This is important because charisma is a brand characteristic. If you do not know what you have then you will not know how to use it and if you do not know how to use it, then it will likely go to waste.


In conclusion, by itself, charisma is not unique. Many people have it and we see evidence of its deployment in politics, business, the media and in everyday situations. Nor is charisma always used positively, by those who possess it, to impact the lives and life experiences of those around them. However, what is beyond dispute is the potency of charisma in establishing a powerful personal brand, a mechanism for inspiring others and a platform for leadership influence.

By pa360, Sep 9 2018 03:43PM

Considered in a historical context, the curious case of Colin Kaepernick is not really that curious at all. For those of a certain generation, history is simply repeating itself. The script goes something like this: a sports personality takes a stand on a social or political issue and is reviled and ostracised from their chosen sport as a result. Years later, the same sports personality is recognised as courageous and heroic. The names are different, aspects of the situation are different, but fundamentally we have been here before haven't we?


Ultimately, the political climate in the US will change, the wanton orgy of divisiveness will end and everyone will come to their senses. It is funny how history has a way of repeating itself, but sometimes it takes the re-learning of past lessons to remind us that, much as we might go to the brink, few are willing to go over the edge. Or to paraphrase the words of Martin Luther King: even if we struggle to live together as brothers, we are not prepared to perish together as fools.


As such, the curious case of Colin Kaepernick will end predictably, with Kaepernick remembered as a pioneer of his time and with history repeating itself, once socio-political conditions permit.


With that in mind, the purpose of this blog is not to prognosticate or pick apart the evolution of the social issues that have driven the Kaepernick protest. Rather, it is to highlight ten leadership lessons that can be learnt from them.


1. Conditions will always create leaders - in many ways, the actions of Colin Kaepernick restore one's confidence in the idea that the concept of leadership is alive and well. The sheer diversity of life experience and life outcomes within and between communities guarantees that leaders will always emerge to further one cause or another. There are few social institutions that evidence the health of a society more than a thriving economy of leadership. Whether or not you agree with the interpretation given to issues, or with the leaders who choose to champion them, just don't be surprised when leaders emerge. Perhaps more fundamentally, if you do not like the leaders that you have, then change the conditions that produce them.


2. Prepare to speak your truth in the face of overwhelming power - in the grand scheme of things, Kaepernick and his fellow 'kneelers' are mere specs in the face of the overwhelming power and might arraigned against them. Whether this is the individual might of the team owners, the governing might of the National Football League of the political might of figures in the highest office in Washington. A 'sensible' person might reasonably weigh and balance these competing elements and decide that discretion is the better part of valour. However, in leadership, there is no better time to speak truth to power than when you are, by comparison, powerless. Consent and dissent are the hardest things to do when you disrupt the status quo.


3. Leadership is not a measure of perfection - in preparing this blog, I have read various articles and watched many commentators critique the credentials and character of Colin Kaepernick. Personally, I have never met the man and therefore do not know whether any of the positive or negative things said about him, are true. One thing I do know however, is that neither perfection nor piety are pre-requisites of leadership. The fact, for example, that Kaepernick is a multi-millionaire, no more disqualifies him from protesting, than it qualifies him to do so. Leadership is not about your standing, it's about where you stand and what you stand for.


4. Be prepared to be despised, but never accept to be intimidated - one of the more predictable aspects of Kaepernick's case is the level of animus being directed towards him. This is a man who has taken no hostages, detonated no bombs and led no terrorist insurrections. Yet he is still seen as a hate figure by some, not just for what he has done, but for what he is perceived to have done. In leadership, being despised is often par for the course. If you are more concerned with your reputation, ratings or public approval, then you are unfit to lead.


5. Be prepared to go it alone - in leadership, the hardest place to start is at the beginning. The passion, energy and sense of purpose that propels you when you first decide to step forward, can quickly dissipate when your motives and being questioned and your message is perceived in a negative light. Even more so, it can be energy sapping, when momentum fails to materialise, behind your cause, as you expected. So here's the rub, if you are not prepared to lead with the understanding that you might have to go it alone and with the recognition that you might ultimately get nowhere, then stay where you are. In leadership, the truth is that just because others agree with you, doesn't guarantee that they will follow you.


6. Do not compromise - in leadership if it mattered in the beginning, then surely it should also matter in the end. Leadership is not something that you can opt in and out of or a construct through which your message can be watered down. Kaepernick may well have been imperfect in the way in which he initially sought to make his protest (sitting rather than kneeling) but he has none-the-less been unwavering in the commitment to his cause. Nothing shores up leadership credibility more than the authenticity of your issue and few things undermine your credibility more than the inconsistency of your message.


7. Sometimes people who look at the same situations can see different things - do not assume simply because you have a cause that you care about, that others will see the same issue in the same way. In leadership, you can only control what you say, but you have zero control over what others hear or indeed what they want to hear. In leadership, you cannot beat yourself up over the fact that 'people don't seem to get it'. They do get it, but they just don't agree with you.


8. Engage with the disgruntled, don't play politics with them - one of the more interesting aspects of the Kaepernick protest is how quickly senior politicians at the highest levels of the US government have used it to play politics. It is fascinating how one persons protest, has been appropriated by another as 'cladding' for their personal profile. In truth, it is not just fascinating, it is fundamentally wrong. Even if, for the sake of argument, one believes that Kaepernick's attempt at leadership is ill-judged; surely the 'higher leadership' response to that has been much worse? The ineffectiveness of political leadership, in responding to the method of the Kaepernick protest, has only served to multiply the number of protesters, not change the method of protest.


9. Never 'commercialise' a cause - for Colin Kaepernick's sake, I hope he and Nike have carefully thought through the public relations implications of their new 10-year partnership deal. I say that because the image of brother Kaepernick getting paid, whilst others are getting shot, isn't a good look. Such a perception would undermine his message, raise questions about his commitment and create a reason for people to doubt him. More likely however, Kaepernick and Nike have probably spent months stressing over how this deal can be turned into something strategically successful. I am never one to encourage others to make public displays of their good works, but I will make an exception in this case. My advice for Kaepernick would be to make a public commitment to give a sizeable portion of personal earnings, from this deal, to social charities.


10. ...but be prepared to broaden your constituency - the willingness to broaden one's constituency and utilise a wide of channels to vocalise one's cause, is a perfectly legitimate thing for any leader to do. So too is the willingness to make common cause with those who are prepared to make common cause with you. The fact that a person has a different life experience, is from a different social demographic or represents a different political flag, should never be a disqualifier. In leadership, even if you espouse a cause that makes people feel uncomfortable, you should never adopt a position that makes them feel unwelcome.


By pa360, Dec 30 2016 08:56PM

People often talk about leading from the front. In fact it is probably the best known and certainly the most visible form of leadership. In my mind, the classic image of leading from the front is the First World War, where soldiers would leap up out of their trenches and charge across battlefields to engage the enemy in acts of extraordinary courage and astonishing bravery.


But what about leading from the back ie: leading through others? Are there ever times when it is helpful for a leader to be less visible or even invisible? Yes, very much so. Indeed, leading from the back is the only viable way to facilitate the empowerment of people. It simply cannot be achieved any other way.


So how and when does leading from the back work and what are the conditions under which such an arrangement might achieve a successful outcome. Set out below are the eight ways to lead effectively from the back.


1. give people permission to act - the importance of permission to act is that it creates a controlled environment and sets the boundary and context within which activity can be planned, conducted and sanctioned. The alternative to boundaries is unstructured activity, rules made up on the hoof and lack of accountability. When leading from the back, boundaries are especially important because those whom you empower must clearly understand the authority with which they have to act and the point at which authority for further action must be sought.


2. give people permission to fail - one of the hardest things to do in leadership is to accept your own failure, how much more to be accountable for the failure of others. Yet, you simply cannot lead effectively from the back unless you accept that you must empower others with permission to fail. Let’s be real here, if you give people the permission to act on your behalf, you must also give them permission to fail on your behalf. As long as those whom you empower operate within the delegated permission to act, you must be prepared to accept the consequences of their actions.


3. deploy visible invisibility - the essence of leading from the back is that you are leading through others and therefore whilst you are not physically in the room, you are none-the-less present through those who represent and are accountable to you. The measure of a truly great leader is that their presence is felt even when they are not physically there. To lead from the back, you cannot be physically present otherwise once people catch sight of you, they will defer to you, which is undermining of those whose leadership capabilities you are trying to develop.


4. give people the freedom to think - few things are as disempowering as repressing peoples freedom to think and express their views. Clearly there are limitations to this and I am not referring to those who use their freedoms to act outside established norms of behaviour and practice. Rather, I am referring to the value placed on involving people in the decision-making process that empowers them to think for themselves and solve their own problems. To lead from the back, you must accept that you do not know all the answers. By doing so you will cultivate collective accountability and enable to find solutions whether or not you are in the room.


5. trust yourself to trust others - like any arrangement involving people, successfully leading from the back must be based on trust. Without trust, permission to act or fail cannot be granted, boundaries cannot be established and people cannot be enabled to demonstrate their leadership capabilities. In my experience trust is a push and pull, in that it must be earned as well as extended. Asking people to take on roles for which they are unsuited is an abuse of trust. However, a good leader who knows the capabilities of their people, ought to be able to create the right environment for potential leaders to step forward.


6. motivate effectively - there will undoubtedly be times when those who represent you are not performing well or complacency sets in or any one of a number of other issues occur that require urgent attention. At such times, you need to have a range of motivational tools to deploy. I have often found that to generate energy and enthusiasm you must find out what motivates people (and each person may be different). For some it may be your ability to spot the positives in a sea of negatives and for others it may be the reassurance that you will step forward and take responsibility if things go wrong. However, if all else fails you must be ready to deploy tough love and strong words.


7. do not be threatened by the success of others - this is a very serious point. I have known leaders who choose not to empower others into leadership for fear that they may be recognised and rewards for their efforts. Here’s the rub, petty jealousy kills leadership development. Furthermore, anyone in such a position, who holds those kinds of views should seriously question whether they have chosen the right vocation. It bears reminding that the role and purpose of leadership is not lordship, it is service – specifically the empowerment of others.


8. maintain standards - in every endeavour where there is a stated objective, there must also be some way of describing or defining what success looks like. In other words what sort of behaviours do you want to see demonstrated, how long do you want to be hand-holding before those who you are seeking to empower, take off on their own? As I often say, if you do not know what success looks like you will not know it when you see it, nor will you be able to use knowledge gained from it to develop capabilities and maintain standards.


If your goal is to empower your organisation, achieve culture change and deliver sustainable results, then leading from the back is the way to do it. In simple terms, you achieve sustainability not through your own efforts but rather through the efforts of others. Therefore any organisational design and development strategy that doesn’t have the empowerment of people at its heart, is probably destined for the dusty top shelf, just like its predecessors.

By pa360, Apr 9 2016 08:35PM

We all know great leadership when we see it. People are inspired by it, organisations are transformed by it and the divided are united by it. But an eagerness to lead does not, by itself, translate into effective and capable leadership. On the contrary, leadership is a learned competency, which is developed as much by knowing what to avoid as it is demonstrated by knowing what needs to be done. So then, what are the biggest leadership pitfalls to avoid? Well, set out below are my top seven.


1. the lure of lordship - one of the biggest traps that leaders often fall into is the pitfall of 'lordship'. A lord expects to be served, but a leader expects to serve. The best leaders exemplify their leadership by putting others first and putting themselves second. A 'leader' that is actually better known for lordship, undermines their credibility by subjugating the very people they are supposed to serve.


2. a closed mind - the problem with a closed mind is that it is often symptomatic of self-righteousness. The problem with self-righteousness is that those who demonstrate this trait are often the last to realise it. Even after irreparable damage has been done, the self-righteous will absolve themselves of responsibility and look for whom else to blame for their faults and failings. The fact is that, even if your mind is open, you will not always be right, but if your mind is closed you won't know when you are wrong.


3. indecisiveness - vacillation or indecisiveness doesn't just sap confidence, it creates utter confusion. The ability to be decisive is important because it provides clear direction and enables a leader to unite effort behind a common purpose. A leader who fails the test of decisiveness undermines their own leadership and invites questions about their leadership legitimacy. Decisiveness does not guarantee that you won't get it wrong, but if you cannot be decisive, how will you ever get it right?


4. weak character judgement - one of the main expectations of those in leadership is to be able to judge and evaluate the character, capabilities and competencies of those around them. This is important because a leader needs to make important decisions regarding the delegation of duties and the promotion of subordinates. However, a leader who struggles to rightly judge the character of others will inevitably find themselves surrounded by sycophants, the self-serving and the cynical.


5. lack of personal integrity - the question of personal integrity is essential because it goes to the very heart of leadership character. A leader that is perceived to be deceptive, dishonest and unreliable is like a house built on quicksand. No-one in their right mind would go anywhere near such a place, much less seek shelter there. Character is the solid foundation upon which leadership credibility can be demonstrated and upon which leadership confidence can be built.


6. failure to recognise others - during a time of celebration, a truly great leader should be falling over themselves to give credit to others. Leaders who feel the need to claim credit for themselves, will likewise think nothing of throwing subordinates under the bus when things are not going well. In simple terms, leadership that cannot recognise the effort of others, will not inspire confidence, and if leadership cannot inspire confidence it will not inspire loyalty.


7. failure to 'walk the walk' - the most effective form of communication is not what you say it is what you do. Leaders who say one thing and do something else demonstrate that they lack credibility and people who lack credibility simply cannot be trusted. But it doesn't end there, without trust you cannot exercise influence either and without influence a leader cannot mobilise effort.


It is important to stress that every leader makes mistakes. In many ways, getting it wrong is an essential part of the learning process and helps to ensure that a leader can get it right next time. Yes, even great leaders can fall into a pit. But what separates great leaders from the rest, is not how quickly they fell in, but how quickly they were able to climb out.


By pa360, Mar 5 2016 01:08PM

The thought that one's effort, energy and expectations could become a smouldering pile of rubble is both sobering and humbling. Yet, as strange as it seems, failure is probably the best proving ground for great leadership. Qualities such as courage, resilience and determination, emerge in the face of obstacles and adversity not in the face of plain sailing. In addition, learning from our failure creates footprints to inspire and empower others.


Against this backdrop, set out below are five leadership lessons to learn from failure.


1. contextualise your experience - to contextualise your experience is to recognise that failure is a experience not a judgement. The greatest journeys of success often require a detour through deep frustration, disappointment and despair. The key leadership lesson here is that failure represents a potential gold-mine of opportunity through which to re-think, re-focus and re-double your efforts.


2. confront your experience - people often want to put as much distance as possible between themselves and failure, but that is actually the worst possible thing that anyone can do. People run away or avoid the things that they are afraid of and fear of failure invariably results in an aversion to risk. The key leadership lesson here is: never let the possibility of doing something wrong, mean that you end up doing nothing right.


3. evaluate your experience - it's easy to forget that if you cannot learn from experience, you are destined to relive that experience. Let's be real, self-critique is one of the hardest things for anyone to do, not least because the act of poring over our own errors, exposes us to our own vulnerabilities and shortcomings. The key leadership lesson here is that learning from failure is one of the surest routes to achieving success.


4. be prepared to try again, but know when to try something different - 'if at first you don't succeed, try and try again' right? Well yes and no. Clearly, you need to use good judgement when assessing and evaluating failure. In many instances you may find that a change in attitude and more resolute application will produce the desired results. However, at other times the best thing to do is to call it quits and move on to something completely different. The key leadership lesson here is that learning from failure should make you wise, not stupid.


5. surround yourself with the right people - the impact of those that we surround ourselves with can often be seen in character traits that we develop. Nothing will equip you to overcome failure more than the words and actions of those whose company you keep. The right friends and relationships will encourage, inspire and empower you, whilst the wrong ones will hold you back. The key leadership lesson here is that the people we hang around with are also our most important 'investors'. If you want to be the recipient of good investments, you need to surround yourself with the right 'investors'.


The extent to which we learn from failure has much to do with each person's attitude to experience. To make the most of failure, you must first see every experience (no-matter how difficult) as an opportunity to learn.


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