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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, 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.


By pa360, Jan 20 2015 06:22AM

Learning is an empowering, enabling and enriching activity for any organisation. When organisations are able to perfect their approach to learning, they know better, can adapt quicker and improve faster than those whose approach to learning is less sophisticated and nuanced. Organisations learn every time they go through a new experience, when they triumph over adversity and when they demonstrate resilience in the face of disappointment or failure. They also learn remotely, by observing those around them such as market leaders and innovators or when they 'live their experiences' vicariously through the actions of competitors and other entities.


For any business, learning is not just an important mechanism to ensure sustainability, it is also a critical survival skill. What an organisation acquires through learning can be exploited to create opportunities to diversify, consolidate and compete. The need to learn reveals a fundamental truth about organisations, which is that they do not know it all - whether they think they do or not. That said, how do the most successful organisations learn? What are their habits, traits, customs and practices? Well set out below are seven of the most effective ways.


1. They work on the presumption of ignorance

To learn, an organisation must first be open to learning, but to be open to learning it must accept that it still has something to learn. Sounds straightforward doesn't it? Well yes and no. Sometimes an organisation's need to be right is the biggest barrier to its learning and development. I remember many years ago working in a particular organisation, where the aversion to correction was almost pathological. The entire culture, predicated on the need to demonstrate how a small coterie of 'leaders' were fundamentally right, only served to prove how they were all fundamentally wrong. By contrast, in healthy and self-reflective organisations, learning starts with the presumption of ignorance, not the assumption of rightness. In these organisations, the presumption of ignorance is not evidence of stupidity; rather it is an acknowledgement that learning starts with how little you realise, not how much you know.


2. They practice the art and science of educated guesswork

Before learning comes discovery and before discovery there is educated guesswork. In simple terms, an educated guess is an informed judgement based on objective reasoning and common sense. Given the dynamic nature of consumer preference and behaviour, no organisation can ever have a monopoly on knowledge and insight. As such, an organisation's ability to make an educated guess can empower it to probe its operational environment, explore alternatives and learn. The most successful organisations have mastered the art and science of guesswork. They understand that without empirical evidence to guide their decision-making, the likelihood of an outcome may just as easily be determined by plausible probability as hard fact.


3. They have access to a 'mixed-economy' of knowledge products

Healthy organisations subsist on a diet of learning that is varied, balanced and rich in knowledge. They don't just have a hunger for knowledge derived from the same sources, they are also discerning enough to appreciate knowledge derived from different sources. When an organisation seeks or acquires the bulk of its information from the same place, no matter how reliable, it runs the risk of creating an echo chamber that will only serve to confirm biases and preconceived ideas. However, an organisation that learns successfully, actively cultivates a mixed-economy of knowledge products. By so doing, it is able to create a richer picture of its operational environment and make better informed decisions.


4. They understand the difference between linear and lateral learning

In a previous blog, I focused on the distinctive difference between linear and lateral 'momentum'. However, the same spatial constructs also apply to learning. Linear learning is the ability to process experience and insight from where you have come from as well as what you see in front of you. Linear learning is probably the most common type of learning style for most organisations. However, the most successful organisations are also effective lateral learners. Lateral learning is the ability to make connections between events occurring in the peripheral vision (ie: on either side), away from direct line of sight (what is front) or experience (what is behind). Therefore, lateral learning provides organisations with a much more reliable set of reference points to safely navigate their operational environment. Organisations that adopt the lateral learning model will be just as keen to gain insight from those who are not even their direct competitors, as those who are.


5. They assemble the sounding board

Successful organisations are adept at learning because they have worked out not just how best to learn, but also who best to learn from. Specifically, these organisations understand the importance of seeking the views of those who hold contrary opinions, whose judgement they respect and whose input they value. Operating within this space, these organisations are able to draw in a wide range of perspectives by bouncing their ideas off trusted others. One of the unique aspects of the way in which these organisations learn is that they drawn insights from both external as well as internal sources. They recognise that leadership for learning can come from anywhere across the their organisational hierarchy as well as from customers, competitors and interested observers.


6. They sift and sort

For the most successful organisations, a basic rule of thumb is that not everything that can be learnt is worth learning about. An organisational 'scatter-gun' approach to learning creates clutter, which needlessly crowds the decision-making space. By contrast, a successful organisation applies the 'need to know' approach to the 'need to learn'. They are therefore able to 'sift and sort' that which is desirable from that which is essential and that which is essential from that which is critical. In addition to enhancing decision-making capability, the application of this approach ensures that skill and knowledge assets can be targeted, economically, efficiently and effectively.


7. They question exhaustively and relentlessly

In the most successful organisations there is a tacit acknowledgement that nothing can be learnt until everything has been questioned. These organisations are innately curious and have a strong aversion to assumptions, even if those assumptions are based on evidence of what has worked before. In addition, these organisation are both forensic and relentless in their approach to learning. They weigh, test and measure available information. By doing so, they are able to narrow the margin for potential error in decision-making, anticipate the likelihood of risk and focus their efforts to produce the most desirable results.


In conclusion, learning is how an organisation approaches the need to know. For the most successful organisations this approach is multi-faceted, dynamic and adaptive. As such it is much more likely to create a richer and ultimately more productive learning environment. Any organisation with designs on mastering the art and science of learning, must first and foremost know what kind of learner they are. Are they the sort of organisation that acquires information on the basis of what they want to hear or what they need to know? If it is the former, then such an organisation will likely stumble from crisis to crisis, struggling to correct unproductive or harmful behaviours and all the while nourished by the vanity of its own ego. If it is the latter, then such an organisation will approach learning as though it were a vital organ, which needs to be protected and without which it cannot expect to survive. If there is an overarching message from this blog, it is the fact that an organisation only knows what it knows, the rest it has to learn.


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