Tuesday, August 27, 2019

6 Attributes of a Followable Leader from Erika Andersen's Leading So People Will Follow (BOOK REVIEW)

Leading So People Will Follow (2012) by Erika Andersen

"We want good leaders. We crave good leaders. We're hungry for good, worthy, followable leaders in every part of our lives," writes Erika Andersen, a leadership coach and founder of Proteus International and popular Forbes blogger. "We have a deeply wired-in need for leaders who will guide us well and safely; who care more about the success of the enterprise than about their comfort; who call out our best and take full advantage of who we are. And we long to be that kind of leader as well – to evoke that ‘I'm with you – let's go!' response from those who work with and for us." In short, this book is about how to be a truly "followable" leader, one who can build, sustain and grow strong teams and companies in the ever-changing environment today.

I thanks Pustaka Negeri Sarawak, state library, for making this book available for me to borrow. This book is simple, easy to read, very instructive and although no new core lessons that I learned, I find that Erika's examples and the applications part are very helpful and valuable (there are Try It section in most chapters). I also love how Erika used the examples of not-so-well-known leaders in this book. I can connect with them as oppose to larger-than-life-kind of leaders. Erika is very creative because she links how humans are so fascinated with folktales and "what to look for and accept in those who lead our day-to-day." She writes her own short folktale story, studies hundreds of leader stories and shows to the readers how The Six (6) Leadership Key Attributes can make one be the kind of leader whom others would follow. A followable leader is:

#1 FARSIGHTED. To be a far-sight leader is to "envision a possible future that responds to and resonates with people's aspirations for their individual and collective success." Leaders who are farsighted see possible futures that are good for the team and company; able to articulate the vision in a compelling and inclusive way ("we" instead of "I" and with confidence); model their vision by live it; see past obstacles by being realistic but don't allow those obstacles to overwhelm them; and have the power of persuasion to invite others to participate in the vision. If everyone knows their missions, everyone is committed.

#2 PASSIONATE. Why do we want to follow a passionate leader? Because we want to feel that he or she will stick with us. It inspires loyalty. That's why I think passion is very important for a leader. Leaders who are passionate commit honestly; make a clear case without being dogmatic; invite real dialogue about their passion with openness; act in support of their passion, they walk the talk; and stay committed despite adversity and setbacks. "When difficulties arise, passionate leaders hold to their principles and find a way forward," write Erika.

#3 COURAGEOUS. Erika observes, "People need courageous leaders to know that someone will make the tough calls and take responsibility for them." If not, "people feel as though they need to protect themselves." That's not good. courageous leaders make necessary, tough choices; put themselves at risk for the good of the team and company even when it may threaten their success; do things that are personally difficult, uncomfortable or frightening; take responsibility for their actions (this is a must!); and admit mistakes and apologize when they are in the wrong.

#4 WISE. The quality of wisdom balances the forward motion of farsightedness, passion and courage. Erika mentions, "When leaders are wise, we see that they're considering our welfare and that they'll do their best to make sure that the enterprise succeeds in a way that supports the success of the greatest possible number of us, their followers." Wise leaders are deeply curious, they listen not just to understand but to empathize; they assess situations objectively and as accurate as possible (in Erika's term "fair witness"); they reflect on and learn from their experiences especially their failures; see patterns and share their insights with others; and act based on what they believe is morally right (on morality, Erika points that leaders "are clear about their moral code, and they live by it." Mostly refers to ethics and common sense morality).

#5 GENEROUS. To be a generous leader, Erika points out that it is more than just being generous in the general term but also, especially "with power." This is a much-needed attribute for leaders today. Thank you, Erika, for emphasized on this side of leadership! Leaders who display this attribute assume positive intent in others, think good of others unless can be proven otherwise; they share power and authority by giving more autonomy, influence, responsibility and support; they share what they know – the information, knowledge and resources – needed for the job and for others to succeed; and they are generous in giving credit, praise and reward.

#6 TRUSTWORTHY. Trust is the bottom line. Period. I would like to recommend a book by Stephen M. R. Covey, The Speed of Trust on this subject, why character and competence are very important for leaders to gain trust from others. Erika sees the crucial importance of trust when she writes, "We may follow a leader who lacks farsightedness or wisdom if we sense that he or she is working to develop that attribute, but we hesitate to commit to any leader we can't trust." True. Trustworthy leaders tell the truth as they understand it; do what they say they will do; keep confidences and very vigorous about discretion; speak and act for the greater good with integrity; and are capable to get results because of their skills and experience to do the job, competent.

For the last two chapters, Erika suggests that we should get help from others or to use her chapter title, get "Friends for the Journey." Why? Because leadership is about the survival of the whole, it's about people. Being an effective leader not only requires the support OF others; it requires support FROM others. Wow, thanks, Erika Andersen!


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Saturday, August 24, 2019

5 Great Lessons I Learned from Mud, Sweat and Tears: The Autobiography (2011) by Bear Grylls

Mud, Sweat and Tears: The Autobiography (2011) by Bear Grylls

I love adventure. I love this book. I admire Bear Grylls. The first quote in this book says a lot about Bear's adventurous life, by Pearl S. Buck, "The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible – and achieve it, generation after generation." That is a fit summary for Bear from his early age to who he is now. He "attempt the impossible." He is well-known for Man vs. Wild, Running Wild, Born Survivor and many more TV adventure series. As for his resume, he grows up on the Isle of Wight, taught by his father first-hand to sail and climb, became very active in martial arts especially karate, embarked on the most brutal military selection course on the planet namely the British Special Forces (21 SAS), involved in a horrific free-fall parachuting accident in Africa, but 8 months later become one of the youngest ever climbers (at that time) to scale Everest with the age only 23.

For a man like Bear, you can't list it all. Enough to say that this autobiography is fun to read, action-pack and very satisfying – full of adventures! I finished reading it after an adventure to the interior of Ulu Julau (Sarawak, Malaysia) that took about 3 hours to arrive with muddy and hilly roads, sat behind the truck like riding a roller coaster and expose to haze and under the hot sun. I felt like Bear Grylls a little bit. As a man, the sense of adventure, risk-taking, mud, sweats and tears are what make the man within me come alive. That's why jungle tracking, hiking, marathon, walking a long distance, cycling and riding on the road are my pleasures in life.

Anyway, back to Bear, here are 5 Lessons that I Learned from Bear Grylls, the man who drinks his own urine from snake's skin (I probably left a lot of other lessons, but you have to read the book yourself):

#1 The Power of Risk-Taking. When wrote about the Everest expedition, he said, "Many people find it hard to understand what it is about a mountain that draws men and women to risk their lives on her freezing, icy faces - all for a chance at that single, solitary moment on the top. It can be hard to explain. But I also relate to the quote that says, ‘If you have to ask, you will never understand.'" If you risk nothing you'll gain nothing. Bear failed twice on the SAS selection, but he never gives up. He almost died during most of his adventures. The risk of not seeing his family again, the risk of criticisms, the risk of appearing fool (oh, that's true) are very valid risks that once he overcomes bring greater good in himself and others who inspired by his actions.

#2 The Power of Humility. When writing about his successes, he also shares his failures and weaknesses. He also acknowledges that if not for the people who are closed to his – family, friends and colleagues – he will not achieve anything of value in his life. Many times, it was his friends that saved his life and sacrifice for him to be successful today. "Much of the success of the business side of things, though, is simply the product of great people, great ideas, tidy execution and a sprinkling of good luck." When I watched Man vs. Wild I always think, "Hey, the cameramen are good!"

#3 The Power of Being ‘You.' Bear believes that: "Our achievements are generally limited only by the beliefs we impose on ourselves." Bear knows that early in life, he is meant for the wild. Formal school is not his habitat, the school of hard-knock is his nature. He understands himself well and being himself is very comfortable. Nature and accidents might not kill him (so far), but give him an office desk, in a few days, you'll see his corpse! Know yourself and what makes you come alive. "All my life the only thing I've been good at has been climbing and throwing myself off big things," said Bear.

#4 The Power of Faith (in God). Bear Grylls is not writing a Christian book here. This is his autobiography and as such personal life and faith (if any) will always intertwined. When talking about his early years of encounter with God, he wrote, "To me, my Christian faith is all about being held, comforted, forgiven, strengthened, and loved - yet somehow that message gets lost on most of us, and we tend only to remember the religious nutters or the God of endless school assemblies. This is no one's fault, it is just life. Our job is to stay open and gentle, so we can hear the knocking on the door of our heart when it comes. The irony is that I never meet anyone who doesn't want to be loved or held or forgiven. Yet I meet a lot of folks who hate religion. And I do sympathize. But so did Jesus. He didn't just sympathize, He went much further. It seems more like this Jesus came to destroy religion and to bring life." Perhaps what makes him very attracted to nature is because it brings him closer to the Maker.

#5 The Power of Gratitude. This says it all: "Whether it is the wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, family or friends, so often those closest to us are the ones who get the worst of us. It is as if we feel that they are the only ones we can be grumpy with, and we save our best for our guests or work. But this is a recipe for struggle. The smart man and woman save the best for those they love. If we show our loved ones the most gratitude every day, then life will smile on us in return. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude: three words to help you thrive. Trust me." Gratitude to God, gratitude for life, for family and friends, for everything. Reading Bear's autobiography gave me a sense that he is not alone in his adventures, struggles and challenges. He attracts faithful people around him because he is a man of gratitude.

I would like to end this article with Bear Grylls' favourite quote from his grandmother, Patsie Fisher, "When a ball rolls your way grab it. We so rarely get a second chance (Although miraculously this does sometimes happen, too). And remember that life is what you make of it – and that is what makes the possibilities so exciting." Attempt the impossible!


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Sunday, August 4, 2019

BOOK REVIEW Crisis As Opportunity (2009) by Fifty Lessons Limited [or 14 Lessons for Leader]

Lessons Learned: Crisis As Opportunity (2009) by Fifty Lessons Limited

Small book, compact wisdom. I'm currently reading the commentaries of the Epistles of Paul, but in between, I thought I want to read something different. So this book from Lessons Learned series was a good choice and I love it. It only takes one sitting to finish it but a whole night to process what I've read. Crisis As Opportunity compiled the stories of accomplished leaders from around the world on how they tackled their toughest challenges. "If you could eliminate doubt and move boldly ahead with confidence knowing that you were facing the best opportunity of your lifetime, would you do it?" asked Mark Thompson, co-author of Success Built to Last, in his forward. All 14 contributors from this book say, "Yes." Let me summaries:

Lesson #1 Never Waste a Good Crisis by Giam Swiegers, CEO, Deloitte Australia. "You've been put into a leadership role for a reason. You are going to face difficult things. Don't get yourself and your team paralyzed. Face up to reality, decide what to do, and spot the opportunities. They're always there." A leader's perspective on difficult situations can mean the difference between communicating opportunity and communicating paralysis to an organization.

Lesson #2 Be Alert to New Opportunities by J. W. Marriott Jr., chairman and CEO, Marriott International. "We are constantly searching for opportunities. I think as you search for opportunities, and as you study what's going on in your industry and you learn what's happening, you see targets of opportunity out there that are very appealing to you. And when one comes along, you have to grab it, you have to move on it."

Lesson #3 A Counterintuitive Downturn Strategy by Anders Dahlvig, group president and CEO, IKEA Services. "If you have an offensive strategy in a downturn as we have, it is an opportunity to distance yourself from your competition." In short, counterintuitively, a well-planned growth strategy can distance you from the competition during an economic downturn. In a time of crisis, a strategy is key.

Lesson #4 Playing a Poor Hand Well by Mary Cantando, founder of WomanBusinessOwner.com. "It's easy to play a good hand, but a true master can play a poor hand well. I find that if you can look for the good in a bad situation, it positions you to play a poor hand well." One more thing that I learned from this chapter is that leaders are responsible for their power to impact people beyond their working lives.

Lesson #5 Customer Dissatisfaction Is a Great Opportunity by David Bell, Chairman Emeritus, The Interpublic Group. "Anytime there is a lack of customer satisfaction, there is an enormous opportunity to create loyalty by exactly what you do with the disruption." In short, customer dissatisfaction is a prime opportunity for improving customer service (story told by David is very interesting).

Lesson #6 Embracing Conflict by Richard Pascale, Associate Fellow, Said Business School, Oxford University. "[Conflict-embracers] saw the conflict as a source of renewal and a valuable asset to an organization, a kind of fuel. And their skill in dealing with conflict and teasing it out, making use of it rather than gliding over it, was something to behold. It was a huge wake-up call for me." all organizations contain hidden tensions that, if identified and embraced, can be a powerful catalyst for forwarding momentum.

Lesson #7 Change Is Good by David Brandon, chairman and CEO, Domino's Pizza. "We tend to resist change because often change creates problems that require solutions, and somethings those solutions require a lot of extra work… as a leader the way that you can best prepare your organization is to transform their thinking and put them in a mindset that makes them want to embrace change."

Lesson #8 Leadership Is Not a Popularity Contest by Sanjiv Ahuja, chairman, Orange UK. "For all leaders in all situations, you have to make the tough calls; but stand up for those and be counted. Don't shy away, and don't get confused between popularity and the right choices. Right choices and popularity do not have to go hand in hand." Eventually, all of us will want to follow a leader who is effective, decisive and passionate.

Lesson #9 Having the Courage of Your Convictions by Amelia Fawcett, chairman, Pensions First. Almost similar to lesson #8, the ability to make decisions is truly tested when those decisions are difficult, unpopular and subject to criticism. This requires courage and the belief that your decision is the right one.

Lesson #10 The Counterintuitive Strategy by William Johnson, chairman, president and CEO, H.J. Heinz Company. When in crisis, "the best thing to do for the company would be to shrink the company – to get smaller to get bigger, to get smaller to get better and to get smaller to be more nimble… before you get bigger, you have to get better." In embarking to this counterintuitive strategy, you should "overcommunicate your plan" to others – important people – who may not understand its benefits.

Lesson #11 Creating a Common Language for a New Course of Action by Clayton Christensen, Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School. To implement a new course of action effectively, as a leader, give your people or team a common language and a common understanding of the root issue you intend to address, "which allows consensus to simply coalesce." A company can generate a significant profit from "exploring ideas for new business from within."

Lesson #12 Finding Solutions for a Successful Turnaround by Paul Anderson, chairman, Spectra Energy. When you approach a new situation, don't think you have all the answers. One person's knowledge is no match against the entire organization's knowledge put together. "As a leader, your job is to extract organizational knowledge and synthesize what's of value into a strategy that you enable others to implement and execute."

Lesson #13 Being Honest Prevents Failure and Amplifies Opportunity by Robin Chase, founder and former CEO, Zipcar. "I think companies must think of themselves as learning companies. And as part of that concept, each one of us has to have, what I consider to be, intellectual honesty. We need to be able to look at any decision we've made or any of our weaknesses, and address them."

Lesson #14 Involving Customers in the Change Process by Ken Freeman, former chairman and CEO, Quest Diagnostics. "Employee satisfaction yields customer satisfaction; and customer satisfaction, in the end, yields shareholder satisfaction." Leaders must act inventively to reach their employees and articulate a vision that encourages their active participation in customer-focused change.

As a leader, a crisis is either an opportunity or a stumbling block; it will change you or break you; it will make you better or show your incompetence. I love this quote by Giam Swiegers, "Never waste a good crisis!"

One book that I would like to recommend on this topic is Turning Adversity Into Opportunity (2014) by Kouzes and Posner. CLICK HERE to read my review


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