Ten Views on Leadership. What’s Your’s?

My colleague, Mark McKergow (and his colleague, Helen Bailey) will be publishing a book on Host Leadership* which got me thinking about the vast number of views on leadership.

Which leadership model / appraoch?
Which leadership model / appraoch?

Here’s just ten of them (stated under the banner of leadership), followed by a few questions:

The host – dancing between hero and servant: A host is someone who entertains guests – friends, enemies or strangers. Traditions of hospitality have been a key part of all cultures worldwide. The metaphor of the leader as host builds on the idea of leader as servant, and offers a new, rooted yet innovative framework. Mark McKergow

Leadership is not a position, it is an activity. Daniel Newman, The Millennial CEO

It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership. Nelson Mandella

Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes. Peter Drucker

Don’t find fault, find a remedy. Henry Ford

 Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected. Steve Jobs

Before I went to jail, I was active in politics as a member of South Africa’s leading organization – and I was generally busy from 7 A.M. until midnight. I never had time to sit and think. Nelson Mandela

I just love bossy women. I could be around them all day. To me, bossy is not a pejorative term at all. It means somebody’s passionate and engaged and ambitious and doesn’t mind leading. Amy Poehler

A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In our experience, however, only about 15 percent of the companies that voice a need for change are truly in crisis. A far more common situation – involving as many as 60 percent of those companies – is a state of inconsistency. Booze & Co, Strategy+Business

And so on…

What’s your favorite leadership quote or perspective?

Or, conversely is there one that you can’t stand?

So much for the guys! What about quotes from the many women leaders?

Do you have a Solution Focus quote about leadership?

*Host Leadership

As Change Accelerates A M P L I F Y the useful change!

Dealing with change used to be a big problem for people and organizations. Change would overtake them, and sometimes overwhelm them.

Now that technology has helped us notice the only constant about change is that it’s accelerating, most are aware that if you’re not engaged in change, you may be an endangered species.

Change is happening all the time. Our role is to identify useful change and amplify it. – Gregory Bateson

Still, many view change as something that happens to them, and that it’s fraught with danger. To dramatize the point, whether they are trying to turn back the clock Tea Party-like, or angrily protesting fracking in the energy sector these protesters have one thing in common – they hate change that they don’t like. They self-appoint themselves to resist the change. And still things will change.

A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject. – Winston Churchill

Driven by fear, they mostly want to prevent change. The things they do want are often not doable, ineffective, and sometimes damaging.

These folks also work in organizations! 

How do we help people in organizations overcome their fear of change?

Help them notice what useful change has already happened or is happening! Then, amplify it! Ask:

 When is the change not a problem? Even the smallest change?

 How did we manage to get there? What else?

 When we dealt with change in the past, what worked?

Establish the know-how, skills and resources that are present to deal with the change.

Define the outcomes that are sought (instead of the problem). Ask:

What are you aiming to achieve?

How will you know you’ve achieved it?

What will be the first signs that you’re getting better?

How will other people notice this improvement?

You don’t need to have all the answers – people will learn for themselves. Enable them to realize that they have choices by working on the useful change. And, don’t worry if they don’t hear you at first. Slow down to their pace of change in order to help them speed things up.

Solution focus sometimes can seem counterintuitive. But, that’s how the world works.


Destructive People: Be patient. Lose battles. Win the war!

An individual’s damaging or destructive behaviour towards others in the organization usually forces us to a) look for the causality of the behaviour, b) apply a label to it, and c) seek a prescription to ‘fix’ their attitude.

We are in for a lot of frustration.

Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.  Robert Heinien


The limitation on making any progress is in the behaviour of others towards the problem person.

For example, if the deviant person constantly bullies people, they likely live in a separate universe from those advising them to stop. They cannot hear you because they have a fixed mindset*. Their fear may drive them to any measure they can take to advance or protect their interests, including appearing to support you.

They are not a customer for change** At least, not the way you want it to happen. They may change their fixed mindset at some point, but their way and at their speed, not yours!

Hence, not only are they in denial, you are too. So, if they have a fixed mindset, how do you modify your’s first?

1. Avoid putting energy into: a) satisfying their demands, b) hoping they will change by allowing us fix their issue.

2. If the person’s bad behaviour is systemic then it’s not going away for a while. Why be caught like a deer in the headlights by the problem? Let someone else change his or her fixed mindset – another time.

3. Reframe the opportunity for change by addressing the system around the person. Set a vision for the future based on better outcomes than the ones the badly behaving person seeks.

4. Focus on small steps towards the outcomes desired by the folks affected by the bad person. The difficult person will still be there, but you’ll be moving in another direction.

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together. – Van Gogh

5. Be patient. Lose battles. Win the war!

Questions for people who want to make progress:

What are you working on that doesn’t need to change? i.e., whats working that becomes your resources for being resourceful and resilient over time?

Suppose a miracle were to happen and the problem went away? What would you be doing instead? What would others be doing to help you?

Suppose that were happening more often, what outcomes would you be achieving?

 What small steps might you have seen yourself taking to begin reaching your outcomes?

Again, we are not going to ‘fix’ the problem person this way. We going to help those around them make progress.

More thoughts on getting beyond fear using solution focus.

*Coert Visser on the positive aspects of growing beyond a Fixed Mindset

**Ben Furman on ‘Involuntary Clients’

How to Dramatically Improve Stakeholder Consultations

Asking stakeholders what they want used to be an exercise in self-flagellation. The assumption was that you had to take everyone’s perspective seriously and literally. Those that complained loudest were given the most attention.

Consultations are an important and growing component of aligning organizations, both public and private with the community / customers they represent or serve.

The clearest reason for stakeholder consultations is to make strategic and tactical decisions more effective and efficient.

They don’t have to be a form of torture. But, when you ask people for their opinion in an open form they will tend to express their doubts and concerns. For some, it’s a therapeutic opportunity to express their deep frustration. I remind you of my often-quoted line about frustrated voices; never wrestle with a pig – the pig enjoys the wrestling and you get dirty.

The good news is that progress has been made…

Here’s where you can turn consultations into powerful exercises to align communities and the organizations that have to make things happen.

Pre-planning should involve a core group of the stakeholder advisors to find out what outcomes they’d like to get.

Be clear on higher outcomes. For example a recent consultation was designed not only to actively listen to group of stakeholders largely at war with each other, but also to let them listen to each other.

Allow the group a short period in every session to express their concerns, but don’t let a few people dominate – we already know what upsets them and, other than ‘demands’ they usually can’t express what they actually want. When we discuss problems at any length it keeps the person in a state of being stuck. Our interest in their problem means we are not being helpful to them.

Better to ask the group, a) what’s working in their area, b) how they are managing to cope despite the complexity/difficulties and c) about exceptions to the problem. If the complainers want to go back to the problem, simply ask them what would be happening if the problem went away. Don’t skip asking about what’s working or make it short – it’s the basis of helping them get unstuck.

Turn to what needs to be different, or better in the future. Find out what the larger group has in common about what needs to get better. Start by asking, ‘Suppose more was working, what else would that be happening (for the community)?’

Get people thinking about actions by asking them what the larger group and some of the individual stakeholders might do to make progress right away.

Read back to the audience a long list of the purposeful things they said. Let them see you have been actively listening. Don’t promise lots of change, but instead offer progress – thanks to their input.

Help stakeholders make progress by noticing what everyone has in common about the need. Help them see they can have a role in making it happen with the support of the organizing body.

Here’s an example of local community stakeholders at work:

Don’t forget that customers are stakeholders too!


6 Reasons Why Only Monkeys Ignore Compliments

You Can Dish it Out, but Can You Take It?

Yes, there’s enjoyment in a compliment, but should we simply accept them and move on? Is it good enough to be satisfied that we are not taken for granted?

The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer. Henry David Thoreau 

The following definition of the word compliment is correct, but misses the opportunity:

A polite expression of praise or admiration

How do we take the acknowledgement and, without shallow boastfulness, share the value of a compliment?

Show that you listened to the compliment.

Unpack what’s behind the compliment. Articulate for yourself what was intended by the acknowledgement.

Make it clear why the person giving the compliment did so with good reason.

Build on the acknowledgement by sharing the value that was created in your actions.

Attribute credit where it’s due – acknowledge whoever and whatever helped you to earn the compliment.

Share the wealth by handing the compliment back to the issuer. Reciprocity works!

Here’s a video to illustrate the point:

In Solution Focus we use compliments liberally. Here’s Coert Visser on giving compliments.

What do you do with compliments and acknowledgement?

Make the Most of Change with Solution Focus. Now!

“Organizations need to be nimble so that they can better manage and adapt to the changes that are going to happen anyway” Kevin Aguanno

A while ago I wrote that we have to not only adapt to change, but get in front of change. I advocate that Solution Focus is the way to do it. It’s not the only way, but the best way to make things happen.

As Kevin Aguanno says, change is going to happen anyway. We don’t have much of a say in that, do we! Or, do we?

Solution focus is the smart way to change. The approach is surprisingly simple, if counter intuitive. But, by leveraging our intuitive and our rational mind we can achieve a lot in a shorter period than we expect. How?

Two of the founders of the approach, Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer noticed the following approach (not necessarily in this order), helped people’s problems better right away:

What’s already working (that we don’t have to change)

Suppose the problem we face went away, what would be happening instead?

Suppose we were successful, what small steps would we see ourselves taking right way

While there is nothing startling about these ideas, it’s the application of them without stopping to examine the problem that makes the difference. Overlooking the problem is often the hard part. But, by setting aside our curiosity about problems in favour of these three perspectives we open up great possibilities.

Where can we apply this in business? Unless the building is burning down, it is a stable platform for progress everywhere we seek to deal with change.

Join us November 10 (details available soon) at SFBiz to look at how this approach works and where we might apply it in our day-to-day practices.

Meantime, more on Solution Focus

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