Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice, is thought to aim
at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared
to be that at which all things aim.
Our lives require continual decision-making.
We make decisions all the time, whether we’re driving our car, riding our bike, with our family, at work, in our business, wherever.
Some of the choices and decisions appear as formalities and mundane, and relatively speaking, some may be a form of ‘administrative’ decision-making.
These include things like what I should wear today; should I eat a healthy breakfast; which route to drive to the office; did my assistant book the boardroom…
But there are others that are high impact, life-changing, and future-determining, for me, and for my family, my team, business and society in general.
There are more of these than we ever imagine.
- Do I study further; what discipline if I do, where, what are the alternatives?
- Do I keep to the rules even if I can get away with not?
- Do I stop at the red traffic light?
- Do I ignore the flirtatious new young clerk?
- Do I have a possible career-limiting conversation with my bully “boss”?
- Do I say no to a second glass of wine before I drive?
- Do I forfeit a big business deal by not paying a bribe?
- Do I retrench dozens of staff to make the financials look better for the year – and my bonus?
- Do I spend millions of tax-payers’ money on my home when the majority of the citizens live in shanties?
- Do I risk peace at the personal cost of losing an election?
- Do I save the lives of my team to pursue my glory another day?
- Do I rule, boss or lead?
All of the above are Leadership Moments. They are the Activators that demand leadership decision-making.
Each has impact, can be life-changing, and will determine the way the future is – for the decision-maker, and all who are affected.
Influential Leadership equips us firstly, to choose to lead, and then provides the tools to craft the right outcome –
the best possible outcome for the place, time and people.
Leadership is mostly about outcomes; but the means we use have a keen influence on the
nature of the outcome, and the culturalisation of how we achieve right outcomes.
The means and the end must align.
The Eight influential Leadership Attributes* are both the prism
and the check-list through which each Leadership Moment is processed.
Aligned with a central premise that people are both the
leadership protagonists and the focus of the outcomes, the attribute of
being Self-aware is first up; it is the only one that is given precedence.
The other influential Leadership Attributes are arranged in alphabetical order
and not on any basis of importance.
The application of the influential Leadership attributes is a prerequisite
to orchestrate an influential Leadership-governed outcome.
* If you click on the list of attributes alongside you will be taken to a description of each.
To avoid the ‘Humpty Dumpty conundrum’ the Eight influential Leadership Attributes
are treated with form and shape below.
I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion.
Billie Jean King
be self-aware (adjective)
Having and showing conscious knowledge,
understanding and judgement of one’s own character,
behaviour, history and feelings.
The Eight Influential Leadership Attributes have no order of precedence or relative standing.
However, self-aware is listed out of alphabetical order because Influential Leadership always starts from within and the individual is the central element in the pursuit of the right outcome.
influential Leadership asserts that to bring justice to Leadership Moments it is imperative to be self-aware; to have a clear appreciation of one’s personality and history of behaviours, including strengths, blind-spots, motivations, and emotions. Being self-aware also enables one to have a better appreciation for Leadership Moment circumstances, and how to respond to them.
Through the ages this attribute has been recognised and lauded, as illustrated below:
- Know yourself and you will win all battles. Sun Tzu
- Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment. Lao Tzu
- I must first know myself, to be curious about that which is not my concern, while I am still in ignorance of my own self would be ridiculous. Plato
- There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self. Benjamin Franklin
It requires conscious effort to reflect honestly on ones “selfness”; failing to do so impedes effective leadership behaviours and the outcome is likely to be deeply compromised.
The importance of being self-aware is recognised in many management and so-called leadership programs, such as the ‘360-degree review system’, ‘multi-rater assessments’ and ‘performance management’.
While being self-aware can certainly be supplemented by 360-degree-style processes, it is more than a mechanistic multi-point feedback practice. Bea Fields, writing for the FastComapny offers a sound description of the 360-degree idea, and it shows up some of the limitations in such an approach:
A 360 Degree Feedback Review is a multi-source feedback, multi-rater assessment, upward feedback or peer evaluation designed to give you a panoramic view of your leadership capabilities. It is a process in which you evaluate yourself on a set of criteria, your manager or supervisor will then evaluate you, as do your peers, direct reports, even family members. Upon completion of the assessment, you will receive a gap analysis detailing how you perceive yourself versus how others perceive you. The 360 Degree feedback process involves both participants (the person or people being reviewed) and raters.
Self-awareness is one of the rarest of human commodities. I don’t mean
self-consciousness where you’re limiting and evaluating yourself.
I mean being aware of your own patterns.
The secret to happiness is freedom… and the secret to freedom is courage.
be courageous (adjective)
Possessing or characterised by courage.
Courage (noun): The quality of mind or being that enables a person to face adversity, danger, pain, or social estrangement.
There is a dictum that one should have the courage of one’s conviction, which is essentially about doing the right thing, no matter what.
Leadership implies standing alone, often; and it implies standing firmly for principles rather than for people, ideologies, beliefs or expediency when they are contrary to sound time-tested universal principles.
Without being courageous it is impossible to be an Influential Leader because you will be called on to step out of the shadows; to step up to doing right when all others may not.
Like all the influential Leadership Attributes that define influential Leadership, courage too is a choice; it belongs to all of us, we must simply take ownership.
It is curious that physical courage should be
so common in the world and
moral courage so rare.
Optimism is true moral courage.
A leader is a dealer in hope.
be hopeful (adjective)
Full of optimism about the outcome of an endeavour, about the future or a future event;
expressing confidence and commitment to expected success, and infusing hope in others.
Being hopeful is to believe and act that success will happen in the present and future, and it propels one to go further. When you cherish hope, it activates you to action, and it brings hope to people around you.
Hopeful, in the context of Influential Leadership, has both internal and external dimensions.
Internally, it is how the person feels in themselves when faced by leadership moments, and the hopeful manner in which they behave at such moments.
The external dimension is how an influential Leader’s behaviour creates hope and hopefulness amongst those they lead.
If you’re a leader, a fellow that other fellows
look to, you’ve got to keep going.
Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such
moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour…
If at my convenience I might break them,
what would be their worth?
be principled (adjective)
Having honourable principles based on truths and rules.
A fundamental or general law or truth from which others are derived; a fundamental doctrine or theory. Knowing what the right thing is, and doing it.
Thinking, planning and basing behaving on first (fundamental) principles is ‘being principled’, and is what Influential Leaders do. Principles carry us beyond fickle expediency.
Niccolo Machiavelli provides lucidity to the link between Influential Leadership and the attribute of being principled: A return to first principles in a republic is sometimes caused by the simple virtues of one man. His good example has such an influence that the good men strive to imitate him, and the wicked are ashamed to lead a life so contrary to his example.
Machiavelli illustrates key elements of influential Leadership in his statement:
- All it takes is one person to show the difference between right and wrong – through their behaviour;
- People look up to and are incentivised by those who do right; and
- It is through personal example that influence is leveraged.
It is only in the presence of proper truths and rules that there can be influential Leadership.
Principles and rules are intended to provide a
thinking man with a frame of reference.
Carl von Clausewitz
Once we have established the right thing to do, there is only reason to carry it out with purpose.
be purposeful (adjective)
Being determined and resolute in
action, and having a worthy purpose.
To create something exceptional, your mindset
must be relentlessly focused on
the smallest detail.
Influential Leaders have purpose in what they do, no matter how small or big it may be. When you have a clear principle-based goal and work purposefully towards it, the chance of success is greatest.
Purposeful leadership implies being:
- Relentless; and
Secondarily, it also means that there should be purpose in the objective that is set, which should include productive matters beyond those that benefit the self.
An Influential Leader looks and acts beyond themselves, and when they do act, it is focussed and relentless.
Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.
The important thing is not to stop questioning.
be questioning (adjective)
Curios and inquiring; seeking facts and information to arrive at some kind of verifiable truth, rather than relying on beliefs, customs, traditions, opinions or fabrications.
Questioning is related to the notion of, ‘I think, therefore I am’, as suggested by the French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes (1596 – 1650). Descartes positioned ‘reason’ and ‘mind’ as the centre of who and what we are, rather than belief systems.
Influential Leaders question fundamental matters in general, but also when faced with specific Leadership Moments. This form of questioning does not imply inaction, but reasoned action and leadership.
There is a strong relationship with other influential Leadership Attributes, that of ‘thoughtful’; where together they offer productive questioning, or critical thinking.
Successful people ask better questions,
and as a result, they get
Envisioning, creating and following a general plan that integrates the immediacy with what
lies beyond the horizon.
be strategic (adjective)
Conceiving a long-term or general outcome, objective, intent or principle, and the associated design of
an overall means (plan) of achieving that desired end.
The terms ‘strategy’ (noun) and its derivatives such as; ‘strategic’, ‘strategist’, ‘strategise’, and so forth have a martial (military) origin; from the era when the best, and just about the only, business in town was to pillage and plunder. The word originates from the Greek word ‘stratēgia’, meaning ‘generalship.’
While it is still a word closely associated with overall military plans, it has migrated into the lexicon of business, sports, politics and social media; the battlegrounds of a new age.
As a post-graduate student of Strategy I have found it useful to think about the concept in the following diagram that illustrates the notion and its two closely bound offspring, namely, Operations and Tactics.
At a level above Strategy is the notion of Politics (policy) which gives direction at the highest national level. Carl von Clausewitz (1780- 1831), a grand master of martial theory and strategy, explains that war is a merely a component of ‘politics’: War is the continuation of policy with other means.
Policy or politics is inclusive of diplomacy, trade, threats of war, and war itself.
Operations are a sub-set of strategy, and likewise tactics of operations. A properly designed and executed strategy aligns these three elements to ensure the desired outcome.
An Influential Leader is conscious of these three elements, ensuring firstly that there is a strategic objective and plan (in whatever domain is referenced) and then builds and executes sets of aligned medium- and short-term goals and plans to achieve the long-terms (strategic) objective.
‘Being strategic’ requires a number of ingredients; including the following:
- Setting (having) a long-term (strategic) objective, or way of behaviour;
- Designing and respecting the long-term plan;
- Aligning immediate (tactical) and medium-term (operational) plans and activities with the long-term (strategic) objective and plan;
- Ensuring multi-dimensional consistency in objectives, plans and actions; and
- Appreciating the dynamics of time, place and people.
Being strategic is one of the influential Leadership Attributes that is almost always required at each Leadership Moment.
It is conspicuously absent in many traditional-style leadership behaviours.
People tend to act out multitudes of tactical behaviours in the hope that they will add up to something long term –
this approach is almost always unproductive.
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.
Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
be thoughtful (adjective)
Manifesting careful thought; being contemplative or mindful in a cognitive sense, mainly.
Being ‘thoughtful’ is associated with the ‘questioning’ attribute too, in the sense of thoughtful questioning, or productive questioning or critical thinking.
There need not be any trade-off between thoughtful and speed of appropriate action.
Too often, on the other hand, there is evidence that thoughtfulness is sacrificed for action of the wrong or inappropriate process or outcome. In worst cases,
apparent wrong is hidden behind the ‘need for speed of execution’.
The Influential Leadership style of ‘thoughtful’ is practical application of one’s mind at leadership moments, taking into account the demands of time and place.
Being thoughtful is a much preferred route to sound decisions,
behaviours and outcomes, than heedlessness and luck.
Thought and theory must precede all salutary action;
yet action is nobler in itself than either thought or theory.
Every choice and behaviour has a result; an outcome. There is no such thing as choice- or behaviour neutrality.
Outcomes can be productive (right) or unproductive (wrong) – (or neutral, although I have doubts about this possibility).
The outcome of unproductive choices and behaviours are an aftermath – they leave a net negative outcome.
The traditional, the old forms of leadership mostly delivered unproductive, wrong, zero-sum outcomes; outcome that benefit the few over the may, the bullies over the cowed, the dictators over the fearful, the bosses over the workers, husbands over wives and the powerful over the indifferent.
In the world of influential Leadership –
OUTCOME is not only at its heart,
it must also be RIGHT.
‘Right’ implies –
Accepted | Correct | Ethical | Exact | Healthy
Just | Lawful | Precise | Principled
Proper | Respectful | Sound
To see the right and
not to do it is
If the result or outcome of
attributed leadership has
characteristics that can be defined as:
- self-seeking (exclusionary),
- purposefully disrespectful,
- rent-seeking, or
then it is misleadership.
In the 21st Century, no matter who you are or what your organisation is,
you should not [only] pursue size and power.
You should be good.
Kindness is the strongest power.
Ma Yun (Jack Ma)