End of 2017 - A Message from Anthony

As we come to the end of another year, I want to give you a gift — something quite unexpected that I learned this year in two quite different, but emotionally charged events: the marriage of my daughter and the death of my mother. As I have shared this story with others, they have encouraged me to share it more widely.

Firstly, my daughter’s wedding. This was, of course, a day of great celebration. I struggled keeping it together as I walked her down the aisle, and later during my speech, being overcome with love for my (only) daughter and the woman she has become. It was a wonderful day for all involved.

Following the wedding I took a week off, expecting to need a rest after all the activity. This was the case, but an unexpected benefit that proved to be a great delight was the opportunity to ‘relive’ the happy memories as they arose and were remembered. Every day new photos emerged on Facebook, people sent random text messages … The joy of the wedding extended beyond the wedding day.

One month later my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and given a very short time to live, after enjoying a long, healthy and happy life. We had numerous opportunities in her remaining eight peaceful weeks to laugh together, cry together, and say the things that really mattered. The final weeks were a time of grace and blessing.

I realised however, that her death would hit me in unexpected ways, and so (learning from the emotional experience after my daughter’s wedding) asked Jenny — my miracle working assistant — to be ready to clear my diary for a week the moment my mother passed away, which is what she did. I wanted to be free and available to be fully present to any emotion that emerged. And they did. Grief crept up on me at the strangest moments. A thought. A memory. A phone call that would not be answered. Sometimes a sadness. An emptiness. An overwhelming grief.

I had no model for how to grieve. I have not been a close observer of how others grieve.

I have observed clients and close friends lose their loved ones. Few of them knew how to grieve.

And one death does not make one an expert.

But here’s what I learnt, and is my gift for you at Christmas.

When you have those moments of high emotion, whether celebrating a birth death or wedding, whether experiencing trauma or triumph — give yourself the gift of time. Be intentional about it. Set aside a week or more to be present to yourself and allow yourself to live in through and with the emotion. I am glad I did. You will be glad you do.

Enjoy Christmas and the New Year. Enjoy the gift that others bring you by their presence, and that others bring you by their memories.

Thank you for the gift you are to others, and to me.

Let’s do great things in the year ahead

Is your organisation a butterfly or a caterpillar?

In September, Anthony presented on human-centred leadership being the key to the 21st century at the 10th World Chambers Congress in Sydney. This event was attended by over 1,000 business leaders and chambers of commerce members from 100 countries. Anthony provided advanced insight into current research being carried out by the firm which identifies key distinctions between ‘butterfly’, i.e. purpose driven companies versus ‘caterpillar’ i.e. profit before purpose companies. Business leaders were especially intrigued by such a simple yet effective model of comparison, which is why you will want to get your hands on the Confidere Group’s whitepaper, once this becomes available.

Are you ready for the emotional economy?

The knowledge economy is dead — or at least in terminal decline — and a new and different world is emerging. Although commentators use different terms to describe the caring, sharing, experience or emotional economy there appears to be significant agreement on two things:

·  The thinking (knowledge) economy has passed its use by date

·  A feeling, or touch, economy that involves people and their relationships is emerging

Do narcissists make good leaders?

Margarita Mayo raises a poignant question in her Harvard Business Review article: If Humble People Make the Best Leaders, Why Do We Fall for Charismatic Narcissists? It’s unlikely that people believe narcissists make good leaders. We understand (to use classical language) that narcissism is a vice and humility a virtue. And Mayo says the research confirms that humble leaders are better in the long run, both for a company’s morale and performance. But there is a conundrum because, often, “instead of following the lead of these unsung heroes, we appear hardwired to search for superheroes: over-glorifying leaders who exude charisma.”

Is big data killing culture?

In Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm, Christian Madsbjerg analyses our societal shift away from the humanities toward science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). He suggests the sweeping nature of this shift is detrimental because “our fixation with STEM erodes our sensitivity to the nonlinear shifts that occur in all human behavior and dulls our ability to extract meaning from qualitative information.”

What leaders regret ... and how you can avoid these

Edith Piaff’s stirring Non, Je ne regrette rien always prompts me to question whether I have any regrets — and more importantly how I am living my life to eliminate, or at least minimise, regrets in the future. Is this a leadership question? Well yes, it is, and for two main reasons. Firstly, because your life as a leader touches other people, and you want to look back and see the positive impact you have had. Secondly, your life as a leader often creates extraordinary demands on your time. Everyone seems to want a piece of you and/or your time. And then it becomes hard to make the time for who and what really matters.

Three ways leaders can overcome ego

In response to a recent question about your most pressing leadership challenge for 2017 two independent responses stood out. One person said, “to overcome ego.” Another wrote: “Self-reflection is what leaders need most in order to be effective. But sadly, most of them are prisoners of their own arrogance.” 

THE AUSTRALIAN BUSINESS REVIEW: Humancentred leadership puts people first, does what is right

Business and government leaders need to answer some fundamental questions. Do we want a society based on economic models or on meaning and purpose? Do we want a society that puts people first or puts profits and economic performance first?

These are questions of leadership, since leaders create the environment in which business and government operate.

Human-centred leadership offers a way forward, since it puts people first and does what is right for people. Unilever’s Paul Polman insists business cannot prosper in a community that fails in a human-centred approach.

ANTHILL ONLINE: 4 leadership lessons from 4 great leaders: What business owners can learn from Gandhi, MLK, Mandela and Malala→

The leadership landscape in the 21st century is almost certainly different to what you prepared for.

Market volatility, strategic uncertainty, competitive complexity, and ethical and moral ambiguity mean every day is different. How can you succeed as a leader in this environment?

The great leaders of recent history can provide some clues.

The importance of human-centred leadership

You can learn much from the example of people like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela – although their experience may seem far removed from you. They remind us that people matter, and that it is important to stand up for people.

This is the example set by Paul Polman, global CEO of Unilever, who consistently reminds us that ‘business cannot succeed in a community that fails.’ During more than five very successful years at the helm of Unilever he has constantly reminded those inside Unilever – as well as all levels of business government and society – that you need to look at where your firm touches people, at the impact it has on the communities of which it is a part.

PUBLIC SERVICE NEWS ONLINE: Building human-centred leadership capability

Anthony Howard says the best leaders put people first to create an environment in which their employees can flourish

Human-centred leadership is a new model of leadership for the 21st century. However it is based on human-centred practices more than twenty centuries old.

These practices focus on living a good life — the best possible life — and being the best person you can be.

As such they provide insights about leadership that apply to the most challenging situations of the 21st century.

The ancient Greeks believed that a ‘good life’ was a life of human flourishing, and that the key to that was the practice of good habits, or doing the right thing in order to become the best person you can.

Why does this matter for leadership?