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.
“The height of a man's success is gauged by his self-mastery; the depth of his failure by his self-abandonment. […] He who cannot establish dominion over himself will have no dominion over others.” So said Leonardo da Vinci.
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.”
President Donald Trump is the subject of a constant flow of news stories, and will probably provide rich material for the media throughout his presidency. I was stuck by a recent comment about his temperament: “Well, he is not really a statesman, but a businessman.” This brought to mind a conversation I had with a cab driver in Nantucket a few weeks prior to the election. While I constantly met people who were stridently opposed to Trump, the driver was convinced Trump was on the path to victory. My gentle question about stories of poor business ethics was met with a ready response along the lines of “politics is a corrupt game, and even if Trump is a ‘corrupt’ businessman, he knows how to play the game and win.”
“Do they know it’s Christmas?” asked (Sir) Bob Geldof at the famous BandAid concert, in response to reports of the Ethiopian famine. His piercing rhetorical question asked whether people in the midst of a struggle for survival even knew it was Christmas.
Alas, it is not uncommon to hear about leaders who are so concerned with their own, or their organisation’s survival, that they are largely oblivious to Christmas (and similar special occasions). Some CEOs expect staff to continue to work long hours and deliver stellar results through the Christmas/New Year period. I suspect many people think that is perfectly acceptable. But it’s not, because it prioritises dollars over dignity, putting profit before people.
Do you know it’s Christmas, and what it means for your staff and their families? When I was younger (never really a wise place to start a comment) holidays were quite distinct and never invaded by emails or internet. Work ceased for most people leaving them free for social activities. While those days are long gone, have you stopped to consider the value of celebrating special occasions with family and friends? It’s good for your wellbeing to celebrate, and to spend time with those people who matter.
Celebrations are good for the soul
As the leader of an organisation, you can demonstrate leadership by showing an awareness of the accepted holidays and by stepping back to celebrate these with your own family and friends. Your example gives permission to others to take time out and celebrate.
Here are four tips for you to live the holidays well:
1. Affirm what matters most
Regardless of what rituals and traditions people choose to observe, everyone appreciates that holidays offer a time for renewal of personal and family life. Cultivate a culture at work where people feel at ease to wish others well according to their own traditions. This can help foster goodwill and provide opportunities for everyone to get to know one another better. Consider ways to show an awareness of the holidays, while respecting a diversity of traditions. Doing so recognises that your people are not merely workers, but people whose lives are bigger than work. What are some of the ways you have recognised holidays such as Christmas?
2. Show gratitude with cards and gifts
Giving cards or gifts is a great way to show appreciation for those who work for and with you. The holidays are a perfect occasion to offer some encouraging words of affirmation. Appropriate gift exchanges between employees can be fun as well as fostering thoughtfulness and sensitivity to others and their personal interests. Consider making a special effort to serve those who work for you. Can you think of some unexpected way to serve and give to those with whom you work?
3. Rest, reenergize, and set resolutions
There is always a lot to accomplish before the holidays, so it can be a hectic and stressful time both professionally and at home. Be clear and reasonable with objectives and deliverables before the end of the year. Most people are familiar with New Year’s resolutions. Ensure that the holidays are sufficiently restful for you personally and for your staff so that you can be renewed to set higher goals and improve on your successes in the upcoming year. Rest and reflective distance can help clarity priorities. I use this time every year to reflect on my life, my work, and the year ahead? What are some ways you step back and take stock?
4. Serve the community
The holidays also offer us an opportunity to count our blessings and be mindful of those who are less fortunate. In addition to serving the community through charitable events and fundraisers, gratitude helps boost morale at work and puts our own challenges into perspective. You could raise money for a children’s hospital or serve a meal together at a local shelter. Many individuals and families, leaders and organisations perform exceptional acts of service at this time for those who have so little. What are some activities that you have been involved with that made a difference to others?
Let it not be asked or whispered in the corridors “Does the CEO even know it’s Christmas?” What are your ideas for how leaders can bring holiday cheer to the workplace, to families, and to the community?
“Is the global planet in global disarray?” asked Richard Straub, the organiser and creative energy behind the Drucker Forum, in his opening address to the 8th Global Peter Drucker Forum. He argued that while there are a number of challenges before us, human ingenuity gives us hope for the future. “Our challenge,” he says “is to unleash unprecedented creative potential in every aspect of society for good.” This set the scene for an intense focus on innovation and entrepreneurialism in the context of building a better world for all.
When you downsize your workforce by replacing workers with algorithms, do you inadvertently ‘downsize’ your business by aggravating and alienating your customers?
In good company, 'Humanise' reviewed by Training & Development magazine, along side Dr Jenny Brockis 'Future Brain'.
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.
The Drawing Room with Patricia Karvelas & Anthony Howard
Anthony Howard talks on the leadership lessons from the risk takers.
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.
Paul Polman, global CEO of Unilever, knows it. So, too, do other leading CEOs: the key to their success is putting people first. Anthony Howard outlines how a human-centred approach to leadership does not need to be ‘fluffy’ or risk averse
Becoming a CEO doesn’t mean you also become a good leader. In earning the new position hopefully you’ve proven your leadership capabilities, but we all know this isn’t always the case. No two people lead the same way and yet there are a handful that we could consider great. So what makes a good boss and a great leader?
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.
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?
THE modern workplace is becoming a powerful and relentless factory that swallows up high-achievers and spits them out.
A New York Times expose on Amazon this weekend painted a grim picture of a “bruising” environment fuelled by ambitious recruits who are encouraged to tear each other’s ideas apart, provide secret feedback on colleagues and work long and hard at the expense of their personal lives.
Human-centred leaders put people before profit, doing what is right before results, and focus on creating an environment where people can grow, develop and become their best selves. When you care for people they will care for your business. When you put people first, the results flow through to the bottom line.
ABC Radio QLD - Presenter Kim Kleidon - An interview with Anthony Howard. 30 July 2015.