The known way is not always the safest

It was getting late. I was trekking with a group of police officers from Singapore, on a leadership training program with Outback Initiatives. We scrambled along a narrow path that dropped away to sharp cliff rocks, pounded by an especially vigorous surf. I kept glancing down, imagining how I’d be able to rescue someone should they survive the bone-breaking tumble and be taken by the furious drag of the sea. Outdoor leaders tend to consider the worst, to be prepared (or maybe it’s just my eerie sense of the macabre).
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Why smart people make dumb leadership decisions

Smart people who accomplish much in their chosen profession are often promoted to leadership roles under the assumption, ‘they are good at their job as a lawyer / accountant / engineer / doctor / academic, they’ll be great as team leader’. Sometimes that assumption is right. Often it is wrong.

Team management is an entirely different set of skills and awareness than what is required for execution of specific professional roles.

There are key mistakes that smart people make as leaders:
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Reinvent The Hero In Leadership

Heroes-RandyRobertsonWe’ve all grown up with stories of Heroes – from the comic book characters of Superman, Spiderman, and WonderWoman through to fairy tales of the dashing prince saving the damsel in distress, through to religious icons like Jesus and Mohammad. The Hero story pervades our psyche.

Joseph Campbell writes extensively about the common pattern of the hero story across human cultures. It’s part of who we are, how we think about life and its challenges, and what it means to have a life of purpose.

But the hero has gotten a bad rap of late in leadership thinking.

The idea that there is one person – usually male – who can save the day, make things better, and bring hope to the world is rife. US Presidential candidate races are run on this premise – it’s all about the individual.

We idolise and make much of the person ‘out in front’: the army general, the CEO, the politician.

Why has this now been seen as a problem?

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Leadership Presence: Mind Your Red Flags

Red Flags: photo by Rutger van Waveren, flickr.com. Creative Commons

Red Flags: photo by Rutger van Waveren, flickr.com. Creative Commons

“Sometimes I lock the door to keep my partner out so I can just get things done.”

I repeated this phrase back to the impressive young woman leader verbatim, so she could hear for herself what she just said.

“Anything strike you as odd about that?”

“Yeah. That sounds crazy.”

It’s amazing what we justify when it comes to our ambitions. If we’re not careful.

This fabulous young woman had a very clear plan for her career, runs two businesses, mentors, is on a couple of not-for-profit boards, and does not shy away from the limelight.

She is enthusiasm on crack.

She is also me, ten years ago, on the fast train to burnout – and cancer.

Burnout is not attractive. But we like to run fast to its burning edge, testing limits, ignoring our bodies’ cries for relief, reprieve, and rest.

I crashed into the cancer wall as a result, driving myself hard and fast against the rails of my own pressure-filled ambition.

Ever since I’ve had the Red Flag system in place to keep me Zen and the accelerator pedal on ‘easy’.

What is the red flag system?

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Inspiration: The ‘I Believe’ Manifesto

The Clan is gathering

* The Clan is gathering

Simon Sinek in his remarkable TED Talk of 2009 said, “The aim of business is not to do business with those who want what you have, but the aim of business is to do business with those who believe what you believe.” And few people invest energy to interrogate what they believe, at their core, the WHY they do what they do.

And so, if you’re to be a member of this clan, the Inner Compass clan of exceptional leaders, I believe you need to know what I believe, and see if it lights your socks on fire like this manifesto does mine.

I believe:

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