leadership

On Truman

I recently finished reading Truman by Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found to be insightful:

The influence of his teachers on his life, Harry later said, was second only to that of his mother, and when crediting a Tillie Brown or a Margaret Phelps for all they had done for him, he did so with the assumption that everybody of his generation had a Tillie Brown or Margaret Phelps in their background and could therefore understand how he felt.

More important and equally unexpected was the way in which he proved himself a leader. His first day in office he spoke to the point: We intend to operate the country government for the benefit of the taxpayers. While we were elected as Democrats, we were also elected as public servants. We will appoint all Democrats to jobs appointable but we are going to see that every man does a full day’s work for his pay. In other words we are going to conduct the county’s affairs as efficiently and economically as possible.

“Three things ruin a man ” Harry would tell a reporter long afterward. “Power, money, and women. “I never wanted power,” he said. “I never had any money, and the only woman in my life is up at the house right now.”

“It is a pity that Wall Street, with its ability to control all the wealth of the nation and to hire the best law brains in the country, has not produced some statesmen, some men who could see the dangers of bigness and of the concentration of the control of wealth. Instead of working to meet the situation, they are still employing the best law brains to serve greed and self-interest. People can stand only so much, and one of these days there will be a settlement…”

To the country, the Congress, the Washington bureaucracy, to hundreds of veteran New Dealers besides those who had gathered in the Cabinet Room, to much of the military high command, to millions of American men and women overseas, the news of Franklin Roosevelt’s death, followed by the realization that Harry Truman was President, struck like massive earth tremors in quick succession, the thought of Truman in the White House coming with the force of a shock wave. To many it was not just that the greatest of men had fallen, but that the least of men—or at any rate the least likely of men—had assumed his place.

“If we can put this tremendous machine of ours, which has made victory possible, to work for peace, we can look forward to the greatest age in the history of mankind. That is what we propose to do.”

The cost of winning the war had been $341 billion. Now $400 million was needed for Greece and Turkey. “This is a serious course upon which we embark,” Truman said at the finish, and the look on his face was serious indeed. “I would not recommend it except that the alternative is much more serious…If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world, and we shall surely endanger the welfare of this nation.”

The line between communism and democracy was clear: Communism is based on the belief that man is so weak and inadequate that he is unable to govern himself, and therefore requires the rule of strong masters.i Democracy is based on the conviction that man has the moral and intellectual capacity, as well as the inalienable right, to govern himself with reason and fairness. Communism subjects the individual to arrest without lawful cause. punishment without trial, and forced labor as the chattel of the state. It decrees what information he shall receive, what art he shall produce, what leaders he shall follow, and what thoughts he shall think. Democracy maintains that government is established for the benefit Democracy maintains that government is established for the benefit of the individual, and is charged with the responsibility of protecting the rights of the individual and his freedom in the exercise of those abilities…

“This is a Republic. The greatest in the history of the world. I want the country to continue as a Republic. Cincinnatus and Washington pointed the way. When Rome forgot Cincinnatus its downfall began. When we forget the examples of such men as Washington, Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson, all of whom could have had a continuation in the office, then we will start down the road to dictatorship and ruin. I know I could be elected again and continue to break the old precedent as it was broken by F.D.R It should not be done. That precedent should continue—not by Constitutional amendment but by custom based on the honor of the man in office. Therefore to reestablish that custom, although by a quibble I could say I have only had one term, I am not a candidate and will not accept the nomination for another term.”

But if the firing of MacArthur had taken a heavy toll politically, if Truman as President had been less than a master of persuasion, he had accomplished a very great deal and demonstrated extraordinary patience and strength of character in how he rode out the storm.

He was remembered as the first president to recommend Medicare, remembered for the courage of his stand on civil rights at the risk of his political fortunes. The whistle-stop campaign was recalled as one of the affirming moments in the history of the American political system.

On a closing note:

Ambitious by nature, he was never torn by ambition, never tried to appear as something he was not. He stood for common sense, common decency. He spoke the common tongue. As much as any president since Lincoln, he brought to the highest office the language and values of the common American people. He held to the old guidelines: work hard, do your best, speak the truth, assume no airs, trust in God, have no fear. Yet he was not and had never been a simple, ordinary man. The homely attributes, the Missouri wit, the warmth of his friendship, the genuineness of Harry Truman, however appealing, were outweighed by the larger qualities that made him a figure of world stature, both a great and good man, and a great American president.

A highly recommended read on Leadership and History.

 

 

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On Common Sense on Mutual Funds

I recently finished reading Common Sense on Mutual Funds – New Imperatives for the Intelligent Investor – by John C. Bogle.

Below are key excerpts from this book that I found to be insightful:

Investing is an act of faith. We entrust our capital to corporate stewards in the faith—at least with the hope—that their efforts will generate high rates of return on our investments. When we purchase corporate America’s stocks and bonds, we are professing our faith that the long-term success of the U.S. economy and the nation’s financial markets will continue in the future.

To state the obvious, the long-term investor who pays least has the greatest opportunity to earn most of the real return provided by the stock market.

In my view, market timing and rapid turnover—both by and for mutual fund investors—betray both a lack of understanding of the economics of investing and an infatuation with the process of investing.

My guidelines also respect what I call the four dimensions of investing: (1) return, (2) risk, (3) cost, and (4) time. When you select your portfolio’s long-term allocation to stocks and bonds, you must make a decision about the real returns you can expect to earn and the risks to which your portfolio will be exposed. You must also consider the costs of investing that you will incur. Costs will tend to reduce your return and/or increase the risks you must take. Think of return, risk, and cost as the three spatial dimensions—the length, breadth, and width—of a cube. Then think of time as the temporal fourth dimension that interplays with each of the other three. For instance, if your time horizon is long, you can afford to take more risk than if your horizon is short, and vice versa.

Rule 1: Select Low-Cost Funds…Rule 2: Consider Carefully the Added Costs of Advice…Rule 3: Do Not Overrate Past Fund Performance…Rule 4: Use Past Performance to Determine Consistency and Risk…Rule 5: Beware of Stars…Rule 6: Beware of Asset Size…Rule 7: Don’t Own Too Many Funds…Rule 8: Buy Your Fund Portfolio—And Hold It.

No matter what fund style you seek, you should emphasize low-cost funds and eschew high-cost funds. And, for the best bet of all, you should consider indexing in whichever style category you want to include.

There are three major reasons why large size inhibits the achievement of superior returns: the universe of stocks available for a fund’s portfolio declines; transaction costs increase; and portfolio management becomes increasingly structured, group-oriented, and less reliant on savvy individuals.

Four principal problems are created by this overemphasis on marketing. First, it costs mutual fund shareholders a great deal of money— billions of dollars of extra fund expenses—which reduces the returns received by shareholders. Second, these large expenditures not only offer no countervailing benefit in terms of shareholder returns, but, to the extent they succeed in bringing additional assets into the funds, have a powerful tendency to further reduce fund returns. Third, mutual funds are too often hyped and hawked, and trusting investors may be imperiled by the risks assumed by, and deluded about the potential returns of, the funds. Lastly, and perhaps most significant of all, the distribution drive alters the relationship between investors and funds. Rather than being perceived as an owner oi the fund, the shareholder is perceived as a mere customer of the adviser.

On a closing note, on leadership:

To wrap up this litany, I put before you—both tentatively and humbly—a final attribute of leadership: courage. Sometimes, an enterprise has to dig down deep and have the courage of its convictions—to “press on,” regardless of adversity or scorn. Vanguard has been a truly contrarian firm in its mutual structure, in its drive for low costs and a fair shake for investors, in its conservative investment philosophy, in market index funds, and in shunning hot products, marketing gimmicks, and the carpet-bombing approach to advertising so abundantly evident elsewhere in this industry today. Sometimes, it takes a lot of courage to stay the course when fickle taste is in the saddle, but we have stood by our conviction: In the long run, when there is a gap between perception and reality, it is only a matter of time until reality carries the day.

A recommended read in the areas of investing and leadership.

On Turn the Ship Around

I recently finished reading Turn the Ship Around by Captain, U.S. NAVY (Retired) L. David Marquet. Despite having very high expectations about this leadership and transformation journey, given the book’s high ratings, I can definitely say that the book exceeded them in every way. The leader-leader model advocated by David is one that resonates very strongly with me, and the practical and applied manner in which he presents the transformation journey he went through and how one can apply it within their own organization is to be commended.

Below I wanted to share a summary of insights from the book.

In the foreword by the late Stephen R. Covey, on why you want to read this book:

Our world’s bright future will be built by people who have discovered that leadership is the enabling art. It is the art of releasing human talent and potential. You may be able to “buy” a person’s back with a paycheck, position, power, or fear, but a human being’s genius, passion, loyalty, and tenacious creativity are volunteered only. The world’s greatest problems will be solved by passionate. unleashed “volunteers.” My definition of leadership is this: Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves. I don’t know of a finer model of this kind of empowering leadership than Captain Marquet’s. And in the pages Remember, leadership is a choice, not a position. I wish you well on your voyage!

David starts out by denouncing the shortcomings of the traditional leader-follower model:

We’re taught the solution is empowerment. The problem with empowerment programs is that they contain an inherent contradiction between the message and the method. While the message is “empowerment,” the method—it takes me to empower you—fundamentally disempowers employees. That drowns out the message. Additionally, in a leader-follower structure, the performance of the organization is closely linked to the ability of the leader. As a result, there is a natural tendency to develop personality-driven leadership. Followers gravitate toward the personality. Short-term performance is rewarded. When leaders who tend to do it all themselves and rely on personality depart, they are missed and performance can change significantly. Psychologically for the leader, this is tremendously rewarding. It is seductive. Psychologically for most followers, this is debilitating. The follower learns to rely on the leader to make all decisions rather than to fully engage with the work process to help make the organization run as efficiently as possible.

On the purpose of the book:

I imagine a world where we all find satisfaction in our work. It is a world where every human being is intellectually engaged. motivated, and self-inspired. Our cognitive capacity as a race is fully engaged in solving the monumental problems that we face. Ultimately, this book is a call to action, a manifesto, for all those frustrated workers and bosses for whom the current leadership structure just isn’t working. We need to reject leader-follower as a model and view the world as a place for leaders everywhere to achieve this vision. Whether you are a boss, an employee, a teacher, or a parent, you will find ways to work toward this goal.

On the importance of a questioning and curious attitude:

I am not advocating being ignorant about the equipment. For me, however, it was a necessary step to make me truly curious and reliant upon the crew in a way I wouldn’t have been without it. Later in my tour I became a technical expert on all aspects of Santa Fe, but the positive patterns had been set and I continued in the same relationship with the crew. If you walk about your organization talking to people, I’d suggest that you be as curious as possible. As with a good dinner table conversationalist, one question should naturally lead to another. The time to be questioning or even critical is after trust has been established.

Aim at achieving excellence, not just reducing errors:

Focusing on avoiding mistakes takes our focus away from becoming truly exceptional. Once a ship has achieved success merely in the form of preventing major errors and is operating in a competent way, mission accomplished, there is no need to strive further. I resolved to change this. Our goal would be excellence instead of error reduction. We would focus on exceptional operational effectiveness for the submarine. We would achieve great things.

Distributing control by itself is not enough:

We discovered that distributing control by itself wasn’t enough. As that happened, it put requirements on the new decision makers to have a higher level of technical knowledge and clearer sense of organizational purpose than ever before. That’s because decisions are made against a set of criteria that includes what’s technically appropriate and what aligns with the organization’s interests.

On his approach of changing culture:

When you’re trying to change employees’ behaviors, you have basically two approaches to choose from: change your own thinking and hope this leads to new behavior, or change your behavior and hope this leads to new thinking. On board Santa Fe, the officers and I did the latter, acting our way to new thinking. We didn’t have time to change thinking and let that percolate and ultimately change people’s actions; we just needed to change the behavior. Frankly, I didn’t care whether people thought differently at some point—and they eventually did—so long as they behaved in certain ways. I think there were likely some sailors who never understood what we were trying to do and resisted the change to leader-leader, but they behaved as if they believed.

On using regular conversations:

SHORT, EARLY CONVERSATIONS is a mechanism for CONTROL. It is a mechanism for control because the conversations did not consist of me telling them what to do. They were opportunities for the crew to get early feedback on how they were tackling problems. This allowed them to retain control of the solution. These early, quick discussions also provided clarity to the crew about what we wanted to accomplish. Many lasted only thirty seconds, but they saved hours of time…Here is a short list of “empowered phrases” that active doers use: I intend to…I plan on…I will…We will.

On resisting the urge to provide solutions and letting others react to situations:

RESIST THE URGE TO PROVIDE SOLUTIONS is a mechanism for CONTROL. When you follow the leader-leader model, you must take time to let others react to the situation as well. You have to create a space for open decision by the entire team, even if that space is only a few minutes, or a few seconds, long. This is harder than in the leader-follower approach because it requires you to anticipate decisions and alert your team to the need for an upcoming one. In a top-down hierarchy, subordinates don’t need to be thinking ahead because the boss will make a decision when needed.

On the importance of of improving the process as opposed to merely monitoring it:

In his book Out of the Crisis, W Edwards Deming lays out the leadership principles that became known as TQL, or Total Quality Leadership. This had a big effect on me. It showed me how efforts to improve the process made the organization more efficient, while efforts to monitor the process made the organization less efficient. What I hadn’t understood was the pernicious effect that “We are checking up on you” has on initiative, vitality, and passion until I saw it in action on Santa Fe.

On the need for constant communication among the team:

If you limit all discussion to crisp orders and eliminate all contextual discussion, you get a pretty quiet control room. That was viewed as good. We cultivated the opposite approach and encouraged a constant buzz of discussions among the watch officers and crew. By monitoring that level of buzz, more than the actual content, I got a good gauge of how well the ship was running and whether everyone was sharing information.

On deliberate action:

TAKE DELIBERATE ACTION is a mechanism for COMPETENCE. But selling the crew on this mechanism’s value was hard going. One problem in getting the crew to perform deliberately was the perception that deliberate action was for someone else’s (a supervisor’s, an inspector’s) benefit. Even though we continually talked about how deliberate action was to prevent the individual from making silly mistakes, I would overhear sailors discussing deliberate action among themselves in this misperceived way. The second problem was overcoming the perception that deliberate action was something you did as a training exercise. but in a “real situation,” you would just move your hands as fast as possible.

How to more effectively engage employees in training programs:

Want to have a training program that employees will want to go to? Here’s how it should work: 1) The purpose of training is to increase technical competence. 2) The result of increased technical competence is the ability to delegate increased decision making to the employees. 3) Increased decision making among your employees will naturally result in greater engagement, motivation, and initiative.

On active certification as opposed to passive briefings:

DON’T BRIEF, CERTIFY is a mechanism for COMPETENCE. Certification is also a decision point. It is possible to fail a certification. Individuals can reveal that they aren’t prepared to take part in an action because of their lack of knowledge or understanding. Otherwise, it’s just a brief. “Don’t brief, certify” became another example where we basically did the opposite of what we were supposed to.

On specifying goals, not the approach/method:

SPECIFYING GOALS, NOT METHODS is a mechanism for COMPETENCE. In our case, this was because the crew was motivated to devise the best approach to putting out the fire. Once they were freed from following a prescribed way of doing things they came up with many ingenious ways to shave seconds off our response time.

On the importance of clarity:

As more decision-making authority is pushed down the chain of command, it becomes increasingly important that everyone throughout the organization understands what the organization is about. This is called clarity, and it is the second supporting leg—along with competence—that is needed in order to distribute control…Build trust and take care of your people. Use your legacy for inspiration. Use guiding principles for decision criteria. Use immediate recognition to reinforce desired behaviors. Begin with the end in mind. Encourage a questioning attitude over blind obedience.

On the need for emancipation:

Empowerment is a necessary step because we’ve been accustomed to disempowerment. Empowerment is needed to undo all those top-down, do-what-you’re-told, be-a-team-player messages that result from our leader-follower model. But empowerment isn’t enough in a couple of ways…What we need is release, or emancipation. Emancipation is fundamentally different from empowerment. With emancipation we are recognizing the inherent genius, energy, and creativity in all people, and allowing those talents to emerge. We realize that we don’t have the power to give these talents to others, or “empower” them to use them, only the power to prevent them from coming out. Emancipation results when teams have been given decision-making control and have the additional characteristics of competence and clarity. You know you have an emancipated team when you no longer need to empower them. Indeed, you no longer have the ability to empower them because they are not relying on you as their source of power.

A highly recommended practical read in the areas of leadership and personal development.

The Black Jacobins

Earlier this year, Shane Parrish author of the blog Farnam Street wrote an article in Business Insider through which he shared The 5 Books Mega Investor Ben Horowitz  Says You Need to Read. One of the books on that list that caught my attention, is The Black Jacobins – Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution by C.L.R. James. Why after all was Ben recommending a history book?

As Cyril states in the preface, the backdrop of The Black Jacobins is as follows:

In 1789 the French West Indian colony of San Domingo supplied two-thirds of the overseas trade of France and was the greatest individual market for the European slave-trade. It was an integral part of the economic life of the age, the greatest colony in the world, the pride of France, and the envy of every other imperialist nation. The whole structure rested on the labour of half-a-million slaves.

This was too good to be true for the French, and in late 1791 a revolution from within the colony emerged:

In August 1791, after two years of the French Revolution and its repercussions in San Domingo, the slaves revolted. The struggle lasted for 12 years. The slaves defeated in turn the local whites and the soldiers of the French monarchy, a Spanish invasion, a British expedition of some 60,000 men, and a French expedition of similar size under Bonaparte’s brother-in-law. The defeat of Bonaparte’s expedition in 1803 resulted in the establishment of the Negro state of Haiti which has lasted to this day. 

Why is this revolution such a big deal?

The revolt is the only successful slave revolt in history, and the odds it had to overcome is evidence of the magnitude of the interests that were involved. The transformation of slaves, trembling in hundreds before a single white man, into a people able to organise themselves and defeat the most powerful European nations of their day is one of the great epics of revolutionary struggle and achievement. Why and how this happened is the theme of this book.

While this historical achievement had many actors, it had a primary leader protagonist and that man was Toussaint L’Ouverture:

By a phenomenon often observed, the individual leadership responsible for this unique achievement was almost entirely the work of a single man—Toussaint L’Ouverture. Beauchamp in the Biographic Universelle calls Toussaint L’Ouverture one of the most remarkable men of a period rich in remarkable men. He dominated from his entry until circumstances removed him from the scene. The history of the San Domingo revolution will therefore largely be a record of his achievements and his political personality. The writer believes, and is confident the narrative will prove, that between 1789 and 1815, with the single exception of Bonaparte himself, no single figure appeared on the historical stage more greatly gifted than this Negro, a slave till he was 45- Yet Toussaint did not make the revolution. It was the revolution that made Toussaint and even that is not the whole truth. 

Below I will share excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

Early on Toussaint was inspired by some of the literary work being developed at the time:

Philosophical and Political History of the Establishments and Commerce of the Europeans in the Two Indies by Abbe Raynal: “If self-interest alone prevails with nations and their masters, there is another power. Nature speaks in louder tones than philosophy or self-interest. Already are there established two colonies of fugitive negroes, whom treaties and power protect from assault. Those lightnings announce the thunder. A courageous chief only is wanted. Where is he, that great man whom Nature owes to her vexed, oppressed and tormented children? Where is he? He will appear, doubt it not: he will come forth and raise the sacred standard of liberty. This venerable signal will gather around him the companions of his misfortune. More impetuous than the torrents, they will everywhere leave the indelible traces of their just resentment. Everywhere people will bless the name of the hero who shall have reestablished the rights of the human race; everywhere will they raise trophies in his honour.”

San Domingo had a strategic importance for France, but internal and external forces were converging to loosen their control over this important colony:

These then were the forces which in the decade preceding the French Revolution linked San Domingo to the economic destiny of three continents and the social and political conflicts of that pregnant age. A trade and method of production so cruel and so immoral that it would wilt before the publicity which a great revolution throws upon the sources of wealth: the powerful British Government determined to wreck French commerce in the Antilles, agitating at home and intriguing in France among men who, unbeknown to themselves, would soon have power in their hands; the colonial world (itself divided) and the French bourgeoisie, each intent on its own purposes and, unaware of the approaching danger, drawing apart instead of closer together. Not one courageous leader, many courageous leaders were needed, but the science of history was not what it is to-day and no man living then could foresee, as we can foresee to-day, the coming upheavals. Mirabeau indeed said that the colonists slept on the edge of Vesuvius, but for centuries the same thing had been said and the slaves had never done anything.

While revolutions were happening in Europe, they did not translate equally in the colonies:

And meanwhile, what of the slaves? They had heard of the revolution and had construed it in their own image: the white slaves in France had risen, and killed their masters, and were now enjoying the fruits of the earth. It was gravely inaccurate in fact, but they had caught the spirit of the thing. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. Before the end of 1789 there were risings in Guadeloupe and Martinique. As early as October, in Fort Dauphin, one of die future centres of the San Domingo insurrection, the slaves were stirring and holding mass meetings in the forests at night. In the South Province, watching the fight between their masters for and against the revolution, they had shown signs of unrest. In isolated plantations there were movements. All were bloodily repressed. Revolutionary literature was circulating among them. But the colonists were themselves giving a better example than all the revolutionary tracts which found their way to the colony.

On Toussaint’s upbringing and character:

An important thing for his future was that his character was quite unwarped. Since his childhood he had probably never been whipped as so many slaves had been whipped. He himself tells us that he and his wife were among the fortunate few who had acquired a modest competence and used to go hand in hand and very happy to work on the little plot of land which some of the slaves cultivated for themselves. Besides his knowledge and experience, through natural strength of character he had acquired a formidable mastery over himself, both mind and body. As a boy he was so frail and delicate that his parents had not expected him to live, and he was nicknamed “Little Stick”. While still a child he determined to acquire not only knowledge but a strong body, and he strengthened himself by the severest exercises, so that by the time he was 12 he had surpassed all the boys of his age on the plantation in athletic feats. He could swim across a dangerous river, j jump on a horse at full speed and do what he liked with it.

Toussaint soon realized that the enslaved will have to fight for their liberty:

Then and only then did Toussaint come to an unalterable decision from which he never wavered and for which he died. Complete liberty for all, to be attained and held by their own strength. The most extreme revolutionaries are formed by circumstances. It is probable that, looking at the wild hordes of blacks who surrounded him, his heart sank at the prospect of the war and the barbarism which would follow freedom even if it were achieved. He was ready to go a long way to meet the colonists. He probably honed for some attempt at better treatment. But having been driven to take his decision, as was his way, he never looked back…Henceforth it was war, and war needed trained soldiers. Toussaint dropped his post of Physician to the Armies of the King, and assuming the title of Brigadier-General started to train an army. Once only in his political life did he ever fail to meet an emergency with action bold and correct.

He would have to overcome challenges in training his forces:

It was from these men “unable to speak two words of French” that an army had to be made. Toussaint could have had thousands following him. It is characteristic of him that he began with a few hundred picked men, devoted to himself, who learnt the art of war with him from the beginning, as they fought side by side against the French troops and the colonists…Feuillants and Jacobins in France whites and Mulattoes in San Domingo, were still looking upon the slave revolt as a huge riot which would be put down in time, once the division between the slave-owners was closed.

Popular support was on his side:

If the army was the instrument of Toussaint’s power, the masses were its foundation and his power grew with his influence over them. Just out of the degradation of slavery they had come into a world of indiscriminate murder and violence…Fear of the restoration of slavery was always the cause of the trouble. The British had no intention of abolishing slavery, neither had the Spaniards. 

Toussaint steadily started his rise as a leader, at times directly helped by the French:

On August 17th, four months after Sonthonax landed, the Directory confirmed Toussaint’s promotion by Laveaux to the rank of general of division, and that of Pierre Michel and other ex-slaves as generals of brigade. France, still engaged in a life and death struggle in Europe, was leaning on the blacks, not only against the British, but against the threat of Mulatto independence. Thus the stock of Toussaint as leader of the blacks was rising steadily. 

He was very conscious that economic prosperity was key to a strong independent nation:

But he worked also at the restoration of the colony. Le Cap was partially rebuilt, and cultivation began a to flourish…”The guarantee of the liberty of the blacks is the prosperity of agriculture” was another saying always on his lips which spread among the blacks.

As the French were getting ready to re-instate slavery, he eloquently addressed them to reconsider:

On November 5th he addressed a letter to the Directory which is a milestone in his career…Do they think that men who have been able to enjoy the blessing of liberty will calmly see it snatched away? They supported their chains only so long as they did not know any condition of life more happy than that of slavery. But to-day when they have left it, if they had a thousand lives they would sacrifice them all rather than be forced into slavery again. But no, the same hand which has broken our chains will not enslave us anew. France will not revoke her principles, she will not withdraw from us the greatest of her benefits. She will protect us against all our enemies; she will not permit her sublime morality to be perverted, those principles which do her most honour to be destroyed, her most beautiful achievement to be degraded, and her Decree of 16 Pluviose which so honours humanity to be revoked. But if, to re-establish slavery in San Domingo, this was done, then I declare to you it would be to attempt the impossible: we have known how to face dangers to obtain our liberty, we shall know how to brave death to maintain it.

His address to them is nothing short of a literary masterpiece, displaying his mastery of communication, a key leadership skill:

Pericles on Democracy, Paine on the Rights of Man, the Declaration of Independence, the Communist Manifesto, these are some of the political documents which, whatever the wisdom or weaknesses of their analysis, have moved men and will always move them, for the writers, some of them in spite of themselves, strike chords and awaken aspirations that sleep in the hearts of the majority in every age. But Pericles, Tom Paine, Jefferson, Marx and Engels, were men of a liberal education, formed in the traditions of ethics, philosophy and history. Toussaint was a slave, not six years out of slavery, bearing alone the unaccustomed burden of war and government, dictating his thoughts in the crude words of a broken dialect, written and rewritten by his secretaries until their devotion and his will had hammered them into adequate shape. Superficial people have read his career in terms of personal ambition. This letter is their answer. Personal ambition he had. But he accomplished what he did because, superbly gifted- he incarnated the determination of his people never, never to be slaves again. Soldier and administrator above all, yet his declaration is a masterpiece of prose excelled by no other writer of the revolution. Leader of a backward and ignorant mass, he of his time. The blacks were taking their part in \ the destruction of European feudalism begun by the French Revolution, and liberty and equality, the slogans of the ‘evolution, meant far more to them than to any Frenchman. That was why in the hour of danger Toussaint, uninstructed as he was, could find the language and accent of Diderot, Rousseau, and Raynal, of Mirabeau, Robespierre, and Danton. And in one respect he excelled them all. For even these masters of the spoken and written word, owing to the class complications of their society, too often had to pause, to hesitate, to qualify. Toussaint could defend the freedom of the blacks without reservation, and this gave to his declaration a strength and a single-mindedness rare in the great documents of the time. The French bourgeoisie could not understand it. Rivers of blood were to flow before they understood that elevated as was his tone Toussaint had written neither bombast nor rhetoric but the simple and sober truth. 

Further details on his character and behavior as a leader, which inspired his followers:

It was his prodigious activity which so astonished men. Nobody ever knew what he was doing: if he was leaving, if he was staying, whither he was going, whence he was coming…He was as completely master of his body as of his mind. He slept but two hours every night, and for days would be satisfied with two bananas and a glass of water. Physically without fear, he had to guard against being poisoned…He seemed to bear a charmed life…Despite his awkwardness of build and ugliness of feature he managed in the end to make a strong impression upon all with whom he came in contact. He had in the last years an unusual distinction of carriage. His step was martial, his manner commanding. Simple in his private life, he wore resplendent uniforms on state occasions, and his aides-de-camp followed his example in elegance and display…In a community where so many were still primitive and simple-minded, the personal character and conduct of the leader, sprung from the people, was not without social significance. Despite Toussaint’s despotism, his ruthlessness, his impenetrability, his unsleeping suspicion of all around him, his skill in large-scale diplomacy and petty intrigue, to the end of his life he remained a man of simple and kindly feelings, his humanity never drowned by the rivers of blood which flowed so plentifully and so long. His “no reprisals” sprang from a genuine horror of useless bloodshed. Women and children in particular he hated to see suffer.

His Achilles heal was his attachment to the French:

If he was convinced that San Domingo would decay without the benefits of the French connection, he was equally certain that slavery could never be restored. Between these two certainties, he, in whom penetrating vision and prompt decision had become second nature, became the embodiment of vacillation. His allegiance to the French Revolution and all it opened out to mankind in general made him what he was. But this in the end ruined him.

Another weakness was that he did not constantly communicate and update his followers as to his vision, what has been achieved and what he was thinking – which overtime erodes trust:

In nothing does his genius stand out so much as in refusing to trust the liberties of the blacks to the promises of French or British Imperialism. His error was his neglect of his own people. They did not understand what he was doing or where he was going. He took no trouble to explain. It was dangerous to explain. but still more dangerous not to explain. His s temperament. close and self-contained, was one that kept its own counsel. Thus the masses thought he had taken Spanish San Domingo to stop the slave traffic, and not as a safeguard against the French. His silence confused them and did not deceive Bonaparte…and it is no accident that Dessalines and not Toussaint finally led the island to independence. Toussaint, shut up within himself, immersed in diplomacy, went his tortuous way, overconfident that he had only to speak and the masses would follow.

As he was being deported from San Domingo, his final triumphant words were:

As Toussaint stepped on board the boat he spoke to Savary the captain some words which he had doubtless carefully prepared, his last legacy to his people. “In overthrowing me, you have cut down in San Domingo only the trunk of the tree of liberty. It will spring up again by the roots for they are numerous and deep.”

Toussaint’s life ended in a French prison, but as history has it at a time when San Domingo was getting ready to declare independence – the cause of his life:

There is no drama like the drama of history. Toussaint died on April 7th, 1803 and Bonaparte must have thought that half the battle against San Domingo was now won. But in Toussaint’s last hours his comrades in arms, ignorant of his fate, were drafting the declaration of independence.

The will of the people for freedom overcame all the military power of the invaders:

The records are there. For self-sacrifice and heroism, the men, women and children who drove out the French stand second to no fighters for independence in any place or time. And the reason was simple. They had seen at last that without independence they could not maintain their liberty, and liberty was far more concrete for former slaves than the elusive forms of political democracy in France.

On a concluding note, how the San Domingo revolution served as a platform for wider revolutions in the developing world in general but Africa in particular:

Such men as Loveway are symbols of the future. Others will arise, and others. From the people heaving in action will arise, will come the leaders; not the isolated blacks at Guys’ Hospital or the Sorbonne, the dabblers in surrealisme or the lawyers, but the quiet recruits in a black police force, the sergeant in the French native army or British force, the sergeant in the French native army or British police, reading a stray pamphlet of Lenin or Trotsky as Toussaint read the Abbe Raynal. Nor will success result in the isolation of Africa. The blacks will demand skilled workmen and teachers. International socialism will need the products of a free Africa far more than the French bourgeoisie needed slavery and the slave-trade. Imperialism vaunts its exploitation of the slave-trade. Imperialism vaunts its exploitation of the from the very nature of its system of production for profit it strangles the real wealth of the continent—the creative capacity of the African people. The African faces a long and difficult road and he will need guidance. But he will tread it fast because he will walk upright.

A highly recommended read, in the area of history, politics, leadership, and human-rights.

On Confessions Of A Successful CIO

This week, I have the pleasure to review Confessions Of A Successful CIO – How the Best CIOs Tackle Their Toughest Business Challenges, the latest work by my colleagues Dan Roberts and Brian P. Watson. Dan first told me about this book on an earlier call in March, and since then I was intrigued and looking forward to reading it and hearing about the stories to be shared within it.

This book retells the stories of nine exceptional CIOs as they navigated their organizations through business transformations. While the story of each CIO varied, five common themes did emerge:

Bet the farm. These leaders are not afraid to take on the big risks. They’re not afraid to pitch the big ideas, because they know they can speak the language and justify the investment.

Answer the call. These leaders stepped up when they were called to action—oftentimes to help save their companies’ futures. This requires a confidence in their abilities, and in their own experiences, that not every leader has.

People come first. These leaders understand the value their people bring to their organization. They don’t treat them like a number or an interchangeable part.

Decisiveness makes all the difference. Despite their human side, these leaders understand that they need to make tough decisions that affect not only their people but also their company’s health.

Results matter. These leaders don’t do pie-in-the-sky research and development or implement the latest bright, shiny objects without knowing the business case and the long-term business value. They’re more focused on enabling and improving the business and on driving the all-important metrics that do that.

Here are some key lessons that I wanted to share from the CIO passages:

THE ANTICIPATOR: FILIPPO PASSERINl

On turning bad situations into opportunities:

He turned a bad situation into a positive one, and now he drills that ethic into the heads of everyone in his GBS organization. “It’s more than fixing the issue. It’s not about playing an even game. If you are 1-0, to use soccer language, it’s not only about how to get to 1-1, but how can you win the game?” Passerini said. “When we have an issue, we always think not just how to fix it, but how to turn a negative perception of a system problem or change management into a success story. This is another element, from a cultural standpoint, that is so critical.”

On transparency:

“Tough love is important. I learned it’s so crucial to give people full transparency about what is happening,” Passerini said. “There is always a dilemma about how much you tell employees when you have a new idea, early on, because it may generate more questions and concerns than benefits. We have come to the conclusion that we share everything immediately … things may not always materialize, but we want our people to know that if it doesn’t work, we will change again and do something different.”

Three inquisitive questions to ask before undertaking a major initiative:

Passerini—adapting guidelines Lafley established for P&G executives in his “playing to win” philosophy—asks three major questions of his team before undertaking a major initiative. The first is, what right does the organization have to win?…The second is, what needs to happen for the initiative to generate that business value?…The third is the most important: What can go wrong?

On the importance of humility:

To Passerini, relevance needs to come with a certain degree of humility. He emphasizes to his team to not act like know-it-all, but to also have the confidence to accept more responsibility and the self-assurance to propose innovative ideas to the business.

THE ROCKET SCIENTIST: REBECCA RHOADS 

On the importance of alignment:

“We started with the commitment around company-wide common processes,” Rhoads said. “Rather than going out into the company as an IT function and selling it as the IT solution, we were all aligned from a business perspective first. That allowed the IT organization to partner with every function and every aspect—all of which were also going through transformation.” All of this was taking place with the very active sponsorship of CEO Swanson, she explained. The vision was to build a business model that was not only immediately rewarding but also enduring. The vision was to take the long view.

On the importance of embracing a shared vision:

“You need to have a team that shares your vision. But then the team has to make your vision theirs’ Rhoads said. “And when they make your vision their vision, now you’re off and running. If that’s not happening, then the change isn’t happening.” Still, when Rhoads was asked if the change management or culture clash was akin to a wall, she paused—but what she said next neatly embodies her leadership style and her way of viewing challenges. “I’m not sure it always looked like a wall,” she said. “Maybe that’s it—I just don’t see it that way, so I don’t approach it that way.”

On the importance of maintaining self-confidence during the journey:

The people who put you in that job had all the confidence in the world in you. They’re asking you to take on a lot,” Rhoads said. “Maybe they’re stretching you in the role, but they’re not losing confidence, and you just have to recognize that it’s going to be difficult, it’s going to be messy—the stuff in the foxhole is not what you expected. But the last thing you need to do is start to get weak-kneed and lose confidence in your ability.”

THE FIXER: STEVE BANDROWCZAK 

On the struggle against mediocrity and the fight for mastery:

And he reasserts his intolerance for mediocrity every chance he gets. Every day he tells his team they need to be better than their competitors. If they stack themselves up against the competition—in everything from quoting cycle times to receivables to capital returns—and see that they’re lacking, as Bandrowczak says, a change opportunity presents itself. And if they can master those areas and beat the other industry players, his team gets better by default.

On the delivery trifecta:

Bandrowczak also takes issue with CIOs and business leaders griping about the difficulties in prioritizing key projects. For him, it comes back to a few simple elements: the right portfolio, the right staff, and the right resources. If you don’t have those things—or can’t figure out how to understand them or access them—you’re in trouble.

THE CONDUCTOR: LYNDEN TENNISON

On strategies for combating team fatigue during multi-year initiatives:

After tackling the fear and uncertainty existing in the legacy team. Tennison also had to watch another potential issue: fatigue. Every veteran IT professional knows the stress and exhaustion that comes with working on multiyear, multiphase projects. You’ll see progress, but after a while, it just feels like running on a treadmill. So Tennison focused on two remedies. The first was a time-tested management tactic. He rotated people—including his direct reports— in and out of different positions, both inside the IT organization and out. “We gave them some new air to breathe,” he said. The second went to his core strategy for Net Control—and one that many CIOs play very differently. Tennison kept the team focused on the discrete deliverables they mapped for the fill project, not on one big-bang initiative.

THE DECIDER: WAYNE SHURTS

On the importance of learning from failure:

Right after the sales project went south, Shurts began taking stock of what went wrong. And that was one of the first and most important lessons he learned. Instead of focusing on what’s right in your plan, Shurts said, you have to be “relentless” in determining what’s wrong, and what might not work. Things will go wrong on any project—the key is to pay close attention to detail and understand that the plan you put on paper will likely be different than what’s really going to work in the field.

On the constant need for validating commercial sponsorship of projects:

Superfusion had devolved into just an IT project—not a business transformation initiative. There were chronic delays with no end in sight. Few thought it would work…In his second week as CIO, Shurts went around the room, asking the company’s senior leaders why they were still doing Superfusion. No one could give him a credible answer. In his sixth week, he pulled the plug.

On the dangers of aiming for perfection:

“Rather than designing for the rule and accommodating the exception, they were designing everything to be perfect, perfect. perfect,” he said. “So we came out and said, ‘Something better today— especially at Supervalu—was worth far more than something perfect a year from now.'”

THE REALIST: DON IMHOLZ

Guidance on outsourcing:

“The right way to do it is first, strategy, then financial analysis, and then pick your partner. If you do that, I think things will work fine,” Imholz said. “I’m not all-in one way or the other—I’m not all-in saying everything should be inside, or that you should outsource the majority of it.” Regardless, companies will continue to face challenges. And they’ll make mistakes. One of the biggest mistakes Imholz sees companies make is “to try to outsource a problem”—in other words, farming out an under-performing element of the IT operation. “That’s the wrong way to go about it,” he said. “If you can’t manage something reasonably well, then you’re not going to do terribly well outsourcing it, because management responsibility doesn’t go away.” If you’re going to outsource a problem, Imholz said, fix it first.

THE INNOVATOR: GREG SCHWARTZ

On the need for innovation to be executed to deliver true value:

When he talks to budding CIOs, he gets a lot of questions about innovation. His take: innovation for innovation’s sake doesn’t mean much if the operational discipline isn’t there. It’s all about executing.

On the role of IT as an enabler of The Business Strategy:

Schwartz is emphatic about his organization’s role as an enabler of the business. “IT doesn’t own the strategy—that falls to our business partners,” Schwartz said. “But if you’re an enabler, you can influence and guide and show what’s possible and be effective change agents.”

 

I will conclude this post with the brilliant reminder by Susan Cramm, from the forward of the book:

Leading with technology is, first and foremost, about leadership. While there is no one-size-fits-all road to success, great leaders, like the ones profiled within this book, are marked by a unique set of qualities: passion and drive to make a positive difference, the ability to engage others to chart the future and define the path, and the paradoxical ability to maintain optimism and perseverance through difficult circumstances. With courageous and disciplined leadership as the foundation, the other factor that distinguishes these leaders is a level of technology smarts that is only born from experience. Technology-smart leaders know how to identify fin the words of one of the CIOs profiled here) the “art of the possible” amid the complex assortment of desired outcomes, existing capabilities and complexities, and various resources—technical and organizational—that can be applied to the transformational journey.

A recommended read for any IT leader.

 

On Radical Edge

I just finished reading Radical Edge – Stoke Your Business, Amp Your Life, And Change The World – by Steve Farber.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “If you assume that you can learn from anyone—if you assume that you must learn from everyone—then everyone becomes a great teacher for you. Even if someone’s a slime-sucking scumbag of a leech they qualify for greatness if you can learn something from them.”

2- “Scan—just like you were a computer scanner. Your scanner just copies; it doesn’t comment, it doesn’t offer an opinion, it doesn’t tell you you’re stupid for time on that photo of the girl you met while v all were dancin’ on the bar at Jimmy Love’s. Just scan your environment and record what you see. Scan the bestseller lists and notice what people are reading; scan the magazine racks and pick up publications that don’t interest you—like, I dunno, The Tattoo Review or Graffiti Today, scan the weekly TV-show rankings; scan the headlines of the daily paper in 20 different cities; scan the room that you’re sitting in; scan the crowd as you’re toolin’ down the street during your lunch break. Then, every so often, write down what you’re seeing in your WUP. Write down your observations of subcultures that are entirely alien to you and trends in the tastes of the popular culture. Capture little idea-snapshots of natural, political, and social phenomena. Scan, scan, scan. Look at everything going on around you and write your observations in the pad…After collecting your observations for a while you stop, read it over, and give it some reflection. What are the implications of this? What can I earn from that? Why are so many people doing X, and what might that mean for all of us?…Talk About it…With everyone…Or everyone that matters, anyway. Talk about your observations and ideas with your team, for example. ‘Here’s what- I’m noticin’. What are you seeing?’ That kind of thing. Just kick it around and see where the discussion takes you—see what happens over time.”

3- “When inspiration strikes, when a new bona fide really great idea presents itself…You have to do it; that’s number six. That’s when the talking comes to a screeching halt and audacious action takes over. Kelleher and King went from idea to Southwest’s first route map on the back of that napkin. In other words. my man, I am expecting you to stick your neck out and try something new in your business. Got it?”

4- “This is how you stoke the fires of your success, Cam: by doing what you love in the service of people you love, who in turn, love what you do for them…I may not have the capacity to love everyone, but I certainly do have the capacity to act as though I do and to run my business accordingly. And if I and my team can really do that, then no other business in my market space can come close to the experience that we give our customers.”

5- “So, instead, she treats every customer encounter as an exercise in fascination.”

6- “”Your business, your personal life, and your effect on the world,” she said. “When you’re hitting on those three cylinders simultaneously, you’ve achieved The Radical Edge and life takes on an entirely new level of meaning.”

7- “If you really want to stoke your business till it burns so bright that everyone will take notice, there are two things you must be with complete abandon…One: be deeply fascinated by the life of every person—customer, employee, colleague—your business touches; and two: be deeply grateful for who they are and what they do…It all starts with the heart, Cam. If you develop a sincere love for people, you’ll automatically be fascinated with and grateful for them. If you’re fascinated with them, you’ll discover how to add value to their lives; and if you’re genuinely grateful for their patronage, partnership, or friendship you’ll show them in ways that are sincere and meaningful. Those are the essential elements of a fabulously productive business relationship—or any relationship, for that matter.”

8- “That old saving, ‘it’s not personal; it’s business’ is just plain false. Business is personal, personal, personal,” she tapped three times on the linoleum table top for emphasis. “And,” she twinkled, “is there anything in the human experience more personal than love?”…I regarded that a rhetorical question. Love is your leverage,” Agnes said. “And if you’re observant, if you stay fascinated and grateful, love will hand you your competitive advantage on a solid gold platter.””

9- “We don’t consider ourselves to be naive or idealistical though others certainly may. We are pragmatists of the highest order: we believe there is nothing more eminently practical than looking at the world, asking ‘how can this be better?’ and then holding ourselves personally accountable for getting it done.”

10- “There are four change the-world guidelines that we’ve agreed on so far, but we’re always open to more, and I’m sure we’re missing more than a few things. Let me spell them out for you…The first is to define what you mean by ‘world,’ and get clear on how you want that world to be different from the current reality. ‘World’ doesn’t have to mean the very fabric of human existence, although it certainly could be. It could be the world of your customers, neighborhood, industry—or the world of one person, for that matter. You define it for yourself…Second guideline is…act as though our every action has a direct impact on the world. In other words, you should perform every deed as if it will either improve the world or damage it…Third…Don’t judge yourself based on the outcome of your efforts…Meaning you cannot ultimately control the end results. You do everything you can, you do your homework and your research, and you enlist the people you need to get the job done-whatever it is…What’s the last one?…Never-never, ever—try to do it alone.”

11- “But it’s not about finding your frequency by ruling out everything else on the contrary, it’s about finding the frequency that includes all those other important values and ideals. The very act of trying to wrap it all together is what’s really important, because to do that you have to get very clear on what you mean by each value and principle. You have to define, think through, and understand each to its core, and evaluate your life against each one. The clearer you get, the closer you get to the frequency that pulsates through your life and characterizes who you really are.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Radical Edge

On Left Brain Right Stuff

I recently finished reading Left Brain Right Stuff – How Leaders Make Winning Decisions by Phil Rosenzweig. The author had graciously provided me with a copy of his new book, as I had previously read and reviewed an earlier work of his (The Halo Effect).

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “They make predictable errors, or biases, which often undermine their decisions. By now we’re familiar with many of these errors, including the following: -People are said to be overconfident, too sure of themselves and unrealistically optimistic about the future. -People look for information that will confirm what they want to believe, rather than seeking information that might challenge their hopes. -People labor under the illusion of control, imagining they have more influence over events than they really do. -People are fooled by random events, seeing patterns where none exist. People are not good intuitive statisticians, preferring a coherent picture to what makes sense according to the laws of probability. -People suffer from a hindsight bias, believing that they were right all along.”

2- “Yet for all we know about these sorts of decisions, we know less about others. First, many decisions involve much more than choosing from options we cannot influence or evaluations of things we cannot affect…Second, many decisions have a competitive dimension…Third, many decisions take a long time before we know the results…Fourth, many decisions are made by leaders of organizations…In sum, experiments have been very effective to isolate the processes of judgment and choice, but we should be careful when applying their findings to very different circumstances.”

3- “Great decisions call for clear analysis and dispassionate reasoning. Using the left brain means: -knowing the difference between what we can control and what we cannot, between action and prediction -knowing the difference between absolute and relative performance, between times when we need to do well and when we must do better than others -sensing whether it’s better to err on the side a’ taking action and failing, or better not to act; that is, between what we call Type I and Type II errors -determining whether we are acting as lone individuals or as leaders in an organizational setting and inspiring others to achieve high performance -recognizing when models can help us make better decisions, but also being aware of their limits.”

4- “Having the right stuff means: -summoning high levels of confidence, even levels that might seem excessive, but that are useful to achieve high performance -going beyond past performance and pushing the envelope to seek levels that are unprecedented -instilling in others the willingness to take appropriate risks.”

5- “Moore and his colleagues ran several other versions of this study, all of which pointed to the same conclusion: people do not consistently overestimate their level of control. A simpler explanation is that people have an imperfect understanding of how much control they can exert. When control is low they tend to overestimate. but when it’s high they tend to underestimate.”

6- “Of course managers don’t have complete control over outcomes. any more than a doctor has total control over patient health. They are buffeted by events outside their control: macroeconomic factors, changes in technology, actions of rivals, and so forth. Yet it’s a mistake to conclude that managers suffer from a pervasive illusion of control. The greater danger is the opposite: that they will underestimate the extent of control they truly have.”

7- “If you believe there’s an intense pressure to outperform rivals when that’s not the case, you might prefer a Type 1 error. You might take action sooner than necessary or act more aggressively when the better approach would be to wait and observe. The risks can be considerable, but perhaps not fatal On the other hand, if performance is not only relative but payoffs are highly skewed, and you don’t make every effort to outperform rivals, you’ll make a Type II error. Here the consequences can be much more severe. Fail now, and you may never get another chance to succeed. By this logic, the greater error is to underestimate the intensity of competition. It’s to be too passive in the face of what could be a mortal threat. When in doubt, the smart move is to err on the side of taking strong action.”

8- “The lesson is clear: in a competitive setting, even a modest improvement in absolute performance can have a huge impact on relative performance. And conversely, failing to use all possible advantages to improve absolute performance has a crippling effect on the likelihood of winning. Under these circumstances, finding a way to do better isn’t just nice to have. For all intents and purposes, it’s essential.”

9- “First, not even thing that turns out badly is due to an error. We live in a world of uncertainty, in which there’s an imperfect link between actions and outcomes. Even good decisions sometimes turn out badly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anyone made an error. Second, not every error is the result of overconfidence. There are many kinds off error: errors of calculation, errors of memory, simple motor errors, tactical errors, and so forth. They’re not all due to overconfidence.”

10- “The Trouble with Overconfidence,” the single word—overconfidence—has been used to mean three very different things, which they call overprecision, overestimation, and overplacement…Overprecision is the tendency to be too certain that our judgment is correct…He’s referring to overprecision: the tendency to believe a prediction is more accurate than it turns out to be…Overestimation, the second kind of overconfidence, is a belief that we can perform at a level beyond what is objectively warranted…Overestimation is an absolute evaluation; it depends on an assessment of ourselves and no one else…Overplacement, the third kind of overconfidence, is a belief that we can perform better than others…She calls it the superiority bias and says it’s a pervasive error.”

11- “My suggestion is that anyone who uses the term should have to specify the point of comparison. If overconfidence means excessively confident, then excessive compared to what? In much of our lives, where we can exert control and influence outcomes, what seems to be an exaggerated level of confidence may be useful; and when we add the need to outperform rivals, such a level of confidence may even be essential.”

12- “When we have ability to shape events we confront a different challenge: making accurate estimates of future performance. The danger here is not one of overlooking the base rate of the broader population at a point in time, but neglecting lessons of the past and making a poor prediction of the future. Very often people place great importance on their (exaggerated) level of skills and motivation. The result is to make forecasts on what Kahneman and Tversky call the inside view. Unfortunately these projections, which ignore the experiences of others who have attempted similar tasks, often turn out to be wildly optimistic.”

13-“The question we often hear—how much optimism or confidence is good, and how much is too much—turns out to be incomplete. There’s no reason to imagine that optimism or confidence must remain steady over time. It’s better to ramp it up and down, emphasizing a high level of confidence during moments of implementation, but setting it aside to learn from feedback and find ways to do better.”

14- “Duration is short, feedback is immediate and clear, the order is sequential, and performance is absolute. When these conditions hold, deliberate practice can be hugely powerful. As we relax each of them, the picture changes. Other tasks are long in duration, have feedback that is slow or incomplete, must be undertaken concurrently, and involve performance that is relative. None of this is meant to suggest their deliberate practice isn’t a valuable technique. But we have to know when it’s useful and when it’s not.”

15- “When we use models without a clear understanding of when they are appropriate, we’re not going to make great decisions—no matter how big the data set or how sophisticated the model appears to be.”

16- “To get at the root of the problem, Capen looked at the auction process itself. He discovered an insidious dynamic: when a large number of bidders place secret bids, it’s almost inevitable that the winning bid will be too high. Capen called this the winner’s curse.”

17- “But do some kinds of acquisitions have a greater chance of success than others? A significant number—the other 36 percent were profitable, and they turned out to have a few things in common. The buyer could identify clear and immediate gains. rather than pursuing vague or distant benefits. Also, the gains they expected came from cost savings rather than revenue growth. That’s a crucial distinction, because costs are largely within our control, whereas revenues depend on customer behavior, which is typically beyond our direct control.”

18- “The real curse is to apply lessons blindly, without understanding how decisions differ. When we can exert control, when we must outperform rivals, when there are vital strategic considerations, the greater real danger is to fail to make a bold move. Acquisitions ah ways involve uncertainty, and risks are often considerable. There’s no formula to avoid the chance of losses. Wisdom calls for combining clear and detached thinking—properties of the left brain—with the willingness to take bold action—the hallmark of the right stuff.”

19- “Starting a new business involves many of the same elements we have seen in other winning decisions: an ability to distinguish between what we can control and what we cannot; a sense of relative performance and the need to do better than rivals; the temporal dimension, in which decisions do not always produce immediate feedback; and an awareness that decisions are made in a social context, in which leaders sometimes need to inspire others to go beyond what may seem possible. Together, these elements help new ventures get off to a winning start.”  

20- “To make great decisions, we need above all to develop the capacity to question, to go beyond first-order observations and pose incisive second-order questions. An awareness of common errors and cognitive biases is only a start. Beyond that, we should ask: Are we making a decision about something we cannot control, or are we able to influence outcomes?…Are we seeking an absolute level of performance, or is performance relative?…Are we making, a decision that lends itself to rapid feedback, so we can make adjustments and improve a next effort?…Are we making a decision as an individual or as a leader in a social setting?…Are we clear what we mean by overconfidence?…Have we given careful thought to base rates, whether of the larger population at a point in time or historical rates of past events?…As for decision models, are we aware of their limits as well as strengths?…When the best course of action remains uncertain, do we have a sense of on which side we should err?”

21- “In his profile of longtime St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, Buzz Bissinger wrote that a baseball manager requires “the combination of skills essential to the trade: part tactician, part psychologist, part river-boat gambler.” That’s a good description for many kinds of strategic decision makers. The tactician plays a competitive game, anticipating the way a given move may lead to a counter-move and planning the best response. The psychologist knows how to shape outcomes by inspiring others, perhaps by setting goals or by offering encouragement or maybe with direct criticism. The riverboat gambler knows that outcomes aren’t just a matter of cold numbers and probabilities, but that it’s important matter of cold numbers and probabilities, but that it’s important to read an opponent so as to know when to raise the stakes, when to bluff, and when to fold. Winning decisions call for a combination of skills as well as the ability to shift among them. We may need to act first as a psychologist, then as a tactician, next as a riverboat gambler, and perhaps once again as a psychologist. In the real world, where we have to respond to challenges as they arise, one skill or another is insufficient; versatility is crucial Even then success is never assured, not in the competitive arenas of business or sports or politics. Performance is often relative and consequences of failure are harsh. A better understanding of decision-making, however, and an appreciation for the role of analysis as well as action, can improve the odds of success. It can help us win.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Left Brain Right Stuff

On The Leadership Challenge

I recently finished reading The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “Whether in their early twenties, late seventies, or anywhere between, leaders told us that the fundamentals of leadership are the same today as they were in the 1980s, and they’ve probably have been the same for centuries. Yet the leaders were quick to add that while the content of leadership has not changed, the context—and, in some cases, it has changed dramatically. What is this new context, and what are the implications for the practice of leadership? From heightening uncertainty across the world to an intense search for meaning, our connections as people and as leaders are part of this context. Heightened uncertainty…People first…We’re even more connected…Social capital…Speed…A changing workforce…Even more intense search for meaning.”

2- “Leaders do exhibit certain distinct practices when they are doing their best. This process varies little from industry to industry, profession to profession, community to community, country to country. Good leadership is individual, there are patterns to the practice of leadership that are shared. And that can be learned.”

3- “As we looked deeper into the dynamic process of leadership, through case analyses and survey questionnaires, we uncovered five practices common to personal-best leadership experiences. When getting extraordinary things done in organizations, leaders engage in these Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership: Model the Way. Inspire a Shared Vision. Challenge the Process. Enable Others to Act. Encourage the Heart.”

4- “Modeling the way is essentially about earning the right and the respect to lead through direct individual involvement and action. People first follow the person, then the plan.”

5- ” Leaders know well that innovation and change all involve experimentation, risk, and failure. They proceed anyway. One way of dealing with the potential risks and failures of experimentation is to approach change through incremental steps and small wins. Little victories, when piled on top of each other, build confidence that even the biggest challenges can be met. In so doing, they strengthen commitment to the long-term future. Yet not everyone is equally comfortable with risk and uncertainty. Leaders also pay attention to the capacity of their constituents to take control of challenging situations and become fully committed to change. You can’t exhort people to take risks if they don’t also feel safe.”

6- “Constituents neither perform at their best nor stick around for very long if their leader makes them feel weak, dependent, or alienated. But when a leader makes people feel strong and capable— as if they can do more than they ever thought possible—they’ll give it their all and exceed their own expectations. When leadership is a relationship founded on trust and confidence, people take risks, make changes, keep organizations and movements alive. Through that relationship, leaders turn their constituents into leaders themselves.”

7- “Success in leadership, success in business, and success in life has been, is now, and will continue to be a function of how well people work and play together. We’re even more convinced of this today than we were twenty years ago. Success in leading will be wholly dependent upon the capacity to build and sustain those human relationships that enable people to get extraordinary things done on a regular basis.”

8- “THE TEN COMMITMENTS OF LEADERSHIP: 1. Find your voice by clarifying your personal values. 2. Set the example by aligning actions with shared values. 3. Envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities. 4. Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations. 5. Search for opportunities by seeking innovative ways to change, grow, and improve. 6. Experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from mistakes. 7. Foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust. 8. Strengthen others by sharing power and discretion. 9. Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence. 10. Celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community.”

9- “As the data clearly show, for people to follow someone willingly, the majority of constituents must believe the leader is: Honest, Competent, Forward-looking and Inspiring.”

10- “To gain and sustain the moral authority to lead, it’s essential to Model the Way. Because of this important connection between words and actions, we’ve chosen to start our discussion of the Five Practices with a thorough examination of the principles and behaviors that bring Model the Way to life. First, in Chapter Three, we introduce you to why it’s essential to Find Your Voice—that unique expression of yourself that gives you the inner strength as a leader to «j«v what you will do. Then, in Chapter Four, we’ll take a look at how leaders Set the Example, the second half of the formula for establishing credibility. You’ll see how leaders must focus on their own personal values and how they must build and affirm shared values. Throughout the chapters and the action steps, you’ll also learn methods to align actions with values—the step in the process that communicates with deeds. not just words.”

11- ” Voice in this context is both a noun and a verb. It encompasses words and speech. There’s the message we want to deliver, and then there’s the expression of that message. It’s about having a voice and about giving voice. To Find Your Voice you must engage in two essentials: Clarify your values, Express your self. To become a credible leader, first you have to comprehend fully the values, beliefs, and assumptions that drive you. You have to freely and honestly choose the principles you will use to guide your actions. Before you can clearly communicate your message, you must be clear about the message you want to deliver. And before you can do what you say, you must be sure that you mean what you say. Second, you have to genuinely express your self. The words themselves aren’t enough, no matter how noble. You must authentically communicate your beliefs in ways that uniquely represent who you are. You must interpret the lyrics and shape them into your own singular presentation so that Others recognize that you’re the one who’s speaking and not someone else.”

12- “Values influence every aspect of our lives: our moral judgments, our responses to others, our commitments to personal and organizational goals…Values also serve as guides to action. They inform our decisions as to what to do and what not to do; when to say yes, or no, and really understand why we mean it…Values are empowering. We are much more in control of our own lives when we’re clear about our personal values. When values are clear we don’t have to rely upon direction from someone in authority…Values also motivate. They keen us focused on why we’re doing what we’re doing and the ends toward which we’re striving. Values are the banners that fly as we persist, as we struggle, as we toil.”

13- “People want to be part of something larger than themselves. What we’re savings is this: people cannot fully commit to an organization or a movement that does not fit with their own beliefs. Leaders must pay as much attention to personal values as they do to organizational values if they want dedicated constituents.”

14- “The Three Stages of Self-Expression: Finding one’s voice and finding one’s unique way of expressing the self is something that every artist understands, and every artist knows that finding a voice is most definitely not a matter of technique. It’s a matter of time and a matter of searching—soul-searching…When first learning to lead, we paint what we see outside ourselves—the exterior landscape. We read biographies and autobiographies about famous leaders. We observe master models and ask the advice of mentors. We read books and listen to audiotapes by experienced executives. We participate in training programs. We take on job assignments so that we can work alongside someone who can coach us. We want to learn everything we can from Others, and we often try to copy their style…Somewhere along the way, you’ll notice that your speech sounds mechanically wrote, that your meetings are a boring routine, and that your interactions feel terribly sad and empty. You’ll awaken to the frightening thought that the words aren’t yours, that the vocabulary is someone else’s, that the technique is right out of the text but not straight from the heart. While you’ve invested so much time and energy in learning to do all the right things, you suddenly see that they’re no longer serving you well. The methods seem hollow. You may even feel like a phony…If, as David did, you’re fortunate enough to experience an integrative turning point in your development—a point where you’re able to merge the lessons from your outer and inner journeys—you move on to becoming an authentic leader, in whatever field you’ve chosen for yourself. You’re able to recognize your own voice from the multitude of other voices ringing in your ears, and you find ways to express yourself in a singular style. You become the author of your own experience.”

15- “There are five essential aspects to their behavior and actions that leaders need to be conscious about in their efforts to align shared values through the example of the actions they take: 1) Calendars, 2) Critical incidents, 3) Stories, analogies, and metaphors 4) Language 5) Measurements.”

16- “Create alignment around key values. Researchers have demonstrated that there are three central themes in the values of highly successful, strong-culture organizations: High performance standards. A caring attitude toward people. A sense of uniqueness and pride.”

17- “When we feel passionately about the legacy we want to leave, about the kind of future world we want for ourselves and for others, then we are much more likely to voluntarily step forward. If we don’t have the slightest clue about our hopes, dreams, and aspirations, then the chance that we’ll take the lead is significantly less. In fact, we may not even see the opportunity that’s right in front of us.”

18- “At the beginning what leaders have is a theme. They have concerns, desires. questions, propositions, arguments, hopes, dreams, and aspirations—core concepts around which they organize their aspirations and actions. Leaders begin the process of Envisioning the Future by discovering their own themes. Everything else leaders say about their vision is an elaboration, interpretation. and variation on that theme. Fortunately, there are ways to improve your ability to articulate your own themes and ultimately your visions of the future. Express Your Passion…Explore Your Past…Pay Attention to Your Experiences…Immerse Yourself.”

19- “Leaders are possibility thinkers, not probability thinkers. Probabilities must be based upon evidence strong enough to establish presumption. Possibilities are not. All new ventures begin with possibility thinking, not probability thinking. After all, the probability is that most new businesses will fail and most social reforms will never get off the ground. If entrepreneurs or activists accepted this view, however, they’d never start a new business or organize a community. Instead, they begin with the assumption that anything is possible. Like entrepreneurs and other activists, leaders assume that anything is possible. It’s this belief that sustains them through the difficult times.”

20- “Whether they’re trying to mobilize a crowd in the grandstand or one person in the office, leaders must practice these three essentials to Enlist Others: Listen deeply to others. Discover and appeal to a common purpose. Give life to a vision by communicating expressively, so that people can see themselves in it.”

21- “If you want to create a climate that sustains personal-best leadership experiences, what situations would you look for? What context would most likely offer the right conditions? What leadership actions are required to establish a culture that is characterized by challenge, energy, excitement. determination, inspiration, and innovation? It’s already clear that you need shared values and a shared vision. What else? To Search for Opportunities to get extraordinary things done, leaders make use of four essentials: Seize the initiative. Make challenge meaningful. Innovate and create. Look outward for fresh ideas. Leaders take charge of change. They instill a sense of adventure in others, they look for ways to radically alter the status quo, and they continuously scan the outside environment for new and fresh ideas. Leaders always search for opportunities for ways to do what has never been done.”

22- “Leaders raise the bar gradually and offer coaching and training to build skills that help people get over each new level…They challenge people, sometimes to their very cores—and participants come out changed and ready to take on new risks and experiments…In this endeavor, Reno and Randi demonstrate, as do all exemplary leaders, the need to: Initiate incremental steps and small wins. Learn from mistakes. Promote psychological hardiness.”

23- “High-stress/low-illness executives made these assumptions about themselves in interaction with the world: 1- They felt a strong sense of control believing that they could beneficially influence the direction and outcome of what was going on around them through their own efforts. Lapsing into powerlessness, feeling like a victim of circumstances, and passivity seemed like a waste of time to them. 2- They were strong in commitment, believing that they could find something important, or worthwhile. They were curious about what was going on around them, and this led them to find interactions with people and situations stimulating and meaningful. They were unlikely to engage in denial or feel disengaged, bored, and empty. 3- They felt strong in challenge, believing that personal improvement and fulfillment came through the continual process of learning from both negative and positive experiences. They felt that it was not only unrealistic but also stultifying to simply expect, or even wish for, easy comfort and security.”

24- “Turbulence in the marketplace, it turns out, requires more collaboration, not less. Collaboration is the critical competency for achieving and sustaining high performance—especially in the Internet Age!..Indeed, world-class performances aren’t possible unless there’s a strong sense of shared creation and shared responsibility. To Foster Collaboration, leaders are essential who can skillfully: Create a climate of trust. Facilitate positive interdependence. Support face-to-face interactions.”

25- “To put it quite simply, trust is the most significant predictor of Individuals’ satisfaction with their organizations. When leaders create a climate of trust, they take away the controls and allow people to be free to innovate and contribute. Trusting leaders nurture openness, involvement, personal satisfaction, and high levels of commitment to excellence. Be Open to Influence…Make Yourself Vulnerable…Listen, Listen, Listen.”

26- “Creating a climate where people are involved and important is at the heart of strengthening others. People must have the latitude to make decisions based on what they believe should be done. They must work in an environment that both builds their ability to perform a task or complete an assignment and promotes a sense of self-confidence in their judgment. People must experience a sense of personal accountability so that they can feel ownership for their achievements. We’ve identified four leadership essentials to Strengthen Others: Ensure self-leadership. Provide choice. Develop competence and confidence. Foster accountability.”

27- “Exemplary leaders understand this need to Recognize Contributions and are constantly engaged in these essentials: Focus on clear standards. Expect the best. Pay attention. Personalize recognition.”

28- “Leaders are out there for a reason. One of the reasons, we would maintain, is to show that you care. One way of showing you care is to pay attention to people, to what they are doing, and to how they are feeling. And if you are clear about the standards you’re looking for and you believe and expect that people will perform like winners, then you’re going to notice lots of examples of people doing things right and doing the right things. In contrast, what happens in organizations where managers are constantly on the lookout for problems? Three things: managers get a distorted view of reality; over time, production declines; and the managers’ personal liability hits bottom. Wandering around with an eye for trouble is likely to get you just that. More trouble.”

29- “When we’re open we make ourselves vulnerable—and this vulnerability makes us more human and more trusted. If neither person in a relationship takes the risk of trusting, at least a little, the relationship remains stalled at a low-level of caution and suspicion. If leaders want the higher levels of performance that come with trust and collaboration, then they must demonstrate their trust in others before asking for trust from others. As discussed in Chapter Nine, when it comes to trust, leaders ante up first.”

30- “If leaders are to effectively Celebrate the Values and Victories, they must master these three essentials: Create a spirit of community. Tell the story. Set the example. By bringing people together, sharing the lessons from success, and getting personally involved, leaders reinforce in others the courage required to get extraordinary things done in organizations.”

31- “Stories put a human face on success. They tell us that someone just like us can make it happen. They create organizational role models that everyone can relate to. They put the behavior in a real context. They make standards more than statistics; they make standards come alive. By telling a story in detail, leaders illustrate what everyone needs to do to live by the organizational standards.”

32- “The process of development should never be intrusive. It should never be about just filling someone full of facts or skills. It won’t work. Education should always be liberating. It should be about releasing what is already inside. The quest for leadership is first an inner quest to discover who you are. Through self-development comes the confidence needed to lead. Self-confidence is really awareness of and faith in your own powers. These powers become clear and strong only as you work to identify and develop them. Learning to lead is about discovering what you care about and value. About what inspires you. About what challenges you. About what gives you power and competence. About what encourages you. When you discover these things about yourself, you’ll know what it takes to lead those qualities out of others. Sure, we’ve said already that every leader has to learn the fundamentals and the discipline, and to a certain extent there’s some period during which you’re trying out a lot of new things. It’s a necessary stage in your development as a leader. The point is you have to take what’s been acquired and reshape into your own expression of yourself.Sometimes liberation is as uncomfortable as intrusion, but in the end when you discover it for yourself you know that what’s inside is what you put there and what belongs there. It’s not something put inside you by someone else; it’s what you discover for yourself.”

33- “Leadership practices per se are amoral. But leaders—the men and women who use the practices—are moral or immoral. There’s an ethical dimension to leadership that neither leaders nor constituents should take lightly. This is why we began our discussion of leadership practices with a focus on finding your voice—your authentic self grounded in a set of values and ideals. These, you have to find for yourself and test against others. There are. according to the late John Gardner, Stanford professor, secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in the Johnson administration, and founder of Common Cause, four moral goals of leadership: Releasing human potential. Balancing the needs of the individual and the community. Defending the fundamental values of the community. Instilling in individuals a sense of initiative and responsibility Attending to these goals will always direct your eyes to higher purposes. As you work to become all you can be, you can start to let go of your petty self-interests. As you give back some of what you’ve been given, you can reconstruct your community. As you serve the values of freedom, justice, equality, caring, and dignity, you can constantly renew the foundations of democracy. As each of us takes individual responsibility for creating the world of our dreams, we can all participate in leading.”

34- “Humility is the only way to resolve the conflicts and contradictions of leadership. You can avoid excessive pride only if you recognize that you’re human and need the help of others.”

35- “Of all the things that sustain a leader over time, love is the most lasting. It’s hard to imagine leaders getting up day after day, putting in the long hours and hard work it takes to get extraordinary things done, without having their hearts in it. The best-kept secret of successful leaders is love: staying in love with leading, with the people who do the work, with what their organizations produce, and with those who honor the organization by using its work. Leadership is not an affair of the head. Leadership is an affair of the heart.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

The Leadership Challenge

On Quiet

I recently finished reading Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. This book was referenced by one of my colleagues during a recent Toastmaster’s speech, which sparked my interest in reading it.

Below are key excerpts from the books that I found particularly insightful:

1- “It makes sense that so many introverts hide even from themselves. We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal—the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight. The archetypal extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risk-taking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt. He favors quick decisions, even at the risk of being wrong. She works well in teams and socializes in groups. We like to think that we value individuality, but all too often we admire one type of individual—the kind who’s comfortable “putting himself out there.” Sure, we allow technologically gifted loners who launch companies in garages to have any personality they please, but they are the exceptions, not the rule, and our tolerance extends mainly to those who get fabulously wealthy or hold the promise of doing so. Introversion—along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness—is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.”

2- “What exactly do I mean when I say that Laura is an introvert? When I started writing this book, the first thing I wanted to find out was precisely how researchers define introversion and extroversion. I knew that in 1921 the influential psychologist Carl Jung had published a bombshell off a book, Psychological Types, popularizing the terms introvert and extrovert as the central building blocks of personality. Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, said Jung, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the even themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough.”

3- “Nor are introverts necessarily shy. Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not. One reason that people confuse the two concepts is that they sometimes overlap (though psychologists debate to what it degree). Some psychologists map the two tendencies on vertical and horizontal axes, with the introvert-extrovert spectrum on the horizontal ax and the anxious-stable spectrum on the vertical. With this model, you end up with four quadrants of personality types: calm extroverts, anxious (or impulsive) extroverts, calm introverts, and anxious introverts.”

4- “If there is only one insight you take away from this book, though. I hope it’s a new found sense of entitlement to be yourself I can vouch personally for the life-transforming effects of this outlook.”

5- “At the onset of the Culture of Personality, we were urged to develop an extroverted personality for frankly selfish reasons—as a way off outshining the crowd in a newly anonymous and competitive society. But nowadays we tend to think that becoming more extroverted not only makes us more successful, but also makes us better people. We see salesmanship as a way of sharing one’s gifts with the world.”

6- “If we assume that quiet and loud people have roughly the same number of good (and bad) ideas, then we should worry if the louder and more forceful people always carry the day. This would mean that an awful lot of bad ideas prevail while good ones get squashed. Yet studies in group dynamics suggest that this is exactly what happens. We perceive talkers as smarter than quiet types—even though grade-point averages and SAT and intelligence test scores reveal this perception to be inaccurate.”

7- “”Among the most effective leaders I have encountered and worked with in half a century,” the management guru Peter Drucker has written, “some locked themselves into their office and others were ultra-gregarious. Some were quick and impulsive, while others studied the situation and took forever to come to a decision…. The one and only personality trait the effective ones I have encountered did have in common was something they did not have: they had little or no ‘charisma’ and little use either for the term or what it signifies.””

8- “It’s impossible to say. No one has ever run these studies, as far as I know—which is a shame. It’s understandable that the HBS model of leadership places such a high premium on confidence and quick decision-making. If assertive people tend to get their way, then it’s a useful skill for leaders whose work depends on influencing others. Decisiveness inspires confidence, while wavering (or even appearing to waver) can threaten morale. But one can take these truths too far; in some circumstances quiet, modest styles of leadership may be equally or more effective.”

9- “…I wonder whether students like the young safety officer would be better off if we appreciated that not everyone aspires to be a leader in the conventional sense of the word—that some people wish to fit harmoniously into the group, others to be independent of it. Often the most highly creative people are in the latter category.”

10- “A mountain of recent data on open-plan offices from many different industries corroborates the results of the games. Open-plan offices have been found to reduce productivity and impair memory. They’re associated with high staff turnover. They make people sick, hostile, unmotivated, and insecure. Open-plan workers are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure and elevated stress levels and to get the flu; they argue more with their colleagues; they worry about coworkers eavesdropping on their phone calls and spying on their computer screens. They have fewer personal and confidential conversations with colleagues. They’re often subject to loud and uncontrollable noise, which raises heart rates; releases Cortisol, the body’s fight-or-flight “stress” hormone; and makes people socially distant, quick to anger, aggressive, and slow to help others.”

11- “Psychologists usually offer three explanations for the failure of group brainstorming. The first is social loafing: in a group, some individuals tend to sit back and let others do the work. The second is production blocking: only one person can talk or produce an idea at once, while the other group members are forced to sit passively. And the third is evaluation apprehension, meaning the fear of looking stupid in front of one’s peers.”

12- “The way forward, I’m suggesting, is not to stop collaborating face-to-face, but to refine the way we do it. For one thing, we should actively seek out symbiotic introvert-extrovert relationships, in which leadership and other tasks are divided according to people’s natural strengths and temperaments. The most effective teams are composed of a healthy mix of introverts and extroverts, studies show, and so are many leadership structures.”

13- “Psychologists often discuss the difference between “temperament” and “personality.” Temperament refers to inborn, biologically based behavioral and emotional patterns that are observable in infancy and early childhood; personality is the complex brew that emerges after cultural influence and personal experience are thrown into the mix. Some say that temperament is the foundation, and personality is the building. Kagan’s work helped link certain infant temperaments with adolescent personality styles like those of Tom and Ralph.”

14- “When combined with Kagan’s findings on high reactivity, this line of studies offers a very empowering lens through which to view your personality. Once you understand introversion and extroversion as preferences for certain levels of stimulation, you can begin consciously trying to situate yourself in environments favorable to your own personality—neither overstimulating nor under-stimulating, neither boring nor anxiety-making. You can organize your life in terms of what personality psychologists rail “optimal levels of arousal” and what I call “sweet spots,” and by doing so feel more energetic and alive than before.”

15- “Dom has observed that her extroverted clients are more likely to be highly reward-sensitive, while the introverts are more likely to pay attention to warning signals. They’re more successful at regulating their feelings of desire or excitement. They protect themselves better from the downside.”

16- “When I first met Mike Wei, the Stanford student who wished he was as uninhibited as his classmates, he said that there was no such thing quiet leader. “How can you let people know you have conviction if you’re quiet about it?” he asked. I reassured him that this wasn’t so, but Mike had so much quiet conviction about the inability of quiet people to convey conviction that deep down I’d wondered whether he had a point. But that was before I heard Professor Ni talk about Asian-style soft power, before I read Gandhi on satyagraha, before I contemplated Tiffany’s bright future as a journalist. Conviction is conviction, the kids from Cupertino taught me, at whatever decibel level it’s expressed.”

17- “But the most interesting part of Thorne’s experiment was how much the two types appreciated each other. Introverts talking to extroverts chose cheerier topics, reported making conversation more easily, and described conversing with extroverts as a “breath of fresh air.” In contrast, the extroverts felt that they could relax more with introvert partners and were freer to confide their problems. They didn’t feel pressure to be falsely upbeat. These are useful pieces of social information. Introverts and extroverts sometimes feel mutually put off, but Thorne’s research suggests how much each has to offer the other. Extroverts need to know that introverts—who often seem to disdain the superficial—may be only too happy to be tugged along to a more lighthearted place; and introverts. who sometimes feel as if their propensity for problem talk makes them a drag, should know that they make it safe for others to get serious.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Quiet

On Launching A Leadership Revolution

I recently finished reading Launching A Leadership Revolution – Mastering The Five Levels of Influence – by Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward.

Below are key excerpts that I found particularly insightful:

1- “Leadership ability is a lot like the drilling equipment used by Yates and his partners to discover the richness of oil that already existed beneath him. Each of us; has a natural wellspring of talent and ability buried within. The drill of leadership is required to tap into the geyser of our potential. As with Yates’s drilling equipment, leadership ability will take effort to attain, but the rewards are incalculable.”

2- “We wrote this book because our work with tens of thousands of entrepreneurs across North America for more than a decade has convinced us that most people (and their organizations) have much more potential locked away inside of them than they realize. Leadership is the key that opens the lock on that potential. Time and again we have seen people come alive and achieve things they never thought possible, once they started learning to take responsibility for leadership. The results, quite frankly, have been revolutionary.”

3- “Leadership is the influence of others in a productive, vision-driven direction and is done through the example, conviction, and character of the leader.”

4- “While people may exhibit differing natural levels of leadership, everybody can cultivate and grow his or her leadership ability. Besides, ability differs from one endeavor to the next, so that a person may have weak influence in one area but be strong in another. Everybody can be a leader at something. and usually people s strengths lie in areas that interest them greatly.”

5- “The three characteristics of “raw material” for a leader are: 1. Hungry 2. Hone-able 3. Honorable. These are the foundational qualities of a leader, the Three Hs that must be possessed by the leader-to-be as a prerequisite to further advancement.”

6- “Hunger itself is one of the biggest facets of leadership. Hunger provides the energy to begin, the stamina to persist, and the will to finish an endeavor. It is this hunger or ambition that births leadership.”

7- “All of leadership starts with hunger. At any point in time when the leader is not hungry, the leader is not functioning as a leader. This may sound radical, but it is true. Remember, a leader takes people somewhere. The moment the leader is not moving, the leader is not leading. And it takes ambition to keep the leader moving…Along each side of the road are shoulders. Often the shoulders of roads are comprised of gravel…On the left shoulder is comfort. Comfort is fine in small doses and in certain areas of life, but, like gravel, it can also serve as a warning. Remember, ambition flourishes in discontent with the status quo. Discontent and comfort cannot coexist. If a leader becomes too comfortable, ambition will die, and the soft gravel of comfort can pull him or her down into the Ditch of Complacency…Also notice that being a leader means traveling close to the Shoulder of Frustration. In fact, this is the mark of any true leader, being a leader is a study in managed frustration. How can one have ambition tor a brighter tomorrow without being frustrated at the current set of realities? How can a leader be at war with the status quo and not be frustrated at the same time? The answer, of course, is that no leader can. Any real leader traveling the Road of Success toward his or her dreams will encounter frustration along the journey. Frustration can be healthy, but, just like the shoulder on the other side of the road, this gravel of frustration presents a trap. Too much frustration can be a warning to the leader that his or her attitude is dipping and could pull the leader down into the Ditch of Discouragement.”

8- “The Three Levels of Motivation There are Three Levels of Motivation where hunger is fed and nurtured. The first is not quite as powerful as the second, and the second is not quite as powerful as the third. Motivation Level 1: Material Success This first category is comprised of all the material things that excite our senses and stimulate us to want to perform. For many people, one of the attractive aspects of performing as a leader in their field is the material or financial gain that can accompany that success…Motivation Level 2: Recognition and Respect The next level of motivation is comprised of recognition and respect. This is a deeper, more powerful level than that of material success…Motivation Level 3: Purpose, Destiny, and Legacy.”

9- “And as any leader will soon discover, real, true. Lasting accomplishment comes mostly from the “deeper” levels of motivation. Indeed, a strong sense of purpose, an understanding of personal destiny, and the desire to leave a lasting, positive legacy obedient to God’s vision for us are by far the strongest types of motivation. Leaders must cultivate these sources of motivation on a regular basis to fuel performance and sustain it over the long haul. Every action one takes is either one step closer or one step farther from his or her destiny. Remember, many begin the journey. Very few finish well. It’s the hungry who make it.”

10- “Foundational Quality 2: Hone’able – The definition of hone is “to sharpen or smooth with a whetstone or to make more acute, intense, or effective.” The second foundational quality of a leader is to be hone-able, to have an attitude that allows intensifying and sharpening…For a leader there is no completion to education. We need to live like we will die tomorrow and learn like we will live forever. When a leader remains teachable, his or her potential is limitless. With this in mind, there are several roadblocks to learning that a leader must constantly avoid…Arrogance…Disinterest…Wrong Assumptions…Entrenched Habits…Not Invented Here Syndrome…Wrong Priorities…Cynicism.”

11- “Foundational Quality 3: Honorable – Integrity can be considered as the condition of “not doing what’s wrong.” Character can be defined as doing the right thing, for the mere reason that it is the right thing, even if that thing is difficult and unpopular. The two sewn together make honor.”

12- “Vision comes from the picture of a dream in the leader’s mind. One doesn’t always get what one wants, and one doesn’t always get what one deserves, but one does generally get what one pictures. Having a clear mental picture is the vision the leader carries and casts. Some call it visualization. This is where the dream-building exercise can come in handy, serving to build and maintain a clear vision in the mind of the leader. It is the iterative Cycle of Achievement loop that leaders deploy in their planned attack on the status quo. Understanding each of the parts and using it as a road map allows leaders to improve their performance on a continuing basis. The Cycle of Achievement gives leaders one way to describe that improvement process and keeps them on track as they rotate the cycle over and over again. With every rotation, the leader improves, advances, and betters himself. (vision, goal setting, game planning, working, seeking counsel).”

13- “Personal growth is internal, taking place deep within a leader. Often, when people embark upon the journey of becoming leaders, they feel frustrated at a lack of external results to show for their efforts. But the process of becoming a leader starts with a lot of effort, which results in improvements the outside world cannot yet see. The gains are internal, inside the person. Only later will all the effort at personal growth and improvement show up in the form of external result Stephen Covey says, “Internal victories precede external victories.””

14- “The Three Categories of Personal Effectiveness: I – Character  1. honesty 2. integrity 3. courage 4. proper values based on absolute truths 5. faith 6. a humble spirit 7. patience with others 8. discipline 9. self-mastery  II- Tasks 1. acceptance of responsibility 2. work ethic 3. availability 4. willingness to invest time 5. tenacity 6. perseverance 7. execution III- Relationships 1. accepting people 2. approving of people 3. appreciating people 4. seeing the good in people 5. encouraging people 6. caring for and about people 7. putting others first 8. seeking win-win arrangements 9. helping people accomplish tasks 10. living the “Golden Rule”.  ”

15- “The Five Levels of Influence Explained – This concept of Levels of Influence will be explored within the framework of the following hierarchy: 1. Learning 2. Performing 3. Leading 4. Developing Leaders 5. Developing Developers of Leaders…Note that the playing field is not level. It is more like a flight of ascending stairs. This is because as a leader progresses through the leadership-development process, his influence increases and the impact of his efforts have broader scope. Also, as the leader ascends the Levels of Influence, each of the previous levels stays with him. Just because a leader has advanced to the level of Performing doesn’t mean he stops Learning. Likewise, a leader who advances to Developing Leaders cannot stop Leading in other areas, and so on.”

16- “The First Level of Influence, Learning: Presuppositions or the “Art” of Learning – Learning Is a Top Priority, Leaders Can Learn from Anyone, Leaders Can Learn Best from Those Who Have Results | Actions or the “Science” of Learning – Leaders Learn About People Leaders Learn About Basics, Leaders Learn About Goals and Objectives, Leaders Learn About Processes, Leaders Learn About Measurements of Performance, Leaders Learn About Rewards, Leaders Learn about Histories, Leaders Learn About Environment, Leaders Learn About Obstacles and Oppositions, Leaders Learn from Books, Leaders Learn from Audio Recordings, Leaders Learn from Videos, Leaders Learn from Association with Other Successful Leaders, Leaders Learn from Coaches and Mentors, Leaders Learn from Action, Leaders Learn by Controlling the Flow.”

17- “The Second Level of Influence, Performing: Presuppositions or the “Art” of Performing – Performers To Understand that Results Come through Personal Effort, Performers Understand that Champions Don’t Start Out that Way, Performers Know There Will Be Many opportunities to Feel Second Best, Performers Don’t Expect Fair Treatment, Performers Know There Will Always Be Critics, Performers Know There Will Always Be Strong Adversaries, Performers Understand that Breaks Will Come to Those Who Prepare, Performers Know that Attitude Conquers Circumstances, Performers Understand that Desire Trumps Talent, Performers Can Never Be Satisfied, Performers Know There Is Power in Belief | Actions or the “Science” of Performing – Performers Work as Part of an Overall Team, Performers Edify the Organization’s Leadership, Performers Promote the Training System and Learning Environment, Performers Follow the Proven Methods, Performers Build on Their Basic Strengths, Performers Initiate Activity, Performers Push to Grow and Improve, Performers Become Relatable, Performers Become Believable and Demonstrate Conviction, Performers Maintain a Positive Attitude, Performers Give Their Best in Every Situation, Performers Get Results (Execute), Performers Ignore Their Press Clippings.”

18- “The Third Level of Influence, Leading: Presuppositions or the “Art” of Leading – Leaders Understand that Results Come Trough Team Effort, Leaders Understand that People Buy In to the Leader before Anything Else, Leaders Understand the Importance of Finding and Developing Good People, Leaders Understand that Dealing with Inadequate Resources Is Common, Leaders Understand that Leadership Is the Limitation, Leaders Understand the Impact of Their Actions on the Organization, Leaders Understand that Leadership Is about Sacrifice, Leaders Understand that a Leader’s Job Is Never Done | Actions or the “Science” of Leading- Leaders Model the Way, Leaders Compel Individuals to Perform, Leaders Coach Others, Leaders Become Servants, Leaders Operate as Field Commanders, Leaders Orchestrate Activity, Leaders Measure Results, Leaders Solve Problems, Leaders Communicate.”

19- “The Fourth Level of Influence, Developing Leaders: Presuppositions or the “Art” of Leadership Development – Level 4 Leaders Know Results Will Come Through the Efforts of Other Leaders, Level 4 Leaders Understand the Power of Duplication, Level 4 Leaders Know that leaders Have Strengths in Various Areas, Level 4 Leaders Know the Vision Must Be Big Enough for Many Leaders, Level 4 Leaders Know that Recognition Is the Most Valuable Motivator | Actions or the “Science” of Leadership Development – Level 4 Leaders Compel Other Leaders to Get Team Results, Level 4 Leaders Become Talent Scouts, Level 4 Leaders Empower Other Leaders, Level 4 Leaders Learn to Mentor.”

20- “…when identifying potential leaders, there are a few more attributes to consider so that the Level 4 Leader does not waste time mentoring those who will not blossom into effective leaders. These are: 4. Activity 5. Respect 6. Connected relationship 7. Attitude 8. Relatability.”

21- “Level 4 Leaders must understand that the process of mentoring is a balancing act. Just as the road to success is bordered by Ditches of Discouragement and Complacency, the process of mentoring is bordered by the Ditches of Friendship and Dictatorship.”

22- “Regarding the protege, the mentor wishes to know: 1. What makes him tick? 2. What makes him special? 3- Why did he get involved in his particular field? 4. What motivates I him? What are his dreams? 5. What is his personality or temperament? 6. What challenges has he had in his life? 7. What victories has he had? 8. What principles does he understand and embody? 9. What principles does he still need to learn? 10. What blind spots does he have about himself? 11. What is his commitment level? 12. What is the basis of his character? 13. Where is his thinking?”

23- “(On Mentoring) Sets the Example, Asks Questions, Builds the Relationship, Affirms the Protege, Builds the Protege’s Belief, Builds the Protege’s Dream, Kills the Protege’s Fear, Gives Confidence, Keeps the Protege in the Action Phase, Reframes the Protege’s Challenges, Allows Struggle to Instruct, Encourages the Protege, Spreads Contagious Enthusiasm, Teaches the Philosophy, Course-Corrects and Confronts the Issues, Gets the Protege to Take Responsibility, Challenges the Protege, Pursues a Heart Change, Develops Balance in the Protege.”

24- “The Fifth Level of Influence, Developing Leaders Who Develop Leaders: Presuppositions or the “Art” of Level 5 -Results Will Come Through the Endurance and Succession of the Vision, The Vision and the Leader Are Intertwined | Actions or the “Science” of Level 5 – Attract the Highest-Caliber Leaders to the Cause.”

25- “The concept of the Five Levels of Influence is especially helpful for many reasons. First, it helps an individual gauge his own ability and understand how and where to improve. Second, it helps a leader understand where people are in terms of ability and what to do to help them develop. Third, it assists a leader in evaluating the Leadership Level that exists in any portion of his or her organization. Understanding this information about self, people, and organizations becomes extremely helpful in diagnosing issues and providing guidance, correction, and direction.

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Launching A Leadership Revolution