Sustainable Leaders Reflect Regularly

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Sustainable leaders reflect regularly. I am challenging myself today as much as I hope I'm challenging you. There is definitely power in taking the time to reflect on how effective we are or have been. However, the discipline to do so has somewhat eluded me over the years. Like all of us I am still on a leadership journey and this area is one that I'm wanting to improve in.

This I do know. It's healthy to stop and pause as we've discussed previously, but it's even better to stop pause and reflect. At the centre of this reflection is taking the time to ask yourself the pertinent questions. This is not about self-reflection with a critical spirit. That can be a minefield for those of us who lean towards a desire for perfection, which can lead to paralysis by analysis. I'm talking about a balanced time of self-reflection. That’s where we assess what went well and what didn't go well, and what we could put in place to improve. We're all on an...

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Sustainable Leaders Find Space

 

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Sustainable leaders find space. Do you feel like you are always working working working, with little or underwhelming fruit? Does your workday leave you feeling tired, ineffective and unfulfilled? This is actually very common in leaders and their teams. Sometimes we have to slow down to speed up; and build some white space into our hectic schedules. But finding that space is sometimes quite difficult.

We are not wired for a sprint; we're built for a marathon. Like all good runners we have to pace ourselves if we want to win. As the great piece of racing advice says, "to finish first, first you have to finish".

Our physiology is built so that under stress we operate closer to the 'fight or flight' part of our brain, further down the brain stem. We stop operating effectively in the frontal cortex, where our ideas, creativity and higher thoughts are active. This is why we have great ideas and an almost constant stream of schemes and dreams, once we've relaxed on...

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Sustainable Leaders Stay Connected

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Sustainable leaders stay connected. Leadership can be a lonely pursuit. It's tough at the top and crowded at the bottom, as they say. Most leaders I know, in their more candid moments, will talk about the loneliness of leadership. It’s a tough job to deal with the paradox of competing stakeholders and the lack of people to connect with who have no agenda.

If we are not connected as leaders, we don't have the benefit of good counsel. We can become unbalanced in our view, if it is not checked and counted by our peers or wise advisors. Many leaders lack true relationships; they may not have people in their worlds who can talk into their challenges and opportunities, or at least give them an opportunity to reflect and talk through what they are doing. In the absence of connection, blind spots persist, personal growth is limited, and leadership becomes less effective.

Sustainable leaders have accountability built into their lives. As Jeffrey Benjamin wisely said,...

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Sustainable Leaders Keep Learning

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Sustainable leaders keep learning. “We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.” According to Peter Drucker. Learning how to learn sounds like an odd concept, yet like anything it's a discipline that we need to include in our lives; if we want to be effective. Drucker is an incredible thinker and draws a lot of wisdom from experience but also from study and learning from others. To do likewise we have to remain flexible and humble. “I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught,” said Winston Churchill. I can relate.

But, if we don't keep learning, then we become stale and inflexible. I like to think I can learn something from everybody I meet. That mindset keeps me open to learning and listening and seeking to understand, regardless of who I met and their education, position of background. Stay open, we all have a...

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Sustainable Leaders Stay Curious

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Sustainable leaders stay curious. “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious,” said Albert Einstein, recognised for his genius in innovation and thinking. I think there's something healthy in that. Curiosity gets a bad name, usually associated with the cat for some unknown reason. Or it is tainted by some misunderstanding that is for those lacking in knowledge or the young. Yet as leaders if we do not stay curious, we will not be sustainable. We will tend to be superficial, shallow in our thinking, not keeping pace with the rapidly changing world and ultimately, we will be caught in a reactive cycle behind the change, not proactively embracing progress and constructive innovation. The digital revolution we find ourselves in has insured that the future belongs to those who are curious; those who truly embrace innovation. Those who don't will now fail fast. Leaders and organisations that are welded to the status quo will fail and fail...

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Sustainable Leaders Know WORK Priorities

Sustainable leaders know their work priorities. “To change your life, you need to change your priorities,” said Mark Twain, always the master of the understatement. It is I think self-evident, that to change things you need to change your priorities. But we rarely stop to consider and get caught up in the enormity of the daily challenges. We get too busy, so stretched, almost paralysed with the enormity and the multitude of the tasks ahead. We end up in an unproductive cycle, as we react to the noise rather than being proactive and effective.

I've had the privilege of leading six companies through transformational change. The task got more and more complex as the organisations I lead got larger and larger, culminating in highly complex multinationals. Yet, I increasingly learned that the answers to the issues we had, we're not in complexity they were in simplicity. Focusing an entire organisation on a few simple imperatives is incredibly powerful. It becomes your...

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Sustainable Leaders Know LIFE Priorities

Sustainable leaders know their life priorities. “Time has a wonderful way of showing us what really matters,” according to Margaret Peters.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing; at the end of our lives we can look back with the benefit of wisdom and hindsight. Very rarely do we take the time to think about our lives from the position of the ultimate hindsight, on our deathbeds. I don't mean to sound morbid or fatalistic, but we only get one crack at this life. It matters, it really matters how we live our life.

A survey of people in the latter years of their life, in the nursing homes, waiting for God as they say, revealed something I found profound. They had good stories and bad stories, and almost universally some regrets. Interestingly the regrets weren't about work, or wealth, they were about relationships, people and love.

How would we reorder our priorities if we took the ultimate view from beyond the grave? Not many people would say , gee I wish I spent more time at...

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Sustainable Leaders Look After Number One

Sustainable leaders look after number one. It might sound selfish, and it can certainly be misunderstood, but if we look after ourselves, we are available to look after others.

Unfortunately, burnout is a massive problem for leaders. It can be driven by many things. Perhaps in a drive for success or wealth, we sacrifice not only those around us but also ourselves. But even if we have an altruistic view of life, serving those around us, there is a danger in not looking after ourselves.

“Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment,” said leadership guru Stephen Covey. I think those are wise words. In the hustle and bustle of a busy commercial world, it's easy to run too fast, do too much, create unrealistic expectations and ultimately hit a wall. It's a genuine tragedy to see well-meaning, capable people, literally unable to function, because they've worked too hard for too long.

At the core of looking...

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Sustainable Leaders Know Themselves

 

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Sustainable leaders know themselves. They know who they are, they understand themselves and they take the time for some self-examination.

If we don't know who we are, will always put up an artificial front and have a lack of authenticity.

Socrates said, “to know thyself is the beginning of wisdom”. I'm a firm believer that we are created unique with unique talents and gifts. When we operate from a position of self-knowledge and acceptance, we unlock our true potential. Knowing our strengths and weaknesses can allow us to prioritise our time on things that are productive for us, and therefore allocate time to others to exercise their strengths. But front and centre for this is self-awareness.

Finding ways to know ourselves can help us become more productive. If we operate in our true strengths as authentic leaders, we are much more sustainable, the pressure is less, and the results are better. There are many ways we can know ourselves better. I...

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Crisis Champions: Capture

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The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis.' One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger--but recognize the opportunity.

When in a crisis the overwhelming temptation is to think and act short term.
There is definitely a need to prioritise, preserve and persevere in the early conservation stage. However, the earlier you can start thinking about the new needs that have been created, and the possible opportunities they represent, the better prepared you’ll be for the post crisis world.

There will be organisations that do not survive this crisis or a future one, that is sadly true. What is also true is that those who prepare well, pivot positively, look after their teams, and have momentum, will come out of the blocks fast, and be the winners in the new order.

Innovation and creativity have become mandatory even in a stable market, due to digital disruption. How much more so in the transition...

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