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Anyone Can Learn to be a Better Leader

Kevin Jordan will be back in early December.


COVID cases continue apace. The implications for this are unfolding, as they are in communities across the US and internationally.

Our thoughts of late have centered on the need for and important role of engaged, sustained and value-driven leadership. We all have the opportunity and the obligation to lead from whatever seat we occupy in both our professional and personal lives. Leadership can and should come in many forms and from a variety of perspectives. Whether it is setting the “north star” for your team, navigating change in a sea of unpredictability, making tough trade-off choices or simply trying to consistently role model effective behaviors, leaders are faced with a daunting and ever-growing set of expectations from their teams, organizations and customers. Ultimately, what does it mean to lead and how can it be done most effectively?

With that in mind, there is a range of reading and listening offering thoughtful, strategic points of view, as well as a variety of tactical tools and tips for leaders at all levels. I hope you find them as helpful and engaging as I did.

As always, happy reading and listening! And please stay safe and look out for your families and your community. Enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday.

Articles

Anyone Can Learn to Be a Better Leader. “Occupying a leadership position is not the same thing as leading. To lead, you must be able to connect, motivate, and inspire a sense of ownership of shared objectives. Heightening your capacity to lead others requires being able to see how you think and act, and how your behavior affects others. Leading well requires a continuous journey of personal development.”

How the Best Leaders Answer “What Are We Here for?” “Today, as the Covid crisis continues, in parallel with an economic crisis, a crisis of inequality, and a climate crisis, the leader-as-activist role will only become more critical. The nature of their jobs will differ, but their purpose will be the same: To outrun irrelevance by convening and listening to both central and marginal voices in the societies they serve, nurturing an ambition that far outstrips survival.”

A Framework for Leaders Facing Difficult Decisions. “The more you explore your own decision-making framework in the abstract, the better equipped you will be to make tough calls when the job requires it. Each of these decisions will help you further sharpen your understanding of your underlying morals, the role that you are fulfilling, and the ethical context in which you are operating — just in time to make your next difficult choice.”

Why the ‘paradox mindset’ is the key to success. “Although paradoxes often trip us up, embracing contradictory ideas may actually be the secret to creativity and leadership.”

The lasting impact of 2020 on leadership. Successful leaders need to cultivate a “frictionless mind.” “Having a frictionless mind doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have opinions, even strong ones that you believe are built on a solid foundation of fact and well-reasoned ideas. To me, it means you have a willingness to quickly and easily let go of your beliefs, adopt other perspectives, and question the validity of your underlying thinking.”

Today’s Leaders Need Vulnerability, Not Bravado. “In short, vulnerable leadership in a world of extreme uncertainty and interdependence is vital to making progress when answers are not clear cut and anyone in the organization may be able to contribute vital knowledge or ideas.”

Good Leadership Is an Act of Kindness. “Along with empathy and emotional intelligence, kindness is one of the most essential soft skills for good leadership. But in these times, it might be the most crucial one. To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, kindness is an investment that never fails.” [I have never been a fan of “soft skills” vs “hard skills,” as I don’t think it is a particularly helpful or useful distinction. Soft skills tend to be cast in a pejorative context or as less than; in reality excellent leadership is predicated on skillfully mastering and deploying these competencies.]

What It Takes to Lead Through an Era of Exponential Change. “Sapient Leadership is a framework that enables accelerated adaptation in a wise and humane way. It builds into its structure the imperative for leaders, teams, and organizations to continuously evolve in order to overcome the challenges of 3-D change. Sapient Leaders and their successful organizations change with change itself.”

Cross-Silo Leadership. “…We’ve found that people can be trained to see and connect with pools of expertise throughout their organizations and to work better with colleagues who think very differently from them. The core challenges of operating effectively at interfaces are simple: learning about people on the other side and relating to them. But simple does not mean easy; human beings have always struggled to understand and relate to those who are different. Leaders need to help people develop the capacity to overcome these challenges on both individual and organizational levels.”

The urgent need for sophisticated leadership. “The pandemic has highlighted a series of paradoxes inherent to the work of leaders. What comes next will depend on how well they face up to them.”

Leaders Need to Harness Aristotle’s 3 Types of Knowledge. “This ability to size up a situation and the kinds of knowledge it calls for is a skill you can develop with deliberate practice, but the essential first step is simply to appreciate that those different kinds of knowledge exist, and that it’s your responsibility to recognize which ones are called for when.”

The Observer Effect: An interview with Daniel Ek, Founder and CEO of Spotify. “Daniel does things very differently from other business leaders and was generous to go deep with us on his leadership style, time management, decision making, Spotify’s impact on the world and much, much more.”

TED Talks/Podcasts

HBR IdeaCast: Defining and Adapting Your Leadership Style. “A conversation with Thunderbird professor Suzanne Peterson on making your leadership potential more visible.”

TED: The Way We Work: How to Lead In a Crisis. “Humility, transparency and urgency are the keys to successfully steering an organization — big or small — through the challenges that come your way. Leadership expert Amy C. Edmondson provides clear advice and examples to help any leader rise to the occasion.”

Ali Rowghani’s Three Pillars of Great Leadership. “Former COO of Twitter Ali Rowghani has been a student of leadership greats like Jack Dorsey, Steve Jobs and Bob Iger. In his interview with Cameron, Ali shares the three universal pillars of great leadership he has learned first-hand.”

Blog Posts

Seth Godin: The Words Matter. “Every time we have the floor we have the chance to create connection (or to sever it). We can open up possibility or we can close it.”

The Daily Stoic: It’s Not Much, But It Adds Up. “One thing every day. One thing that fortifies you. Teaches you. Challenges you. Makes you question. Gets you to see.”

Arts, Music & Culture Corner


Lebanese Artist Creates Powerful Sculpture From the Ashes of Beirut Port Explosion. “So I started creating the sculpture made out of the rubble. I wanted her to look beautiful because Beirut is beautiful, but she had to show the pain of those who died and of those who got injured. There was a thin line between making her look beautiful because Beirut is beautiful. Beirut is so beautiful, that everyone wants a piece of Beirut.”

Stewart Copeland on New Podcast ‘My Dad the Spy,’ How He’s Spending His Lockdown. “In his Audible series, the former Police drummer sets out to uncover the truth about his CIA-agent father.”

How This Salvage Shop Became Famous for Turning Portland, Oregon’s Trash Into Treasure. “Seattle may have the ‘Everything Store.’ But Stumptown has this ‘everything else store.'”

Reflections

“Everyone loses when bright people play small.” – Valerie Young

“Do not love half lovers
Do not entertain half friends
Do not indulge in works of the half talented
Do not live half a life
and do not die a half death
If you choose silence, then be silent
When you speak, do so until you are finished
Do not silence yourself to say something
And do not speak to be silent
If you accept, then express it bluntly
Do not mask it
If you refuse then be clear about it
for an ambiguous refusal is but a weak acceptance
Do not accept half a solution
Do not believe half truths
Do not dream half a dream
Do not fantasize about half hopes
Half a drink will not quench your thirst
Half a meal will not satiate your hunger
Half the way will get you no where
Half an idea will bear you no results
Your other half is not the one you love
It is you in another time yet in the same space
It is you when you are not
Half a life is a life you didn’t live,
A word you have not said
A smile you postponed
A love you have not had
A friendship you did not know
To reach and not arrive
Work and not work
Attend only to be absent
What makes you a stranger to them closest to you
and they strangers to you
The half is a mere moment of inability
but you are able for you are not half a being
You are a whole that exists to live a life
not half a life”
― Gibran Khalil Gibran

Kevin Jordan

Kevin Jordan

Kevin Jordan a senior advisor for Consultants Collective. He is an International Coach Federation-certified executive coach who serves as a strategic advisor, mentor and facilitator to executive leadership teams and private clients to achieve peak performance and agility resulting in sustained engagement and value. Drawing upon a career as a leader and consultant, Kevin is able to work with clients on personal and professional development, relationship optimization and team and leader dynamics. He has deep expertise and experience developing and realizing strategic vision through a relentless focus on optimized business operations. He is also skilled at building sustainable culture and workforce engagement through the power of people and organizational partnership, as well as delivering results and value with high performing teams during periods of intense change.

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