Advocating: a leaders muscle


It is an important challenge to address, and I’ve learned the hard way, that the most powerful advocate for the team is the Leader; the most likely to be out of touch with the will of the group is also me, the Leader.

My enemy is my growing emotional intelligence, which will lull me into believing I am super connected to the zeitgeist when more likely I am growing more influential and powerful which means there is no question that many are beginning to tell me exactly what they think I want to hear. The Emperor is beginning to have New Clothes!

If you take the study of leaders and leadership seriously (highly likely if you are reading this!) are beginning to learn that your experience and growth in part depend on an instinctive intuition, your growing inner compass helping you be more and more effective as a leader – but my experience is that it is exactly this that starts you on a fork from what is really going on in the team.

  • As a wiser soul you spot this and embark on a tactical set of methods to keep your connections
  • Informal chats with co-workers at ‘off duty’ numeral ground, the coffee pot, the corridor, the lunch queue
  • skip level one to ones
  • Listening tours
  • Office hours
  • Employee polls
  • Formal feedback tools

But it is all a waste of time if you have already decided, are not actually listening or even if you are listening slip into post rationalization as a method for proving your intuition was right all along.

It is important to know what is on the mind of the group and not because you should parrot it. That lacks authenticity and I am not a fan of the concept of ‘servant leader’ (not because I am not a fan of the excellent and nurturing shepherd) but because I believe leadership is more than administration, requires risk and inspiration, creativity and failure making the shepherd role necessary but not sufficient for great leaders. It is important because of the critical role of advocate. To trust and to follow you your constituents need to know you will advocate for them with fairness, equity and consistency. How can you do that if you don’t know what matters?

As well as not parroting, you are not seeking popularity – if you learn what the group believes and you know it to be wrong, mistaken, misguided still you must stand against it, offer another way while giving the belief validation and representation anyway.

To hear and not listen is about as stupid as a leader can be. Exercise your advocates muscle every day. Go! Start now..

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Osama, Obama, The USA and a parable of leadership


THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

Everything I’ve written here on this blog is encapsulated in the news we heard over this past weekend – and the intent of this post is to draw on the parallels, the parables of what we as leaders can learn from this historic moment.

First – I want to set the context as the key imperatives of Leadership from a followership perspective – a leader MUST establish:

  1. Who is in charge
  2. What are the rules
  3. The rules will be applied fairly and consistently

1) The US, and latterly President Obama took the moral high ground for themselves in declaring a philosophical constant that they were taking a stand against terrorism and the killing of innocents

We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda — an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies

2) The rules were pretty clear – if you declare war on the US and the philosophy and moral position of the US you become the target. al Qaeda and it’s leadership wherever in the World they may be became the target and the defeat of al Qaeda is the declared aim and no expense will be spared to achieve it. That’s a huge and serious commitment, as the President acknowledges

After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.

3) The rules can be observed to be consistently and fairly applied – Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, are all removed from action based on their breaking the rules of being committed to the demise of the USA and it’s philosophy. Note that ‘fairly applied’ is relative to the application and contributes to the consistency and is not necessarily and observation of the fairness per se of the rule! Action along this lines against Muammar Gaddafi is fair and consistent against the rules – there is correspondingly less consistent attention being paid to other despots and war mongers which detracts from the overall execution against principal 3) – but this makes my case.

The greatest risks of leadership are also present and demonstrated

  1. no matter, your message will be misunderstood and misrepresented by cynics to manipulate the majority of the “uncommitted”
  2. what you want, always costs more than you are prepared to pay
  3. You can’t ask for patience and someone’s vote

1) no matter what you do, your message will be misunderstood and misrepresented by cynics to manipulate the majority of the “uncommitted”. The War on Terror is pervasively represented as a war on Islam – no matter the lengths that are gone to to counter this – it is still the common perception. Note the hostility and genuine anger to a Mosque at ground zero as evidence that it is close to impossible for many good people to tease apart the two.

2) What you want always costs more than you are prepared to pay – evidenced in the loss of life to date of course, but striking to me is the executive decision to kill bin Laden rather than take him alive. Many would argue that the better Public Relations course of action would be to have taken him alive – but a decision was taken that will sit on that leaders conscience to take a choice of action. You may not see it coming, but I can assure you a relatively tough choice will face you as you execute your vision.

3) It took 10 years, and two US Presidents to see this through – the eventual defeat of al Qaeda may take a generation yet and the overall struggle could be seen in biblical timescales. Doing what is right won’t win as many votes as doing what is right now – never mind.

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