Barry McMaster: Guest Post on Leadership

Barry McMaster: Guest Post on Leadership

Barry McMaster is the Director of Matrix Vision, a learning and change solutions company. He has over 20 years in senior roles in a range of industries, a number of qualifications including a BA(Psych) and an MBA. Barry is a trainer, facilitator, presenter, speaker, people developer, change manager, actor, writer and business analyst. This post is used with permission from the Matrix Vision monthly newsletter.

I was recently asked to the be the master of ceremonies and facilitate a panel discussion on the topic of "Leadership" at the Sydney Hills Business Chamber.

To research the topic and put some perspective on the extent to which authors had attempted to share their thoughts on "leadership" I decided to search on the topic in Amazon.

In only the "books" section of Amazon a search of the term "leadership" revealed 388,238 entries.

It became obvious that Leadership is an enormous topic and seems to be a topic popular with authors trying to make their name by producing a definitive book on the topic.

As I ventured further in to my search for the truth, I was astounded at the plethora of titles that attempted to differentiate the authors view of leadership. These book titles were typically "??????" Leadership.

The first few pages of results yielded the following "types" of leadership: "Primal", "Principle-Centred", "Servant", "Spiritual", "New", "Clear", "Adaptive", "Fearless", "Heroic", "Courageous", "Fierce", "Tribal", "Quiet", "Ethical", "Quantum", "Authentic", "Presidential", "Level 3", "Organic", "Positive", "Emotionally Intelligent", "Transformational", "Creative", "Incarnate", "Sustainable", "Global", "Project", "Situational", "Culturally Proficient", "Distributed", "No Excuse", "High Altitude", "Moral", "Collaborative", "Values-Driven", "Energy", "Motion", Monday Morning", "Everyday", "Connective", "Crisis", "Muddy Boots", "Just Ask," "Enlightened", "Team", "Love", "Intuitive", "Visionary", "Results-Based", "Real", "Outdoor" and "Out of the Box"

Further research revealed titles that attempted to describe "Leadership". Authors saw leadership as a science, an art, a challenge, a discipline, a journey, a dance, a spirit, a revolution, a cycle, an investment, an advantage, a legacy, an equation, an illusion,a joy, a gap, a wheel and a labyrinth. There was also a "leadership pill".

Being a simple soul, I was drawn to those titles that attempted to quantify the elements of "Leadership". These titles were typically expressed as "The '?????' of Leadership". The titles that I came across that were numerically based were: "3 Tasks", "4 Powers", "4 Obsessions", "4 V's" (Vision, Values, Value-added, Vitality), "5 Rules", "5 Lessons", "5 Steps", "6 Practices", "6 Dimensions", "7 Pillars", "7 Fundamentals", "7 Seeds", "7 Generations", "7 Secrets", "7 Zones", "8 Qualities", "10 Truths", "10 Simple Secrets", "21 Irrefutable Laws", "21 Indispensable Qualities" and "100 Ways".

Other authors tried to get their answers to what Leadership is all about by exploring the biographies of famous "leaders". These titles typically started with - "The Leadership Secrets of '?????'" or "The Leadership Wisdom of '?????'".

In these books authors had included almost all US Presidents from Washington to Obama including the seemingly hyperbolic title - "The Leadership Genius of George W Bush".

Other titles explored the Leadership of military leaders from Sun Tzu to Colin Powell and including Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun and even the 300 Spartans.

Some authors looked at religious Leaders and writings for inspiration. Jesus, King David and Saint Paul had their own titles. Both the Bible and the Koran were explored for leadership secrets. Socio-religious leaders such as Billy Graham and Martin Luther King have their leadership secrets.

In comparison very few Leadership titles focussed on the leadership success of business leaders. Stand-outs are Jack Welch and Richard Branson.

So what does this mean? Someone trying to come to grips with how to improve their leadership can become horribly confused by the enormous amount of material available.

"Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes." - Peter Drucker

"A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd." - James Crook

"When the best leader's work is done the people say, 'We did it ourselves!'." - Lao Tsu

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity." - George Patton

"No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it." - Andrew Carnegie

"Remember that it is far better to follow well, than to lead indifferently." - John G Vance

"The leadership instinct you are born with is the backbone. You develop the funny bone and the wishbone that go with it." - Elaine Agather

"Due to a shortage of devoted followers, the production of great leaders has been discontinued." - Ashleigh Brilliant


* * *

One of the best books on leadership that I have read recently is The Extraordinary Leader by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman. The authors outline the 5 key areas of extraordinary leadership - Character, Personal Capability, Focus on Results, Interpersonal Skills and Leading Organisational Change. The following is a summary of the competencies in each of the areas as displayed by high performers.


Displaying high integrity and honesty:

Avoid saying one thing and doing another (i.e., "walk the talk") Act consistently with their words Follow through on promises and commitments Model the core values Lead by example

Personal Capability

Technical and professional expertise

Are sought out by others for advice and counsel Use technical knowledge to help team members troubleshoot problems Have credibility because of their in-depth knowledge of issues or problems

Solving problems and analysing issues

Exercise a high level of professional judgement Make good decisions based on a mixture of analysis, wisdom, experience, and judgment Encourage alternative approaches and new ideas


Encourage alternative approaches and new ideas Consistently generate creative, resourceful solutions to problems Constructively challenge the usual approach of doing things and find new and better ways to do the job Create a culture of learning that drives individual development Work to improve new ideas rather than discourage them Encourage people to find innovative ways to accomplish their goals

Practicing self-development

Make constructive efforts to change and improve based on feedback from others Seek feedback from others to improve and develop themselves Constantly look for developmental opportunities (they are excited to learn)

Focus on Results

Focus on results

Aggressively pursue all assignments and projects until completion Do everything possible to meet goals or deadlines

Establish stretch goals

Maintain high standards of performance Set measurable standards of excellence for themselves and others in the work group Promote a spirit of continuous improvement

Take responsibility for outcomes/initiative

Take personal responsibility for outcomes Can be counted on to follow through on commitment Go above and beyond what needs to be done without being told

Interpersonal Skills

Communicating powerfully and prolifically

Are skillful at communicating Provide the work group with a definite sense of direction and purpose Help people understand how their work contributes to broader business objectives

Inspiring and motivating others to high performance

Energise people to go the extra mile Have the ability to get people to stretch and reach goals beyond what they originally thought possible

Building relationships

Are trusted by work group members Balance concern for productivity and results with sensitivity for employees' needs/problems Are approachable and friendly Handle difficult situations constructively and tactfully

Developing others

Are genuinely concerned about the development of others' careers Give individuals an appropriate balance of positive and corrective performance feedback Give honest feedback Take interest in the work of others Support others' growth and success

Collaboration and teamwork

Have developed cooperative working relationships with others in the company Promote a spirit of cooperation with other members of the work group Ensure that the work unit works well with other groups and departments

Leading Organisational Change

Developing strategic perspectives

Know how work relates to the organisation's business strategy (line-of-sight connection) Translate the organisation's vision and objectives into challenging and meaningful goals for others Can take the long view; can be trusted to balance short-term and long-term needs of the organisation

Championing change

Become champions for projects or programs, presenting them so that others support them Are effective marketers for work groups' projects, programs, or products

Connect internal groups with the outside world

Have demonstrated ability to represent the work group to key groups outside the group/department Help people understand how meeting customers' needs is central to the mission and goals of the organisation

The Extraordinary Leader - John Zenger & Joseph Folkman

Drucker on Leadership Over the past fifty years, Peter F. Drucker has discussed with hundreds of leaders their roles, goals, and performance. He's come to some strong conclusions. First, while there may be born leaders, there are far too few of them to depend on. Leadership, therefore, can and must be learned.

No Leadership 'Personality'

Second, there is no "leadership personality." And "leadership traits" do not exist. Says Drucker, "Among the most effective leaders I have encountered and worked with in a half century, some locked themselves into their offices, and others were ultragregarious. Some (though not many) were 'nice guys' and others were stern disciplinarians."

Some were quick and impulsive, while others studied the situation and took forever to come to a decision. Some were warm, others aloof; some were vain, others self-effacing. Some, finally, were good listeners, while others were loners who listened to nothing but their own inner counsel. The leaders did have something in common. Not one had much - or any - "charisma." The most effective leaders know four simple things:

1. The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers. 2. An effective leader is not someone who is loved or admired. Popularity isn't leadership; results are. 3. Leaders are highly visible. They set examples. 4. Leadership is not rank, privileges, or money. It is responsibility.

Doers, Not Preachers

When Peter Drucker was in high school in the mid-1920s, his history teacher assigned a number of books on World War I campaigns. When discussing the books, one student said, "Every one of these books says that the Great War was a war of total military incompetence. Why was it?" The teacher, who had been badly wounded in the war, shot back without hesitation: "Because not enough generals were killed; they stayed way behind the lines and let others do the fighting and dying." Effective leaders are doers, not preachers. While they may delegate many things, they don't delegate the one thing only they can do with excellence, the one thing that makes a difference, the one thing that will set the standards, or the one thing they want to be remembered for. They do it. The Leader of the Future - Goldsmith et. al.


The 11 Paradoxes of Leadership

To be able to build a close relationship with one's staff ..... and to keep a suitable distance To be able to lead ... and to hold oneself in the background To trust one's staff ... and to keep an eye on what is happening To be tolerant ... and to know how you want things to function To keep the goals of one's own department in mind ... and at the same time to be loyal to the whole firm To do a good job of planning your own time ... and to be flexible with your schedule To freely express your own views ... and to be diplomatic To be visionary ... and to keep one's feet on the ground To try to win consensus ... and to be able to cut through To be dynamic ... and to be reflective To be sure of oneself ... and to be humble

- Management 21C, Subir Chowdhury


According to an opinion survey of 5,000 workers, employees look for the following characteristics in an effective leader:

1. Has the ability to give clear direction. 2. Practices candid, honest, and open communication; encourages two-way communication and creates a climate of trust. 3. Is willing to coach and support people. 4. Relates rewards to performance. 5. Gives feedback on important actions. 6. Selects the right people for the organisation. 7. Understands the financial implications of decisions. 8. Encourages new ideas. 9. Gives employees a voice in decisions. 10. Displays consistent high integrity.

Remember, employees want to work for leaders they can respect.

- B Strickland - Strategies Unlimited


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