Do you have a mind of a leader?

A guest blog by Helen White.

At last months’ Lucidity Network Book Club meeting we discussed, ‘The Mind of the Leader: How to lead yourself, your people, and your organisation for extraordinary results’ by Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter. 

I found ‘The Mind of the Leader’ book through The Harvard Business Review (HBR) – a great up-to-date source on the latest insights and advice on workplace skills and issues.

Leadership skills are valuable to everyone whatever kind of organisation you work in and whatever level you’re at. Understanding and practicing good leadership skills and attitudes helps us all contribute our best to our organisation. Learning about good leadership and working on my leadership skills has also really helped me personally to better manage a lot of challenges at work.

The Mind of the Leader particularly appealed to me because I’ve come to realise that leadership is a mindset. The right mindset is key to being a good leader, to yourself, your team and to your organisation.
The book is well written – good language, style and structure. It’s jargon light and very engaging. I particularly like the ‘Quick Tips and Reflections’ at the end of each chapter, and the useful practical support throughout the book.

For the Lucidity book group members, the key message from the book is that to be an effective leader you need to employ and balance 3 key things: Mindfulness, selflessness and compassion. But what does that really mean in practice? Here are some tips:

It’s important to be present in any conversation, meeting or situation. Silence your inner voice, block out distractions, genuinely listen and observe. Don’t just pretend you’re listening while your thinking about or doing something else, or thinking about what you want to say next.

Adopt a beginner’s mind. Look at every person and situation – including yourself – with fresh eyes. Ask open questions. See and hear what’s really there, instead of what you expect / want / fear / assume. It’s important to recognise when you’re making assumptions and that your assumptions are most likely wrong, and unhelpful at best.

Trust is key. As a leader you need to show trust in others, in order to be trusted.

Recognise and put aside your ego. Fear based, self-protection egoism can be just as damaging as arrogance based egoism – both are borne out of self-absorption.

Adopt courageous selflessness – focus on how you can best serve the organisation, not just yourself or your corner of the organisation. What’s really best for the organisation as a whole?

Understand the difference between empathy and compassion, employing the latter rather than the former. Adopt self-compassion as well as compassion for others.

Be accepting of failure – your own and others’. Move on quickly and positively from life’s mis-steps. Learn positive lessons. Don’t blame or punish.

Actively seek feedback to grow your self-awareness and understand the impacts of your behaviours.

Acknowledge and accept your emotions and those of others. We are all emotional beings with complex lives and emotion-driven internal narratives.

And finally, develop equanimity: Mental calmness, composure, evenness of temper. View life’s successes, failures, frustrations as ebbs and flows, without getting too high or low emotionally. Adopt a stoic mindset – accept what you cannot control. Focus on what you CAN control, which is yourself – how you choose to think, talk and behave.

Helen White is a policy and financial capability expert.

The Lucidity Network book club is one of the elements of the Lucidity Network.

The Lucidity Network is a community of generous people who help each other get the important work done. Facilitated via a Facebook Community with group coaching, mastermind groups and online training content which includes training materials on mindset, failure, and mindfulness. The Lucidity Network helps you to tackle the complexities of working life that didn’t come with the leadership handbook. The Lucidity Network is open a few times a year. To be the first to know when the Network is open for new members and get special early bird offers sign up to Lucidity Insights or join the free Lucidity Facebook Community.

Do you Dare to Lead?

Since I picked up this book, Brene Brown has started popping up everywhere and I am not ashamed to say I am a bit of a convert to her ideas – and I am not alone. Her Ted talk on vulnerability has been seen by over 40 million people. In her recent Netflix series about courage she jokes about intimidating people as she introduces herself as an ‘expert in shame.’

Brene is research professor at Houston University, where she and her team do lots of research about courage, shame, vulnerability and empathy. Her team works with top organisations helping them develop their leadership teams and improve organisational culture. These universal themes of courage, shame and vulnerability permeate all our lives, affecting how we feel, live and love. You can apply them to different parts of your life too from love to children.

She has written a number of bestsellers around these topics such as ‘Rising Strong’ and ‘Daring Greatly’. This new book, the one chosen for the Lucidity Book Club, ‘Dare to Lead’ was the result of feedback from different leaders who said they wanted a workbook, something that pulled all the different tools from her other books together to help them be better leaders.

One thing that stuck with me from the intro was how she explained that most people think of courage as an inherent trait. But she says it is not – fear is not a barrier to bravery, people in fear do brave things a lot, it’s more about how we respond to fear. This book is a toolkit to help you learn to get better at getting braver.

So what did the book group think?

This is not a quick read. During the book group, we talked about how dense the book is. It is packed with insight but it’s definitely the kind of book you are going to need to go back through a few times. It covers a lot of ground, in a lot of detail.

There are lots of moment in the book when you recognise something of yourself, your styles or someone else at work. In the first section called rumbling with vulnerability there’s a section on empathy misses and I know a few of us cringed at the realisation we had had massive empathy fails.

In the chapter about rumbling with vulnerability: she talks about the importance of learning how to rumble – this is about having difficult conversations. The book used unfamiliar terms. The language was a bit of a barrier for some, and I admit I had to go over things a few times to make sure I was really getting it.

Someone described it as very Americanised. They said they had flashbacks to Westside Story every time they read the word rumble. It nearly had them putting the book down permanently. The way they got around it was by changing the word rumble to ‘having an honest and open conversation’. You have to be committed to the book to get past this. It would definitely be a flag for any skeptics with reservations about casting aside their vulnerabilities at work and its value.

There was a bit of a discussion about how confident you would feel taking this into work and doing it with your team using the same language. We all agreed, there were things here and there that could make a difference straight away but getting buy-in from everyone would be tricky – unless it was led from the top.

It’s worth mentioning the workbook on her website that accompanies the book. It has all the personal and team exercises and the website has lots more information. There is a glossary too which really helped me while I was getting to grips with the new terms.

One of the other sections we talked about was the section on values. Brene spends a fair bit of time making sure you understand why your values and ‘leaning’ into them is important if you want to be a daring leader. Whittling down honestly to your two main values is not an easy task though. Some of the book group had managed it. If I am honest, I am still working on mine!

Amour is another of Brene term which she dedicates a whole section too. This is what we use to protect ourselves at work, and in our lives, it could be something like hiding behind cynicism or using your power over people to get what you want. The book talks a lot about how being curious and asking questions can help us understand our own armour. The book had helped one person recognise a lot of the different types of amour being lugged around her office. It also got her wondering why and thinking about how this is affecting the organisation she works for.

At the end, everyone gave one take away from the book. We had one person who was definitely going to have that difficult conversation with their CEO. Someone who would be embracing courage and speaking up, rather than letting it brew into something else. Another, working on doing empathy better, much more consciously. Someone else will be working on those difficult conversations and getting braver at saying no to clients and pushing back.

I had so much to take away from this book but the section which resonated with me the most was in the final section Rising Up. This focuses on our own resilience and how we can build it up. In it, she describes us as story making machines – wherein the absence of facts we fill it with our own story – most likely negative.

My husband has just got a senior leadership role and with that a new team, so we spent most of the last month passing the book back and forth, as I ooo’ed and ahh’ed as I came across things that I thought could help him and me.

Wanting more, I have been scouring her website. I took advantage of the free audio chapter on her website for her book Rising Up – which looks at how we can raise courageous children, and in case I was in any doubt, it confirmed I am definitely hooked on Brene.

Guest blog by Sarah Younger, Communications and Development Officer at St Michael’s Fellowship and a member of Lucidity’s Business Book Club.

Interested in joining our book club? Take a look at the Lucidity Network – a place for people pushing to make change happen, a place to learn, a place to share and a place to connect. Check it out and join us here.

Carrots and sticks are so last century

Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us, by Daniel H Pink was the first book to be reviewed by the Lucidity Book Club. Overall the group enjoyed the book and whilst some of the concepts may be easily recognised, it was acknowledged that implementing all of them into a work environment may not necessarily be that straightforward. It was agreed that the use of examples and provision of toolkits for various scenarios at the end of the book provides a useful resource to draw on in the future.

Using science and research, Pink presents a very clear argument as to why current business/working systems are outdated. Pink states “Carrots and sticks are so last century. Drive says for 21 st Century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery and purpose”, before going on to explain that, when it comes to motivation there is a gap between what science knows and what business does. The current operating system, built around external reward and punishment motivators, doesn’t work. The book provides examples of the types of work that can be motivated by carrots and sticks and those that can’t, highlighting that a ROWE (results only work environment) is needed. The challenge is how to implement this concept in diverse work environments. Fundamentally it is about trust and management shifting their attitudes to trusting their staff, this aspect resonated strongly within the group discussion.

The main points the book makes is that:

1. Times have changed but companies are slow to adapt to that change.

To illustrate Pink posed a question: in 1995 which encyclopedia would people have expected to survive, MS Encarta or Wikipedia? Few people would have imagined a Wikipedia world back then.

2. We have moved from a Motivation 2.0 world (carrots and sticks) to a Motivation 3.0 world (inherent satisfaction in the work itself).

Explaining that for routine tasks incentives may still work, but for more creative tasks these can have a limiting or event sometimes damaging effect, causing people to stop an activity previously enjoyed, or encouraging some to take shortcuts. Examples included research with primary school children, those that would choose to stay in the classroom and make drawings in their play break, when offered a payment stopped doing so.

3. There are 3 elements to Motivation 3.0 – Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose

  • Autonomy is our default setting, people need autonomy over task, time, team and technique to be high performing. Companies that offer autonomy, sometimes in radical ways, outperform their competitors. One well-known company that ‘gets’ autonomy is Google. Creation of 20% time, where people are free to work on projects of their choice, has enabled products such as Gmail to be created. The book talked about reward not just being about money, which raised concern in our discussion that it could be used as an excuse not to pay enough. However, Pink clearly states that salaries must be at a reasonable level for everything else to flow from, i.e. removing salary from the motivation conversation enables the important aspects of Motivation 3.0 to be explored. We also discussed the need for tools, having autonomy over how, where and when you work is limited if you don’t have the appropriate tools or support to carry out the task at hand.

 

  • Mastery is an interesting concept. According to Pink it is i) a Mindset – requiring you to see your abilities not as finite, ii) a Pain – it requires effort and grit and iii) it is Asymptote – it is impossible to fully realise. Pink’s example of learning French helps to illuminate this idea. Learning French to pass a test is not the same as learning to speak French fluently. Both can fuel achievement but only one achieves mastery. Mastery happens when people are in the ‘flow’ which is the optimal experience when the challenges we face are matched to our abilities, however Pink cautions that “the path to mastery is not lined with flowers or rainbows….if it were more of us would make the trip”.

 

  • Purpose is no surprise, it is something that all humans seek, ‘a cause greater and more enduring than themselves’. Through the use of language and policies, Motivation 3.0 allows purpose maximisation to take its place alongside profit maximisation.

Our conversation ended with us looking at aspects of the book that we could apply to our own areas of work. Use of the toolkits to analyse where ‘flow’ happens for each of us, or possibilities to explore what autonomy and mastery means to our teams were starting points. Finally, we asked what our personal motivations are and common themes emerged around working with great people and improving peoples living and working circumstances. No carrots or sticks required!

Guest blog by Sam Mills is Head Of Projects at Changeworks and Lucidity Network member.

Interested in joining our book club? Take a look at the Lucidity Network – a place for people pushing to make change happen, a place to learn, a place to share and a place to connect. Check it out and join us here.