Posted Apr 6, 2015 by Bill George |
| Filed in: Leadership
Recently, I had dinner with the Franklin Fellows at Harvard College, which led to a very stimulating discussion about life and the purpose of their leadership. Here is an interesting blog about authentic leadership written by one of the group's leaders, Stephan Turban:
“Each day, as you are tested in the world, you yearn to look at yourself in the mirror and respect the person you see and the life you have chosen to lead.”
- Bill George, True North
Bill George is the uncle you wish you had. With his quick smile, bright blue eyes, and perpetually-tanned skin, he is cooler than any professor should be.
This week the Franklin Fellows had dinner with Bill. And, as we quickly realized, he’s much more than a pretty face. Within moments of meeting, he’d asked for each of our name, shook each member’s hand, and began inquiring about our life’s stories.
For reference, Bill George is a professor at the Harvard Business School, former CEO of Medtronic, and author of “True North”. Over the past decade, Bill dedicated his life to discovering the qualities of the world’s top leaders.
Bill joined us for a whirlwind dinner. During our talk, he focused on the lessons of his newest book. In particular, he pushed us to answer a number of questions.
How do you lead with heart? How do you become an authentic leader? And finally, how do you find your true north?
We can’t cover it all. But, as a teaser, here are five lessons from his book, our talk, and his life-story.
1. Discover your leadership in your life story
“Asked what motivates them to lead, authentic leaders consistently say they find their motivation through understanding their own stories.”
How do you enter other’s life stories? You give your own first.
Bill George began dinner by talking about his childhood. Growing up, his father pushed him to become a CEO. So, as Bill admits, he grew up driven, but self-focused. Bill’s earlier years were characterized by success. He graduated with high honors from Georgia Tech and became Baker scholar at HBS. But, as he shared, there were many losses along the way. Weeks before his wedding, Bill learned his fiancé died from a malignant brain tumor.
Bill’s vulnerability set the foundation for other member’s to share their stories. Bill had told this story before. But, it hadn’t lost authenticity in retelling. It was intentional, but not rehearsed. Logical, but not mechanic. His story contextualized who he was and how we fit into the story.
To become an authentic leader, you need to be vulnerable. Understanding your own narrative is the first step. Find your story in your life. Develop it. Then share it with others.
2. Embrace Your Greatest Crucible
“While many leaders have a deep-seated fear of failure, the irony is that they learn the most from their failures”
How do you respond in the face of crisis? When your true north is challenged, how do you change? Bill’s largest challenge came with an election for Georgia Tech’s student body president. He lost miserably.
Losing the school election setback his public confidence. But, Bill didn’t respond by moping. Instead, he took the defeat as an opportunity to improve. He met up with fraternity brothers, friends, and rivals to talk about why they didn’t elect him. In doing so, he began a journey of self-reflection.
During dinner, Bill pushed us to reexamine our life’s challenges. We can all pinpoint turning points in our lives. As he urged, there are many more to come. To find “True North” we shouldn’t avoid setbacks . Rather, we should embrace them. Good leaders understand crises are just opportunities for growth.
3. Transform from “I” to “We”
“You have to realize it’s not about you”
- Jaime Irick
We all begin as heroes of our own story. But, to become an authentic leader, your mission must focus on elevating others. As Bill George writes, “ Only when leaders stop focusing on their personal ego needs are they able to develop other leaders… how else can they unleash the power of their organizations unless they motivate people to reach their full potential?”.
As Adam Grant’s research shows, individuals who focus on elevating others lead more effectively than individuals who focus on themselves. Reframing leadership as for others isn’t easy. But, it’s vital to becoming an authentic leader.
4. Practice your values and principles
“Leaders with principles are less likely to get bullied or pushed around because they can draw clear lines in the sand"
- Narayan Murthy, founder and former CEO, Infosys
As Bill George explains in True North “Those who develop a clear sense of their values before they get into a crisis are better prepared to keep their bearing and navigate through difficult decisions and dilemmas when the pressure mounts”. The first step to prioritizing your values is to understand them. (link). But, only by practicing them, do they become real.
Bill George didn’t tell us this during dinner. He showed it. In True North, Professor George argues the third stage of life (60 – 90 years old) should focus on “wisdom and giving back”. He didn’t need to have dinner with a group of undergraduates. But, because he values the growth of others, he did. In doing so, he became a mentor and an inspiration to many.
5. Hone your leadership effectiveness
“The final step in… (becoming) an authentic leader is to hone your leadership style.”
Bill George argues that great leaders work to find their authentic selves. But, this doesn’t happen all at once. Reflect on your leadership style. Develop your strengths. And constantly seek feedback.
Here at LifeHack, we love 5 step lists. But, becoming an authentic leader is never that easy. Nonetheless, with grit, a dash of lifehacking, and dazzling blue eyes (link to Bill George). We have no doubt you can begin on this path.
To learn more deeply, I highly recommend purchasing (or checking-out) True North by Bill George.
As well, Bill provided a number of free exercises online. These are a great way to reflect and to learn more about his method. You can learn more by going to www.billgeorge.com
Laws being passed this past week by Indiana and Arkansas to make discrimination legal on basis of religious freedom have stirred up a hornet’s nest of protests across the country, causing the Republican governors of these two states to ask that the legislation be modified.
While LGBT obviously oppose these laws, many of the most criticism has come from CEOs of the nation’s leading companies. Last Sunday, Apple CEO Tim Cook led off the debate when he penned a powerful op-ed decrying Indiana’s religious freedom law. His decision to speak out was not without risk. Apple products exist in 76 countries where homosexuality is illegal. He wrote:
“On behalf of Apple, I’m standing up to oppose this new wave of legislation… regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas, Apple will never tolerate discrimination.”
Other CEOs, wary of similar risk, might have avoided the debate. In the past they have been reluctant to engage in these discussions, for fear of being criticized by their customers and employees, especially those who are evangelical Christians. The business response could have begun and ended with Apple.
But not this time.
In the past week, CEOs Doug McMillon of Walmart, Arne Sorenson of Marriott (a Mormon-founded company), Marc Benioff of Salesforce, and John Lechleiter of Eli Lilly (based in Indiana) have come out vigorously against similar laws. Walmart’s McMillon tweeted about a similar law being considered in Arkansas,
“Every day, in our stores, we see firsthand the benefits diversity and inclusion have on our associates, customers and communities we serve. For these reasons, we are asking Governor Hutchinson to veto this legislation.”
A few years ago, such public protest would have been surprising. For five years, I sat next to Lord John Browne, then chief executive of British Petroleum (BP), as we served together on the Goldman Sachs board. Browne is gay, yet this was a subject we never discussed. As he wrote in his poignant 2014 book, The Glass Closet, “My refusal to acknowledge my sexual orientation publicly stemmed from a lack of confidence… It is difficult to feel good about yourself when you are embarrassed to show who you actually are.”
Increasingly authenticity is seen as the gold standard for leadership. Fortunately, we see more courageous CEOs – willing to take stands for what they believe and for the diversity of their employees. Now, more than ever, it is essential our society treat everyone equally regardless of religion, national origin, race, or sexual preference.
Discrimination for any reason gives a rationale for all forms of discrimination.If the law permits business owners to discriminate against gays based on their religious views, what prevents them from discriminating against Muslims or Indians?
I know firsthand that wading into these debates has its downsides. As CEO of Medtronic in 2000, I spoke out against the Boys Scouts’ decision to prevent gay scouts from joining their ranks. I also supported the Medtronic Foundation’s decision to withhold grants to the Scouts because the Foundation does not fund organizations that discriminate for any reason. I received a lot of criticism from evangelical Christians and former Scouts among Medtronic employees, but it was worth it. Eventually, the local chapters amended their policies to accept all boys regardless of sexual preference, and years later the national organization followed suit.
It is encouraging that CEOs have taken an active role in this debate. But they can’t do it alone. Leaders from all walks of life, from government officials to civic leaders, need to embrace diversity in all forms. Speaking publicly against discrimination is the first step in that process.
As Tim Cook wrote in his op-ed, “Men and women have fought and died fighting to protect our country’s founding principles of freedom and equality. We owe it to them, to each other and to our future to continue to fight with our words and our actions to make sure we protect those ideals.”
To the CEOs who have already spoken out, thank you. Your voices are powerful, and have already forced the states of Indiana and Arkansas to amend their laws. As this national debate shows, there is much work left to do for Americans to accept all people as being equal under the law.
Posted Apr 3, 2015 by Bill George |
| Filed in: Leadership
If you follow my blog, Twitter feed, or Facebook page, you’ll notice a constant theme: Discover Your True North. Both leaders and corporations have to develop a True North that follows their unique principles. If you try to ‘fake it until you make it,’ you won’t just be unsuccessful; you’ll also be miserable.
How can you discover your True North so you can take steps to get where you want to go in life? You have to know what your values are and what’s important to you. To that end, I’ve come up with this list of 30 questions to help you find your True North. Don’t answer them all at once. Take a day to carefully think each one through. Remember, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.
What do you want your legacy to be? 10, 20, 50 years from now, what will your name mean?
What one word do you want people to use to describe you? What do you think they’d currently use?
If money was no object, how would you spend your time? What would your day look like?
Fill in the blank: My life is a quest for _______. What motivates you? Money? Love? Acceptance?
If you were to donate everything you have to a cause or charity, which would it be?
What is your biggest regret? If you could go back and have a ‘redo,’ what would you change?
When was the last time you told a lie? Why? What would have happened if you had told the truth?
If you accomplish one thing by the end of the year, what would make the biggest impact on your happiness?
What do you think is the meaning of life? Do you live your life accordingly?
What would others say is your biggest asset? What would they say is your biggest flaw? Be honest.
What did you like to do when you were 10 years old? When was the last time you did that activity?
What do you love most about your current job? What do you wish you could do more of?
What do you think you were put on this earth to learn? What were you put here to teach?
What keeps you awake at night when you should be sleeping? What gets you out of bed in the mornings?
List your core values. Use your company’s mission statement to list its core values. Do they match up?
What skills do people frequently compliment you on? These may not be what you think you’re best at.
If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would you say?
What do you not want others to know about you? Use your answer to find and conquer insecurities.
List the five people you interact with most frequently (not necessarily friends). How is each helping you to reach your goals (or not)?
If yourself from ten years ago met you today, would he/she be impressed with where you’ve gotten? Why or why not?
What bugs you? If it makes you mad, you’re passionate about it! Can you make your anger productive?
Fast-forward ten or twenty years. What is the one thing that, if you never pursued, you’d always regret?
When was the last time you embarrassed yourself? You have to be vulnerable to find your purpose.
Who or what energizes you? What makes you feel depleted? Do you thrive on chaos, or prefer order?
Who do you look up to? Who are your mentors, both those you know personally and those who inspire you from afar?
Think about your talents, passions, and values. How can you use them to serve and contribute to society?
Why do you want to find your purpose? Write the answer down and put it somewhere you can see it. The journey isn’t always easy.
What in your life is ‘on hold’? Until you lose weight, until you retire, etc. What are you waiting for?
What price would you take to give up on your dreams? What price would you be willing to pay to achieve them?
Now that you’ve answered these questions, what is your action plan? What steps will you take today?
For more insight and exercises to help you find your True North, read Finding Your True North. It offers a full, comprehensive approach to identify and develop your own unique direction in life.
Posted Apr 3, 2015 by Bill George |
| Filed in: Leadership
The following is an outstanding article on the importance of EQ = Emotional Intelligence.
While IQ has historically been thought of as the determining factor in the performance of leaders, new research from Dan Goleman and others demonstrates conclusively that for people with IQ above 120, EQ is the more important factor in predicting leadership effectiveness. This article shows that people with high EQ on average earn $29,000 more per year. The good news is that your EQ can be developed and improved, whereas IQ is relatively constant over your lifetime. By Discovering Your True North, you can begin to improve your EQ. Try it!
By Travis Bradberry for Inc., posted March 12, 2015
When the concept of emotional intelligence was introduced to the masses, it served as the missing link in a peculiar finding: people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70 percent of the time. This anomaly threw a massive wrench into what many people had always assumed was the sole source of success--IQ. Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack.
Emotional intelligence is the "something" in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results. Emotional intelligence consists four core skills that pair up under two primary competencies: personal competence and social competence.
Personal competence comprises your self-awareness and self-management skills, which focus more on you individually than on your interactions with other people. Personal competence is your ability to stay aware of your emotions and manage your behavior and tendencies.
Self-awareness is your ability to accurately perceive your emotions and stay aware of them as they happen.
Self-management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and positively direct your behavior.
Social competence is made up of your social awareness and relationship management skills; social competence is your ability to understand other people's moods, behavior, and motives to respond effectively and improve the quality of your relationships.
Social awareness is your ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and understand what is really going on.
Relationship management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions and the others' emotions to manage interactions successfully.
Emotional intelligence, IQ, and personality are different.
Emotional intelligence taps into a fundamental element of human behavior that is distinct from your intellect. There is no known connection between IQ and emotional intelligence; you simply can't predict emotional intelligence based on how smart someone is. Intelligence is your ability to learn, and it's the same at age 15 as it is at age 50. Emotional intelligence, on the other hand, is a flexible set of skills that can be acquired and improved with practice. Although some people are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others, you can develop high emotional intelligence even if you aren't born with it.
Personality is the final piece of the puzzle. It's the stable "style" that defines each of us. Personality is the result of hard-wired preferences, such as the inclination toward introversion or extroversion. However, like IQ, personality can't be used to predict emotional intelligence. Also, like IQ, personality is stable over a lifetime and doesn't change. IQ, emotional intelligence, and personality each cover unique ground and help to explain what makes a person tick.
Emotional intelligence predicts performance.
How much of an impact does emotional intelligence have on your professional success? The short answer is: A lot! It's a powerful way to focus your energy in one direction with a tremendous result. TalentSmart tested emotional intelligence alongside 33 other important workplace skills, and found that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58 percent of success in all types of jobs.
Your emotional intelligence is the foundation for a host of critical skills--it impacts most everything you do and say each day.
Of all the people we've studied at work, we've found that 90 percent of top performers are also high in emotional intelligence. On the flip side, just 20 percent of bottom performers are high in emotional intelligence. You can be a top performer without emotional intelligence, but the chances are slim.
Naturally, people with a high degree of emotional intelligence make more money--an average of $29,000 more per year than people with a low degree of emotional intelligence. The link between emotional intelligence and earnings is so direct that every point increase in emotional intelligence adds $1,300 to an annual salary. These findings hold true for people in all industries, at all levels, in every region of the world. We haven't yet been able to find a job in which performance and pay aren't tied closely to emotional intelligence.
You can increase your emotional intelligence.
The communication between your emotional and rational "brains" is the physical source of emotional intelligence. The pathway for emotional intelligence starts in the brain, at the spinal cord. Your primary senses enter here and must travel to the front of your brain before you can think rationally about your experience. However, first they travel through the limbic system, the place where emotions are generated. So, we have an emotional reaction to events before our rational mind is able to engage. Emotional intelligence requires effective communication between the rational and emotional centers of the brain.
Plasticity is the term neurologists use to describe the brain's ability to change. As you discover and practice new emotional intelligence skills, the billions of microscopic neurons lining the road between the rational and emotional centers of your brain branch off small "arms" (much like a tree) to reach out to the other cells. A single cell can grow 15,000 connections with its neighbors. This chain reaction of growth ensures it's easier to kick a new behavior into action in the future.
As you train your brain by repeatedly practicing new emotionally intelligent behaviors, your brain builds the pathways needed to make them into habits. Before long, you begin responding to your surroundings with emotional intelligence without even having to think about it. And just as your brain reinforces the use of new behaviors, the connections supporting old, destructive behaviors will die off as you learn to limit your use of them.
Here’s an important article from my former colleague Jeff Sonnenfeld, who demonstrates that returns from activist funds are less than 50% of the S&P 500, and result in dismantling some formerly great companies. DuPont, in particular, does not deserve the kind of activist proxy attack Nelson Peltz is waging. It is a great company that is well run by CEO Ellen Kullman.
For all the talk about activist shareholders—usually large hedge funds—getting seats on company boards and pushing to make strategic, value-enhancing changes, these activists haven’t fared especially well. Investing in index funds would have yielded better returns over the past few years than most activist funds.
How much better? In 2013 the HFR Activist index posted a total return of 16%, less than half the S&P 500 Index’s total return of 32.4%. In 2014 the HFR Activist Index saw returns of 4.8%, far below the S&P 500’s 13.7%.
Contrary to their rhetoric, many activist investors lack the Midas touch. Their recent returns may exceed the performance of other hedge funds, but they still lag behind the broader market. Ironically, the major companies targeted today, including Apple, PepsiCo, Dell, Dow and DuPont, generally deliver returns that soar above that of activist funds.
Some funds, such as Third Point, Relational Investors, Starboard Value and TPG-Axon Capital, have driven constructive outcomes at Yahoo, Office Depot, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot and SandRidge Energy. Yet too often activists pressure companies to cut costs, add debt, sell divisions and increase share repurchases, rather than invest in jobs, R&D and growth.
They do all this in the name of creating shareholder value. But that value is often short-lived and sometimes comes at the expense of long-term success, if not survival. Despite Carl Icahn’s successes—such as Chesapeake Energy (Netflix and Apple were great investments but they resisted his advice)—his overlooked failures include TWA, WCI Communities, Blockbuster and Dynegy, all of which are either out of business or have filed for bankruptcy.
Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management and its activist assaults on the Bank of New York, PepsiCo and DuPont are an interesting case in point. Trian delivered only an 8.8% return in 2014, nearly five percentage points below the S&P 500. In 2012 Trian was up a scant 0.9% while the S&P 500 was up 15.9%. Clearly, this undermines Mr. Peltz’s argument that DuPont’s board needs Trian and Mr. Peltz to drive better returns.
Five of the 11 companies where Trian has a seat on the board underperformed the S&P 500 between the time Trian got its seat and the end of last year—Wendy’s, Legg Mason, Mondelez International, Family Dollar and Chemtura, which went bankrupt in 2009 after two years of Trian board involvement. Contrast these companies with State Street, which rejected Trian’s breakup and board-seat demands and has handsomely outperformed the S&P 500 (129.5% to 80.5%) over the past four years—without Trian’s help.
Even better returns were available to those who invested in companies that activists sought to topple. Suppose on Jan. 1, 2010, you put $100 each in DuPont, an S&P 500 mutual fund and Trian. Your investment in DuPont would be worth roughly $240 today. Your S&P 500 fund would be worth roughly $200. And your investment in Trian would we worth roughly $190. DuPont’s returns handily beat those of Trian in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
Mr. Peltz now is waging a costly, distracting proxy battle to break up DuPont to deliver short-term gains while demanding he personally have a seat on the company’s board. This despite Trian’s poor showing versus DuPont and the latter’s recent hiring of two new directors, Edward Breen and James Gallogly, two former CEOs and tough industrialists whom Mr. Peltz unsuccessfully solicited in 2014 to serve on Trian’s board of directors.
Given DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman’s success since taking the reins in 2009, it’s not surprising that Trian’s assault has been thwarted. Nevertheless, DuPont has offered to accept a current Trian board nominee—other than Mr. Peltz—out of respect for Trian’s 3% stake.
As Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Jo White said in a March 19 speech at Tulane University’s Corporate Law Institute: “Reflexively painting all activism negatively is... using too broad a brush and indeed is counterproductive.” Activists and their target companies, she said, should “step away from gamesmanship and inflammatory rhetoric that can harm companies and shareholders alike.”
But with activist funds now boasting $120 billion under management—up 30% in the past year—there is no harm in asking what their own investors are getting back. The most aggressive activists court governance advocates and state pension funds with costly media campaigns against target companies that, paradoxically, outperform them. Perhaps they should be more active in raising their own shareholder value.
Mr. Sonnenfeldis a professor of management and senior associate dean of leadership studies at the Yale School of Management.
The willingness to admit your weaknesses and your vulnerabilities is actually very powerful. You can gain strength by admitting your faults to yourself and your peers. When you admit it, you make it a part of what we share as information about ourselves. It makes it okay for me to bring it up, which is crucial for working through conflict. You can even joke about it to ease tension. “You’re doing that thing again.”
But if you keep it to yourself or worse, are unaware of your own faults, then people don’t know what to do. You become the elephant in the room.
“I lead small group discussions with my students at Harvard. Everyone tells their life story. They share the good, the bad and the ugly. We also talk about how they “lost their way.” It’s liberating for everyone. It’s a relief to hear someone admit they’re not perfect. It allows me to share a similar experience, and how I bounced back.
I remember when I started playing the corporate CEO game. I thought I was on track. I thought I was a valued leader. But early on, it was hard for me to admit that I was losing the race. I had to come to my senses and get real about what was working and what wasn’t.
My greatest crucibles are now part of my story. I noticed that in telling my story, warts and all, people not only know who I am, but they don’t “reject me” when I tell them a less than flattering aspect about myself. People understand because chances are they’re been to some difficult places, too.
You can’t be comfortable in your skin until you know who you are, and you’re willing to open up and admit who you are. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t have weaknesses. But I’ve met a lot of people who have blind spots. They won’t acknowledge or admit where they fall short.
Here are ways to help you become more comfortable with telling your whole story.
Read Bill George’s book, True North, which debunks the myth of the superhero top executive. Over 100 executives talk about their failures and personal tragedies, and how these setbacks shaped them as leaders.
Keep a journal. Not ready to go public with your faults and failures? Write them out first. According to Teresa Amabile, work diaries offer people a new perspective on themselves as professionals and what they needed to improve.
Find a mentor. We’ve all hit roadblocks in our career. It helps to talk with someone who has “been there” to guide you over the hurdles.
This article is published in collaboration withLinkedIn. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
Author: Daniel Goleman is the author of The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education
Posted Feb 19, 2015 by Bill George |
| Filed in: Leadership
ABC News (NEW YORK) -- Basketball legend Michael Jordan’s weapon of choice early in his career was his slam dunk, but he also had a secret weapon in his arsenal: meditation.
George Mumford was Jordan’s meditation coach, and he said practicing mindfulness helped Jordan and his other clients -- including Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant -- get in the zone.
"If you really look at the elite athletes, you will find they have this ability to be in a moment and actually slow things down," Mumford told ABC News. "Mindful meditation helps them do that."
Meditation is a practice that’s more than 1,000 years old and involves pausing to focus on breathing and relaxation.
Off the basketball court, experts say meditation is becoming more common in the corporate board room as well.
Bill George, former CEO of medical device company Medtronic, said he used to meditate in secret behind a closed office door. Now a fellow at Harvard Business School, he meditates 20 minutes, twice a day with the door wide open.
Meditation "was the best thing that ever happened to me, in terms of staying grounded," he told ABC News. "It has helped me become a much better leader."
Leading companies such as Google, Aetna and General Mills have meditation programs for their employees. George teaches a Harvard course on leadership and requires students to do a reflective practice, in which they quiet down and either meditate or answer introspective questions in a journal.
“To be a successful leader you need to be authentic, grounded, and you need to be mindful," George said.
Meditation helps in the business world by helping people “get out of [their] own way," said Dr. Judson Brewer, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
"Suddenly, you are in the zone," he said.
When a basketball player is caught thinking about the shot they just missed, they are more likely to miss the shot in the next moment, Brewer said. Meditation techniques help people train their minds to stay in the present without getting caught up thinking about other stressors.
"Don't believe me, just try it a little bit and see if it is actually helpful for you," Brewer said.
I am honored to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from Trust Across America. Authenticity and trust go hand in hand. My full article on Trust as the Essence of Leadership can be viewed here and full text below.
Trust is the essence of leadership – the coin of the realm. Unless people build trust with their colleagues, they cannot gain legitimacy to lead, nor can they empower others.
Recent studies have shown that only half of Americans trust their leaders. Since the 2008-09 global financial crisis, many Americans have lost trust in their leaders and the institutions they lead.
Gaining the trust of people is essential for every leader. Leaders cannot be effective without full confidence of the constituencies that grant their institution its legitimacy, nor can capitalism function without trust.
No matter how effective your strategy, your vision, or your communication, you will fail to achieve the desired results for your organization if you cannot inspire trust as a leader. Lack of trust in your leadership will cause your team to fear failure, resulting in less risk-taking, and therefore, less innovation. Building a culture of trust starts with you. You must quell fears of organizational power by exhibiting authentic behavior that inspires trust and fosters an open, safe environment.
To be worthy of trust, leaders must have a clear sense of their True North – the purpose of their leadership and the essence of their beliefs, their values and the principles by which they lead. If they stay on course of their True North and do not deviate under pressure, then they can build trust among colleagues and legitimacy among all their constituencies.
What’s required are new leaders who are grounded in authenticity, relationships, and emotional intelligence. To gain trust, they must be genuine, sincere, transparent, and true to their word. People sense who is authentic and who is not. Only when they are authentic will people grant them the support they need to lead organizations.
To strengthen the trust and confidence in America’s leaders, we need a new leadership mindset and a new breed of leaders, with five characteristics in common:
They should be authentic leaders, focused on serving their clients and all the institution’s constituents, rather than charismatic leaders seeking money, fame, and power for themselves.
They should place the interests of their institutions and society as a whole above their own interests.
They should have the integrity to tell the whole truth, admit their mistakes, and acknowledge their shortcomings. Authentic leadership is not about being perfect. It is having the courage to admit when you’re wrong and to get on with solving problems, rather than covering them up.
They need to adapt quickly to new realities, changing themselves as well as their institutions, rather than going into denial when things don’t go as intended.
They need the resilience to bounce back after devastating losses. Resilience enables leaders to restore trust by empowering people to create new solutions that build great institutions for the future.
Earning trust requires significant time and effort, and must come from a place of authenticity. Trust cannot be faked. You cannot become a trusted leader by trying to imitate someone else. You can learn from others’ experiences, but there is no way you can be successful when you are trying to be like them. People trust you when you are genuine and authentic, not a replica of someone else.
Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerability. Be transparent with your team, even when the truth may be unpopular or inconvenient. Don’t punish those who bring you bad news. Encourage risk-taking and celebrate “good failures” as opportunities to learn and move forward.
Remember: trust starts with you but it is a win-win for everyone.
DAVOS, Switzerland – For 10 minutes at the World Economic Forum here on Wednesday afternoon, a conference room jammed with more than 100 high-powered delegates was entirely silent.
The rare interlude of equanimity came during a panel called Leading Mindfully, a discussion of how meditation was impacting the workplace.
And with a mix of breathing instructions, management theory and personal reflection, the session provided a stark counterpoint to the frenzied discussions about geopolitical instability, currency fluctuations and climate change in nearby rooms.
“This is a very unusual event at the World Economic Forum, and it’s diagnostic of something much larger that is happening,” said Jon Kabat-Zinn, a molecular biologist who helped popularize mindfulness meditation in recent decades. “What was once considered a radical, lunatic, fringe thing has been incorporated into medicine, science, academics and more.”
In recent years, meditation has grown more prominent in the business world. Companies including General Mills, Aetna and BlackRock are teaching meditation to their employees, and students at Harvard Business School can take classes on mindful leadership.
“Even Goldman Sachs is doing it,” said William George, a member of the Goldman Sachs board who was on the panel and says hundreds of the investment banks employees regularly meditate.
At the same time, hospitals, schools, sports teams and the military are promoting incorporating mindfulness in to their training.
“Teachers are desperate to teach kids how to pay attention, rather than screaming at them,” said Mr. Kabat-Zinn.
In Davos, meditation has been on the agenda for each of the last few years. But this year, there was more interest than ever, according to Mr. Kabat-Zinn. An upcoming panel at the event will explore how meditation changes the brain, and this year, Mr. Kabat-Zinn is leading popular meditation sessions each day at 8 a.m.
“A few years ago no one showed up,” he said.
The panelists, who also included Arianna Huffington, spent time discussing how meditation can benefit workers, but the highlight of the event was the meditation session.
Led by Mr. Kabat-Zinn, the stretch of silence was intended to get delegates out of their heads, and instead notice what was happening around them.
“The first thing we notice when we practice mindfulness is how mindless we are,” said Mr. Kabat-Zinn, defining mindfulness as “paying attention, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
The serenity was occasionally broken by the voices of other delegates in the halls, buzzing about contemporaneous panels including “The Geo-Economics of Energy” or “China’s Impact as a Global Investor.”
And the silence was too awkward for restless participants. Several people left during the meditation session, while others checked their phones.
When it was finished, Mr. Kabat-Zinn asked participants to raise their hand if their minds had wandered. Everyone in the audience raised their hands, including Matthieu Ricard, a Frenchman who has ordained as a Tibetan monk and been called “the happiest man in the world.”
Much of the discussion centered on how meditation might help executives perform better. “The main business case for mindfulness is that if you’re more focused on the job, you’ll become a better leader,” Mr. George said.
Mr. George said that Wall Street firms, in particular, could benefit from the virtues of meditation.
“It causes us to behave less aggressively,” he said. “Certainly, the financial community could use some of that.”
Meditation, the panelists said, also can reduce stress, improve well-being and promote calmness, clarity and creativity.
The room, with views of the Alps, was packed to capacity, with many attendees sitting on the floor. At two whiteboards around the room, artists drew interpretive illustrations of the themes being discussed.
“Here we are in this beautiful country, and has anyone bothered to look up at the mountains?” Mr. George asked. “Or are we just looking around for the next person to meet?”
It was perhaps an unusual theme for the power brokers at the event. But many on the panel and in the audience professed that meditation gave them a competitive advantage. And the burgeoning interest in meditation at the event mirrors a broader societal shift, in which yoga, mindfulness and meditation are becoming part of the mainstream.
“Modern science is validating ancient wisdom,” Ms. Huffington said. “We are living through a major tipping point.”
Attendees in the audience chimed in with their own stories. A professor from India described bringing meditation to her university with good results. An executive from an American company said mindfulness had improved relations in the C-Suite.
Another theme espoused by the panelists was the virtues of putting down smartphones and getting away from computer screens. Mr. Kabat-Zinn opened the session with a request for attendees to put away their devices and focus on being present for the duration of the unusually long, two-hour session. Not everyone complied.
“The truth is, we show much more compassion to our smartphones than ourselves,” Ms. Huffington said. “If we treated each other as kindly as we treated our smartphones, it would be a major revolution.”
Attendees at the session included executives, academics and politicians from around the globe.
“There is a hunger for this type of approach, especially at the World Economic Forum,” said Dean Ornish, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “We focus so much on success and power, but people are beginning to realize that the more at peace we are, the more we can spread peace in the world.”
And at least one financier was taking the message to heart. Paul Meehan, who manages Europe, the Middle East and Africa for Bain & Company, the management consulting firm, has been practicing yoga for five years and attended the session.
“This is one of the most impactful sessions I’ve been to,” he said.