compassion

The C Word

Compassionate. Is it a dirty word in business and leadership? Or is it the difference between highly effective and mediocre leaders?
When we think of highly effective leaders, it’s often in terms of their decisiveness, strategy and clever thinking. It’s not often that interpersonal traits like compassion spring to mind. Yet no leader can lead without followers, and those followers are human, with all their human needs and frailties.

Can you be a great leader without the softer skills? No, I don’t think you can.

It’s easy to see that compassion belongs in the leadership skill list, but how exactly?

Tibetan scholar Thupten Jinpa says “Compassion is a mental state endowed with a sense of concern for the suffering of others and aspiration to see that suffering relieved.”

Your team wants to be understood. It’s easy to jump to conclusions and make judgements without knowing the full story. For example, when an otherwise well regarded member of staff begins to under-perform for some reason, the assumptions may be that they are no longer committed to their work or have an issue to relating to another team member or manager.

A compassionate leader who asks the right questions in the right way may find out the person is having personal issues creating stress or lack of focus, or some outside pressures on their time and sleep such as illness of a family member. The performance issue in fact has nothing to do with work, and with accommodations and support their usual level of quality and attention will return, and the organisational compassion will be rewarded with increased loyalty and commitment in the future.

So in effect, showing compassion can have a long term benefit to the organisation. This is exactly what researcher Christina Boedker found in a recent study.

‘Out of all of the various elements in a business, the ability of a leader to be compassionate—that is, “to understand people’s motivators, hopes and difficulties and to create the right support mechanism to allow people to be as good as they can be”—has the greatest correlation with profitability and productivity, Boedker observes. “It’s about valuing people and being receptive and responsive to criticism.”

Compassion in leadership isn’t weak. It’s not about simple kindness. It’s not about making exceptions to organisational requirements; it’s about balancing both sets of needs. It’s about leading, guiding and managing your team with genuine consideration and kindness.
Bill Cropper, Director of The Change Forum says, “The reality is powerful leaders, amongst their other traits, have the conviction, confidence and courage to cultivate connectivity and compassion.”

Are you brave enough to become a compassionate leader?

 

About Sonia McDonald

Sonia McDonaldSonia McDonald, CEO and Founder of LeadershipHQ, is an Entrepreneur, Thought Leader, Dynamic Keynote Speaker, Leadership Coach and Author of Leadership Attitude (now on BOOKTOPIA!). She was recently named in the Top 250 Influential Women Leaders across the Globe. Sonia is one of Australia’s Leading Executive Coaches. She has over 25 years’ human resource management, leadership and organisational development experience. She has held senior leadership roles in organisational development, learning and development, human resources and talent management fields across the globe. She is also an inspirational and dynamic leadership and neuroscience keynote speaker.

Connect with Sonia at:

1300 719 665 or +61 424 447 616

www.soniamcdonald.com.au

sonia@soniamcdonald.com.au

www.leadershiphq.com.au

leadership books

15 Leadership Books Every Future Leader Should Read (or anyone actually)

Jack Nicholson once said, “When you stop learning, I believe you are dead!” One of the things that helps me to conquer the imposter syndrome is my ability to keep it real and tell people that I am a semi-expert.  Having an unquenchable thirst for knowledge makes it possible to learn new things, grow as a person, and create opportunities for myself and others.

It makes me cringe when people say I am an expert. Even if I had a Ph.D. in leadership books, I would not be an expert. I feel that if I say I am an expert, then my brain will switch off and say, “That’s it; you don’t need to learn anymore.” Argh! Hence the semi-expert tag.

I am always learning, every single day. I never want to stop. I love to learn. That is why I write, speak and read about leadership books all the time. I suppose when you are truly passionate about something, you love to learn about it.

Many times I’ve had people ask me, “In addition to coaching and training, what else can I do to learn more about how to improve myself? How can I learn to be a great leader that propels myself and others towards greater growth and greater opportunities?”

My answer is simple, read. Read everything you can about successful leaders and the steps that they have taken to achieve peak performance for themselves and their organizations.

The following is a list, and brief overview, of some of the best books that I have read about leadership books.

 

Good to Great by Jim Collins

First published in 2001, this book was the result of over five years of research and the intensive study of over 1,400 companies. The conclusions reached as a result of this work are still relevant today – what makes a company great, and why do so many companies remain mired in lacklustre performance and results?

Collins and his team of researchers wanted to discover what essential factors enabled good companies to transition to greatness, and outperform the market by several fold. What they found was most companies fail to make this leap because leadership kills momentum and enters a “loop of doom,’ by focusing on external causes of mediocre performance.

Companies that were able to far exceed their competition did so by focusing on building their team and recruiting talented people who are self-motivated to perform. They also focused on creating a performance “flywheel” by expending their time and resources only on those areas where they can offer something of value, something unique, where they can genuinely excel and which sets them apart from others in the marketplace.

 

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankel

Numerous leaders from every sector, including business, academia, government, the military and even the sports world, are known for their call to pursue excellence as a means of achieving peak performance. Despite their guidance, I am still asked, “Why excellence? Why does excellence matter?” Personally, I believe that it is about more than achieving your best.

At its heart, the pursuit of excellence is about finding your purpose and finding meaning in our lives. Every leader will go through tough times, but focusing on their purpose, their mission can help them to survive. It gives them the courage to make tough choices and to continue to persist despite the odds.

This is also the theme of this book, first published in 1946. This inspiring work is the story of Dr. Frankel, and his experiences in WWII and the hardships that he faced trying to survive internment in a concentration camp as everyone he knew and loved died around him.

Based on his experiences, he determined that while we have little control over what happens around us, we can control how we react to situations. He also postulated that rather than seeking to maximize the amount of money that we make, or pleasurable moments that we experience, to live a good life we should focus on finding our purpose and allowing it to define and give meaning to our lives.

 

The Truth About Leadership by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

Thirty years ago, the authors published a book that has become known for literally defining what leadership is, and is not. Since that time, the authors have continued to conduct extensive research into those traits and skills that define what it means to be a leader. Their work includes conducting a leadership assessment that has received over one million responses from leaders at every level.

The current work gets to the heart of what it means to be a leader, and distils their studies down into 10 core truths about what it means to lead. While each page is filled with memorable advice and commentary, one of my favourite quotes concerns the importance of learning and skill training.

“The Truth Is That the Best Leaders Are the Best Learners. Leadership can be learned. It is an observable pattern of practices and behaviours, and a definable set of skills and abilities. Skills can be learned, and when we track the progress of people who participate in leadership development programs, we observe that they improve over time.”

 

The Extraordinary Leader by John Zenger and Joseph Folkman

First published in 2002, the main point of this work is that with training, anyone can learn how to lead. Other key points in the work include the importance of leaders focusing on following through, and that to go from being merely a good manager, to an exceptional leader, they must learn to focus on developing their strengths.

 

Drive by Daniel Pink

Being able to motivate and inspire others is a key trait of effective leaders. The difficulty with being able to influence others lies in the fact that very few, if any, of us truly understand what motivates us to take action. According to Pink, most of us aren’t really motivated by external factors, such as the potential for punishment or reward.

Pink argues that true motivation is internal, and can be divided into three areas: the desire to be self-directed, or autonomous, the desire for self-improvement to perfect our skills, or mastery, and the desire to find meaning, or purpose in the work that we perform. He makes a convincing case that leaders are most effective when they enable individuals to achieve goals that line up with these three key areas of motivation.

 

Start with the Why by Simon Sinek

Like Pink in Drive, Sinek argues that truly great leaders don’t use manipulation and intimidation to get others to act. Instead, they inspire others to work together towards a goal by focusing on why they are working towards a specific, shared purpose.

Sinek makes several valuable points in the book. One of the many worth noting is that leadership is most effective when it is focused on why the company exists. They then must bring clarity to their mission by clearly define their core values and recruiting team members that share their values. Once the “why” is defined, it is easy to see the “how” and to know what action must be taken to move forward.

 

True North by Bill George and Peter Sims

In this book, the former CEO of Medtronic guides leaders in how to use their internal compass of values and experiences to help them bring authenticity to their leadership and to learn how to create and develop their personal, genuine leadership style.

 

Tribes by Seth Godin

In this book, Godin argues that folks naturally organize into networks or groups based on shared values and experiences. Leaders are most effective when they act as facilitators and attract groups of people who share their values, their “tribes” and connect them with a common idea and purpose. In the book, Godin challenges the leaders of tribes to challenge the status quo in order to create meaningful change, provide utility and solve social problems.

 

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Dr. Brene Brown argues in her book that the way to increase engagement and make meaningful connections with others is by daring to be vulnerable and open to sharing our real inner self with others. Brown believes that rather than viewing our emotions and being vulnerable as a weakness that must be hidden, we should be open to emotions and feelings.

According to Brown, it is this openness and honesty about how we feel that empowers us, and leads to positive effects including love, empathy, a greater sense of connectedness and community, as well as being a wellspring for innovation and creativity.

 

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

In this book, Pressfield discusses the many challenges faced by artists, performers, inventors and others engaged in creative endeavours as they seek to overcome the status quo and bring into being something new. The work is filled with practical advice and examples of how to overcome the naysayers, and other obstacles that threaten to block creatives as they focus on pursuing their passion and dreams.

 

Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman

In this work, Goleman focuses on the importance of leaders developing and using their emotional intelligence to increase communication, motivation, cooperation, and engagement with the people that they lead.

 

Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie

This book is the result of research conducted by the Gallup organization that looked at the importance of leaders focusing on their strengths to create their leadership style. As part of the research, more than 20,000 leaders were interviewed and over 1 million work teams studied to determine why folks follow a specific leader.

Because of these studies, Rath and Conchie argue that the most effective leaders focus on improving skills related to their natural strengths and abilities, and also work to empower others to “play” to their strengths and focus on performing work that relates to areas that correspond to their natural talents and preferences. The work offers practical advice on how to recruit the right people to your team that have the right strengths, and how to meet their needs so that they continue to develop and grow their strengths and use their talents to benefit the organization.

 

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

The ability to get “outside the bubble” to gain insight and objective information is critical for leaders so that they do not fall prey to bias and blind spots. In this Pulitzer Prize-winning work, Goodwin looks at how President Abraham Lincoln could accomplish this by assembling a cabinet comprised of people of diverse backgrounds and experiences who often belonged to separate, warring political factions and that strongly disagreed in outlook, temperament and opinion as to what was the right way forward for the President and the country.

Goodwin argues that the President, and the country, benefited from this clash of vastly different perspectives that forced the President to look at issues from unique angles, increasing the chances that novel approaches and unique solutions could be developed.

 

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith

This work offers leaders practical advice on how to identify, and overcome, those self-limiting habits that can help leaders survive challenges early in their leadership careers, but which are now holding them back and preventing them from achieving their optimal performance.

 

Leadership Attitude by Sonia McDonald

So, why should you read my book? What makes it different from every other leadership books out there?

Unlike other works about leadership books, my book isn’t just about how to increase sales or improve some other area of your performance. My book is about how to discover your true self and how to use this knowledge to empower yourself to change the world. Yes, that’s right, change the world.

Creating meaningful change in the world begins with you and your attitude. It starts with confronting and overcoming self-limiting beliefs and changing your mindset.

As your mindset and view of the world changes, the way that others view you also changes. This transformation increases your ability to inspire, and lead others. Working together towards a shared goal, you and your team become an unstoppable force that can literally, should you so choose, change the world. Just be careful when you read my book, and be certain to use the power of your new mindset and attitude for good!

 

About Sonia McDonald

Sonia McDonaldSonia McDonald, CEO and Founder of LeadershipHQ, is an Entrepreneur, Thought Leader, Dynamic Keynote Speaker, Leadership Coach and Author of Leadership Attitude (now on BOOKTOPIA!). She was recently named in the Top 250 Influential Women Leaders across the Globe. Sonia is one of Australia’s Leading Executive Coaches. She has over 25 years of’ human resource management, leadership, and organizational development experience. She has held senior leadership roles in organizational development, learning and development, human resources and talent management fields across the globe. She is also an inspirational and dynamic leadership and neuroscience keynote speaker.

Connect with Sonia at:

1300 719 665 or +61 424 447 616

www.soniamcdonald.com.au

sonia@soniamcdonald.com.au

Pain of Company Growth

CEOs and the Pain of Company Growth

I work a lot with founders and CEOs of start-up companies, and they often talk to me about how tough it is to get a business off the ground. What they don’t realise is that at any stage in its life cycle, running a business is a challenge.

While there are many stress points in running a business, one of the most surprising is when the company starts to grow. No matter how awesome you are as a leader, a time of growth can still throw you off balance.

Coping with change

It’s the pace of change that effects people most. Sometimes it happens before you realise it and then the issue is the race to keep up. Your team suffers just as much as you do, so the challenge here is being able to cope with change yourself, and still motivate and guide the team.

Adapting systems

Growth brings with it the need to update your current systems or introduce new ones to cope with the changing demands. It’s a time-consuming process because you’ve got to go back to square one in lots of ways, and trace the work flows through your business to find where the system is not keeping up. Then you must work out a new system, whether it’s people, process or technology driven. For business founders and many CEOs, this doesn’t come easily to their entrepreneurial natures. Yes, it’s painful.

Managing the money

Growth usually comes before the money does, unfortunately. It’s like going up a flight of stairs; you need to take that step before you get to the next level where the payoff lies. Growth brings with it a need to spend money on your teams, training and infrastructure. The most stressful part of it all is trying to maintain cash flow while still being able to upgrade things. Without current cash flow, your business will fail no matter how promising it appears to be for the future.

Monitoring risk

Change equals risk. That’s something all leaders should accept. Any change puts your business at risk whether you make it or it just happens. And risk comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s not just financial. Think about what’s happening to your systems and, more importantly, your people. Think about what they are feeling; their jobs are changing, the demands on them are changing, their skills need to change…. They will be more stressed than you! Great leaders constantly watch their people to make sure they are coping during a growth period.

Improving skills

Even the most amazing leaders can be side-tracked during a growth period. They devote all their time to upskilling people and upgrading their systems, and forget to take stock of their own needs. By the time the business hits a growth stage, leaders need stronger or different skills from those they had when they first started out. Leaders have to grow with – and often before – the business does.

Spotting opportunities

This sounds like a strange thing to list as a stress point, but it’s very hard to see past the quagmire of change. Yet great leaders are those who see opportunities and grab them. The pressure to be alert is enormous, and the regret at missing an opportunity can be devastating.

What’s the best way to help yourself through this stage or, even better, to prepare for it ahead of time?

Seek leadership coaching. Every successful business leader has worked with a coach or mentor at some time during their career. Not only can coaching give you any skills you need at each stage of your leadership journey, it can give ideas, guidance and solid advice when you need it. When you have a coach, there is always someone in your corner to help you along.

Business growth is exciting and it means you’re doing something right! Watch out for the stress points and get help when you need it.

After single-handedly taking her own business from blog to one of Australia’s most successful leadership companies, Sonia McDonald now works with founders and CEOs of start-ups. As an expert coach and advisor, she will to work with you one on one to shape your leadership and culture strategy.

 

About Sonia McDonald

Sonia McDonaldSonia McDonald, CEO and Founder of LeadershipHQ, is an Entrepreneur, Thought Leader, Dynamic Keynote Speaker, Leadership Coach and Author of Leadership Attitude (now on BOOKTOPIA!). She was recently named in the Top 250 Influential Women Leaders across the Globe. Sonia is one of Australia’s Leading Executive Coaches. She has over 25 years’ human resource management, leadership and organisational development experience. She has held senior leadership roles in organisational development, learning and development, human resources and talent management fields across the globe. She is also an inspirational and dynamic leadership and neuroscience keynote speaker.

Connect with Sonia at:

1300 719 665 or +61 424 447 616

www.soniamcdonald.com.au

sonia@soniamcdonald.com.au

Resilience and self-esteem

Resilience and Self Esteem

There is a little bit of a misconception in the corporate world that those who appear more confident can handle just about anything. Let me share something with you. I have had my fair share of knocks, challenges, let downs, failures and – at times it is hard to get back up. But I always take something away from these experiences, learn from them, change perspective and sometimes just let it go.

I know it is my resilience that has served me well and it is a focus of mine to achieve my dreams, goals and purpose.

For many years it was believed that a healthy self-esteem, often through praise and encouragement, gave people everything they need to take on just about anything that created a hurdle, and would therefore make great leaders. Whilst in possession of seemingly healthy self-esteem, it soon became evident that there had been a gross oversight. In fact, the loud, brash and seemingly decisive extroverts were often lacking in resilience and, sadly, that the self-esteem was more of a front than anything else.
High self-esteem does not necessarily lead to resilience. The opposite, however, is true; resilience builds your self-esteem.

Resilience is something that needs to be developed, and it has the best opportunity to do this when we are faced with hurdles, failures or situations that cause discomfort. How we choose to handle these situations is what provides us with the experience that builds resilience. It’s as simple as a feedback loop; we’re confronted by an issue that may cause a project to fall over, or will cause anger amongst stakeholders. There are, of course, any number of ways this can be handled. You could admit defeat and let it run its course to a slow death, or step up and work out strategies to save it or take it down a different path. If you succeed in your efforts, you’ve not only learnt some skills for your future arsenal, you’ve proved to yourself that you’re more capable than you thought. This is the strengthening of resilience.

It is also the perfect sort of feedback to boost your self-esteem. Far better than words of praise and encouragement without cause, you have proven you’re capable.
Ultimately, it’s a two for one deal; you build your resilience whilst boosting your self-esteem. That has to be a win-win for everyone.

If you would love to know more about confidence, self-esteem and building resilience as a leader – check out our EmpowHER and Apsire Programs! They rock! Or even contact us for more information and articles on this subject – we love to share!

Don’t forget #yourock and have an awesome Tuesday!

 

About Sonia McDonald

Sonia McDonaldSonia McDonald, CEO and Founder of LeadershipHQ, is an Entrepreneur, Thought Leader, Dynamic Keynote Speaker, Leadership Coach and Author of Leadership Attitude (now on BOOKTOPIA!). She was recently named in the Top 250 Influential Women Leaders across the Globe. Sonia is one of Australia’s Leading Executive Coaches. She has over 25 years’ human resource management, leadership and organisational development experience. She has held senior leadership roles in organisational development, learning and development, human resources and talent management fields across the globe. She is also an inspirational and dynamic leadership and neuroscience keynote speaker.

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Connect with Sonia at:

1300 719 665 or +61 424 447 616

www.soniamcdonald.com.au

sonia@soniamcdonald.com.au