Mindset: Becoming is more Important than Being

In her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”, Carol Dweck differentiates between having a fixed or growth mindset. Before I read the book, I assumed I had a growth mindset. However, as Friedrich Nietzshe stated in his book “Aphorisms on Love and Hate”, “not even the finest mind is capable of adequate appreciation of the art of polished maxim if he has not been educated to it, has not been challenged by it himself”. I got to be educated to and challenged during the end of the year Performance Discussion with my manager.

Listen to Yourself

At the end of the discussion, my manager said to me “You see it was not as bad as you expected. You now sound and look more relaxed than when we started the discussion”. I was taken aback by her observation and feedback. I was unaware that I looked and sounded tense. Afterwards, as I came back to my body, I realized that I was feeling tense. I could see that I had approached the Performance Discussion with a fixed mindset.
I cared a lot about what my manager thought about my performance. I wanted her to think that I am smart and I have achieved all my objectives. Knowing that I was unable to achieve all the goals we had agreed upon at the beginning of the year, I was anxious of the feedback she was going to give me. As a person who claimed to have a growth mindset, I should have seen the impending discussion as an opportunity to get her opinion on how I could have done better. In this way, I will learn and improve.
However, having a fixed mindset, I wanted my manager to see me as smart and successful. The focus was on “being” smart rather than learning from my previous year’s performance so that I can “become” smarter.
A lot of people are afraid of failing and to be labelled as failures. If goals are not achieved, they do everything in their power to blame others. Hence, most organizations suffer from a blame culture where employees do not want to take accountability. Leaders may unconsciously be promoting such a culture through their mindsets.

Fixed Mindset Leaders

Leaders who have a fixed mindset are difficult to work for and with. Some of the characteristics that are displayed by leaders with a fixed mindset include:

  • They protect their positions and see everyone with more experience and expertise on a certain subject as a threat
  • They are not willing to develop and coach their employees – they don’t have succession plans in place
  • They enjoy being needed and pride themselves that things will not move if they are not there
  • They are short-sighted and cannot see beyond their current circumstances
  • They are very internally focused and believe that everything revolves around them
  • When things go wrong, they always want to know who did wrong so that they can punish the perpetrator
  • They rule by fear so that employees are afraid to speak up and challenge them
  • They are focused and try to impress others by their status and material possessions
  • They can destroy anyone who threatens their security and status
  • They promote a blaming culture and that of command and control
  • They don’t care about the role they play towards employee engagement. They therefore accuse employees of being ungrateful

Growth Mindset Leaders

Organizations are however looking for leaders and employees who have a growth mindset. Such employees can embrace and promote a High-Performance Culture. Some of the attributes of such people include:

  • Believing in the potential of others
  • They coach and mentor their team members
  • These leaders believe in life-long learning and continuous improvement
  • They encourage their team members to learn and improve their skills
  • They allow team members to speak up as they believe in the power of diversity
  • They are agile, promote innovation and therefore able to lead in the VUCA world
  • They find it easy to recognize and reward good performance
  • Since they invite feedback from everyone, employees find it easy to receive developmental feedback from such leaders.

There is nothing new on the items listed above. Most leaders know these characteristics like the back of their hands.  Some regard themselves as the best gift to mankind. They strongly believe, just like me, that they have a growth mindset. Some leaders are in denial. Even when 360ⷪ assessment gives them feedback about their behavior, they would probably find someone to blame. Other leaders even go out of their way to find out who said what in the feedback.

What do you Believe about yourself?

The purpose of this article is to challenge the reader. We need to stop assuming that we have a growth mindset without having tested it or being challenged by it. This could either be at the workplace, in a relationship, as parents or any area of our lives.
You can start by thinking about how you feel when you are supposed to have a conversation that has a possibility of unmasking your imperfectionists. Do you care more about how smart other people think you are? Or the possibility of learning from their perception of who you are so that you can improve from it?
Are you more concerned about “being” smart or “becoming” smarter?

New Year’s Resolutions

So, for this year 2018. Which mindset are you going to adopt?
What are you willing to do to ensure that you are applying the “right” mindset?

If you want to read the book by Carol Dweck, click on the picture below.

I am a Leader. I am a Person. The Story of Themba (Pt 2)

This is the second part of the Story of Themba. Read the first part here.

The Aftereffects of Themba’s Breakdown

After Themba’s breakdown, Kate took him to a Psychologist. The final diagnosis was acute depression. He couldn’t believe the diagnosis. He went into denial. Themba was booked off work for a month. As an African man who was brought up to be strong at all times, for Themba depression was an indication of weakness. He felt guilty and embarrassed for having broken down in front of his colleagues. He swore that even if his CEO and Mr. Ngozi wanted him back, he will never show his face at work again. He thought his colleagues will never respect him as a man and leader. Themba locked himself in the house and started drinking heavily.
After a month, Kate could see that her husband’s health was deteriorating. She sent a request to Mr. Ngozi to extend Themba’s leave for another three months. After the three months, there seemed to be no improvement. Kate consulted the Psychologist to seek advice. She also paid a personal visit to Mr. Ngozi, Themba’s HR Director. She knew that her husband needed more time to deal with his guilt and embarrassment.

You are never too Experienced for a Mentor

Mr. Ngozi admitted to Kate that after Themba’s episode and what she said to him, he decided to consult one of his previous managers, Ms. Maluleke. He asked her to be his mentor. Mr. Ngozi realized that as an HR Manager he had failed Themba and all employees. He had allowed himself to be an order taker from the CEO and not the strategic partner that he was supposed to be. Through Ms. Maluleke’s help, he has rekindled his passion for being the conscience of the organization in the boardroom.
Mr. Ngozi had also appointed a consulting company to help with developing and implementing an Integrated Talent Management framework. Even though it was early days, Mr. Ngozi had noticed some changes in the employees. The tension in the corridors had lessened. The consultants had stressed the importance of implementing leadership development programmes focusing on leading self, others and the organization. These programs were aligned to the organisation’s vision, strategic priorities, leadership philosophy and values.
Mr. Ngozi knew that there was still a long way to go to embed the new behaviours and make them sustainable. Hence he appointed Executive Coaches for the Executive team to support them during the change. He was also in the process of appointing an Organisation Development practitioner to oversee Talent Management, Culture and other OD interventions to facilitate employee engagement. Mr. Ngozi thanked Kate for telling him the truth on the day that she picked up her husband. He assured her that Themba’s job was safe.

Time to Heal

Kate decided to take her family for a retreat. She told Themba that they were going on a month-long family holiday. Unbeknown to Themba, Kate had arranged coaching sessions with the owner of the retreat. Mr. Sibiya, the owner of the farm was an Executive Coach. He has experience in dealing with overworked Executives who had lost passion for life and their jobs.
Mr. Sibiya was an excellent host. Themba never suspected anything. He found it easy to talk to Mr. Sibiya. In one of their conversations, Mr. Sibiya gave Themba a note written “you will never feel truly satisfied by work until you are satisfied by life”. Themba read the note a number of times and pondered on it.
He asked himself if ever he was truly satisfied about his life. What exactly is life? What has he been doing all along? What does it mean to be satisfied by life? Was there a difference between life and work?
That night Themba couldn’t sleep. Kate woke up to an empty bed. She saw her husband writing furiously in his journal. She was happy to see the positive effects the retreat and Mr. Sibiya had on her husband.

Let the Coaching Begin!

The following morning, Themba went in search of Mr. Sibiya. He was excited about his reflections. He wanted to share them with his new found friend. On seeing Themba approaching, Mr. Sibiya knew that the Coaching sessions have just begun.
For the rest of the holiday, Themba and Mr. Sibiya met daily for Coaching sessions. Themba was not aware that he was being coached. Their discussions included Themba’s job, his breakdown, childhood, incorporating his responsibilities as a son, husband, father and leader at work. Mr. Sibiya always asked Themba thought-provoking questions. He encouraged Themba to write down his thoughts and practice mindfulness. Themba rediscovered his love for writing. The exercises gave him understanding, insight and peace into what happened.
On the last evening of their holiday, Themba thanked Kate for the holiday. He shared with her some of his reflections. The sessions with Mr. Sibiya had helped to reflect and clarify questions about:

  • His personal and family purpose and vision?
  • Leadership philosophy?
  • His beliefs, values and assumptions?
  • Is work separate from his life or a part of his life?
  • What does it mean to live an integrated life?
  • What has the breakdown taught him about himself, how to treat others and life in general?
  • How is he going to support his team members, peers and colleagues?

Themba vowed that from that day onwards, he was going to be authentic. He would be a man whom all the people connected to him are proud of. Most importantly he was going to take care of himself and team because he realized that they are total human beings. Themba promised to ensure that there is a balance between driving for business results and taking care of employees.

The Value of a Wise Spouse

Themba never found out that the whole retreat was planned by his wife. Kate was a wise woman. She let Themba believe that he had discovered a way to heal himself. She knew that great leaders make people say  “we did it ourselves”!
Thanks for reading this story to the end. You might want to reflect on it. Please do by commenting. If you like the story or if you think other people could benefit from reading it, don’t hesitate to share it through your social networks.

I am a Leader. I am a Person. The story of Themba.

This is the story of Themba, a managing director and self-made man. This blog is the first part in a series of 2.

Themba’s Family Dynamics

Themba is a managing director at a construction company. He started working there when he was 20 years old. Themba had completed his matric (grade 12) certificate two years earlier. His parents couldn’t afford to take him to university. His father, James, had been in exile for most of his young life. Themba was brought up by his mother and grandmother. James came back from exile being an angry and bitter man. He could not find work even though he had sacrificed his youth and family for the struggle. He turned to alcohol in order to deal with the anger he felt towards his country.
James was sometimes abusive towards Themba and his mother. Themba developed anger and hatred towards his father and the struggle. Even though he had good matric results, Themba couldn’t secure a bursary. After two years of searching, he found a temporal job as a clerk at a construction company. His mother, Thandi, encouraged him to work very hard. She believed that if he worked diligently the boss may put in a good word for him and he can get a bursary. Themba didn’t get the bursary he was hoping for, but was appointed permanently as an administrator.

Hard work pays

Themba was dedicated to his work. He moved up through the ranks because of his experience.  In his promotions, Themba was never appointed to lead anyone. He was a brilliant specialist. He decided to further his studies and registered for a degree in Business Management. He passed his degree with a distinction. Then, he registered and completed an MBA. His employer rewarded him with a promotion to a Senior Specialist position. After 3 years in his new position and helping the company to increase its revenue, Themba was again promoted.  This time he was promoted to a leadership position.
Themba was thrilled at the prospect of earning more money. However, he was anxious to lead people. His HR director never spoke to him about the competencies required to lead people. He just knew through his studies that he needed to know how to manage and lead. He has always been an introvert and didn’t know if he can be able to talk to people. He shared his frustrations with his wife, Kate. Kate was a manager in an Accounting firm. She had experience in leading people. She therefore understood her husband’s feelings.

Role of HR and OD

Kate was fortunate because her company had an active HR and Organisation Development division. The HR director was well-respected in the company. She was up to date with environmental and HR changes in the industry. Hence, she contributed effectively to the company’s strategic direction. The company had good Talent, Performance Management, Coaching and Mentoring strategies and frameworks in place. Kate was properly trained and prepared to transition from one position to the next. The company had a leadership philosophy which was frequently communicated to all the leaders. Leaders were also held accountable for living the company’s values through the implementation of 360° evaluations.  Employee Engagement surveys were conducted annually. Line Managers were held accountable for the debriefing of the EE results, as well as the implementations of suggestions from employees. The company also made sure that all employees knew and understood the company’s vision and priorities.
Some leaders and HR practitioners were trained as Internal Coaches. Most managers and employees would, depending on the results of their talent discussions and needs, be allocated an internal or external Coach and Mentor.
Kate shared all the interventions that her company had implemented with Themba. She advised him to talk to his HR director, Mr. Ngozi, to seek for help. Themba was envious about all the interventions that were being implemented in his wife’s company. However, he was doubtful about his CEO and Mr. Ngozi buying into and implementing these interventions. Like him, his CEO and Mr. Ngozi have never worked for any other company. They have been promoted through the ranks because of their experience. They were only interested in results, and didn’t care about the employees.

Putting up a front

On the first date as the new managing director, Themba made an appointment to see Mr. Ngozi.  Mr. Ngozi was very happy to have found someone to fill the position. During their discussion, Themba realized that if he shared his fears with Mr. Ngozi, he will be regarded as weak. It might give an impression that he was not the right person for the position. He therefore kept quiet and decided to just go along with it.
Themba had another dilemma. His team members were once his peers. So they knew each other’s strengths and shortcomings. They would sometimes manipulate him and take advantage of their friendship. In order to deal with this challenge, Themba became aggressive. He would bark orders; shout at his team if they didn’t behave as expected. He put a wall around himself to hide his feelings of inadequacy.

Is it worth it?

Then, Themba started to neglect his family. Most of his time he spent at work. When Kate confronted him, he was defensive. He also became aggressive towards Kate and the kids. He saw himself behaving the same way as his father did. He began to hate himself. Themba felt overwhelmed but didn’t know what to do. His world was crumbling down in and around him. He was unhappy but pretended that he had everything under control.
One day Kate received a call from Themba’s HR director. Themba had suffered a breakdown. He had shouted and swore at his team, peers and everyone in the company. Themba had told Mr. Ngozi that Mr. Ngozi was useless. He had failed to implement all the interventions that were implemented in Kate’s company.
So, when Kate came to pick up her husband, Mr. Ngozi asked her to explain what Themba had said. Kate’s only said “Remember to treat your employees as total human beings!”
If you were the HR director, what would be your next step?

Reinvent or Become Extinct! Leadership Development

This Blog is on Leadership Development. If leaders do not continuously learn and reinvent themselves, they might have difficulties to maintain their leadership. Or as Tshamani Mathebula says it: they will become extinct.


The VUCA World

Since the 1990’s there’s been a lot of reference to the VUCA world. It refers to the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of the business environment. Organizations should consider the elements of VUCA when making strategic plans and decisions.  Innovation is deemed to be necessary for organizations to survive and remain relevant in this world. Customers are no longer interested in legacy, but what organizations can do for them today.
This means that individuals specifically leaders, are also expected to be innovative if they are to remain relevant. Leaders can no longer rely on their experiences only. People stop listening when leaders use words such as “we used to do it like this”. They are looking for leaders who are able to use their experience in a manner that is relevant to current challenges and realities.

“What is that which always is and has no becoming, and what is that which becomes but never is”

In an environment that is always changing, leaders are faced with the challenge to innovate and reinvent themselves. This enables them to remain relevant without losing their core essence. It is important for leaders to first define their leadership identity and philosophy. This then becomes their personal brand. It differentiates them from other leaders. Having a clear understanding of their personal brand enables leaders to innovate without losing who they are.
Leaders can learn a lot from artists. They manage to reinvent themselves. In South Africa we have Bra Hugh Masekela. His music has evolved with the times. However, his signature sound, voice, sense of humour and trumpet has remained as is. He has identified his personal brand and innovated around it. He is 78 years old, but the young and old sing along and dance to his music.

(c) https://hughmasekela.co.za

Ways in which leaders can innovate and reinvent themselves include:

  • Continuous learning to ensure agility.

    It allows leaders to be flexible, grow from mistakes, and remain resilient. Douglas Kruger, in his book “50 ways to Innovate” quotes Alvin Toffler’s philosophy that “the illiterate of the 21st century are not those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”. Gone are the days when leaders were admired because of their academic qualifications. These qualifications give them a foothold into organizations and different platforms. However, what will increase and sustain their credibility is what they do when they are given such opportunities.
    Organizations are interested in performance. Employees are very critical about their leaders’ leadership skills and style. They challenge what you know.
    This does not mean that leaders must know everything. However, leaders should be able to know the changes that are happening within their industry and areas of expertise. They should be able to unlearn the old and relearn new things continuously.
    Leaders should never be married to their qualifications, knowledge and ideas. They should be open minded and know that there are certain things they don’t know. Leaders are encouraged to attend conferences to help them network with other colleagues. The conferences also help to keep them updated about the latest developments in the industry. Furthermore, it puts them around an energy force that stimulates innovation.

  • Read beyond your area of expertise

    Sometimes leaders can get stuck in reading leadership books and literature only. This only makes them to be experts in their field. It doesn’t allow them to understand the world and challenges outside their frame of reference. Reading different subjects and interacting with people that are different to you expands your world view. Human Resources professionals and other support functions who show understanding, and can speak the business language in their organizations receive a lot of respect from line managers. Their advice is often sought and listened to by their clients. Hence they are able to positively influence and contribute in the strategic direction of their organization. Such leaders are able to move and be promoted to any strategic position within their organization.

  • Challenge yourself with a “what if” question

    Douglas Kruger challenges organizations to look at what is awful about their products and services. He encourages organizations to look at and experience their products from their customers’ perspective. As a leader, it is important to be aware of the impact you have on others. How people experience you as a leader. It is unfortunate that the world is governed by perception and not by facts or truth. People tend to make decisions based on their sensory perceptions. People are always watching leaders. Leaders are judged by their behavior without really understanding all the issues that lie below the waterline. They are also expected to role model the behavior that is aligned to the organizations’ values. The challenge for leaders is therefore to ask themselves questions such as:

    • “I have good relationships with my colleagues and team members, but what if I could improve my interactions with them”;
    • “I have just conducted Performance discussions with my team members and I think it went well, what if I could improve my performance coaching skills”

Failure to innovate

It is a bitter pill to swallow. However as human beings we must accept that we are replaceable. Failure to reinvent ourselves in our careers can render us obsolete. Rasmus Ankerson, in his book “the gold mine effect”, interviewed Sentayehu Eshetu, an athletics coach in Bekoji (Ethiopia). The coach trains about 300 youngsters at a time. These youngsters are willing to do anything to succeed. Their biggest fear is not to be discovered.
Unfortunately some leaders behave as if they are indispensable. Literature is full of case studies about organizations that refused to adapt to change. They ended up being destroyed by new players in the market. The question for leaders is therefore, what are you willing to do to remain relevant in your position?

Coaching and Mentoring

Leaders are encouraged to appoint a Coach and a Mentor. These professionals help to challenge and stretch leaders out of their comfort zone.
Leaders should continuously reinvent themselves or they will become extinct.

Is Motivation Really Necessary?

Motivation is a leader’s responsibility, says Tshamani Mathebula.

Sundown vs Zamalek

On the 23rd October 2016 Sundowns FC, a South African Football Club played against Zamalek Sporting Club. Zamalek SC is an Egyptian Club and one of the best clubs in Africa. Sundowns FC won the game. They became the Confederation of African Football (CAF) champions for 2016. You can find more about the game here.
A few weeks later on the 19th November 2016, Sundowns had to play against the Kaizer Chiefs. Kaizer Chiefs is another South African Football club that has very good players. A few days before the game, an interview was held with the Sundowns’ coach, Pitso Mosimane. In the interview the coach said this: “I don’t know what to say to motivate the players. They have just won the CAF championship.  I am not a psychologist, so I don’t know how to motivate them further than this“.
The Coach’s response surprised and fascinated me. It made me think about how important motivation is and about the role of the leader in motivating employees. How honest and vulnerable should a leader be with their team and the public. Leaders do not need to be psychologists. However, it is their responsibility to motivate employees. This ensures that they improve their performance and productivity.

Playing to win

Sundowns went on to win the game against Kaizer Chiefs. This happened even though the coach had confessed in public that he does not know how to motivate them. Two things could have happened. First option:  he was honest with the players.  He probably told the players that he has nothing to say to motivate them. They must just go out and play the best game. The second option could be that the coach lied to the nation. He was able to motivate the players.
For this article, I choose to go with the first option. So let’s assume that the coach really did have nothing to say. So what could have motivated the players to win the game? And if this kind of dedication can happen in the soccer field, what stops it from happening within organizations?

Ensuring Employee Engagement

Leaders spend sleepless nights – and lots of money – trying to figure out how they can motivate their employees. There’s a lot of research on the importance of motivation on employee engagement. In addition to other motivating factors such as decent pay and good working environment, communication is one of the critical elements in motivating employees. In situations where employees feel disengaged and discouraged, exceptional leaders have given great speeches to motivate and inspire their team members. Leaders receive training to do presentations and public speaking. Organizations hire motivational speakers to motivate employees.
However, our case in point shows that sometimes it is not necessary to give a moving motivational speech when players go out to the field to play. At some point, employees need to take accountability of their actions and performance. They should not wait for the leader to always play the role of a “cheerleader”. And more, Sundowns players always receive nice bonuses when they win Championships.
The question is at what point can we say that employees have reached a level of maturity to be able to motivate themselves? It is also obvious that for employees to reach that maturity level, leaders would have worked hard in getting them there. When do you as a leader know that you have done enough?

Transformational Leadership and Motivation

Last year I completed my Masters research on “the relationship between the practice of transformational leadership and a high-performance culture”.  I found that employees place high value on intellectual stimulation and inspirational motivation.
Literature refers to intellectual stimulation as “leaders’ actions that call on employees’ intellectual capabilities by challenging them to think creatively and find solutions to difficult problems”.
A definition of Inspirational leadership is  “the ways leaders inspire and encourage employees to accept challenging goals and to look beyond their self-interest. Leaders encourage high standards, express hope and empower their team members. In that way employees develop confidence in their skills, abilities and potential”. the word inspiration comes from the Latin word inspirer. It means to breathe into or to provide oxygen, and subsequently, life. This means that inspirational leaders give their team members a reason or purpose to work. Hence they find meaning and purpose in their work.
From the above description, it is clear that the Sundowns coach and leadership had done a lot of work to inspire and empower the players. So the coach knew that they had reached a maturity level wherein they can face any challenge and come up with creative solutions. The players are confident about their skills, abilities and potential. Furthermore, they know the vision. The coach has helped them to find meaning and purpose in playing soccer. In her book “the Secret”, Rhonda Byrne refers to this as inspired action. 

The Secret of Motivation

Inspired action happens when people work to achieve meaning in their lives. Something that is within them drives them. Not some extrinsic motivation. The members do not need a leader who is always by their side to cheer them on to achieve what they set out to do. So the challenge that leaders have is how to get employees to reach a level of inspired action.
More about Soccer Training from Sport-Fitness-Advisor.

Ghetto Leadership: Lessons from the Slums.

Ghetto Mentality in the corporate World

A ghetto is a part of a city, especially a slum in which members of minority groups are isolated because of social, legal, or economic pressure.  Ghettos are associated with scarcity. In his famous book “The 7 Habits of Effective People”, Stephen Covey differentiates between an abundant and scarcity mentality. He encourages people to have abundance or “win-win” mindset. The focus of this article is to help leaders identify when and how they have been acting from a scarcity or “win-lose” mentality.
The ghetto mentality is one in which people’s mindset about life is informed by poverty and fear. Although the people may have physically moved out of the ghetto, they are still psychologically stuck.  This mentality is also evident in the way leaders behave. I should also mention that it is not only the people who grew up in the ghettos who have this kind of mentality. However, those who grew up in rich neighborhoods can also have a ghetto mentality.

The World is the Ghetto

In 1977 George Benson released the song “The Ghetto”. He outlines the lifestyle of people who live in ghettos. I am going to use some of the lyrics to describe certain behavior patterns displayed by leaders with a ghetto mentality.

  1. I wouldn’t shoot you bro, but I’d shoot that fool if he played me close and tried to test my cool”.

Leaders with a ghetto mentality are feared. They are aggressive and lose their temper easily. Even though they are able to put a mask, and be friendly, everyone knows not to challenge them.  They believe that they have to be right and perfect all the time. They want to always be in control of their emotions. Vulnerability is a swear word. They also want to control how others think and behave. These leaders have an invisible wall around them. They do not let people in their space. They feel they always have to protect themselves, lest they lose their cool.

  1. “Every day I wonder just how I’ll die. Only thing I know is how to survive”

Living in a gang infested area is very dangerous. Leaders with a ghetto mentality never feel safe in their organizations. If it was possible to have bodyguards, they would. They always have spies or informants around the organization. These leaders do not trust anyone. They see other Departments, teams and colleagues as rival gang members who need to be destroyed before they attack. They live in fear that everything they have worked hard for may be destroyed or could crumble down at any moment. And they protect their turf.
These leaders do not understand team work and collaboration. They find it difficult to embrace interdependence. They will do anything to get that promotion or bonus. Such leaders are only focused on making themselves look good, even at the expense of others. Their main goal is to survive at all costs.

  1. “There’s only one rule in the world, and that’s to take care of you, only you and yours”

Due to their lack of trust, these leaders do not understand their role of developing and empowering their followers. They see everyone as competitors who are there to take bread out of their mouths. These leaders do not feel guilty about stealing other people’s ideas. Concepts such as succession planning are strange to them. They are always busy with some or other project. They find mentoring or coaching others to be a waste of time.

  1. “Mama’s next door getting high even though she’s got five mouths to feed. She’s rather spend her money on a h-i-t”.

Leaders with a ghetto mentality get easily addicted to power. Experts maintain that power produces a pleasure-inducing neurological response. It motivates people to desire establishing ever-greater control over others. Just like a mother who forgets her children for the next score, these leaders also do not care about their team members. Life revolves around getting the next fix. The most important thing is how they get the next adulation and power. Even when they see that they are failing and the organization is crumbling because of them, they refuse to resign and let others lead. So status and power become a drug that they find hard to wean themselves out.

  1. Even though they put us down and call us animals, we make real big bugs and buy brand new clothes. We drive fancy cars, make love to stars. Young kids grow up and that’s all they know”.

Gangsters are known to be stylish dressers. They wear branded clothes and drive expensive cars. Young kids growing up in such neighborhoods are attracted into the lifestyle. They associate appearance and material possessions with success. This kind of mentality is also evident in the boardrooms. There is nothing wrong with caring about your appearance as a leader, in fact it is encouraged. The biggest problem comes in when leaders become so focused in their image and forget to work on the inner person. Leaders with a ghetto mentality measure their success by their material possessions. They thrive on receiving compliments about their dress sense, where they live and the cars they drive. They have a tendency of surrounding themselves with weaklings who treat them as demigods.
Unfortunately these leaders produce leaders who also have a ghetto mentality. The young leaders do not know any better. They think that such behavior is normal.

Hope for the Future

Having a ghetto mentality is equal to being in prison. You always need to put up your guard and defend yourself. It can be very tiring. The opposite of which is to have an abundant mentality. This mentality enables leaders to flourish instead of floundering. Indeed, there are large numbers of self-help books written to equip leaders with the techniques of moving from the ghetto mentality to an abundance mindset. Leaders are encouraged to appoint a coach that will help them to identify their own mental prisons. The next article will be focusing on how leaders with an abundance mentality behave.

Seductive Leaders use the Power of Words

This blog is about seductive leaders. They seduce people through the power of words.

Dance Lessons

Kevin has developed an innovative idea for his organization. His manager arranged a slot for him to present his idea to the top management. He was very anxious. He had never presented anything to the top management before. He knew that this was an opportunity to sell himself. He had to impress them.
Kevin’s wife, Caroline helped him to prepare the presentation. Even though everything was in place and packaged properly, he was nervous. Caroline was a retired professional dancer. She was now a part-time dance teacher and life coach. She used dance principles to coach her clients. She had seen dance transform leaders to come out of their shells. Caroline knew that it was time her husband received some dance lessons and coaching.
That evening, Caroline asked Kevin “have you considered seducing your top management to buy into your ideas?” Kevin couldn’t believe what he heard. He looked at her as if she has grown something on her forehead. He thought “of all people, Caroline knew that he was an introvert and shy. He would never dream of being bold to seduce top managers. Anyway 85% of them were males. They would think he is crazy and fire him on the spot!”

The Art of Seduction

Caroline knew what Kevin was thinking. Before he could respond she said:
“Let me explain what I mean. I know that the word “seduction” is associated with attracting and leading people astray. It also sounds manipulative. But think about this way. Seducers have certain powers that enable them to convince others to do their bidding. They have qualities that you need right now. You want top management to buy-into, commit and support your idea. You need to find a way of showing them it is a workable idea. Think about the best leaders who are able to convince their employees to buy into their vision. They have a certain charm that makes people to follow and trust that they won’t lead them astray. They have mastered the power of seduction. I think it is about time you learned the art of seduction through dance. I will meet you in my dance studio tomorrow at exactly 17:30”Caroline left him before he could think of an excuse.
Kevin was intrigued. He was not keen to take the lessons. He has two left feet. However, he knew that arguing with his wife was a waste of time. He also knew that if he wanted peace at home, he better show up and come prepared at 17:30 the next day.

Seductive Leaders

At exactly 17:30 the following day, Kevin found his wife waiting for him. Caroline was already in her teacher/mentor mode. She told Kevin that everyone is able to seduce. If they can master the skill, they can get anything they want. She advised him to use the following tips:

  1. Change mindset.

I define mindset  as “a fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of situations”.  Leaders know that it is important to control and stalk their thoughts. Kevin has attended a personal mastery course. He knows the importance of positive thoughts and self-talks. He used to do his affirmation and visualization exercises. Unfortunately, he had stopped.
Caroline reminded Kevin to resume his affirmation exercises. She also advised him to visualize himself delivering a flawless and successful presentation. Kevin was further reminded of articulating who he is, what he wants, and his worth.

  1. Power posing

Caroline shared with Kevin the findings of body language and confidence research that was conducted by Amy Cuddy, a Social Psychologist. She found that when people stand in a confidence posture, even when they don’t feel confident, they exude self-confidence. She called this “power posing”. Here you can find a TedTalk by her.
Power posing also influences feelings of confidence in the poser. Power posing stimulates higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol. Testosterone is associated with male dominance, power and greater tolerance to risk. Whereas lower levels of cortisol is associated with lower levels of stress. Hence Kevin would benefit from power posing whilst presenting his idea.
Leaders need to be able to instill confidence in others. In a TEDtalk, Benjamin Zander made a bold statement. He said that before the end of his talk, everyone watching and listening to him would come to love classical music. He said it with such confidence that the audience believed him. Leaders need to learn the skill of looking and feeling confident even when they do not. Any sign of doubt, whether through speech or action, can send employees on a downward spiral.

  1. Create desire

Dancers have learned the skill of making themselves desirable. Their ability to move their bodies in sync with the music, and their dancing partners, invokes an emotion of yearning to be part of the dance from the audience. Caroline taught Kevin to make his idea desirable by focusing on answering the “why?” and “what’s in it for the organization” questions.
Effective leaders know that everyone wants to be associated with success. They speak from the heart and with passion. They believe in their ideas. They have no doubt that they will win. These leaders touch the peoples’ hearts before asking for their hands.

  1. Master your craft

Dancers excel in their craft because they spend time practicing and perfecting their choreography. Their moves look effortless. They leave the audience in awe and yearning for more. Caroline stressed that Kevin must ensure that he knows his product intimately. He must be prepared to answer any questions.
Being able to seduce is not enough. It only helps to attract and entice people. People want leaders who are capable and can deliver on their promises. Hence leaders must be able to develop, sell and give direction on the execution of strategies.

The power of words

Words have the power to build, inspire and destroy. Seductive Leaders have the opportunity to turn words that are normally used negatively into a positive experience for themselves and others.
Picture Credit: this picture has been used in another blog by Stacy Johnson.

If it is not about me, then who? (The Warrior)

This blog is about the leader as warrior. Or maybe better why the leader is not the warrior. It’s not about the leader, but about those who are led.

The Interview

I recently listened to an interview over the radio. The journalist was interviewing a CEO of a company that was going through some challenges. The company did not meet its performance targets. However, the executive team received large amounts in performance bonus. The journalist wanted to understand what was going on and the reasons for making such huge payouts. The CEO was cagey, defensive and rude. The interviewer never lost his cool. He kept asking questions to get to the truth. At the end of the interview, he politely thanked the CEO.


The dictionary defines professionalism as “the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well”. The interviewer was the epitome of professionalism. Even though the interview was difficult, I enjoyed it. I felt that the interviewer fully represented me and my interests. He helped answer some of the questions that I had. He did not take the CEO’s responses personally. He remained objective and respectful throughout the interview. He understood that his job is to serve his listeners.
This interview made me think of my behavior as a leader. When I find myself in a similar position. Having a “difficult” employee who regularly asks questions, challenges my decisions and knows exactly which buttons to push. Do I stay calm and professional? Am I open to listen to their opinion? Or do I become defensive and play “I am the boss here, do as I say. You are paid to work and not to think” line.
I also need to be aware that sometimes it is not what I say that communicates my feelings and opinions. However, my actions and body language forms part of my professionalism. We can all learn from the way the interviewer handled himself. If all leaders subscribed to the notion that we are servants of the people we lead, then we would invite and encourage such challenges. We would see them as opportunities to learn. Furthermore, we would understand that it is not about us, but the people we lead. 

Leadership and quantum physics

I know there are differing opinions about quantum physics. But let us assume for a moment that we all believed in the theory. It would be easy to accept the concepts of holography, oneness and inter-connectivity. According to holography, “the whole is contained in each and all pieces”. We are all connected. Whatever we think, do or say affects everyone in the organization. It forms part of the collective subconscious. This understanding is critical to the way leaders view their responsibilities.
Quantum physics also challenges us to consider that we live in a world of infinite possibilities. We are born to manifest this world of infinite possibilities. Our subordinates are human beings with unlimited potential to solve problems, make decisions and be innovative. The only thing standing in the way of living up to their full potential is their self-limiting beliefs. Leaders have the responsibility to help employees unleash their potential. This can be done through delegation, coaching and mentoring. This kind of thinking helps to transform leaders and their teams from approaching their responsibilities and challenges from a scarcity to an abundance mentality. The world of economics teaches us that we always have limited resources. However, we know that we have unlimited internal resources to help us get far beyond we ever dared to dream.

The Leader as the Quantum Warrior

As we commit ourselves to lead and empower others, help them in their personal journey to realize their life’s purpose and become the full expression of themselves, we become quantum warriors. Living in this way also helps us dedicate ourselves to excellence and authenticity so that we can be the best in whatever we do. Whilst in the process achieving our life’s purpose. We gain inner strength and more confidence in our roles as leaders. We know that we are part of something greater than we are. We therefore know and believe without any shadow of doubt in the ancient unpanished saying that “when a blade of grass is cut, the whole world quivers”. Most importantly we know that it is not about us, but the people we lead and the whole universe.

Help! My Employees are disengaged (part 2 – HIV)!

This is the second part of a blog. You can find the first part here.

Leading from the heart

After the meeting with Mr. Jacobs, Phindile reflected on their conversation. She thought about her behavior as a leader. She realized that in her pursuit to be successful, she has lost touch with people. Yes, she did talk to them when she met them in the passages. She also held monthly meetings with them. But she never really connected with them. She realized that she doesn’t know the people she works with. They also do not know her. She knew that if she connected with them, they will learn to trust her again and give her honest feedback.
She remembered a story she read about a young gifted tenor who auditioned for a song, but was rejected. The success of the audition depended on understanding the degree of sadness, vulnerability and loss. The singer was too perfect. He missed the emotional expression of the song. By wanting to sing a perfect song, he failed to connect with the listener.
Phindile knew that if she wants to be successful in leading from the heart, she needed to use the power of HIV (Humility, Interdependence and Vulnerability).

The Power of HIV

Humility and vulnerability are noble qualities. Due to childhood conditioning, some leaders do not want to be associated with them. Growing up, Phindile was taught to be “humble”. She was expected to be unassuming and never to talk about accomplishments. She would be viewed as arrogant. This conditioning has led her to see humility as being unassertive and timid. At work she saw others being hurt by people they have opened up to. She vowed never to be vulnerable. To protect herself at all costs. Phindile saw vulnerability as a sign of weakness. As she thought about her mentor and what he has taught her throughout the years, she saw that he was successful in leading people because he was an embodiment of these qualities.
She remembered that at some point in their interaction, Mr. Jacobs’ daughter was very sick. His family found it difficult to deal with the sickness. It was taking a toll on him. One day during their mentoring sessions, he shared with her the emotional and physical strain that he and his wife were experiencing. He showed humility and vulnerability. She saw that he was a human being. He also encounters challenges in life. From that day, her respect and appreciation for him grew. He showed that he also needed her. He showed genuine appreciation for her words of comfort. He taught her that they need each other
She now understood why most employees could relate to him. He never wore a mask. He was honest with his challenges. He also actively listened to people. He was fully present. . Hence employees would never want to disappoint him.
Phindile learned that being HIV is far from being unassertive, timid or weak. Her mentor was one of the most confident and shrewd business people she knew. Yet he displayed all these virtues. Being HIV is about self-acceptance, having a positive self-regard, and being enlightened. Leaders that are HIV understand their identity. They do not desert their post and give up their leadership badge.

Phindile’s reflections

Through her conversation with her mentor and the subsequent reflections, Phindile resolved to:

  • Have a mentor and or coach: Leadership positions can be lonely. The pressures and expectations can be overwhelming. Without the right support structure and team, leaders often make hasty and uninformed decisions. A Coach and mentor will help Phindile to reflect on her experiences, thought processes and behavior. She will get expert guidance and advice. She will also learn new skills and knowledge to help her become a great leader. Mentors and Coaches are objective and will give her honest feedback.
  • Connect with people: Employees listen to the words, how they are said and body language. They want a leader who shows belief and passion in what they are saying. Not a mechanistic leader who just tick boxes. Leaders also connect with people by showing them respect. Respectful leaders treat employees as human beings. They do not consider rank or level. Such leaders interact and listen to all employees with genuine interest. They acknowledge their contribution. Hence employees feel cared for.
  • Being HIV: The Human Immunodeficiency Virus was viewed by many as a death sentence. People were afraid to disclose their status for fear of being stigmatized. Many have found their life’s purpose and meaning by accepting their status. They have become activists. They teach others how to live meaningful and productive lives. They wouldn’t have been able to do so if they were HIV negative. Phindile needs to learn to remove her mask and open up to employees. They will see who she really is. They will be able identify with her and learn to trust her.
  • Set aside time for reflection: Leaders need to create time for reflection. It enables leaders to get off the dance floor for a while. To sit on the balcony and observe themselves interacting with others, making decisions as well as mistakes. It gives them an opportunity to learn from their mistakes. They are able to come back on the dance floor refreshed. They are calmer, think clearly and able to make improved decisions.
  • Ownership: Employee engagement is a leaders’ responsibility and not only the Human Resources departments. Most organizations conduct annual surveys but the engagement does not improve. This is due to some leaders’ failure to implement the recommended interventions.
  • Balance operational requirements and people issues: Organizations need good systems and processes as well as the right people to do the job. In some cases, leaders bow to the pressure of making profits. They do this at the expense of their employees. Great leaders are those who understand the importance of engagement, and are able to balance soft and hard skills.


“The real measure of any leader is the ability to leverage relationships to influence others to embrace accountability”
Peter Aceto


Help! My Employees are disengaged (part 1).

Phindile is a CEO of a big South African IT company. She started at the bottom of the rank as an Engineer. She was identified as a high potential employee and taken through the company’s leadership development programme. Phindile was paired with a mentor, Mr. Jacobs. Mr. Jacobs is director and had applied for early retirement. However, before he left, he was requested to mentor a successor.
When Phindile took over the reigns as a CEO, her dreams were fulfilled. She was passionate about her job, cared about the people and the company. In the past 5 years that she was at the helm of leadership, the company grew exponentially. As the client base increased, more employees were appointed and new systems and processes introduced. The employees were paid well and received great performance bonuses and incentives. Everyone was happy.

Change and disengagement

However, in the past six months, sales had started to decrease. The leadership team blamed it on the economy. They believed that things will improve before financial year end. During their Annual meeting, the situation had worsened. The company had lost some of its important clients. There were rumors that they will be losing more clients. Some of their best employees were also leaving. Phindile knew that if things continued as they were, she would be compelled to retrench people or close the company. This would mean she would have failed not only herself, but her parents, mentor, employees and their families, as well as every young girl who regarded her as a role model.
Phindile hired consultants to help diagnose and solve the problem. They found that the company had the best systems and processes. Low employee morale and disengagement was identified as the root cause to the company’s problems. Phindile was very confused. She knew that her company paid the best salaries. Each time she met employees, they seemed happy. Her team had never indicated to her that employees were disgruntled. The report did not make sense to her.

Mentorship conversations

Phindile realized that she needed help from someone who will give her honest feedback. She remembered her old mentor, Mr. Jacobs. Unbeknown to Phindile, Mr. Jacobs had kept in touch with his previous colleagues. He knew what was going on. Hence he was very happy when he received a call from her. He had heard that she had a reputation of not accepting failure or bad news. She was temperamental and known to cut grown men to size. Her team preferred to tell her what they thought she wanted to hear, instead of the truth. But Mr. Jacobs knew that Phindile was a caring person, open to growth and feedback. He understood that due to the pressure of her position, she could have developed a shield to protect herself. He saw that Phindile’s behavior was a defense mechanism. Unfortunately she had begun to lose her identity and was seen as a tyrant.
During the meeting, Phindile poured her heart out to her mentor. Mr. Jacobs asked her when last she had open and honest conversations with the employees. She could not understand how this could be related to her problems. She always held monthly meetings with all employees. These meetings were in her annual calendar. She has never missed a meeting. The purpose of these meetings was to motivate employees, inform them about the company’s performance and how far they were towards achieving their annual targets. During these meetings, she made sure that she referred to the company’s vision, mission and its values. She also gave recognized individuals and teams that exceeded their performance targets. These were the things that she was taught at the business school. Hence she was confused with the consultants’ report.
Mr. Jacobs knew about the meetings. He had initiated them a long time ago. He reminded her of the visits he used to make to the plant. They reminisced about how he used to spend one day in a month with all the engineers and technicians at the plant. It was where Phindile first met him.
Mr. Jacobs would work next to the different individuals. He would sometimes have lunch with them at the canteen. He had good relationships with all employees. He knew them by their names. The employees trusted him. He knew what would happen before their managers did. He was never caught by surprise about his employees’ actions.

The Tao of Employee Engagement

Mr. Jacobs reminded Phindile about the book “The Art of War” that he once gave her to read. He referred her to one of the quotes: “the natural formation of the country is the soldier’s best ally”. In the book, the author was referring to the environment or landscape in battle. Mr. Jacobs reminded Phindile that the company operates in the external and internal environment. She realized that she was focusing more on the external environment. She relied on others and financial incentives to deal with the internal environment, specifically her employees. She had forgotten that relationships matter. At the end of the meeting, Mr. Jacobs told Phindile that he knew she could turn the ship around. She just needed to remember to lead from the heart.
See also Gallup’s article on disengagement: the worldwide employee engagement crisis.
(to be continued )