We are living in difficult times. A lot of reflection on what is right and what is wrong is happening at the moment. We have started questioning ourselves about our ways and what we can do better. During my high school years, I was a very enthusiastic basketball player. By enthusiastic I mean that I played every day but was never a good player. I struggled most of the time, so I spent most of my basketball ‘career’ in fixing mode. My coach constantly told me “when things are not going well, go back to the basics and you will find the solution”. A couple of months ago, I decided to go back to the basics and reflect on how I could add value to the people around me.
The curse of the virus
“May you live in interesting times,” states the Chinese curse. Courtesy of a global pandemic that arose in Wuhan in the Chinese province of Hubei, we certainly are. (Conspiracy theorists may counter that America introduced the virus covertly into China, see https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/12/conspiracy-theory-that-coronavirus-originated-in-us-gaining-traction-in-china.) The world is in lockdown. Even President Trump has had to backtrack from saying it was a non-event and all would be sorted by Easter to saying things are going to get far worse. The picture of the huge US navy hospital ship, USNS Comfort, entering New York harbour is deeply dispiriting.
Today is Shrove Tuesday. It is the traditional feast day before the start of Lent. Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter. This was traditionally a period of fasting and on Shrove Tuesday, Anglo-Saxon Christians went to confession and were ‘Shriven’ (absolved from their sins). Lent is also a time when people commit to giving up certain luxuries – hence the question “What are you giving up for Lent?” As you can see, I know today’s feast day as ‘Pancake Day’. And my plan is to give up pancakes for a year – until Shrove Tuesday comes around again in 2021.
Once again I have to remind myself this is a leadership blog, not a culinary one. So what can leaders give up for Lent? Maybe the ‘luxuries’ of error, laziness and omission. For inspiration I looked back at recent articles from our merry band of Guest Authors and came up with five negative traits leaders might consider giving up for Lent.
As we reach the end of the year, the decade even, the opportunity to blog also presents the opportunity to reflect – and what a year it’s been!
We seem to be ever more at odds in our society, our politics, our lives, with the main casualty seemingly being truth – who knew fake news would be a thing?
And, as I’ve touched on before, we’re further away than ever from the “dream” existence that we’ve been sold.
When the overriding emotions in society seem to be fear, or worse still, hate we’re one heck of a long way from Kansas, Toto. So, what to do?
I guess in most instances, the standard procedure is to mourn the lack of leadership in our society and call for a new type of leader, who can rise above the pettiness, but what if that leader – those leaders – already exist?
I’m reading a fantastic book at the minute – and by fantastic, I mean terrifying! It’s called “The 100 Year Life” and as the title suggests it deals with the fact that our every increasing longevity, whilst a gift, will only be so if we seek to challenge our preconceptions about how that life is structured.
In short, and I really am paraphrasing, the authors explain that anyone in their late teens/early twenties can expect to live to the ripe old age of 106! This means that our current three stage “life model” of education, work and retirement is no longer valid or realistic.
It’s a great read, and one I’d highly recommend. The terrifying part came when I started to think about what that meant for me – and the challenge for business and how it approaches leadership – when I think about “my” generation and the space they inhabit.
Let’s start this month’s essay with a musical philosophy question.
In the 1960s, the Who sang “The kids are alright”. In 1998, The Offspring sang “The kids aren’t alright”. Which group had the more prescient song?
In Biblical terms, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse were Pestilence, Famine, War and Death. An American psychologist, Dr John Gottman, who researches divorce and its causation, identifies four new horse riders that he names Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt and Stonewalling. The adverse impact of these behaviours apply in organisational leadership just as much as marital relationships.
It is the day of the 10th anniversary of the WOW! Awards gala at the Tower of London. I thought it would salve my anger to write about the train “service” my local train operating company, Greater Anglia, “provides”. As a corporate entity it has about as much chance of winning an award as a chocolate remaining in a solid state in a furnace.
Today also saw the annual announcement of the increase in rail fares, 3.1% in January 2019.
Leadership is a fundamental element in any group, given that it is the driving element which without it, it would be difficult for that group to guide their efforts towards the common objective.
The issue of leadership in human groups has been widely debated, and especially during the twentieth century has been theorized about leadership and the organization of groups in general.