On Effective Leadership

On Effective Leadership

How to lead in a fast-changing world. 

This is a very simple guide to effective leadership, with effective being defined as “successful in producing beneficial results”. I deliberately switched the word beneficial for the word intended because many times, in this fast-changing world, our original intentions need refining as well. It is possible to go seek something and find out, in the process of seeking it, that it is not the outcome we really want not need. Much has been said about the agility required in today’s environment. I have realized that an agility of objective is just as important as an agility of execution.

A lot has been written and said about leadership, so much in fact that it’s confusing. This guide does not try to better them. This is simply my personal approach to getting things done in a team, and it follows my penchant for simplification, some would say oversimplification, because it is designed to be easy to understand across a team. 

Here is my leadership framework:

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The Leader

At the center of the framework is the Leader, the primary agent for progress in a team. A leader takes on the responsibility of causing the team to a better place. I think it is important to be clear that the leader does not solely bring the team to a better place. Getting there, that better place, is a team effort. Saying that a leader causes it means he or she gives rise to the team actions that result in the outcome. 

The Three Core Abilities

To lead effectively, a Leader must have the following abilities:

  1. Clarity: Clarity refers to the ability to define and communicate the shared values and compelling mission that leads to the attainment of a great vision 
  2. Competence: Competence refers to the ability to bring together a team of people who are purpose-driven, principles-led, and performance-oriented, and to harmonize them into living out the values, pursuing the mission, and realizing the mission the team shares. 
  3. Capital: Capital refers to the ability to marshal and manage the resources we deploy to pay for the necessary human, financial, and social costs. Capital will always be finite. The more resources, and even more, the better the stewardship of the resources, the more effective the leader will be. 

When Clarity and Capital combine, we have Focus. Channeling our human, financial, and social resources at a very clearly defined outcome leads to benefits such as alignment, less waste, and a strong brand. 

When Capital and Competence combine, we have Productivity. Our resources and our skills together produce good things. This helps us ship out products and services, helps get things done, and helps us do these things in an efficient manner. 

When Clarity and Competence combine, we end up with Dynamism. Dynamism is defined as:

The quality of being characterized by vigorous activity and progress.

When a leader and his team are very clear about what the want to accomplish and have the skills to make it happen, including the necessary collaboration skills, this leads to highly-energized way of working that is not only exciting but gains momentum as it continues. This momentum triggers a virtuous cycle, as it leads to great progress, making the vision, mission and values more real and more achievable, leading to more capital coming in (in different forms), leading to more excitement for the team that translates to even more energy. 

I want to spend a little more time with this one. 

Dynamism in a team is a highly-prized quality but for some reason leaders continue to ignore the factors that lead to Clarity and Competence. Instead of clarifying further the vision, mission, and values, we tend to bloat them with dogma, tradition, and conflicting interests. Instead of ensuring purposefulness, we are busy propping up the past. Instead of principles, we end up with policies. Instead of performance, we are distracted by politics. 

I will write about the abilities of Clarity, Competence, and Capital in more detail, but for now let me leave you with this: Be a dynamic, productive, focused person; and surround yourself with dynamic, productive, and focused people. I can’t think of a simpler leadership hack than that. I am privileged to be surrounded by such people, and that is an earned privilege for deliberately making sure I am dynamic, productive, and focused. You will attract more of what you are. #DB

Professional Growth Requires Personal Growth

Professional Growth Requires Personal Growth

While we like to think that life can be lived in neatly separate compartments, the reality is that all the different parts of us flow into all the other parts. It is our responsibility to make the different areas of our lives thrive, by developing each as best as we can, and fixing the connections between them.

I’m writing this for young professionals (and maybe even some older ones). I’m writing this because I keep observing a disconnect between what people want and what they’re willing to do to achieve them. I see this in many areas, and the common mistake is wanting something without accepting the responsibility that leads to what we want.

“I want to be healthy. But I don’t want to give up sugar.”

“I want to be successful. But I only want to work 9-5.”

“I want to get married. But I don’t want to risk getting heartbroken.”

“I wish for world peace. But I need to love myself first.”

“I want a better government. But I won’t vote.”

I can go on and on and on about the number of times I’ve spoken to people about their resolutions, faith goals, OKRs, and ideals, only to listen to them conclude with excuses. This reminds me that, for all our so-called advancement and enlightenment, we are not as rational as we think. What kind of truly rational person would believe, “I want something but I don’t want to fulfill the requirements of achieving that something.” That is as irrational as believing in unicorns. Isn’t it more rational to accept, “If I want something, I must do what is necessary to attain it”? It is.

What do you call accepting of personal responsibility for one’s own results? In a word, maturity. Maturity IS personal growth. It isn’t reaching a level of perfection or of taking less risks, or having less failures, or even of committing less mistakes, but finally accepting that I am who I am, I am where I am, I have what I have, because of my decisions, and if that I am to advance from here, I need to grow – personally. I can’t hide behind my team, my family, my nationality, my excuses, nor my bright ideas. I, David Bonifacio, need to accept responsibility and do whatever it takes to fulfill what’s required.

This is why I ignore 99% of the business advice out there and focus on the information that will help me satisfy the requirements of my responsibilities. It doesn’t matter how cute or good sounding it seems, if it doesn’t help me be more responsible it is virtually worthless to me. Professional growth does not come from buying new gadgets, downloading new productivity apps, applying some life hack, nor getting a promotion. Professional growth starts and continuous through the acceptance of more and more responsibility. I love this approach because it puts my promotion in my hands, not someone else’s. I don’t need anyone to promote me. By increasing my sphere of responsibility, by being more and more personally accountable, I am promoting myself.

The bottomlife is this: Professional Growth Requires Personal Growth. Unless we deal with the personal weaknesses in our lives, we will never be truly professionally strong. Unless we deal with our personal bad habits, we will never be professionally sustainable. Unless we deal with our personal demons, we can expect those very demons to haunt our careers. I know this from experience. This is why I believe in a daily moment of prayer to spend time with God, because I know I have my own share of demons that I don’t want hurting what I’m building. Instead, I don’t want to react. I don’t want to be easily-triggered, easily-worried, easily threatened, and easily-angered. I want to understand, so I need to clarify. I want to be wise, so I need to be teachable. I want to achieve, so I need to be diligent. And the gap between who I want to be, what I want to achieve, and who I am now is vast! But I accept that reality, and embrace the responsibility to develop myself continuously.

And after all of that, what happens if I fail?

Then I failed. As simple as that.

But by being responsible, I improve my chances of success, though never really eliminating risk. Risk is part of life. Get used to it. At least, I wasn’t a coward, nor irresponsibile, lying to myself that the ills of the world were not of my doing, when my own lack of contribution made them possible. The goal of life is not to die unscathed. The goal of life is to love God and others with the outflow of the best possible version of you. #DB

The Fat Parts of Me

The Fat Parts of Me

I feel a certain weariness knocking on my door. It’s a feeling I’ve felt many times in my life, particularly during seasons of high stress and busyness. When I feel this way, I like to quiet myself and think through the basics of my life, going through the fundamentals of my spirit, soul, and body, and checking whether each is healthy. A sample of this exercise is asking the following questions:

  • Spirit:
    • Am I meditating on the Bible consistently?
    • Am I praying unceasingly?
    • Am I fellowshipping with Christ-followers?
    • Am I sharing the Gospel with others?
  • Soul:
    • Mind:
      • Am I thinking clearly?
      • Am I considering openly?
      • Am I discovering new things?
    • Will:
      • Am I practicing wisdom?
      • Am I developing the right things?
    • Emotions:
      • How is my relationship with God?
      • Are my core relationships healthy?
      • Are my work relationships healthy?
  • Body:
    • Am I eating for nourishment?
    • Am I exercising for functionality?
    • Am I resting and recovering?

I have never once gotten a perfect score on the questions above. Most of the time, I have to admit a greater need for discipline, for focus, for help, and for accountability. But this process of reflection is like looking at a mirror, it is where we get the idea of reflection after all. We look at a clear surface to see an accurate picture of who we are, not as we wish we are, but how we actually are. I don’t always like what I see, but I’m better off knowing the truth, even the ugly truth, especially the ugly truth.

Here’s what my reflections have been telling me: You’ve become fat David.

You’re spiritually fat, soul-fully fat (mentally fat, willfully fat, and emotionally fat), and finally physically (body) fat.

Ouch.

But it’s true.

My body fat is the easiest to prove. I just checked my body fat percentage and I went from 18% in December, to 15.2% at the end of January (after a lot of discipline), and back to 17.8% as of yesterday. This body fat battle isn’t easy. It requires adherence not just to caloric deficits but proper macro-nutrition and intense workout. While I’m relatively fit and healthy, knowing that the average is person not close to being healthy, I don’t want to benchmark with average. I want to achieve a physical level that will help me enjoy as much time with my family and be physically able to continue to be productive and creative. The biggest enemy of my physical goals is my diet. The composition of my diet, the volume of what I eat, and the timing of my meals have not been optimal. If I want to achieve my goals, and I do, I need to address those things. I read somewhere that man is more likely to die from “over-nutrition” than starve from hunger. Diseases like diabetes, heart attack, and cancer, as well as fatigue, headaches, and other ailments are linked mostly to eating too much than too little – especially too much of the wrong things, like sugar. The point is this: my physical goals aren’t suffering because I don’t have a good gym, don’t have the right workout clothes, or am missing the newest workout craze. I’m missing my goals because I am, frankly, overfed. The problem with being fat is not that it doesn’t look attractive. The problem with being fat is that it chokes your organs and causes them to work over time (leading to tiredness) or even fail (leading to all sorts of issues, even death).

It’s not too different in the area of my soul.

Our soul is made up of our mind, will, and emotions. Even in these areas I can easily find I’m also fat.

Mentally, I read at least 50 books a year. This year, I’ve read at least one book a week. I also read a lot of magazines and articles, as well as listen to audio courses and podcasts. Every day, my brain is crunching through thousands of pieces of data. If we think of information as mental nutrition, like food for the mind, but don’t accompany this mental nutrition with exercise, with serious verification, validation, critical thinking, and wise application, we end up with a mentally fat mind, full of information but actually too choked-up to be useful. I find a lot of people, particularly young people are mentally fat. They have so much information but do not have the ability to do something as basic as move out and be independent. We know so much but can do so little relative to the greater information we have.

Emotionally, social media has been like soda fountain, pouring emotional stimulation through targeted posts, likes, and shares. While I have so many social connections, I can’t say I am at an emotionally better place. In fact, I find that social media has made me socially fat and can choke-up time meant for my core relationships. This is why I have been removing people from Facebook, unfollowing people from Instagram and Twitter, and being stricter about my network. I simply have too many acquaintances, describe as “friends” on social media, but are really people I barely know, have no responsibility over, nor benefit me in any way. They contribute to my emotional fatness with emotional junk. If I want my relationships to be healthy, I need to stop feeding off emotional social media junk and get really good at enjoying the very nutritious relationships of family, of high performing teams, of mentors, and of friends who stick closer than brothers.

Even in the area of my Will, my focus and disciplines have been shaken a lot simply from being too busy. I find myself being late more, being distracted more, and just unable to stick to my schedules as strictly as I have in the past. The reason for this is just simply: doing too much. While running a startup family and business is difficult, there are ways to prioritize, to focus, and to turn-off distractions that will help me. So I’ve been saying “no” more. I’ve been declining speaking engagements, partnership invitations, and meeting requests. It may sound selfish, but it’s simply being wise. I know my priorities and I need to treat them as such.

But the most worrying, for me, is how I am showing signs of being spiritually fat. I guess the best example of spiritually fat people in the Bible were the Pharisees. These were people who knew the law, who even memorized the law, but instead of seeing Jesus, their hearts were choked up. Just as body fat chokes our organs, knowing God’s word, knowing theology, doctrine, and having tradition, without practicing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control will lead to a spiritually fat person. Signs of my own spiritual fatness can be seen when I am not quick to forgive, when I write people off, when I easily give in to temptation, when I lose my patience, when I am harsh or quick to anger, and mostly when I am afraid, which shows that for all my head knowledge of the Bible, I lack faith in Christ’s finished work. All these things clog up my ability to hear from God, to trust in Him, and to obey Him.

As I finish writing this, I review the rest of the things I need to do tonight to prepare for what’s shaping up to be a another busy week. It’s only February, but the amount of things already accomplished, the adversity already lined-up, and the deliverables needed to be accomplished are quite daunting. None of them can be achieved if I am spiritually, soul-fully, and physically fat. But it’s good to know what I want to achieve, and it’s good to admit the gap between what I want and who I am right now, that I am not good enough – yet. Because this way I can identify what I need to do, and then I can line up my schedule, budget, and energy in the right way to bridge that gap. I know what I want, and I want to know what I lack, even if it means seeing an honest reflection of David I don’t like looking at, because it’s the real David.

Behind my titles, behind past achievements, behind blog posts, and fans, it’s easy to seem godly, wise, stable, and fit. But that’s not who we really are. It may be part of us, and sometimes we are fooled to think that’s actually us. I’m reminded of what Aristotle said, ”We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.”

If we are fat, it’s because we repeatedly allowed it. If we are fit, it’s because we repeatedly achieved it. Who we are is what we repeatedly do.

So I erased my schedule to reprioritize. This is going to be a great week.

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