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:

IMG_1053.jpeg

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

How I Find Courage

You have to be brave.

There’s no going around it.

Want to build a business? You have to risk being part of the 9 out of 10 that statistics say will fail. That’s terrible odds.

Want to have an amazing relationship? You have to risk giving your heart to someone else despite half of marriages now failing. That’s really dangerous.

Want to change the world? You have to make unpopular stands. You have to go against what’s broken to fix it, and you need to fight the self-interested parties that want to keep the system broken for their own gain, and despite knowing that real heroes many times end up attacked and dead.

You have to be brave. That’s one thing I find myself telling our young people more and more. You have to learn how to make your own decisions, to live and die by them, and to know you can make a vision a reality, and, just as importantly, correct your mistakes when you make them – and you will make mistakes. Mistakes are a part of daring, and great mistakes are a part of daring greatly. If you’re going to do something great, you need to risk making a mistake.

But how does one find courage? How does one muster the courage during difficult times, the times when courage is needed most?

Many people get their courage from external things, from the state of their circumstances, from the people around them, and this isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s smart to surround yourself with the right people, it’s smart to prepare for the inevitable rainy days, but many times, especially if we’re living on the edge, innovating, challenging the status quo, we will find ourselves facing things only we can face. During these moments we cannot rely on external sources of courage, we need to dig deep and look inside us and, hopefully, find something in our hearts to give us courage.

Sadly, many times, I find that we have been influenced not to be courageous. It may not be intentional, but too many times when we look inside us for courage we find that our hearts are hollow. Hollow hearts are the breeding ground of fear – and as Yoda comically yet insightfully said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Why do we have empty hearts?

I can think of two reasons.

1. Some people say to follow our hearts but fail to teach us that the heart is tricky, deceitful even, if uncalibrated, make us put more value on things that are empty, and we make emotional choices, fear-pressured choices, that turn out to be mistakes.

2. Other people say, “Don’t trust your heart. It’s deceitful.” and now we have a lot of people who don’t have the heart to make courageous choices.

Should we follow or heart or not? If we can’t rely on our heart to be a compass of what’s right what can we rely on? Our logic? If logic is dictates what is right, then why risk our lives for the poor, why love the unlovable, why follow the commands of Christ to serve in order to be great, to lay life for others, to enemies as ourselves? So if it’s not just logic that helps us discover what’s right then maybe what’s right is what others agree with. If that’s the case, do how we explain the mob? How do we explain collective evil like when the Nazis were in power, like how a group of powerful people will enslave others?

We have raised a generation that on one hand is not able to guard their hearts and so make foolish choices, and on the other are so fearful of being deceived by their own hearts that they have no personal conviction and unable to make a stand, especially when that stand means standing alone.

Instead, I’ve found that making a wise decision is not about just what makes sense, and it’s definitely not about what makes no sense. It’s about calibrating your heart towards the right things, filling it up with truly valuable things like love for God and your neighbor, and allowing our values to dictate our decisions. When you’re sure of what’s most important to you, when you’re sure that what you hold dear is most valuable, you become fearless. There’s a word for having so much clarity and sureness in what you love.

It’s called conviction.

And true courage, courage that is not based on circumstances, comes from conviction. True courage does not come from the reckless following of one’s heart nor the constant fear that one’s heart is deceiving. It comes from conviction.

The word conviction comes from the word “convinced”, and that word means to “overcome decisively, to conquer”. To have convictions means to overcome whatever is going on in our lives with a more powerful truth. This is why every time the Bible reminds us to be courageous, it gives us a reason to be courageous, a greater truth to hold on to, for example:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
– Deuteronomy 31:6

In this verse, the words “for the Lord God goes with you, he will never leave you nor forsake you” is God overcoming Joshua’s fears with a greater truth.

You need to be brave. To be brave you need to have conviction, which is so much clarity and sureness that what you love is right. We strengthen our sureness by using a greater truth to overcome our fears. For me, that greater truth is simply this: God so loves me. He will never leave me nor forsake me. If I keep running to Him I’ll be fine.

When our heart is truly filled by the love of a perfect God, we find His perfect love casting off all fear. Courage, confidence and assurance, is left when love has done its work casting fear from our hearts.

And that’s how I find courage.