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By ROSHAN THIRAN

Every leader has the same experience. Whether we’re in an elevator with colleagues, grabbing a drink of water, or walking around the floor, the conversation rarely deviates from the norm.

“Hey guys, how’s it going?”

“Oh hey, boss – yeah, everything’s good thanks!”

“Anything you need, or anything I should know about?”

“No, no, everything’s great!”

Any leader worth their salt will know that it’s unlikely that everything is great all the time within their organisation.

Of course, particularly in this part of the world, employees rarely like to make a fuss, and so they tend to keep quiet about any issues they might have. Or, worse still, they might fear upsetting the boss should they bring a problem to his or her attention.

Neither of these situations are ideal. Any organisation that claims to espouse openness, transparency, and empowering others should actively encourage employees, team leads, and even managers to highlight anything they feel might be holding back progress or cohesion within the team.

Otherwise, leaders risk being left with unresolved concerns, which tend to fester over time and cause bigger problems in the long run.

Now, it’s important to be clear: as a leader, it’s never nice for me to hear tough feedback, but it is necessary for me to hear it. What I’ve discovered over the years – in my own experience and when coaching other leaders – is that, when leaders aren’t made aware of problems that are cause for concern, they are unable to take any action to improve the situation.

It makes sense, right? No matter how great or how intuitive a leader might be, they can’t fix something if they’re not aware that it’s broken.

Before I go into some reasons why tough feedback is necessary, it’s worth noting the importance of how providing feedback should be done, to make everyone’s life easier. Consider the following examples:

“My department is so disorganised. How do we do any work when we can’t even arrange our time properly?
“My manager is such a pain. He expects us to work so many hours…we have lives outside of work, you know!”
“The system we use is terrible. Half the time it doesn’t work, the rest of the time it’s so slow. Seriously, it’s such a drain on time, it makes me so annoyed.”

Leaders have, at one time or another, heard these complaints. Or, they might have even been the ones giving them early on in their professional lives.

With these examples in mind, I’d like to shed some light on why offering tough feedback is vital and, how we can best provide it.

1) Please do raise issues when they arise…but go beyond the problem 

Let’s say your department is disorganised. Chances are, you’ll know your department much better than a senior manager or leader. While knowing the problem is valuable, having an idea of possible solutions is even more worthwhile.

It gives you the chance to show your leader that, not only are you conscientious, you’re also a problem-solver. And as any leader will tell you, a good problem-solver is worth their weight in gold.

2) Nothing can be seen in the dark

Most leaders are aware that people say, “Great, boss!” whenever they ask employees how things are going, and yet conversations crop up between employees where they share an entirely different message among themselves.

As effective as your leader might be, it’s highly unlikely they’re a mind reader.

We can’t focus on something we can’t see. Keep in mind that leaders can’t know everything that’s going on. We rely on our teams to be as open and up front as our teams expect us to be.

3) Be Courageous

For those who might be reading this and thinking, “This all sounds good and well, but try telling this to my boss!”

I would still encourage you to use your voice. For the most part, leaders appreciate it when important matters are brought to their attention.

Yes, we’re busy and yes, we have many things to juggle, but we’d rather know what’s going on in our organisation and help solve any issues before they have a chance to grow.

If your boss really is someone who doesn’t welcome tough feedback, speak out anyway. That way, should the problem come to light when it gets worse, no-one can say you didn’t try to raise awareness.

4) It’s not my organisation, it’s ours

Especially in Asia, it’s easy to get caught up in giving too much respect to people in positions of authority or influence.

While (mutual) respect is admirable, it’s worth noting that, without people alongside him, Jack Ma’s Alibaba wouldn’t exist.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook would have remained a college sharing space, and if Steve Jobs hadn’t surrounded himself with talented people, today when someone said, “Are you an Apple fan?” you’d perhaps reply, “No, I prefer oranges.”

You are an important part of the organisation because you contribute to its performance. With that in mind, you should use your voice with the realisation that you’re helping our organisation to improve and flourish.

As for us leaders, a point of self-reflection is that we’d be nowhere without the great people who surround us.

Prefer an e-mag reading experience? This article is also available in our 15th December, 2018 digital issue. Access our digital issues here.

Roshan is the CEO of the Leaderonomics Group. He believes that everyone can be a leader and make a dent in the universe, in their own special ways. Connect with Roshan on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter @lepaker for more insights into business, personal development and leadership. You can also email him at : roshan.thiran@leaderonomics.com

The post The Best Way To Give Tough Feedback appeared first on Leaderonomics.com.

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By CAROLYNE NJOGU

Are leaders born or made? Whatever your answer might be, leaders are among us. Knowingly or unknowingly, each one of us is either influencing or being influenced.

Power and authority are the zeitgeist of leadership, and leadership is all about influencing followers. For without followers one cannot be a leader. Some leaders appear to have a larger than life essence, drawing and attracting many, while others lead by force.

Throughout history, we have had many such leaders whose legacy caused pain. Yet, we have also had leaders who lead by sheer courage, kindness and humility in service that inspired lasting and positive change.

These are the transformed leaders who lead with the heart; influencing and challenging others to transform their lives, mindsets, and even generations for the better. They elevate humanity to a collective will, promoting service and goodwill that live on to become an immortal influence.

So, how can you become an immortal influencer, living out your values in service to others for good? What kind of leaders do you need to emulate to become a transformational leader?

The concept of transformational leadership has been with us, and although not espoused by many, it is perhaps the most effective style of leadership for those who choose leading over managing others.

In 1947, India gained independent from British rule. This change was achieved by one man’s vision and will to lead change. Mahatma Gandhi led the revolution by leading others shoulder to shoulder in protest of the British powers through non-violent means. He inspired positive change in India and beyond.

Years later, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. would lead a historic revolution, advocating equality and justice for the marginalised people in the United States. He credited Gandhi as his inspiration to lead the civil rights movement in non-violence.

During his visit to India in 1959, Dr King proclaimed in speech that, “The spirit of Gandhi is much stronger today than some people believe.” Evidently, Gandhi’s vision inspired many through Dr King.

Both Gandhi and Dr King believed in a purpose greater than themselves. This inspired and imbued them with zeal to overcome any challenges. By having clear vision and acting in the best interest of all humanity, oppressive powers were obliterated.

The 17th century was a dark era for the United States. The nation was under duress and at the verge of tearing up into two. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, rose to the challenge. Guided by his principles for the rule of law and moral latitude, he led the nation to transformation.

This belief compelled him to listen to others intently. He welcomed reactions from his cabinet – his ‘team of rivals’ – whether for or against. His process of decision-making, born of a characteristic ability to entertain a full carousel of vantage points at a single time, seemed to some laborious; but once he had finally determined to act, it was no longer a question of what – only when.

In an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review, it was revealed that Lincoln had remarkable emotional intelligence (EQ): his empathy, humility, consistency, self-awareness, self-discipline and generosity of spirit. These qualities proved indispensable to uniting a divided nation and utterly transforming it, and they provide powerful lessons for leaders at every level.

To this date, Lincoln is said to be one of the greatest leaders in history. In part because he was able to intellectually stimulate his adversaries – ‘team of rivals’. By remaining curious, he learnt and embraced opposite viewpoints, praised his team and always took blame.

This not only led to the abolition of slavery, but it also elevated the nation above its afflictions because he saw that it was his moral obligation to lead, guided by his own values and integrity in convictions.

He knew and understood the risks of such undertakings, but nothing could deter him for he believed it was his calling to do the right thing. In the end, Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865.

Transformational leaders are willing to lift up their followers, and even die for their cause. They understand it’s not about them.

To conclude, leadership is influence, and influencing change is in itself transformational. For the leader first, and then for those being led.

Advancing the vision requires the followers’ buy-in. Why exemplary leadership necessitates transformation initiated by the leader’s vision, convictions, values, courage, empathy, steadiness, and humility in service. Anticipating followers’ needs for mentoring or coaching helps the leader stay ahead and adapting as needed.

Carolyne Njogu inspires professionals to fulfilment for a better life, better career and better results. She is the founding principal at VPF Strategies, a coaching and consulting agency, and the author of Being Grounded: 21 Days To Come Alive And Love Your Life. To connect with her, write to editor@leaderonomics.com. Reposted with permission.

The post Being A Transformational Leader appeared first on Leaderonomics.com.

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It is the age of automation, many organisations strive to stay ahead, to stay competitive within their industries. In order to achieve this, the focus, among many, has almost always been the adoption of new technologies.

However, as technology advances and organisations embrace it, there is a tendency to create uniformity within the same industry. In other words, the uniqueness of a particular organisation – that which gives it its true competitive advantage, may no longer exist.

In this Raise Your Game session, Arun Kumar shares that at the end of the day, it is not the technology that makes an organisation, or even an individual unique, it is talent.
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  If you would like engage with us to facilitate more engaging conversations in your organisation, email us at info@leaderonomics.com. To know more about what Leaderonomics does as a social enterprise, check out www.leaderonomics.org. For our other Raise Your Game podcasts, click here.

The post Raise Your Game: The Age of Talentism appeared first on Leaderonomics.com.

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By SCOTT STEIN

Everyone knows that it is thought leaders who lead their industry by creating new opportunities to give themselves the competitive advantage.  

So, what are the changes needed to give you the edge? Here are seven critical trends you need to adapt to that show how thought leadership is imperative to succeeding.

Information in the hands of all 

In the past, information was held and controlled by the few.  Now with the Internet of Things and social media platforms, information is in the hands of many (even if it is fake news!).  

It takes something special to get through the background noise of mass digital communication.  So how do you do it?

You need to position yourself as the thought leader – by providing unique insights that are valuable to others, and have the ability to capture and share these insights with others.

The business world has changed 

There has always been change in business, however never before has the business world shifted this quickly from one trend to the next. Thought leadership offers an evolved way of thinking and acting.  

By staying on the leading edge of new trends and insights, this allows you to be more flexible in both your thinking and your ability to mobilise your people in a new direction in less time.

Shift in focus by generational bands

We have an ageing and independent workforce of experienced staff who in the past would have retired to enjoy their ‘golden years’.  

Not anymore. This coupled with the younger generation that is wired into digital and social media more than any other generation can create a quagmire of issues in how these generations relate.  

These generational shifts require new forms of thinking and new forms of thought leadership to identify new trends for younger generations of consumers as well as leverage and harness this new talent to create faster internal processes.  

Marketing has changed forever! 

Going back as little as 25 years ago, television was the primary form of mass marketing.  Now, traditional marketing has been pushed on its head. Even the top Marketing experts can’t provide the data of what specific marketing is working.  

What hasn’t changed? People trust the brands that have a solid reputation.

 By being viewed as a thought leader, your business has a stronger reputation that influences candidates, suppliers, customers and industry commentators on the way your business operates, which everyone knows is the strongest form of marketing – word of mouth and referral.

What we know is all we know—and it is no longer enough 

A sustainable competitive advantage is still considered to be the holy grail of business success.  The challenge is that the concepts and approaches that were used in the past are no longer working—just ask any taxi company CEO who has seen what Uber has done to their industry.

For you to get in front of the speed of change and demand for innovation, you will need to be more agile and responsive than in the past.

By harnessing the thought leadership across your business, you will develop skill sets and a process that are designed to invent, discover, innovate and create ideas, so you are the ones that are creating the leading-edge approach in your industry.

Shortened spans of attention 

With everyone plugged in 24/7, it is getting more and more difficult to capture customer (and staff) attention.  Both Facebook and Twitter have conditioned us to live in a society that is full of short bursts of activity and communication that arrive in a compact timeframe.

Unless you are regularly positioning yourself and your ideas in an engaging way, people will not listen.  

People listen – and follow – what thought leaders are saying because they have the respect for their knowledge and insight.  To rise up above the noise, you need to be the thought leader.

Increased need to innovate and differentiate 

Many businesses fall into the trap of inadvertently settling into a pattern of habitual thinking.  These are often previous ways that were successful, however may not suit the new changing environment.

We can no longer follow the crowd and jump in based on duplicating what competitors are doing.  True thought leadership is about looking for new ways of doing things and having the ability to capture, package and communicate this differentiation to the market.

More than ever, you need to make thought leadership an imperative to fast-track your performance and gain a competitive edge in today’s world.

Scott Stein is a leadership pathfinder who has helped thousands of leaders to implement fast-track strategies that improve results. He is the author of Leadership Hacks:  Clever Shortcuts to Boost Your Impact and Results (Wiley) and The Order: Doing The Right Things At The Right Time In The Right Way.  To connect with him, send an email to editor@leaderonomics.com. Reposted with permission.
Prefer an e-mag reading experience? This article is also available in our 8th December, 2018 digital issue. Access our digital issues here.

The post The 7 Critical Trends That Make Thought Leadership An Imperative For Any Business appeared first on Leaderonomics.com.

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By JEFF HADEN

No one does anything worthwhile alone, and that’s why we all want – scratch that – why we all need – to build great teams.

But ‘teamwork’ doesn’t always translate, especially for different cultures. That’s something I realised when I talked with Phuong Uyen Tran, the Deputy CEO of the family-owned Tan Hiep Phat (THP) Group, Vietnam’s leading independent beverage company. And she’s the author of Competing With Giants: How One Family-Owned Company Took On the Multinationals and Won.

I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t realize ‘teamwork’ doesn’t necessarily translate across countries and cultures.

In the U.S. and throughout the West, corporations place great emphasis on the word ‘teamwork’. But for companies with global teams, its meaning does not necessarily translate. Rather than bring employees together and help take efforts to the next level, it can be a source of confusion and even friction.

This is especially true in Asian countries including Vietnam. Throughout much of Asia, teamwork tends to be an alien concept. Much of this has to do with cultural norms around face and respect.

In most Asian cultures, people typically do not express their disagreement publicly. It is also extremely important not to lose face, and there is a strong attachment to hierarchy. In the corporate world, this manifests itself as a desire to respect those at a more senior level and receive respect from those at a lower one. This mindset is prevalent in Vietnam, although it is not as strongly rooted in the culture as it is in Japan, Korea, and to a lesser extent, China.

The idea of not losing face, even though it’s not necessarily referred to in that way, definitely applies in the U.S., though.

True, but Vietnamese people find teamwork particularly difficult, because they are such a self-reliant people. History has made it so. Put too much trust and reliance in other people, and you will end up being subjugated by them.

That’s why trying to instill a teamwork culture is something many multinationals struggle with when they attempt to import Western business practices to the region. It is one of the biggest mistakes they make when they come to Asia, and they will almost certainly fail.

But a simple mindset shift can help prevent this. The shift begins with focusing not on the teamwork dynamic, but on the notion of ‘owning your work’, which resonates more intuitively throughout much of Asia and certainly in Vietnam.

Teams are only as good as their individual parts 

In essence, owning your work is about taking responsibility. It’s about understanding that success or failure results from personal efforts, not external factors. We must each accept responsibility not only for our own successes, but also for our mistakes.

Instilling this core value – and the corollary understanding that it is not productive to assign blame or accept undue credit – will help teams work more collaboratively and harmoniously even in the absence of an explicit teamwork culture.

A mindset shift 

One problem with ‘owning your work’ is that it can make people less likely to help others.

Equally important is emphasising that helping others achieve success is a form of personal success, too – and can even enhance personal success in various ways.

This tends to resonate best with competitive type-A personalities who may be fairly self-focused as they strive to climb the corporate ladder. Once they get into management positions, they are often ineffective until they realise they are being judged on their ability to support others. They start making an effort once they understand that making others look good makes them look good, too.

Another aspect of the mindset shift is for leaders to ask themselves, “How can I inspire employees to feel the same level of dedication as the company’s founders and leaders? What structures can be put in place to achieve this and help the staff interact well with each other?”

These include processes, patterns and even traditions that encourage employees to feel fully invested in an outcome together.

For instance, each year my company holds a songwriting competition. All of the entrants are invited to our headquarters to take part in a gala performance each October that celebrates THP’s anniversary. Some of the entries are by individual people, but most of them are by departments who have worked collaboratively on a song and a routine. Typically, they’ll dress identically as well.

Although they behave as a collective, they still would not describe their actions as teamwork. What they have is a shared sense of ownership. Everyone feels they have a stake in the outcome and they take great pride in being able to showcase their work to their colleagues and the rest of the organization.

All of these steps enhance collaboration and results, producing the very same dynamics that teamwork creates without even mentioning this potentially awkward concept.

Reposted with permission.

Jeff Haden is a speaker, ghostwriter, and author of The Motivation Myth: How Highly Successful People Really Set Themselves Up to Win.

The post Does Your Global Team Lack a Teamwork Culture? Here’s What to Do appeared first on Leaderonomics.com.

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By ROSHAN THIRAN

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

– Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1935, a six year-old boy from Atlanta, U.S., was told by two school friends that they couldn’t play with him anymore. His mother explained to him that this was because they now attended segregated schools.

This was Martin Luther King Jr’s first experience of living life as a second-class citizen, someone who was seen as less than human based solely on the colour of their skin.

It profoundly affected the young boy who would go on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in leading the Civil Rights Movement.

Dr Martin Luther King (1929-1968) was a key figure in fighting for civil rights to end the legal segregation of black Americans who were subjected to brutal injustice and continuous oppression.

The Early Days 

He was born Michael Luther King Jr, and was known as little Mike before his father changed his name to Martin.

Leaving school at the age of 15, King achieved his BA degree at Morehouse College – the same institution from which his father and grandfather graduated.

Following his study of theology at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, he was awarded the Bachelor’s of Divinity. In his senior class, he was elected president in a predominantly white group.

The Reluctant Leader 

In 1955, he achieved his doctorate in Theology from Boston University. It was there that he met his future wife, Coretta Scott, with whom he had two sons and two daughters.

He was constantly reading and learning, and his speeches are littered with references to great leaders and philosophers of the past. A key trait of great leaders is that they learn continually, reading voraciously and absorbing content everywhere they go.

Later that same year, a woman named Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery for refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger.

On the evening of December 5, following a day of boycotting the bus services, the Montgomery Improvement Association was formed at the basement of the Holt Street Baptist Church (Dr King’s church).

When no one seemed to step up to the plate, he was elected its president at 6 p.m. – although Dr King had no intention of leading this movement,. At 7 p.m., the newly elected president was supposed to give a speech during mass.

Dr King ran home to tell his wife and had about 20 minutes to prepare a speech. Normally, he would take about 15 hours to prepare a sermon but after a few minutes of panic, he jotted down some lines and headed back to the church where thousands had gathered.

He delivered an inspiring speech from his heart that began the movement which not only helped him figure out his calling, but inspired millions to follow suit.

Being Faithful To Your Vision 

Many times in life, like Dr King, leadership is thrust on to us. How we seize that moment (even if we are unsure, as he was) and leverage it, determines the kind of leader we are.

In 1956, as the movement began to take shape, Dr King received death threats, and his house was bombed in late January as he addressed a meeting. Although no-one was hurt, the charismatic pastor later had to implore angry crowds to observe nonviolence as they called for retribution.

He once observed that, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” It was this belief that fuelled his spiritual journey and social conscience, along with drawing inspiration from peaceful campaigners such as Mohandas Gandhi and Thich Nhat Hanh.

Dr King knew that despite calls from many to fight back and defend yourself when violence is dished out to you, he stood his ground – faithful to his calling for a non-violent protest and movement.  

What about us? Are we faithful to our vision? Do we cut corners and compromise principles to achieve our goals? Or do we, like Dr King, remain faithful to our calling?

Taking The Long And Winding Road

Knowing that the struggle for civil rights and equality would be a long and winding road, stretching out even after his own time, Dr King was nevertheless determined that action should always be taken where action was necessary.

The length of time it took to achieve the goal didn’t matter – only that it was achieved. As he once said, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” 

Many a times, we feel like giving up.  Our goals seem too impossible, too far away.  I have on many occasions felt like giving up on the Leaderonomics dream.  Yet, like Dr King, we need to have long-term focus and patience.

Great things come to those who wait, to those who keep at the task at hand and know that even if he or she fails to achieve the mission, someone else will carry that work on to completion one day.

Or role is to patiently keep going forward.

The Power Of The Spoken Word

On August 28, 1963, ‘The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom’ saw over 200,000 people in attendance at the Lincoln Memorial.

It was on this day that the famous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech was delivered by Dr King who included several hopes he had for humanity:“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”

This speech rocked the nation and began swinging the pendulum for the movement.

Many times, as leaders, we do not realise the power of the words we use. Words have a profound effect on people. The words we choose and the words we utter, can inspire or deflate.

Words can bless or curse. Words can have a magical effect on people’s motivation and zeal towards you and your work. As leaders, we need to be conscious that words can define our success or failure.

In December 1964, Martin Luther King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway. He announced that the $US54,000 would go entirely towards helping the civil rights struggle.

The Finale

In his last public speech, delivered in Memphis on April 3, 1968, Dr King gave an inspiring call to peaceful action to those in attendance.

In the prophetic ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’ speech, he said: “Like any man, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land.”

The following day, Martin Luther King was shot and killed as he stood on the balcony of his hotel in Memphis. He is buried in Atlanta – returning to the place where he called home and where his struggle began.

Dr King always spoke out, even when it was not convenient and even if it meant death. He always held to his principles, never compromising. He always put the mission ahead of even his own personal agenda.

Dr King was a leader who showed the importance of living with courage, staying true to your principles, and to keep fighting to realise your vision even if the odds are stacked heavily against you.

Passion and perseverance are powerful forces against any challenge, no matter its size or how long it takes to overcome.

As for his legacy, less than a year after his assassination, Shirley Chisholm became the first black female member of Congress. America saw its first black American president elected to the White House in 2008, and black Americans now rightly enjoy greater freedom and rights.

But if there’s one thing that the life and times of Dr King show us, it’s that we should never rest on our laurels. We need to keep struggling, believing, and pushing forward with our convictions, beliefs, and dreams.

Only when we do, can we leave a legacy as powerful as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Prefer an e-mag reading experience? This article is also available in our 8th December, 2018 digital issue. Access our digital issues here.

Roshan is the CEO of the Leaderonomics Group. He believes that everyone can be a leader and make a dent in the universe, in their own special ways. Connect with Roshan on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter @lepaker for more insights into business, personal development and leadership.

The post Leadership Lessons From Martin Luther King Jr. appeared first on Leaderonomics.com.

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Curiosity is sometimes not encouraged in our lives. Yet curiosity is a high determinant of success and progress in one’s journey through life. In fact, curiosity is not only a significant part of our performance character, but it also leads to our ability to connect the dots in order to achieve something meaningful and of great value.

In this Raise Your Game session, Eva Christodoulou shares about the importance of curiosity in one’s leadership journey, and how to go about developing it over the years.
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  If you would like engage with us to facilitate more engaging conversations in your organisation, email us at info@leaderonomics.com. To know more about what Leaderonomics does as a social enterprise, check out www.leaderonomics.org. For our other Raise Your Game podcasts, click here.

The post Being Utterly Curious, And Nurturing It Throughout Life appeared first on Leaderonomics.com.

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By ROSHAN THIRAN

If you’re afraid – don’t do it; if you’re doing it – don’t be afraid!

In 2003, a history of genetics paper found that 1 in 200 of the world’s men are most likely direct descendants of Genghis Khan. The figure is astonishing – but not surprising.

One of the Genghis Khan’s sons is said to have had 40 sons of his own, and one of the grandsons had 22 legitimate sons and would add a number of virgins to his harem each year.

Genghis Khan is one of history’s most notorious leaders and, for over a century, he and his descendants conquered and reigned over most of Eurasia, ruling one of the largest empires ever (measuring close to 12 million square miles).

As I was thinking through various leaders to study, I kept wondering what leadership lessons could I possibly learn from this ‘evil,’ bloodthirsty conqueror?

As a conqueror, Genghis Khan was ruthless, brutal, and unyielding in his quest for world domination. The mark he left on the world is indelible – even a Soviet campaign to remove him from the history books, centuries after his death, ultimately failed.

But there is a surprising twist to the leadership of the Mongol warrior, whose original name was Temujin (he received the name ‘Genghis Khan’ when he was proclaimed leader of the Mongols in 1206).

Temujin a.k.a. Genghis Khan (1162-1227) was born in Northern Mongolia along the banks of the Onon River and suffered a tough, deprived childhood. His father was poisoned to death when Temujin was nine-years-old, and the family was expelled by his own tribe, leaving his mother to raise seven children on her own.

The powerful vision 

At the age of 20, Temujin found himself enslaved following a raid by former family allies but was able to escape and later build an army of over 20,000 men. How was a slave able to influence 20,000 people to follow him?

He had an amazing vision – one that all the Mongol tribes should cease their divisive conflicts and unite under his leadership and rule. This vision of a better Mongol inspired many to leave their lives and follow him to achieve this dream.

He even had a tagline (talk about 12th century branding!) which was: “Unite the whole world in one empire.” And he took his mission seriously, stating, “the calling is high, the obligations incumbent on me are also heavy.”

Thanks to his military genius and understanding of his enemies, his vision to rule over the tribes of Mongol was realised in 1206, the year he became known as Genghis Khan (‘Universal Ruler’).

His Mongol army was a well-equipped and fearless group of warriors and, before long, Genghis Khan began to build the biggest empire in history.

A key insight for me from the life of Genghis was that having vision alone is not enough. You need to have vision coupled with intelligence and technical awareness, and the ability to execute and get things done.

It’s estimated by some historians that the Khan’s forces claimed the lives of over 40 million people – accounting for around 11 per cent of the world’s population. There’s no doubt that Genghis Khan was one of the most brutal warrior kings to ever have reigned.

But he also knew that, to hold on to power and build a lasting legacy, he needed to govern his vast empire wisely.

To tha end, he was an advocate of religious freedom, aware that such freedom made for a more peaceful people to rule over. The Khan also operated a system of meritocracy: the man who almost killed Genghis Khan by shooting him off his horse was made a general in the Mongol army, and became one of its greatest field commanders.

Genghis Khan successfully united previously combatant tribes, and prohibited the use of torture. He also disliked upper-class privilege, emphasised the importance of lifelong learning, and provided rights to Mongol women, which at that time, was extremely progressive.

It’s also been said that he created the first international post system, thanks to his expansive communication network across his empire that allowed the flow of information, supplies, and goods to travel at great speed.

As well as being a military genius, Genghis Khan was a visionary who looked to ensure the success of his people after he had passed, dividing his empire among his sons to rule.

Some might say there’s little to be learned in modern-day leadership from a 12th-century Mongol warrior.

On the contrary, Genghis Khan’s leadership was born of his own experiences, instincts, and observations; and despite the brutality of his war campaigns, he understood what motivated people and what it took to become a great leader.

Here are three key leadership lessons I picked up from studying the life of Genghis Khan:
  1. Everything in moderation

Leaders such as Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffett have been known to prefer minimalistic lifestyles relative to their wealth. Genghis Khan believed that leadership could only function at its best if leaders avoided getting caught up in the trappings of success.

As he warns, “I hate luxury. I exercise moderation…It will be easy to forget your vision and purpose one you have fine clothes, fast horses and beautiful women…you will be no better than a slave, and you will surely lose everything.”

  1. Change comes in gradual steps, not giant leaps

In his biography, Genghis Khan: and Making of the Modern World, Jack Weatherford reminds us that the Mongol leader gained his insights “not from epiphanic enlightenment or formal schooling but from a persistent cycle of pragmatic learning, experimental adaptation, and constant revision driven by his uniquely disciplined mind and focused will.”

In the words of Khan, a leader’s vision “should never stray far from the teaching of the elders. The old tunic fits better and it always more comfortable; it survives the hardships of the bush while the new or untried tunic is quickly torn.”

In other words, we learn best and falter less when we emulate past masters and mentors, rather thantrying to figure it all out on our own.

Continuous learning, where we learn small little things each day, slowly transforms us into knowledgeable beings that are able to execute when the time requires us to do. Genghis would never have been able to build an empire with just a vision.

He coupled it with a daily habit of learning military tactics, developing his intellect and learning practical skills like influencing, inspiring, diplomacy, and tact (after he had conquered a specific land, of course!).

Remember, Genghis was not born rich and went to fancy schools to gain an education. He started out as a poor child and had to learn to be a ruler by himself, schooling him through this process of continuous learning daily.

  1. When it comes to the crunch, the buck stops with you (but embrace all views too!)

Leaders should do their best to seek out and consider different perspectives and the views of others – but when it comes time to making decisions, the responsibility falls on one person. Genghis Khan advises us, “No friend is better than your own wise heart!

Although there are many things you can rely on, no-one is more reliable than yourself. Although many people can be your helper, no one should be closer to you than your own consciousness.”

Although he seems to advocate making all decision based on your gut, in many other places, he is seen wanting to gain as much information before making decisions. Ultimately, once you make a decision, you have to take responsibility and own it.

He adds, “People conquered on different sides of the lake should be ruled on different sides of the lake” emphasising that everyone is different and every decision taken has to be contextual to the place and situation you are in.

Final thoughts 

As I look at the life of Genghis Khan, I wonder if he may have been mistaken in history as an evil warrior. His wisdom and leadership nous seem very applicable to us in the 21st century, especially on having a clear vision, ensuring we are contextual in different situations, and finally, building habits to keep learning and growing daily.

Obviously, there are parts to his life I would not recommend emulating, especially in how he wiped out his enemies ruthlessly. But if we can hold to his leadership principles, we may just find ourselves ‘conquering’ new empires and territories in our journey of life too!

Roshan is the CEO of the Leaderonomics Group. He believes that everyone can be a leader and make a dent in the universe, in their own special ways. Connect with Roshan on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter @lepaker for more insights into business, personal development and leadership.

The post Leadership Lessons From Genghis Khan appeared first on Leaderonomics.com.

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