Construct a Quick Personal Purpose Statement

Construct a Quick Personal Purpose Statement

Reported by Alice Trimmer

In October 2016 MHI was pleased to host Christine B. Whelan, author of The Big Picture, for a lecture and book signing. The Big Picture is geared primarily to young adults of college age. It contains a wealth of interactive strategies to help them uncover their personal sense of purpose. While this is a critical undertaking when one is choosing a course of study and professional path, developing a personal purpose statement is a good exercise to undertake at any point in one’s life. At this time of year, as one’s enthusiasm for New Year’s resolutions starts to lag, it is a good moment to consider whether I have a clear sense of my overarching purpose in life, and how the projects and plans for self-improvement that I plan to undertake fit into that. Constructing a personal mission statement can be a short road to complete mental paralysis, as most of us have many interests, talents, duties, responsibilities and pending projects. How do we meld all of these into a coherent path, and what is our basis for prioritizing them? Often we can think of short and long-term goals that we want to achieve, but Christine reminded us that goals are interim steps towards accomplishing our larger life’s purpose—not ends in themselves.  

In the workshop, Christine gave us a quick and accessible method to create a personal purpose statement. We wanted to share it with you so that you could try it. It is best not to over-think the answers, but just put what arises spontaneously as you go through the three steps. No one needs to see it but you, and you can always change it!  Here it is:   

  1. Think of three of your personal strengths, or things that you are good at. (These can be skills you have acquired over the course of your life, or qualities and talents you were born with.)  
  2. Think of three personal core values. (What values underlie your actions? What is most important to you?)
  3. Think of three persons, situations, or groups of people that you would like to impact. (What or who would you like most to change or influence?)  

These will be your building blocks for your purpose statement. Put them together into your personal purpose statement by filling in these blanks:

I will use my strengths in _______, _______, and _______ to promote my values of _______, _______, and _______ in order to  impact _______, _______, and _______. 

That’s all there is to it. Try it and find out how close to the mark your purpose statement turns out to be!  

The Road to Authentic Leadership

The Road to Authentic Leadership

Chinwe Esimai, Managing Director, Chief Anti-Bribery and Corruption Officer, Citigroup, Inc., gave the MHI Fall Leadership seminar that inaugurated our 2016-2017 mentoring year. Her topic was “Women and Authentic Leadership in a Globalized World.” While the advice to “be true to yourself” has been repeated so often that it has almost become a cliché, Chinwe gave it bones and muscle with her account of first-person experiences in the highly competitive environment of global finance. Her talk was filled with sound and practical advice about keeping your balance and maintaining a values-based approach to your career. She has kindly shared her lecture notes, which are reproduced in abbreviated form below. 

 

According to a report on Women in the Workplace published in The Wall Street Journal on September 27, 2016, women still face significant challenges in the workplace in terms of balancing priorities outside of work, access to opportunities and promotions, and inequality in pay. 

While Chinwe believes it is helpful to be aware of these challenges, she would rather focus on the solutions, and authentic leadership can help serve as one of the proposed answers to the challenges women face in the workplace.

Chinwe noted that often when people speak of leadership, they speak about the expressions, applications, or manifestations of it, such as having a vision, being a person of influence, having vast responsibilities, building a team, being strategic, being courageous, or pursuing justice.

These don’t, in her view, necessarily get to the core of leadership. Leadership starts with each individual. At its very foundation, leadership is the ability to understand and utilize your innate talents. With that as the foundational definition of leadership, she believes authenticity in leadership is vitally important.

According to the Center for Creative Leadership, the five defining characteristics of authentic leadership are: Clarity about one’s values, priorities, and preferences (including virtues, such as justice, integrity, and loyalty); Willingness to work toward aligning one’s values and behaviors (authentic leaders work towards growing core values in themselves and also bringing those behaviors to the workplace); Acceptance of the necessity for choices and trade-offs (including daily choices in balancing one’s responsibilities outside the workplace, as well as leaving the workplace in the short or long term, in order to focus on family needs); High degree of comfort and satisfaction with decisions made earlier in life; and Sense of self-determination (including the ability to make career decisions, big and small).

As Chief Anti-Bribery & Corruption Officer at Citi, Chinwe oversees Citi’s global anti-bribery program, which develops and maintains a framework for adherence to anti-bribery regulations set out by the US, UK, and countries around the world where the bank does business. Beyond adhering to legal and regulatory requirements, it is about doing business ethically, building and maintaining an ethical culture, embedding that culture in systems and processes, and giving employees the tools to mitigate potential bribery risk.

Chinwe truly enjoys anti-bribery work. Growing up in Nigeria, she began thinking and speaking about bribery for as long as she remembers, long before she had the opportunity to focus on it professionally. She’s passionate about her work because it has meaning to her, and more broadly, it has a positive impact on how communities and countries around the world do business. 

The six lessons in authentic leadership Chinwe shared are: (1) Tune in; (2) Follow what interests you; (3) Embrace each work experience as a learning opportunity; (3) Be intentional about building relationships within and outside your organization; (4) Whenever you have an opportunity to do something outside your comfort zone, take it; and (5) Have a voice; speak up.


TUNE IN. 
 

“The human being is single, unique, and unrepeatable, someone thought of and chosen from eternity, someone called and identified by name.” Pope John Paul II

We are acutely aware that we live in a globalized world, from the prevalence of social media—Facebook, Twitter, Google—to the increased globalization of our economies. Today’s workplace can encompass remote work or work from home, conference calls, and online meetings. The world is getting smaller. Positive aspects of this include increased avenues for communication and easy access to information. Yet, in some cases, there are fewer in-person interactions. As a culture, we can get distracted by non-stop flow of communication. This often creates anxiety, stress, and a sense of being overwhelmed. 

Awareness of the continual flow of communication leads us to a simple conclusion—the busier you are, the more important it is to take quiet time to tune inwards. For each person, it’ll look different, based on schedules and responsibilities, but such time should be both sacred and non-negotiable.

If you’re not spending quiet time each day, it’s very difficult to know what your unique expression in the world should be. 


FOLLOW WHAT INTERESTS YOU. 
 

People may find discussions about finding one’s passion to be too difficult, even too weighty, so it helps to focus on interest. In her career, Chinwe followed her interests by spending time studying anti-bribery developments, and being open to continually learning, reading and speaking about anti-bribery developments before she formally worked in the area, and telling mentors and colleagues that she was interested in anti-bribery work. She sensed that it was an area in which she could add value because she found it fascinating. 


EMBRACE EACH WORK EXPERIENCE AS A LEARNING OPPORTUNITY. 
 

While each role should be evaluated from the perspective of how well it taps into your unique skills and talents, be willing to view your career as a journey. Each job has its role in the journey and teaches valuable lessons.

For example, at one point in her career at another company, Chinwe was asked to help cover non-routine options and derivatives inquiries. As an attorney, she had had very little formal training about the stock market and trading, let alone complex products such as options and derivatives. She sat through ten interviews in which each interviewer was convinced that she could master it. 

When she took on the role, she completed a number of courses that were offered on options, derivatives, and hedging—the same courses the traders themselves were required to take. She also sat on the trading desk with the traders to build relationships and learn more about what they did day-to-day.

Her experience handling inquiries has led to a deeper understanding of these matters, and supported her experience in other compliance risk management roles, skills she utilizes till this day.


BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS WITHIN AND OUTSIDE YOUR ORGANIZATION. 
 

Focus on the quality of relationships, and have a preference of quality over quantity. When possible, meet colleagues in person or have a phone conversation. People appreciate being heard, so whenever possible, bridge the gaps in time and space.

Take advantage of formal mentoring programs within your organization, but also seek out informal networking opportunities. She values diversity in mentors (as it can be enriching and complementary), and recommends having a broad range of mentors, where each person plays a different role. A trait she often appreciates in mentors is directness, particularly when they provide frank advice, while respecting that she is ultimately responsible for her career.

The key is to allow such relationships to develop organically, and seek to maintain them over time, even when one changes roles or organizations. Mentors can be invaluable in helping to navigate change. They understand organizational dynamics that one may not have access to early in the career journey. 


WHENEVER YOU HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO DO SOMETHING OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE, TAKE IT. 
 

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly.
— Barbara Haines Hewlett

Chinwe shared a story about a time in her career when she had the opportunity to take on larger responsibilities, but feared that she was not ready. One of her longtime mentors, who had observed her career for a number of years, told her he knew she was ready for it, and would, in fact, excel in the role. He offered the following advice: “What you don’t know, you will figure out.” 

While to some, this may seem like common sense advice, it led to one of the most important mindset shifts in her career. She was previously convinced that if a role required ten competencies, she needed to have all ten, or eleven and a half, if possible. She soon learned about the 2008 Hewlett Packard study, confirmed by other research, which revealed that on average, women only apply for a job if they meet 100% of the criteria. Men tend to apply if they meet 60% of the criteria. 

Roles outside our comfort zones help us grow, learn, and tap into yet unexplored innate talents. If we remain true to who we are (including our values, priorities, and preferences), such roles also enable us to serve those around us in a more impactful way.


HAVE A VOICE; SPEAK UP. 
 

Practice speaking up often; you only get better with practice. It is not unusual to believe that we should only speak up when we have the most brilliant idea. What a daunting proposition, if every idea we share must be profound or world changing. Speak up to clarify understanding, confirm agreement, summarize expectations, ask questions, or just to be a part of the conversation.

Refine your communication skills. Communicate with confidence. Programs such as Toastmasters can help you gain experience. The TED Talk by Amy Cuddy, entitled “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” is also a terrific discussion on body language and communicating with confidence.

Unique and unrepeatable: standing firmly in your authenticity, know that there is no one else in the world that can bring to your interactions the same thoughts, experiences, and insights you bring. Don’t ask for permission; know that your voice is needed.

Who Owns the Environment?

Who Owns the Environment?

Reported by Alice Trimmer.

As the summer winds down, we have all doubtless been reminded of the beauty of nature, whether it is through a hike in the mountains, a cool dip in a lake, or watching the late afternoon sun shining through the trees in a city park. We are all also doubtless concerned that future generations will be able to enjoy such simple pleasures for many years to come. Of the many aspects to the very large and complex topic of environmental protection, one that perhaps we do not often think about is the question of ownership of and responsibility for water, forests, and fisheries. We invited G. Tracy Mehan, III, Executive Director of Government Affairs for the American Waterworks Association, to share with us some of the ethical and legal complexities of this question in his talk at Murray Hill Institute on February 19, 2016, entitled "Who Owns the Environment?”  

Mehan began by laying out two contrasting principles, the universal destination of goods on the one hand and the right to private property on the other. The common good of society requires respect for both of these principles. He posed the questions: “Can we, should we recognize property rights in it or to it [the environment]? And what benefit can be derived from doing so, not just of the individual who holds the right, but for the environment, the ecosystem, or the commons?” He pointed out that the theoretical or philosophical challenges of harmonizing the universal destination of all goods with private property have preoccupied philosophers for millennia.

Nonetheless, “The environmental or ecological issues [that we now face] represent a more perplexing problem because of the genuine challenges of protecting, while benefiting from, the earth’s resources and beauty. The project of designing or defining a property rights regime, relative to the commons, is of recent vintage.” Mehan quoted scholars Henry N. Butler and Christopher R. Drahozal on this issue: “Because of the common ownership of these resources [e.g. water and air], no one has adequate legal rights to protect against them.” He pointed out that without well-defined property rights, regulation, or some communal management arrangement, each person has an incentive to exploit the resource he or she has access to. Furthermore, without a property interest, a person “has no incentive to improve the economic productivity of a piece of land if they do not own it, by the same token, a natural resource is unlikely to be cared for if there is no property interest.” In other words, people tend not to care for things that they do not own. Mehan described several situations in which unclear or defective property titles have impeded private economic growth as well as development of sustainable resources such as forests and fisheries.  

Drawing on the ideas of the philosophers Aristotle, Cicero, and John Locke, Mehan concluded that “Discerning and establishing the respective rights, prerogatives, and responsibilities of the common and private spheres demands prudence, an essential virtue, necessary to effectuate appropriate governance and optimize human freedom and prosperity. The aim is to harmonize environmental and ecological values and the rights of property.”  

Initiatives such as the land trust movement in the United States, which gave rise to nongovernmental institutions such as The Nature Conservancy, aim to actively protect the environment and natural resources. This type of movement relies on free market transactions between consenting parties. The Nature Conservancy acquires land by buying it and also works with local communities to protect biodiversity, water quality, and wildlife in partnership with private and public entities.

Mehan pointed out that no matter how carefully we craft the new approaches, we must accept that we do not know what works all the time, every time. It is necessary to balance freedom, cost-effectiveness, and environmental protection, and we can never guarantee that property owners will behave in the way we might deem optimal. Conservation or ecological values are not inherent in the functioning of the market, hence a person has to bring those values to the marketplace, having learned them from some other source. Strong ethical supports are needed to preserve both market and competition from degeneration. This is especially important as it affects common pool resources such as rain, water, and fisheries.

Mehan concluded “Without something like a conservation or land ethic, a sacramental regard for creation, a concern for future generations beyond one’s short life span on this planet, or some other moral and ethical North Star to guide and motivate citizens, farmers, ranchers, woodlot owners, and other actors, I am not optimistic that we can succeed on the basis of free-market principles only. There will always be a real need for reasonable regulations.” Purely economic drivers have their limits, hence family tradition, culture, and other motives can play an important part in how landowners make decisions about the use of their land and other resources.  

 

Communicate with Impact

Communicate with Impact

By Terri Carron

Communication means to succeed in conveying one’s idea or to evoke understanding in others. It seems so simple and yet the bulk of our communication problems in both personal and professional life seem to be our inability to do just that.     

BE AUTHENTIC. What is the number one problem in communicating? Many people assume it’s about style; having a good voice, look, and being at ease in front of people. Would it surprise you to know that it is lack of sincerity? Or a problem with authenticity? Being authentic can overcome even a lack of a speaking style or “rules.” Accent, voice, or a vocal tic doesn’t have to be an obstacle to meaningful communication. Sincerity is, in my opinion, the essential key to communicating your ideas well to others. Actors and salespeople will all tell you that they have to know and believe what they are saying in order to be convincing enough to move you to believe as well.

RESPECT YOUR AUDIENCE. This does not mean that you do not need to pay attention to what you are saying, in other words, to the content—whether you are speaking one on one to a family member, friend, or colleague, or to an entire roomful of people. The first rule is to respect your audience. Respect that you HAVE an audience. They came to hear you because they need information, or need to be motivated to act, or need to be entertained. Identify the need and determine your content based on that. Focus less on what you want to say and more on what they want to know and feel.  

BE CONFIDENT IN YOUR MESSAGE. Have the courage to say what you think. Be confident that you can make worthwhile contributions to conversations. Take time each day to be aware of your opinions and feelings so you can adequately convey them to others. Individuals who are hesitant to speak because they do not feel their input would be worthwhile need not fear. What is important or worthwhile to one person may not be to another and may be more so to someone else.

BE ATTENTIVE TO CUES FROM YOUR AUDIENCE. Make certain to include enough information to not leave your audience confused about the next step. When speaking to someone one-on-one you might get affirmation like a head bob. This shows you that someone is actively listening to you. If the person stops nodding, it could indicate that they need more information or they are in disagreement. 

Men are less committal in their body language and are not as likely as women to react to what you are saying by nodding their heads. They will usually wait till you’re finished to make a comment, so that you don’t know where you stand until afterward. Be aware of “tells.”  When a man begins to check his phone or watch, or begins to button his jacket, or dart his eyes from side to side, you know you are losing him. 

Typically, the way you can break off conversation is to lose eye contact. For example, if you are interviewing someone and you would like to close or move on to another topic, you can lower your eyes to your paper. That is a signal that you are finished talking. 

Make a practice of asking people if they understand your meaning. A common situation is that someone thinks they give clear direction or information but their employees or colleagues did not act on it. It is likely they did not hear what was intended. If you stop periodically to make sure you are being understood, you can avoid wasting time and also help improve your communication. If you frequently find people misunderstand you, you may want to write down points you want to make before you speak. 

When speaking one on one, don’t feel you have to fill the quiet space. If you have said what you want to say, stop talking. Often in an interview, the interviewer will let you ramble on, sometimes to your disadvantage. 

BE AWARE OF HOW YOU SOUND. The quickest way to improve your communication is to listen to yourself on tape. Turn the phone on and place it around the house to hear your conversations. How does your voice sound? Do you interrupt others a lot? How is your pitch? Do you pronounce words clearly?  

There is no “right” type of voice. Having an accent or a vocal tic doesn’t mean you can’t be an effective speaker; on the contrary, some of these so-called defects can even make you a unique and engaging speaker. If you watch movies, you know there are great actors with less than ideal voices. Most of time, it’s their unique voice that makes them so memorable.  

Here are some guidelines: 

Enunciate your words. Speak clearly and don’t mumble. If people frequently ask you to repeat yourself, work on articulating words in a better manner.

Pronounce your words correctly. People judge your competency through your vocabulary. If you aren’t sure of how to say a word, don’t use it. Make it a habit to look up words if you are not sure of either their meaning or their pronunciation. 

Slow your speech down. People will perceive you as nervous and unsure of yourself if you talk too fast. However, be careful not to slow down to the point where people begin to finish your sentences for you. 

Develop your voice. A high or whiny voice does not come across as authoritative, nor does a soft, breathy voice. Begin doing exercises to lower the pitch of your voice. Try singing exercises, or simply sing songs, but do them an octave lower than usual. Practice this and after a period of time, your voice will begin to lower naturally.

Avoid the habit of ending each sentence in a question. Use declarative voice or you risk undermining your credibility.  

 Animate your voice. Avoid a monotone and practice varying your cadence. Your pitch should rise and fall periodically.

Adjust your volume to the situation, speaking more softly when talking one-on-one or to a small and close-knit group and louder when you are speaking to larger groups or across larger spaces. Although this sounds self-evident, people sometimes feel that loud talk is artificial and they avoid it.  But it is necessary when addressing a big crowd, even with a microphone.

Avoid “fillers.” Clear up all the “ums,” “likes,” and other fillers. Do not be afraid to pause between thoughts. This can be an effective way of helping people absorb what you are saying before you launch into your next point. And they pay attention more when they have to anticipate your next thought. 

The best reason for practicing these suggestions is to eliminate what is distracting in your voice so that people will focus on you and your message.   

PAY ATTENTION TO BODY LANGUAGE. Don’t send mixed messages with your body. Your words, gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice should all work together to communicate what you want to convey. For example, reprimanding someone while smiling sends a mixed message. If you have to deliver a negative message, make your words, facial expressions, and tone match the message.  

Keep your hands from your face. Covering the mouth or playing with hair is a “tell,” signaling that you are nervous or bored. (If you feel too nervous to let your arms hang by your side, then carry some papers, but be careful of fiddling with them.) Crossing your arms may make you feel safer but it can send a signal that you are unapproachable; having your hands on your hips can make you appear defiant.  

Be aware of your positions at a table. If you are sitting with someone across the table, don’t be afraid to lean in to make a point. It shows engagement. On the other hand, when you sit leaning way back, you are signaling that you are in charge. This can also signal disengagement. A happy medium is to sit with your back against the back of the seat in a relaxed, open position. 

LISTEN. Finally, remember that a really good speaker is also a talented listener. Don’t talk over the other person. A good conversation has the element of good timing. It’s important to make people feel they are being heard, not merely tolerated until you get to talk again. It’s hard for all of us to wait, especially with our families and friends. Use time with others to practice letting a second or two go by before you respond. You might end up learning more than you think.

Why Study History

Why Study History

by Claire Cullen

Does the study of the recorded past serve any vital purpose? In light of present day circumstances, that is a compelling question. Perhaps a brief examination of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in Ukraine will shed light on the topic.

When Vladimir Putin sent troops into the region in 2014, many questioned his audacity. Yet seen through the prism of history, the decision should not have been surprising. Ukraine had made overtures to NATO. Such an alliance would threaten Russia’s control over the naval base at Sevastopol on the Black Sea. At this juncture, Putin looked to the past.

In 1725, Peter the Great wrote, “(Russia should) approach as near as possible to Constantinople and India. Whoever governs there will be the true sovereign of the world. Consequently, excite continual wars, not only in Turkey, but in Persia … penetrate as far as the Persian Gulf, advance as far as India.” Thus began a continuum: Catherine the Great, Tsar Alexander, Josef Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, …Vladimir Putin. All looked to the south. Access to a warm water port is as much a part of Russian history as the Bolshoi and Pushkin.

The geographic realities are self-evident. Russia’s northern ports are frozen for months at a time.  Ships plying the Baltic route to the North Sea must navigate the NATO controlled waters of the Skagerrak Strait. Those docked in the Black Sea face the narrows of the Bosporus. Clearly their blue water navy faces tremendous obstacles. And the ultimate goal, the Indian Ocean, remains at bay. Putin’s objective isn’t simply Sevastopol. This is but a transitional step to his ultimate goal.

Ukraine was first incorporated into Russia in the ninth century. A significant Russian-speaking population has lived in the region for two centuries. A careful study of each nation shows that their histories are intertwined. Thus from Putin’s perspective, annexation was both logical and inevitable. He could no more abdicate control of the region than the United States could cede the Gulf of Mexico, or access to the Panama Canal, to a hostile alliance.

This does not mean that we have to accept Russia’s actions. What it does mean is that we must understand their motivation. And that brings us back to the fundamental question posed above.

Does the study of the recorded past serve any vital purpose? Absolutely. For without a firm understanding of history, it will be impossible to develop any effective strategy for the present and the future. “The bear in the woods” is now a presence in Syria and a supporter of Iran on the Persian Gulf. Sound familiar? It should. Peter the Great pointed Russia in this precise direction nearly three hundred years ago.

For Further Reading:

Imperial Gamble; Putin, Ukraine, and the New Cold War    — Marvin Kalb
Prisoners of Geography; Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World    — Tim Marshall
The Revenge of Geography; What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate      — Robert Kaplan
Pacific; Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers    — Simon Winchester

Celebrating 15 Years of Murray Hill Institute

A Message from Teresa Carale, MHI President

Fifteen years ago, a group of professional women who were committed to helping women integrate ethical standards into their personal and professional lives founded Murray Hill Institute. That year, the Institute organized its inaugural conference, Women Transforming Culture. Over 200 women, representing 25 different professions, attended, from the United States, Europe, South America and Asia. Since then, Murray Hill Institute continues to foster effective and ethical leadership among women, primarily through its hallmark one-on-one mentoring program, as well as through conferences, seminars, cultural events, and discussion forums focusing on a wide range of topics that relate to women and the world of work. Through our programs and events, we promote an optimistic, transformational leadership that leads to decisions and actions that have positive socio-cultural impact, helping transform a culture of greed and selfishness into a culture of giving and reaching out to others.

We are pleased to note the success of our mentoring program. A select group of young women, who believe in our concept of leadership and impact, join the program each year. Their mentors, experienced professional women, assist them in acquiring the non-technical skills that will help them overcome the many hurdles they are or will be facing in their careers. They also give valuable advice to help the mentees navigate career choices. Because the young women involved in the program are interested in having a positive impact on society, we consider the mentoring program a worthwhile investment towards a future founded on respect for persons and the common good.

We are also entering into collaborative projects with educational institutions, consistent with our vision and goals of achieving greater impact with our limited resources. We invite you to join our annual Fashion Intelligence Symposium, a collaboration with the Fashion Institute of Technology. The theme of the 2016 spring conference is Authentic Fashion. In the fall of 2016, we are organizing a one-day Women in Leadership symposium, which will develop the theme Purpose and Impact. And each month, we organize events that develop leadership competencies, build cultural awareness and appreciation, foster networking and peer mentoring, and explore profound and complex topics that affect our world today.

As we embark on the next 15 years of our existence as a leadership institute, we count on your interest, participation in our programs and continued support. 

Five Qualities of Great Leaders

by Claire Huang

Claire Huang shared what she has learned through her wide range of leadership experiences in marketing, communications, and brand management at the opening seminar for MHI’s mentoring 2015-16 year. Many of the attendees have asked for a copy of the talk. Working with Claire, we have adapted her lecture notes into narrative form and are happy to offer them to you below.

So much great work has been produced and written on leadership. Drawing on this prior work, I have selected five areas of leadership that I believe have the most impact. The way I remember them is by thinking about the qualities of a simple lead pencil.  

The most important quality of a great leader and a pencil is what is inside.

Great leaders are persons of integrity, with high standards. Their actions are based on a sound moral groundwork.  People can see when you do the right thing, whether it is something very small or something larger.  A good way to develop your vision of what leadership with integrity means is to read books about great men and women. 

Great leaders are disciplined. They exercise self-discipline but also require discipline of their teams. They have standards for behavior, communicate these, and give those working with them honest feedback.  

Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India's movement for independence from Britain, is a great example of a true leader with both discipline and high standards. Gandhi exercised non-violent civil disobedience and has served as an inspiration for freedom causes all over the world. He was imprisoned repeatedly for his teachings. He undertook lengthy fasts as protest and also as a means of self-purification. Gandhi focused on self-awareness as well as discipline. As you grow in self-awareness you will begin to understand why you feel what you feel and why you behave as you behave. This enables you to have better control over your thoughts, words, and actions.

Great leaders focus on supporting others. Leaders who are supportive sense and understand how other people feel and show a sincere interest in those around them. They build trust and inspire their colleagues to overcome challenges. They foster efficiency and focus on eliminating fears. This helps to prevent colleagues from engaging in internal rivalry and conflict. Jack Welch, the celebrated former CEO of General Electric, said, "Before you are leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is about growing others." 

The second thing that a leader and a pencil have in common is that they sometimes make mistakes. But sometimes we can erase them. Making mistakes is part of life. The best leaders face up to the facts, engage others in the issue, and move ahead to correct their mistakes. Problems do not age well. Great leaders have the fortitude to confront problematic issues promptly and move forward in spite of them. 

Great leaders, like pencils, experience sharpening. In other words, they are honed and made more effective by adversity and change. If you are a great leader, you will use that sharpening to make you better. Great leaders understand that problems will arise, but they are expert at solving problems effectively and then using what they have learned to make their teams and themselves better. Before making decisions, make sure you gather relevant information, get input from all concerned parties, and analyze the information. This is important for everyday issues as well as larger ones. 

Pope Francis is known for his warmth, his humility, and his desire to avoid fanfare. He moved out of the traditional suite in the Apostolic Palace into a small apartment in the Vatican guesthouse. Here he lives simply, avoiding special privileges and attention. What he is less known for is his ability to solve problems quickly and decisively. He made major changes in the Vatican bank, replacing the boards of the bank and its main regulatory body with respected business people from around the globe. Although there has been pushback from entrenched interests at the Vatican, Francis has not been easily influenced. He gets information on important church personnel and organizations from a variety of sources instead of relying on a few insiders. Operating budgets are carefully managed to ensure that as much money as possible can go to charity. 

For both a pencil and a leader to function effectively, it is important to be held in someone else’s hand. For people of faith, it is about being alert to the presence of God and trying to align one’s actions and decisions with His will. It is also about choosing trusted mentors, developing productive connections, and seeking different perspectives. Great leaders actively seek input from others on how to improve performance. They use this input, together with their own insights, to differentiate and calibrate issues, sifting out the less important from the more important. Leaders who do well in this dimension typically base their decisions on sound analysis and avoid the many biases to which decisions are prone. 

Abraham Lincoln, without question one of the great leaders in history, surrounded himself with people, including his rivals, who had strong ambitions and who felt free to question his authority. For example, Lincoln brought Salmon Chase into his cabinet as treasury secretary, knowing that Chase craved the presidency for himself and was repeatedly undermining him with other cabinet members and Congress. So long as he was doing a good job at his post, that was more important than personal feelings. But Lincoln’s motive was not just to put rivals in positions of power, his intention was to choose the ablest people for the good of the country. Lincoln came to power when the nation was in peril, and he had the intelligence and self-confidence to know that he needed the best people by his side, people who were leaders in their own right and who were very aware of their own strengths. That’s an important insight whether you’re the leader of a country or the CEO of a company. 

Finally, great leaders want to make a mark. Great leaders have a vision, a purpose. They have meaning in their lives. Daniel Pink, a noted author on motivation, talks about three areas that motivate people. The first is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, or autonomy.  The second is the desire or impulse to learn and create new things, or mastery. The third is the wish to do better by ourselves and our world which he calls purpose or meaning. Find a purpose that is outside of yourself, one that is bigger that what you can achieve for yourself and speaks to what can you achieve for the greater good.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta was focused on helping the poor. In addition to the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, the nuns in her order take a fourth vow to give "wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor." She expanded the idea of poverty, saying, "We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty." She helped us realize that loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.

Successful businesses, too, have a strong sense of purpose. Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. Apple is about challenging the status quo. Purpose- driven companies outperformed the Standard & Poor 500 by 10 times from 1996 to 2011. If you find a larger purpose in your life and your work, one that benefits not only you, but also society, others will join you in your quest.

Having a vision is one thing, but the next thing is to operate with a focus on results. Leadership is not only about developing and communicating a vision and setting objectives, but also following through to achieve results. Leaders with a strong results orientation tend to emphasize the importance of efficiency and productivity and to prioritize the work that has the highest value.

To summarize the areas that make great leaders:

Great leaders focus on what is inside: strong integrity, discipline, supporting others.

Great leaders make mistakes, admit them, and have the fortitude to continue and learn.

Great leaders understand that they will experience sharpening through adversity, but they don't just endure, they use what they've learned to do better 

Great leaders understand that they also need to be held in someone's hand; they collaborate to understand different perspectives. 

Great leaders have a bigger purpose in their lives. And this purpose drives them to do good not just for themselves and their families for but society. A bigger purpose. What is yours?

Keep Calm and Carry On

Image credit: "Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scan" by UK Government - Digital scan of original KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON poster owned by wartimeposters.co.uk. Steved1973 (talk) 10:40, 22 October 2011 (UTC). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scan.jpg#/media/File:Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scan.jpg

Image credit: "Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scan" by UK Government - Digital scan of original KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON poster owned by wartimeposters.co.uk. Steved1973 (talk) 10:40, 22 October 2011 (UTC). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scan.jpg#/media/File:Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scan.jpg

By Alice Trimmer

This expression is usually interpreted as an example of the British “stiff upper lip” that characterizes stoicism in the face of adversity. However, the expression “carry on” has another, perhaps now outdated, meaning. It used to mean complaining, for example, a mother would say to her whining child “What are you carrying on about?” I like to interpret this concept as follows: keep an outward calm even though you are carrying on inside. This has proven to be the single most effective coping tool I developed in over 30 years of managing publishing projects. It was even more valuable during my second career, which spanned nearly a decade, working in, and directing, a non-profit center for youth in the South Bronx. I found that if I could manage to keep calm while everything seems to be falling apart around me (and inside of me as well), this was the single most important thing I could do. As a manager, it is especially critical. When things go wrong—an important piece of work is not delivered on time, an assumption that was not checked has proven false, a critical message was not transmitted—one’s initial reaction is likely to be emotional and somewhat defensive. We may first think “What did I do wrong?” which can quickly modulate into “What did [Sarasponda, Eric, Sebastian, Ellie] do wrong?” Or “Why on earth did [Sarasponda, Eric, Sebastian, Ellie] not let me know about this earlier?” This is the time to take a deep breath and smile. There will be time for debriefing later, but if you get everyone in a whirl because you, the manager, are upset, it only saps energy and distracts the team from getting on with solving whatever problem or situation has arisen. This is easier said than done, but it is helpful to realize that often the consequences of such mishaps are not as severe as they are initially imagined, and furthermore, they are almost inevitable when an enterprise involving many moving parts is underway.  

A Good Leader Is Also a Good Friend

By Mireia Las Heras and Esther Jiménez

We live in a fast-moving and ephemeral culture. It’s fashionable to invent new terms without thinking too deeply about their meaning. In this respect, leadership is described variously as visionary, transactional, lateral, situational, autocratic, emotional, resonant and charismatic─with more to come when these don’t deliver. In popular and academic literature, a leader is a winner and someone who enjoys power. 

Friendship is relegated to the world beyond work. In the workplace, it is a word with negative connotations, associated with influence peddling, string pulling, and, of course, nepotism. Sometimes this is based in reality. One only need look at the so-called “positions of trust” in the social and political life of many countries.

Let us look at the essence of leadership and friendship. Leading means, to paraphrase Salinas, bringing out the best in others. And friendship is, in essence, a disinterested relationship based on trust and affection between people, which is borne out of and strengthened by sharing common goals. As it was put in the title of a book written by one of our professors: to lead is to educate.

In every human enterprise, even one as important as a football team, it is essential that there are friendly relations between the various components in order to increase the chance of achieving one’s goal. It’s vital that everyone participates and contributes to achieve the mission. It’s not enough for everyone to score a goal, however useful that might be. What’s needed is for everyone to want to win the game even if that means not being the one who scores the goal. 

To be a leader who gives orders also means being a collaborator who obeys. And this mandate, if it’s going to be developed and perfected and bring out the best, is at the same time a service. And it only functions when someone is considered a friend, someone who shares a common interest. It’s a long way from the leadership of the list of the 500 most powerful men─or women, if only it was the same thing!─in the world. Leadership and power are not synonymous and, although they aren’t mutually exclusive, neither do they go hand in hand. Magnates and dictators have power without being leaders, while a mother or a teacher may be a stupendous leader without wielding power. 

Leadership and service require each other; they are manifestations of the same thing and are sustained by friendship. “When he pours, he reigns,” ran the slogan in the Tom Cruise film Cocktail. It’s a good phrase: a person is at the same time someone who serves and someone who governs, without seeking their own self-interest. 

A leader has to know how to see and evaluate. And this doesn’t just mean assessing qualities and defects, but developing and bringing out people’s full potential. In the current climate, where products have a short life cycle and where change is the norm rather than the exception, and knowledge rather than experience is what is valued, leaders need to promote friendship to foster the development of their fellow workers. That way, leaders and their colleagues will be able to make clear decisions and face challenges through constant evolution.

Mireia Las Heras is Assistant Professor of Managing People in Organizations, IESE Business School.
Esther Jiménez is Manager of the International Center for Work and Family, IESE Business School.
This essay was first published in the Alumni Magazine IESE, July-September 2011.

 

Is My Identity My Job Title?

By Erin Aldrich

We live in a society where people are often more concerned about what we do than who we are. If you don’t believe me, just think about how often you say something like, “Hi I am Erin Aldrich, Director of Metro Achievement Center” and then smile and pause expecting a similar sentence from the person standing across from you.

To constantly be identifying one’s self with a job title and place of work can take its toll. What if I don’t have a job or don’t have the position I want or am ashamed of where I work or work in what some people consider a lesser job? Since we often identify ourselves with our job, we can start to think our upward movement in a company is the same thing as an increase in our self-worth. Our value starts to become dependent on our position, making it easier to act in ways that might even go against our value systems.

For the past five years I have had the great privilege of getting to know hundreds of young professional women who volunteer weekly at Metro Achievement Center, each searching for happiness and fulfillment. Since these women are also constantly repeating their job title as what identifies them, they might easily begin to think that this is where happiness and fulfillment are to be found. But does this even make sense? Absolutely not!

Not many people stop to think about where happiness and fulfillment come from in the fast-paced world that we live in. Who has time after juggling work, friends, groceries, laundry, drinks with friends, and every once in a while cooking a meal? If we don’t take the time daily to reflect on what we want in life, why we want it, and how we strive to obtain it, it’s easy to fall into the habit of seeing the next promotion or the next pay raise as the key to happiness. If we keep identifying ourselves by our job titles, we limit our self-worth and potential for happiness. It would be very sad to allow our employers to dictate our worth and sense of fulfillment.

How serious are you about finding happiness and fulfillment? If you are serious about it, then I suggest you make time to reflect each day. People who reflect daily on their purpose and identity tend to be much happier. I don’t have any research to back this up, just years of observation. I encourage everyone to take time daily to think about the following questions:

What is the purpose of my life?

Am I trying to fulfill my purpose?

What is at the core of my identity?

Do I often remember this or do I define my worth based on other things?

What is most important to me?

Does the way I set my daily priorities allow me to make time for what is most important?

What are my values and beliefs?

Am I staying true to my values and beliefs?

As we reflect daily on these types of questions, it sets us on a path for success, happiness and fulfillment. 

And in a world where we hear and say many times a day, “Hi I am Erin Aldrich, Director of Metro Achievement Center” smile and pause, it is good to be able to remember while that is what I do, that is not who I am.