TALKING POINT 4:

The Leadership X Factor

Are you a motivational leader, do you bring it? Are we better because you are in our lives? Do you have the X factor? Email, death by power point, and more boring meetings certainly won't help you achieve it.

Leaders today need to go ‘old school’—they need to get back to those original base actions of connecting, talking and inspiring the people around them. They need to get out from behind their strategy and bring leadership to life. They need to be able to make a difference personally. Their very role as leaders, the purpose of their existence, is to make a difference and the difference they make is one of amplification. 

You nail this idea and you start to influence the people and projects around you exponentially. A lot of what we call leadership is management in disguise and vice versa. The shift from technician to manager to leader is the shift from knowing what to do, through to how to do it and ultimately why we should do it. The amplifier model below highlights this journey:


The challenge is that being an amplifier is a choice you make, more so than a promotion you get or a set of capabilities you develop.

 

Great leaders need to be able to make more out of what is going on around them—they maximise what is working. Great leaders amplify the messages that matter; they amplify the commitment to getting things done; they amplify the positive mood in a culture; and they amplify the results they get. Amplifiers are those leaders who make a difference at all levels within a business, a community or a family. 

The challenge is that being an amplifier is a choice you make, more so than a promotion you get or a set of capabilities you develop. It’s the choice you make to be a motivational leader, to make a positive difference to the human condition in and around you. 

A memo or a slide show are all well and good, but they are minnows when stacked alongside the whale that is motivational leadership. Motivational leadership is the ability to influence culture and drive change. It can be applied powerfully at home, in communities and organisations everywhere. 

We desperately need leaders who can lead. We need amplifiers— those leaders who can reduce fear and replace it with confidence, and reduce confusion and replace it with clarity, mobilising us all in pursuit of a better future. Motivational leadership is not a ‘nice to do’, it’s a necessity and one that becomes increasingly needed as we move further into a technological age where we find ourselves time poor and information rich. We need leaders who can take this data deluge and provide meaning, engagement and relevance around all the stuff that matters. 

We need amplifiers. 

That need is critical now as the world faces an unprecedented rate of change. In his essay "The Future of Work," Jeff Brenman, futurist and designer from Apollo Ideas, says: ‘we are teaching our kids to prepare for jobs that have not been invented yet, solving problems we don’t even know we have yet’.

This era of massive disruption requires less long-term know-how and more immediate do now! Now more than at any other time in history we need to be able to adapt quickly; we need to shift what we are doing at a moment’s notice, take in new information and make well-informed, rapid decisions.

Amplifiers are discerning, they spend time helping people make better decisions. Creel Price, author of The One Thing to Win at the Game of Business, calls leadership ‘decisionship’ because, in his entrepreneurial experience, making decisions is the essence of leadership. 

Amplifiers support decision making as a business and leadership imperative. Decisions lead to actions, actions lead to results, results lead to beliefs, which then go on to affect choices. It’s critical to make motivational leadership be about what gets done—otherwise it really is just talk.

We need change makers not change managers. Amplifiers are absolute change makers. They agitate and stir the ponds of complacency and communicate vision in a dynamic, engaging and relevant way so that all are on board, in the right seats and heading on the same journey. 

Strategy, it seems, is failing many, as it is almost impossible to create solutions for futures further out than 12–36 months. History may end up recording this current era as the Age of Disruption: computer companies are killing music companies; disintermediation (the removal of the middle man) is destroying brokerage businesses; and geo-arbitrage (low-cost labour) is killing age-old ‘safe’ careers, like accounting and law. We are most definitely living in interesting times. 

Make no mistake, strategy is critical. It’s simply not all that it’s been made out to be. It is an analytical idea and as such lives in the left hemisphere of the brain, where culture is less specific and lives in the right hemisphere. The famous statement by US general George Patton sums it up: ‘A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.’.

Cynthia Montgomery, in her book Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs You to Be, makes the case for the synergistic relationship between leaders and strategy. Montgomery’s concern is that strategy has been outsourced to experts and advisers, to the detriment of business. She suggests that the fixed nature of strategy that most organisations adopt is flawed: ‘What’s been forgotten is that strategy is not a destination or a solution. It’s not a problem to be solved and settled. It’s a journey. It needs continuous, not intermittent, leadership.’

Motivational leadership—amplification—trumps strategy every time. Boston Consulting, in their Creating People Advantage report, reference the power of culture and people management as the ‘single biggest issue facing business leaders today’. This theme is picked up again and again in leadership texts. Corporate anthropologist and author of Finding True North, Michael Henderson, a global culture expert, states that in his research they have found ‘culture to be eight times more powerful than strategy’. 

In other words, the wrong people doing the right stuff is significantly less important than the right people doing the wrong stuff. In a logic-filled, post-industrial world it’s easy to see why the head of business (strategy) has been given a lead role. It’s time for the heart of business and society (culture), to take its place.

Amplification—motivational leadership—is the link between the two. It acts like the corpus callosum in the brain—a thick band of axons (nerve fibres) that connects the right hemisphere to the left hemisphere. Motivational leadership, or amplification, is the missing link between strategy—what we know we should do, and attitude (the willingness to do it)—and execution (getting it done). 

Motivational leadership is the quality we need to see in the conversations taking place everywhere, from the office corridors to the classrooms in schools, from the boardroom to the ballrooms in business, and from the bedrooms to the kitchen table in homes. 

Someone has to lead. 

This talking point makes the case for raising your levels of motivational leadership at home, in your community and in your business. It’s a call to arms for developing the intent to influence; it’s an invitation to become an amplifier. 

Famous motivational speaker the late Zig Ziglar highlighted the impermanence of motivation during an interview with an adversarial journalist. The journalist, keen to establish the monicker of hype-merchant on Mr Ziglar asked, ‘MrZiglar, this motivation thing you peddle—it’s not permanent is it?’ 

To which Zig replied, in his Texan drawl: 

No son, motivation is not permanent, but then again neither is sanitation! And based on the proximity of our corporal selves in this interview and the absence of a noticeable stench, you must have washed today? And that being the case it is highly likely you will do so again, tomorrow and the next day? Occasionally you miss a day but you are quick to resume the habit. Motivation is most definitely not permanent and that’s why it’s critical you get into the habit of using it daily.
 

If you are responsible for others, you may as well leave the shower running continuously. If not, you will develop an attitudinal odour, a stinking thinking, and the people you lead will require a ‘check up from the neck up’ to cure the organisational infection that steals hope, belief and fortitude. (Channelled a bit of Zig in that last line, I reckon.)

The problem is that while the principles of motivational leadership are simple, the application of them requires some art, some finesse and no small amount of courage. It takes courage to stand up and shine a light. It is way too easy to leave that to others. There will always be cowards in the dark who take pot shots at those who shine a light on the path of others. One thing though is universally true—you cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without also illuminating your own.


REFERENCES

(all covers link to Amazon)

Creating People Advantage – Boston Consulting Group


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