Time to cut the crap
No Bullsh*t Leadership
Time to cut the crap.
When I was chosen the new Head of International relations at Proakatemia many people congratulated me as “I was a natural born leader” and “I suited the role of a leader brilliantly”. As the words felt incredibly good, I was still hesitating in my mind; are there certain personality traits that combine all leaders? After all, I’m studying at a degree programme which is partly team leadership so I must have already some qualities necessary for this role, right? No Bullsh*t Leadership by Chris Hirst certainly thinks that leaders aren’t born but instead molded through practice.
From the start it was very clear that I had absolutely no idea how difficult leading can be. I accepted the role with bravery and trust in myself that things will start rocking on, but boy was I wrong. I do find myself likeable, professional and competent at the same time, only did I not know that these are probably my biggest weaknesses all at the same. I wanted to give anyone interested of becoming a member of the international team a chance to join knowing, that a team of 17 members isn’t likely the most efficient. Despite some members not doing their share of work, I wanted to give them time to show their full potential. And even though it didn’t happen I kindly did most of our team’s tasks myself and kept on shooting myself in the leg. Way to lead!
Leading is the hardest part of leadership. I’m the captain of a boat and my job is to steer it to its destination safely, no matter how rough the waters get after we depart. There are two questions a leader should ask to guide their journey, the first being: Where am I and my organization currently and what challenges is it facing? And rather than answering those questions yourself as a leader or having an outside consultant diagnose all the problems in the world you may have, ask those who actually work fulltime on the field, the employees. After all, they have the insight on challenges the end-user, customer, faces. And how to carry on with collecting such data? Gather your employees together to share free pizza and ideas, such as BBC Radio 1 does it. This is an intimate and thus effective way to show you care and are ready to listen. My mistake as a leader was to start working on the problems that were existing to my eyes, but not maybe noticeable for the members in my team.
After knowing where you are, you want to ask the next question: Where do I want to go? This part often gets tricky, as leaders start thinking of the “big picture”, the vision and mission. According to Hirst, these are time-wasting, bullshit approaches to leadership and I start understanding his point. Why not just work towards the goal? Why use so much time in trying to get an outcome that might not have anything to do with your business later on or even now? “And it’s as easy as that. No consultants, no visions, no mission statements and no bullshit. Just leading.” (Hirst, 2019).
As I’ve written before, making decisions is a crucial part of having an ongoing and successful company. And as it turns out, the process of making a decision is either proposed or facilitated by the leader. As leadership should be more about doing and less about talking, it is important to minimize endless hours spent on discussing and ideating different strategies. Yes, it is easier said than done as the risk of failure exists (more straight forwardly, loss of money). Yet, the outcome can be only assessed once it has been in action. No one can predict what the future holds and that probably shouldn’t be where the leader uses their energy. There is a useful tool that gives your decisions a greater chance of success: the 40/70 rule created by Colin Powell, the former US Secretary of State. Its ideology is based simply on the fact, that iron should be stroke while being hot. So, a decision should be made when you are sure that it has a 40 percent chance of success, but if you are sure it has 70 percent chance of success, you know that you have spent too much time pondering over it. Making mistakes is a part of leading and indeed an important part, as it gives you quite straight forward answers of what not to do in the future. So, instead of trying to avoid them, let’s accept them as a necessity and harness them to become an efficient tool to improve ourselves and our businesses.
We start making decisions in our team and we know where we are going, why aren’t people still motivated? As the book smartly states, culture could be reflected to concrete; while wet it’s easy to mold, but once set it’s impossible to manipulate. If the organization culture is littered with unhealthy elements a good option is to smash it down and start from the beginning. And what can be changed? Increasing the felt of that old-fashioned hierarchy is stated as a good start. As the atmosphere “opens up”, it is very likely that teams become more flexible and its members start working closer with those members they share tasks with. So, to sum it up, no leading makes a significant change for the better, if the culture of the organization isn’t whole to start with.
What I really enjoyed in this book, were the simple comparisons to make leading more understandable and approachable. One of these was the comparison of leading and hill-climbing: the leader’s job is both convincing the team a hill after a hill is worth climbing and making sure everybody climbs those hills. As any journey, there will be difficulties and as one stumbles, another one starts running out of breath. This is the breaking point, where a leader’s job is to get these two back on their feet first, rather than keep going on with the once who are still on board. As a leader can’t possibly make the team thrive if the members aren’t committed to it, the leader can steer the team to the dumps with their energy and attitude. Where as a single bad attitude can bring the whole atmosphere down, a single positive attitude can lift it up.