The Leadership Practices Inventory developed by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, was based on their 1982 research that set out to understand those times when leaders performed at their personal best.
Centred around five fundamental practices common to extraordinary leadership achievements, known as The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, LPI has been tested, validated and re-validated since, by an estimated 1.3 million leaders around the world!
I first came across the LPI survey when I was employed by the National Australia Bank as a young manager in the 90’s.
For me, the insights I gained about myself as well as my peers, were significant in that it gave me a set of tools to develop my own leadership capabilities, congruent to my own beliefs and values.
Even after all these years, I still personally regard LPI as one of the great break throughs for personal and professional development.
That said, recently I was reading an article in the monthly magazine Entrepreneur – it was titled “The Leadership Issue” (March 2016) and one particular article caught my attention.
“The 22 Must-Have Leadership Qualities” by Adam Bornstein and Jordan Bornstein gave me a pleasant surprise as I could see similarities to the Kouzes and Posner LPI framework.
In summary, Adam and Jordan have tabled 22 leadership qualities put forward individually by various entrepreneurs of which included…
These similarities prompted me to conclude the possibility that within us all we know what good leadership is when we see it and importantly, we know what great leadership is.
Could it be then, that great leadership transcends everything else?
Whether you are a leader of an IT team, a CEO of a publically listed company, an entrepreneur, a founder of a startup, an elected public official (or have aspirations to be one), or a local community group leader or religious leader, are the attributes of “great” leadership the same?
My answer to this is a resounding yes!
So here’s the important part…
If this hypothesis of mine is correct (by the way after 1.3 million respondents to the LPI survey, the sample size is can be regarded as valid), then should this not be the benchmark we need to seek out, encourage and importantly develop within ourselves?
I believe the world needs more leaders.
Specifically, we need to encourage more leaders with the attributes that Adam and Jordan have described and that Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner have spent almost 35 years researching and writing about.
If you do not know about them, perhaps you have seen at least, many Australians travelling the world with those elastic sided leather boots.
From back packers to Prime Ministers, the R.M.Williams brand has been on anything from boots, hats, belts and clothes.
In fact, it is typical for visiting heads of state to Australia, to receive a small gift that may include R.M.Williams boots, belts or hats.
It is also on the record that the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, was inaugurated in a pair of R.M.Williams boots in 1993!
But how R.M.Williams came about is a fascinating story and is one of many chapters but ultimately captured the emotional psyche of a whole country.
Just imagine if your brand could do that!
The R.M.Williams story starts in 1932 by it’s founder, Reginald Murray Williams, or “RM” as he called himself.
Now you can read about him and the company from other sources, but there is one point I want to draw your attention to.
You see RM was an entrepreneur.
His business was a startup.
Maybe not the high tech versions that we talk about today, but ultimately he had a vision and through hard work and determination he pursued that successfully.
By all accounts, he was not always the easiest man to get on with. But then again they say that about the great Steve Jobs as well.
Now RM lived during a time of the great cattle barons in Australia.
Places like Anna Creek Station which according to Wikipedia, remains as the world’s largest working cattle station.
Its area is roughly 6,000,000 acres (24,000 km2; 9,400 sq mi) which is slightly larger than Israel. It is also seven times the size of the United States’ biggest ranch, King Ranch in Texas, which is 825,000 acres (3,340 km2; 1,289 sq mi).
I had to add that for my friends in Texas by the way.
This was RM’s world because RM started life as a bootmaker and saddler.
His business model if you could call it that, was mail order – cash first.
This enabled him then to purchase the material required to make the customer’s products.
Talk about cash flow positive!
Now much has been written about the ups and downs of his company of which he finally sold to his friend Ken Cowley in 1993 and has since changed hands.
However how RM started his business should be taught in business schools today.
For me one of the biggest reasons why budding entrepreneurs struggle in their startups and businesses is cash flow.
Often however it is not necessarily the lack of cash either.
It is how they are structured, or worse, their own financial comprehension of their true financial position.
You see it is too easy to get credit these days and as a result, true cash flow becomes difficult to recognise.
RM clearly understood this principle and as a result his legacy continues today.
If you ensure your business model is kept relatively simple when starting off and understand your cash flow, then perhaps your business one day will be like RM’s!
As to RM, well one can only say he lived an incredibly full life.
In 2003 he passed away at the age of 95.
However, his legacy amongst many things is an iconic Australian brand that is recognised around the world.
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – Nelson Mandela
Sometimes we get stuck in life.
I know I have.
It’s like you are comfortable, but when you really look around you, you don’t like what you see, so instead you close your eyes again.
You fill the vacuum with things that perhaps let you fit in, but they do not provide the meaning you seek.
Don’t get me wrong, we need to have fun, play and be entertained. But we also need purpose as well.
Of course this is different to all of us, nevertheless I believe we must seek it, to feel really alive.
Yet, at least from my experience, I did not grow up with the necessary life skills to help me find what my true purpose is.
Sure a caring family upbringing, with adults around me with sound morale compasses to guide them as role models, but I needed a guide or a coach. Somebody who had the life experience and the wisdom but also the humanity.
Over 20 years ago I was fortunate to come across Tony Robbins. Like so many others, literally the hundreds if not millions of people would say, this was a life changing experience. For me it was certainly a catalyst which resulted me taking a different path and while there have been distractions and time when I went back “to sleep”, there were some fundamental principles that I learned then, that have served me every day since.
Basically it was the realisation that I am as a result of my beliefs. There was no pre-determined rule that I had to be anyone specific, it was my beliefs that were driving this.
It is these beliefs that form my identity and as such, ultimate potential.
This of course then influences what I do on a daily basis, my actions and then the cycle starts again. From actions lead results which gives me experience of which I ask myself questions that will lead to new beliefs being formed, or re-enforcing old ones.
I must say, the way my “coach” Tony teaches it, seems so simple, but for me, it has taken many years to fully comprehend how profound this model is and I continue to apply this nearly every day.
Now if this is new to you, well I would suggest that you need to follow-up by getting to one of Tony’s seminars to hear it from the legend himself, but even if you just take a moment or two right now and think about the beliefs you may have that are possibly preventing you from moving forward?
You see, I meet with many business owners, entrepreneurs and startups each day. One thing I have realised in this community is the belief systems that many of these people have. However, as some of these entrepreneurs have shared with me, there were many self-limiting beliefs that they needed to change.
For me, I call this “re-wiring” the brain – for some reason that resonates more elegantly- I can sort of picture in my mind as to what I am trying to achieve.
So while I have had many coaches since that first interaction with Tony Robbins in 1993 (and I have subsequently been attending various seminars of Tony’s since), all these coaches, roles models, mentors and guides, have contributed to me formulating new distinctions and insights. As a result, where I am today, is a vastly different place than I would have every thought possible or imagined 23 years ago.
Coaching has led to life changing experiences by ways of opening my eyes to the world of possibility.
What could coaching do for you and how might your life change?
Could it be that a new experience will result in new beliefs and a shift in identify that provides a different perspective on your potential. What if this new “potential” then drives a different set of action where now you are getting a different set of results?
Could it be possible that your destiny has been changed?
“The test of a good coach is that when they leave, others will carry on successfully” – Anonymous
Probably one of the greatest lessons I have learned, is the importance of having a coach.
In fact, if it was not for the people that I have brought into my life over the years to refine existing skills and learn completely new ones, while allowing them to challenge my mindset, I can honestly say I would not be where I am today.
Sure, you can hack away at most things yourself and over time you can make progress. But as many golf pro’s would say, you can pick up some bad habits which if not identified, can significantly limit your performance of which these bad habits may take years of re-training to un-learn.
This also translates across to other fields as well, not just in sports but relationships, wealth, health and of course business. You can go at it alone, or get a coach.
But what area of your life should you seek a coach for and what criteria should you use to select the right coach? Finally, how should you interact with your coach?
Firstly, let me say that when I use the term “coach”, I am using it very broadly. I include mentors, role models and other individuals who you may look up to or seek out, for the occasional advice, or in a more formal relationship of mutual obligation where you are paying for professional services. The important thing though is that you understand the role and circumstances that the relationship is based upon.
For instance, I recall a time when I was assisting a friend with her career. However, I realised that because of our relationship, emotionally I was too close and possibly not objective towards her needs. Hence I suggested a professional coach / career counsellor would be more suitable. So while you may think that you do have your personal network, there are several other factors to consider.
In one area of my life I am currently seeking to improve, is in public speaking and I have engaged a coach to assist me in that. The boundaries are very clear, both in time commitments, financial commitments and when there are tasks or activities to be done, I do them! Just prior to the start of the engagement, I was asked by the organisation as to what “style” of coach would I prefer. I do not recall the exact phrasing but I had a choice between more gentle, or direct. I chose “direct” as this is an area I want to improve rapidly – so in other words, I need somebody very firm so it is very clear for me what I need to do!
Whereas during my academic journey, where I was required to identify a supervisor or supervisors, I decided that what I needed was expertise on “methodology” and not on the specific expertise that I was researching for my doctorate. Also I wanted people who I enjoyed being around considering this would be a five-year journey!
So reflecting on these last few years, where I have made rapid and significant changes in my life which have been the direct result of engaging with coaches, I thought I would share my list of considerations as to how you can also get what you want fast with a coach!
Identify What Help You Require
You need to be clear at the start as to what areas of your life you are seeking assistance. Then, you may be able to further re-fine this into specific niches or specialities. For example, in business you may be seeking some marketing and advertising guidance, but what it is specifically, is for somebody who can coach you around writing great copy with calls to action.
Determine If Your Prospective Coach Has What You Require
Simply, if you a seeking ballroom dancing coaching, can your coach tango?
Are they walking the talk as we say? What results have they achieved? Are they considered an “expert” in their niche?
In some areas where you are seeking formal professional coaching, you may want to check out their credentials that could include certifications and professional memberships. This may not always be required, but it is nevertheless an important consideration.
Will You Get On With Them?
Again, be clear on your motivations for coaching, but there has also got to be mutual respect and likeability for both of you. Life in my opinion is just too short – so you do have choices and it might be that your first potential coach has all the skills but for some reason your personalities do not hit it off. If this is the case, find somebody else.
Do They Have A Track Record?
Are you able to determine whether your prospective coach has achieved similar results that you are seeking with other clients, or at minimum with themselves?
What Is Their Coaching Approach?
Do you understand how you will be working with your prospective coach and does that work for you?
For instance, my public speaking coaching is conducted via Skype with scheduled in-person meetings throughout the year. This is perfectly OK with me because the tasks I undertake between sessions are video recordings of me speaking which we then review together online.
So consider how technology can enhance your coaching experience and also open you up to the greater opportunity of accessing some of the best coaches from around the world!
What Are You Getting?
Now having gone through the previous questions, give yourself a checkpoint and ask yourself as to what you are getting?
Be specific here as it is important that before you sign off on the relationship, there is alignment around expectations between both parties. What are your mutual goals or milestones that you will work towards together? For example, in another area of my business, I am working with a successful entrepreneur and our mutual goal is a product launch. While this is benefiting me, we are both committed towards this goal of which includes the why, what, who and when.
Make sure you do this too.
What is Your Coaching Investment?
Also make sure you understand your investment upfront so you can plan. What you do not want to have happen that in the middle of this relationship, there is a money issue that comes up and can actually be quite toxic to the momentum that had already been achieved – to both parties.
At the same time, understand that if it is not working out for some reason there can be a discussion, or mechanism around a guarantee or refund.
Are There Ethical Consideration You Need To Be Aware Of?
Unfortunately, in this day and age, there are many scammers out there, or there are services being offered that perhaps are not as professional as they should be. For example, this could extend to having your coach share your email or personal details to others. Its these sort of things that could arise, but if you do your due diligence, then they can all be avoided.
Getting Carried Away At Events!
OK, many of us have attended conferences or events where various programs are on offer. This often gives you a chance to acquire some excellent programs. For myself, I have made some of the best decisions in my life at these types of events which have then taken me down new paths. Tony Robbins for example over twenty years ago resulted me going to Maui on several occasions and establishing some of the distinctions that I live by today.
Yet, as the Latin saying “caveat emptor” or “buyer beware” suggests, make sure you are investing in these programs for the right reasons. It is easy sometimes to get caught up in the energy and excitement of others.
So there you have it! While I am sure there are many other considerations and questions others could think of, perhaps these will do as a start when seeking your first “coach”.
Remember, asking yourself whether that what are you seeking, can this person help you with that? Or if you are still unsure in what you are seeking, still ask yourself the question but as to whether this person can help you with finding clarity.
“I don’t know what to say really. Three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives all comes down to today. Either we heal as a team or we are going to crumble. Inch by inch, play by play, till we’re finished.” – Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino) Inch By Inch speech from Any Given Sunday
I remember forever the words of one of my first coaches.
“I don’t care if you win or lose, just get out there and enjoy yourselves boys!”
Well 60 minutes later, after being thrashed 60 to 0 (for a Rugby match that is not a close score) Coach came out and blasted us for “the school’s weekend embarrassment”. One by one he picked off my fellow team mates and berated them for what they did wrong. Next it was my turn…
“As for you McKenzie, why do you even bother showing up? I put you in the team because of your size and thought playing as a prop suited you best. But now I think I was wrong. You should consider another sport instead.”
Mmm, it looks like Coach really wasn’t the great motivator after all and I seriously did consider giving up on Rugby altogether.
However, it was so much a part of school life in those days, so I kept at it. The next year the tryouts – now I am in the under 14’s and something happened…
That year I had a new coach and I actually went up a grade into the 14D’s. In fact, I started to learn new skills and really enjoyed myself at the same time. My coach was always there to provide direction and encouragement. Plus, I think winning a few games certainly helped as well!
The following year, now I find myself in the under 15C’s – still playing prop as I was one of the bigger boys, but that was OK. Now I had a passion for Rugby!
Next came the under 16’s and yes I was able to improve on the previous year and got into the 16B’s. There were also several games where I was on the reserve for the 16A’s and yes even had my “moment” where I was called on to the game and played for the 16A’s!
That was the highlight of my Rugby career!
Now I am not going to try to make my story out like “Field Of Dreams” – that’s the one with Kevin Costner and baseball and the character “Doc”, but I will say to you, that was the last year I played Rugby because within a week of playing as a reserve in the 16A’s, I was out of the game altogether with an injury.
You see what happened was that in one game, a scrum collapsed which with my playing as prop, left me on the bottom with grass on one side and about 14 boys from the collapsed scrum on top of me. My head had twisted under my body.
I do not remember everything that happened immediately after, the ambulance, the intensive care and the recovery. I went very close to becoming permanently injured, but that was not to be that day.
Now you can imagine how I felt as a young boy, with Rugby his whole world and who also had a taste of being in the top team and a belief that maybe the next year he would even be playing in the school’s First XV!
It was devastating, my world had collapsed. The dream was no longer possible as I was told I was to never play Rugby again.
But fortunately there was another coach at the school who reached out to me the following year. He said he needed help with his team and asked if I would be his “assistant coach”.
Now after all these years, I realise that this particular coach was doing this for me.
Perhaps he sensed what was going on through my mind. My own feeling of self-worth. The very act of an adult, somebody I respected, reaching out to an adolescent and through these actions is saying “I believe in you” was to give me some sense of purpose once again. To see my world in a different lens – after all this current world had changed for me.
So my final two years at high school, I spent coaching junior teams. I had finally accepted the reality that I could not play the game physically myself, but I could through others. Whether that be the teams I was coaching, or living the dream through other players at my school who eventually went on to represent Australia. Yet for me, it was about being given a second chance, but, on a different journey.
Today, after all these years, Rugby is only once facet of my life. Yet this experience at that age, taught me some valuable lessons of which I continue to embrace.
I have even had the wonderful opportunity several years back, to be seated next to the new coach of the Australian national Rugby team on a flight from Sydney to Singapore and shared this story to him as well and what I have learned. We spent hours talking about leadership and mindset. I truly memorable time for me.
You see, regardless of where you are in life today, whether that be in the highest of all highs or so low that the hope of anything changing is difficult to imagine, let alone a possibility, you need to have a coach who can provide you with the inspiration when you need it, the firm voice when you do not think you need it and importantly, the helping hand that will be there regardless.
“In Africa there is a concept known as Ubuntu – the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others.” — Nelson Mandela
As an adolescent and then later as a younger man, I wanted to be independent. In fact, I probably did everything possible to be that way.
Now depending upon your cultural upbringing, some of you may be thinking… “well done”, “good job”, “wish more people were like you”, whereas others may be thinking “you were a very selfish person”!
Well whatever your views, I want to let you know that recently I have had a change of heart.
You see I do not think that this is the way to go anymore. In fact, I am sure of it now.
I now believe in the importance of Ubuntu.
“Ubuntu is a Nguni Bantu term roughly translating to human kindness. It is an idea from the Southern African region which means literally human-ness, and is often translated as humanity towards others, but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity” – Wikipedia
I first came across the term “Ubuntu” from the book written by Bob Nelson and Steven Lundin titled “Ubuntu!: An Inspiring Story About an African Tradition of Teamwork and Collaboration” published in 2010.
If you have not read it, you should, because it may influence you also in how you see relationships and in particular, relationships in business.
In the startup world forming relationships through networks and partnerships are critical, but the concept of Ubuntu takes this even further.
But first, why is that in many workplaces today we often spend time putting people down, instead of building people up? Why do we often avoid the true spirit of collaboration and instead choose to be threatened? Not by our colleague’s acts, but more by our own internal thoughts and feelings. Could it be that competition in the workplace actually leads to some of these more detrimental outcomes?
I believe it does.
Recently I was talking to an old colleague of mine and the conversation got on to LinkedIn and how it can generate a sense of envy or potentially negative perceptions and self-doubt in that you are seeing all these “high achievers” yet at the same time questioning your own abilities.
What if we decide to look at our world through a different set of lenses?
For me Ubuntu describes how we should see relationships in business today. Whether that be collaborating with other businesses, working with our own work colleagues, our own manager, our subordinates or even with our customers and our suppliers, Ubuntu introduces a dimension of relationships that has often been missing. A sense of humanity.
Today the very nature of business, technology and globalisation is enabling new models and news ways of working together. Perhaps now instead of being proud to be independent, we embrace in our hearts the philosophy of Ubuntu.