Follow the leader

I’ve started another course – Seth Godin’s Leadership Workshop on Udemy.

I’ve been a fan of Seth’s for years now. I have devoured his books, subscribed to his newsletter and been disappointed that I couldn’t jet to New York for his regular workshops. Needless to say I jumped at the chance of this online course.

Even the first three minute lecture had some gems:

  • Leadership is not management
  • Management is getting people to do what they did yesterday cheaper and faster today
  • Management is the practice of compliance
  • Leadership is about change and enrolling others to help make it happen
My first exercise is to reflect on a few things and share it somewhere that others doing the course will be able to see.
So here goes.
Outline a moment when someone you respect engaged in leadership
I wish I had been there to witness this as it happened but I was on a flight heading out on my honeymoon. I heard all about it on my return.
In the early hours of the Sunday morning after my wedding, while we were still partying, Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris. I was in Turkey for two weeks and missed the funeral and the mass outpouring of grief.
I worked as a journalist on Scotland’s biggest selling Sunday newspaper (at the time) and when went back to work I was full of curiosity as to how Diana’s death had been dealt with by the paper and its sister magazine. The then editor of the magazine was my line manager and a huge Diana fan. She had been in that post since the magazine’s inception and often had run-ins with the male dominated staff of the newspaper. She approached the paper to help with the extensive coverage she expected they would be doing only to discover that the editor of the paper wasn’t considering doing anything other than a straight news piece. Lengthy arguments then ensued with the editor of the paper claiming that  no one was that interested in Diana now she wasn’t strictly royalty and my boss claiming that he was completely missing the public sentiment and that the paper’s readers would be disappointed. She reckoned they’d go out and buy The Sunday Mail instead. When he still wasn’t for backing down she threatened to resign but was talked out of that by her staff. Instead she devoted the magazine to Diana with the full backing of my colleagues produced a special edition which won the praise of our readers and proved to the editor that we understood his readers better than he did.
Describe a time when you chose to lead
I suppose I have been a leader when it comes to using social media in an emergency but this has happened outwith the organisation I now work for and has been more at a national level.
My masters dissertation was on this subject and as a result I was asked to join a Scottish Government advisory group and I have spoken at many events and delivered training on the subject. I enjoy training sessions when you see people have that eureka moment and you know you’ve won over a few more hearts and minds to the cause.
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However internally this tends to be overlooked and I have observed that in hierarchical organisations like mine it often takes a consultant to persuade management about something their own staff have been saying for a while.
Do you agree leadership is a choice?
Yes. You can’t force someone to lead. Well, you can try but they’ll make a terrible job of it, certainly at the start. However, I have often seen people lead without realising it. I think that if you have the beginnings of a plan you need to test it to see if there will be any buy-in before you dive in head first. At those early stages a person can be leading without any consciousness that what they are doing is gaining momentum. Maybe the person has been the lynchpin in a project or a team and then transitions subconsciously into a leadership role once they’ve found their own groove. I think that’s what happened to me with social media – I was in the right place and the right time, reading the right stuff and networking with the right people.
What is the change you are trying to make
I want the organisation to put the customer at the centre of everything it does. We are in the middle of a massive transformation programme and I worry that, rather than customer centric service design, we are building services to suit the organisation. My team is fully on board with UX but in a big, hierarchical organisation it can be difficult to make your ideas heard when you are a small cog in a big wheel.
This first exercise in the course has been a difficult exercise for three reasons:
  • landing anyone in it for describing them as a leader
  • landing myself in it for not describing someone else as a leader
  • not sounding like I’m blowing my own trumpet for describing anything I have done as leadership
This last point needs to be addressed, particularly for Scottish women. We need to stand up and be seen and heard as the leaders we are so that we can encourage the younger women coming up behind us that they have as much right to to lead and take credit for leading as the men in suits who often have louder voices but not much to say.
*stands down from soapbox
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