Friday, August 18, 2017

Fearless Leader(s)

Who are the leaders that will carry your organization to a bright future? What are their leadership and management characteristics? Has today’s unprecedented world of business created the need for a new type of leader?


There is a Latin Proverb that is sometimes attributed to Virgil: Audentes Fortuna Iuvat. The common translation is, “Fortune Favours the Brave” or “Fortune Favors the Bold.” Virgil's original is audentes fortuna iuvat "fortune favors those who dare/act boldly.” The proverb has endured until today, and is used as a motto by the US Army and many families/clans.

In today’s challenging world of global business, I believe that leaders should adopt this motto in their business conduct, plans, and hiring criteria. Anyone who is a leader or has potential to be a leader should be comfortable with this as a paradigm for action. There is little positive in the future of those who are satisfied with the status quo (no matter how good it looks), or whose actions do not reflect bold visions. On the other side, daring and disruptive actions will achieve bold results. Of course, this paradigm must be shared, embraced, and valued as a key mantra by all participants.

Let’s look further at the character of the brave leader. Donald Rumsfeld is said to have characterized international politics in terms of three levels of knowledge: Known Knowns, Known Unknowns, and Unknown Unknowns.

The first is clearly when something is clear and transparent-no risk or speculation.

The second refers to situations where something is known to exist, but all the facts of the case are still unknown. Example: It is known that North Korea has nuclear weapons, but unknown as to what their real plans for them are.  Some knowledge to go on, but the unknown component carries danger and risk.

The third is the most dangerous and risky, and can be the Black Swan that nobody has seen or expected.

What does this have to do with management? The fit in international politics is clear. We can grade managers’ leadership abilities by how they embrace these situations in terms of business planning and actions:
·      Those managers who can only operate in the first area, Known Knowns, are those who will probably preside over stagnation.
·      The managers that live in the second, Known Unknowns, will be willing to lead their teams into bold new areas and ventures. Supplied with good research, due diligence, great business experience, vision and intuition, these actions, while not at all risk free, are a calculated way to win.
·      But what about the third? In business, doing something with no informational or experiential backup is generally viewed as reckless. I agree that if this is the main area where a manager lives, odds go way up for trouble ahead. That being said, the highest risk produces the highest reward; willingness to take a chance on something, sometime, when conditions are right, that is totally new and may even seem a little crazy, should be an essential part of the character of the manager.
·      So the exceptional manager lives in number two and always is curious about number three. Lynn Failing, in his blog on, suggests that curiosity is one of the 5 “C’s” for hiring criteria. In doing so, he elevates curiosity to be a top level characteristic for effective leadership.

Emma Cookson, in her blog, “Fearless,” ( Ep. 17, “The Simplifier, lists three takeaways for her podcast:
  • A willingness to follow your instincts.
  • The confidence to bet on yourself.
  • The ability to assess vast numbers of inputs and construct a cogent story of the future.

These characteristics correspond exactly to the profile of the effective manager I laid out above, with one more critical trait: the ability to simplify complex problems. She says further:

The simplifier. Modern businesses present their leaders with complex decisions. The speed with which those decisions have to be made are best served by a brain that's capable of absorbing, evaluating, filtering, prioritizing, combining and then acting upon hundreds, sometimes thousands of pieces of information. Of all of these leadership attributes, I think the capacity to filter is at the top of the list. To be able to cut through the noise and to sense, or even more than that, to know what's important almost in real time, is critical to modern leadership.

Brilliantly put! In order to effectively find and capitalize on the Known Unknowns, the ability to quickly filter the information down to actionable and logical plans is absolutely essential for the manager. I, too, have said repeatedly in this blog that the ability to simplify leads to efficient and cost-effective management.

Last but very much not least, the leader’s success living in the world of unknowns depends very much on the ability to inspire others to follow. The leader is nothing without the unconditional and enthusiastic support of his or her team.  John Quincy Adams said:

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

Vince Lombardi:

The achievements of an organization are the result of the combined efforts of each individual.

And my own:

Lead By Example.

Question: HR/Hiring Managers- Do you agree with me? Are you insisting upon only hiring individuals with the characteristics I described above for leadership/management positions? If not, why not?

Since this paradigm for leadership has existed for 2000 years, it would be a good bet to follow it.

(Personal note: My I, Sourcerer logo, whose statue can be found in Rome today, seemed to be embodying this type of bold and unafraid leadership, inspiring others to follow him.)

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