The Importance of True North

The Importance of True North

The Importance of True North

To Travel. The other day I visited the former home of one of America’s most well known authors, Mark Twain. His books have been read by millions and millions all around the world for more than a century. In the lobby of the museum there was a quote by Mark Twain written on the wall. It has since then been ringing in my ears:

"Travel is Fatal to Prejudice.” In this oneliner the author captures the importance of staying open and not get locked into presumptions, which might later prove to be wrong; ideas and views which once they are confronted with other views prove to be misleading. To travel is important and life is a journey. To stay open is a key not to fall victim of prejudice. This is critical especially for leaders in the world of today, since creativity can easily be killed by the leader, the one with power to say yes or no.

Digitalization, technology, globalization and the political environment is constantly and quickly changing the landscape. In many situations the road ahead is unclear and not paved at all. Everyone is looking at the leader to take decisions and to give directions where to go. For the leader this is both challenging and risky.

True North. The more unclear the road forward is the more important is the inner compass of the leader. Some years ago I read a book called "True North". It was based on interviews with 125 leaders and how they act in different situations. One of the findings was that in very difficult and unclear situations a leader makes decisions based not necessarily on facts, but based on the inner compass. There might not even be any guiding facts. This ”compass” then becomes very crucial to understand, since it will have consequences for others and possibly for a whole organization and its stakeholders.

The term True North comes from navigation. Since I fly small aircrafts this a reality to me. The compass does not necessarily point in the right direction, in fact there are many reasons for why it most likely will not point toward the true north at all. The compass needs to be calibrated in order to show the right direction. The same is true for us as leaders.

The study pointed at five areas which makes up leaders’ True North. They were:

  • Values and Principles

  • Motivations

  • Support Team

  • Integrated Life

  • Self Awareness

These five areas constitute the inner compass and the sum will give the heading a leader will take in his/her decision making; the purpose for leadership.

Self Leadership. To understand what the above areas mean for myself and my context is self leadership. Leading oneself is probably the most difficult assignment a leader will ever get. Just study history and you will see how many have failed, because it means consequence and character. The hard thing is that character is usually formed in hard times; in situations of failure and hardship. Someone told me that we learn very little from success, but nearly everything from failure and pain. This is a tough message for most of us, but promising for some, who right now is experiencing a rough situation.

Why it is this way and why can’t it be a successful ride into the sky? The answer is that character is difficult to shape. Jewish tradition has an expression that " iron sharpens iron". This means that in order to grow leadership, which is characterized by perseverance and resilience one has to experience hard times; times of difficulties and failures. And the reason for this is that in tough times we get to know the reality about ourselves, which it is essential for self leadership. People follow leaders who hang in there. That is why perseverance and resilience become important components of a leader’s character. These leaders might not always have popular views or get many likes on Facebook, but in the end they will be the winners.  A great example is Winston Churchill, who is portrayed in the movie showing right now: Darkest Hour.

The Best is Ahead. To conclude this message on leadership and character I would like to quote the US President Theodore Roosevelt. For many of us Europeans he is unknown, but to the Americans he is one of the greatest Presidents. His face is carved out of granite at Mount Rushmore together with Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln. These four faces look out of the rock to guard the development of their country.

Here is a passage from a speech made by Theodore Roosevelt in 1910:

”It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strongman stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiant… who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

So hang in there. If you experience difficulties, be grateful because it will make you a better leader. Get to know your True North and surround yourself with best people possible. They will help you to understand. And remember that the best is ahead.

Tomas Brunegård

Executive Chairman EuroAcademy

Change management is about Brain management

Change management is about Brain management

After more than 30+ years of research, the management world begins to harvest on the findings. This month we will share about managing change from a brain perspective and some practical implications

Short review: The brain function as a network of communication. Together this network controls and operate all our physical and mental functions. The brain weigh about 2% of our body mass, but consumes approximately 20% of energy. In order to manage the constant constraint of energy, the brain is structured to run all its functions as efficiently as possible. It organizes memory in so called neural network after the principle that “what fires together wires together”.

Neural Network 100 billion neurons that on average is associated with 10,000+ other cells adding up to more than 10,000,000,000,000,000 nerve connections and approx. 175,000 km of nerve area (enough to reach 4 times around the world)

Hereafter a lot of autopilot is happening which can be described as thought patterns and emotional patterns. And to manage change is actually to manage these patterns – and by default, change becomes a difficult issue.

Here maybe the most important discovery since the penicillin brings us help: The brain is plastic and under constant construction. It constantly forms new cells and prone others, and the cells constantly form new pathways – neural network. These network are formed through the input and experiences we get. We become who we are, through what we think and do.

Two dynamics accelerate this formation: Successes and threats. The first dynamic is stimulating network that involve our logical and emotional part of the brain and the result is that of well-being, happiness, energy and curiosity with the aim to have more success. The second dynamic is stimulating the instinct part of the brain and the result is that of fear, avoidance, reluctance and caution.

Practical implications: One researcher has compared the neural network with a trail in the wood. The more you walk that path the clearer and accessible the trail will become.

As managers we are given two insights regarding to change:

1) The brain need to work a lot for the neural network to adopt to new things. Therefore,

a. We need patience and time to adjust.

b. We also need information and rationalities to process.

c. The most efficient way to process is to share and discus with others!

2) When we manage change, we manage the formation of neural network. Here you have two ways:

The productive and the counterproductive way:

a. The most effective and sustainable way is by focusing on “what you would like to see more of”. That is done most efficiently by appraising those new behaviors and attitudes you would like to see. The more you do it the more you build a sense of success and that accelerate building new neural network.

b. When we focus on failures and corrective feedback research show us that the brain has a tendency to react more from the instinct part of the brain. The tragic in that is that this actually reinforce those old neural network that we would like to change.

Henrik Julin, Senior partner EuroAcademy

Leaderships thoughts for the summer

Leaderships thoughts for the summer

Leadership by Love

Three things will last forever -  faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love. You probably know those old words from the Bible. Powerful truth in every season of life, but especially this time of year when young happy people get married and the nature is in full bloom. 

If those three things will last forever they should also be comparable in leadership. And they really are.

Let’s start with faith. Faith and trust is the foundation in all human relations. Also in well led organizations. As a leader you need to show faith in the vision and the mission of your company. And that’s not something you can choose to do, or not to do. You are a carrier of faith, and you need to build a faith culture in good times if you want it to show in stormy weather. 

Leaders with faith will depend on their employees. They give them responsibilities and expect the best results. People seldom let them down. With good faith you can also tolerate failure, because you are confident that everyone is doing their best. Faith-leadership does not need to be suspicious. Sometimes people will call you naive, because you trust people to much. But in the end of the day you will go to bed as a happy man. Ingvar Kamrad, the founder of IKEA, was a faith leader. When he died no one talked about his fortune, only of his legacy as the leader walking the talk, giving trust, and pouring faith. IKEA is deeply rooted in the soil of a friendly, relational culture. And I heard some comparing the multibillion company – with 160 000 employees – with a small countryside church after the service. People laughing, hugging and drinking coffee. Here you can read about Ikea values: or se it on youtube

Hope. If faith is the platform from where you can build a castle of good culture, hope is the beautiful tower of goals and future and energy. Without hope we all parish, with hope we can walk on water. Hope-leadership is about energy, and it works in the same mysterious ways as a smile at the bus-stop. Try that, smile to someone and they will smile back. Give energy and you will receive.

The ageing GE-legend Jack Welsh was asked about his secret as a CEO for many years. He said that he had none. No special trick or method. I just, he said with his deep whiskey voice, I just walk in the room and energize people. 

That’s a gift. To be a source of power for people around. Many of us need our own energy to fill us up every morning. As a leader you need even more energy to give hope and support to others. Who wants to walk into battle behind a leader with heavy shoulders. Hope is a powerful tool in the leader’s arsenal. Like Bob the Builder always ask: Can we fix it? Yes we can! Or as in Barack Obamas famous speach in the same Yes-we-can-spirit. The new elected president was addressing a lot of problems, but he was also carrying a great hope with lots of energy. And in that point of time a whole world was prepared to follow him.

Love. Faith and hope. And then the greatest: Love! In a modern social media-era we more and more talk about a hate-culture. Or maybe it is a fear-culture. It looks like, if you want to be cool and relevant, you need to strike hard and fast. The time for reflection is gone. Nobody needs to think bad messages over. Tomorrow is gone. We just through them out. The language is tuff, full with toxic lies and accusations, far from love. 
In the cooperate world everyone is protecting themselves, covering their own mistakes, afraid to fail and loose position.

Love is not a top10 leaderships skill, and that maybe explains some of our global leadership problems. Big bosses for big companies can not love all their employees, that would be ridiculous. But as always they can be modelling a good example. Start with small things, in the nearest group of colleagues. 

All research shows that lack of feedback is the biggest problem in organizations and companies. We don’t’ care enough, and people feel that. A love-leadership is not soft and childish. Real love can sometimes be hard. Speaking out truth to people can be tuff business, but it is often the most effective kindest way of leadership.

We can have the most powerful vision and mission for our companies, without love we are just a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal, according to the same Bible-passage. And here is the rest of the formula for a good love-leadership:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 
Love never fails.

With these thoughts I wish you all a good summer, with a lot of time for reflection and recreation.

Daniel Grahn

 Board member EuroAcademy

 

Why people want to follow a leader?

Why people want to follow a leader?

What is great leadership? And what does it do to business, people and our planet?

There are many answers out there , in leadership theory, about what great leadership is all about. But have you ever asked yourself why you want to follow a leader? Gallup, the worldwide information and consultant company did exactly this. They asked over 10 000 people around the globe if they, in their own words, could say why they choose to follow someone. On the top of the list the answers were quite similar. They were Hope – Trust – Stability – Compassion.

What do you feel when you read those factors about great leadership? Probably you ask yourself how your own leadership reflects the answers. Maybe you think about what you lack in some areas. This is unfortunately one of the greatest problems in our time – we tend to focus on our weaknesses and what we don´t have instead of focus on our strengths and what we have.

And now to the most important . The key-­‐understanding in Gallup’s survey on why people follow a leader is that every leader can contribute to hope, trust, stability and compassion. In their own way. For example, you don’t need to be a strong and charismatic visionary leader to give hope. You can give hope by using your strengths to achieve and to be productive. People will see this quality in you and feel positive about the future. The way to contribute to hope-­‐trust-­‐stability-­compassion can be done in many ways by using your own strengths professionally and authentic. Therefore, ask yourself what your strengths are and how they can interplay in each area.

The question of great leadership and how it can impact the world is the reason why EuroAcademy exists. It is also the reason why I have taken the responsibility as new CEO. I feel both glad and honoured to continue to develop the services and program from EuroAcademy – still with Mats Kärnerud, our founder, close by my side.

Maybe you have already discovered some news in EuroAcademy. On our new website you can read about some. For example, read about our program portfolio for leadership development, on every level and through all phases of life. And how we connect to partners who share our vision A Wold well led. You can also read about what we try to do for the world.

The easiest way to connect to our journey towards great leadership in the future, is to follow us on social media. On our website you find the addresses to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Please join!

A World well led – It starts with you.

Magnus Österman, CEO EuroAcademy