Seeking tension – the Martin Luther King Jr. way

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When you say to yourself you want to be a great leader, you are actually asking for trouble.

Are you absolutely asking for trouble.

In business, you are paid more as you move up the ladder with more responsibility.

You are in essence paid more to deal with conflict, with tension.

It is not enough to have the academic degrees, you need to have ability to manage conflict, pressure, and struggles.

In biblical terms:

To whom much is given, much will be required. [Luke 12:48]  

Great leaders in history had to deal with great conflict: Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Elon Musk, Sir Seretse Khama, Sojourner Truth, Angela Merkel.

The greater the struggle you overcome, the greater the leader you become.

Martin Luther King Jr., in a famous letter from Birmingham Jail, said:

“There is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need of having nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.”

He makes a profound point, tension is not a necessary evil, it is a necessity.

Tension need not be avoided, but welcomed.

So, we must seek it in every form:

  • The tension that comes from having set a tough target,
  • The tension that comes from doing the right thing even it is not easy,
  • The tension that comes from the expectation to prepare hard and perform,
  • The tension that comes from holding two conflicting ideas,
  • The tension that comes from making a tough values based decision and the tension from having difficult conversations that matter.

Move towards tension and the struggle it brings and conquer it repeatedly with great processes that you develop as you go.

Growth can’t help but follow.

We have put together a short leadership programme for someone like you, someone who cares enough and is not afraid to deal with conflict. Someone who is passionate to resolve struggles and pioneer progress.

For more information on the short-course, class dates, fees and to register online, please double click on this link: Managing and Leading People Information.

Doing work that matters involves taking one intentional step today that will stretch you, challenge you, and make you a different person tomorrow.

The programme starts in March 2020. Registration is open and you may register online now.

 

Disruption is…

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What are you going to do today? Maintain the status-quo or work towards changing the status-quo.

Maintaining the status-quo is good for stability, and security, however working towards creating a new better status-quo is what takes us forward.

Progress comes from disruption.

The path to building a successful, sustainable business is littered with innovative ideas, requiring brave leadership to prioritise the needs of tomorrow’s customer above today’s bottom line.

Disruption is having the courage to take the customer where they want to go, even when they don’t know it yet.

Maintaining the status-quo, is management. Pioneering unchartered paths that disrupts the status-quo is leading.

Disruption is leadership. Leadership is disruption.

We have put together a short leadership programme for someone like you, someone who cares about leading in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

For more information on the short-course, class dates, fees and to register online, please double click on this link: Managing and Leading People Information

Doing work that matters involves taking one intentional step today that will stretch you, challenge you, and make you a different person tomorrow.

 

Leadership and having a bigger heart

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There is so much said and written about leadership. And, rightly so.

Leadership is not a cloak you can wear for a few hours and remove at the end of the day. It is not the title on your door and business card.

Once you take up responsibility, you are expected to be accountable for the results of everyone you lead [and this could just be yourself].

Everything you do sets an example, one way or the other.

That is why leadership is so hard to define or teach.

It is one of those all encompassing responsibilities that changes you – whether you like it or not.

I have worked hard to understand this beast myself over the years. But, the more time I spend attempting to practice it [key word is attempting :-)], I go back to a simple idea that Jack Welch shared in his autobiography: “Leadership is simply caring more than the next person.”

Doing work that matters involves a lot of doing work that cares more.

Caring, like leadership, has many dimensions: it means caring for your organisation’s success, for your team’s success, and for the success of the team.

Caring means giving without expectations, experimenting without assurances and putting yourself out there expecting to take a few blows.

Caring also means apologising when it is not your fault and generously sharing credit when things go well.

Caring, in its purest form, is not easy.

Caring is also the reason that leadership, when done right, is a thing of beauty.

Leadership is not a race to dominate, to stamp authority, to command or to show bravado.

Leadership is simply a race to care more. As a result, it is not, as one might expect, just a victory of a bigger brain or of iron will or of steely determination.

At its core, great leadership is a triumph of a bigger heart.

We have put together a short leadership programme for someone like you, someone who cares.

For more information on the short-course, class dates, fees and to register online, please double click on this link: Managing and Leading People Information

Doing work that matters involves taking one intentional step today that will stretch you, challenge you, and make you a different person tomorrow.

Don’t be afraid to start small

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On a rainy Monday early in December 1955, 40,000 African-Americans boycotted the public bus services in the town of Montgomery to protest the arrest of 42-year-old Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat to a white passenger.

Their boycott lasted 381 days until the city repealed its law requiring segregation on public buses.

Rosa Parks’ story is one of the most enduring examples we have of the power of one person to change everything.

We tend to forget that the ‘power of one’ rule also applies to revolutions in the commercial world.

It is natural to want to get your product into the hands of everyone who needs it.

But thinking about how to influence the masses leads to missteps in understanding what is driving the decisions of the few people you have the best chance of reaching and impacting right now.

Like any revolution, success happens one user, one customer, one raving fan at a time.

Never be afraid to start small.

Flawed, edgy, and a continuous source of learning opportunities

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Much of our day-to-day joy hinges on our ability to accept ourselves as we are, flawed, edgy, and a continuous source of errors of judgment/learning opportunities [depending on how we view it] versus that fictional perfect self we get drawn to imagining and projecting.

You have to be matured enough to understand that you have some toxic traits too. It’s not always the other person.

As Charles Dickens has said before:

It is a melancholy truth that even great men have their poor relations. 

In a way to comfort us, Seth Godin asks us to forgive ourselves:

Forgive yourself for not being the most successful, the cutest or the one with the fastest time. Forgive yourself for not winning every round Forgive yourself for being afraid.

But don’t let yourself off the hook, never forgive yourself for not caring or not trying.

You are not perfect, but never stop trying.

Structure: and Creativity

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Simplicity, as a concept, is ever so powerful.

Let’s take a minute to study the picture below.

It is one of a regular road. And we, of course, use the road to take us from place to place.

Now, there is of course that line right in the middle of the road that separates vehicles traveling in opposite directions. This line regulates the side you should drive on, and when not to overtake.

What would travel [and life] be, without that line?

Can you picture the kind of chaos the absence of this simple line would cause?

There is a myth that structure kills creativity.

What is often forgotten that without structure, there would be no creativity. It would be like a painting without a canvas with no defined boundaries. Or an endless football match [with no creative last minute goals!].

Structure, in our lives, gives us the room to experiment and be creative.

In her TED talk titled: Your Elusive Creative Genius, Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love talks about the importance of having structure her writing career.

She says:

“Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be. If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed, for just one moment through your efforts, then “Olé!” And if not, do your dance anyhow. And “Olé!” to you, nonetheless. I believe this and I feel that we must teach it. “Olé!” to you, nonetheless, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up.” 

Structure is as important to chemical engineers as it is to artists.

Keep showing up, not because you feel like it, but because you have structured your life to show up even when you don’t feel like it.

The solid line in the middle of the road represents structure, order, neat, tidy, methodical, discipline, organised etc.

It is the simple routines [eat, sleep, play] in our lives that enable us to free up vital space in heads so we can be creative in what we do.

At LORA Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, we encourage our learners to not only have a structured business, but a structured entrepreneurship life as well.

Today is the last day of registration for the next Co-hort. You can register online.

For more information on the programme, class dates, fees and to register online, please double click on this link —> New Venture Creation Programme. Register now online, classes commence on Saturday, 25 January.

Structure: Inspiration without structure

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Many organisations spend hundreds of thousands of rands to bring in inspirational speakers to speak to their employees.

When employees walk away from these talks feeling inspired, it all seems worth it.

But, when they go back to their desks and get to work, reality hits them and inspiration fizzles away within a week.

So what is the point of these inspirational talks?

What is the point of being inspired if your daily life is structured to maintain the status-quo?

While the talk inspired them to think about innovative ideas, their organisation never really encouraged innovative ideas.

Sure, they said they wanted more of them. But, you always found yourself embroiled in organizational politics when you attempted to push change through.

Leaders and managers often wish for a more inspired work force. But, in situations like this one where there are no structures to support inspired employees, inspiration can often be counter productive.

Employees in such organisations walk away from attempts at inspiration feeling frustrated and cynical.

There are two important takeaways for us as leaders:

Firstly, If we seek to inspire our team, the most important thing to do is not to give an outstanding talk about why we do what we do. It is to provide the structure within which our team can go out and express themselves.

This means providing them clarity on why we do what we do, establishing clear norms and expectations on how we do our work [our culture] and being open to helping them define goals that help the team move forward while also helping them to learn, grow and hone their abilities.

Structuring work well requires openness to change and a great deal of thought as good structure needs to provide a certain amount of flexibility without it feeling like anarchy.

Secondly, if we seek to be inspired ourselves, no amount of inspiration will help if we don’t have structures in our life that help support doing work that matters.

This means a world-class collection of habits that help us focus through the day, be present with our loved ones and take care of ourselves.

Inspiration is important and you need it everyday, but if you don’t have a life structure that supports your goals, you will always need to be inspired before you do anything.

When you have developed a life structure that supports your goals, inspiration will just be a bonus.

Inspiration without structure is like an artificial flower, it looks good from a distance but it doesn’t feel or smell like the real thing.

Structure: Build it into your life

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Sustainable change comes more from having a structure that encourages and sustains the change.

New years resolutions are only as strong as the strength of your structures.

It becomes difficult to change anything if the structure that keeps the status-quo does not change.

Structure helps you stay focused and get things done.

I struggled to stop eating meat for about 3 years because I didn’t have a proper structure in your life that encourages me to stop eating meat.

It was until I asked friends who are vegan that they mentored me on how to do it successfully.

You want to lose weight? Structure your life as follows:

  • Join gym or start making walks, or jogging in your neighbourhood;
  • Have a gym buddy or personal trainer;
  • Have a way that makes it difficult to eat junk, make it easier to prepare health lunch box, eat your lunch away from spaces that have junk food smells, having lunch buddies that are health fanatics

You want to stop wasting valuable time on social media? Delete social media apps on your phone.

You want to be more organised? use a diary, have a notebook, journal, use a calendar, automate your tasks.

You want to learn a foreign language?

  • Register a course in that language
  • Get friends whom you can speak that language with
  • Be in an environment that speaks that language [when you are in Johannesburg, you are likely to learn isiZulu because it is the common language on the streets]
  • Watch movies, TV shows in that language
  • Get a partner who speaks that language [if you are single]

You want to be an entrepreneur? Structure your life as follows:

  • Hang around other entrepreneurs
  • Subscribe to or follow entrepreneurs websites and twitter accounts
  • Join book clubs with entrepreneurs
  • Get a mentor
  • Register for that course
  • Attend entrepreneurship events
  • Get into an incubator

At The LORA Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, we have put together a 5 months intensive entrepreneurship programme that will help structure your life in a way to encourage your entrepreneurship vision.

For more information on the programme, class dates, fees and to register online, please double click on this link —> New Venture Creation Programme. Register now online, classes commence on Saturday, 25 January.

The Bottom Line

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There is an irony about entrepreneurship or starting a business and it is this.

When you begin you are obsessed with the starting part.

Just starting it seems is enough.

You are obsessed about the possibilities.

You may have a vision for what could be, but there is not so much pressure to get there in the beginning.

Once you have succeeded a little it is expected that you will find ways to scale.

When people ask you how business is going they generally want to know if your bottom line is heading in the right direction.

Are profits up?

Are you expanding or growing?

Are you making money?

And so business success is defined by one bottom line. A single metric.

It’s very rare that when someone asks you how business is going they are referring to the impact you are having in your community, the lives you are changing and the people you are employing. Often it is about are you making money?

It turns out though that many successful entrepreneurs don’t begin by focusing on just one bottom line.

Visionary leaders, who build lasting brands don’t simply concentrate on revenues and profits.

They begin with the ideal. They start with a problem they are itching to solve, or with the will to change something and the desire to make a difference.

If money is your only metric then you lose sight of the reason you are in business in the first place.

If you have one way of measuring your success then those numbers are what you focus on, and while your attention is there you forget what made your business successful in the first place.

The words of Neil Gaiman is his commencement address apply to entrepreneurs, creatives, freelancers, aspirational startups and MBAs alike.

“I decided that I would do my best in future not to write books just for the money. If you didn’t get the money, then you didn’t have anything. If I did work I was proud of, and I didn’t get the money, at least I’d have the work.

Every now and again, I forget that rule, and whenever I do, the universe kicks me hard and reminds me. I don’t know that it’s an issue for anybody but me, but it’s true that nothing I did where the only reason for doing it was the money was ever worth it, except as bitter experience. Usually I didn’t wind up getting the money, either. The things I did because I was excited, and wanted to see them exist in reality have never let me down, and I’ve never regretted the time I spent on any of them.”

—Neil Gaiman

Pay attention to the bottom line. Just don’t put your whole focus there.

At The LORA Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, we have put together a 5 months intensive entrepreneurship programme that will help you clarify your vision, to solve interesting problems, have impact and make the bottom line.

For more information on the programme, class dates, fees and to register online, please double click on this link —> New Venture Creation Programme. Register now online, classes commence on Saturday, 25 January.

Launching a business is essentially an adventure in problem solving. Hence is it about selling a problem you solve, not the product.

When one day becomes never

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The first time I met Jabu he was juggling four dirty plates while greeting customers and directing his team.

Over time, I came to know Jabu as a friend and also as one of the most gifted people I knew.

Jabu’s bosses loved how he ran their cafe as if it were his own. He took charge, took initiative and made things happen.

Hi bosses loved how he made their customers feel so welcome that they kept coming back.

And they loved how their business was growing under his caring leadership. They just didn’t show it and he just didn’t know how they felt about it.

Jabu loved his customers, but he hated the feeling of not being valued by his employers, and besides, he had a dream.

At the weekends or day offs, Jabu had a side gig.

He became a personal chef and dinner party host for hire. His clients went out for the day leaving him in to cook the meal and style their home before their guests arrived in the evening.

Nothing gave Jabu more satisfaction than seeing the look on someone’s face when they came home looking relaxed to an exquisite meal in the beautiful setting he’d created.

Jabu wanted to do this work full-time. He dreamt of starting his own business one day.

He could see how his service would work for dinner parties, small celebrations and family gatherings.

He had everything he needed to begin and clients who were ready to recommend him at the drop of a hat.

Jabu spent hours that next year talking about his business ideas. He worked on everything from the name to the launch strategy, the menu, layout and design, look and feel.

His eyes lit when he spoke about his business and all the things he will do differently that will set him apart from others.

That was 15 years ago.

I would love to tell you that Jabu got his business up and running and that it succeeded beyond even his wildest dreams but I can’t.

You see, he never did find the courage to leave his old job.

He never started.

He is still working in the cafe where we met.

The only thing that has changed is that he stopped talking about how everything is going to be different one day when he gets around to doing the thing he really wants to do.

He feels trapped, he spark his gone, he does what he does because “hey, he has to pay the bills.”

Too many people not only never make the leap, they never even take the first step.

Often what is holding them back is the clarity, confidence and support they need to change direction.

‘One day’ becomes never when we fail to take the first step.

Jabu’s dream moved being deferred to oblivion.

Like Langston Hughes asked in his poem Harlem: “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore and then run?” He finishes with “Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?”

There are so many people like Jabu, they are competent, but they feel under-appreciated where they are, they have strong desires to start their own businesses, but due to fear, lack of clarity and confidence, they never start and their ‘one day’ becomes never, their dreams get deferred indefinitely and sags like a heavy load.

At The LORA Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, we have put together a 5 months intensive entrepreneurship programme that will help you clarify your vision, give you the confidence to take the leap and will support you in shaping your first steps. We have students like Jabu, who took the leap and started their businesses and now they are succeeding.

For more information on the programme, class dates, fees and to register online, please double click on this link —> New Venture Creation Programme. Register now online, classes commence on Saturday, 25 January. 

Register now, take your first step now, sometimes ‘later’ becomes ‘never.’ Nobody got ready by waiting, you only get ready by starting.

If you were looking for a sign or something before you start, this here is the sign you were looking for.

Jabu might believe it is too late for him. It is not too late for you.

An Opinion On Leading

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For a while a painful part of opening my eyers has been this:

Having and sharing lots of opinions does not equate to leadership.

Having lots of opinions does not mean you are a leader.

Being a leader does not mean you have to state lots of opinions.

It is an easy trap to fall into, wanting to flex opinion and believing you are leading by doing so.

I’m amazed at how quick we to offer up an opinion…while relatively speaking we are rarely actually asked for it.

Stop talking and start doing.

Social media, for instance, encourages a lot talk and very little productivity.

Posting updates all on your social media profiles focuses your attention on words over action.

Status and picture updates create the false impression of confidence and accomplishment. However, all of that talk just takes up your energy that you could use for doing real work.

Talking, stating opinions, and creating impressions of success is not leading.

To achieve anything, you need to work first, and that is the hard part.

To get where you want, you do not need to be brilliant, but you need ongoing effort and work hard.

Your opinions matter, but opinions channelled into work that leads to better results, now what matters more.

Put in the hours, do the work, lead.

We have put together a short leadership programme for someone like you.

For more information on the short-course, class dates, fees and to register online, please double click on this link: Managing and Leading People Information

Take one intentional step today that will stretch you, challenge you, and make you a different person tomorrow.

Leading from the back

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Leading from the front means being visible and engaging at the front, taking charge, a

Leading from the back originated from former President Nelson Mandela’s autobiography when he likened leaders who shepherd their flocks from behind.

Leading from the back is akin to servant leadership. The leader’s role is to empower her team and enable to take the lead in their various roles and responsibilities. The leader steps back and occasionally guides and advices.

Sometimes it is hard to know when to be lead from the front or back.

So here is a short guide:

When there is a crisis, lead from the front. Take charge and be at the front of directing how things should proceed. Be visible, clear and decisive.

Where your are training, lead from the side. Support, encourage, coach and empower.

When you are winning, lead from the back. Let the team take the glory.

Stepping in front during a crisis can be scary and challenging to a lot of people. Many people love to be at the front during times of victory, but nowhere to be seen during difficult times.

In his book Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek says:

“Leaders are the ones who run headfirst into the unknown. They rush toward the danger. They put their own interests aside to protect us or to pull us into the future. Leaders would sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours. And they would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs. This is what it means to be a leader. It means they choose to go first into danger, headfirst toward the unknown. And when we feel sure they will keep us safe, we will march behind them and work tirelessly to see their visions come to life and proudly call ourselves their followers.”

When it matters, leaders choose to eat last.

We have put together a short leadership programme for someone like you.

For more information on the short-course, class dates, fees and to register online, please double click on this link: Managing and Leading People Information

Take one intentional step today that will stretch you, challenge you, and make you a different person tomorrow.