This extract from Susan Scott’s Book Fierce leadership tickled me.  It’s frank, it’s funny and it’s real—a 10 point memo to today’s leaders.  The only piece if advice not made explicit is this; get a coach.  A confidential thinking partner to help you navigate the complexity of 21st century leadership.  We all deserve some straight-talk on the challenges that leadership demands of us. 

“Congratulations. You are a leader. It’s a heavy load, but someone has to do it. The primary focus of your organization is growth. To help in this regard, it is your duty to lead change, manage, and motivate a multi-generational workforce and execute initiatives that impact the top line and bottom line simultaneously, while delivery short-term results.  You must demonstrate agility, speed, inclusiveness and risk, and mitigate the impacts of globalization, off-shoring, a recession, global warming, and the price of oil, et cetera, et cetera.

Some time ago, the beloved founders, who kept balance between order and chaos, cashed out, either by dying or by cashing in their chips.  Since then, forces of darkness have been vying for the top spot.  You are all that stands between them and the destruction of the collective organizational soul.  If you fail, darkness will cover the earth, the stock value will plummet, and chaos will reign.  Hence, a few suggestions;

1.  In order to hold off the Forces of Darkness, you will need to stay awake and locate your body parts.

2.  Names and ideas will come to you.  The ideas you should write down and act on immediately, or, if you don’t have the authority, fight for.  The names are of people you will need to make available to industry because they are sucking the joy and life out of everyone and everything they touch, or they are people you should promote and to whom you should give heaping handfuls of freedom and encouragement to break the rules.

3.  You will not single-handedly cause or prevent success.  Surround yourself with people who model accountability, ferocious integrity, personal authenticity, the capacity to connect with others at a deep level, sheer courage, and a commitment to champion the common good over narrow self-interest.

4.  Your central function is to engineer intelligent, spirited conversations that provide the basis for high levels of alignment, collaboration, and partnership at all levels throughout your organization and the healthier outcomes that go with them.

5.  People may not wish you well, so pay attention to your emotional wake. You are not invincible. Be kind. Everyone is carrying a heavy load.

6.  On the other hand, don’t suck up to anyone, ever, or you will turn into lickspittle and you soul will refuse to accompany you into the building.  Just keep describing reality from your perspective without laying blame and you’ll be fine.

7.  Don’t even consider recommending a reorganization.  Anyone who requires more than one reorganization over the life of his or her career will forfeit a year’s income (including bonuses and stock options) and possibly serve jail time.

8.  Do not, under any circumstances, tell a lie—of either commission or omission.  Do not stretch the truth, exaggerate, or make shit up to get out of trouble or make yourself look good, not only because that would be bad on many levels, but also because it will come back to bite you in the butt when you’re least expecting it, at the worst possible moment, with the biggest price tag attached, and possibly appear on YouTube.

9. Do not attempt to project different images depending on whom you’re with.  People can spot authenticity from fifty paces.  Show up as yourself consistently. Unless, of course, you are a jackass.

10. Bear in mind that while no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a company, a relationship, or a life, any single conversation can.  Take it one conversation at a time

Good luck!”


ImageMichelle Clarke is an Executive Coach based in Cape Town. She works locally and internationally with Leaders, Executives and Executive Coaches, helping them to navigate the complexity of 21st century leadership.  To learn more about her work please visit her website, and be sure also to subscribe to this blog for future updates.  If you enjoy Facebook, please join Michelle’s Business Page

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