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I like to think of myself as a reasonably effective communicator.

I feel comfortable articulating messages to large groups or to individuals and believe that I am clear, concise and personable in my delivery.

However, too often as a leader I have fallen into the trap of thinking that if I have said something once, then that should be enough.

Of course, to my horror, I would soon realise that the message hasn’t been fully understood or perhaps even fully forgotten.

There was a time when I blamed the listener for this gap in understanding.  I would explain to myself that I’m an effective communicator, they’re just lousy listeners.

How naive!

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One of our family’s favourite activities is to visit a local pond and feed the ducks.

We have a few areas near us where we can do this and our kids have enjoyed these outings since they were very young.

As I’ve observed these beautiful creatures, there are a few key leadership principles that I think we can learn from them.

So here are three important leadership lessons that I’ve observed from ducks:

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The Marmolada glacier

Image via Wikipedia

Wind can be incredibly powerful.

I’ve seen a town a few days after a cyclone has hit and it’s not a pretty sight.

Trees and even many buildings are knocked to the ground or in some cases picked up and transplanted elsewhere.

But the trees grow back, the buildings can be rebuilt and after a few months, there is little evidence of the wind’s power.

Fires are also extremely powerful.

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I believe that leaders aren’t born, they’re made.

Winston Churchill wasn’t born a leader, he became one.

Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln and Rosa Parks weren’t born leaders, but they each saw an opportunity to positively influence others and they did so.

What about you?

Do you think of yourself as a leader?

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Sometimes as leaders, we think that it would be much easier if everyone just did what they were told without asking questions or disagreeing with us.

But then I remember that the best leaders don’t surround themselves with yes-men (or yes-women.  For the purpose of this post, please assume that yes-men is a gender neutral term), they effectively utilise people who have their own opinions, their own unique perspectives and their own techniques for getting great work done.

If you want to be a better leader who gets better results, you don’t want yes-men.

You want people around you who: Read the rest of this entry »

When working for my previous employer, there was a Director who would occasionally use this short story to explain to his leaders what it meant to be accountable for the work that we do.

It’s a story about four people named Everyone, Someone, Anyone and No-one.

There was an important job to be done and Everyone was sure that Someone would do it.

Anyone could have done it, but No-one did it.

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When it comes to leadership, there are two extremes when it comes to predictability.

On one hand we have those leaders who are stuck in the mud, staid and perhaps boring. You know that they’re to say before they open their mouth and they’ve been repeating the same message since you first met them.

Alternatively, there are those who are erratic, overly emotional and easily swayed by their circumstances.  You’re never quite sure what you’re going to get, and you hope that you get them on a “good” day.  If the traffic was bad on the way to work or their football team lost over the weekend, look out!

Predictability and unpredictability can both be good things if used at the right time and in balance.

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If you’re a leader or someone who works with others, then understanding how you influence others is important.

From the most timid person to the most charismatic individual, the reality is that we all have some sort of influence on those around us.  The challenge is to find ways to increase our impact in positive ways so that we can augment the effectiveness of those around us, help to create a more constructive environment and make ourselves more indispensable.

Over the years, I’ve identified four categories that describe how we are influencing those around us.

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The scores were level as the two teams went into their three-quarter time huddles.

Coach Jack launched into a ferocious tirade.

He had the vein sticking out of the side of his head as he lambasted his side, swearing at them, screaming at them and embarrassing individuals for their lack of skill and effort.

Coach Bob walked up to his team with a quiet authority.

He was clear in his direction as he taught, instructed and coached his side.  He knew that this was another great opportunity to pass on information and continue the process of learning.

The two teams went back out and Jack’s team, with their coach’s stinging words still in their ears, went on to win a close tussle.

Who’s the better leader?  Jack or Bob?

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Photo by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

I turn 40 this year, so I think that qualifies me to use the phrase, “When I was young.”

When I was young, you could only buy three flavours of ice-cream, vanilla, strawberry and chocolate.  If you were feeling adventurous, you could buy all three in one tub called Neapolitan.

When I was young, there were no mobile phones (yes that’s right, there was a time), so everyone had land-lines that all sounded the same when they rang.

How things have changed, for the better in my opinion.

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