Leadership Notes #6

Leadership Notes #6
In this edition: Truth vs. fiction in the information age, a conversation with the Secretary General Of Women World Leaders, how to develop a super memory, and more...
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Must Reads

1. On the body language "power pose" and evolution of research findings

2. On encouraging experimentation

3. On groupthink and filter bubbles in the media

4. On developing a super memory

5. On social media rehab

Great Books

6. The Fix: How Nations Survive and Thrive in a World in Decline by Jonathan Tepperman

Frustrated with the fixation on diagnosing problems instead of solving them, Tepperman focuses on ten mini miracles of global governance—from Indonesia's crushing of extremism, to Rwanda's reconciliation, to the shale revolution in the United States. This book bristles with optimism, wisdom and counterintuitive insight. 

7. A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age by Daniel J. Levitin

With the rise of filter bubbles and "alternative facts," Levitin arrives to help us figure out how we separate truth from fiction. Discovering how to improve our "infoliteracy" is essential in making better decisions and addressing global problems.

Interview: Laura Liswood (Link)

Secretary General, Council of Women World Leaders
Former Managing Director and Senior Advisor, Goldman Sachs

Author of The Loudest Duck: Moving Beyond Diversity while Embracing Differences to Achieve Success at Work

Read Laura's full bio here.

Sam Potolicchio: What are anecdotes of standout leadership you have seen from members of the Women's World Leaders Council?

Laura Liswood:
When I interviewed the political leaders prior to creating the Council, each one of them reflected on how much passion and courage it took to be a political leader. They each described (and many women leaders continue to describe) the over scrutiny they get in public on their dress, hair, voice, family.  Most said they had to have a passion for what they were doing or they would give up. Former Prime Minister of Poland, Hanna Suchocka told me that at first when people called her "stupid" as a leader she would get upset and distressed but then learned quickly to turn around and say "you are more stupid than me." I think it took its toll to be constantly evaluated on a different standard then men but each of the leaders wanted to make changes and to help people so they would keep that in mind through those times of over scrutiny.

Potolicchio: What recommendations do you have for curriculum—both school and university— innovations to prepare aspiring leaders for public leadership roles in 2030?

The best way to become a leader in my opinion is to practice being a leader. So that means at all levels of school and university students should be given a chance and also volunteer to take on leadership positions. The military imbeds this in their approach to creating a leadership corps. Individuals are given small scope roles in leading others and then given feedback on how they did. If successful, then a person is given larger scope of responsibility to test themselves and continue to develop the muscle memory of leadership skills.

Talking and studying leadership is quite different than actually leading. It takes courage to stand in front of others and speak about your ideas, have others criticize them and to turn your ideas into action. This really can only come from doing the work and learning, getting mentoring, feedback and increasing the scope and challenges of roles. Schools would be well served to give aspiring leaders there opportunities to grow their abilities to lead.

Potolicchio: What's the leadership quality needed for the future that is under-discussed?

Howard Gardner in his book Leading Minds talks about several traits of great leaders. One of them is "traveling outside your own world view." This is actually pretty hard to do as he doesn't necessarily mean traveling to Zambia. He means being able to understand others and objectively observe their ways of doing and being. It might be called emotional intelligence or empathy. The metaphor from my book The Loudest Duck is what I call The Elephant and the Mouse. If you are the elephant what seemingly do you need to know about the mouse? Not much. But if you are the mouse what do you need to know about the elephant? Everything. You have to figure out whether the twitch of the elephants tail means it is moving backward or the movement of its trunk means it is hungry.

That is why it is my belief that non dominant groups know a lot more about dominant groups than dominant groups know about non dominant groups. Most everyone in Norway would know who the president of the United States is; few in the United States would know who the prime minister of Norway is (Erna Solberg). So if you aspire to leadership and come from the historically over represented groups who have historically been seen as leaders then I posit that the hardest thing to do is to understand the situation of those who have been historically under represented. This can be exemplified by one statistic I used in a speech in Australia. "72% of senior executive men thought women in Australia had made great strides towards equality. 71% of senior executive women disagreed with that statement". They are living in different worlds and leaders need to understand the worlds of others.
Potolicchio: Who are the top three leaders today?

Liswood: My focus has been on women leaders so admittedly my top 3 leaders are women, although I hurriedly say that there are some great male leaders today. 

Angela Merkel has shown herself to be a tough, resilient, respectful leader who grasps well the challenges of the new world order. If she makes a misstep in her decision making (which one could suggest she did with the large admission of refugees without a structured approach), she seems to be able to respond and react to the new circumstances. The Chancellor is forthright, speaks her mind, does not seem to be intimidated or uncertain in the clarity of her vision. While not directly embracing a feminist approach to leadership, she has come round to looking at issues in a gendered way as necessary.

Margot Wallstrom is the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Sweden. She has boldly stated a feminist foreign policy for Sweden and faced criticism for it from more patriarchal societies and critics. She is well versed in gender issues and understands that decision made at any level in government can impact women and men differently. She has been steadfast in promoting gender issues and asking the right questions to those who make policy forcing some to look at foreign policy for the first time with different lenses. To shape public thinking—that is leadership.

Christine Lagarde is the head of the International Monetary Fund. She came to the position after her predecessor was forced to resign. Madame Lagarde has had her own personal difficulties with attempts to unseat and discredit her which have been unsuccessful. At the World Economic Forum women's dinner at Davos in 2017, she said the only way to cope is "not to let the bastards get to you." There is no question about her competency and ability to lead and run this large complex institution, particularly in times of uncertainty and financial stresses globally. Lagarde has the unique capacity to make things knowable to people in her clear convincing descriptions and arguments. She does not over complicate nor over simplify ideas but has the leadership trait of being able to put ideas forward so others can understand and make sense of them. Again, Howard Gardner states that a trait of great leaders is being able to convey their ideas.

Potolicchio: What book do you recommend and why?

Earlier I referenced Howard Gardner's book Leading Minds. Much of the reason I like it, beyond Howard's clear writing, is that it crosses genders, ethnicities, races, disciplines in its look at what makes for great leaders. Gardner did not limit himself to political or business leaders, the usual suspects, but looked at artists, scientists and others to learn as much as possible.

I like Hillbilly Elegy a current work by JD Vance. He describes his own life and those of his neighbors and family in Appalachia. He is both dispassionate and passionate about what are the causes of the state of people living in those regions and how they would find a Trump presidency compelling. It is a strong work in empathy and sheds light on a different world than many of us live.

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