Wednesday, April 4, 2018

"What Game of Thrones can teach us about leadership"

Nov. 29, 2017 "What Game of Thrones can teach us about leadership": Today I found this article by Steve Leslie in the Globe and Mail:

Senior vice-president, sales, Business Solutions East, Telus Corp.

My obsession with Game of Thrones began shortly after my son started watching the series, with my wife joining in soon after. Slowly, you'd catch me casually peeking my head into the family room and, before long, I was hooked.

While a world of dragons and White Walkers may seem like fantasy, the more I watched the show, the more I gleaned valuable leadership lessons that could be as relevant in the workplace as they are in Westeros.

Over the seasons, Jon Snow evolved into a leader who represents hope and perseverance, while promoting confidence within his people.

How does he do this? He's clear on his vision and inspires individuals through his actions. In this way, he demonstrates a lot of what great looks like when it comes to leadership today.

When you look at business leadership, successful leaders also have a strong focus on their objectives, even in challenging times. They concentrate on what they can control and they motivate their teams to push forward.

As leaders, we all face challenges (maybe not quite as deadly as Jon Snow's). Our teams look to us for guidance most of all in times of crisis or uncertainty. When the going gets tough, it's more important than ever to align your team behind a vision and inspire them to reach their full potential.

Whether you're battling with Boltons or budgets, here's what Jon Snow has taught me about how to lead in challenging times:

Focus on what you can control

I'll never forget a performance review I had as a young sales rep. I was having a difficult period early on in my career and my VP gave me some great coaching.

He recommended I focus on the causes I can control when it came to my performance, instead of stressing about external factors. It was great advice that I carry with me to this day.

In the business world, great leaders prove over and over again that focusing on what you can control has far more leverage than worrying about what you can't. Storms will always present themselves in business, be it strong competitors or strenuous economic environments. But at the end of the day, a captain has no control over the storm, only how he or she navigates it.

Inspire confidence within your team

As our Game of Thrones warrior has proven, anything is possible when you believe. When you think of the word "belief," it may make you think of words such as confidence, optimism, determination, conviction and, ultimately, hope. Leaders must inspire all of these things, especially in tough times.

We see parallels in real-world examples. During the depths of the Second World War, facing very bleak circumstances, Churchill was unyielding in his message and vision: "We shall never surrender."

Those words created a path forward for all who heard and believed in them, instilling confidence and hope. There's no shortage of great leaders throughout history who remained resolute with unwavering determination, despite challenging surroundings – and they ultimately achieved great things.

Lead the charge

I'm constantly inspired by individuals who lead by example. When times are at their darkest, Jon Snow's followers know exactly where to find him – at the front line of the battle.

Great leaders don't just inspire others to believe in their pursuits; they have an impact far beyond what most would ever think is possible. Let's look at Terry Fox, for example. With incredibly difficult circumstances, he showed us that the impossible was possible. With every step, Terry persevered and inspired a nation to believe in his dream.

If I relate this back to the information technology industry, in which I work, change is constant and the macro environment is unpredictable with advances and disruptors.

Technology is constantly rewriting the rules and the needs of our customers are ever-changing. At times, the twists and turns presented seem insurmountable. These changes have a huge effect on businesses and teams. As Jon Snow has taught us, control, calming confidence and strong vision are traits that every leader should possess, especially in turbulent times.

We can't always control our environment or the situation we're handed, but we can control our response to them.

Winter is coming, how will you respond as a leader?

1 comment:

5 hours ago

Likely the best article that I have read at the Globe and mail yet.

Dec. 4, 2017 The Ladder: Brian Athaide: Today I found this article by Cynthia
Martin in the Globe and Mail:

Brian Athaide, 49, became chief financial officer and executive vice-president of Human Resources/Information Technology in 2014 at Andrew Peller Limited, based in Grimsby, Ont.

I was born in Bangladesh, my parents [are] from Goa, India, so my mom's first language is Portuguese. They lived in Pakistan – with the violence and animosity, they wanted to immigrate for better quality of life, better opportunities for our family. My dad came in 1971, landing in Montreal. He was a textile engineer, got a job in a mill in Brandon, Man. The rest of us, my mom a teacher and three older sisters, moved in 1972 when I was three. A church congregation helped us settle in.

My parents split when I was young – my mom remarried so I went to high school in Labrador City. It was a good experience there – you really need to like winter sports. My parents had a unique way of thinking – there's a strong Indian community in Canada but they wanted us to be Canadian, not integrate into that community.

Originally, I wanted to go into law, wanted something useful and practical for my undergrad so [I] went into business. After my BComm, I thought I'd do a combined MBA/LLB. At McGill, I studied finance and marketing, did Proctor and Gamble case studies so I applied there and moved to Toronto.

After two years, I thought I'd go back to university but enjoyed working, gave up on law. I enrolled in a part-time MBA in New York, then P&G offered me a job in Cincinnati.
I didn't make it to a single class.

I did international cost forecasting and analysis, consolidations. I enjoyed that a lot, had great exposure to global business, especially in emerging markets, got a feel for challenges and found it fascinating. I came back to Toronto; Vietnam was opening, also Russia, so I expressed interest. My girlfriend and I got married, moving from our own apartments to a tiny apartment in the heart of Moscow in 1995, still early days after the Soviet Union's collapse.

It was an $80-million business, three years later – $800-million; by then I'd moved to comptroller. Then the ruble crisis happened, business went to $200-million overnight. I was to move to the Balkans but spent months to help sort through the crisis – probably the most stressful role I've ever had – that's when I lost all my hair.

I'm responsible here for four teams: HR, IT, finance and accounting. It`s important to understand the value chain, where value creation is and how you get more in domestic markets. We've had a partnership [with] Wayne [Gretzky] for six years. It was a distressed business, he was working with [a company] – we basically bought the inventory, wrote half off and focused on wine-making, improving the quality. Then John [Peller] had the vision to get into spirits. You might buy whisky for Wayne's name the first time, but now you buy it for the whisky.

People buying wine kits also buy premium and ultra-premium wine. You can make wine for $5 a bottle; it's good value. We've put Winexpert into contests and they do well. We got great feedback after we bought three wineries in B.C. – people are glad they stayed Canadian, because they could have gone to international buyers. My wife and I did wine courses here – got a tip that Riesling pairs well with potato chips.

I've lived in 12 countries, moving to Chile when our son was five, daughter six. We did a couple wine tours; they were teaching our kids how to swirl, the nose, how to spit. They're third-culture kids. We came back so they could go to high school. You appreciate Canada when you've been gone, come back, see how the country works and people interact. It's the best country in the world.

I appreciate it a lot more having been elsewhere. Especially after being gone 20 years, it's so inspirational seeing the level of diversity – that's a huge strength. You don't get that in other countries so easily. Listening to those who are anti-immigration – it makes no economic sense because you get immigrant families coming in – they're hungry, work hard, create business and generate economic growth.

[I won't hire] someone who doesn't make eye contact or mumbles. They have to have an innate level of curiosity, that desire to do things better. People don't leave a company, they leave a manager. I've been lucky – I've had great organizations, mentors, role models. I've been able to learn from so many different people and cultures – that's a lot of who I am.

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