A few weeks ago, I attended a breakfast where Adrian Jones of Goldman Sachs spoke about leadership. I didn't know much about him before this event and I was amazed by him afterwards. His approach to challenges in life is inspiring. While I didn't agree with everything he said he did intrigue me about his view on leadership which I'll discuss shortly.
He's had an incredible career. A Roscommon native, married with two children he described what it is like having a child who suffers from autism and he serves on the board of Autism Speaks. Jones also served a cadetship in the Irish army in and spent time with the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon during the 80's. In 89 he moved to the states and nearly 22 years later he is managing director in the Principal Investment Area (PIA) of the Merchant Banking Division.
As I said the theme of the talk was leadership but not simply in business, leadership in all aspects of life. Jones was very open which was refreshing for someone as successful as he is. Like us all, he has faced challenges throughout life including his army days, his family life and in business but the one thing or piece of advice that really stood to me and no doubt the rest of the attendees was this. When it comes to leaders, all of them have to...
His interpretation of leadership from his experience is that leaders are people who are the most unreasonable. To most of us being unreasonable isn't something to be boastful however he explained that we all have jobs to do, objectives to hit, whatever it is we give ourselves a reason to do and achieve certain things. During that time we are faced with many roadblocks and the most unreasonable of people will not be deterred. They will find a way to either go around them or ultimately go through them. According to Jones, that is what leaders do.
So, considering Jones' context, being unreasonable doesn't seem a bad thing. I didn't at the time but I'm posing the question now, if leaders are unreasonable, what attribute do leaders need to be great leaders.
For example, one of the most unreasonable people of western civilisation in modern times is the one and only Donald Trump. He has managed to lead (brainwash) so many Americans down the yellow brick road full of lies and deceit and at the end of it we'll see "a great big wall". The scary thing is that people believe he's going to physically build a giant wall. We might even see talking lions and tin men too :)
Leaders create belief in others and when I look at great leaders, it's the humane side that sets them apart from others. Being a great leader shouldn't mean you have to harm others along the way. Leaders give those people direction and focus Martin Luther King was great for so many millions and equally, he was a threat to others, but only those who were afraid of equality and change.
A great leader gives people a reason to live in hope not fear A great leader gives everyone a fair shot A great leader helps the downtrodden not punish them even more A great leader promotes peace not war, love not violence, unity not division A great leader tries to understand people's hardships, builds empathy with them and strives to improve their situations A great leader helps people realise their potential.
There are so many things I believe makes a leader great. While a lot of what I mentioned above can be related to world leaders, we can bring this into our everyday lives too. At work we spend so much of our lives trying to prove to those ahead of us that we're good enough, aiming to achieve a better position or even recognition for work, leaders who inspire us make us want to work more and be the best we can be. I wrote about this a few months back, small amounts of recognition can actually go further than you realise We get hits in life – but who notices?
Having a position of power doesn't automatically mean you're a leader. People in a leadership role need to learn themselves how to be good leaders and how to encourage their staff to do their best. Surrounding themselves with a team of people who are actually more talented than they are so that collectively their team can achieve their objectives.
Leaders are not the best at everything, but great leaders get the best out of everyone.
I agree with Adrian Jones, all leaders are unreasonable people and no doubt that is one quality that is necessary, however, what separates mere 'leaders' from 'great leaders'?
Don't follow someone because everyone else is doing so, follow them because they bring out something better in you or make you want to be greater.
For example, Trump is not only unreasonable with his fortune and celebrity status he has managed to create a campaign that Americans believe in, which is, to make America great again. His campaign managers have cleverly played on America's heartstrings and on the nostalgia, that so many people cling onto. The days when most people had good paying jobs, didn't worry about anything and money wasn't so much of an issue.
I believe Trump is simply a spoiled school bully and America is the school playground. Bullies prey on the weak and vulnerable and Trump is no different mentally, he's just got a few million behind him which is making it difficult to stop his momentum. The reality with Trump is that he's a track record of turning his back on everyone and anyone. I believe not only will he turn his back on the people he'll turn his back on his country and create an endless pit of heartache and despair should he end up winning this campaign.
What is baffling is the number of followers he has rallied. Democracy as we know if will have failed if Trump gets elected and then America along with the sane part of the world will be looking for someone to lead the world against him. I didn't mean to harp on about Trump, he's a disgraceful human.
So back to leadership... and how most leaders if not all are unreasonable. I suppose great leaders will always be inspired and looking to progress whatever surroundings they are in, be it work, sport, world stage you name it. Being unreasonable is important, it's not the only quality needed it's a combination of so many attributes like selflessness, positivity, taking action, motivating, inspiring and being in touch with humanity and people’s feelings.
If you're in a position of authority or 'power' look at yourself and be honest - can you handle the task at hand and do you trust your team around you? No one can do it all on their own, even leaders need support at times. Don't be afraid to ask for help, do it in a way that will inspire your team to take ownership of the task.
People who want to achieve will put themselves under enough pressure to succeed, they don't need others to add more to them. Ask yourself honestly are you leading or bullying? Are you inspiring or suffocating? Are you a positive influence on your team or a negative?
Do you lead by example because actions are sometimes more powerful than words?