The modern leader in defence

What it was:

Talk by a senior MOD leader to the ISS leadership cohort in Corsham on 9 October 2018.

What I learned:

Introduction:

  • You are a highly evolved ape!
  • Think about the psychological environment you create for your team
  • Systems of thinking, fast and slow
  • Self awareness is key
  • Create an environment that encourages Reasonable Challenge

A simple framework for leadership:

  • A leader leads three things: issues, people and change.

Leading issues:

  • The product: must be credible, consistent, defensible, logical, viable
  • Stakeholders: use empathy, trust and assertiveness

Leading people:

  • Be effective at what you do. This is fundamental to leadership.
  • Be a time traveller; see five years hence, and reflect on how things have moved.
  • Have a clear view of success and failure, beware the dangers of linear narratives,
  • take a probabilistic view of success and failure
  • Be human: learn about your people, which team they support, their children’s names.

Leading change:

  • Change happens to us. We adapt to change. Therefore leading change is really just leading adaptation.
  • In essence it’s the role of the leader to force the adaptation
  • Evolution is a good analogy – it can be gradual or drama
  • Reputation is the only real currency of leadership: The metric is what will people be saying about you / this in five years time
  • There are many different leadership models, both quiet and loud

In summary:

  • Lead through people
  • Make sure the team is adapting
  • Be conscious of your reputation

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

  • Think about things in terms of issues, people and change – not just issues
  • Use the framework above as a way of organising my planning time
  • Ask my people about themselves more.

SLS/FLS MOD engagement event

What it was:

Talks and conversations with senior leaders and alumni of development schemes, mainly from within defence, at the Ministry of Defence on 5 March 2018

What I learned:

  • Action Inquiry: Every moment is an opportunity for development, experiment, reflection
  • Exploit your competitive advantage
  • Seek out role models
  • Who you work with is more important than what you work on
  • Need to be sharp and concise on commissioning the right work from the right person
  • You can’t afford to have an off moment, especially when in large groups
  • Have respect for the people in your team; that means preparing properly when speaking to groups
  • As an introvert you need to be an actor, and build in recovery time on your own
  • “Positive deviance” – the ability to challenge and do things in New ways. Leaders need to be able to observe and enable this behaviour
  • In the second year of the schemes there is more onus on self organising networks. There is not an anchor – it becomes a fight to stay in contact with people.
  • Need to challenge the other people in your cohort, if they don’t contribute they are taking a place away from others who wanted to be on the scheme
  • FLS makes you better able to succeed at SCS interviews as it helps you frame your style, think about the emotional impact, talk about your corporate contribution
  • End of scheme reviews are in December January

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

  • Try to pursue partnerships with specific individuals who are likely on a similar development journey as me
  • Look up the “two pies” approach (?) that was mentioned
  • Make a concerted exploration on doing a secondment to industry
  • Practice being more precise in commissioning work from others
  • Take more time to prepare for speaking to the team
  • Gather contact details for others on development schemes and try to maintain the network

Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI)

What it was:

An exercise to measure ourselves against the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) model (aka ‘red green blue triangle’) as part of the Future Leaders Scheme at Ashridge in November 2017.

What I learned:

I came out of the SDI exercise as red (“asserting / directing”) but close to red-green (judicious / competing) and the hub (flexible / cohering). Under stress or pressure I move to the hub.

I recognised all three in me, but perhaps the hub most of all

Your self-perception is based on your motivation, which form as intentions, which in turn express as behaviours.

Other people’s perceptions of you are the other way round – they are based on your behaviour, which expresses your intentions, driven by your inner motivation (which other people can’t see!)

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

  • Learn more about what I can do with SDI
  • Recognise when people are moving along their long vectors, it should be obvious they are stressed.
  • Note that for people with short vectors, it may not be obvious they are stressed, I may need to come to them to see if they need support
  • Always maintain healthy scepticism of SDI and similar personality models!

Future Leaders Scheme: Module one – introduction

What it was:

An introductory session to the residential Future Leaders Scheme (FLS) residential module at Ashridge.

The objectives of the module:

  • Build network and relationships
  • Develop personal leadership development Goals
  • Gain insight into your leadership strengths and styles
  • Insight into how your behaviours impact others
  • Aware of neurological and physiological responses to pressure
  • Develop your own leadership brand

What I learned:

Watch out for crises – they can be addictive!

It’s lonely at the top and you can trust the feedback you get less and less. Have a small number of confidantes.

Leading change and transformation is the leadership required in the high uncertainty, high disagreement quadrant.

Management is doing things right – Leadership is doing the right thing.

An organisation can be thought of in different ways, as a Newtonian machine, as a natural system, or as a psychic prison of what you can and can’t do.

Peter Robertson:  all business efforts undergo an s-curve of success followed by decline. Successful organisations jump as their s-curve dies.

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

  • Build relationships with a small number of senior confidantes.
  • Try to write down my personal brand.
  • Ask the team whether they are being stretched, being challenged, being developed.
  • Think about whether I occupy the same role in leadership at work as I did or do in my family.

Future Leaders Scheme: Leadership under pressure

What it was:

A talk and interactive session on leadership, held as part of the Future Leaders Scheme at Ashridge in November 2017.

We also completed a ‘leadership dilemmas’ exercise that looks at choices under pressure.

What I learned:

A simple model for how the brain works:

  • “Brain 1”, the autonomic nervous system; Sympathetic nervous system, works fast. Controls fear, fight, flight.
  • “Brain 2”, Parasympathetic nervous system; Controls rest and recuperation.
  • It’s essential to balance sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. Without balance, we lose cognitive function, become tired and stupid!
  • “Brain 3”, the conscious thinking mind. Brain 3 has not evolved fast enough for us to cope with modern world.
  • Under stress, brain 2 perceives threat, activates brain 1, brain 3 shuts down.

Sweet spot between challenge and threat is “correct thinking under pressure”- this is what you should always aim for.

My leadership values, according to my guesses (!?):

  • Future leaning
  • Integrity
  • Honest and open
  • Engagement
  • Innovation
  • “Excitement, adventure and really wild things”

My leadership values, as evidenced by the ‘leadership dilemmas’ exercise?

  • Integrity
  • Honesty
  • Openness

What will I aim to do differently as a result:

  • Consider an exercise to reconcile what team say about me and what I said about myself
  • Develop and write a “why should anyone be led by you statement”
  • Keep momentum on learning and development
  • Write this all up!