Saturday, July 20, 2024

About Leadership, and Showing Up

Last updated on June 14th, 2023 at 03:03 pm

There are some 206 thousand books on “leadership” listed on Amazon, according to Ed Kless, and he says half of them are “wrong.”

“Leadership is broken and needs to be healed because it is focused on the wrong thing,” he insisted.

Kless, the Senior Director of Partner Development and Strategy of the Verasage Institute in Texas, led a seminar on “Healing Leadership” at the Sage Summit, in Toronto last week.

Not every person in every situation will respond to reason, for example.

Kless quoted Edwin H. Friedman, author of Failure Of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix: “A colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with the people who are unmotivated to change.”

Cutting those people loose is one option, but another is to accept the circumstance and move forward. “If you care about the relationship, stay committed and change yourself.”

There are a variety of causes that contribute to organizational gridlock, he added, including: absences, loss of mission, chaotic communication, toxic environments, ineffective actions, blame displacement, looking for answers rather than reframing questions.

When an employee sees any of this they have a responsibility to bring it up, rather than allow the problems to worsen. But do not always count on employees to be loyal and play fair; in fact, “expect sabotage” Kless warned – also a belief put forward by Friedman.

To increase trust among employees, and thus to de-incentivize sabotage, Michigan-based energy company Semco gave its employees, from janitorial staff up to executives, American Express cards to independently purchase needed office supplies.

Kless explained it eliminated the time of micro-managing and signing of expense sheets, and put faith in employees’ judgment. “If sabotage was going to happen anyway, they’ll do something bigger than buy something for themselves.”

“We can actually change people and small businesses uniquely,” with “healing leadership”, added Kless.

ed kless
Ed Kless, Senior Director of Partner Development and Strategy, Verasage Institute

UK-headquartered Sage, known for its line of accounting software, hosts annual conferences in different cities each year, bringing in top-tier keynotes from the political, celebrity, and corporate world.

Keynoting in Toronto, were comedian Rick Mercer and entrepreneur Michael Hyatt.

michael hyatt
Michael Hyatt, Co-Founder of BlueCat, and former “Dragon”

Hyatt is the Co-Founder, and Director of BlueCat, and known as a technology visionary. He was also a “Dragon” on CBC’s online Dragons’ Den.

“I’m a twenty-year overnight success,” he boasted.

Success, he says is “not just given, or granted, or bestowed. Opportunity plays by certain rules.” Showing up is the first rule.

There were a string of presidential candidates in the past two generations who exemplified this –those initially written off with no chances, including Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.

“The Democrat – Jimmy Carter– was thrilled to run against a clown actor from California. ‘Bring him on,’ they said. No one is going to vote for an actor. What did he do? He showed up. Crushed them.”

Bill Clinton was not even in the top ten candidates a year before Election Day 1992, Hyatt said, Obama was one per cent in the polls in the summer of 2007, and Bernie Sanders “turns out, he kind of almost won. He’s the only one that showed up.”

Hyatt explained “there not one big thing you can do,” to achieve success; rather, it is piecemeal, taking a consistent pace.

“You don’t need to lose thirty pounds in a month. If you just take the stairs –just make yourself one per cent better. Just eat a little slower. Look for small ways. Look for consistent ways,” noted Hyatt, who is also a Founding Partner and Fellow at the Rotman School of Management’s Creative Destruction Lab, and co-founder of software company Dyadem.

“You see, the truth about anybody really successful is they all come from the same town. That’s the town called ‘unlikely,’” he notes.

“If you leave that town, you show up, you have a consistent march, and you don’t avoid the negative – you accept it – you are very likely to end up in success.”


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Dave Gordon
Dave Gordon
Dave Gordon is a Toronto-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in more than a hundred publications globally, over the course of twenty years. More about him can be found at