Friday, 26 May 2017

Why #Authentic #Leaders Are Not Perfectionists

Do leaders strive for perfection?

I was asking my self this question few days ago after listening on the radio to somebody who - despite having had the top role in the organisation -  talked about how doubts would surface regularly about her ability to lead. Not openly of course, but in rather subtle ways, she was questioning her right to be up there and her ability to achieve the best for the organisation.


It occurred to me that it is possibly because this senior lady had a rather 'fixed' idea of what a CEO looks like that she might be beating herself down. This concept that a perfect CEO should be doing or saying or looking in a specific way may be what is undermining her confidence on the one hand and on the other pushing her away from her #authentic self.

In my opinion it is a whole lot healthier and positive to think not of striving for perfection but rather striving for excellence. The difference is perhaps small but rather important when it comes to its impact!

Excellence is a dynamic concept that may change according to individuals, context, time, technological progress, culture and so on. Excellence is a positive concept inasmuch as it is acknowledged by others but not imposed by others. Most importantly, it also has a 'human' feel to it, inasmuch as it can be achieved, it is worth striving for but it always leaves room for learning and improvement.

Perfection is by definition not wordily.  As such striving for perfection is a self-defeating and negative concept as it can never be conquered! That is why you may notice that...

- perfectionists can be very dissatisfied people
- perfectionists can focus on one thing at a time
- perfectionists can be very self-absorbed
- perfectionists have the tendency to procrastinate.
- perfectionists are so fixed on the destination that they will often miss out on the joy of the journey!

So rather than concerning ourselves with being perfect I suggest that we focus on being on a path to excellence.

Authenticity and excellence walk hand in hand: the answer to 'what is excellence?' requires me to connect with my authentic self in order to align with my most important values and beliefs. Quite the opposite, wanting to be perfect may compromise who you truly are in favour of some preconceived idea that is impressed upon us.

As authentic leaders we choose to enjoy the journey as well as a destination. We are also grateful and learn from the mistakes that happen on that pathway.

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here. 



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Sunday, 14 May 2017

Why #Soft #Skills Are Top of Employers Lists (And Why We should call them #Leadership Skills!)

I was very pleased to see that in a recent report cited by the World Economic Forum non cognitive skills are reported to be increasingly important to employers.

More specifically it is being said that 'non-cognitive skills are also integral to educational performance and success at work – and are becoming increasingly so. Non-cognitive skills are your “soft skills”: things like how well you can communicate, how well you work with others, how well you lead a team and how self-motivated you are.'

It goes on to say that While fewer than 20% of hiring managers said that recent graduates lacked the math skills needed for the work, more than half said that recent graduates lacked attention to detail. About equal shares of hiring managers saw deficiencies in writing proficiency and communication—the cognitive and non-cognitive aspects, respectively, of a single skill. About a third of hiring managers said recent college graduates lacked data analysis and teamwork skills,” 

This is a US based report, but in my experience, it could be easily extended to the UK and possibly Europe, if not the rest of the world! For years and years all we have focussed education on has been academics and they are important, indeed essential! BUT - and it is a big BUT - as the world becomes more complex, as the pattern of change increases, as diversity enriches our workplace, so called soft skills are coming into their own and those who are able to display them end up in a much better position...not only do they get ahead in employment, they actually stay EMPLOYABLE. And this is a much more important area in a society where 'secure jobs' and 'jobs for life' are a distant memory.   

Actually, in my opinion, 'soft' or 'non-cognitive skills' is not the appropriate terminology. Communication, Self Motivation, Team Working and the likes should really be identified as Leadership Skills.  Ultimately, what makes leaders if not their capacity to engage others through their vision and be a role model to the people surrounding them? And are these attributes not derived by great communication skills, team work, self awareness and motivation?

The point is this: Leadership is necessary at all levels in the workplace. Leadership skills are seldom dictated by technical knowledge alone. More likely technical knowledge provides the stepping stone for self-confidence,  but this alone does not make one a leader. A true leader - at whatever the level in an organisation or community - will add to this communication, empathy, listening and more broadly coaching skills, setting and pursuing objectives, to mention but a handful.

Thus, it is absolutely critical to add so-called soft skills to any education and it is never too early too start. Some people are getting the message loud and clear , which is why I am now being asked to deliver workshops around these topics not only to undergraduates but actually to 15-17 year old students...those schools / organisations are the trailblazers but we need others to follow to ensure that society can truly create 21st century ready professionals.


Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here.