Leadership & Diversity – 3 Innovative & Creative Tips on How to Achieve This

tesse akpeki Achieving the diversity that is innovative and creativeThe new Barbie is being remoulded to reflect a broader view of beauty.  The new dolls represent a line that is reflective of the world girls see around them – the variety of looks, body types, skin tones and styles that allows girls to find a doll that speaks to them. Lego, attacked for lack of diversity unveiled a figure in a wheelchair at the London toy fair.

I was so glad that I stayed up to watch the Super Bowl and the half time entertainment. The variety and the sheer splash of talent and colours were very beautiful and touching.

Leadership both at board , staff and volunteer level should reflect the range and variety of talent, experiences and perspectives. Cross- gender teams have been found to be effective, efficient and good at making the best decisions.

My 3 top tips are:

  1. Diverse teams should be talented – tokenistic appointments simply won’t do.
  2. Talent should be channelled for the well being of our boards, our leadership and volunteer teams. There is no need attracting the talent and not using it!
  3. Attracting diversity requires doing things differently and going where we probably have not gone before. For some it may represent a new frontier.  Our teams will be built by simply starting out – taking the first step and learning as we go along. Read  more

Thinking, Doing & Behaving…Your Ingredients for Board Success

Thinking, Doing  & Behaving…Your Ingredients

Tesse Akpeki Boards Success1.Set Mission-Based Goals  for board meetings
2.Make sure board time is put to good use. Utilise new technologies where appropriate
3.Ensure your intellectual & social capital is tapped
4.Periodically assess “How are we doing?” ask “What are we doing?” & “Why”?
5.Optimising  opportunities (quicker OR better decisions)
6.How often are our brilliant ideas put into play?

The Apprentice – Our Leading Light

Tesse Apeki Apprentice and Leadership

Lord Sugar trumps the need to be strong and competitive.

I confess sometimes I watch mindless reality TV programmes such as the Apprentice.  When I read that two apprentices rivals traded insults after cat fights, were at each other’s throats, had a ‘screaming’ row during filming and continued to trade insults on social media, I asked whether programmes such as these display leadership in a good light.  Lord Sugar trumps the need to be strong and competitive.

Management theory tells us the effective leader is vulnerable and authentic.  The polarities are clear.  What kind of leadership is needed to be considered successful?  Whatever answer we arrive at I think trading insults and behaving in a way that we cannot self manage our emotions or responses is definitely not the way to role model leadership that makes a difference.

I am reminded of the words of Max De Pree – ” In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are “.

If we tend to fly off the handle it may be worth working out how to squash our reactions by knowing what triggers them.  Now that is some homework! Let’s hear from you.

Servant Leadership a Platform for Effective Leadership

Rev Jerry W Paul

Servant leadership is so impactful, yet many people think of leadership as a means of control and exercising power, sometimes in inappropriate ways.   Power used in the wrong way is very destructive, people are bullied, there is a culture of fear and guilt.   In the short term,  things may appear to be working, but over time, the decay and decline sets in.

I would like to dedicate this blog to my colleague and dear friend Rev Jerry W Paul – Founder of the Deaconess Foundation. Jerry practiced servant leadership.   He was my mentor, teacher and coach.   Jerry had a deep thirst for learning and continuous development and encouraged that in me.   There is a book for everything and Jerry had a way of finding the book that I needed for my teachable moments.

It was Jerry who supported me as I set up my first leadership consultancy trip in the States  after I went freelance in 2005.  He  guided me in how to use learning from the field to enhance organisations and the individuals within them.  Jerry was larger than life.  His sense of humour was second to none.  There was never a dull moment when this really smart and humble man was in a room.   Sadly Jerry left the shores of this world last week.  Much too early in my opinion.   He shall be missed by his family, friends and colleagues.   Jerry was unique.   He was larger than life and he has left a deep hole behind.

For me, I shall cling onto his legacy.   He was a great leader, kind, caring, nurturing, intelligent, wise, smart and compassionate.   With his gentle personality and presence he touched many lives and empowered many organisations.  I am so thankful I got to meet this amazing man.

I thank another dear   friend, Carol Weisman for introducing me to Jerry many years ago.    A man who inspired, guided and supported.  He will not be forgotten.

Lessons on Leadership – learning from the Ebola Crisis

Tesse AkpekiWhen the Ebola epidemic broke out in West Africa, a man tried to enter Nigeria for  treatment. He was held at the International airport by a leading doctor and her colleague. The gentleman was never allowed into Lagos. Their action saved millions of lives. In densely populated Lagos, millions of people could have died.

The act of the woman doctor and her colleague cost them their lives. Her son said his mother knew what the risks were and she was prepared to die for the greater good of mankind. If this is not authentic leadership what was is? This was about decisive action, swift controls, firmness, commitment to a vision (of saving lives), a clear path forward and cultural change. The Nigerian Government swung into action and eradicated Ebola from its shores.

Behaviours changed leading to a different outcome. The path of leadership can be lonely, but these heroes leave a legacy behind which outlives the years they walked on this earth.

Two stands to ‘New’. Lets go for it!

Tesse AkpekiI am sometimes unclear about when to stop saying ‘happy new year’.  Last year someone told me, at the end of January it is best to stop this seasonable compliment.

Two different Greek words  exist for the English word new. Neos refers to something that has recently come into existence, such as a new year. It hadn’t existed before and is brand-new. Kainos speaks of something being renewed rather than brand-new. It contains the idea that there was something “before” that is now coming into the fullness of its true reality.

It is kainos that raises the concept of “new” to a different level, for example to describe or create the future.  In each case, the idea of “new” is that it’s something that previously existed and is now being recreated and restored so that it can be all it was meant to be.

Living out this new future is possible by the goals, targets and purpose we set out before us.  At the end of 2015, what is it that we would have liked to happen?  What is it that we no longer wish for?     It is encouraging that we can do new things, but we can also achieve significant improvements by refreshing or reviving what we already have or hold.  For you what falls into this category?

New Year Intentions for Making Boards Work Better

tickAccording to recent McKinsey’s insight most directors don’t understand the company’s strategy and prioritise short –time gain at the expense of creating long-term value.   Boards are not delivering their core mission which is providing oversight and strategic support for management’s efforts to create long-term value.  The challenge is to strengthen the knowledge of boards and help directors build, maintain and refine a long-term mind-set.

Six Essential Steps to Take

1.     Identify what a director’s ‘fiduciary duty really is.  This entails placing  the company’s interest ahead of one’s own – a duty of loyalty), prudence (applying  proper care, skill and diligence to decisions) and help the company thrive for years into the future.  The board should time more time discussing potential new goods, services, markets and business models as well as what it takes to capture value-creation opportunities with big upsides over the long term.

2.     Select the right people – appoint directors who are independent thinking  and whose experience has specific application for the organisation.

3.     Spend quality time on strategy – this may involve more time on the role, devoting more time to understanding  and shaping strategy.   Board members may need to dedicate  more time on a mixture of field trips, the quality and depth of strategic conversations and the strategic engagement with the organisation

4.     Engage  with stakeholders  which involves understanding the stakeholders and their needs,  facilitating dialogues and engagement with them.  Stakeholders are not an optional extra and there should be channels for direct  feedback and awareness of stakeholder views.

5.     Ensure there is deft handling by board chairs or lead directors alongside CEOs.  There may be a need to shift the culture, behaviour and structure of the board.  Sometimes there is no pain without gain.

6.     Consider the significance of digital technologies (especially social media)   and the associated reputational and cyber security risks.  Social media policies should be discussed at board level and this relevant area should not be managed from outside the boardroom.

Craft the steps with into clear and specific goals and deadlines.   2015 is already looking like it is full of promise!!

Leadership Relationships – for Better or Worse ( Part 2 )

What  are the areas for attention in a leadership partnership?

Tesse Akpeki LeadershipA need for shared goals

A healthy level of commitment to achieve the strategic purpose

A way to work out what is important to either party and how to best communicate this – feedback is critical.

A need for appreciation , recognition, praise and acknowledgement

Ways to develop robust communication – a safe place to share, build trust and confidence

A thorny issue – when is the appropriate time for the pat on the back and strokes and how is this balanced against being a critical friend giving constructive feedback?

How can each partner talk to each other and achieve shared goals for the benefit of the organisation? Continue reading

Leadership Relationships – for Better or Worse

Tesse AkpekiCan a marriage ever be perfect?     How can the partners  come pretty close to the idea?  Is the purpose of marriage closeness?   Are the partners expected to meet every need each other has got?  A recent survey of thousands of married couples highlights areas for unhappiness which hold lessons for leadership partnerships.

Ten reasons why people said they were unhappy

Continue reading

The Unexpected Surprises

Leadership guru Tesse Akpeki at Charity AwardsI had the brilliant opportunity of attending the 2014 Charity Awards.  It is a great place to meet  old friends and to make new ones.  This  year was no exceptions.   I have enough hugs to take me into 2015!   The ice on the cake was meeting 19 year old Jermain  Jackman, Winner of TheVoiceUK 2014.   I was a massive supporter of Jermain  and relented after 10 years to cast as many votes as I could for him to win.  I told him this and got rewarded with a warm hug.   What a surprise!   In addition to having a great voice, he comes across as such a warm and inspiring person with an amazing presence.

So what do we do when we come across these unexpected happenings?  I found myself tongue tied, happy and excited all at the same time.  And I am aware I am not a teenager.   Happily, I was able to string some words together sensibly and got a lovely photograph to mark the occasion.
Back to those opportunities in our environment, in our organisations, in our boards, when we work with staff and volunteers.   Do we recognise them?  Do we grasp them or sometimes do we just let them slip by?

Great leadership and strategy design is not just to look out for the threats and challenges, but to seize opportunities when and as they arise – in an informed way of course, because we can’t take on everything.  The challenge then becomes one of knowing which ones to take on and which to leave behind without any regrets.  Good luck on your journey!