If you are a captain on a ship, it is your responsibility to see and to know what is coming so you can navigate your ship safely back to shore. Being a leader of company, or a councillor of a municipality, is no different. This is an area I am passionate about, and where I have a track record for being right.
True leadership is not about giving orders – it begins with being able to listen, observe, and then ask the right questions.
By Mik Aidt
I got my first Mac computer in 1989, and I can assure you that back then, and up through the 1990s, only very few of my friends were able to appreciate Steve Job’s vision or why I thought he was a hero.
Now, many years later, the success of his ideas and his skills as a leader are praised in films, books and media.
I posted this seven-minute motivational and inspirational video on my campaign Facebook-page not to advertise for Apple, but because I believe this is the kind of mental energy, trust in creativity and excitement about quality and progress which a Council should be spreading to its city’s innovators, entrepreneurs, creators and doers.
(If you watch it, please leave a comment below the Facebook post.)
Leadership is about being able to understand what is coming, and to use that knowledge constructively.
I remember standing in 1996 at a market square during an Images of Africa festival in Denmark, with a Mac computer connected via modem and phone cables to the Internet, showing people the World Wide Web and talking about how the invention of The Internet would transform their lives in the years to come. People looked at me as if I was a lunatic.
I remember being laughed at and ridiculed in board rooms for my claim that before we knew it, mobile devices and the Internet would be creating jobs and killing others. That it was something not only to be aware of and understand, but to embrace and dig into – because of the disruptions, the threats as well as new possibilities it would create. It took convincing. My friends and colleagues just couldn’t see it coming.
I was met with similar skepticism and even experienced being censored when in the beginning of the 1990s I spoke up about – and created a pioneering website about – the need for a dietary change, basically saying that sugar and carbohydrates was a threat to our health, not fat. Back then, no one would listen. Today, it is commonly accepted science taught in schools.
And here is the thing: I have a similar feeling today, when I talk about climate change and about how we have an obligation to our kids to understand what is happening with our planet, how our carbon emissions are a threat to stability and what we are able to do about this.
This is where I am coming from. I’m not after creating change for the sake of creating disruption. I’m calling for common sense. My point of view is that the decisions we make must be made on an informed, science-based foundation, and yes, that there is such a thing as science. Leaders of our communities must have the guts to talk about what is important, even if people find it too inconvenient and don’t want to hear about it. Which is why I’m very pleased and somewhat proud about what Chris Balazs, a local Geelong farmer, wrote on my Facebook page:
But there is another important aspect of what true leadership means. If we can’t create a sense of togetherness about the important issues that confront us in society, we will fail. What that means in a Council just as well as in any organisation or business is that a good leader is one who is able to create collaboration. Who can inspire and bring people, who may be disagreeing on a range of topics, together about the core and most crucial decisions.
HR consultants have lots of tools and recipes for how to do that, but here is what it boils down to: If we are not honest, genuine and transparent, if we don’t trust one another, and if feelings are being hurt because of disrespectful behaviour and harsh language, we will never be able to find consensus. Apparently, this is where the former Council went wrong. (More about that here.)
The leadership skill of bringing people together is not an empty cliché or a naive socialist idea. It is a necessity. Something we must all strive for, regardless of political colour, because big, positive change in a community can’t be done by a small and isolated group of people. It demands that the majority gets on board – and that they do it because they can see good reasons for doing it. Or even better: because they have become excited about it!
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
~ Steve Jobs
“The more you know, the less you need.”
~ Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia Founder and CEO
“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it, too, seemed immovable.
As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.
And now, as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realise: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country, and who knows, I may have even changed the world.”
~ Inscribed on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop in Westminster Abby (1100 A.D.)
“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.”
~ Leonardo da Vinci
More on leadership
» In July 2017, Mik wrote a longer essay about the issue of ‘ethical leadership’ and trust:
It’s about Our Future