Alain Hunkins: People are yearning for leaders who can make the complex simple

A fascinating narrative about the culture of leadership, the impact of history and the skills of today by the author of Cracking the Leadership Code for the members of Fortune Greece Network.

Fortune Greece Network  had the pleasure this week to host Alain Hunkins, Keynote Leadership Speaker, who helps high-achieving people become high-achieving leaders.

Alain Hunkins has more than 20 years of experience in leadership training, facilitation, adult learning and development design, organizational development and culture change.

During his significant career, Alain has worked with over 2,000 leadership teams in 27 countries. Companies such as Walmart, Pfizer, Citi Group, General Electric, IBM, General Motors, and Microsoft, among many others, have chosen Alain as their mentor. In addition to being a leadership speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach, he is also the author of Cracking the Leadership Code. This book has been endorsed by leadership luminaries experts such as Jim Kouzes, Barry Posner and Marshall Goldsmith.

 Alain Hunkins was welcomed by Desy Karapchanska, Operations & Communications Manager of FortuneGreece Network and what followed was a live and interactive presentation for the platform members on the topic of leadership.

 Here are some of the key points of the presentation:

 Self-awareness if the basis of leadership

One of the first places we want to start as we lead is leading ourselves. And self awareness is the basis. It is the foundation of emotional intelligence. And so that will be important for you to consider as you are moving forward. So what I like to do is share with you my intention. My intention for you today is to help you to become a better leader. And we’re going to look at how that plays out throughout life in many ways, because ultimately, I have been driven by one specific question for quite some time, which is what makes the world’s most successful leaders successful.

The definition of leadership

I know there are many definitions of leadership out there, but I want to share with you my definition because it has nothing to do with job title or position or authority. Basically, leadership is influence, plain and simple. It is anytime you are trying to get anyone, someone, this could be just you leading yourself. But it’s anytime you’re trying to get someone to do something. So if you look at this working definition, we’re all leading every day. And the question is, what can we do to make sure that we lead well?

Leadership, Henry Ford and Harvard Business School

So I want to share with you some research on how leaders around the world are being perceived. Only 49% of people trust their employers. Okay, that’s not very many. 31% of people believe that their leaders communicate well. And overall, with leadership effectiveness, only 23% of people believe that their leaders lead well. So the question becomes, why, why are these numbers so low? And they have been low for a long, long time. So I’ve been doing a lot of research, and actually, I got a clue as to why leaders struggle so much a number of years ago. And I want to show you the people that basically helped me to understand why they’re struggling so much. And here they are. These are my kids, that photo was taken a couple of years ago. Alex now is 17. My daughter Miranda, is 14. Well, about ten years earlier, when they were seven and four years old, the two of them, as kids do, were in the living room of our house, and they were goofing off and getting really loud. And I was in the kitchen at the time.

And I have to confess to you, I got a little bit triggered by the noise and the screaming going on in the living room. So I walked into the living room, and these are the words that came out of my mouth. I said, “Would you two stop behaving like children?” I’m telling you this for two reasons. Number one, that is a ridiculous thing to say to a couple of children who were seven and four years old. But number two, as soon as those words came out of my mouth, I was in shock because “would you stop behaving like children” was the exact same phrase that my mother used to use with my brother and I when we were kids. You see, without even realizing it, I had copied verbatim, word-for-word the messages of the previous generation.

So I share that story with you because why do we lead the way we do? Because we copy the behavior of the previous generation. And obviously those leaders copied their leaders and they copied their leaders and so on and so forth. And this continues on and on and on. So in my research, I went, but wait a minute. This had to start somewhere. Where did all this start from? And so I want to share with you a picture of a man that you may or may not know.

But this is where this chain of events starts. So this is Frederick Winslow Taylor. You may have heard of him. He’s considered the father of the field of management. So Taylor was by training a mechanical engineer. So he saw the workplace as an engineering problem to be solved. So in his world, humans became interchangeable parts in a large machine. It was not human-centric. It was machine-centric. So in his famous book, Principles of Scientific Management, this is what he had to say about people.

So he said, the ideal worker “should be so stupid and phlegmatic that he more nearly resembles in his mental makeup, the ox that any other type”. So, he was literally seeing people as workers, as just mindless laborers. Now, one of Taylor’s biggest disciples was Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company. Now Ford famously said of his employees, “Why is it every time I want a pair of hands, they come with a brain attached?”. You see, in Ford and Taylor’s day, the belief was management should do all the thinking, and labor should basically just shut up and do as they’re told.

Now, this may have worked in the industrial age on the assembly line. But it no longer works anymore. But back in the day, Ford and Taylor’s ideas around how leadership should be spread like wildfire. In fact, Taylor’s philosophies became the core curriculum of a little school that had just started a couple of years earlier that you might have heard of: Harvard Business School. In fact, the ideas of Taylor or taylorism as it’s come to be known, have spread around the world. And Principles of Scientific Management was considered the most influential leadership book of the 20th century.

But here’s the issue. When 21st century leaders cling to a 20th century mindset, they are destined to struggle, which is why so many leaders are struggling. See, so many leaders got into their leadership roles because they were excellent doers. But the fact is, a doer mindset will only get you so far. You see, if you want to facilitate high performance in others, you need what I call the facilitative mindset, which is a set of beliefs and behaviors that make achieving performance goals easier.

The keys to become a better leader

Connection, communication and collaboration. And these are what I call the three secrets to becoming a better leader. You see, the word facilitative comes from the French word “facile”, which means easy. The fact is, people are yearning for leaders who can make the complex simple. We live in a world of huge amounts of complexity. I don’t have to tell you this. Just think about what we’ve been through in the last two years with the coronavirus pandemic. Globally, people are hungry for leaders who can lead with this facilitative mindset, leaders who can connect with empathy, who can communicate with clarity, who can collaborate creatively. 21st century leaders with this new facilitative mindset.

Now, in theory, this is all quite simple. The real challenge for any of us is to do it. So the invitation for you is to think about what can you, on a specific daily basis, do so that you can better connect with people, how you can better communicate with them, how you can better collaborate with them. Because ultimately, if you want to be a better leader, you need to do what better leaders do, and not just once or twice, but on a daily habitual, consistent basis.

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