Leadership... what would your three words be?

I knew an incredible people leader who, as part of his development strategy, would give his people three words to consider for their personal development; sometimes the words were well received, and as I understand, sometimes not so much. As I was listening to him describe this over dinner, I could not help but ask what my three words would be; he looked at me, laughed, and said, "Sobriety, sobriety and sobriety". In fairness, it was a celebration dinner.

I was reminded of this the other night when the discussion of Leadership came up and we tried to articulate the qualities that make up good leadership. As with many of these types of conversations it usually starts with something rather innocuous, and then gets more refined and more serious as the conversation continues,

"OMG — I used to joke around with a colleague who was very grumpy but funny, funny, funny... and my daily question would be, 'Are you bitter, angry or resentful today?'. God I miss him... crazy funny."

The conversation continued to meander over a number of topics but it became apparent the topic of Leadership was not over when someone said,

"At the heart of all Leadership is clarity, vision and competency... How's that?"  

You could see heads nodding when someone added,

"Someone who is quietly confident, trusts and believes in his colleagues, and is able to get his hands dirty, and competently gets the job done."

The final words on the topic were eloquently added,

"Without being an idiot. Is that too much to ask?"

As we laughed and moved onto other dinner topics, I heard the person who started all of this say, "I miss my old boss".

And this brings me full circle back to that incredible people leader with his three words. I can't help but wonder what his three words would be to encapsulate "Leadership"?

By no means is listing the qualities that make up a great leader original — There are countless books, blogs, white papers and opinion on the topic, and I recommend you read as many as you can. What identifying three words does is ensure you have actually put some thought into leadership and prioritized what you think are the most important leadership competencies (there are definitely more than three). For right or for wrong, the three words you pick will represent your guiding principles on Leadership.

And any three words are better than the alternative... because then we aren't even discussing Leadership.  


PS: Mine are Selflessness, Transparency, and Vision.

PPS: Thank you to those around the table.

There but for the grace of God, go I...

My spare period had me in a nearly empty cafeteria line deciding if I should choose the regular honey bun or the honey bun with the white icing; I couldn't help but turn back as the sound of running and screaming began to fill the hallway. As I looked towards the entrance to the cafeteria line, I saw a dozen students run by, and heard someone shout, "He's got a gun!"

As I tried to understand what was happening a self proclaimed rebel (and I suspect anarchist) sauntered right behind the fleeing students, looked at me, and said, "It's not a real gun, it's a fake". And then he was gone.

As I imagined what I would do, where I could hide, and how I could escape if in fact a gunman did appear at the entrance that I was fixated on — I heard a gun shot.

Leaving any thought of a honey bun with white icing behind, I hurried to the cafeteria.

May 25, 2017 by Jason Spencer  Brampton Guardian

It'll be 42 years ago this weekend that the first school shooting known to have taken place in North America occurred.

The traumatic event happened May 28, 1975 when Michael Slobodian, 16, entered Brampton Centennial Secondary School with two rifles. He killed teacher Margaret Wright and student John Slinger, 17. Slobodian also injured 13 people and killed himself.

A sculpture set to be unveiled Saturday, May 27, at the school will be a sombre reminder of the historic tragedy and an earnest attempt to alleviate the wound that remains years later.

The stone sculpture was created by artist Mary Ellen Farrow. It displays a pair of benches that face two figures that appear to be consoling one another.

Brampton Centennial Memorial Committee member Pam Hand explained in an email that one bench has the name of the sculpture, The Healing Place, carved into it, while the other bench reads: "On Wednesday, May 1975, all of us learned to love one another just a little more."

"We needed a place to go to reflect and to think and to heal," Hand wrote in an email about the sculpture.

The outdoor memorial has been a long time coming and was made a reality by fundraising, Hand noted, including a donation for $25,000 from Trinison Management Corporation.

The public is invited to attend the ceremony, which begins at 9 a.m. Speakers include members of the Peel District School Board as well as others affected by the tragedy.

The school is located at 251 McMurchy Ave.


I found myself heading into my art class shortly after all of this, and could not help but notice the marks that bullets leave when they hit brick.

There but for the grace of God, go I.


Perception isn't the only thing that commands reality...

I will go out on a limb and assume almost everyone has heard the saying "Perception is reality".

Simply put, this reminds us that the reality of something can be highly influenced by people's perceptions, and that reality is more than just something absolute — Sure perception and reality are aligned when looking at what will happen if you fall off a ladder... but what about the success of your current politician; what is the reality of that?

Hmmmm, this is about to become more of a philosophically charged segue than I anticipated but I think I can head it off before we go down a deep dark bunny hole — As much as perception can command reality, so can expectation. There you have it, not the smoothest transition, but a transition none the less.

Expectation: A case in point — 

A meeting is held and it is decided that someone will finish a task by Friday. An expectation is created.

Because very few things exist in isolation, the task will allow further things to be done on the following Monday, which in turn will allow for activity on the Tuesday, Wednesday, et cetera... all of which is built on what was to be done the previous Friday. More often than not, advanced preparation is taking place in anticipation of the expectation; real work is being done and reality is being created due to this expectation. If the Friday task is completed then reality continues, but if it is not, reality is compromised and generally people aren't happy.

This is a very simple and linear example, and although we know the real world meanders much more, I don't think this makes the point any less valid. 

Expectations, once created are very real, and once created, need to be met. If they are not met, more often than not there are negative consequences that are also very real; another reality that expectations command I suppose. Theoretically speaking all expectations can be influenced, but in reality there are some you will have influence on, while others are thrust on you and influence is unlikely. 

For those expectations thrust on you —

  • Understand if you have any influence on the expectations (and if so, try to influence them).
  • Understand the objectives behind the expectations.
  • Understand the expectations in detail, including the context and the timeframes involved.
  • Ensure you discuss and review resources needed.
  • Clearly understand the impact of not meeting expectations.
  • Work really, really hard to meet the expectations you have been given.

For those expectations you can influence see above, as well as —

  • Engage in the development of the expectations... don't miss the opportunity to influence and even set expectations.
  • Remember Murphy's Law... work a "hedge" into any schedules and deadlines because you never know what will happen.
  • Remember the very popular motto, "Under promise, and over deliver".

And remember, if you are the one asked to set the date for the expectation, whatever you do, don't miss it — That is just adding insult to injury,