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What Are The Deepest Roots of Your Leadership?

By Kevin Cashman; Originally posted on Pause Point, Kevin’s Forbes.com blog on May 15, 2017. 

Many of our most fundamental leadership models originate deep in our life story. Reflecting on these influences can foster genuine and fundamental self-awareness.

Post-Mother’s Day, I wanted to share a story on the profound and practical patterns my mother instilled at “the red thing” in our home.

In the basement of our family home was something we called “the red thing.” The red thing was a brightly painted, high wooden bench that happened to be located directly across from where my mother would stand to do the ironing. All of us kids wanted time on the red thing, but it wasn’t really about the red thing at all.

What we sought was the sage advice and encouragement of our mother. Because she only allowed one of us at a time on the red thing, time there with her was highly coveted. Our mom was an amazing listener, coach, teacher and facilitator. Although we always wanted her to give us answers, which she did occasionally, more often she taught us how to reflect and build our own awareness by looking at different sides of an issue, situation, person or group. She helped us to think, to process, and to land on our own clarity. She appreciated each of our unique talents and accomplishments, but also challenged us to explore, excel or exceed. She was particularly challenging when we were certain that we knew something or when we were judgmental about people.

I was not aware at the time what she was doing. I was only aware of the benefits of it. I did not realize that she was modeling a process, a way to reflect on yourself and the challenges faced. She had this incredible natural ability to use questions to get us to look at something from different perspectives, to help us to better understand who we were, why we were going in a particular direction, and how to consider alternatives. She balanced encouragement with a push for excellence. She was intolerant of a lack of openness. She was a master coach. She ignited a passion in me to help people grow.

Heartfelt thanks to you, Mim Cashman, your “maternal leadership” was a living example of how to integrate both the maternal and paternal into one way of being and leading. What are the deepest roots of your leadership?

Ten Authentic Leadership Practices

By Kevin Cashman; Originally posted on Pause Point, Kevin’s Forbes.com blog on April 24, 2017. 

Of all the principles supporting sustainable leadership, authenticity is one of the most important. It also can be one of the most challenging to practice. Despite this, few people realize it’s an area that even needs continuous attention. In more than three decades of interacting with thousands of leaders, I’ve yet to meet an executive for coaching who comes to me lamenting, “I’m having real trouble being authentic.” Yet if authenticity is so important, why don’t we recognize it as an issue within ourselves? The answer is both simple and profound: we are always authentic to our present state of development. We all behave in perfect alignment with our current level of emotional, psychological, and spiritual evolution. All our actions and relationships, as well as the quality and power of our leadership, accurately express the person we have become. Therefore, we conclude that we are “authentic,” because we are doing the best we can with the information, experience, competencies and traits that we have at this time.

There is a big catch, however. While we are authentic to our current state of development, we are inauthentic to our potential state of development. As Shakespeare wrote so eloquently in Hamlet, “We know what we are, but not what we may be.” As humans and as leaders, we have an infinite ability to grow, to be and to become. Our horizons are unlimited. If there is an end-point to growing in self-awareness and practicing authenticity, I certainly have not seen it.

To deepen authenticity, to nourish leadership from the inside out, takes time, attention, courage and practice. In today’s world, the amount of distraction and busyness we all experience keeps us from undertaking the inward journey, and engaging in the deep pause and reflection required, to become more authentic human beings.

So what is authenticity? Based on our experience coaching thousands of leaders globally over the years, we define authenticity as the continuous process of building self-awareness of our whole person, as well as being transparent with others about our whole person, both strengths and limitations. As a result, more often than not, the authentic leader’s beliefs, values, principles, and behaviors tend to line up. Commonly referred to as “walking the talk,” authenticity also means being your talk at a very deep level.

The practice of authenticity is so much more than simply being true to ourselves, it also requires being true with others. Authenticity carries a much bigger duty to speak up, shake up and to light up the darkness and to “shake the spiritual tree” as author and global thought leader Ken Wilber puts it. “You must let the radical realization rumble through your veins and rattle those around you” as Wilber elaborates. Authenticity is rarely complacent but rather clear with what is important and what needs to change; it is not attracted to convention but much more compelled to courageous conviction.

Let’s take a moment to learn some practices from two global CEOs very advanced in this journey to authenticity: Howard Schultz and David MacLennan. When asked by Charlie Rose, “What’s the most important quality today for leadership?” Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks at the time, replied, “To display vulnerability.” In his book Pour Your Heart Into It, Schultz says, “Although they can hire executives with many talents and skills, many CEOs discover that what they lack most is a reliable sounding board. They don’t want to show vulnerability to those who report to them.” He advises, “Don’t be afraid to expose your vulnerabilities. Admit you don’t know what you don’t know. When you acknowledge your weaknesses and ask for advice, you’ll be surprised how much others will help.”

David MacLennan, Chairman and CEO of Cargill, one of the world’s largest private companies with $107 billion in annual revenue, shared this perspective with me on authenticity: “A critical part of transparency and a real test of leadership authenticity is having people come up to you and say, “Hey this is what I think is wrong. Were you aware of this?” as opposed to, “Look out. There’s the CEO. I better not speak up.” Your real ‘authenticity audit’ is the degree to which people are open to you, because you have been open, vulnerable and honest with them.”

When people know you will deeply and authentically listen to them, people will be authentic and honest with you. Deepening our conversation, I asked David to elaborate his key authenticity practices and he impressively outlined 10:

1. Be comfortable in your own skin; don’t ever try to fake realness.

2. Never take yourself too seriously; it is not usually about you.

3. Share stories of personal failure, vulnerability, and learning. Authenticity shows the full picture of who you are.

4. Don’t believe your own press and/or focus too much on your accomplishments. Remember: you really are the ‘kid inside’ just trying to do your best.

5. Surround yourself with people who will give you feedback. I was once told, “You look tired and you need a haircut.” Authenticity is both a pragmatic and profound gift.

6. Earn the right to be trusted by being courageously truthful. Authenticity multiplies trust with all those it touches.

7. Encourage diversity and encourage everyone to bring the best in themselves to work. Authenticity is inclusive.

8. Narrow the gap between your work self and your private/home self. Authenticity is one person everywhere, in all situations.

9. Stay humble to learn and stay confident to serve. Authentic leaders know when to be bold, and when to be a learner.

10. Dedicate yourself to purpose-driven service. Authenticity is all about service to all levels, to all stakeholders and in all moments of leadership.

Recently, to his great credit, David put some of these principles into courageous action in a very public way. When most CEOs were still very cautious to speak their minds about the new U.S. Administration’s positions on trade and immigration, David spoke up strongly on the issues. He asserted, “We have to turn the tide on some of the current themes that we are seeing. Geopolitics are shifting and we are standing at a crossroads of some really important issues for business and society.” Elaborating more on trade he said, “We need to be very mindful of the effect on jobs and the impact of trade on jobs in local communities but it’s not an all-or-nothing approach. If the U.S. steps back from our leadership role in a global economy, I can guarantee you other countries will very, very quickly fill the gap.”

In the end, the core practice of authenticity is courageously standing for, and expressing our most heartfelt principles … with a touch of humility thrown in. The most authentic world-class leaders with whom I get the privilege to work, balance exceedingly high self-confidence with exceptionally deep humility. Demonstrating this at the end of our conversation, David reflected, “Cargill is so much bigger than I am. I am the ninth CEO in a 150-year history. One day I’ll be the next ‘oil painting on the wall’ that people barely remember. Authenticity is knowing that life, leadership and the organization are all so much bigger and so much more important than I am.”

Thoughts on Leadership with Kevin Cashman

Originally published in Executive Talent Magazine, the e-magazine of AESC (Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants).  

In January of 2017, AESC spoke with Kevin Cashman, Senior Partner at Korn Ferry specializing in CEO & Executive Development.  Below are excerpts from our discussion about evolving organizational trends and the implications for leaders and leadership.

AESC:  The world has changed: does that mean the traits and qualities of an effective leader are different than they were years ago?
Cashman:  I think there’s a big debate going on in leadership, politics and cultures around the world and it’s really a debate around openness and closedness; should we be inclusive of the world and cultures and leadership approaches, or should we be exclusive and careful?
All of our research would say that the world is going to belong to the most inclusive and the most open.  It’s where all innovations and all breakthroughs come from — the synthesis of multiple points of view.  The world belongs to the most learning agile.
We’ve said the world belongs to the most learning agile and we have that broken down in a research basis to four key characteristics:  how open and self aware are we to our own strengths and our developmental areas; how open are we to colleagues and team members to collaborate; how open are we to innovate; and how open are we to engaging the world to create value.

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How Are You Going to Be When You Grow Up?

By Laura A. Roser.  Originally published in Legacy Arts Magazine, Issue 10, April 2017.  

“I think there’s a fundamental flaw in how we look at careers,” best-selling author and well-recognized leadership consultant, Kevin Cashman says.  “We shouldn’t be asking kids what they are going to be when they grow up.  We should be asking them how they are going to be when they grow up.”

“It’s not about being a fireman or a real estate agent, it’s about becoming in tune with who you are, where your passions lie, and pursuing a career that helps you to become the kind of person you’d like to be.”

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Work-Life Balance Morphs Into Work-Life Integration

By Laime Vaitkus, originally posted on Bloomberg BNA on February 13, 2017.

In today’s work environment, with unrelenting pressure to get more things done in less time and the technological capacity to stay connected around the clock, employees often struggle to balance the demands of their work and personal lives. However, companies can help employees by giving them more flexibility to integrate the two, according to several consultants and studies.

Over half of workers are stressed at work on a daily basis, and 60 percent say that work-related pressure increased in the last five years, according to a survey from Accountemps. More than half of the CFOs in the same survey agreed that their teams are stressed, with the top causes being heavy workloads and deadlines, work-life balance and unrealistic expectations from managers.

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Companies with a purpose beyond profit tend to make more money

By Simon Caulkin, originally published in Financial Times on January 24, 2016. 

One of the paradoxes of business is that the most profitable companies are not those that are most profit-focused.

In a survey titled “The Business Case for Purpose”, a team from Harvard Business Review Analytics and professional services firm EY’s Beacon institute declares “a new leading edge: those companies able to harness the power of purpose to drive performance and profitability enjoy a distinct competitive advantage”.  This is a reprise of the findings of Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, who in 1994’s Built to Last found that between 1926 and 1990 a group of “visionary” companies – those guided by a purpose beyond making money – returned six times more to shareholders than explicitly profit-driven rivals.

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