Sandie de Wolf – Aligning ethics across the organisation
With wealth inequality on the rise, family violence at epidemic proportions, and the climate crisis upon us, it is easy to wonder where all the ethical leaders have gone.
This is a problem that has been troubling Sandie de Wolf of recent days. A former CEO of Berry Street, and recipient of numerous leadership and community service awards, she knows from first-hand experience that tackling the big issues successfully requires ethical decision-making.
For Sandie, ethical leadership is about values, principles and morals, and how they are translated into action. It is about doing things right, and doing the right things. Whilst it sounds simple in theory, she acknowledges that it can be very complicated in practice.
What should we do when the right answer to a problem is not immediately evident? How should we respond when we encounter barriers to acting ethically? And what happens when we know what we should do, but lack the time or resources to do it?
“There is nothing wrong with saying, “let’s decide tomorrow”. An extra twenty-four hours may be the difference between making the right decision and making a regrettable one.”
When faced with a difficult decision, Sandie recommends sleeping on it before reaching any conclusion. Discuss your ideas with trusted members of your team, and then wait until the next day before you decide on a course of action.
There is nothing wrong with saying, “let’s decide tomorrow”. An extra twenty-four hours may be the difference between making the right decision and making a regrettable one.
Sandie also advocates positive feedback to aid effective leadership. Most of us tend to dwell on the negative feedback we receive and forget about the positive. A good leader ensures that any negative feedback given is balanced by positive affirmation.
Kemi Nekvapil – Managing self to manage others
Life coach Kemi Nekvapil has forged a career based on asking difficult questions of her clients.
They are the kind of questions most of us avoid out of fear of the possible answers: Is this the life you want? Did you decide that you wanted to be here? Do you still want to be here? Have you ever considered how your leadership hinges on your life being lived well?
For Kemi, asking difficult questions is the first step toward personal empowerment. It is only by confronting our fears that we can work out what we really want.
Born in England of Nigerian heritage, Kemi was placed in foster care when she was two weeks old. Her parents, like so many Nigerian parents of the 1970s, hoped that a British education would provide her with a better life.
She spent her childhood moving from one foster home to the next, with no power over where she went or what happened to her. This lack of personal agency had a profound effect on Kemi, provoking deep feelings of uncertainty and instability.
When she was thirteen, she found herself on the doorstep of yet another foster home with nothing but two bags of outgrown clothing to her name. Her new foster mother assessed the situation and took her shopping.
“In order to be one hundred percent human, we need to take the time to nourish all of these areas in our own lives.”
It was then that Kemi was asked a question which changed her life forever. What colour underwear would you like? It was the first time Kemi had been offered a choice about anything. She vowed at that moment that she would never give up her power to choose again, and she hasn’t looked back since.
These days, Kemi helps other women to empower themselves through their personal choices. She teaches that there are seven principles of well-being: body nourishment, self-love, creative expression, joy creation, elevating relationships and communities, living your passions, and purpose and contribution.
In order to be one hundred percent human, we need to take the time to nourish all of these areas in our own lives. Consider how you can carve out some time for yourself each day. Life is about living in the now, so don’t put everything off until a future which may never come.
“It is the things we do to protect ourselves when we feel under threat, our armour, that tends to undermine our leadership practices and prevent us from being our bravest selves.”
According to Brené Brown, one of Kemi’s inspirations, daring leadership comes from deep within us, from a place of vulnerability. Brené has spent the past twenty years learning about courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy, and has recently applied her knowledge to the area of leadership. She was surprised to find that the main barrier to daring leadership is not fear, but how we respond to fear.
It is the things we do to protect ourselves when we feel under threat, our armour, that tends to undermine our leadership practices and prevent us from being our bravest selves. How often do you avoid revealing vulnerability at work out of fear that your team will lose confidence in you? How often do you feel overwhelmed but refuse to ask for help out of fear or embarrassment?
A daring leader knows that they don’t know everything. They are driven by curiosity and a willingness to learn new things. An armoured leader, on the other hand, views vulnerability as a liability. Their response to fear acts as an armour that causes them to become unapproachable and authoritarian.
Do you have an area of armoured leadership where daring leadership could be an alternative? How can you view your vulnerabilities as a strength rather than a weakness? How can you bring your full humanity to the table? And how can you sustain daring leadership in these challenging and uncertain times?