How elected representatives can make good decisions and keep everyone happy

In February this year, Wales Online reported that there were calls for Bridgend MP, Madeleine Moon, to resign after she went against the electorate’s wishes and voted against the triggering of article 50 in a constituency that voted to leave the European Union.

It chimed with something I’ve been thinking about recently around the responsibility and accountability of those elected to a role.

As a Trustee of a membership organisation, I was elected to the Board by a body of representative members.  According to the ‘governance jigsaw’ published by the Charity Commission, the main duties of a Trustee include acting in the charity’s best interests, ensuring the charity is carrying out its purposes for public benefit and managing resources responsibly.  It seemed that some of my colleagues found themselves conflicted in fulfilling these duties as they struggled to make decisions that they thought might go against what they considered to be the wishes of the organisation’s members.

This conflict was particularly evident when we tried to take forward recommendations arising from a review of governance procedures.  It was as controversial and divisive as the Brexit vote as we sought to take forward reforms that had been developed by a panel of volunteers through consultation with the membership. 

The aim of the governance review was to modernise and encourage more members to become involved in the decision making process.  Changes proposed were designed to make it easier for committees to operate, streamlining their structure and allowing flexibility of roles.  Included in this, was an overhaul of committee roles in an attempt to make them more attractive for the next generation.  It was also hoped that the raft of changes put forward would ensure greater consistency across the organisation in how volunteer committees deliver the organisation’s charitable objectives. 

When I saw a television interview recently with the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, I noticed that when he was asked about his own decision making process, he said ‘in the end, all you can do is be true to your own values’.

Arguably, this is what Madeleine Moon was doing.  In her response to her critics, she said ‘fears over employment, workers right and trade deals were at the forefront of her mind’ and that she ‘tore herself apart’ coming to that decision.      

Moon appears to have taken the view that her role is to protect the long term interests of her constituency rather than represent their views. 

In my opinion, the electorate were given the chance to indicate what they wanted to happen in terms of our relationship with the EU.  As such, Moon should have voted to trigger article 50 because her constituency was clear in its desire.  Where her discretion comes in is in providing the necessary scrutiny to ensure proposals will deliver the best deal possible for her constituents.

In making a decision as a Trustee, the same judgement call needs to be made to ensure the members are represented and protected whilst you do your job as a leader of the organisation, setting the direction and supporting the charity to deliver its mission in the best possible way whilst securing the future of the organisation. 

Issues occur when members are against a decision that you as a Trustee believes is the best thing for the charity.  In this instance, Trustee’s must demonstrate their leadership skills and look to persuade members, bringing them along on the journey.

 

Have thoughts on this article? Been in a similar situation yourself? Share your views in the comments below.

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How treason, ping pong and pensions can help you master the art of public speaking

Earlier today, I delivered a workshop on speech writing for Local Government officers. The session explored the language of persuasion by looking at a range of speeches from leaders around the world and throughout history.

It made me think about the importance and power of oratory and how great leaders use this skill to build a following. The blog ‘The Art of Manliness’ describes the difference between public speaking and oratory like this:

If public speaking is fast food, oratory is a gourmet meal. Not in pretentiousness or inaccessibility, but in the fact that oratory exists above the ordinary; it is prepared with passion, infused with creativity, and masterfully crafted to offer a sublime experience. Oratory seeks to convince the listener of something, whether that is to accept a certain definition of freedom or simply of the fact that the recently deceased was a person worthy to be mourned.

Oratory is not mere speaking, but speech that appeals to our noblest sentiments, animates our souls, stirs passions and emotions, and inspires virtuous action.’ (Resurrecting the Art of Oratory, July 2008)

Now let’s be honest, many of us can only dream of achieving that level of public speaking, it’s far more likely that speaking in public in any situation fills us with dread. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, in 2014, public speaking ranked America’s no. 1 fear, coming ahead of heights, bugs, snakes and needles.

Scary as it might be, presenting thoughts and ideas in public is one of the key skills that leaders have to master. They have to be able to stand up in front of an audience and persuade them of a new point of view, changing the way people think about things. If you can do this and win hearts and minds, then you have mastered a major aspect of leadership.

If you are someone who watches great public speakers and wishes you could get your message across so effectively, then the good news is that you can learn! No-one starts off being an amazing public speaker, they just take the opportunities that com along and work at getting better.

One of the ways to develop your technique is to observe how others do it and then try to emulate the aspects that you like in order to develop your own style. To get you started, here are some examples that inspire me:

1) Mhairi Black – the youngest MP in Westminster, this is one of her early speeches in the House of Commons, which criticized the Government’s position on pensions. What I love most about this speech is the way Black makes this issue relevant to everyone by drawing a comparison with mobile phone contracts. She also reaches out to her audience, attempting to bring them together to pursue a shared goal.

2) President Obama – in 2009, the President delivered an address to students across the country to talk to them about the importance of education. In this address, he reaches out to different student groups to recognize their experience. This makes them all feel like he is speaking to them personally.

3) Nelson Mandela – in 1963, Mandela and others were tried for a range of crimes including sabotage, treason and conspiracy to overthrow the Government. In the opening of his defence, Mandela read a speech where he shared his vison for equality and said that the ideal of a democratic and free society where all people live together in harmony and equal opportunities was “an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.

4) Martin Luther King – in 1963, approximately 250,000 demonstrators gathered in Washington DC to call for civil rights. It was here that King delivered his “I have a dream” speech.

 

And for some light relief…

5) Boris Johnson – at the hand-over party following the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Mayor of London gave his memorable ‘Ping Pong’ speech.

 

Are there any speeches that have inspired you? Or tips that you would give to others who want to develop their public speaking skills? Add your thoughts in the comments below.

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Preparing for a positive personal review

Earlier this week, I chaired a discussion on ‘preparing for a positive personal review’ at an event run by the Women’s Network in in my organisation. Recently, our review process has been high on the agenda with a new system launched that aims to ensure a high quality conversation during this important annual one to one.

It was particularly timely to be holding the event this week as Recruiting Times published an article on Monday which suggested that “ditching the annual review” is one of four key HR trends for 2017. It seems that a number of major private sector companies such as Deloitte, GE and Adobe are taking this step and so part of our event explained why we are bucking this trend and choosing to continue with a traditional  approach.

Our panel consisted of two senior members of staff who have been leading on the development of a new personal review process, which is currently finding its feet within the organisation. The policy now asks managers to facilitate a conversation which is centred on the individual, asking people to think about what they want to achieve in the coming year, what support they need what training and development they think would benefit them going forward.

During the event, our panel shared their own experiences of personal reviews, complete with success stories, and they demonstrated how this process has helped them to achieve the positions they are in today. They were both very clear that the annual review has been extremely valuable in their own career development and encouraged participants to take time before the meeting to consider aspirations and development needs to make sure they are in a position to have a worthwhile discussion.

They set out number of questions to consider when preparing for you annual review:

  • What’s gone well over the last 12 months?
  • How well have I met my current objectives?
  • What am I enjoying about my role?
  • What do I find challenging?
  • Is there anything I am struggling with?
  • What do I want to achieve this year?
  • What hasn’t happened and why?
  • What are my career goals and aspirations? And what skills or experience to I need to help me achieve them?

Our panellists were also stressed that the review is something that is relevant throughout the year, rather than once every 12 months. The meeting is an opportunity to set your goals for the period but needs to be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure you are making progress. The advice was to make sure you keep a copy of your goals somewhere you can find it easily and keep reminding yourself of your aims to ensure you remain on track.

Finally, when asked to provide one ‘takeaway’ or key piece of advice for participants at the event, this is what they had to say:

  • Own it – this is your personal review so it’s up to you to make sure it goes well and achieves for both yourself and the organisation.
  • Be honest – your line Manager can only help you if you are honest about what you want to get from the role and what you can contribute. Don’t just tell them what you think they want to hear but be honest so that you can have a truly constructive conversation.

 

How does this compare with your own experiences of annual reviews? Are you in favour of this approach or do you prefer something different? Do you have any further tips to share to make sure these discussions are worthwhile? Please share your thoughts below.

 

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7 steps that will help you reach the next level in your career

According to research published by the University of Scranton, 92% of people set goals for the New Year but never actually achieve them.   

The first study of goal setting was carried out by British philosopher and industrial psychologist, Alec Mace, in 1935 and his work has informed many of the basic principles that we use today. Later on, researchers Edwin Locke and Gary Latham developed a theory of goal setting after finding that when people set specific and challenging goals, they achieved higher performance 90% of the time.

It seems clear that if you want success in your career, then goal setting is of critical importance. However, difference between the 92% of people that fail to achieve their goals and the 8% that do is a commitment to achieving them and doing everything possible until they get there. So, not only is it important to define your goals but also to take the action required to ensure you make progress towards them and continue doing so until the target has been reached.

Here are seven actions you can take to help you reach the next level in your career:

1. Be clear about where you are going – if you have a career goal, then you probably have thought through your aspirations and ambitions. However, I have come across a number of people in my work who know they want something but not sure exactly what. They might be frustrated about their situation and feel they have yet to reach their potential but have no idea what would make them feel more fulfilled. My point here is that if you do not know where you are going then how can you possibly get there? For help setting objectives which are specific and achievable, try mindtools.com – Personal Goal Setting.

2. Look at job descriptions and identify any gaps – once you are clear about where you want to go, you need to make a plan to get there. The best first step is to look at some job descriptions for the kind of roles you are interested in and identify any gaps in your knowledge, skills and experience.

3. Make a development plan – after you have identified the areas you need to work on to secure the kind of role you are interested in, then you can make a plan to gain more experience or develop skills in these areas. Practical ways to fill the gaps include courses or qualifications, voluntary work or job shadowing.

4. Become a charity Trustee – a great way to gain experience at a strategic level is taking on a Trustee role with a charitable organisation. Many charities require volunteers at this level who can contribute views on the direction of the organisation and make decisions about strategic direction. Trustee roles require knowledge across a range of areas such as finance, risk and governance so a great way to demonstrate the ability to think strategically. Recruit 3 is a good place to look for Trustee vacancies in Wales or Third Sector Jobs for UK-wide opportunities. 

5. Get some coaching or mentoring – all the best leaders have had a coach or mentor at some point during their career journey. Both are processes that can help you think about your skills, find a way to develop further and ultimately, help you to reach your potential. My recommendations include Empower’s Step Up programme which offers support for third sector professionals looking to secure a leadership role or Compass for professional coaching. 

6. Ask for feedback – this is absolutely key for me in making sure you are developing in the right way to achieve your career goals. Whether you have submitted and application and not been shortlisted, had a job interview and not been successful or looking to progress internally and facing barriers. Ask for feedback and act on what you find out.

7. Don’t give up – most of all, if you really want to take the next step, then whatever barriers or knock backs you face, do not give up because if you remain committed to following the previous steps, you will succeed in the end.

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Courage, positivity & agility – how Disney’s ‘Frozen’ inspires leadership at all levels

On a flight out to Hong Kong recently, I was flicking through the films in the online entertainment centre and decided that the ideal thing to watch on a long overnight flight is the Disney blockbuster Frozen. After all, who doesn’t want to sing along to ‘Do you wanna build a snowman?’ when they are jetting off to warmer climes? Clearly, I thought, this was a nice easy watching film to pass the time and relax me into sleep.

As I was watching, I couldn’t help but notice the leadership messages that were present in the film. The most obvious is with Elsa who offers a powerful message about authentic leadership as she is forced to open up to who she really is and with that, realises her full potential, building a spectacular ice palace. Once she stopped trying to hide her uniqueness, she discovered the true power within.

The character I thought had the most to offer us though was younger sister, Anna, who really comes into her own a she ventures out to find the new Queen of Arendelle and end the eternal winter that has been brought upon the kingdom. What we see from Anna is a willingness to take responsibility and she shows great courage in heading off into the icy unknown to save the day.

In Wales, the public service has developed a set of values and behaviours to encourage leadership at all levels  and Anna demonstrates a number of these in her efforts to find Elsa and coax her back to Arendelle.

Firstly, she acts with agility to adapt her role and purpose as she steps up to the plate in an attempt to make things right, an aim that she achieves after plenty of Disney drama! Anna maintains a realistic and positive attitude to challenges, adversity and change, encouraging others to do the same as she meets a range of challenges and obstacles along her journey. She also encourages and supports Elsa to think differently, to question and try new ways of doing things as she encourages her sister to use her power for good and shows others that there is nothing to be afraid of.

A report published by Deloitte a couple of years ago claimed that the need for leaders at all levels is one of the 12 critical issues for human capital. Particularly in relation to the public sector in the UK, they reported that ‘the challenge is to deliver services through a motivated workforce in an age of austerity’ and argued that this ‘does not require recruitment or development of more leaders but is about exercising leadership at all levels’.

At the time of the article, leadership was the number one talent issue facing organisations and yet only 13% of organisations believe they do an ‘excellent job’ of developing leaders.

Deloitte suggest that the whole concept of leadership is being ‘radically redefined’ with a need for people who can ‘inspire team loyalty through their expertise, vision and judgement’ . This is a long way from leadership typical of hierarchies where the individual’s position in the company gives them authority.

With new generations coming through, there is call for a different leadership style. Millennials feel disappointed and underutilised when they are not developed as leaders .

According to a survey from Virtuali and Workplacetrends.com, the millennial generation isn’t attracted to the money or recognition associated with leadership positions. Instead, they want to be leaders to inspire others, make a difference in the world and lead companies that care about more than the bottom line.

Millennials care less about money, legacy and hierarchy, and more about being collaborative, empowering and transformational leaders. However, many are unable to access leadership training or demonstrate a new approach.

The challenge for today’s workplace is to harness the potential amongst this new generation and empower them to take responsibility and challenge the status quo.  Imagine what we would be able to achieve if we encouraged all staff to lead rather than making leadership something attached to promotions and power.

 

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Thoughts from top women in Wales on increasing representation in leadership & decision-making

This week, I joined colleagues from across the Civil Service and Local Government in Wales to mark International Women’s Day at the Senedd (Welsh Parliament). An impressive line-up of leading ladies shared their own career journey and experiences to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

Just a few days earlier, the Assembly Research Service published figures on gender equality. These figures show that slightly fewer women than men are economically active (72.4% compared with 83%) and a higher proportion work part-time (41.3% compared with 12.7%). Of those sectors prioritised for investment by the Welsh Government within their economic strategy, women account for just 32.7% of the workforce.

When we look at our public service leaders, we can see that despite accounting for 72% of Local Government staff,only 18% of Local Authority Chief Executives are female. Of our elected representatives, less than one-third of councillors are female and whilst women account for nearly half of our Assembly Members (41.7%), this has slipped from an admirable 52% during 2005 – 2007.

The Deputy Presiding Officer, Ann Jones AM, welcomed delegates and reminded us that the Welsh Assembly has a history of leading the way on gender equality. Despite this, she noted that everything that we have achieved as women has been achieved because we have been willing to stand together and fight for women’s causes.

The figures above show that there is still a great deal of work to do if we are to achieve gender equality in Wales.

A number of prominent women addressed the audience from the HR Director of DVLA to the Chief Executive of the National Assembly for Wales. Here are some of the things suggested throughout the event that would help to increase the number of women at the top:

1. Appoint a gender champion – change comes from the top and someone needs to take the lead to ensure gender is on the agenda in your organisation. Consider finding someone senior to take on the role of gender champion to push for fair representation of women.

2. Develop a positive intervention – sometimes the pace of change is too slow and we need positive interventions to accelerate progress. In particular, organisations in receipt of public money should be leading the way.

3. Create an inclusive environment – typically, women have a different style and the workplace should encourage everyone to contribute to the best of their ability and in their own way.

4. Pay attention to language – language shapes the world around you. If you are using ‘Chairman’, ‘guys’ (to mean everyone), or ‘he’ (to refer to a person male or female), then just stop. Right now.

5. Job advertisements and interview questions – evidently, boys associate more with verbs and girls with adjectives. Jargon and any language of power possibly put women off so consider getting a specialist to ‘gender lens’ your recruitment processes to make sure you aren’t unintentionally excluding women in this way.

6. Role models – you can’t be what you can’t see. Women need access to inspirational role models who are visible to encourage women to follow in their footsteps. And I don’t mean those women who conform to masculine norms and/or pull the ladder up behind them but those who have managed to succeed whilst staying true to their own identity and maintaining their integrity.

 7. Challenge – if we don’t challenge when we see actions or hear views that disadvantage women or reinforce stereotypes then change will be slow to happen. If you think something is wrong or unhelpful then say so. This will help to raise awareness and hopefully lead to better decisions.
Think I’ve missed something? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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It’s just like a magic penny, hold it tight and you won’t have any

At the end of last year, I finally got the one thing I’ve wanted for absolutely ever – a four legged furry friend otherwise know as a dog! As we had our first few walks together, I observed the importance of trust in our relationship and considered how we were managing to build this.

I noticed the process we were going through as I first let her off the lead in an enclosed space where I knew I could reach her if she didn’t come back to me. As we played together with our ball, I was able to see that she wasn’t looking to get away and so I could move the boundary to give her more space. Now, I don’t worry at all, I feel confident to let her off the lead in the park because I know she will watch for me and come back if I call.

In my view, it’s similar in all relationships including those at work. The best way to build trust is through trust itself. Leaders and managers must offer some space for people to show they are trustworthy. Set the boundaries and be clear about expectations.  After that, you only need to keep a watchful eye in case they need your support but otherwise, you can let the team get on with it. This way, you allow people to show you that your faith is well placed.

When I interviewed someone a few years ago about agile working she said something which has stayed with me ever since: ‘why would you hire someone you don’t think you can trust?’.  She also made the point that people have families to take care of and mortgages to pay so why on earth wouldn’t they be able to take responsibility for their work? If there are performance issues, it’s far more likely to be a problem with management than anything else.

In the workplace, trust has been a key theme for organisations over the last few years. In 2014, HR magazine said ‘trust – or lack of it – is going to be a big issue this year’. Why? Because a command and control style of management and a theory X point of view creates an environment of distrust. As a new generation joins the workforce, the leadership debate has developed and new management styles are emerging.  Millenials expect some thing different and trust is a central part of the deal.

According to the CIPD, 37% of employees do not trust their senior managers and 33% think trust between employees and senior management in their workplace is weak. If this is your organisation, you probably notice low morale and a lack of employee engagement. It’s also likely that performance and productivity are suffering as a result.

So what exactly do we mean when we talk about trust in organisation and how can we get more?

An article on the traits of trustworthy people suggests that they are authentic, consistent, compassionate, have high levels of integrity, are kind, resourceful, humble, available and connected.  Research from MIT also identifies integrity and consistency as ‘the key differentiator between companies that violate trust and those that sustain it’.  In the popular book, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni cites trust as the number one reason why teams (and, in turn, organisations) do not succeed.

The solution for organisations, I believe, is to demonstrate trust so that it can be seen in return.  Put the right framework in place to monitor what’s important and ensure you appoint leaders who are able to live up to the values that allow trust to develop.  It is also useful to make your leaders open to feedback from employees and other stakeholders by practicing listening on a regular basis.

Overall, the concept of trust and how it is built reminds me of a song I learnt in primary school:

It’s just like a magic penny, hold it tight and you won’t have any. [Trust] is something if you give it away, you end up having more.

 

For more on listening, try ‘Listen hard, even to what they are not saying’.

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Want greater staff retention, less sickness absence and increased productivity? Join the results-based revolution and unleash the power within.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Racing around trying to get the dog organised, kids sorted and self looking presentable to arrive at the office for 9am like that’s all you’ve had to worry about.  We’ve also all most likely heard that tut when you’re two minutes late or had a poor attendance record because it keeps on happening.  And we’ve probably all had time off work to let in the heating engineer or be home for a sick child or get to the hospital for an appointment.

So what if it was possible to have a happier and more productive workforce by ripping up the policies and letting people decide for themselves when, where and how they work? Would you do it? You should definitely give it some thought.

This is on my mind right now because I’ve had a hectic start to the year. With a new dog, hospital visits for my mother in law, surgery for myself and the pooch, I’ve been dashing from one place to another trying to make sure everyone is ok and then arriving at work pretending everything is normal.  It’s made me miss my previous workstyle (not lifestyle) where the focus was on what I delivered and not whether I was there or how long I sat at my desk.

In my former role, my team had cast away the shackles of time and space and embraced a results-based approach.  This idea was developed after reading work on the Results Only Working Environment (ROWE) which has become prominent over the last few years. We didn’t follow it in its purest form but based our own model on the general premise of results not time.

How it worked in practice was to agree with each individual what they were expected to deliver and what ‘good’ would look like and we caught up on a regular basis to make sure everything was on track.  It meant that my team was empowered to get on with the job and trusted to get it right which in turn meant they were motivated to succeed and delivered above and beyond what was expected of them.

The first time I heard this idea, it was in the news that Virgin were letting employees have unlimited annual leave.  It sounds unrealistic but actually is manageable when individuals start being accountable for what they have done and not how long they were in the office.  It also means you can get all your tasks completed whether in the office or at home or elsewhere! Does someone need to finish early to go to the vet? No problem. Do they need to work from home to keep an eye on the sick dog? Sure thing. Do they want to work at the in-law’s so they can get to the hospital for visiting hours? Absolutely. People can manage their time however they see fit, providing they deliver the agreed results.

You might still be thinking ‘but if they are not in the office, how do I know they are working?’ You know because they will do the things they agreed and if they don’t then it’s a performance issue. How do you know they are working when they are sat at their desk? You don’t generally, you just feel better because you can see them in front of you. Maybe you are also thinking that if you let people just do what they need to then they will do as little as possible. My experience of managing a team in this way taught me that providing you have empowered and motivated them in the right way, when they run out of things to do, they will find more.

Many employers think that allowing employees to work flexibly is a nice perk but actually, it can remove stress, reduce sickness absence and increase productivity which means that employers get more for their money.   My experience with results-based working found that it encourages people to work smarter and think more about what they are doing and how they can invest their time on things that will deliver the best results.  What’s not to like?

Get your own copy of ‘Why work sucks and how to fix it’or hear how it works at GAP by watching this video.
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What makes a true leader? Fancy job title, fat salary or the courage to stand up for what you believe in?

Watching President Trump’s inauguration and the events that have followed has made me think about the history of the civil rights movement in America. It’s clear to see that civil rights and human rights in the US are at threat under the new president. His first day was marked by women’s marches in major cities throughout the world and he is already taking forward decisions that many people feared.

The first action has been to sign an executive order begin the process to repeal Obamacare. He has reinstated the Mexico City Policy known as the Global Gag rule which withholds US foreign aid money to NGOs that provide abortions and abortion counselling. He has signed two executive orders which will build that wall he’s talked so much about, boost border patrol forces and increase the number of immigration enforcement officers who carry out deportations. And today he has been advocating torture which has made me especially glad to be an Amnesty International donor!

All of this has driven me to rewatch films like Selma and The Help to remind me of how far America has come and how much it has to lose. In turn, these films have reminded me of a key leadership quality – the courage of conviction and willingness to risk everything to defend what you believe in. This is what marks out the great leaders of the world.

Nelson Mandela gave a 3 hour speech at the Rivonia Trial in 1964 where he and others were accused of sabotage. He concluded his speech by setting out his vision for equality and harmony. So strong was his belief that he finished his speech saying that he would give his life to achieve the ideal he dreamed of:

“During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die. Nelson Mandela, 1964

In the film Selma, directed by Ava Duvernay, we see the great Martin Luther King lead a march from Selma to Montgomery which had been prevented previously by state troupers by force of violence. During his campaign for civil rights, King was arrested many times, had his house bombed and was finally assassinated in 1968. He believed so much that what he was calling for was the right thing that he continued even though he risked his own personal safety and freedom.

Disney’s The Help portrays the same conviction when a budding journalist asks the African-American maids to tell their stories. In the film, the women she interviewed knew that they were likely to lose their jobs if they were identified, they could have their house burned down or even be killed for telling their story. They did it anyway and showed great courage in doing so.

And that’s it for me – a fundamental leadership quality – the courage to stand up for what you believe in regardless of the consequences. If we didn’t have people like that, we would never achieve any change. These leaders often are not the leaders with the fancy job title and fat salary. These are community leaders and individuals who are willing to put themselves on the line to speak out against injustice. Those people are the real leaders in our society.

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