Dr Andy Cope: Leadership – A Crisis of No-Confidence

Look around at the current crop of leaders and you might develop a nervous twitch.

The political plate is laden with crises and we have Donald and Teresa, with Boris or Jeremy in the wings. Possibly Mr Rees Mogg (in deference to his Victorian upbringing, I feel compelled to use his surname). I’m not a political animal but I’d say it’s potentially the worst leadership crop in living memory.

Business wise we’ve got headline act Jeff Bezos, founder of multi-billion profit yet zero tax paying Amazon. And Mark Zuckerberg who has accrued filthy lucre from selling your life history to the highest bidder.

In secret!

‘The Apprentice’ showcases a bag of feuding toads in a classic example of exactly what the business world doesn’t need; vain, narcissistic upstarts who you want to punch on the nose.

So where have all the good leaders gone?

The good news is that they’re there. There are one or two high profilers, the Bransons and Dysons perhaps? Gareth Southgate has recently peeped out from behind the media curtain. You can’t help feeling that if Gareth was in charge of Brexit or the Iran/US trade negotiations, things might run a little more smoothly?

The rest of the great leaders are in hiding. The news isn’t interested. The Apprentice doesn’t recruit aimable, agreeable, likeable, get-on-with-able contestants because they’re not Gladiatorial. Mr Trumps happy tweets don’t make the news.

The viewers, me and thee, we actually like the toads, warts and all.

I’ve spent the last 12 years researching human flourishing and employee engagement. I’ve been seeking out and interviewing those who shine, the unsung heroes, the one’s who if they died tomorrow you’d go to their funeral.

I’m reporting on the unreported. This is the headline news, modern leadership boils down to what I call the 3Rs – relationships, relationships and relationships.

One of my happiness heroes is Tony Hsieh (pronounced ‘Shay’), chief executive at an American company, Zappos. If you follow Tony’s story, he elevated his company into the billion dollar turnover category by making it a great place to work. He puts ‘happiness’ as the central tenet. His view is that you can’t browbeat, bully or bribe people to be happy. They have to feel it for themselves. Crucially, I believe Tony is doing it for the right reasons.

For example, instead of measuring the call centre on ‘calls answered per minute’, he insists that the operators be trained and rewarded to take their time and actually be human, to connect and make a difference instead of merely reading from a script and processing the call.

And here’s the best bit about Zappos. After your 2-week induction, Tony offers new staff $2000 to leave. Take it or leave it, no catch, no hard feelings, you can have the money and run. Or, alternatively, if you really want to work for us, stay and join a rocking team that achieves results through being happy first.

Tony understands that his employees are already motivated when they join his business. Whereas most managers think their role is to ‘motivate’ their employees, Tony has cottoned on to the fact that he has to stop doing the things that strip away motivation.

Humans have an inherent drive to do well. Get out of their bloody way!

This ties in with research around whether you view you work as a job, career or calling.

If you’re doing a ‘job’, you’ll know about it because it’s a chore. You’re doing it because it pays the bills and you get that feeling of angst when the alarm goes off at stupid o’clock.

A ‘career’ is a necessity but you see opportunities for success and advancement. You’re invested in your work and want to do well.

A ‘calling’ is where the work is the end in itself. You feel fulfilled and have a sense of contribution to the greater good. Work is likely to draw on your personal strengths and gives your life meaning and purpose. And, whisper it quietly, but you’d probably do it for free.

Whether you’re engaged in a job, career or calling has less to do with your work than you might imagine. A calling orientation can have just as much to do with your mindset as it does with the actual work being done.

The analogy is this; at some point, you will have rented a car. Most likely, this will have been on holiday. So, here’s a question for you; before you returned the car to the airport, did you wash it?

Why on earth not?

Because it’s not yours, that’s why. To be truthful, you probably didn’t treat it very well either. Bringing the concept to your team – are your people ‘renting’ or ‘owning’? Organizations that achieve ownership will be rewarded with genuine and loving care.

To turn a crisis of no-confidence into a celebration of total confidence, base your leadership style on the 3Rs?

It’s about owning.

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About Andy Cope

Dr Andy Cope has spent 12 years researching positive psychology, culminating in a ‘PhD in Happiness’ from Loughborough University. He appreciates that his ‘Doctor of Happiness’ title is terribly cheesy but it provides him a media platform from which to preach about the importance of workplace wellbeing and how to create a flourishing organisational culture. He works globally, delivering leadership workshops for business and schools.

Andy is the best-selling author of the personal development ART OF BEING BRILLIANT series, HAPPINESS ROUTE MAP and SHINE. He has also written best-selling personal development books for children and young people, including DIARY OF A BRILLIANT KID and A TEENAGER’S GUIDE TO LIFE, THE UNIVERSE & AWESOMENESS. In his spare time he has also managed to write the global best-selling series, SPY DOG.

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  1. Great observations. It adds up to why productivity on the UK is and has been low and flat – they have been managed rather than being led. Managers seek to sustain certainty using all the tactics described, whilst leaders transform uncertainty into something that may become certain and needs to be managed further down the line. Leaders are creative; organisations need to be creative and adaptive, which only happens when people feel psychologically well and motivated. Yes, leadership is all about relationships; it is also about conversations and persuasion of those relationships. My mantra is slightly different but on exactly the same lines – those being led should feel empowerment, encouragement, engagement and enjoyment (the four e’s!)

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