Published by David Scarlett on 12 December 2019 in Opinion

“Stop Following Tradition. Start Leading Effectively”

Set a New Standard for Leadership In Financial Planning

We’ve Lived With The Problem for Too Long

In the first article in this series on Effective Leadership we looked at the traditional Founder-Manager behaviour pattern which has bedevilled the financial advisory sector for too many decades.

And does so still.

 I described it as ‘Super Adviser’.

‘Super Adviser’ is the entrepreneurial technician unwilling to let go of their emotionally satisfying advisory role. And unwilling to take up the mantle of leadership that every employee, every team, so desperately needs.

‘Super Adviser’ is The Genius in their little (or large) organisation.

Male or Female… they’re ‘The Man’.

Their team is there to serve the purposes, objectives and declarations of Super Adviser. They are definitely Followers of the Leader. Consequently, there’s not a consciously-developed leader amongst them.

I discussed the fact that leadership researchers and authors have labelled this behaviour pattern ‘The Genius With 1,000 Helpers’.

I then suggested that you watch out for this behaviour pattern – deliciously depicted – by cartoon character Felonious Gru in the film ‘Despicable Me’.

Then, I provided a simple summary of this well-studied behaviour pattern, which Dr Carol Dweck has termed ‘Fixed Mindset’.

I gave a glimpse into one of the primary measures of Effective Leadership, as described in a 2 minute video featuring leadership psychologist Nancy Kline.

And finally, I commented on the ugly results that await the Financial Planning profession if we continue bumbling along this road of Ad Lib Leadership.

Little and Large

I recognise that The Genius Mindset, or Fixed Mindset, is not the sole property of the micro- or small-business culture. If you stick around long enough… you can see it played out by self-aggrandising leaders in hugely commercially successful enterprises. Or massive intellects in CEO positions, whom others find it difficult to challenge.

Enron was a classic example of the latter ‘Fixed Mindset’ disease.

Long after the company collapsed into bankruptcy (destroying thousands of people’s future financial welfare)… the leaders of this giant refused to admit that they’d done anything wrong. They just felt that they were Misunderstood Geniuses.

Yet, There Is Hope

Sometimes, if we’re lucky…

We witness a Founder-Adviser truly growing up.

They wake up to the power that they could have in shaping a profession’s future. But only if they accept the responsibilities of their role… and stop seeking the immediate daily gratification inherent in the role of Financial Planner.

From time to time, some of us are fortunate enough to have such personal transformation occur in our presence.

And it gives us hope.

It’s the moment when a business founder, perhaps a brilliant salesperson, or an excellent technical professional, maybe a superb manager of complex projects… transforms before your very eyes.

They become a Truly Effective Leader. Not just a Skilled Professional Operator.
In doing so… they start to become magnetic.

I’ve been fortunate to see this happen a number of times in my coaching journey.

I once witnessed this in a company’s Team Planning Meeting.
You know, one of those off-site, half-yearly or quarterly affairs to ‘Get the team singing on the same sheet’, and so forth.

We’ll call the leader… ‘Nigel’.

Nigel – the founder of this outwardly-successful business – almost inadvertently opened himself up to criticism and ridicule. He took a big risk.

After a brief introduction to the day, Nigel started the morning’s discussion by asking his team:

  • What Should We Be Trying to Accomplish Now?
  • What’s Stopping Us Doing That?
  • What Should We Change to Create That Desired Outcome?
  • What Would You Do Differently, If You Were Me?”

In essence, Nigel was asking:
“What’s wrong with this business? And what should we do about it?”

So, they told him

My word. They told him!

Within two hours… “More Than 20 Things That Need Fundamentally Changing”

Now, he’s an articulate communicator. So, he could have countered each comment nimbly.

He could have made emotional mincemeat of them all.
He could have defended his amazing client-winning and financial track record.
He could have parried and smirked and mocked and belittled.

But he didn’t. Not this time. Instead…He stayed absolutely motionless.
Except for his right hand, which wrote steadily for two very long, painful hours.

When his team had run out of breath…What do you think he did? Well, I’ll tell you.

He raised his head. Looked slowly around him, to catch each eye.
And he thanked them. THANKED THEM!

He pointed out their astonishing insights. Their piercing wisdom.
Their willingness to be open with each other.
Their willingness to bring Truth into the room.

They were stunned. I was stunned. What’s more… He was stunned by what had happened.

With this Emotional Asset on his ‘Leadership Balance Sheet’, he then encouraged them to expand on “How We Could Do Things Differently Here.”

Thirty-seven ideas later (thirty-seven!!!) … everybody was intellectually drained.

And the room was buzzing with excitement.

Now, you might have heard the following in a seminar of workshop somewhere. But it bears mentioning again…

Stephen R Covey never finished his book “Primary Greatness”, wherein he listed 12 character qualities that, he felt, define Great People. (Not “Successful”. “Great”.)

The first two qualities were…Humility. And Courage.

That day I witnessed an entrepreneur begin to try that combination.
Begin to awaken to real leadership behaviour.

Rare. Transformed. Transformational.

The Take-Aways from This Story?

  • Actively develop Leadership Coaching skills in how to develop your team
    • There are courses widely available across the UK
  • Recognise that this does require you to learn professional coaching skills as part of your Leadership Development
  • Seek out models of Highly Effective Leadership: preferably from outside of the Financial Advisory sector. Remember, the business model that gave rise to this sector proactively encourages Ineffective Leadership
  • Take time to get away from your over-busy desk… to consider those leadership actions which have huge leverage in the success of your future… and the future of those who engage with your firm.
  • Be aware that to create ‘Stunning Independent Thinking’ you need to get out of the way of your team. You need to learn to shut up! Perhaps for an hour at a time.
  • Consider what would happen if every firm committed to developing ‘Stunning Independent Thinking’ in its team members. And consider how this sector would be viewed by the public and the next generation…

How the future of this sector could be reshaped…

if The Leaders of The Future were carefully nurtured and encouraged… right here!

In the next article in this series…

we’ll see why you don’t need a title, a job description or shares in the company to have leadership influence.

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