Thursday, September 3, 2015

Everything I learned about leadership I learned it from Helgi the viking and his lean sensei

This is a story about Helgi, a strong, tall Viking, who was the leader of his village. Helgi had almost all the traits to become a great leader: He had dreams, dreams of conquering new lands, he was respected by his people, he was good at what he did: fighting, going on raids and executing (executing people).
After many successful raids across the European continent, Helgi decided that he wanted to expand his "business" in order to ensure a prosperous rich future for his village, so he decided to have the best consultant available helping him with his new goal of conquering the west. In order to do this, he engaged the services of a Japanese Sensei (Lean consultant), expert in cultural transformations.

The sensei came to visit Helgi and the first thing he did was to listen and try to understand what Helgi was trying to achieve. After some weeks of observing Helgi and his people at the village, the Japanese consultant made the following remarks:

"Helgi, you are doing it all wrong!! You are terrifying your people, they are afraid of you, they are not sharing their best ideas with you and you are creating enemies, if you want to offer a better, more secure future for your people, you have to comply with the following rules:

1- Have Dreams!, dreams you can share with your people so that they are inspired by them, in those dreams they need to see something better for them. And even though your current dreams are big, they do not involve a long term prosperity for your people or the people from other tribes or cultures they interact with. Therefore think in terms of long term prosperity for everybody, your people, other tribes and the environment.

2- Be good at Execution, but not the kind of execution, in which you kill people, be good at the execution of ensuring your dreams are supported by solid plans where you know what needs to happen next, who is going to do what, why things are being done and how things are going to be done. Then you will have to follow  up on that plan and address any deviation so that your dreams can be achieved.

3- in order to build faster boats, produce better weapons, you have to promote a culture of continuous improvement, where people can feel free to point out and bring to light problems and where you can get their ideas to resolve those problems. This in return will bring satisfaction to your people, because they will feel they are contributing, applying their skills and being valued.

4- Respect people: respect their ideas, their individualism, respect the fact that they need development and need to be challenged to be better, respect their environment, listen to them first, before you tell them something.
Respect for people also means that you have to trust them, and trust creates a sense of belonging and satisfaction.

5- Win the heart of your people: know their names, know their significant other's names, know what they like, dislike, what they do when they are not with you, what dreams do they have and above all be kind.

6- You have to know your business, but you Helgi, you already know your business very well, just make sure you use your knowledge wisely, use it to coach your people to find the answers by themselves so that they can grow, use your knowledge to help shape stronger and bigger visions and dreams and above all use the knowledge for the benefits of all, including those you consider your enemies, because if you can turn your enemies into allies then you and your people will be unstoppable in reaching your goals.

With these remarks the sensei returned to Japan and Helgi retreated to reflect about what he has learned, Helgi was able to understand the whole picture and immediately applied himself to implement what he had learned. Helgi went on to reunite his Vikings and become a great man and leader.

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