Tag: leadership

Cultural Intelligence 101 [Book Review]

January 11th, 2016   •   no comments   

the cultural intelligence difference

How do you work effectively in a cross-cultural team? What should you do to seal a deal with a foreign partner?

The answers to these and more are found in The Cultural Intelligence Difference by cultural intelligence thought leader David Livermore.
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5 Ps of building your own rock star brand

November 2nd, 2015   •   no comments   

Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury of Queen (Courtesy of Queen Photos)

Larger than life, rock stars like Jon Bon Jovi, Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen have captured the hearts of millions worldwide. On and off stage, their passion for their craft has led them to become legends in entertainment.

What are the success strategies of rock stars? How do they build such powerful personal brands?

Thanks to former radio personality Steve Jones, we now have the answer.

Narrating “rock star secrets to unleash your personal brand and set your career on fire”, Jones’ book Start You Up is part rock music nostalgia and part personal management guide. Boosted by fascinating tales from rock stars themselves, the book drew upon Jones’ deep knowledge and intimate experience of the music industry.

So what are these 5 Ps?

Positioning – discover your brand story

Inspired by Jack Trout and Al Ries classic work, positioning is highly relevant to personal branding. Through positioning, we can define our importance, and craft a personal brand based on discovering, refining and telling our unique story.

Jones also advises us to work super hard, learn while on the job, pay attention to the details and focus on the one thing which differentiates us.

The most memorable story highlighting the importance of details centred around the popular 80s rock band Van Halen.

In their rider (contract) with concert organisers, Van Halen always included a simple clause. It stipulated that no brown M&M candies were to be found in the backstage area.

Should a single brown M&M be discovered, lead singer David Lee Roth would throw a temper tantrum. He would literally trash the dressing room. The band could also skip playing in the concert.

Before you think that Van Halen was being thuggish, consider the three reasons behind their odd requirements:

  1. Test that their concert promoter is meticulous and rigorous to a fault.
  2. Provide band with a system of checks and balances to ensure their own safety (Van Halen concerts can be quite physical),
  3. Ensure safety of their fans are not compromised by promoters taking short cuts to save money.

Presentation – communicate your unique brand

To publicise our personal brand, Jones urges us to play up on our “weirdness”. Using the example of Buddy Holly and his unmistakable pair of glasses, we should find a way to define our “rock star visual identity” and seek to “be different or be invisible”.

Making mistakes and taking risks are also par for the course in personal branding.

Here, we are told the story of how Steve Jobs deftly responded to the “Antenna Gate” issue back in 2010. What happened then was that the hidden antenna of the newly launched iPhone 4 wouldn’t work when held in a certain way.

Instead of hiding behind his team, Jobs himself called a press conference. In front of the world, he admitted: “We’re not perfect. Phones are not perfect. We all know that. But we want to make our users happy.”

Despite offering a free return policy, the return rate for iPhone 4 sets actually dropped instead of increase compared to normal periods!

This showed how revealing one’s imperfections and vulnerabilities can endear a company and its leaders to consumers.

Passion – toolkit for personal brand building

Straddling topics like creativity, partnership stress, planning, and gut instinct, passion covers the nuts and bolts of personal brand building.

This section was enriched with “weaknesses to strengths” stories. It included how rock groups like Fleetwood Mac overcame personal adversities like break-ups amongst lovers to create haunting yet beautiful songs.

Some of the lessons covered include the following:

  • Embracing chaos to turn insanity into opportunity
  • Finding harmony by partnering others
  • Treating everybody with respect
  • Diversifying one’s personal brand
  • Creating a unique identity in the shadow of others

The story of Bruce Springsteen and his tour director George Travis best epitomised passion. A crazily hard working performer, Springsteen aka “The Boss” is extremely customer-centric. He made sure that every interaction with his concert goers can touch their hearts.

George Travis also played his part. Working behind the scenes, he ensured that the coffee is hot, the beer is cold, and the food arrives on time. This was on top of the many other things a tour director needed to do.

Purpose – meaning guided by values

In the world of rock stars, few can beat Bob Geldof. Purposeful and mission-driven, the founder of Irish band the Boomtown Rats brought together the biggest names in pop to raise millions of dollars for the Ethiopian famine back in late 1984.

I’m sure all of us born in the 60s and 70s can remember that iconic album “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and the fantastic “Live Aid” concert beamed around the world!

Beyond Geldof’s heroic act, purpose is also about giving to one’s fans. Here, the Grateful Dead’s act of encouraging their fans to record their concerts and spread them around is legendary in building their immense and dedicated following.

To navigate our purpose better, Jones urges us to find a mentor, know when to make a comeback, and quit if we need to.

While “Bat Out of Hell” singer Meat Loaf rose from the ashes of a drug and alcohol fueled life, others like Australian group INXS stayed around way too long. By not knowing when to quit, they literally watched their star slowly fade.

Profits – personal brand to leadership

The last chapter on Profits focused on two areas:

  1. Using one’s obstacles to define oneself; and
  2. Looking at how rock star leaders compare with CEOs.

The story of one-armed Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen was the most memorable in the entire book.

Driving a Corvette to a New Year’s party one day, Allen got into a horrific accident. The severity of the trauma tore off his left arm at the shoulder. Overcoming incredible odds with the support of his team members in Def Leppard, however, Allen made a huge comeback. He turned his obstacle of being a one-armed drummer into a unique personal brand for himself.

On leadership, Jones took a leaf from Jim Collins’ book Good to Great. He described how rock legends like Jon Bon Jovi, George Harrison, Freddie Mercury, and Mick Jagger possessed the traits of “Level 5 leaders”, namely:

  • Possessing humility;
  • Being unafraid to ask for help;
  • Taking personal responsibility for their actions;
  • Developing discipline;
  • Surrounding themselves with the right people; and
  • Leading their teams with passion.

Branding it like Bon Jovi

Packed to the brim with tales from the halls of rock and roll, Start You Up is a fascinating read.

Beyond the heroic and legendary stories of rock stars through the 60s, 70s, and 80s, one is also reminded that the journey to building one’s personal brand is never easy. Often, it is littered with failures, mistakes and screw ups.

While the 5 Ps provide a kind of scaffold for personal branding, I found that the inspirational stories themselves which created the greatest impact. By reading and absorbing them, we can ask ourselves questions such as “What would Bono do?” or “How would Bob Dylan respond to this situation?”

While we may not be as musically talented as these rock stars, we could try to emulate their example. Hopefully, doing so helps us to achieve “Nirvana” in our own personal branding journey.

Start You Up Steve Jones

How the world’s leaders influence us to believe

August 4th, 2015   •   no comments   

Where do your beliefs come from? How can you influence customers, colleagues and other stakeholders to follow your beliefs?

Beliefs cover every dimension of our lives. An integral part of who we are, they drive our feelings, thoughts, actions and goals. To be effective leaders and influencers, we must understand what beliefs are, and how we can influence the beliefs of others.
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How LEGO rewrote the rules of innovation

July 26th, 2015   •   no comments   

LEGO Star Wars Millennium Falcon

LEGO Star Wars Millennium Falcon – the most highly sought after toy for geeks! (source of image)

Everybody loves LEGO. Boys, girls, mums, dads, and construction toy geeks of all ages.

However, do you know that the world’s favourite toy building blocks is also a powerhouse of innovation?
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7 Time Habits of Highly Effective People

July 19th, 2015   •   no comments   

Time and money often go together (courtesy of EarthWalk)

By now, you ought to know that time is the most precious resource of all.

Every one of us have only 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. This universal rule applies regardless of our station in life. How we make use of our time determines our happiness and success in life.

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NTUC wants to make you a future leader. Here’s how…

June 28th, 2015   •   1 comment   

Future Leadership Summit NTUC

Calling all Professionals, Managers and Executives (PMEs)! The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) wants to make you a better leader.

Happening 24 July 2015 (Friday) at NTUC Centre from 8 am to 7 pm, the Future Leaders Summit 2015 is the union movement’s effort to cater to the growing numbers of PMEs in its membership.  Through the event, NTUC hopes to equip PMEs with leadership skills designed for the fast moving digital age.
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Why We Need to Ask the Right Questions

June 12th, 2015   •   no comments   

Asking the Right Questions
Courtesy of Life Hacks

Do you know what’s the best way to generate great ideas? Or find the solutions to that nagging problem?

Simple. Start by asking the right questions.
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The Motivation Manifesto [Book Review]

June 1st, 2015   •   no comments   

Brendon Burchard Motivation Manifesto

New York Times bestselling author Brendon Burchard should know a thing or two about motivation.

Touted as a leading personal development expert, Brendon has a huge following on social media. His previous books such as The Charge (see my book review here) literally flew off the shelves.

Centred on nine “declarations of personal power”, Brendon’s latest offering The Motivation Manifesto isn’t a step-by-step guide to wealth, power and fame. Instead, it is about how we can gain greater personal freedom so that we can lead motivated and meaningful lives, unencumbered by fear and oppression.

On Freedom, Fear and Motivation

The first section of the book defines three key attributes of human nature: personal freedom, fear, and motivation. It urges readers to gain liberty from the chains of social oppressions and fear, so that we can have a “heightened sense of genuineness and joy in our being”. By achieving personal freedom, we can live freely and spontaneously, pursue abundance in health, wealth and happiness, love freely, and serve our desired life mission.

To achieve personal growth, we ought to recognise how fear has socially conditioned us, and to be wary of fear mongers. By choosing to live courageously, we can defeat the fear propagated by “worriers, weaklings and the wicked”.

Beyond overcoming fear, the book also teaches us how we can spark, sustain and amplify motivation. This involves making and committing to clear choices, contemplating and focusing our minds on the end goal, and surrounding ourselves with the right people and environment.

The 9 Declarations of Power

How then do we attain personal freedom? The Motivation Manifesto describes nine personal declarations which we can practice.

1) We Shall Meet Life with Full Presence and Power

To experience life in all its glory and power, we need to bring our full consciousness to the present. This requires us to release the past (both hurts and joys), forget about the future, and face the reality of the moment full-on. Here, we are told to play four key roles:

  • Observer: Be able to hover above our lives through greater self-awareness and consciousness;
  • Director: Be proactive in intentionally creating and shaping our lives;
  • Guardian: Protect our mind, body and soul from “unwanted contaminants” like negative information, people and habits;
  • Warrior: Be bold in working relentlessly hard to pursue our dreams;
  • Lover: Be interested in and caring for others; and
  • Leader: Provide leadership and direction to unite and lift those around us.

2) We Shall Reclaim Our Agenda

This declaration implores us to restore our life’s agenda by overcoming the chains of conformity and webs of distraction. To do so, we should seek clarity, direction and progress in what we do. A good way to do so involves creating a written manifesto outlining what our lives are truly about. After charting our own course, we should pursue it with “real force, will, and consistency” and not cave in to the expectations of others.

3) We Shall Defeat Our Demons

The greatest enemy is often within us. This “demon”, also known as defiance, has three ugly heads: doubt; delay and division. To overcome these negative traits, we can do the following:

  • Transform the negative language of doubt (“What if…”), with faith (“I believe I can…”);
  • Transform delay (“Wait! Please! Stop!”) with action; and
  • Transform division (negative perception of others) with loving actions.

4) We Shall Advance with Abandon

Embracing the view that reality can be bended (Steve Jobs’ “reality distortion field” anyone?), we are encouraged to pursue sustained and determined action. Along the way, we will experience both progress and struggles.

Whatever comes our way, we should fight for our dreams, and advance forward without needing to “wait for permission, proper timing, or ease”.

5) We Shall Practice Joy and Gratitude

To be a joyous master of life, the book propels us to maintain our joy and gratitude even in the midst of hardship, pain or injustice. Doing so requires us to embrace a sense of wonder and to “be curious, release expectation and take pleasure in small things”.

To make this a daily habit, we should measure our joy and gratitude with each task we undertake, asking ourselves, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how much joy and gratitude am I bringing to this moment?”

6) We Shall Not Break Integrity

Integrity is about keeping our character, connections and contributions aligned and congruent to our true selves. To do so, we should practice the six practices of integrity:

  • Think before we act;
  • Never commit to anything we lack passion in;
  • Keep our word;
  • Always treat others with respect;
  • Tell the truth; and
  • Always favour action.

Beyond these practices, we should also beware of what Brendon term the seven temptations: impatience, disappointment, desperation, aggression, hurt, loyalty, and power.

7) We Shall Amplify Love

By proclaiming that nothing is “more awe-inspiring, more human and transfixing than unfiltered, unashamed love”, the book urges us to give and live in love.

Linking love to life’s animating energy and true divinity, we are taught how we can open our hearts, achieve breakthroughs in life, and elevate ourselves to a higher spiritual plane. Finally, we are reminded that love isn’t just intent but action.

8) We Shall Inspire Greatness

Greatness can only be achieved as our life’s destiny if we dare to rise above the mediocre standards of the world. Once again, Brendon provides a checklist – this comes in the form of nine rather self-explanatory virtues of greatness:

  • Honesty
  • Responsibility
  • Intelligence
  • Excellence
  • Courage
  • Respect for others
  • Vigilance
  • Service
  • Unity

9) We Shall Slow Time

Last but not least, we are encouraged to embrace practices which deepen our engagement with the moment rather than be “numb and unaware of our senses and surroundings”.

To slow time, we should first take deeper and longer breaths, allow our five senses (sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing) to absorb the moment, and attune our awareness to receive sensations.

A Motivational Call To Arms

Written in a passionate prose, The Motivation Manifesto seeks to blend philosophy, psychology and neuroscience into its pages. The book works as a clarion call, seeking to ignite the hearts of world weary corporate warriors and lead them to a more enlightened path.

Personally, I found the book a motivating and inspirational read. I couldn’t avoid nodding my head in agreement as I devoured its pages, seeking sustenance and guidance during a time of self-reflection and renewal.

Let me end with a quote from none other than Paulo Coelho (of The Alchemist fame):

The Motivation Manifesto is a poetic and powerful call to reclaim our lives and find our own personal freedom. It’s a triumphant work that transcends the title, lifting the reader from mere motivation into a soaringly purposeful and meaningful life. I love this book. – Paulo Coelho

10 Human Drives That Make You Alive

April 26th, 2015   •   no comments   

Brendon Burchard

Brendon Burchard (source of image)

What makes us truly alive in whatever we do? How can we lead lives brimming with energy, engagement and enthusiasm?

Enter The Charge. Subtitled “Activating the 10 Human Drives That Make You Feel Alive”, this easily read tome provides lots of fodder for anybody seeking to achieve more with life.
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8 Leadership Lessons of Lee Kuan Yew

March 29th, 2015   •   3 comments   

8 Leadership Lessons of Lee Kuan Yew

Photograph taken by Larry Burrows (1926 – 1971), a photojournalist from Life Magazine

This week must be one of the saddest for Singapore. Our first and longest serving former Prime Minister – Mr Lee Kuan Yew – passed away on 23 March 2015 at 3.18 am. He was 91 years of age.

Better known by his initials LKY or Minister Mentor (MM) Lee, Mr Lee’s political and public legacy was legendary. Considered by many to be Singapore’s founding father, his imprint is seen in virtually every square foot of our tiny island nation – from HDB flats, schools, hospitals, roads, air and sea ports, to parks and other public infrastructure. 
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