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Leading positively

In this lesson we will look at how to lead positively and create happiness for your employees.

There is a popular framework that looks at the responsibilities of leaders/ managers and divides them in four domains. This is the Head, Heart, Hands, Voice model.  The head refers to thinking, strategy etc; the heart to relationship building, the hands to executing aspects while the voice refers to influencing on the job.

Sometimes these functions are at loggerheads with each other. For example if you want to get things done, you will lean on your executing or Hands strengths even at the cost of spoiling some relations or creating friction in the relationship or Heart domain.

However, it’s important to recognise that all functions are important and to be a good leader you need to use all domain expertise wisely.

Also as per another research by Gallup, your employees or followers have four basic needs and to be a good leader and to keep your employees happy you need to address those needs. These needs are that of trust, hope, compassion and stability. A good leader addresses these needs and takes care of his followers. With this we come to an end of our happier @ work course.

Time for a quick round-up of what we have learned so far. Here are the key takeaways from all the 10 lessons:

  1. It pays (literally) to be happy at the workplace.
  2. Small daily rituals like meditating for 2 mins at work can have a lasting impact on your happiness.
  3. Creating a gratitude filled culture is the most effective way of creating a culture of happiness.
  4. Along with happiness, finding Meaning in work has to become a number one priority .
  5. A calling orientation towards work is best  and you do have some latitude to craft your job to make it more calling like.
  6. The basic needs of Autonomy, Mastery, Relatedness and Purpose need to be satisfied to keep us motivated at work.
  7. Being optimistic and hopeful has multiple positive outcomes including increased resilience and grit.
  8. SMART, WISE and self-concordant goals are a key to a happy and productive work life.
  9. Discovering and deploying your strengths is life transforming experience
  10. Leadership consists of using your strengths in Head, Heart, Hands, and Voice domains and providing hope, stability, compassion and trust to your followers.

That brings us to the end of this course. I wish you happiness and fulfillment at work. If you like the course share with a friend; after all sharing is caring and a sure shot way to increase happiness in your community/ work environment.

The Four C’s of Learning

Today, I came across this concept of the 4 C’s of learning-applicable to both children as well as life long learners.

The 4 C’s that are emphasized are Critical thinking, Creativity, Communication and Collaboration. It is believed that teaching children these skills is critical in the 21st century learning.

I also came across another blog post that advocated adding a 5th C to the above mix: Compassion. And I couldn’t agree more.

To me both Critical thinking and Creativity may be subsumed under one grouping : thinking skills. And thus we can retain the 4 C’s but with Creativity and Critical thinking combined and Compassion added to the mix.

Why do I propose such a state of affairs? Because it maps beautifully to the four domains of leadership model: the HHHV model of Head, Heart, Hands and Voice.

While Critical and Creative thinking map to Head; Compassion maps to Heart; Collaboration can be mapped to Hands and Communication maps directly to Voice.

Finding parallel evidence for a model lends great credence to it and the HHHV model is one such model that has found multiple corroborations.  I am excited that if the 4C’s model of learning is indeed applied in the classrooms, it will lead to the creation of a new breed of leaders. What about you? Are you equally exited?

Leaders vis-a-vis Managers

Many theories float around as to what is the difference between Leaders vis-a-vis- Managers; I hope to show some more clarity on the matter by referring to my Hands, Heart, Head, Voice model of leadership.

To recap, the four main functions/ traits of a good leader are elaborated below:

  1. Hand / Executing themes/ Task focus
  2. Heart/ Relationship building themes/People focus
  3. Head/ Strategic thinking themes/ Strategic focus
  4. Voice/ Influencing themes/ Cultural focus

IMHO, the traditional way in which leaders and managers are defined, leaders are predominantly leaders, because of their ability to think strategically or to inspire positive cultural changes; while managers are managers, because of their ability to execute the given tasks and because they can develop individuals and get work done out of them.

Much has been written about the task vs people orientation of managers; similarly its important as leaders to be aware of the strategic vs cultural focus you bring to the table (i.e whether you believe culture eats strategy for breakfast, or the opposite). Each style has its unique advantages, but as you grow from a supervisor to a manager to an executive to a real leader you will probably progress form Hands to Heart to Head to Voice.

Now, lets look at some other dynamics between the Hands, Heart, Head and Voice.

Hand Vs Voice : Here task focus is pitted against a culture focus and the real deal is about having tangible vs intangible results.  Culture is notoriously hard to measure, but any changes are as noticeable and as effective as any bottom-line results.

Voice vs Heart: Here a focus on organizational culture is pitted against a focus on individuals that make the organization and their needs. Issues of alignment are top-of the mind in this dynamics. Another way to think about the dynamics is whether you work one-on-one with individuals to bring out their best; or whether you inspire and motivate and work with, and via, large collectives and groups.

Heart vs Head: Here a focus on people is pitted against a focus on strategy and another way to look at the same is whether as a leader one is human-centric or more business-oriented.

Head vs Hands: Here a focus on strategy/ thinking is pitted against a focus on tasks/ execution. Another way to conceptualize is to think in terms of whether you are making moves that are strategic in nature or that are tactical in nature. How much of your time is spent making strategic decisions and executing strategy vis-a-vis in tactical maneuvers of day to day operations.

Be warned, that as a leader, you need to use all of your Hands, Heart , Head and Voice and a good leader/ manager, though having a predominant style, is flexible enough to rise to the occasion and use other styles as and when the situation so demands.

Its fun to apply this to an org structure, say the C-suite of executives of a tech company: while Hands may be the COO, responsible for day to day operations;  Head will typically be the CTO/CSO, responsible for providing a competitive strategic advantage; Heart will be the CXO, the Chief Experience Officer providing the human-centrism;  while Voice may be the CEO/CIO responsible for culture/ innovation etc.

In a similar vein, when startups form, all these things need to come together: an inspiring idea (Voice/ culture/ innovation) having a viable business model (Hands/ execution), to be executed by a stellar team of like-minded people that has been put together ( Heart/  people) and which has a clear business plan ( Head/ strategy.

While the prevailing wisdom is that the ‘idea’ guy should not be the CEO (makes for a ‘weak CEO’) , I think if CEO is to be the leader that everyone is to look at, they should be the ones to influence and inspire the employees, and need to have good Voice abilities.  What do you think? Do let me know via comments!

Leadership Distilled -part III

In our earlier posts we have looked at Barbara’s CQ model, Gallup’s leadership domains and Michigan Model of Leadership to arrive at four main functions/ traits of a good leader.  These are elaborated below:

  1. Hand / Executing themes/ Task focus
  2. Heart/ Relationship building themes/People focus
  3. Head/ Strategic thinking themes/ Strategic focus
  4. Voice/ Influencing themes/ Cultural focus

It always heartens me when I see multiple streams of research converging and coming to the same conclusions.


Its instructive to note that as per Michigan Model of Leadership (MMoL), the four key behaviors identified are Empathy (people quadrant) , Drive (results or task quadrant), Courage (culture of innovation quadrant) and Integrity (strategic structures quadrant) . These are theorized to lead to good leadership behavior.

Now, if proof was needed, a study by KRW International, a leadership consultancy, that looked at four character traits of leaders, found overwhelming support for the effectiveness of those traits in identifying good leaders.

KRW, looked at four universal character traits that they identified from anthropological data.  These were Integrity (mapping to integrity in MMoL or strategic focus), Responsibility (drive in MMoL or task focus), Forgiveness(Courage in MMoL {imho you require courage to forgive especially if you want to  encourage innovation in this quadrant} or culture focus), and Compassion (empathy in MMoL or people focus).

What they found was striking- those top 10 executives who were high in these traits or were virtuoso’s , their firms were giving 5 time the return on assets than the firms of CEO’s who were in bottom 10 on these traits and were self-focused.

The details about these results are covered in HBR and Fast Company.

To quote:

According to KRW International, a leadership consultancy, CEOs whose characters were highly rated by employees had an average return on assets of 9.35% over a two-year period, almost five times as much as CEOs with low scores whose return on assets averaged just 1.93%.

To me this is converging evidence of the power of the hands, heart, head and voice metaphor of effective leadership and this study is proof enough of the sound business logic behind hiring such leaders or promoting such behaviors.


Leadership Distilled – part 2

In an earlier post I had elaborated on the CQ model and Gallup’s four buckets of leadership strengths and used that to derive a framework for leadership skills.

To recap,  the four buckets are

  1. Hand / Executing themes
  2. Heart/ Relationship building themes
  3. Head/ Strategic thinking themes
  4. Voice/ Influencing themes

Its also instructive to note that typically having a task focus necessitates trade-offs with having a people focus and these are at loggerheads with each other. If you really want to accomplish a task, you’ll probably not hesitate in brushing against a few team members; similarly if you are too sensitive to people issues, you might not be that able to drive them to accomplish results.

In a similar vein, its easy to see how having a Strategic thinking focus may be at loggerheads with having a Influencing focus. Influence, at most times, is due to creating the right culture in the organization and everyone knows the adversarial relationship of culture to strategy when thinking about leadership (think ‘Culture eats Strategy for breakfast!’).

Leadership is all about making the right trade offs and finding one’s own unique style and strength of operation.

I recently came across Michigan Model of Leadership (MMoL) and it as heartening to note the convergence between it and my earlier formulation derived from Gallup/ CQ. To quote,

Our research shows that the most effective leaders (1) are empathetic and committed to seeing the world through others’ eyes; (2) are driven and routinely stretch to achieve challenging goals; (3) have integrity and are committed to doing the right thing even if it is not the popular thing; and finally (4) are courageous and consider risk and failure to be necessary ingredients for innovation. These values form a strong foundation for action and serve as guideposts for leaders as they work to make a positive difference in the world.


Its easy to note there that Empathy maps to Heart, Drive maps to Hands, Integrity to Head and Courage to Voice. Further,

Robust Results (blue) represents the actions that leaders engage in to foster competition, perform under pressure, and deliver short-term results. This archetype is often in direct tension with Collaborative Communities (yellow), which represents the actions involved in building high-quality relationships, empowering people, and cultivating trust and cohesion within teams. In many organisations, competition and an emphasis on short-term performance undermine collaboration and the importance of community. Yet, in other organisations, too much of an emphasis on harmony within the community produces a happy yet under-performing culture where people are unwilling to challenge each other in service of achieving higher performance.

Strategic Structures (red) represents the actions that leaders engage in to establish accountability, ensure reliable processes, and optimize efficiency. This archetype is often in direct contrast with Creative Change (green), which represents the actions required to enable change, inspire innovation and co-create new opportunities. In many organisations, an over-emphasis on structure and process can root out innovation, but at the same time, too much emphasis on innovation and change can produce inefficiencies or even organisational chaos that keeps the organisation from implementing new ideas.

Thus, Combining all the evidence above, I propose the following schemata:

  1. Hands/ Task Focus- a focus on results and action; Behavioral in nature as per ABCD model of Psychology.
  2. Heart / People Focus – a focus on collaboration and relationships-  Affect or emotion driven as per ABCD
  3. Head/ Strategic Focus – a focus on structure and thinking – Cognitive as per ABCD
  4. Voice/ Cultural Focus- a focus on creativity/ engagement and influence- Dynamics/ motivational in focus as per ABCD.

Its also easy for me to see how a leader progresses in his journey towards greater impact by focusing on different focuses at each subsequent level of leadership. impact.

For example, a someone who is a good supervisor/ boss is predominantly at a Hands focus- focused on getting things done; a good manager on the other hand is really focused on his people- identifying their strengths and making them flourish in their roles; an executive however is more focused on getting the vision and strategy for the organization right; while a good leader IMHO is focused most intently on creating the right culture- everything else them follows.

Do let me know if this resonates with you and do contemplate whether you are at the level of a boss, manager, executive or a real leader!

Leadership Distilled

Leadership (Nigeria)

Leadership (Nigeria) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Traditionally two main functions or orientations of leaders have been task-orientation and people-orientation and even different large scale neural networks in the brain have been hypothesized to underlie these different focuses.

However if one takes a more closer look at the roles and responsibilities of a leader, they tend to fall into four distinct buckets.

The first bucket is related to what Gallup calls as strengths and talents in the  Strategic Thinking domain.  An apt metaphor for the same, as per Barbara’s Change Intelligence (CQ) model is Head. These abilities are intellectual and startegic in nature, concerned with understanding and shaping  the future and with defining a  vision that can inspire self and others. In transformational leadership context this would be the ability to create and define a vision. This too is task like in nature but more involves complex systemic thinking too rather than immediate task focus.

The second bucket of abilities lies in what Gallup calls the Influencing themes or domain. An apt metaphor, that I have come up for the same is Voice/Mouth. These abilities are the ability to inspire and motivate people, to influence large groups even though one may not have a direct control over them.  In transformational leadership context this would be an ability to motivate and inspire people to achieve that vision. This is similar to being centered on people, but is a different flavor as the emphasis is on not just connecting with people one-on-one, but to move and influence people and large collectives.

The third bucket of abilities are what Gallup calls Executing themes and talents. An apt metaphor, derived from CQ framework is that of Hand. These abilities include the ability to roll up the sleeves and lead from the front. In transformational leadership context, this includes delivering on the vision and managing the myriad problems that may come en route. This is the traditional task or production focus.

The fourth bucket of abilities are what Gallup calls Relationship building themes. An apt metaphor, derived again from CQ model is that of Heart. These abilities enable deep connection and concern with the team members and peers. In transformational leadership context, this includes the ability to coach and build a team to achieve the compelling vision. These are indeed the typical people abilities.

Its important to find out what your signature strengths are and to leverage them fully to achieve in all four domains.  Its also important to remember that strengths in any one domain can be used to achieve outcomes in any other domain, if used properly and intentionally (and which is where caches come handy).

Also remember, that much of leadership is situational:  there is a time to tell (head/vision) , a time to sell (voice/inspire) , a time to participate (hand/ execute) , and a time to delegate (heart/ trusting the team). Know your strengths and also the assess the situational needs to tailor your responses accordingly.

Everyone has a Head, a Voice, a Hand and a Heart- some may be more driven by Heart than by Head but a good leader knows what his unique strengths are and leverages them for the benefit and optimal functioning of the group.

Thank your disgruntled employees

To fire or not to fire, that seems to be the top-of-the mind question when you have a disgruntled employee.

However, when you have a disengaged employee you typically have a few more choices that you think you have:

  1. Fire them up: Motivate them, inspire them, enable their productivity, pay special mentoring, coaching, grooming directed towards them.
  2. Bear the heat: disengaged employees often lead to lesser profitability of the firm and lead to bad customer service and experience. You can find a silver lining here in that this may be an opportunity for you to refine your skills at managing customers or fine-tuning your skills at alternate methods of profits.
  3. Fire them: Release them from their suffering to find a better fit somewhere else.

The above alternates have different underlying assumptions about the disengaged employees:

  1. Disengaged employees can be saved from falling thorough the cracks and can become engaged again.
  2. Disengagement is a phase and once they are given time to ‘get over it’ the problem will subside by itself. After all who doesn’t have mouths to feed?
  3. Disengaged employees are like Hydra and need to be removed as fast a possible.

Rare is the firm that sees disengaged employees as early sensors of the upcoming calamities; recognizes that the problems may be systemic, and takes corrective (and preventive) actions to ensure the long-term sustainability of the firm. They more too often wait till the tipping point before asking themselves ”what were they smoking?”

What other ways do you conceptualize disengaged employees? how do you deal with them?  what more options do you have?

The ‘n’ most important Leadership Traits


We, at Flourish, believe in developing leaders for all stages and walks of life. Leadership, however, means many things to many people. While our leadership development workshops and executive coaching interventions are tailored to suit individual and organizational needs, it is important to articulate for our clients a clear vision of what we mean by leadership.

With that in mind, we have come up with a list of traits we consider are fundamental to the leadership practice – this is what we believe leaders should do and this is where we would focus our time and energy, while working with a leader to take her from good to great.

At the outset, let us clarify that we do believe that there is a difference in outcomes , expectations and traits expected of a great leader vis-a-vis a great manager. We have chosen to focus on leadership development for  the time being.

So, here are the traits we believe a good leader should cultivate (the list is in no particular order):

  1. The troop master: ability to engage, motivate and drive employees so that they are willing to do all that it takes to achieve the mission.
  2. The loving gardener:  ability to coach, mentor, groom and grow employees to help them flower into the best version of themselves.
  3. The knowledgeable guide: ability to formulate and communicate vision and road-map so as to move an organization from where it is to where it needs to be.
  4. The change catalyst: ability to execute on the vision, with the help of others, and managing change and uncertainty during the whole process.
  5. The cultural evangelist: ability to foster and role-model the culture of innovation, risk- taking and collaboration by being its most visible embodiment.
  6. The air traffic controller: ability to make fast, quick and tough decisions and the ability to juggle and prioritize amongst many competing priorities to keep all the balls in the air.
  7. The chess grandmaster:  ability to think strategically and be two steps ahead of the competition.
  8. The shrewd businessmen: ability to understand deeply the business and technologies involved with one eye always fixated on the bottom-line.
  9. The moon seller: ability to influence, persuade and get on-board different stakeholders even if its for a possibly one way trip to the moon.
  10. The casting director: ability to recruit and build a strong team, with complimentary and diverse skill-sets, and enabling exceptional teamwork and productivity by matching people and roles.
  11. The role-model: ability to inspire others as a result of having impeccable integrity and a strong work ethics.
  12. The pied-piper : ability to charm and woo large groups of people so as to leave them excited, enthused and energized.
  13. The courageous warrior: ability to take cudgels on the team’s behalf and fight uphill battles to ensure safety, security and well being of her people.
  14. The buffering shield: ability to stay calm and emotionally stable under immense pressure and the willingness and capability to not pass on that pressure downwards.
  15. The corner psychologist: ability to understand people in all their complexity – their emotions, their motivations and the lenses from which they filter their realities.
  16. The catcher in the rye: ability to take a backseat when needed and ready to support and pull back his team members when someone is not able to cope with the work/ life pressures and providing the necessary safety net. (this insight is courtesy my 8 year old who looking at the photo accompanying this post asked who the leader was: when I pointed to the one in front, he said but shouldn’t it be the one at the rear who can catch and prevent others from falling, if need be? )

Of course, like all lists, this is bound to be incomplete and subjectively biased.  The purpose of putting the list on our website is to be aware of that bias, by soliciting feedback and additional traits that you think should be on the list, and at the same time, be very transparent about which lenses do we see leadership through.

Your comments/ suggestions will be very valuable and help  us in refining our theories of leadership and tailoring our programs  to better suit our client’s needs.