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About Jacquie

Jacquie Molloy guides senior leaders to develop and display leadership authority (what she calls Authoritas); helps Boards to discover the power (and imperative) of exploring differences of opinion through Debate; and shares the practices for personal authority, high-performing teams and cultural excellence with individuals and organisations so they can be Visible in all the right ways.

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The Power Paradox

100 years before Lord Acton said that ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’, the British PM Pitt the Elder said more precisely: ‘Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it’. It turns out he was more right than he could have known.
In this month’s The Atlantic there is a fantastic piece on power and the brain: ‘Power Causes Brain Damage’.

In the article, Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, explains that in his studies over 20 years he has found that those under the influence of power ‘acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury—becoming more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view’.
Keltner has termed this the power paradox.

Once we have power, we lose some of the capacities we needed to gain it in the first place.

And Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at McMaster University, in Ontario, describes that when he put the heads of the powerful and the not-so-powerful under a transcranial-magnetic-stimulation machine, he found that power impairs a specific neural process, “mirroring,” that may be a cornerstone of empathy.
Empathy is what influences us to be kind.
Kindness and compassion are central elements of what I call Authoritas (along with gravitas and authority and credibility and presence).

Because leadership is so much more than power. It is something quite different – even though power and authority usually come with the territory.
Power, the research says, primes our brain to screen out peripheral information. In many situations, this allows us to become more efficient. At the start. What happens to us (and those around us) after that will depend on how isolated you have allowed yourself to become in that coveted role.
The problem is that leadership roles at the most senior levels are isolated.
So what will you do to ensure you remain grounded, to ensure you consciously explore your capacity for empathy and compassion, to ensure you demonstrate kindness?
Do you need a toe-holder perhaps?

“Toe holder,” is a term once used by the political adviser Louis Howe to describe his relationship with the four-term President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom Howe never stopped calling Franklin.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.


Your reputation

Reputation is often how you are first known to others. And its power is how it makes people respond to you — in other words, it can be seen as one of your tools of influence. 
Even if you aren't actively creating your reputation or legacy, it is going to happen anyway. Others will make it for you based on their interpretation of your actions and behaviours, particularly when under pressure or less-than-ideal circumstances.
One of the challenges for new CEOs, Chairs and Senior Execs is to stop and get very clear about what they stand for and how they will model this actively in their leadership style and their communications no matter what.

(I've lost count, and you probably have to, of how many senior leaders are called on to make an apology on behalf of themselves or their organisation and shot themselves in the foot while doing it. Can they reclaim their previous reputation? Yes, reputational rehab is possible, but it's a hard slog that starts with damage repair, and who wants to put their hand up for that?)


  • What do I stand for? What am I
    known for?
  • What is my communications style?
  • How do I demonstrate accountability?
  • How do I model the values that I/we say I/we stand for?
  • Do I make others wait for me?
    Am I responsive?


… and how does how you handle email affect your reputation? 
A Forbes article on this subject back in 2013 noted that one of the ways to ruin your professional reputation is to be unresponsive — especially to email:

'… many make the mistake of thinking that not responding to an email means they have said “no” or communicated that they’re unavailable. Instead, it makes others wonder if you received the message at all, if you’re waiting to make a decision or if you’re just avoiding them. It’s rude. Even if the answer isn’t what they want to hear, show the other person the respect of responding.'

(So, if you need to, get more help from your assistant to triage emails and manage others' expectations if you’d prefer to respond yourself. And while you are at it, make sure you have set expectations around acceptable email standards, including what you should - and should not - be cc'd on and the upfront inclusion of a clear 'required action' on all direct emails.)

Take a silent inventory right now of your habits and practices and behaviours over the last quarter and think about how they reflect on your reputation — within the team, throughout the organisation, in the industry, to the media.


4 tips to help you get that next role

So many individuals in my client community are undergoing a transition, preparing for succession or navigating a selection process. So this seemed a good time to share 4 tips that will help you keep an even keel during these times.
But first an overarching frame: remember that the opportunity to step up — and your success in making that transition — is not (or at least it shouldn’t be) a reward for past achievements and performance but an acknowledgement and appreciation of your potential.
So your task is to consider how to demonstrate and make visible your potential.

1. Approach each conversation as if it is the last

Keynote presenters and conference speakers know this tip: always be prepared to deliver in less time than what you think you have. Things happen and your 50 mins just got chopped down to 30. Don't lose your cool. Be sure to stay on message. You have to think the same when it comes to search and selection processes. You'd like to think there’s more ahead but if this conversation was your only shot, what would you want to make sure you included and what questions would you want to ask?

2. Be curious about the process (before it starts)

Remember that no-one is infallible and the credentials behind the chair, board or firm doesn’t always guarantee that the process will be as rigorous or transparent as you think it will be. Everyone is taking their orders from someone (or some belief). Ask about what will happen and how the process will roll before you begin – and ask clarifying questions. (And if you think that clarifying questions is the same as pestering or sounding ignorant, then you need to check out my short article on Managing Up.)

3. Be prepared to modulate your energy and positioning to be visible

You know how you can be surprised by an actor in a new role – you think you know their work but then in this new role the performance seems revelatory? Same actor, different role. Same actor, different performance. Well, just like the actor, you are always you – but your energy and how you show up can shift. I often use archetypes in my work to help clients understand the possibilities of how they can position themselves and what parts of themselves they can bring to the fore. We could also talk in terms of elements — for example: when can, or do, you show up with fire (power, illumination, flashes of brilliance, spark, strength) and when can, or do, you show up with water energy (flowing, consistent momentum, path of least resistance, ‘invisible’ force, find a way through no matter what)?

4. Be ready before it’s time

In my 1:1 work with senior execs I counsel them to devote some of their headspace to what they want to come next. It sounds counter-intuitive but this is not about ‘going missing’ or being disrespectful to their current role and organisation, but rather to fully understand and appreciate the significance of the time they have in their current role and what they want (and need) to achieve. At this level, it’s never too soon to be thinking legacy and personal fulfilment. As the Buddha said: the problem is that you think you have time.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
If you’d like to have a conversation about the rationale behind any of these points, including real-world examples of how to put them into action in your current situation and the kinds of practices that will support that, please get in touch.


Managing your transition to CEO

It’s pretty common when individuals get into a new role — especially the top job — to want to make a mark. Whether it is a conscious or subconscious impulse, it’s natural to want to be distinctive and well regarded.

If you’re conscious and think through your actions and you have high EQ (emotional intelligence) and a good sounding board to test and refine your ideas and approaches, we’re all good.

If it’s more a case of ‘I do it like this because that’s just the way I roll’ … there could be some issues.

Let’s take the new CEO.

Even those new CEOs who have been well prepared for the transition are still surprised by how easy it is to be caught off guard by the significance of the role, the chaos that naturally surrounds transition and why all of a sudden nothing seems to ‘fit the same’.

And that means you're temporarily off-balance: not the best state through which to exercise power and influence.

There’s a McKinsey Quarterly article from 1994 about CEO transitions that still stands as one of the best. The article is ‘Managing CEO Transitions’ by Tsun-Yan Hsieh and Stephen Bear.

None of what the authors share is earth-shattering. Common sense rarely is.

Here’s one passage in particular that bears repeating:

"Recognizing the uncertainties created by the fact of transition at the top, many CEOs feel compelled to move quickly to clarify and address the expectations people have of them. At times like these, however, they need to be aware of two kinds of problems that can haunt the rest of their tenure, if not damage their legacy altogether.

The first has to do with the indiscriminate upholding of expectations. In the perfectly understandable interest of assuaging fears and removing uncertainty, some new CEOs treat all existing expectations as obligations and vow to uphold them across the board. In so doing, however, they squander a unique opportunity to reset expectations at a point when employee anticipation of—and likely acceptance of—change is highest. This, of course, locks in the status quo.

The second problem, which often follows the first, is unkept promises. CEOs in transition often feel compelled to make early promises on which they ultimately cannot deliver. Why? They bow to the sentiment of the people around them at the time. Wanting to be liked and accepted, they let good intentions cloud their business judgment."

It's no longer listed on the McK Quarterly site, but it is possible to preview the article here. (You'll need to subscribe to Questia to access the full article.)


The art of managing up

One of the messages you’ll often hear me share is “If it’s your job to answer the question, then it’s your job to facilitate a conversation with the person asking you to do the work so that you both explicitly understand and agree intention and scope and then you can manage expectations accordingly”.
Last week I again shared this message in one of the exec group coaching sessions I facilitate every month for a client. We talked about why this practice is so important (and it's not just the obvious reason) — and I modelled some language and approaches to make that short conversation a powerfully valuable exercise for the more senior person as well so that you (or they) don't feel like you’re wasting their time, stating the obvious or over-stepping.

Creating value — while getting the information you need and managing expectations — is a critical part of managing up.  

Everyone has to manage up, and facilitating conversations that create clarity and insight are critical for both immediate success and long-term reputation.

You want individuals on your team who understand their role in illuminating the current tasks, processes, meetings, decisions so that it’s clear how those tasks relate to previous direction, other work under way and what might come next.
(And I share the practices that support this as often with experienced CEOs and Board Directors as I do with new senior execs).
If you believe that managing up well is critical to how effectively you and your team performs, would you be prepared to consider how to improve and hone your team’s skills in this area?
One of the ways I work with clients is to establish monthly ‘active coaching conversations’ with the senior teams to hone, and apply, the necessary targeted comms skills that support managing up (and across). 

These are the skills and approaches that allow you to achieve your priorities with less setbacks, missteps and tangential excursions — however minor — than you might be experiencing right now (and that you might even be calling ‘business as usual’).
Just like great swimmers continually work on adjustments to their stroke technique to maximise efficiency in the water and gain power and speed, we too should always be looking at ways to make those career-enhancing 2-3% shifts to how we work and create more value.
What do you think?

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