Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

Leading In The Face Of Adversity And Sorrow

A national tragedy shines a light on a powerful leadership message on how we can do better going forward after enduring the worst.

Illustration created by my daughter Zafina in response to the terrorist attack on a Quebec City mosque.

As many of my long-time readers know, I publish new articles on leadership here on my blog every Tuesday. Now I had a piece written up that I was in the process of editing for publication this week, but a recent attack in my home province has lead me to shelve that piece so that I can share something a little more personal, and hopefully inspiring for how we can do better going forward.

This past Sunday night, news broke out that a native Quebecer – emboldened by the rise in right-wing, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim sentiments across North America and Europe – walked into a Quebec City mosque and began shooting at the men, women, and children praying inside, killing 6 people and wounding 19 others. It’s the worst act of terrorism to ever happen in my country.

Within a mere 24 hours, I went from feeling hopeful optimism at seeing people around the world rally together in solidarity against the bigotry, fear-mongering, and hate exemplified by Trump’s Muslim ban – to outright horror, anger, and sadness at how one of my fellow Quebecers could think it was acceptable to destroy the lives of innocent families simply because he has a problem with their faith.

As I write this, my emotions are still raw, my heart heavy and aching, and tears well up when I look at my daughters and imagine what kind of world will await them. Make no mistake, my province does have issues with racism, Islamophobia, and antisemitism. But I never imagined that this kind of hate would find expression in the form of a terrorist attack so close to home.

As I sat here trying to prepare my latest leadership piece for publication, I realized that I couldn’t simply act as though nothing happened because something did happen. Something that will now forever change who we are as Quebecers, and how we must go about seeing and understanding ourselves going forward.

Of course, whenever an event arises that shatters our perceptions of our community and country, there is an understandable need to try and make sense of it; to understand how such a horrific act of terrorism could happen where we live, and what good, if any, we can find in this darkness that’s fallen upon us.

And so, I wanted to address this tragedy from the point of leadership – of what do we do when faced with adversity and sorrow, not from failing to land a new client, but when tragedy strikes that affects those we lead at their very core.

To date, I’ve been genuinely impressed and touched by the actions of politicians at all levels here – from the mayor of Quebec City and our Quebec Premier, all the way to our Prime Minister and the leaders of our federal opposition parties. Each of them recognized the importance of not only expressing solidarity and inclusion in the face of terrorism and unbridled hatred towards Muslims, but of reaching out to the Muslim community to let them know you’re not alone and you’re one of us.

It’s a powerful message, not simply because it reasserts the values of Quebec and Canada – those of championing multiculturalism, a shared identity, and our collective and individual freedoms – but it also sends a much needed message to the Muslim community, a minority group that’s a regular victim of stigmatization and vilification. The message: you belong here and you matter.

The simplicity of this message reveals an important point that leaders everywhere need to recognize: Click here to continue reading »”Leading In The Face Of Adversity And Sorrow”

Is Your Leadership Based On Influence Or Authority?

A look at authority and influence in leadership and why one of these is more critical than the other to succeed at leadership in today's organizations.

With a complex endeavour such as leadership, it’s only natural that there be different schools of thought and perspectives on what would be the best way to lead your team and organization forward. Of course, while there might be different approaches to leadership, there are still a few binary aspects to how we approach the role of leader in today’s organizations.

One example is the choice between the command-and-control style of leadership and one that’s more collaborative and inclusive in how we rally people around a common cause or goal. While most of us have come to appreciate the limitations and inefficiencies that come with a top-down style of leadership, one binary approach to leadership that’s not so clear is the one where we choose either to rely on our authority or on our influence to guide our team or organization.

Now to be clear, leaders by default do operate with some form of authority, usually as a result of their position within their organization. Where problems arise is when we think that all a person needs to lead others is a sense of authority without any consideration for the impact our actions have on those we have the responsibility to lead.

To help illustrate what I mean by this, I’d like to share the example of two people I worked with during my clinical-work days at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal.

Irene was a member of the nurses team that the doctors and my fellow clinicians collaborated with in our work treating the various patients that came to our hospital-based clinic. Although this team of nurses didn’t have a head nurse, Irene liked to think of herself as being the head nurse and certainly liked to act like she had that weight to throw around in her interactions with both fellow staff and patients.

Now while there was no question that Irene was a competent and caring nurse, it was clear talking to her fellow nurses that if a head nurse job were to be created and Irene were to get it, the nurses would be lining up at the HR department with requests to transfer to another department.

The problem Irene had is that while she was certainly technically competent as a nurse, she had little to no influence in terms of people wanting to follow her advice and suggestions.

In fact, it was so bad that there were a few occasions where I saw Irene give some unsolicited advice about a particular case and her fellow nurses would outright ignore her. And if you asked the other nurses why they’d behave that way, they’d tell you about how they didn’t want to make Irene’s ego any bigger than it already was.

Now compare Irene’s example to Helen, another nurse who worked at this clinic. Helen was the nurse who everyone went to if they needed help with a particular problem or if you just needed a friendly ear to vent to about some difficult patient.

Helen was just as competent and caring a nurse as Irene, but the difference between these two professionals was that Helen made it all about the patient, while Irene was more interested in finding opportunities to showcase herself and her abilities.

While both nurses had the same level of authority in how they performed their jobs, time and time again when patients returned, it was Helen who received the most requests from patients to have her working on their case.

Now the reason why I wanted to use nurses who lack formal leadership titles to discuss this issue is in part because it’s a common adage that in today’s modern workplaces, anybody can be a leader; that we don’t need a title to wield influence within our team and organization.

But perhaps more importantly, Irene and Helen’s example also helps to illustrate a key finding from recent neuroscience studies that offer an important reality check for how effective we are in bringing out the best in those we lead.

Researchers have found that the relationship between Click here to continue reading »”Is Your Leadership Based On Influence Or Authority?”

Recognizing Our Power To Lead And Inspire Others

Understanding-power-to-lead-and-inspire

Over the course of this year, I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over North America speaking at conferences and with organizations about how we can do a better job being the kind of leader our employees need us to be.

As I travelled from the East Coast down to the South Coast, and just two weeks ago, to the West Coast when I spoke at an IT-education conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, I couldn’t help but notice a common line of inquiry being brought forward by some of the leaders in attendance.

While the exact circumstances and dynamics varied among these different leaders, there was nonetheless a common thread at the heart of each of these questions being asked – how do I get those in charge above me to be more like the leaders you demonstrated are necessary for an organization’s long-term growth and success?

Regardless of the focus of my talk or the industry in which these leaders serve, I always began my answer with the same starting point – the fundamental truth is that we can’t get people to do what we want or need, even if at times it’s in their best interests.

Consider, for example, those times when we’re given advice by our doctors for how we can improve our health. How many of us openly embrace the changes to our lifestyle that we’re being told to make? Most often we don’t, that is until our health deteriorates to the point where we no longer have the choice but to follow our doctor’s directives.

But what’s really interesting about this question is not how it surfaces in such diverse groups – from businesses to public institutions, from government agencies here in Canada to multinational organizations based in the US. Rather, what’s interesting is how in each of these situations, the leader standing before me is essentially giving up their power to be the change they need to see in their organization.

Of course, the almost immediate response most of us have to discussing power in the workplace is to view it within the lens of our organization’s structure; that the degree of power one has is relative to the position you hold within the organization.

While it’s understandable to view power from this perspective, the problem I have with this viewpoint is that it leads us to Click here to continue reading »”Recognizing Our Power To Lead And Inspire Others”

Understanding The Power Of Our Words

Understanding-power-of-leaders-words

If I were to ask you what you thought was the greatest invention in human history, what would be your reply? I imagine for some of you, your answer would be the personal computer and all the technological marvels that now make up our digital world. For others, I could imagine hearing the invention of the light bulb being our greatest invention.

The interesting thing about this question is that there’s no right answer and that, if anything, it reveals more about the respondent and their perception and relationship to the world around them. For myself, I would say our greatest invention is language and our use of words to communicate with one another.

Granted, this might seem like an obvious answer from someone who regularly writes and speaks about leadership. But what really sparked my thoughts on this has more to do with something I heard in a talk and what it reminds us about the critical nature words play in our ability to successfully lead those under our care.

The talk in question is one given by Mohammed Qahtani, a security engineer from Saudi Arabia, which won him the 2015 Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking. In his speech, “The Power of Words”, Qahtani shares a number of personal examples of how the words we use can have a dramatic impact on how others understand and view the relationships we have with them.

But what struck me the most about his talk was this comment he made about how our words can influence those around us:

“Words when said and articulated in the right way can change someone’s mind. They can alter someone’s belief. You have the power to bring someone from the slums of life and make a successful person out of them, or destroy someone’s happiness using only your words. … A simple choice of words can make the difference between someone accepting or denying your message.”

Listening to Qahtani’s words, I was reminded of two leaders and how their words served to shape how others viewed and responded to their leadership. The first leader was Click here to continue reading »”Understanding The Power Of Our Words”

| Comments Off on Understanding The Power Of Our Words | by |

Why Successful Leaders Focus On Giving Over Getting

Transforming-leadership-from-getting-to-giving

One of the wonderful benefits of our digital age is not only how we’re able to discover the talent and artistry of people we might have otherwise overlooked, but also how we’re now able to peek behind the curtain to learn what inspires them; to discover and understand what guides them to create these moments of engaging insights that linger in our mind’s eye.

It’s a concept I recently appreciated when I came upon this video by comedian Michael Jr. where he shares what he views as being the moment where he had his big break as a comedian. His description of the big break in his career is not only a heartwarming and revealing look into the art of stand-up comedy, but it also shines a light on an important lesson for today’s leaders to embrace.

Now granted, it may seem weird to pull a lesson on leadership from a comedian talking about laughter and comedy. But it becomes a bit clearer when we find out that Michael Jr.’s big break as a comedian wasn’t when he performed on The Tonight Show or at the internationally renowned Montreal Just For Laughs comedy festival.

Rather, as Michael Jr. describes in the quote below, his big break was something more internally-driven and personally significant:

“The big break was at a club and right before I got on stage, I had a change in mindset about comedy. Normally, when a comedian gets on stage, he wants to get laughs from people. I felt a little shift take place, where I felt like I was to go up there and give them an opportunity to laugh. Now I’m not looking to take. I’m looking for an opportunity to give.”

Now although this comedian is referring to the relationship he has with his audience and his shift in how he views that dynamic, there is nonetheless an important message to learn here regarding the dynamics we have as a leader with those under our care.

Specifically, it compels us to ponder the following: when we go into those meetings with our employees, when we have those conversations with those we lead, are we walking into that moment with the goal of getting something for us, or do we see it as an opportunity to give something of ourselves to those we lead?

As leaders, it’s easy to fall into the trap of Click here to continue reading »”Why Successful Leaders Focus On Giving Over Getting”

« Older Entries