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The imperatives of leaders, leadership and leading

By Bob Bailly

“Men make history, and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”

Harry S Truman, 33rd president of United States (1884 – 1972)

Over the last several months Canadians have watched the eldest son of Pierre Trudeau move from the fringes of the Liberal Party to become its newly elected leader. After he garnered 80 per cent of the first ballot votes at the party convention last weekend, Justin Trudeau has finally been able to overcome the disdain of his opponents and the media. But as journalist Michael Den Tandt observes, “the latter will not last – unless Trudeau proves to be as effective a leader as he is a campaigner.”

But what constitutes an effective leader?

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Oracles, shamans and storytellers

By Bob Bailly

Artists, poets, writers, revolutionaries, magicians, explorers, musicians and creative innovators of all kinds are among us today. Their muses, oracles and inspiration are available to us all if we want to understand their secrets.

And one of those secrets is that they are all great storytellers.

Why are stories so powerful for humans? Why are the best orators also great storytellers? What can we learn from our desire to tell, listen and interpret stories that can be applied to what we do in our business lives?

To the best of our knowledge, humans are the only animals that have the ability to remember the past beyond their own lifetimes. This feature likely arose and continued as an essential aspect of human evolution for two reasons: the advent of language, and the need and requirement to seek a narrative for the events and interactions that shape our lives.

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Your cheating brain

By Bob Bailly

Mistakes were made, but not by me, a book by Carol Tarvis and Elliot Aronson, explores the very human tendency to deflect blame, to admit error begrudgingly and to avoid responsibility. They explore the notion that too often we hear the self-justifying, “There was nothing else I could have done.” Consider the American presidents who in the face of overwhelming evidence to the opposite have proclaimed, “I did not have sex with that women” or “I am not a crook.”

Why do we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions and hurtful acts? How is it that as individuals we have so much difficulty admitting error and responsibility? And why are we always looking to convince ourselves that we did the best thing?

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Tribal marketing for ‘Generation Me’

By Bob Bailly

Prior to leaving on a holiday to Europe at the beginning of May, I was preparing an article on how tribal behaviour has been shaped by our expanded use of technology. Scotland, southern Spain and London didn’t change my topic, but the way I look at it was certainly altered.

A number of years ago I was researching this subject and came across a threaded blog entitled Tribe.

What had got me going then was this part of the post:

…Basically what tribal life is about is kinship. A tribal society is a society that functions by kinship — which is not limited to blood kinship, because all beings in the universe are kin, just as all societies conceive of the universe based on their own social structure (example: medieval Europeans, who lived under kings, saw the universe as ruled by a Divine King; modern society, which functions like a machine in which people are more or less interchangeable parts, sees the universe as a machine, etc.) indigenous tribal people, who live in an extended family … see the universe as an extended family as well, in which everyone is obligated to take care of everybody else. The closer the kinship, the greater the obligation.

I was intrigued because so much of my research into human business behaviour at the time had been concerned with evolutionary neuroscience and the concept of how decisions are controlled by our primitive brain’s self-interest. What’s always intrigued me is why and how the me, or the ego, or the mind controls the brain to look beyond itself and to become tuned to the group, the pack or the tribes to which it belongs. My questions: Why should we feel obligation to our tribe? What is it in our belonging that is central to how we operate as individuals? And finally, are new technologies changing our tribal behaviours?

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My day at FounderFuel

By Francis Moran.

FounderFuel participants enjoy a pizza lunch

When I first learned of FounderFuel, the Montreal-based accelerator program developed by the folks at Real Ventures, I asked if I could be part of their mentor program. I was pretty up front about what I was looking for; we had been writing a fair bit about accelerators and I wanted the chance to see the process from the inside even if, like sausages, you should never look too closely at how some things are made. Because Real Ventures focuses its investments on companies in web, mobile and digital media, none of which are really my sandbox, I didn’t think I’d be the most useful mentor they recruited so I was pretty chuffed when they let me in with the first cohort and delighted that they asked me back for the second. The truth is, many of the companies in the first and, now, especially the second cohort are working in areas where my experience has some relevance and I’ve enjoyed the work with these teams of young entrepreneurs.

I stepped up that contribution a bit yesterday when I put on a class looking at the basics involved in developing a marketing strategy. It was the shallowest of dives into the planning process as I tried to skim over in an hour what it usually takes me several weeks of work to bring a client through. Still, attendance at the session was pretty good, the questions were excellent, and it was only the necessity of catching my train home that obliged me to put a halt to the one-on-one consultations I had with several of the teams that could have gone on for some time.

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