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The New Leadership Playbook – Being Human Whilst Successfully Delivering Accelerated Results:
Interview with Andrew Bryant
Do we need a New Leadership Playbook, hasn’t it all been said before?
1. You can’t lead others unless you first lead yourself (self-leadership is the first principle)
2. To get results you need a leadership framework ( expectations X mindset and motivation X Right Behaviors
3. Leadership is a series of conversations with people (These conversations are like ‘plays’ in sport)
4. We need to master synchronous and asynchronous leadership in a digital world
5. Kids understand the power of ownership (responsibility), so there’s no excuse
A global expert and author on self-leadership and leadership, Andrew Bryant has just published his fourth book. ‘New Leadership Playbook – Being Human Whilst Successfully Delivering Accelerated Results. This is a book for managers and leaders to lead in the times effectively, we now live in.
For nearly 25 years Andrew has been crafting & delivering valuable & memorable experiences for diverse audiences. From Singapore to Silicon Valley, he has inspired, informed & ignited audiences to take ownership & responsibility – to be more creative & collaborative – to be more human in a digitally disruptive world.
Andrew is the founder of Self Leadership International, a C-Suite Advisor, and a coach to Executive Leadership Teams. He is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), TEDx Speaker, Former President of Asia Professional Speakers Singapore, and current President of PSA Spain.
For all this, Andrew is most proud of the work he has done building self-esteem and confidence for disadvantaged teenagers.
Andrew now lives in Portugal, but he is British by Birth, Australian by Passport, and Brazilian by Wife!
For more information about Andrew Bryant, go to https://www.selfleadership.com
Read the Interview Transcript
Hugh Ballou: Every Tuesday at this time, for eight years, we have been talking to leaders of experience with gems, who have some really precious stuff we need. I just turned 76, Andrew, and I am learning more now than I learned in the first 75 years of my life because I’m willing to learn.
I’m going to let him introduce the topic because it’s behind him on the book. Andrew Bryant is coming into us today from Portugal. Andrew, tell people a little bit about yourself and why you’re doing this work that you’re doing.
Andrew Bryant: I’m coming to you from Portugal, but I’m not Portuguese. I’m British by birth; I’m Australian by passport; I’m managing director of a Singapore company; and I’m Brazilian by wife. I am a global citizen. I spend quite a bit of time on your side of the pond, as we would say in England. I’m a regular visitor to the United States. I have many clients around America, but mostly in Silicon Valley. I am a C-suite advisor, author, speaker, and coach on the topics of self-leadership and leadership. That’s me.
Hugh: Talk about The New Leadership Playbook, which is in your background. That’s your latest book; you have others. You didn’t start out doing leadership, did you?
Andrew: No. As I said, I’m English by birth. I went to an English grammar school, an all-boys’ school. Just before my A-levels, the exams before university, the school in its wisdom decided to merge my boys’ grammar school with the girls’ high school. I will leave it to your listeners to imagine how and why I became distracted, but I didn’t get the grades that I should have done to do medicine, which is what my purpose was at that time. I thought I would look really cool in a mask. Little did I know that the last two years, I’d be wearing one nonstop. But I didn’t make it into medicine. I got good enough grades to get into physiotherapy, which you would perhaps call physical therapy or chiropractics. I did a mixture of those two things. That was my first career for a few years.
Like many male physiotherapists, I discovered I was sick of sick people and had much more fun working in the arena of sports. This is the early 1980s. If you go back to that time, I know you’re young enough to go back that far, the early ‘80s was before positive psychology, and even before sports psychology. We were curious, and that’s an important point for everybody here. We were curious about human performance. Why do two athletes who do the same amount of training perform differently on the day? Of course, this is mindset, mental attitude, focus, goal setting. All of those things were brand new in the ‘80s. I was there at the cutting edge.
I did the pivot from physiotherapy into working in what you’d now call sports psychology. Then I moved from England to Australia because I wanted to surf and windsurf for my own gratification. I got successful with some sports teams in Australia. Sport in Australia is sponsored by corporate, very much like in the U.S. I came to the attention of a managing director, and he said, “Well, you helped my sports team improve. Now come work with my leadership team because they suck.” That’s how they speak in Australia, of course.
I went in and did what I did as a physiotherapist with an athlete or a team: observe. One of the things that my granny taught me was to watch. In medicine, when I trained, prescription without diagnosis is malpractice. I went in with an open mind, unlike some consulting companies who go in, looking for an excuse to give you their methodology. I went in with a tabula rasa, a blank sheet of paper. I got results by doing that, observing how leaders, managers spoke, behaved, acted. What was working and what wasn’t.
Hugh: That’s brilliant. Just for the framing, to quote my colleague, who is also a leadership development person, Jeff Magee, he says, “Suck is halfway to success. You don’t get all the way.”
Andrew, I spent part of my career, 40 years, as a musical conductor. I had the pleasure of premiering Vaughan Williams’ Hodie in Ukraine in the late ‘90s. Vaughan Williams was known to have said, “Music did not reveal all of its secrets to just one person.” You change that word “music” to “leadership.” You bring to the table some very specific things about leadership. I would guess that there are some things that are missing. I perceive, and from my experience, I know, that leadership is a very misunderstood word and concept. What do you bring to the table? Why do we need this new philosophy that you have?
Andrew: I often get asked, “What’s your methodology? What’s your pedagogy/andragogy?” I’d love to backtrack to the conducting because I think being a conductor is a great metaphor for leadership. Let’s circle back to that.
Let me carry on the story a little bit. I helped this managing director and his leadership team, but I experienced some impostor syndrome, as we often do. I didn’t have a leadership qualification. At that time, I had qualifications in physiotherapy. I had a post-graduate in traditional Chinese medicine by this time and some training in psychology, but I didn’t have a leadership qualification. What do you do? You go off and do an MBA, so I did that at The University of Western Australia.
We’re doing the leadership unit, and I’m arguing with the lecturer. I’m going, “This doesn’t work in real life. It’s not practical; it’s theoretical.” He was a great guy. I tip my hat off to him because he wasn’t in any way insulted. He said, “Andrew, you have some great ideas. You should go do your own research and write your own book.”
The rest is history because I did take those observations and do my literature research. What are the leadership theories I thought were pragmatic? Being a physiotherapist, it was always about what is going to work on the field? What is going to work in the workplace? That has always been my driver, my passion, my modus operandi: waking people up to do things that work. I’m not fussed about theoretical stuff. It’s why I didn’t do a Ph. D. I can read research. I have lots of friends who have Ph. Ds. I am a practitioner. What can I give people to play better today?
Hugh: It starts with us. In studying the works of Murray Bowen, who has a leadership process and is a psychiatrist, based on managing self. Burns and Bass talk about transformational leadership. I studied with the best conductors in the world, including Sir David Wilcox from England, when he was living. The culture is a reflection of us. If we are not disciplined, wow, what a difference that makes. Start with self-leadership. Why did you focus on that? Why is that so critical for leadership?
Andrew: Back in the ‘90s, when I first started doing this, I went to a speakers’ meeting. You have them in the U.S. It’s called the National Speakers Association started by a guy called Cavett Robin. I have been to their conventions with 2,000 speakers. No listeners, but 2,000 speakers. Sorry, that’s a speaker joke there.
I went to this meeting in Australia, and I was talking to a psychologist. He asked what I speak about. I said, “It’s about developing self-awareness, so you can better be aware of others, so you can better influence them.” He said, “You mean self-leadership?” I said, “Yeah, that’s it.” At that point, I thought we had invented the term. This was around 1998/1999.
I started talking about self-leadership, writing about it. You can’t lead others unless you first lead yourself, is the concept. The idea of the aircraft, when the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling, place over your nose and mouth before assisting others. The thing I noticed when I started observing leaders and teams is the correlation between self-awareness and other awareness. If people don’t know what is driving, motivating, reacting them, they are terrible at reading anybody else. That’s why I started with the self-leadership piece.
As I started writing blogs and articles, I was contacted by Dr. Anna Kazan. She is from Brazil, as is my wife. Anna and I have never to this date met. We wrote a book back in 2011 using Skype. This is the first remote work for me. Anna had done her research in self-management. We wrote the book Self-Leadership: How to Become a More Successful, Efficient, and Effective Leader from the Inside Out based on looking for that universal theory of self-leadership.
As I did the research, I discovered we had not invented the term. The term was first used by a guy called Charles C. Manz in 1987. I referenced him in the book. The concept of self-leadership goes all the way back to Plato or Epictetus or Lao Tzu. Leading others is strength, but leading self is true power.
Hugh: It’s where you have to live. Let’s go back to the analogy. Here is me in front of an orchestra. I want to go back to what you said about influence. You have union musicians. People think you’re a dictator. You have a little white stick; these are union players, and they will play for two hours and leave. You can influence them; you can’t make them do anything. How does that fit into your analogy about the conductor?
Andrew: You’re going to love this. I speak and facilitate, but I do a lot of coaching. I work with an American who works in one of your very large food franchises that everybody would know that I can’t mention for privacy’s sake. He works across the organization. He was struggling to get the executive presence and influence at the C-suite. He was one level below the C-suite. He was touching every part of the organization.
I asked, “What’s your narrative about what you do?” He said, “We are the connective tissue. We hold everything together.” I said, “No wonder you’re not getting the influence you want because your metaphor sucks.” It precedes success. Doing physiotherapy, I did anatomy. I have dissected a body. Connective tissue is horrible. It’s fibrous and not sexy. The heart is sexy. Even the liver has some chutzpah. Connective tissue is meh. “You have to change your metaphor. What is it that you do?” We played with a few metaphors, and nothing worked. I told him to come back next time and tell me what it is.
He came back and said, “I’m the conductor. All these parts of the organization work and think that they are doing it themselves. But my job is to work across the organization and get them to work in harmony. If I don’t, the food doesn’t get delivered to the restaurants. The quality control doesn’t happen. The IT doesn’t do what it needs to do. Therefore, accounting can’t do what it needs to do. I’m a conductor.”
He changed his narrative. He changed this metaphor. His self-leadership changed. The CEO, the next week, invited him to run the meeting that all the board and leaders were at together. He went from obscurity to leadership by changing his inner narrative.
Hugh: Oh my word, that’s a powerful story. We are at SynerVision. We get the synergy through the common vision as leaders. Your first round of conversation was around you can’t lead others until you first lead yourself. Let’s move to to get results, you need a leadership framework. Is that the next place we need to go with this?
Andrew: Thank you for the segue. This book, The New Leadership Playbook, my fourth, came about because I was working with a team in Silicon Valley, the CEO, the executive leadership team. The Chief People Officer came to me and said, “Look, can you write a book for our managers, so we can scale the leadership throughout the organization? It needs to be really practical. It needs to be management stuff, less the strategic leadership stuff.”
I said, “I’ve taught that stuff in the past. Let me look through my material and see what I can put together for you.” I thought I wanted to put it together in a framework, in a model. In every diagnosis I ever did with a leadership team or leader, I looked at expectations. Had the leader set clear expectations? I would tell every leader, whether it’s commercial or nonprofit, that if you’re not getting results, go look in the mirror. You probably didn’t set the expectations clearly enough in the first place.
Hugh: Preach it! Go forth.
Andrew: Am I preaching? The point is we have this vision in our head, but our ability to articulate it and get the feedback, whether they understood it. How many leaders have gone in front of a team, given some directions, and said, “Do you understand?” I ask leaders when they do this, “Do they understand?” They say, “No, they don’t.” I say, “Actually, they do. They understand what they understand. They don’t necessarily understand what you want them to understand.” You have to create a feedback loop around this. That’s step one. The first part of formula is clear expectations x what?
Mindset and motivation. If people don’t have the buy-in, and they don’t have an intrinsic motivation to do the work, you will get very sub-standard results. Simon Sinek did this beautifully with his TED Talk. You have to start with why. Why is this important to me? That’s the small why. Why is it important to the organization? That’s the big why. I know why I’m doing it. So many leaders fail to articulate, “I need to do this because…” What comes after, small I, big I. Here’s what’s important to you. It will give you exposure, visibility, new skills. Here’s why it’s important to the organization. It will help us reach more people, transform more lives. That’s part two.
Clear expectations x mindset and motivation x right behaviors. This is where the pedal hits the medal. So many leaders talk about what you need to do, but they can’t actually observe or communicate the actual behaviors required. This requires that observation skill that thankfully as a physiotherapist has been drilled into me. What behaviors is the individual doing?
In this book, there are 12 plays, which I would call a conversation, one of which is the feedback conversation. Most leaders fail abysmally to give effective feedback because they cannot say, “Look, Simon, in the last meeting that we had two days ago, you raised your voice at your colleague, and you cut them off mid-sentence.” You get a visual of that. You can hear the person raising their voice, and you can imagine them cutting off mid-sentence. It’s a specific behavioral observation.
Most people go, “Oh, Simon, you need to behave better in meetings.” How is Simon going to process that? The brain doesn’t know what to do with that. If you say, “Hey, Simon, in the last meeting, you raised your voice, and you cut off Sarah mid-conversation. What do you think the impact is on Sarah’s motivation and output?” Oh! Now, you’re putting somebody in the driver’s seat. They have to take ownership for their own behaviors. And you put them at choice point to adjust their behaviors toward results.
The framework is clear expectations x mindset and motivation x right behavior = accelerated results.
Hugh: Yes! That’s what we teach in SynerVision. You’re amplifying it in a profound way. I’m surprised, Andrew, at how few leaders- I work with leaders in Corporate America, nonprofits, and clergy, which is a more difficult place to do all of this. I’m surprised at how many even powerful leaders are timid about saying, “This is what I want.” Having the skill to identify what it looks like. We set up conflict by setting up problems by not having clear expectations. That was so important. That’s a key piece of leadership. It’s also a key piece of not causing conflict ourselves.
Andrew: Absolutely. I didn’t think the world needed another leadership book from me. 2,000 leadership books get published every year, at least. I really didn’t want to add to the noise. When I was set the challenge to make this very pragmatic and practical- Things that you and I would take for granted need to be done. Yet at the same time, I’m not perfect, and I doubt you are either. You said you’re 76; I’m 61. I’m version 6.0. I’ve definitely had some upgrades in my listening skills, empathy. I’ve tripped over my shoelaces enough times to know I’m a work in progress.
Nonprofit or leading volunteers is the tougher work. I’ve been president of the Asia Professional Speakers Association. Being a leader of a volunteer organization is a nightmare. Speakers are like herding cats on cocaine, I imagine. These are super-egotistical individuals who all think they all have a voice. I learned some significant lessons. I’ve written books on leadership.
When I led this organization, lots of conflict around people’s agendas, and having to be very clear on what I wanted. Now having moved to Portugal, I have been invited to be the president of the Spain Professional Speakers Association. I don’t even live in Spain, and they asked me to be their leader. It is so much easier this time around because I’d learned the lessons.
I put a team together, a team I’ve never met. I found everybody. I said, “What do you do best? What are you passionate about? What’s your skillset? I’d love to tap in on that. What do you need from me? What would I give you to make it worthwhile working as part of my executive leadership team?” “I want some coaching or mentoring around this.” I said, “I’ll give that to you. You give me some blood, sweat, and tears around the area that you’re great at.” It’s going exponentially well because I did those two things.
Hugh: Andrew lives in Portugal but works in America. This is an international podcast. You can talk to Andrew, and he can come wherever you are.
Andrew, you mentioned the books. I want to show your website, SelfLeadership.com. Here are three books on the homepage. What will they find when they go to your website? There is a Contact button. What else?
Andrew: Just underneath, you will see the definition of self-leadership I put up there with Dr. Anna Kazan. Self-leadership is a practice of intentionally influencing your thinking, feelings, and actions toward your objectives. I think you might want to pick up on that word “intentionality.” You and I are very synergous around that.
You’ll see a whole bunch of stuff around self-leadership that you can apply to yourself, or you can go through The New Leadership Playbook. Once you can lead yourself and are developing your self-leadership, you need the plays to scale or maximize your leadership. Most of the people who have bought the book and have given me feedback said, “I read it, and I bought a copy for all the managers on my team,” which is great. I don’t make a fortune off the book. This is not why I do it. My passion and purpose is to wake people up to be the best version of themselves. This creates a framework to do that.
If I get the call to jump on the plane, I have been to America once this year. In a typical year, I would be in the States three or four times in a year. Air travel is returning to normal thankfully. Luggage is not, but that’s another story.
Hugh: I want to talk about conversations in leadership. This red book here, Self-Leadership, that is a benchmark, isn’t it?
Andrew: It is. It’s the book that contains the definition of self-leadership. It’s used in some MBA programs. It’s referenced by most people who are doing research in the field of self-leadership.
The blue book behind it is a much shorter version, suitable for teenagers. My marketing team said, “We love the red book. It’s really difficult to read.” I went, “Excuse me?” They said, “It’s academic. It’s researched. Can we have a how to do it book?” So I wrote the blue book. You can get a version of that off the website with some coaching from me for a few dollars.
Now, my flagship book, The New Leadership Playbook: Being Human While Successfully Delivering Accelerated Results. That’s what I’m all about.
Hugh: Love it. We need good leadership books. There are a lot of other things out there. You say leadership is a series of conversations with people, like sports plays. How does that play out?
Andrew: It is. What do they say? You’re as good as your last record, if you’re a musician. Leaders are as good as their last conversation. You inspire, inform, instruct, direct people, and do that one to one or one to many. Leaders have to be really good at conversations. Conversation is dialogue. Communication comes from communion, meaning to share, shared meaning and understanding.
A lot of this book was written during the pandemic and addressing some of those digital issues. Post-pandemic, still, only 8% of leaders are engaging in dialogue with their followers on their internal social media platforms, their Yammer or Teams. Leaders get really good at broadcasting, but they don’t get good at asking questions and listening to the response and dialoguing. They get very good at saying, “Oh, this is what we’ve done.” They are not good at saying, “These are the challenges I’m facing. These are the meetings I’m having and the input I’m getting,” so people are current with what the leader is doing. What dragons is the leader fighting? People want to know. Otherwise, they think you’ve got your feet on your desk in the corner office drinking expensive scotch.
Dialogue with your people. only 8% of leaders are actually showing that vulnerability and saying, “These are the problems we currently have and are working on solving.” We don’t have the solution yet, but we are working on it.
Hugh: I want to point out he is not bashing sipping good scotch.
Andrew: Hell no. The reference had to come from somewhere, didn’t it?
Hugh: It did. Having a Scottish heritage, I’m fond of it. You used the word “synchronous” about us. We need to master synchronous and asynchronous leadership in the digital world. What is that about?
Andrew: You and I, we’re on the same time right now. You’re speaking, and I’m listening. I’m speaking, and you’re listening and responding. For instance, I just set out for my team a whole bunch of requests and instructions and ideas using Slack or WhatsApp. In this particular case, I used WhatsApp. They will get that message when they get that message, and they will work on it. They will get back to me, and I will respond to that.
We have had to get used to not being in real time. That’s a huge advantage for many workers, particularly if you are raising kids. You can be awake and work with kids during the day and catch up with your work in the evening. That’s what work from home demonstrated was possible. People were highly motivated and engaged because they had a higher level of autonomy. Many organizations are saying, “Engagement is down. The reason engagement is down because people aren’t in the workplace. Let’s get them back to the office, and engagement will go up.” It doesn’t. You force people back to the office, and many of them leave because they’ve had a taste of autonomy. Once people have had a taste of autonomy, you can’t take it away from them.
Getting good at not just broadcasting but dialoguing, and doing it in different time zones. Anybody who has outsourced to a team in the Philippines or India or Estonia, you have to get good at asynchronous communication. You’re putting something out there, and you have to listen and respond as it comes back. That’s a new skill for many managers.
Hugh: You didn’t talk about this, but you’ve revealed what I define as blind spots. There are lots of them that we all have. I teach people that we need a coach. I have two. One of my leadership coaches is in her mid-80s. She busts my chop every time we talk. She asks me questions that get me. Leaders ask questions that help the leaders they are working with raise the bar on their understanding and ownership.
You’ve said that kids are born with this sense of ownership and responsibility. Somehow, we beat it out of them as adults, so they go away from that. There is no excuse because we are born with that. We are not born necessarily with leadership skills. People need somebody like us to help grow those and be relevant with what they’re doing.
Andrew, I’m talking too much here. You have given us a wealth of information. People can find you at SelfLeadership.com. They can get your books, and there are videos on there. If you haven’t noticed, people, this man has a fire in his spirit about what he does. If you’re having a bad day, just book Andrew, and he will get you on track.
Andrew, this has been a very powerful interview for me. I do this for a living. You have been very inspiring to me. What do you want to leave people with today, a challenge or thought?
Andrew: We ended with children. I do some volunteer work with at-risk and disadvantaged teenagers, teaching them self-esteem and self-confidence and communication skills.
I have children of my own. During the pandemic, I was separated from my teenage daughter. To stay connected, we played Minecraft together, the online building game. I was new, so I was useless at it. You have to meet people where they’re at. That’s where my daughter was at. She loved this game. We would play and chat. I said to her, “Look, I need this armor enchanted. Can you do it for me?” She said, “Yes, I could, but then you wouldn’t learn anything.” I went, “OMG,” she was 15 at the time. “My 15-year-old daughter just self-leadershiped me.” I went, “If she can get it, what is the excuse that anybody else has around taking personal responsibility and setting out accountability?”
My challenge to you is stop blaming, complaining, and playing the victim. Take ownership. Accept the reality. Whatever your situation is, adjust your behaviors, and advance toward the success you seek.
Hugh: You just heard great wisdom from Andrew Bryant. Thank you for being our guest today.
Andrew: Absolutely my pleasure, Hugh. Thanks for having me.