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JULY 2016




Keynote address by Leonie van Tonder, COO of Afrika Tikkun, to the recent Legitimate Leadership breakfast on this topic.

Of all the tasks a leader must practise, choosing staff at any level is one of the most challenging – and so very often disappointing, Leonie said.

Building and maintaining trust is sacrosanct, she said, quoting Wendy Lambourne of Legitimate Leadership: “Trust is the currency by which you buy Legitimate Leadership.”

Firstly, Leonie said, “Listen to the language people talk! Measure the answers/statements the person gives against the fundamental shift required for a person to move from taking to giving: Legitimacy, Trust, Contribution and Accountability.”

“As Legitimate Leadership proponents we say:

“The collective leadership of the organisation MUST BE seen to be legitimate and have the support of the majority of employees to being led by them.

“At an organisational level we help effect a change in what are means and ends. We enable those in leadership positions to serve their people, who in turn serve their customers.

“At a team level we cultivate team members who are prepared to subordinate their own interests for the bigger interests of the team and who deliberately set up their colleagues to succeed.

“At the individual level, we foster people whose focus is on what they can give or contribute. We grow a company whose people are concerned with what they owe others and whose behaviour is primarily values- rather than needs-driven; who do what is right rather than what is expedient.”





Roger Dixon, former chairman of SRK Consulting Africa (mining consultants), and Peter Backwell, CEO of executive director of HL Hall and Sons Holdings of South Africa (diversified group).



From left, Wendy Lambourne, director of Legitimate Leadership, and the speakers: Leonie van Tonder, COO of Afrika Tikkun; Clifford Zungu, director of Ihlabathi Talent & Business Solutions; and Peter Jordan, associate of Legitimate Leadership.



Discussion about soliciting the intent to contribute.





Young modern African American college student studying with the help of a laptopYoung modern African American college student studying with the help of a laptop

By Teigue Payne, Legitimate Leadership with comment by Nothemba Mxenge at the end

As a team leader, X attended a one-day Legitimate Leadership course called Grow to Care, arranged by his employer, in May 2015. For him, one of the most striking aspects of the course was its setting out of leadership and the concept of “giving” – and particularly a section of it in which the participant fills in activities done and scores himself/herself as a “giver” or “taker”.

But X defines the course (for himself) as being about “finding yourself as a leader – but you have to find yourself as a person first … This brought introspection for me to find myself and define myself.”

The course was facilitated by Nothemba Mxenge, a Legitimate Leadership associate.

One of X’s takeaways from the course was “you gain more by giving”. His score however indicated that he was not a giver.





By Wendy Lambourne, Director, Legitimate Leadership.

Obviously Legitimate Leadership is a strong advocate of the leadership of any organisation developing a set of values which provide everyone in the organisation with clarity about what is important and valued, both within the organisation and in the organisation’s dealings with external stakeholders. This is because Legitimate Leadership is definitively an ethical framework which argues for values- rather than needs-driven behaviour by all those at work, but particularly by those in leadership roles.

What is concerning, if not mystifying, however, is the tendency that I see in managers in organisations to seek to inculcate the company’s values by means of a training or educational process. This is weird simply because values are not an ABILITY issue, but rather a matter of the WILL. That being so, no matter how well designed or delivered, a training intervention will do little if anything to align employee behaviour with company values.






By Shawn Achor, CEO of Good Think Inc, where he researches and teaches about positive psychology.

COMMENTARY ON THIS VIDEO BY WENDY LAMBOURNE, DIRECTOR, LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP: Shawn Achor argues that being positive, optimistic, grateful and kind or generous is what leads to happiness and success. Moreover that whether you are these things or the opposite (negative, pessimistic, ungrateful and mean) is a matter of choice. This is wholly consistent with Legitimate Leadership’s view. We argue firstly that we only have control over how we respond to what happens to us, not to what happens to us per se. Our response can be to act with generosity and courage or to evidence cowardice and greed. We can choose to look at the past/present with gratitude or resentment. Equally, we can view the future with trust or distrust, optimism or despair. We believe, like Shawn Achor, that both the internal and external responses we CHOOSE determine our success as individuals, as teams and as organisations.

OUR SUMMARY OF THIS VIDEO: When I was seven years old and my sister was five, we were playing war on a bunk bed. On one side of the bunk bed, I had put all of my GI Joe soldiers and weaponry; on the other side were all my sister’s My Little Ponies ready for a cavalry charge.

There are differing accounts of what actually happened that afternoon, but the true story is that my sister’s a little on the clumsy side. Somehow, without any help or push from me, Amy disappeared off the top of the bunk bed and landed with a crash on the floor. I nervously peered over the side of the bed and saw that she had landed painfully on her hands and knees on the ground.

I was nervous because my parents had charged me with ensuring that we played safely and quietly. And I had accidentally broken Amy’s arm just one week before, heroically pushing her out of the way of an oncoming imaginary sniper bullet.

So I was trying hard to be on my best behavior.

I saw a wail of pain, suffering and surprise threatening to erupt from my sister – and wake my parents. So I did the only thing I could think of. I said, “Amy, wait. Don’t cry. Did you see how you landed? No human lands on all fours like that. Amy, I think this means you’re a unicorn.”

Now that was cheating, because there was nothing she would want more than not to be a unicorn. And you could see how my poor, manipulated sister’s little brain attempted to devote resources to feeling the pain and suffering and surprise versus contemplating her new-found identity as a unicorn. And the latter won.

Instead of crying or ceasing our play, a smile spread across her face and she scrambled back up onto the bunk bed with all the grace of a baby unicorn with one broken leg.

What we had stumbled across – we had no idea at the time – would, two decades later, be at the vanguard of a scientific revolution in the way that we look at the human brain: positive psychology.

(ACHOR SHOWS A GRAPH WITH AN OUTLIER POINT WELL ABOVE THE MAIN TREND.) There is one weird red dot above the curve. That’s no problem because I can just delete that dot because clearly it is a measurement error. We know it is a measurement error because it’s messing up my data.

One of the first things we teach in economics, statistics, business and psychology courses is how, in a statistically valid way, we eliminate the weirdos, the outliers, so we can find the line of best fit.

But if I am interested in your potential for happiness or productivity or energy or creativity, we’re creating the cult of the average with science. If I asked a question like, “How fast can a child learn how to read in a classroom?” scientists change the answer to “How fast does the average child learn how to read in that classroom?” and we tailor the class towards the average. If you fall below the average,  psychologists get thrilled because that means you’re depressed or have a disorder, or hopefully both so you will keep coming back. But eventually we want to make you normal again – that is, average.

Positive psychology posits that if we study what is merely average, we will remain merely average.

But instead of deleting those positive outliers, I intentionally go into an exceptional population and say, why are you high above the curve in terms of intellectual, athletic, musical ability, creativity, energy levels, resiliency in the face of challenge, etc? Because maybe we can glean information on how to move the entire average up in our companies and schools.

The graph is important because the majority of the information we receive, the news, is negative, not positive. Most of it’s about murder, corruption, diseases, natural disasters. Very quickly, my brain starts to think that’s the accurate ratio of negative to positive in the world. This creates “the medical school syndrome” – during the first year medical school, as you read through a list of all the symptoms and diseases, suddenly you realize you have all of them.

We’re finding it’s not necessarily the reality that shapes you, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.

I was a counsellor of students at Harvard. In my research and teaching, I found that no matter how happy the students were with their original success of getting into Harvard, two weeks later their brains were focused not on the privilege of being there, nor on philosophy or physics, but on the competition, the workload, the hassles, stresses, complaints.

My friends used to say to me, “Why do you waste your time studying happiness at Harvard? What does a Harvard student possibly have to be unhappy about?”

Embedded within that question is the key to understanding the science of happiness. Because that question assumes that our external world is predictive of our happiness levels.

But in reality, if I know everything about your external world, I can only predict 10% of your long-term happiness 90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world. And if we change that, if we change our formula for happiness and success, we can change the way that we can affect reality.

We have found that only 25% of job successes are predicted by IQ; 75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.

A New England boarding school said, “We already know that. So every year, instead of just teaching our students, we have a wellness week. And we’re so excited. Monday night we have the world’s leading expert speaking about adolescent depression. Tuesday night is school violence and bullying. Wednesday night is eating disorders. Thursday night is illicit drug use. And Friday night we’re trying to decide between risky sex or happiness.”

I replied, “I’d be happy to speak at your school, but that’s not a wellness week, that’s a sickness week. You’ve outlined all the negative things that can happen, but not talked about the positive.”

The absence of disease is not health. To get to health, we need to reverse the formula for happiness and success. In the last three years, I’ve travelled to 45 countries, working with schools and companies in the midst of an economic downturn. I have found that most companies and schools follow a formula for success, which is: if I work harder, I’ll be more successful. And if I’m more successful, then I’ll be happier. That undergirds most of our parenting and managing styles, the way that we motivate our behavior.

The problem is, it’s scientifically broken and backwards for two reasons. Every time your brain has a success, you just changed the goalpost of what success looked like. You got good grades; now you have to get better grades. You got into a good school, and after you get into a better one, you got a good job; now you have to get a better job. You hit your sales target; we’re going to change it.

If happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there. We’ve pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon, as a society. And that’s because we think we have to be successful, then we’ll be happier.

But our brains work in the opposite order. If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage: your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy level rises. We’ve found that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You’re 37% better at sales. Doctors are faster, more correct with diagnoses when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed.

Which means we can reverse the formula. If we can find a way of becoming positive in the present, then our brains work even more successfully as we’re able to work harder, faster and more intelligently. We need to be able to reverse this formula so we can start to see what our brains are actually capable of. Because dopamine, which floods into your system when you’re positive, has two functions. Not only does it make you happier, it turns on all of the learning centers in your brain, allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way.

We’ve found there are ways that you can train your brain to be able to become more positive. In just a two-minute span of time done for 21 days in a row, we can actually rewire your brain, allowing it to actually work more optimistically and more successfully. We’ve done these things in research in every company that I’ve worked with, getting them to write down three new things that they’re grateful for 21 days in a row, three new things each day. And at the end of that, their brain starts to retain a pattern of scanning the world not for the negative, but for the positive first.

Journaling about one positive experience you’ve had over the past 24 hours allows your brain to relive it. Exercise teaches your brain that your behavior matters.

We find that meditation allows your brain to get over the cultural ADHD that we’ve been creating by trying to do multiple tasks at once and allows our brains to focus on the task at hand.

And finally, random acts of kindness are conscious acts of kindness. We get people, when they open up their inbox, to write one positive email praising or thanking somebody in their support network.

And by doing these activities and by training your brain just like we train our bodies, we’ve found we can reverse the formula for happiness and success, and in doing so, not only create ripples of positivity, but a real revolution.


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