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Andrei Postolache – Fun&Fearless Leadership: You can’t be a leader if you don’t care

Andrei Postolache

Senior Consultant Introspecials

The book Fun & Fearless Leadership by Andrei Postolache was published at the end of the last year and covers the author’s experience as a leader in the most direct and practical way. For those who do not yet have this exciting book, published below a few excerpts kindly offered by the author himself.

On Leadership

You can’t be a leader if you don’t care

You can be many other things, you can be a genius, you can be an expert, you can be a manager, but you can’t be a leader.

Before any skills, before anything else, leadership is caring about something enough to put yourself out there, to reach, to step up, to take a chance.

It’s that something that compels you to do the right thing and get the job done, even when no one is looking, and especially when you have something to lose. You can fake it for a while, but only for a while.

As soon as I started to care, I started to lead

I wasn’t good at first, but the intention was there almost immediately. It’s simple to understand why: when you care you know that you have to make things better, and when you are serious about what that means, you realize that you have to work with others, together, because you can do more than on your own.

The most impactful way of working with others is to lead, and by that I don’t necessarily mean to take charge, to be the boss, as we’ll see throughout this book.

Leadership is a manifestation of giving a damn, and it’s a sophisticated manifestation because it requires courage, self-awareness and a whole host of skills, some more specific than others.

On Business

I believe business is the greatest change agent in the world. More than governments, more than armies, more than anything else, business builds the world we live in.

Business is the great engine that feeds on opportunity, knowledge, capital, scientific discoveries, cultural zeitgeist and makes products out of them, products that we then build our existence on, and in the process of doing so, generate more opportunity, knowledge, capital, scientific discoveries and cultural zeitgeist.

If you want to change the world and make it better, more often than not, the most effective way to go about it is to start or join a successful business.

For me, business is an agent of change, not one of stability and definitely not one of entitlement. When I tell people I like Tesla, they sometimes tell me that Tesla is not a stable company. To that, I reply, Great! The world doesn’t need another Skoda, predictability delivering predictable cars in a polite way. We have all the Skoda we can ever want or need in our lives. If Tesla were to disappear tomorrow, it has still done more for us than most other companies in a century, and it has definitely inspired us more.

On Compassionate

Radical Honesty

As I write this, there are IT professionals here in Iași, some of them very senior, in the process of receiving heartbreaking feedback going to the core of their performance and professional identity.

They are being told that large parts of their attitude and delivery are unsuitable for the expectations of their job and that they must drastically change or leave.

The reason this is happening is that, for years in some cases, the bosses of these people did not do anything to address and fix a situation that was painfully obvious to them.

They hoped, they hinted, they avoided, they worked around it. In their desire to avoid conflict, or because of their misguided empathy, they let situations fester until they could no longer be ignored and way past beyond the point when an easy fix might have been possible. I also have been guilty of this, and in that, I failed as a leader.

It is always the responsibility of the leader to address performance problems, and always her fault if they are left to worsen. The temptation to just let it go, to hope it will get better, to maintain the apparent harmony, to move on, is always there, for all of us. It is a mistake.

The solution is Compassionate Radical Honesty. Honesty, because if we have to choose, we always choose truth over feelings.

Radical, because we say truths that they haven’t heard in a long time, or maybe never, and we’re ready for the reactions and emotions that may come out of it.

Compassionate, because we’re not brutes: we’re never blunt just for the sake of it, this is not a power trip, we do it with the full intention of helping. Radical Honesty is not a way to care less, from the contrary, it’s a way to care more and more effectively.

On Culture

The most widely used definition of culture is that culture is the way we do things around here.

I have a better one: culture is what happens when people care.

Culture is the result of people giving a damn. Culture is not a set of polite norms and manners, culture is the result of personality applied onto work by people who care about more than doing „a job“.

On Motivation & Determination

I think about determination in its stoic meaning: keep walking, no matter what, keep walking.

You overcome obstacles, you endure, you keep pushing, you keep moving.

The concept of grit, as explained these days by Angela Duckworth, is a good approximation of this and it focuses on perseverance, a sense of duty, on just getting it done.

We therefore constantly work with two types of, contradictory, motivational drivers.

On one hand, you need to believe that, largely speaking, you’re working towards something that’s worth your time and effort, as life is too short to waste.

This is the „what’s in it for me“ voice, this is you looking to know it’s going to be worth it. On the other hand, and somehow opposed with the „what’s in it for me“ voice, as a day to day attitude, you need determination.

You have an overall purpose, but you won’t find pure pleasure and meaning in every little thing you do every day. Some of the work is going to be boring, some of it is going to be hard, some of it is going to be lonely.

You need to keep moving, through pain, towards your purpose. The hedonistic illusion that everything should always feel great and new and fresh is just that, an illusion, and a dangerous one at that. This is your determination voice and you need to balance it with your what’s in it for me voice.

On a big scale, years, your „what’s in it for me“ voice should win. You should invest your time in causes you can believe in and in teams where you’re going to be properly appreciated and rewarded.

On a small scale, your determination voice should win. You will have good days, you will have bad days, but you need to keep moving. The local optimum feeling of each day, each hour, is not the same as the larger optimum for a full year. The best year is not a series of the best days.

The best year may include some sacrifice and some pain in some large parts of that year, but it may be a great year nonetheless, more than other more conventionally pleasant years, because you may have learned something important, or achieved something worthwhile.

Don’t take crap every day, again and again, in the hope of a bright future that might never come. But the exact opposite, packing your toys and leaving at the first sign of trouble, is equally silly.

Don’t refuse to invest in a future, to sacrifice for a plan, simply because you want to, like a child, feel good every single moment, doing every single thing. If you know what you’re working for and why, stick to it for a while.

Determination is achieved through self discipline, through a firm but constructive attitude, through focus, through honesty, through good relationships with your colleagues, through respect for your clients, by simply doing a good job, no matter what you do. Stop waiting to wake up one day and magically feel great, out of nowhere.

Make your bed, brew your coffee, brush your teeth and go do your thing and do it well right now, today, feelings be damned.

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