Are you ready to leave the orchestra and join the jazz band?

Orchestras have provided entertainment for sophisticated ears for centuries. For lovers of classical music, there is nothing like listening to a live orchestra play some of the great pieces of the master composers.

But, while orchestras may have their place in the music world, the time has come for business leaders to think like jazz musicians.

Orchestras provide a great metaphor for companies in the workplace during the last century. They require skilled people (musicians) who could read music (understand the company’s strategy) and play their chosen instrument very well (execute the strategy). With a good music score, good musicians and a good conductor, you had musical magic.

That was great while things were predictable and constant. Today, the world and the workplace are anything but predictable and constant. Disruptions from unpredictable sources have made the orchestra redundant because there is no longer a music score which the musicians and the conductor can play from.

That’s why it’s time for the jazz band to replace the orchsetra!

Like their classical counterparts, most accomplished jazz musicians are good instrumentalists – they know how to play their instruments. But … jazz musicians have one skill that classical musicians don’t have. Not only can they read music. They also have improvisation skills.

Improvisation is the skill of being able to create something in real time. In the case of jazz musicians, this means that they can make up melodies as they’re playing in real time, with no preparation. They do it in the moment.

My point is that, with the uncertainty of the modern workplace, there is no rule book – no music score – to follow. No leadership gurus, like Jim Collins or Peter Drucker, can give you 10 steps to follow to lead your people and company to success.

So, if you’re a leader who operates like a classical musician who needs to have the music score in front of them to know what to play, you’re in trouble. You’re going to have to leave the orchestra and join the jazz band – you’re going to have to learn how to improvise because that’s what everybody has to do right now!

Improvisation skills are not a type of magic, though. They have a very clear foundation – you have to know the rules of music. You have to know your scales – major scales, minor scales, chromatic scales, pentatonic scales and others. You have to know intervals and chords – minor sevenths, major sevenths, diminisheds, augmenteds and, and …

This may all sound quite confusing to a non-musician, but every jazz musician worth their salt will be quite comfortable with all of these terms and more. They will use their knowledge of all of the above to make up tunes in the moment.

So, ask a jazz musician what they’re going to play just before they start improvising and he or she will say, “I can’t tell you what I’m going to play until I’ve played it.” Again, this makes classical musicians very uncomfortable because they need their music.

If you want to be an effective leader today, you HAVE to learn how to improvise. You can do so using the knowledge and experience of the workplace and of people that you acquired over the past how many years and then connecting all the dots to make things up in real time.

One of the risks that jazz musicians face is playing wrong notes, referred to as bum notes. When you improvise on your instrument, you’re invariably going to play a few bum notes but you’re going to smooth over them and continue playing despite the errors.

Just so with today’s leaders. They’re going to make mistakes but accept them as part of the game, get over them and continue “playing”.

If you’ve become increasingly uncomfortable as you lead your team into an uncertain future, I urge you to be brave enough to leave the orchestra and join the jazz band so you can set yourself free to improvise.

The music scores that orchestras are wanting to play are no longer relevant. The music that needs to be played today needs to be made up as you’re going along. And that takes courage and agility.

Are you up for it? If you want to enjoy a sustainable future both personally and as a corporate entity, you don’t have a choice!

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine,, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.

Who really picks leaders?

As pressure mounts on South Africa’s leader to face facts and step down, it might be worth asking ourselves who actually picks the leaders we have, whether they be political leaders, business leaders, community leaders or religious leaders. In the case of political leaders, in a democracy, the obvious answer is that the citizens pick the leader. When it comes to business leaders, one would answer that the powers that be – shareholders or boards – pick the leaders. Community leaders get picked by the communities in which they live, one would think, and religious leaders would say that they are picked by the divine being they have chosen to worship.

While all of these answers may be right to a point, they are also dead wrong. You see, the fundamental truth that no-one recognises is that, actually, leaders pick themselves.

Let me explain …

In modern day work and society, no-one ends up in a leadership against their will. So, regardless of whether others have appointed them in the end, in the beginning, those leaders picked themselves by making themselves available for whatever leadership position they chose to aspire to.

Now there’s a good side and a bad side to that. The good side is that people who have a desire to lead others to a better reality (the fundamental purpose of leadership) will stand up, make themselves available, and attempt to do just that.

The bad side is that people who have self-serving interests and a desire to exploit others for their own gain will work at getting themselves into leadership positions in order to manipulate others for their own selfish interests. No prizes for scribbling out a list of such leaders in our country.

But what does this mean for us today?

It means that, if we are to be freed from the tyranny of self-serving political leaders, a whole bunch of very courageous people across the political spectrum are going to have to pick themselves to stand up to the corrupt and the greedy. No-one can pick them unless they pick themselves.

I’m speaking from experience. During 2014 and 2015, I worked behind the scenes (yes, I picked myself), at a very senior level, in an attempt to address some of the challenges I saw coming in the country – challenges that have now arrived with a vengeance. The challenges our banks and the JSE have had to deal with (remember JSE CEO Nicky Newton-King having to climb onto the back of a truck and get lectured to by the EFF?), the challenges in tertiary education (“Feesmustfall” will be back), and union issues in the mines could all have been avoided if the right leaders had picked themselves two to three years ago.

At the time, those I met with did not see themselves as leaders. In fact, some of them said so in as many words. “I don’t think I’m the person to lead something like this,” said one of them. Some of them talked a big game (and are still talking a big game in the media) but when it came to putting their proverbial money where their mouth is, they folded.

 It is not my intention to embarrass people because they chose not to pick themselves as leaders. Rather, I am expressing the hope that the leaders who need to pick themselves now will have the vision, courage and moral strength to do so. These leaders are in all political parties, including the ruling party. I urge such leaders to hear Destiny calling them to pick themselves to save our country from those who have picked themselves to grab as much as they can, while they can.

Could I ask you a question? Is there a leadership position related to a challenge, a task, a duty that you need to pick yourself for? Others could be looking to you for help, for leadership, for guidance but, unless you pick yourself, the moment will pass and Destiny will have to look for someone else who has the vision and courage to pick themselves.

If you don’t pick yourself, you leave your company, your community and your country at the mercy of the thieves who, after they have robbed us of our money, will rob our children of their future.

If you hear the call of Destiny today to rise up and lead for the greater good of all, I urge you to pick yourself!      

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine,, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.

How can leaders increase their influence?

If you were to ask people what they rated as the most necessary quality for someone to be a successful leader, you would probably get many answers. And it’s highly likely that there would be a measure of truth in all of their answers. But one ingredient stands out above them all.

As the world becomes increasingly connected, the need increases for business leaders to be socially intelligent. In the days when so-called left-brained logic prevailed, Social Intelligence, also referred to as SI or SQ, was considered a “soft skill” and was dismissed as lightweight and fluffy. That was because, for the majority of the last century, people in the workplace did what they were told. That, however, is no longer the case today.

Leaders have to wake up to the new reality that the power gap that existed between them and their employees has vanished. Employees won’t slavishly obey their CEO or manager without question. Generation Y (Gen Why) employees will want good reasons for doing what they’re asked to do.

Social Intelligence is therefore probably the most important quality a leader needs. Without it, he or she is merely an expert with an important title and a big salary.

In a nutshell, Social Intelligence involves the ability to get along with others and win their support and co-operation. Sounds pretty simple, but not many leaders have it or, at least, they don’t display or apply it, if they do have it. In one word, it’s about relationships. If you can’t form and sustain high value relationships with the people you lead, you have no influence in their lives. The better the relationship, the greater the influence. And one thing you need to be an effective and successful leader, is influence. When you have no influence, you have low engagement and don’t achieve anything of significance.

There are three very basic ways leaders can build relationships with people at any level in their companies.

1 You have to connect through commonalities

All relationships exist and thrive because of common interests. This applies to every relationship imaginable. The commonalities may be very different in each relationship but they’re there and they provide the glue that keeps the relationship intact.            

What could a CEO have in common with a worker on the shopfloor, you may ask. I’m glad you did! How about the fact that they may both be fathers or mothers (or share any other family-type commonality? They also work for the same company – yes, unless the CEO is the owner of the business, s/he is also an employee and they have that in common. It takes imagination and creativity to find those commonalities, but when you find them, the glue works. Executives who consider themselves to be above “employee” status because of their positions do themselves no favours. A little bit of humility goes a long way in building relationships.

When you find and focus on those commonalities, you suddenly have a relationship and, with that, comes real influence.

2 You have to express mutual trust and affection

No relationship can be productive in the absence of trust and affection. Think about the beneficial relationships you have with people. You’ll realise that you trust one another and you like one another.

If leaders wish to influence people, it’s worth getting those people to actually like them. You might however feel that people are paid to do their job so you don’t care whether they like you or not. They must just do what they’re paid to do. Mmmmm … that sounds very good in the boardroom but have you seen the damage people can do just because they don’t like you? And that damage can be passive damage – caused not by what they do but by what they don’t do. Your choice. If you invest some time and effort in getting people to like you (and that doesn’t mean giving in to every demand they make – they still won’t like you even if you do give in to them), you will have a workforce that really wants to go the extra mile for you.

3 Have one another’s best interests at heart.

When you have a relationship with someone who has your best interests at heart, unless you’re a cynical, selfish human being, you will inevitably act in their best interests too. The same applies to you and your team. Leaders who establish credibility in the eyes of their workers by demonstrating that they act in their workers’ best interests will have a loyal and dedicated workforce.

Of course these three factors work synergistically – when you connect with people by finding commonality regardless of your or their position in the company, you win them round. When you act in someone’s best interests, you win their trust. When you win their trust, you have significant influence in their lives.

Try it. It works. Guaranteed!

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine,, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.

How tall will you grow?

In a recessionary economy, every business leader worth their salt is keen to stimulate growth to get the economy back on track. But growth will never occur at corporate or country level until it occurs at an individual level – in the hearts and minds of people.

How committed, then, are you to growing yourself as a leader so that you can help take people to a better future? Here are a few suggestions to get you started …

1 Learn new skills

Because change has increased exponentially, the skills that got you to where you are today will not get you to where you still need to go. You therefore have to be prepared to learn new skills you didn’t necessarily want to learn. Cultivate the habit of learning new things, not in a random fashion but new things that will be relevant to the work you will be required to do in the future. Look at what’s coming down the line in your field and start learning the skills that you see will help you remain relevant in the future.   

2 Learn from the challenges you encounter

We are all facing unprecedented challenges in our working roles. We can choose to complain about this or embrace those challenges as opportunities to help us grow. Muscles don’t grow from being rested. They grow from resistance. The same applies to us. We grow through dealing with the resistance of challenges we encounter in our jobs and daily lives. Physical exercise can be uncomfortable, but is necessary for a long and healthy life. Dealing with challenges in the workplace is uncomfortable but necessary because this helps us grow.

3 Improve your people managing skills

With the prospect of artificial intelligence taking over many routine and repetitive jobs in the near future, there will be a growing need for people who can really manage people well. Let’s face it, no-one wants to be managed by an AI robot! People skills will be in short supply. Those who have highly polished people skills will be in demand and will probably be able to pick the positions they want. If you want to make sure of having a place in the economy of the future, make sure you polish your people skills.  

4 Learn from anyone

There was a time when we all learned from the past – from people older and more experienced than us because they had learned things that we hadn’t learnt and so passed on their knowledge to us. That was in a time of old school knowledge acquisition. Today, people are exposed to knowledge of all types from a very young age, giving them an opportunity to become experts at a young age. So put your pride in your pocket and be willing (and humble) enough to learn from anyone who can teach you what you want or need to learn, even if they’re half your age. If they know something you don’t but need to know, find a way to learn from them. An obvious example is social media skills. Don’t even think about asking someone older than you (unless you’re 10 or 11 years old) to teach you social media skills. They won’t be able to. You’ll need to look to a youngster to teach you such skills, so do it.

5 Accept failures as part of growing

In the past, failure was frowned upon and everyone avoided acknowledging or admitting to their failures. This is no longer the case. It’s now recognised that, given the disruptive workplace, the risk of failure is high, so more people are failing. Failure has therefore lost a lot of the stigma and negative connotations it previously had. People fail fast, learn from it, get over it and become successful. The quicker you get over your failures, the quicker you can move to success. 

How tall will you grow?

Physically, we will all grow to different heights, something over which we have no control. That doesn’t stop us from growing to our full potential. And that’s the important point. Make sure you grow to your full potential – whatever that is.

It was Abe Lincoln who said, “You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.”

If you want to thrive in the future, grow, grow, grow yourself to your full potential. Nobody else can tell you what that is. Only you know what you’re capable of, so work toward that goal and then, just for good measure, add a little bit more onto your goal. Why? Because chances are you will have underestimated yourself and can do a lot more than you first imagined!

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine,, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.

What has President Zuma done for us that no-one else could do?

Nobody saw this coming. All those loyal South Africans who have been trying to rally support to address the challenges caused by increasingly suspect decision making at the highest levels in the country haven’t been able to get it right. Then along comes help from a most unexpected source – the highest office in the land. Yes, in a matter of days, our State President united our country in a way none of us (probably himself included) ever anticipated. He’s united the country in the name of one cause – to end his term of office as State President.

Judging by what politicians across the political spectrum are saying, his own party included, it would appear that South Africans have finally decided to stand together, regardless of personal and political agendas in the name of a better future for all our people.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has gone from being normally very quiet to rather vocal. In a TV interview, he spoke of the removal of former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan as “totally, totally unacceptable”. He followed that up in a speech at a fund raising gala dinner by speaking of it being time to get rid of “greedy and corrupt” people, and issued a call to all South Africans to support efforts to live up to the values of Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo.

What prompted this change? It’s common knowledge that ministers are hired and fired at the prerogative of the President, but when ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe speaks of there being no consultation, saying the President arrived at the meeting with a list and merely informed them of the cabinet changes he would be making, he is referring to the fact that, when you’re making decisions that affect 56 million lives, it’s wise to consult others before making those decisions.

Both Ramaphosa and Mantashe have taken a stand on the matter, as has ANC Treasurer General Zweli Mkhize, who has expressed his unhappiness with the President’s cabinet reshuffle. The coming days will reveal if they and their colleagues who have the power to do something to address the problem are prepared to not just take a stand or talk the walk, but also walk the talk.

Come to think of it, the last time the country was so united was seven years ago when we stood together as one in 2010 when we hosted the Soccer World Cup. We set aside our differences and rose to support a higher purpose – a purpose that transcended personal and political agendas. And we are once again being called to support a higher purpose – what Ramaphosa calls “a moment of great renewal”.    

In her speech at her husband Ahmed Kathrada’s memorial service, Barbara Hogan suggested to President Zuma that, if he had ears to hear and eyes to see, he would step down.

Why is it that some leaders have neither ears to hear nor eyes to see? There are a number of reasons. Two of them are:

1 Arrogance. People in leadership positions who are used to demanding and getting their own way forget that all power is borrowed. After a while they overestimate their own power and abilities and underestimate the power and abilities of those they are abusing. Their arrogance deafens and blinds them so they cannot hear or see things as they really are. They hear and see things as they want to hear and see them and lose touch with reality.

2 Self-deception. Leaders who no longer hear or see the truth are deceived – by themselves. It is a universal truth that, when people set out to deceive others, the first person they deceive is THEMSELVES. And once they’ve deceived themselves, they become quite comfortable deceiving everybody and anybody else. And, what’s more, they believe their own lies.

Sadly, but not unexpectedly, South Africa’s economy has now been relegated to junk status. The term “junk” is significant – it means: something of poor quality (trash), of little meaning, worth or significance.

There are many definitions of leadership. My one is: a leader is someone who takes people to a better reality. Unfortunately, our “leader” has not taken us to a better reality.

But instead of pointing our fingers at our President, it might be a good exercise to examine our own leadership practices. Have you taken your people to a better reality? What do the people you’re leading think or say about you? If you’re arrogant and engaged in self-deception, you haven’t a clue about what people really think of you and may not realise that you are uniting people against yourself, causing your company to lose its value in the way that our country has lost its value in the eyes of the world.

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine,, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.

Would you pass the “Agile Leader” test?

Much is being said about the need for agile leaders as companies grapple with operating in an increasingly disrupted workplace. Militaristic leaders who have been used to occupying positions of power and control which gave them privileges and protection from the real world are gasping for air as they are overwhelmed by the waves of change. That’s because they are not agile leaders.

Agility can be defined as the ability to think, understand and move quickly. Traditionally, agility – like mental and physical agility – has favoured the young, but that need not necessarily be so. Anybody, at any age, can be an agile leader if they think, understand and move quickly in order to take people to a better reality. In fact, a leader with significant work experience, who is also agile, is a formidable leader because they have the combination of experience and speed.

Agile leaders are a new breed of leaders. They’re emotionally intelligent, in touch with who they are as human beings and, because of this, in touch with other people. They’re resilient and resourceful, so are able to remain calm no matter what the situation, and come up with innovative, practical ways to not only deal with unexpected circumstances (disruption) but also to thrive in an ever changing environment.   

Do this test to see if you qualify as an agile leader. The answers are Yes/No answers. To qualify for a “Yes” answer, you must be able to give at least three reasons for your answer. If you can’t, the answer is “No”.   

1    Do you have an ego?
2    Would others describe you as kind?
3    Do you adapt to change very easily?
4    Are you courageous?
5    Have you been responsible for innovation of any sort in your company?
6    Are you able to bounce back from setbacks or failures?
7    Are you fully aware of the latest trends and developments in your field?
8    Are you aware of global trends and developments in the workplace?
9    Do you have a genuine love for people?
10    Are you comfortable collaborating with colleagues and/or those who report to you?

If you answered “Yes” for eight or more, you’re an agile leader. If not, you now know the areas you need to work on.

Regarding each of the above questions …

Leaders who have an ego aren’t humble and are sensitive to criticism so they will be more focused on defending and justifying their actions than listening to what they’re being told. They will never reflect and become more enlightened, and will therefore not be able to respond quickly to changing needs.

Leaders who are kind have empathy and compassion, which will win them loyalty and trust, resulting in a workforce that will tend to be a lot more productive and profitable than a workforce that is working for a hardened, unkind leader. They will therefore be able to achieve more, faster.

Leaders who can’t adapt to change reveal their inflexibility and a desire for things to stay as they are. Such leaders will simply not be able to lead a company into an uncertain future because they are more intent on preserving the status quo than adapting to the changes that are an inevitable fact of life.      

Leaders who lack courage will not be able to make bold decisions that require a certain amount of risk. They will instead be risk aversive and consequently prefer to avoid taking key decisions where necessary.

Leaders who have introduced some form of innovation in the companies demonstrate an ability to interpret new needs very quickly and respond to them promptly.

Agile leaders are said to fail quickly – they fail, learn a number of lessons very quickly, and come back stronger by turning the failure into an asset rather than a liability.

Leaders who are unaware of the latest developments in their field are not in touch with evolving trends and are in no place to respond to, or leverage, the trends to their company’s advantage.   

A leader who is not aware of macro trends around the globe will never respond to trends in his/her particular field, causing them and their team to fall further and further behind the curve.

Leaders who are militaristic consider emotions such as love, empathy and compassion as weakness. In a military context, that might well be so. The world of work is however becoming increasingly demilitarised, giving leaders who demonstrate love the edge over their cold counterparts.

Leaders who want to be sole decision makers will isolate themselves from those they are leading. Leaders who have the ability to tap into the vast collective skills and insights of all their people, regardless of age and status are able to benefit from the massive resources available in the company.

The ten points above merely provide a context for the questions and answers. If you have no ego, chances are you will answer the questions honestly. If you do have an ego, you will probably deny it and kid yourself that you’re agile – and you will continue being a rigid leader. And rigidity is one of the signs of rigour mortice.

If you exercise your mind towards becoming more agile, you will open up significant opportunities for your company and yourself. It’s worth it. We need more agile leaders!   

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine,, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.

Why do people isolate themselves?

Current developments such as Brexit and America’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord appear to be flying in the face of worldwide trends towards convergence and collaboration. One has to question what the real reasons for such moves are.

Two quiet revolutions, just on 100 years apart, have played a powerful role in changing the way countries and people interact with one another. Before these revolutions, physical boundaries ensured that countries and their people remained separate. It would take a long time to travel from one country to another and the physical boundaries countries erected ensured that there was no uncontrolled movement into their territory.

When man acquired the ability to fly at the end of the 19th century, this all changed. People could now get into an aircraft which could fly way above any physical boundary erected. This was the first step in making countries closer to one another. And this progressed in a remarkable way over the next 100 years.

Then, at the end of the 20th century, came the Internet, which once and for all destroyed geographical boundaries that had existed ever since man could build walls, moats and other physical barriers to keep people away and separate.
These are the two main forces which contributed to what we refer to as globalisation – an increasing interconnectedness expressed through trade and other cultural activities. This started the world on a course of convergence, co-operation and collaboration, the likes of which we have never seen.

Surely this would have reflected in the thinking and actions of world leaders, one would have thought. But one would have thought wrong. World leaders, in the shape of Donald Trump and Theresa May have demonstrated by their actions that they wish to isolate their countries from other countries. Why?

Many people will give you many answers, and most of them will probably be quite correct or not very far from the truth. They might refer to political agendas, power games, respecting the will of the people, and such like reasons.

When you distil everything down to one thing, you’re left with one word – fear. People isolate themselves from other countries, other people, other parties and other groups not because they’re necessarily afraid of those other people, parties or countries but because they’re afraid of a whole lot of other things that might happen.

They might be afraid pf losing power or control, of losing their identity, of losing their way of life, and so forth. When this happens, they react by withdrawing to minimise the risk of their fear becoming a reality.

For example, in the case of the recent British election campaign, it would appear that Theresa May made a critical mistake in choosing not to participate in a debate with other political parties just before her country’s snap general election (which she called). She isolated herself for a number of reasons, all with one root – fear. She might not have thought so. She might have acted on the advice of two now former advisers, but regardless of all of that, the most fundamental reason for isolating herself from the debate was fear.

The same applied to Britain’s Brexit vote. The majority of the population voted to leave the European Union because they were afraid. Analysis of quality data indicates that they were afraid of losing their national identity as well as afraid of the implications of immigration to the UK if they stayed in the EU.

Donald Trump in turn has spoken of building a wall between the US and Mexico. In this day of air travel, drones and Internet domains, a wall seems pretty inadequate. Why does he want to build a wall? Because of fear – he played to the fear of working class Americans who are afraid of Mexicans taking their jobs in order to win their support to get elected.

Decisions that have been made because of fear are usually not good or sound decisions – they’re usually made for the wrong reasons and have unintended negative consequences. Of course, that doesn’t mean that one should make reckless decisions simply to appear unafraid.

The point is, make sure the decisions you make are for good reasons and not driven by fear. That will ensure that there is a greater chance of a positive, rather than a negative, outcome.

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine,, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.

Do you think you’re smarter than you are?

As the effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are increasingly felt, so the pressure to utilise our intelligence in solving the challenges that present themselves on a daily basis increases. We now not only need intelligent people but also smart people – people who effectively utilise their intelligence.

There’s a difference between intelligent people and smart people, and businesses which want to thrive in the future need both. During the course of my career, I’ve worked with both kinds and have learnt that you can’t expect the same things from each group.

Let’s take intelligence for a start … There are many definitions for intelligence. To sum them all up, one could say intelligence refers essentially to mental capacity – the ability of a person to acquire knowledge and exercise logic and understanding to arrive at a conclusion of some sort that will enable them to solve a problem or change a situation.

One definition of “smart” tells us that it is about having or showing quick witted intelligence. That tends to indicate that being smart suggests an ability to apply one’s intelligence in a particular situation. I’m inclined to favour this view. I have seen highly intelligent people faced with a situation that they did not know how to deal with and, in contrast, I’ve witnessed people who were not necessarily as intelligent as others but who were smart enough to know to do just the right thing in the situation. “Smart” could therefore be described as applied intelligence.

Now what about people’s view of themselves? As I’ve worked with people in learning situations over decades, I have come to understand that people fall into the following categories:

Those who are not intelligent and know it. They know their place and get on with what they’re given to do.

Those who are intelligent and know it. While one does encounter arrogant intelligent people, the vast majority of them quietly get on with what they’re tasked with doing. Many of them – not all – seek out leadership positions to use their intelligence for the greater good.

Those who are intelligent and don’t know it. These people are recognised by others as intelligent but lack the self-confidence to recognise their own intelligence and act on it.

Those who are stupid but who THINK they’re intelligent. This is the most dangerous group because they hopelessly overestimate themselves and rush in where the proverbial angels fear to tread. They end up causing more damage than good because they usually horribly misjudge situations and don’t understand what is needed to address things in a way that will result in a greater good. Take a look around the world. Notice any of these leaders?

People who think they’re smarter than they are often push their way into leadership positions because they think they can do it. They tend to shout down the intelligent people (both those who know they’re intelligent and those who don’t know they’re intelligent) to get their own way. They also usually feel threatened by genuinely intelligent people so will surround themselves with people who are not as intelligent as they are so that their lack of intelligence is not challenged.

Intelligent people who are smart enough to see what’s going on tend to keep quiet, and this results in the unintelligent, unsmart leaders getting their own way.

It’s time for the genuinely intelligent leaders to stand up for what they believe in. If you’re shouting others down, refusing to listen to other people’s opinions or criticisms, chances are you’re not as smart as you think you are and anything I or anybody else says to you won’t make any difference at all. If, however, you’re intelligent and genuinely smart, I urge you to start making your voice heard. For too long we’ve tolerated the unintelligent, people telling us what to do and what we should do. How long are we collectively going to deny our children a good future because of those who think they’re smarter than they are?

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine,, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.

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