Over the years, and particularly since I took over as Secretary General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, I have developed a small number of aphorisms based upon my experiences.  I share them here in the hope that they may help others to negotiate some of the challenges of leadership and management:

  • Never make tough decisions when you are too tired – always sleep on them!
  • It is much better to achieve a few things well, than to try to do too many things and fail to deliver any of them successfully.
  • Do things you don’t think will be pleasant as soon as possible. Never put them off; they may not be as bad as you are fearing, and it will stop you worrying about them. Then plan to do something really positive afterwards, in case they do indeed turn out to be unpleasant! It will remind you that there are good things in life!
  • There are two kinds of people: those who bring problems and those who bring solutions.  I know those with whom I prefer to work! [These are extremes on a spectrum, but I do think the basic principle is indeed valid!]
  • Try not to worry about things over which you have little control; concentrate on those things about which you can have the most significant effect.
  • Talking with some people gives you energy; talking with others takes your energy! I know which I prefer!!!
  • If someone comes to you with a problem, don’t solve it yourself but help them to solve it.  That way, they will learn, and you won’t be overwhelmed with additional work.  [The additional effort in helping them learn is worth it, because they won’t keep coming back for you to do their job as well as your own!]
  • People listen to the influential rather than the wise; the wise also need to learn to be influential if they wish to change things.
  • Great leaders surround themselves with excellent managers, and let them get on with managing while they lead.
  • It is only possible to be collaborative with like-minded people; don’t waste your time on those who want to be competitive, since they will only be disingenuous and seek to undermine your efforts. Simply try to ignore them!
  • When people are deeply unpleasant to you, try not to hurt too much inside.  Instead recognise how sad they must be to act like that, and try to feel sorry for them [I find this one really, really tough!]
  • Always take the blame for mistakes or errors made by your team; as the leader you are responsible, and your team need to know you will always do this!
  • Always give 100% of your attention to the person or people with whom you are; never spend time thinking about other things when you are with someone!
  • Never give advice unless someone sincerely asks you for it; if you choose to do so anyway without them asking, they are unlikely to listen to it, let alone act upon it.

2 responses to “Aphorisms

  1. Charles Howie

    Thanks for sharing these Tim. As I prepare for a day in Can Tho University I will keep Aphorism two in mind, no surprises there you might say. Best wishes in you Masai robes.

  2. Dear Tim,

    Very helpful tips and I will definitely follow no 1.

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