Author Archives: Ian Sampson

Why I Am Not Reading Many Books on Leadership

A Personal Post From Ian…

Every month a management magazine shows up at home.
Last month’s edition reviewed several new books on Leadership. No doubt they have contributed to the 641,000,000 items that came up when I recently Googled “Leadership.”
One book modestly professes in its title to tell us “what you really need to lead.” Another promised in its subtitle to help in “taking the guesswork out of leading leaders.” Yet another proclaimed in its title that I could learn how to “ influence, motivate and lead high performance teams” by adopting one of the Four Mindsets.
One book concludes that “management is more art than science, with empathy being the critical attribute. In the end it is not about receiving adulation but about getting the job done.” Evidently it’s like sincerity: if you can fake that, you’ve got it made!
One tome opines that “over reliance on training programs can be a trap, especially as they often depend on a one-size-fits-all approach”, having instead blown the problem up by declaring that there are actually 12 sizes of solutions to fit problem employees who can’t be lead.
It advocates that as a leader you should engage in active listening and having a capacity at an emotional level to identify what to do about which one of the 12 types of problem employee they are. I’d like to be a fly on the wall to see how the subsequent interactions with employees go once they get wise to the game and somehow learn to manage their escalating fear and sense of loss of self.
The common underlying but unspoken theme of these and similar books seems to be: follow these tips and tricks on how to control and manipulate others in order to get what the company expects and advance one’s own career. The perks of personal advancement then reveal themselves to occur at the cost of fenangling the people one is charged with the responsibility of leading.
This is not what leadership is about.
Leadership is about first knowing Who one is as a leader, What one chooses to do to be the effective leader you are and only then How you might go about that. Most of the current guff wades straight into the How without doing the character defining and building work that will determine how the How gets done.
If it is time to get off the treadmill, come to an event at The Leadership Foundation ( In meeting with other leaders you will uncover for yourself
Who you really are as a leader and Why,
What choices you will make to personally take your leadership forward,
How to deal with barriers to your leadership and
How to build a trusting network with other leaders who are all committed to being leaders and effectively exercising leadership in their organisations, communities and families.

Ian Sampson
The Leadership Foundation

A Letter to Leaders about the Meaning of Life

Dear leader,
I was talking yesterday to a woman who has made some poor decisions and has begun to become a victim. She seemed not to have any purpose in her life.
There was little I could offer her just then, mainly because she was stuck in her troubles.
Most of us go through life seeking to answer questions about the meaning of our life. Some find answers. Some don’t look. Some look and don’t find anything satisfactory for themselves.
Some discover that there is no meaning to life and it doesn’t mean anything that there is no meaning. Others equate meaning with purpose and discover a religious insight such as the Christian teaching that the chief end of man is to know God and enjoy him forever. Others draw on philosophers such as Immanuel Kant who points to our need to find someone or something to love, something to do that we are passionate about and something to look forward to.
How do you describe the purpose and meaning in your life? What words do you actually use? How do you use that foundation in your life each day? If you are struggling in life as a leader or a follower, I strongly suggest that you look to the foundations of who you are.
If you don’t have a way to think this through you might consider an identity statement. At The Leadership Foundation we sometimes suggest members develop a Leadership Identity statement, to give their leadership a framework to be thought from as they exercise leadership each day.
The one we use allows access to the following areas:
• Where we are now
• Our sources and quality of information gathering and sharing
• Our relationships
• Our intentions
• The principles that underlie of thoughts and actions
• The tensions and issues we face
• The context in which we operate what we are actually going to do next and
• Our reflections and learning in this work
I particularly like Kant’s philosophy in relation to my leadership journey. As a leader I seek to always act from my care and concern for the people I love and the leadership opportunities present for others. I can get passionate about many things, so it is easy to direct my leadership wherever it is required at the time. I look forward each day to something to do and someone to be as a leader. On this basis I am living a great life and am planning to live to be 110. (Who knows if I’ll get there; the journey is the thing!)
If you desire to be a leader who lives with a central core of understanding about your life and what it stands for;
If you are on your leadership journey and you want to develop the quality of your leadership; If you are seeking new leadership opportunities;
If you are an effective leader who wants to build on your existing leadership skills;
If you are looking for some partners in your leadership;
consider coming to an event at The Leadership Foundation.
The next event in Brisbane will be focussing on building our courage as leaders. It will be on 20th April, 2016.
See or call Ben Baldwin on 0400 743 170.
You will meet other interesting and accomplished leaders and you will be warmly welcomed. Regards,
Ian Sampson
Ian Sampson – Chairman

Leadership and The 12 Days of Christmas

“Almost Christmas!” a friend exclaimed in March!
How the year is flying by.
Perhaps it’s flying by because you are reading too many Google entries and posts on Leadership. There are 500 million (if Google can and really do keep track after the first few million!)

It’s hard not to be dazed by the constant flow. Just for fun, I picked out some for the 12 Days of Leadership.

12 Leadership Behaviours that Build Team Trust
12 Leadership Lessons from Special Operations
12 Habits of Exceptional Leaders
12 Leadership and Happiness Tips from the Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey(!)

11 Leadership Strengths That Can Turn Toxic
11 Leadership Lessons From The Brits.
11 Principles of Leadership
11 Leadership Secrets You’ve Never Heard About

10 Impressive Characteristics Great Leaders Have life
The top 10 Leadership Skills
10 Leadership Techniques for Building High Performance Teams.
10 Leadership Survival Tips.

Top 9 Leadership Behaviours That Drive Employee Commitment
9 Qualities of a Leader.
9 Leadership Behaviours that Drive Customer Loyalty.
9 Leadership lessons From The Game Of baseball.

The 8 Dimensions of Leadership
8 Skills Every Leader Must Master
Harvard Says These 8 Leadership Traits Are Critical For Success.
8 Massive Mistakes Companies Make About Leadership Development

The 7 Crucial Skills Of Leadership.
7 Leadership Mistakes To Avoid In 2016

6 Leadership Styles And When You Should Use Them.
6 Emotional Leadership Styles- Changing Minds.
6 Leadership Traits You Need to Develop On The Job.
6 Leadership Traits Seldom Mentioned.

The 5 Practices of Exemplary Leadership
Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve.
5 Leadership Lessons from Dogfish Head’s Founder
5 Leadership Styles Good Bosses Avoid Like The Plague

Which of These 4 Leadership Styles Are you?
The Four Leadership Traits That Translate To Business Success
4 Leadership Milestones To become A Great Leader
4 Leadership Imperatives For Humanitarians

3 French Hens

2 Turtle Doves and

A Partridge In A Pear Tree (Taa Dah!)

If you are are keen to build your leadership before next Christmas, come to The Leadership Foundation’s next event on 20th April. or call Ben Baldwin on
0400 743 170. We provide opportunities to build on whatever foundations of leadership you already have through courage, reflection, high quality relationship building and self planning. It’s fun and effective. You’ll be warmly welcomed. But no partridges!

When Professional Knowledge, Skill and Experience and even FIT isn’t enough.

A little while ago I learned a great lesson in Board selection from an executive chair of a listed mining company, while we were working on the placement of two new directors. He told me that his focus was on FIT: the assessment of whether another could find their place and make a contribution that worked for all.
My job was to get the funnel of good applicants narrowed so that efficient and effective selection of preferred candidates could take place. His job was to use all the background information and add impression, intuition and a bit of guesswork to make the final choice. This is the mysterious area where values, interpersonal connection, and the like are tested and validated as best they can be.

The reservoir of potential company directors and senior executives is large in total.
It doesn’t necessarily result in sustainably successful placements. Often, the expectations for a new recruit wear off too soon. Often, important factors in performance and relationships start to emerge that cause friction, dysfunction and tears. Sometimes even the internally placed applicant becomes problematic.

Why is it so?
Way back in the last century (1969) a little book called “The Peter Principle” revolutionised the nascent world of managerial science. One short story concerned recruitment. Peters postulated that if there was a huge pool of potential applicants, the ideal recruitment process would be to so expertly craft the requirements and the places where the advertising was done that only one prefect applicant applied, was interviewed and hired.
Today recruitment is a science involving competencies, background checks, targeted interviews and many other tools. All good, but have the results improved?
(In a test of the Peter Principle that won the 2010 igNobel Prize, three researchers found that the best way to improve efficiency in an organisation is to just select randomly between the identified best and worst candidates!)

From my long experience as an interviewer, employer and occasional applicant for professional jobs and board roles, I have to say that too little attention is still being paid to one vital area. For want of a better descriptor I am calling it character.

An applicant may submit a well crafted covering letter with their CV, perfectly suited to the requirements for the opportunity. They are short listed because of their stated relevant knowledge skills and experiences. They are interviewed, where these factors are elaborated, tested through skilful interview techniques. They are invited to a final interview where amongst other things, FIT is to be assessed and gauged.
All goes well initially but within several months relationships are stressed and results are sub optimal. Sometimes it’s a speed bump; too often it’s carnage. What is missing?
The assessment of character is often what makes the difference. Character includes the ability to lead one’s self before seeking to create opportunities in others to follow. It includes being a functional human being. It means having the capacity to move situations forward. It means being courageous enough to pay attention to tensions and seek at least to understand if not deal with them. It means showing deep, real care for others. More time an attention needs to be given to assessing character. It is the quality that makes the difference between joy and upset for all concerned.

If you are interested in progressing in this domain of life and would like to discuss how to refine your character, demonstrate it to others or find it in those you seek to work with, please feel free to contact me at

Good Leadership Is No Laughing Matter

I laughed and laughed and then became very concerned when reading that a learned international institute has reduced leadership to a checklist! If you can tick them off, you’re a leader, apparently!

The boxes to tick are:
Know yourself
Know your team
Consider the context
Share best practice
Continue to evaluate

They’re all good items. By paying attention to them one can raise their external awareness of a situation, BUT leadership also comes from within.

We at The Leadership Foundation have noticed that there is a simplicity to leadership that lies within. Four things are happening in the moment when a leader draws in their breath to speak words that lead or tenses their muscles ready to take a leadership action:They bring to bear all their awareness of the world around them and their place in it.They consciously bring forward their learning, thoughts and experiences that are relevant to that moment. (This is a most important piece; it requires genuine assessment of whether the leader considers themselves followable.)They bring an intention to move the situation forward: this is the very essence of leadership.They marshall deep care for the people they propose to lead and a reasonable assurance that those they lead are prepared to follow.

Now, these points might look, at first glance, like a checklist too! But the difference is this: The Leadership Foundation’s approach requires the development of a strong foundation of thought, reflection and a certain amount of courage. We can’t lead others until and unless we understand ourselves and how knowledge of ourselves can enable the leadership of others.

If you have a moment right now, compare these two approaches and consider which one you think will produce the more effective leadership outcomes.

Leadership is not a product, like a set of accounts, to be ticked off.

Leadership requires more than competently performing a series of steps. Leadership is the result of contextual and inner awareness, a genuine commitment to make a difference and a deep care for the people one would propose to lead.

At The Leadership Foundation, we provide opportunities for leaders from all walks of life and at every stage in their leadership journey with the opportunity to contemplate, reflect, review, get support and refresh their leadership to go forward. Come to an event. More details are available at or contact Ben Baldwin on 0400 743 170

Management, Managerial Leadership and Leadership

Management is about organising systems to work faster, better, cheaper and produce more, reflecting the principles that underlie them: Quality, Cost, Rate and Quantity.
Of course, management must occur in a context of legal compliance and risk management.

Management is about control.
People who work in organisations are part of management systems and are therefore subject to managerial control.
This is the work of managers today: controlling others. If it is done effectively morale, engagement, job satisfaction and the like are all high.
Much of management today is about manipulation. Done well, manipulation is the handling of a person or thing with care. Chiropractic manipulation is a good example, when done well. Poor manipulation occurs when managers control others as an end in itself. This is the reason why so many support functions in organisations are struggling to make a difference: they exist to control others for their own professional, personal or organisational ends.
Control of others is also the reason why so many organisations are failing as sustainable entities: people increasingly don’t want to work in organisations where procedures and systems make them servants of the system rather than enable them to do productive, high quality work safely, legally and cost effectively.

Leadership is about organising people to enable them to work faster, better, cheaper and produce more. Leadership therefore overlaps with management, at least in relation to the people component of organisational systems. Managers manage things; leaders lead people. This might be called managerial leadership.

But. Organisations thrive not just through great management. They also require great leadership. Leadership is about calling followers to clarify who they are in a situation, to create a future that they can be part of, to give them an opportunity to choose what to do next and to do all that with high regard for the welfare of their followers.
Leadership is about creativity, purpose, intention and care.

Good leaders take whatever training, experience and self awareness they have and use it to create leadership opportunities. Great leaders learn to continually improve their effectiveness through reflection, coaching and by constantly putting themselves in places of opportunity.

If you would like to build on whatever foundations of leadership you already have and experience the satisfaction that comes to leaders who constantly work on their capacity to create leadership, come to an event at The Leadership Foundation. Details are at:

Being An Excellent Leader

There is no fixed definition of excellence in leadership, but we all know it when we see it; when we feel it.
There is a different skill set required in managing a project, than there is in leading the team and we all manage and lead in some capacity – whether it’s our children, our family, our community, or our workplace.
We all influence others.
This opens up a conundrum for us – what kind of leaders are we? What is the trail of afterthought we leave behind? Do we inspire people? Would we challenge people to be more than even ourselves?
What kind of leader do we want to be?
In knowing where we are, and knowing where we want to be as a leader – how do we walk towards it in a real, experiential, practical manner -using our own lives as the template for our own improvement?
Large corporates seek to build capacity as a leader by assessing their employees who are judged to be “high potential.” High potential leaders have a suite of leadership experiences, competencies, values and fit with their organization. They identify your specific areas for development and act to build your capacity (Study by Aon Hewitt).
Not all of us work for an organization where we are a good fit. Not all of us will be assessed as high potential and not all of us work well in this environment of support; but the beauty of leadership is that we do not need to be any of these things all the time – we only need to the right person in the moment and practice. Anyone can do that if they are willing to step forward to create change.
Leaders who want to build their total performance will be seeking opportunities to develop and practice their leadership in their lives. Being a leader occurs one moment at a time – sometimes we lead and sometimes we follow. We all build our mastery of leadership in the tapestry of life and our strength as a leader is defined by how we weather all moments in our lives. By playing 100% in life, we hone our leadership skills, and hopefully we evolve into the leader we hoped we would be.
At The Leadership Foundation, we support you to answer these questions for yourself, and provide opportunities for you to be exposed to leadership across a smorgasbord of professions. We create an environment where leaders can reflect on their leadership moments and explore their leadership style. From there, we can build our personal resilience and confidence as a leader, and better our performance as a leader.
We help people to understand the people that follow them, so that they can help create the leaders of tomorrow.
We welcome all new attendees, so if you are:
a person newly appointed to a leadership role and want to learn how to be more effective
a captain of a sporting, project or work team
a board member
a person who wants to influence a difficult situation or relationship
a new or experienced manager
a recent graduate of any kind of program
an office bearer of a community organisation
a leader who wants to develop a group of colleagues
a person who has just been nominated as being high potential,
Please join us at one of our events.
For more information go to or contact Ben Baldwin or Ian Sampson.
Ben Baldwin–CEO

Ian Sampson-

Business Opportunity

Is your entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and ability to develop, sell and close new business opportunities being used to its fullest and making the kind of difference you want to make in the world? If not, consider the following opportunity:

Vanto Group is establishing operations in the Australia/New Zealand region and looking for experienced and motivated professionals, interested in building a business to join us as contracted partners in the region. If you are a team player, passionate about the work of transformation, interested in being developed in a unique and powerful methodology and see yourself working for an empowering and ethical company that delivers work that makes a real difference in business, consider partnering with Vanto Group!

We are a boutique global consulting firm serving corporations, organizations and institutions in a variety of industries and fields. We have a proven track record of enabling our clients to produce unprecedented business results and an exceptional quality of life for their people at work. Vanto Group specializes in large, complex engagements that bring together diverse and sometimes adversarial groups to align on a shared future for the organization. In short, we deliver breakthroughs in organizational performance and high performance teams.

The ideal profile for someone interested in this opportunity will include a combination of the following elements:

Successful entrepreneurial background, track record or comparable experience
Business development and/or successful sales experience in complex selling environments with CxO level prospects
Significant business contacts
Financial independence/stability and desire to build a practice
Experience with or strong interest in ontologically based, transformational methodologies (i.e., Landmark Forum, etc.)
Strong sense of personal and professional integrity and ethical business practices
Ability and desire to focus on the opportunity (money is important, but not the driver)

To learn more about this unique opportunity contact:

David F. Brown
Vanto Group Practice Leader – ANZ
+61 452 553 621

Leadership: The Ultimate Test?

leadership concept . Chart with icons and Keywords

Are you a good leader? How do you know? Here is a test you can take that will tell you and teach you a lot as well.
In a recent post (How “Leaders” Learn to Transmit Fear) there was a story of the power of culture to shape all kinds of organisations. The central idea was that once a cultural artefact (in this case “Don’t touch the bananas because horrible things will happen to you”) is set up it will endure until something or someone stronger supplants it.
The test is simple: alter just one aspect of your organisation’s culture.
Pick something that you really have the ability to alter. For example, it’s not likely to be successful to attempt to alter your organisation’s global practice of not recruiting certain types of candidates if you are a call centre manager.
Pick an artefact that is within your area of accountability and that it would make a real difference (hopefully positive) to alter. For example, the call centre manager might want to test her leadership by seeing if she can change the unspoken rule that it’s not “safe” to seek a pay rise until employees have notched up 12 months in the job.
Think about the test carefully. Culture is hard to define and cultural practices are often difficult to identify; like fish in water, we are often not aware of the elements that define and determine us. If you are struggling, think about the unspoken ways of doing things that apply in your organisation that don’t in others. A slightly funny one that I noticed recently is the unspoken rule that, if there are three urinals in the male toilet, you should never use the middle one if you are the only person there at the time! (Can you work out the cultural logic??)
The idea behind the test is that real leaders can influence action. Since cultures are so hard to supplant, it is a real test of leadership to be able to change an aspect of culture in an enduring way.

If you are baulking at taking the test, consider the possibility that your leadership needs further development and that something might be holding you back. Even just looking to see what that might be and what you could choose to do about it will help your leadership capacity grow. The Leadership Foundation ( is one place where you can take action to build your leadership resilience.

If you take the test, it would be great to hear from you about how you went and what you learned.

How “Leaders” Learn To Transmit Fear

I learned many of my meagre organisational design and development skills through the mentorship of a great friend, Tim Dalmau (
Tim has taught hundreds of the world’s great company leaders about how cultures really work. He teaches that cultures lie deep within all organisations. They are immensely hard to alter. This is because altering them involves trying to meddle with their identities: who they are, what their meaning in life is and so on.

From this perspective “Culture Change” and “Business Transformation” programs can be seen for what they really are: attempts to change practices but which won’t alter the underlying culture in any enduring way.

Just how hard it is to “change” cultures can be seen from the famous Apes In The Cage experiment, reported widely some years ago.
The research involved putting a monkey in a cage with a bunch of bananas. The monkey grabbed bananas and ate them, until the bunch was electrified. The monkey of course recoiled, tried again, got a shock and eventually sat in the corner. Another monkey was added. The first one tried to stop the second one from doing what monkeys do: eat the bananas. Eventually the second one touched the bananas and of course got a shock. It retreated too.
Then a third monkey was added and the first two succeeded in preventing the third from touching the bananas at all.
A fourth was added. The first three also stopped the fourth. (Just to recap: we now have two monkeys that have had direct experience of the shock and one that hasn’t but joins in transmitting the knowledge of the first two to the fourth monkey.)
Then they take the first out and add a fifth. Same story: don’t touch the bananas.
Then they take out the remaining monkeys one by one, adding in new monkeys, in the meantime having turned off the shock. No new monkeys touch the bananas, even though every instinct tells them to!

The story shows how culture is created, how it survives and how pervasive it is. It doesn’t intuitively matter that the research was subsequently found not to be real, because we can all relate to experiences from real life in organisations that back up the “research.”

Tim also teaches that for every complex problem there is usually a simple solution…and it is usually wrong! It would be tempting to think that the Volkswagen debacle can be explained in simple terms. However, I can’t help but think that underneath all the duplicity, lying, fear, cover-ups, insincere apologies and the like there lies a cultural basis for what happened. Somewhere in the early history of that great company, someone in leadership experienced a lack of integrity in his dealings with others. That so called leader “taught” others that it was OK not to be true to one’s word, presumably if it served the company’s financial goals. And so the culture of “espoused integrity” but “no-integrity-in-action” has continued to the present day.

Regular posters to blogs lament these kinds of cultures and practices in modern workplaces. Organisational leaders who want to tap wisdom need organisational design and development advice that goes to the deep roots of how organisations really run.

The Leadership Foundation is Brisbane-based and runs events where leaders explore the implications of these great kinds of issues for their own leadership. In a safe environment, leaders develop their understanding of how leadership actually works and how to navigate potentially explosive situations like the Volkswagen case, before they happen. Go to: for details.