Author Archives: Ian Sampson

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.

What Happens When Leaders ACTUALLY Lead?- Part 3

A couple of weeks ago I met with one of my mentors. He was describing his approach to the current phase of his life, which he is calling “Liberation”; liberation to do the things he wants and liberation to be the person he wants to be.

I mentioned that in my current phase of life I regard private service as a key for me. His ears pricked up and he asked me to say more. I said something like this: “Well, I think that we may be entering into a new phase of society. Just as we are transitioning from the industrial age to the digital age, I am finding more and more leaders transitioning from beliefs about the importance of public service to what I am calling Private Service. By that I mean that people are abandoning political leadership and the notions of governments controlling every aspect of life. Instead, thoughtful people are just getting on with what they can do in a private way.”

My thinking about Private Service is rooted in my intuitive understanding of leadership and what happens in the moment when leaders actually lead.

When leaders emerge who combine:
their understanding of their surrounding situation with
some personal thoughts, learning, understanding, models and the like and they translate them into
an intention to move ahead and
genuine care for others,
something transformational happens.

A group in this situation doesn’t just transition from inaction to action; its character transforms. The leaderless group members choose to give up being victims and bystanders, rationalising their immobility with thoughts like “It’s not my fault.”
In the moment when leadership emerges, a transformation occurs and both leader and followers now begin to follow a clear pathway to action.

There seem to be four steps on the pathway.
The first is to combine everything they have experienced up to that moment into a new context for action.
The second is that they take on a new role and accountability. In clarifying their purpose (Like Simon Sinek’s “WHY”) and accepting personal responsibility, they begin to find new meaning.
The third is that they begin to act, usually with a new awareness of what they are doing
Finally they notice the results.

As I think about, refine and practise this approach to leadership in my everyday interactions with others I am seeing transformations take place in who both others and myself are being.

Leadership practised in this way provides access to transformation of lives and activities. It may also provide new frameworks for those involved in industrial age Public Service and help them rekindle their leadership and help societies they serve transform into the Digital Age.

Since that meeting with my mentor we’ve done a bit more thinking together about this and started to involve others. What do you think? What understanding of leadership works for you? What do you think about a Private Service approach to being a leader?

If you have read this far you might like to attend an event run by The Leadership Foundation ( The Leadership Foundation provides opportunities for leaders to reflect on their own understanding of leadership and to practise their further development in a supportive environment with other leaders.

Invitation to GROW Your Coaching











Ian Sampson, BComm, LLB, FAICD,


GROW Your Coaching:
Breakthrough Coaching Event
3rd September 2015

The Brisbane Club

241Adelaide St, Brisbane

Early Birds to 14th August
Cost incl gst: $200
Teams of three: $500 Teams of four: $600

After 14th August
Cost incl gst: $250
Teams of three: 600
Teams of four: $700

If you want to be a great coach, come to this event. No matter how good a coach you are now, you will improve your coaching ability so you can be the best leader.

Good LEADERSHIP requires great COACHING.
“I”m trying to work out where to take my business next year.”
“My team has lost motivation because of a difficult staff member.”
“I want to build my ability to coach a high performer to new levels.”
“I want to find a new job.”
“We want to be able to have effective problem solving.”
“I would like to build coaching into our culture.”

In this powerful 3 hour session you will:

Learn how to coach straight away
Discover insights you can use immediately
Meet experienced coaches and newcomers
Develop new skills that will build your coaching confidence and capacity.

Bring a coaching issue that you would like to achieve a breakthrough in and that is costing you dearly in dollar, emotional or productivity terms.
Easy registration process:
Email to reserve you places.
Remit funds to BSB: 124 121
Account number: 90613549
Account name: Ian R Sampson
If you are a coaching novice, you will gain the ability to begin coaching right away.

Great Leaders Know The Anatomy of a Good Apology

We all mess up. Some of us recover better than others.
A couple of years ago I learned a great approach, called “The Anatomy of a Great Apology” from Prof John Galtung. I carry it on a small card in my wallet; perhaps because I need to apologise a lot!

We all mess up. Some of us recover better than others.
A couple of years ago I learned a great approach, called “The Anatomy of a Great Apology” from Prof John Galtung. I carry it on a small card in my wallet; perhaps because I need to apologise a lot!

There are four parts in “The Anatomy of a Good Apology.”
1 Take the blame
2 Accept responsibility
3 Detail the wrong
4 Announce the program for reforming yourself.

Last week I worked with an executive who was shattered because he had lost the trust of a close colleague. The relationship is damaged. Both are feeling bad. Gossip is spreading. 
He saw that, unless he acted with genuine leadership, things would, at best, stay unpleasant and at worst, deteriorate further.

We had a coaching conversation to work through a plan and this is what he came up with:

“I am sorry for not keeping my promise about X.

“It was my responsibility to do what I said I would do and I didn’t do it.

“I promised you that I would do X (activity) by Y (time) and include A,B and C (other people) in developing the plan to do X. I didn’t do that. Instead I was late doing it and I only talked to A and B. I missed the agreed time and I didn’t talk to all of the players. As a result Z (consequence) has happened and that has caused B (damage) to you. All that has left you with S (flow on consequences) and it has caused you to lose trust in me keeping my promises in future.

“My plan is to redo X by Y when it comes up again next month. I will include A, B and C. I will repay the loss in the the next month. I am talking with A,B and C to explain what I should have done and ask for their cooperation again. I will detail each of the key steps in the plan and I will make sure the key pieces are scheduled in our diaries.

How did the apology go? The other person was initially taken aback. He started to get aggressive and then quickly became thoughtful. When the exec had finished, his colleague took a deep breath, offered his hand and they got on with the next thing.
Small miracles like these occur every day when good leaders plan well, carry forward their intentions well and apologise well when they mess up. As we all do.

Is this Coaching? Mentoring? Advising? Joint Problem Solving? Professional Development? Friendship? It’s what I do. And, it is a great privilege to help others.
Is this Coaching? Mentoring? Advising? Joint Problem Solving? Professional Development? Friendship? It’s what I do. And, it is a great privilege to help others.

What Happens When Leaders Actually Lead- Part 2

Recent research at the Monash University in Melbourne confirms that our brains function differently when we are relating to the leadership efforts of someone whose purpose we align with, who regard as making sacrifices for us and who uses inclusive language. ( compass

In a recent post I highlighted the four activities that seem to be happening in the moment when leaders actually lead:
They bring all their worldly context, learning, experience, models and the like to bear and they use the appropriate elements as they draw in their breath to speak or tense their muscles to move
They call up their knowledge in intense mental work
They bring forth an intention to move others, change a situation or call for action
They elicit care.

These four activities are being tested in our experience in The Leadership Foundation ( as we seek to identify and work with leaders who really want to lead better in their organisations and communities.

Leaders who speak and act with the ability to describe a compelling purpose in ways that followers can identify with, create a shared identity for the leader and the followers. They become aligned.
Leaders who demonstrate to followers that the followers efforts are being matched or even exceeded by the leaders will take the sense of identity and alignment to a whole new level. Of course, this sense of sacrifice needs to be conveyed with care, else it be seen as en ego trip.
Leaders who speak in “We” and “Us”, rather than “I” and “Me” terms take the sense of identity as part of a close knit group to an even stronger place.

In the moments when leaders are creating productive brain activity in their followers through these three actions they are sharing their understanding of the world, their knowledge, their intention to create “leaderful” action and their care.

The Leadership Foundation’s events are designed to allow members to play with these ideas in a safe and friendly environment so that they can practice them in their workplaces and community organisations. The next TLF event will be held on Tuesday 22nd July in Brisbane. Contact Ben on 0400743170.



The other night a senior government minister was being interviewed on TV. The early part of the interview was full of the usual rhetoric, avoidance and repetition of the party hacks’ scripts.
The interviewer seemed frustrated, the minister seemed tense and bored, the viewers (my wife and I may have been the only two watching at this stage!) were disappointed and angry.
And then it happened: the interviewer asked a question that touched the Minister’s deep values. He paused. You could see him go into himself. He took hold of something deep within himself. As he brought it up and out his complexion changed, his eyes became enlivened. Then he spoke.
He gave a 30 second response that showed what his values were, how he was acting true to his values in supporting controversial legislation and what he would do to argue his position until the legislation was passed. My bride of 40 years and I didn’t agree with his conclusion but we both looked at one another and agreed that the guy had demonstrated real leadership in action.

In the gazillions of interactions that occur every day, a few get recognised as real leadership acts. What makes them so?

The Leadership Foundation is working to build leaders’ understanding and awareness of how leadership actually occurs. There are host of materials that describe the characteristics of leaders and leadership but The Leadership Foundation has discovered there is little evidential research about the actual workings of leadership during an interaction between leaders and followers. In fact we have gone so far as to propose that leadership might actually be able to occur with followers if leaders know how to lead themselves. Followership might actually be a measure of the effectiveness of the leadership, not just of its presence.

The Leadership Foundation is proposing that at least four things are occurring in the moment when leaders draw in their breath ready to speak, or tense their muscles ready to move.

Firstly, they bring an awareness of their context. It might be as big a context as having a sense of their place in history down to a thorough appreciation of the business and economic drivers at the present time, right down to acknowledging for themselves that the person opposite them seems on edge.
Effective leaders seem to be able to operate in the moment from a context that is useful and appropriate for the situation.

Secondly, they bring all their knowledge and experience of leadership to this situation. The Seven Secrets, the Six Laws, the Five Pitfalls, the Four Principles, the Three Steps, the Two Turtledoves and the Partridge in a Pear Tree unite with the experience of when they stood in the gap, rallied the employees, saved the day or completed the deal that caused action to occur.
In the moment, the leader triggers something from their learning and experience that enables them to lead. It is unique for them. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes it does and in that moment the miracle called “Leadership” occurs.

Thirdly, they bring an intention. Most often it is an intention to move a situation forward. It might be an intention to ease suffering, raise the funds for the project, get the legislation passed, score the goal.
Where there is intention there can be a result. In the moment, when leaders intend, action occurs.

Fourthly, and perhaps most contentiously, they bring care. This is contentious because it seems that leaders must always care about a situation for leadership to occur. It seems more problematic about whether they must also care for the people involved. The Leadership Foundation proposes that the best leadership occurs when both kinds of care are present.
In the moment, elemental emotions of regard, respect, care, affiliation, affection, love, etc in some measure help to trigger what is going to happen next.
The Leadership Foundation is a new organisation whose aim is to promote leadership in organisations and communities. TLF doesn’t train or teach; it seeks to encourage members to reflect for themselves and learn from others in a leadership community as they craft their leadership identity and build their leadership practice.
The next TLF event will be held on 21st July in Brisbane from 5.30-9.00pm
If you would like to attend please send me an email at

Managing Bosses Who are Bullies

Edwina is a successful manager working in Asia. In the last three years she has built an innovative strategy for her business. The strategy was endorsed by the business as being totally aligned with the overall strategy and Edwina is successfully completing it with active support from her widely distributed team. She has worked hard on developing her leadership skills and manages her professional discipline with recognition from her team, colleagues and those higher in the hierarchy.

Yet she is thinking of resigning. The problem is a new boss who she sees is acting against the interests of the company. None of his actions are illegal or immoral, although Edwina thinks some of his actions are unethical and violate the company’s stated values.
Two of her team and a colleague senior manager have told her they are thinking of resigning.

The situation came to a head for Edwina when the manager, Roger, spoke extremely rudely to her. When she asserted that his statements were inappropriate, Roger was even more rude and started making accusations about Edwina.

Her functional boss is aware of Roger’s poor management style and told Edwina that his performance was being assessed. Despite all the rhetoric, no action was likely to be taken if he produced the desired business results. Edwina could see that if any corporate action was to be taken it would be months away.

In the meantime she had to have a plan. She got her thoughts straight and called her coach.
In a mentoring and coaching conversation Edwina reviewed many ways of dealing with the situation and developed a multi-faceted plan with her mentor’s guidance.

First, she resolved not to resign immediately. She resolved to keep her colleagues steady by encouraging them to keep up their productivity and to manage their personal resilience, using some skills she shared with them.
Secondly, Edwina decided to keep a personal diary, recording her interactions with her boss and the logic she used in deciding how to respond when he acted badly towards her.
Thirdly, she decided to continue keeping good records of his instructions and demands.
Fourthly Edwina decided to take a short break and ensure she was approaching this situation properly. For her, this involved charting how she thought Roger’s actions were inconsistent with the company’s values. Then she charted how she saw her actions as being consistent with the company’s values. And finally, she charted what her deep personal values were and how she saw Roger’s actions being inconsistent with her values. She used this thinking to steady her emotions and to guide her actions in future interactions with Roger over the next few months.

During this time, with her mentor’s support, she stayed resilient, did not resign, pulled her work and non-work life into better balance and she used this situation to learn how to handle similar situations in future. Unfortunately the organisation’s leaders weren’t willing to lead the organisation out of the morass, so the productivity, morale and performance destroying behaviours continue.

One thing is sure: Edwina and organisational leaders across the world will deal with situations like this time and time again. The situations won’t go away. Good managers learn how to build their repertoire of skills for managing the unmanageable.