A Leadership Gem from BHP’s AGM

One transformative takeaway from the BHP AGM presentation was: “nothing gets done if it’s not done safely.”

This powerful concept has important implications for leaders: focus on real outcomes, manage total risk, lead people to safety.

In order to “get things done” leaders and followers first need to be sure about who they are committed to be. Who we are being, gives us what we do and that in turns gives us the outcome.

So, a leader might take on being committed to the safe completion of a task by their workgroup. That will determine a different way of doing the work than just completing the task no matter what. A safely completed activity will be what gets done.

Hats off to BHP for providing intellectual and practical leadership on this! Well done.


I had fond hopes that the kerfuffle about executive pay might have brought more principled debate and courageous decisions to the Board tables of our largest companies.

The idea that obscene amounts of money incentivises already committed and values- driven executives to achieve more than they otherwise would, is nonsense. The sooner Boards face up to it as self serving, special pleading the better. It’s not an overly significant or complex problem. Without being simplistic, all it requires is some leadership and sound thinking to create a new pathway for responsible and sustainable remuneration practices.

Those who argue it is, at least in part, “compensation” for things like uncertain tenure should be met with the same insights that apply to ordinary wage and salary earners: fair pay stabilises tenure for all. Others argue about CEO and other senior executives’ remuneration needing to reflect what is paid in international markets; bad international practice doesn’t justify bad domestic practice.

If there are resisters and counter viewers, let them present some evidence that current remuneration policies do really create additional discretionary actions that actually deliver leveraged value. And even more, that these often enormous amounts of additional pay above base create intelligent action that would not otherwise have been initiated but for these payments.

For 50+ years organisational experts have accepted that money is not a motivator, except to the extent that unfair remuneration is a de-motivator.

Remuneration needs to be a measure of the value that the incumbent in a role brings to their organisation’s success and sustainability.

Those who are seized with the realisation that these currently obscene and unconscionable practices need to be addressed and know that they are accountable for doing so, seem to be struggling with the competence issue of how value can be reasonably measured.

There are many ways to assess value and there are some industries and professions that may be able to argue special cases for how they measure it; but for the vast majority, Boards need to do some hard thinking and reflection about the value that the CEOs and Executive Teams create.

They also need to be aware of the increasingly insidious cultural practices that they are contributing to by sanctioning and defending these remuneration processes.

Boards need to remember that employees outside the executive teams see these manifestly unfair outcomes and can be forgiven for thinking that their only recourse is to adopt similar self-serving behaviours themselves.

These reflected behaviours apply to employees at various levels in organisations, as well as contractors, advisers, and other service providers.

The underlying philosophy that develops from these indefensible remuneration excesses in the top echelons is: if its good for the goose, its good for the gander.

How can value be measured?

One simple, but not simplistic, way is as follows:

If I have a paddock and I agist a horse on it for $50 per week, I can assess the value of the paddock in two ways: one is the revenue it creates i.e $50 per week. A second is the capital value. If I had $50,000 dollars and I invested it at 5% it would earn roughly $2,500 p.a or $50 per week. So, the capital value of the paddock might be said to be $50k.

On this logic, an executive who earns $1m p.a. would have a capital value of $20m. If they can demonstrate what they have done to create that value, they would be worth that pay.

If it is a team effort, the results need to be shared on the same basis.

So, if a large organisation creates $100m of added value, a pool of $5m would be available for the total remuneration of all involved i.e. from the cleaner to the CEO.

The percentage used in the calculation might be the same as the rate of return for shareholders in that company in the previous year or an average of the past three years or the like, or it might be based on another shareholder relevant measure.

By some careful thought, remuneration for executives can be more closely tied to their real value. A “bonus” (pardon the pun) might be that remuneration is paid in ways that reflects sustainable performance and avoids the nonsense of short and long term incentive payments and the fashionable but illogical approach of deferring pay.

Paying on the basis of market rates, comparable skills assessments, years in a role or profession and the like are all outdated, unwieldy and unworkable. In the digital, automated age we now are in, added value is the only measure.

How “Value” is defined needs careful thought by Boards. The same thinking that they apply in determining arrangements for their CEO needs to apply to the whole organisation, not least themselves.

Only a couple of years ago, executive pay and CEO pay in particular might have been addressed by Boards as an issue related to workability: i.e. what do we need to do to get an acceptable outcome in all the circumstances? Today, it is a moral issue.

If it is confronted as a moral issue, Boards will make a considerable (even valuable) contribution to restoring trust in their organisations, promoting a healthier working environment for employees at all levels, reaffirming their mission as stewards of the organisation, recreating pride, as well as addressing the fear and ennui that is such an unacknowledged attribute of organisational life for too many at present. This is a question of leadership.

Stop Giving Back: We’re not sure we want It

“I want to give back,” he said.

I resisted the temptation to ask what he’d taken.

Instead I asked:”How do you think that will benefit a board?”

“Well, I’ve been enormously successful and now I want to share my success by helping others as a director.”

“Nice,” I replied. “And why would a board be interested in you above all the other thousands of aspiring directors swimming in the same pond?”

“Well, I’ve got some really useful skills like strategy and leadership and of course a governance Qualification. And I am a successful manager of large teams and I have commercial acumen.”

“And so do hundreds if not thousands of your colleagues who want board placements.”

I plowed on. “Let’s come at this another way: why do you really want to become a director?”

He slumped in his chair. “If I am being honest, (Ahhh! Progress!” I thought to myself) I think I am ready to pull back a bit from executive life. I like the idea of being at the top of a company without having to get tied up in all the executive rigmorale like budget negotiations and interminable meetings and all that HR stuff. It gets pretty wearying.”

“So this is an escape? Or do you honestly think that competent board work is any less intellectually emotionally or physically challenging than executive life?

“Or do you really have something to offer that is unique? What is it about you in addition to all your qualifications, skills and experiences that is not just relevant to an organisation you could become a director of? What would make you interesting on top of all that?

“I don’t know!” The shock of the realisation then led on to a great conversation about who he really is. What he sees for himself as his unique contribution apart from glib stuff like giving back.

Assuming you do really know that you really want to do to be a director, why do you really want to be a director? What would make you interesting to a board that you have relevant qualifications experiences and skills to contribute to?

Get clear about the Why as a unique encapsulation of your purpose.

This why will be a subset of your why for life.

Then get clear about what makes you interesting to a board. Get focussed on what would make you interesting to the Chair and the other directors and useful to the CEO and their team without getting in their way operationally.

What are your unique personal groundings and qualities that will enable you to make a contribution as a great colleague?

Do this work in draft form if you can. If you can’t get a draft down or when you can get as far as a draft, share it with a coach experienced in board governance and dynamics. Conversations in this domain are what makes for successful leadership in the special work that effective directors do.

Knowing why you really want to be a director and what makes you unique will be what lifts you out of the swamp of other director aspirants. It will position you to be a successful contributor whose life is enlarged through the privilege and responsibilities of being on a board.



Can Directors Also Be Leaders?

You may know CEOs who become directors; as business leaders they sometimes have difficulty in redefining their role on the Board. It’s important preliminary work for CEOs and other senior executives to understand at a visceral level why and how they can’t keep an operational mindset in the Boardroom.

If they have been effective in their executive functions, providing all the leadership qualities that are required of incumbents in high office, can they use those same leadership skills at the Board table, without contaminating their new role as a director?

Leadership is one of those qualities that can be translated from Executive roles to Board roles. Other translatable qualities include strategy, people skills, decisiveness and the like. All require some redefinition for success. Strategic thinking needs to be refocussed from execution to include the capacity to search more, question more and the like. People skills need to be refocussed from taking the decision and managing the risks to gaining answers to questions like: “what lies under the presenting problem” and: “is the issue more about the person raising the issue than the presenting problem?”

So too, leadership qualities evident in the C Suite can be translated into effective leadership as a director. Almost certainly, bad leadership behaviours learned as an executive will not be tolerated in the Boardroom. Your colleagues won’t let you get away with them and if they are effective directors they won’t allow your bad leadership behaviours to compromise their own effectiveness, duties and responsibilities.

Leadership effectiveness as a director requires a new level of perceptiveness, permission seeking and preparation that is often not required in CEO roles where the incumbent exercises leadership from a place of power.

Effective director leadership is often more measured, more like a coaching style, more open to deep listening and reflection. Of course, decision making and the exercise of governance and strategic functions continue to be the hallmarks of good director leadership, as they are for leadership as a CEO or Executive. In the Boardroom, often the pressures of time can be less, allowing for consideration of context, fit of proposals with deeply held assumptions and principles, impacts of proposals on the organisation’s collective intelligence and the quality of relationships, the sense of organisational identity and the effects on the working environment (often mislabelled as “culture”).

This is a different kind of leadership to what is often required of CEO leaders. There is a kind of etiquette evident. It is not just good manners. Good leaders directors demonstrate congruity, alignment between their personal and organisational values, respect for the unsaid and a commitment to move things forward.

These themes are developed in more detail in “The Etiquette of Leadership: The Art and Science of Leading Well” by Baldwin and Sampson in a new book to be published in late November. Some aspects are also covered in a chapter with the same title in “Think Big” by O’Sullivan and Fitzgerald, available now through Amazon.



“Experience”: The Last Bastion of the Old Guard

The barricades against diversity are falling fast. Resistance will continue to fade as those with responsibility continue to pass through the “WHY should we?” phase to the “HOW do we do it?” and the”WHAT must we do?” phases.

Next to go in the continuing transformation of Boards and Managements as we meet the new era of business in the age of digits and automation is: “Experience.”

Experience is the last vestige of protection against diversity. “Of course (the female, LGBTIQ candidate) is good but she just doesn’t have the experience that this important role requires.”

Not only is “Experience” the quality leaders hide behind to protect themselves from having to face the new reality of a truly diverse workforce; “Experience” is also a limiter of performance and effectiveness in itself. This is because “Experience” is not distinguished by many who are accountable for deciding on appointments to organisations and their Boards.

When “Experience” is distinguished from Knowledge and Skills, Fit and Potential, recruiters begin to see the elements of a candidate. Unfortunately, “Experience” often remains undistinguished in itself.

Boards and Managements don’t just need the experience of candidates who have “been there, done that”; operated in the same industry, profession or calling; acquired the same views, prejudices and mores of others. They need the “savvyness” that is drawn from experience. The other components of “Experience” (mentioned above) are largely self limiting.

“Savvy” as a noun includes these qualities:shrewdness, practical knowledge, astuteness, sharp-wittedness, acuteness, acumen, intelligence, wit, canniness, common sense, discernment, insight, understanding, penetration, perception, perceptiveness, perspicacity, knowledge, sagacity.

When a leader is savvy they demonstrate these ways of being: shrewd and knowledgeable; having common sense and good judgement, astute, sharp-witted, acute, intelligent, clever, canny, perceptive, perspicacious, sagacious, sage; on the ball, smart, streetwise, whip-smart; long-headed, sapient, argute.

Being savvy is the quality we want in new hires to managements and Boards.

This is the quality that candidates must be able to demonstrate for successful appointment and progress.

Winston Churchill once said: “The one thing we learn from history is that we never learn anything from history.” Experience is a useful quality in ensuring that the lessons of the past are remembered. But it is only half the story: remembering the past is only useful if it forms the basis of future action. This is where being savvy springboards off the past and creates the opportunity for action.

Boards and management teams must build their savviness and ensure that they are rightly composed of individuals who are savvy if they are to remain viable and prosperous.

Key means to building savviness include: regularly scanning the environment, maintaining a vibrant strategic focus, sharing the wisdom of the group as an access to deeper wisdom; bringing in new thinking in the form of people and knowledge; continuously shaping collective identity (who we are, not who we were).

Next time you are recruiting for a role, consider what you really mean when you specify “Experience” as a criterion. Do you really want candidates who are “savvy”?

Next time you are seeking a role, draw out your qualities of being savvy, not just with examples from your experience but also demonstrations of how you would handle situations in a savvy way.

Boards and managements with savvy members will forge ahead; the others will be left guarding the exits.

www.ian sampson.com.au

Leading when the unthinkable or unpalatable occurs

Imagine a situation where some undreamed of calamity occurs and it is up to you to lead your people right now through the next steps, possibly while the situation is still chaotic.  Would you like to be able to consciously and competently speak and move during those first moments and then throughout the ongoing response periods, to restore order and workability?

Ian Sampson and Tim Dalmau are hosting to Brisbane in early April Michael Grinder, a world expert on micro self management and interpersonal skills.  Michael has worked with leaders across the world in all types of organisations for many years.

We believe that world and organisational events are becoming so spontaneous and intricate that these skills are now fundamental to every successful leader’s repertoire.  Michael is working to build new NON-VERBAL expertise and knowledge in leading during the increasingly complex circumstances that are emerging every day. He is going to share this work with this special group.
What you will walk away with
The workshop will be set up like a learning laboratory, where you get pick up and practice new skills and see them develop in real time. The working environment will be welcoming, warm, inspiring and encouraging.
Michael will model and teach the behaviours and skills we need in these situations throughout the very interactive and non threatening two days we will be together.

The skills you learn will increase the personal effectiveness of your role in Crisis Management, Disaster Recovery, Continuity of Business and Emergency Management plans.
You will experience a two-day high end training experience with Michael, packed with skills, practice and information that will allow you to:-
• Be credible and influential when the unexpected happens
• Provide a sense of order and calm to stakeholders and employees
• Understand the conditions which create fear and those which create safety and a sense of order
• Know the conditions under which it is and is not realistic to expect that teams exist and be high performing
• Know how to communicate and behave non verbally for impact and effectiveness when the unexpected occurs
• Know how to have difficult or volatile conversations with others easily and effectively
• Receive personal feedback and coaching in real time
• Strategies and tools for increasing both the cohesiveness and performance of groups and teams
What do people say?
“I have attended a lot of leadership programs, but never one that gives you the practical non-verbal skills (and the opportunities to practice) that really make a difference in your interactions with others. From my perspective this program is unique”
PARTICIPANT in similar workshop, March 2015.
”This was the very best training experience I have ever had. I am so appreciative to Michael. Michael skills are world class. 
PARTICIPANT in similar workshop, March 2014.
As a professional conference speaker and International President of the Global Speakers Federation I get to see a lot of conference speakers, trainers and presenters from around the world. I have had the privilege to attend many training sessions during my term as President over the last eight months and I rate Michael Grinder’s program as the also most practical I have attended. I have learned so much I can put into use straight away at both a professional and personal level.
LINDSAY ADAMS CSP, Teamocracy, President, National Speakers Association of Australia

Who is presenting?
Michael Grinder

Dates and locations
6th and 7th April, 2017 from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm each day
United Services Club
183 Wickham Terrace, Brisbane
Parking is available at the club for a nominal fee and trains and buses are nearby
Click here to register today: http://www.dalamau.com/?p=3829
If you have any queries regarding registration please email Ian Sampson or phone +61  419 001 179.
Fee A$995

Leading when The Unthinkable Occurs

Can you imagine standing in front of a large or small group of your followers where something totally unthinkable, unplanned-for, unpredicted is occurring right now? How will you handle yourself? What will your body do? How will you speak, to bring the beginnings of a response to the situation that is arising, lurching towards chaos and crisis as the first words come out of your mouth?

Are you willing to take two days out of your office to increase your presence and charisma as a leader in situations where the unthinkable, unplanned for and unpredictable is occurring right in front of you?

Would you like to be able to consciously and competently speak and move during those first moments and then throughout the ongoing response periods, to restore order and workability?

My friend and colleague Tim Dalmau and I are hosting the visit to Brisbane in early April by Michael Grinder, a world expert on macro and micro self management and interpersonal skills.

Michael has worked with leaders across the world in all types of organisations for many years.

We believe that world and organisational events are becoming so spontaneous and intricate that these skills are now fundamental to every successful leader’s repertoire.

Michael is working with Tim to build new expertise and knowledge in leading during the increasingly complex circumstances that are emerging every day. He is going to share this work with this special group, which I hope will include you.

Please see http://www.michaelgrinder.com for more information about Michael and his work. You can also read about Tim at http://www.dalmau.com

Michael, Tim and I believe that people like you will gain a huge benefit from learning and refining these skills and being prepared. As we develop mastery in these situations we can handle everyday Leadership challenges much more easily and effectively.

My personal experience is that as we develop these skills we build our awareness of who we are and how to act in leaderful ways that benefit others. In that process we build wisdom in life because, as we know how to masterfully manage ourselves and to interact with others, we build our capacity to understand how the world works.

The workshop will be set up like a learning laboratory, where you get to pick up and practice new skills and see them develop in real time. The working environment will be welcoming, warm, inspiring and encouraging.

Michael will model and teach the behaviours and skills we need in these situations throughout the very interactive and non threatening two days we will be together.

In our experience of other work with Michael, you could accelerate your growth by bringing team colleagues or others you mentor, so please feel free to invite them.

Our contention is that as we develop mastery in these situations, we handle everyday Leadership challenges much more easily and effectively.

We may never have to actually deal with the equivalent of a Trump or a Brexit, an MH370 or a mass outbreak of hysteria in our organisations, but if we have the skills to be able to handle ourselves in such an event, we will be much better placed to handle day-to-day matters that pop up, where people are in difficulties and our job as leader is to uncover the next steps to take that bring progress.

The skills you learn will increase the personal effectiveness of your role in Crisis Management, Disaster Recovery, Continuity of Business and Emergency Management plans.

The practical details:

Dates and times: 6th and 7th April, 2017 from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm each day

Venue: United Services Club, 183 Wickham Terrace, Brisbane

Transport: Parking is available at the club for a nominal fee and trains and buses are nearby

Meals: Lunch, morning and afternoon teas will be provided. Please advise any dietary requirements.

Dress: Business attire

Cost: $995.00. Discounts apply for multiple registrations.

Please register at : http://www.dalmau.com/?p=3829

If you have queries please contact me on 0419001179.

Tim, Michael and I look forward to working with you.



Why Leadership Programs Under Deliver. What to Do

So, you’ve been to the Leadership Development program run by your organisation or a university.
You have the folder, the electronic materials, even a certificate of attendance.
You’ve been assessed, interviewed, monitored, evaluated, tested, fed-back to.
You have formed some new associations to follow up with as your career continues to unfold.
You have been back at work for a while, endeavoring to find ways to introduce the tools, models, structures, processes and techniques you learned.
(You most probably have found by now that engaging your significant others at home regarding what they need to know or do as a result of your attendance at the Program is fraught with danger and very patchy results!)
You sit quietly every now and then and reflect kindly on some of the speakers, presenters and facilitators and in occasional moments also reflect on your leadership and what it means to you and the world you live and work in.
A famous song by Peggy Lee has the lines:
Is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends
Then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is
Leadership development is often a tool for managements to make assessments about the capability and potential of new and emerging leaders. It serves a purpose. It provides insights, tools and techniques for keen participants to pick up.
But while participants may be keen or merely compliant, the cost and efficacy of Leadership Development Programs in building real Leaders is a cause of considerable debate and much concern by organisations that seek to build ongoing leadership capability improve writing and writing skills

. If “all there is” is a warm feeling about doing a program and developing data for succession plans without actually improving organisational results through the application of great leadership, there really are problems. Put another way, the problem is this: there is little evidence that they build leaders or increase practical
leadership in the everyday life of organisations as they face the challenges and opportunities of fast paced change.
Formal programs and even mentoring/coaching arrangements after programs are not, of themselves likely to produce as much as their sponsors hope or providers promise.
Emerging leaders and even seasoned leaders seeking to continually learn and build their capability need the opportunity to reflect, increase their self-awareness, build their leadership identity, practise leadership skills in a safe environment, develop their personal leadership plans and goals, learn from others’ real experience in the field.
Opportunities to engage in these activities are fundamental to success.
The Leadership Foundation stands in the unique place of providing opportunities for real leaders to develop real leadership. At regular monthly meetings either at a central venue in Brisbane or in-house in organisations:
They get to reflect on what’s working and not working for them at the moment.
They get to explore new ways to uncover leadership insights for themselves and to develop that in their followers.
They get to take whatever leadership identity they developed for themselves through courses and programs to new levels of insight.
They get to experiment.
They get to practice and debrief their particular approaches in short practical scenarios.
They get real feedback on issues they are dealing with in high impact speed coaching sessions
The Leadership Foundation is a community of leaders that have decided that leadership is not an individual pursuit, it is an ongoing team event where within any given leadership moment experiences are drawn upon, courage is called upon, decisions with intention are made and action happens. These four key elements are not only drawn from an individual, they are collated from and supported by a team of people made up of leaders and followers.
If you are interested in building your leadership capability to the next level with the support of a leadership community, come to an event at The Leadership Foundation www.theleadershipfoundation.com.au. You will be warmly welcomed!
Or call Ben Baldwin on 0400 743 170 to plan the next steps for your personal or organisation’s leadership.

Sensitive Leadership

(I started to publish this as a series of posts but received some feedback that they would be best published together, so here they all are as one document.)

A colleague recently described me as a new age type of leader… sensitive, caring, wanting to serve others. Does that make me a sensitive leader? Yes and No.
Good leaders use their sense, their sensitivity and their senses in being leaders in the moment.

There is some debate whether the old five senses- touch, sight, sound, smell and taste still are the right and only senses we human beings have.
Be that as it may, good leaders use all their senses when leading effectively.

The wonderful thing about our senses is that they allow us to scan our environment and make assessments about the context in the moment. Effective use of our senses increases our capacity for awareness, both of self and others.


A few years ago there was a management craze about Management By Walking Around. It still pervades some management training programs. The central idea was to get managers out from behind their desks and seeing what is going on in their operations. Paying attention. Making observations. Noticing what is really going on. Being aware. Being seen.

One post I read recently included a comment from an executive dean of a university. He “makes it a policy to meet quarterly with the people he manages to ensure they remain engaged and enthusiastic about their work. If not, a candid conversation may open the door to new, more meaningful ways in which that employee can contribute.”
Yeah, right. I can just imagine the rose petals strewn in his path as he deigns to chat with the plebs and reviews the troops. I can just imagine, too, the flocks of “the people he manages” rushing to his door for a candid conversation!

Of course there is another interpretation of Management By Walking Around. It involves Management By Walking Around…Problems. This can involve literally going around them as if they are not there, like sidestepping a turd on the footpath.

Or MBWA might mean not being stuck, held up, stopped, thwarted, limited by an issue we see and instead ‘finding a way’ around the problem so that outcomes are still achieved. Will you find a way around a problem so that progress is maintained or will you ignore it?

These are just three ways of interpreting how Management By Walking Around looks. How do you see things when you are interacting with others?

Here’s a useful way to hone you sense of leadership sight:
Think of a situation that will come up today where you will be a leader.
What will you pay attention to? What will you need to be very aware of?
What do you notice in just thinking about this right now?
That is Sight Sensitive Leadership.


In December 2015 I travelled to Mexico to be part of a program with leaders from around the world. 260 of us spent 8 days experiencing what actually happens when we are being leaders and experiencing what happens when effective leadership takes place.
A good part of the program covered listening. Many leaders think that leadership is about speaking.

Speech acts are one of the ways we move others to action as leaders. When we are speaking as leaders, what we say, and how we say it are deeply listened to by others. In that process, others make assessments about the content of what is being said and whether the person saying it is followable. That is why face-to-face speaking is so powerful.
Listening is just as important in a conversation as the speaking. Good leaders know how to speak effectively. They also know how to listen effectively. In the course we talked about the listening that goes on in people’s heads as they are listening to what is being said by others. These thoughts, interceptions, interpretations, assessments and the like act like a veil between the listener and the speaker. The speaker has no idea what is going on inside the listeners’ heads but what is going on is what ensures that every single listener gets a completely different and unique experience of what is being said.

Followers who are in a dream, listening to their thoughts etc, can’t get the full unveiled stream of communication. Poor leaders who don’t appreciate the power of clean listening can’t get the reasons why their communication is one sided.

Pay attention to effective leaders who are masterful listeners. As they are speaking they are deeply listening for their listeners. They are not making up stories in their heads about what the listener is thinking. They are making a clearing for communication to occur. How do they do that???????
They create communication by taking responsibility for their own listening. Then they listen from the speaker’s place. As their own internal voice keeps interrupting their thoughts they acknowledge it and take responsibility again for listening and getting what the speaker is really saying. It’s like being present in the place where the speaker is: not “in here”, not “out there”, but “out here” with the speaker.

Here’s a useful practice for building your listening as a leader:
Be aware of the context you are entering.
Recall what your models of thought and leadership are teaching you about the situation
Clarify what you intend to come from the conversation
Deepen your care for the other person
Begin the conversation, listening from “out here”
Notice what happens.
That is Listening Sensitive Leadership


So much of what passes for leadership these days is rotten, on the nose. Our political leadership is causing repugnance and recoil. Many are disillusioned that election campaigns, which seem to go now for half the political terms sometimes, are just self indulgent exercises in casting bread and promising circuses to the masses.
As this smelly phenomenon continues, our so-called political party leaders become ever more isolated from their real role: to provide leadership through the development, articulation and passage of policies that contribute to the advancement of our nation.

The situation is not much better in many organisations, businesses, not-for-profits, entrepreneurial activities, academic and governmental bureaucracies.

In other posts on sensitive leadership in this series I have suggested a useful practice. For this one I am struggling! The best I can do is suggest that you try paying extra attention to those who provide leadership in your situation. What does your sense of smell tell you about their effectiveness? If it is on the nose, look to your other senses and see if there is a practice you could take on to either help their ineffectiveness or improve your own.


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the etiquette of leadership. The notion of etiquette has pejorative implications for many: ideas of class, exclusivity, elitism. But as Elizabeth Post said: etiquette is the science of living.
Leadership etiquette might then mean the science of living a leaderful life. Etiquette is not about how one holds a knife or whether the spoons are in the right order on the table. Etiquette is about taste: doing the right thing, nobly, generously, inclusively, in a quality manner that brings out the best in situations and in others because it brings out the best in us.
Tasteful leadership is that approach to being a leader where others want to come on the journey with us, to explore and embrace the ideas we are presenting, to achieve the goals we are putting forth, to accomplish achievements in the way we are modelling by our own conduct.

Here’s a practice you might like to take on in building your leadership etiquette:
think about the qualities of leadership that you love to see yourself practice.
Recall those times when you have seen others respond well to your courage as a leader.
Incorporate that thinking into who you want to be as a leader going forward

For me the etiquette of my leadership, my tasteful leadership, includes; being at peace with my self, relating to others through deep care for them as amazing others, conducting myself so that others feel good about themselves and their situation.

What is your leadership etiquette? Whatever it is, that is tasteful leadership


Some years ago I watched a managing director of a very large organisation ranting at a management retreat. The woman sitting beside him eventually leaned a little towards him, and lightly touched his arm. The effect was electric. Without seemingly noticing the touch, his voice transformed, his volume decreased, his pace slowed and his language became more considered.

We all have the gift of touch as leaders. Sometimes it is a physical touch: embracing another appropriately to show care and concern, helping in a situation where physical effort is required. Sometimes it is metaphorical touch: reaching out to another to make contact, build relationships, promote connections, strengthen connectivity.
Of course at the other end of the spectrum, touch can be expressed as force. This is not leadership, so don’t do it.

Heres’ a practice for you to develop your leadership sensitivity to the power of touch:
In your leadership interactions this week, notice the impact of a slight, appropriate, physical touch offered to another. Observe the other’s response
Notice your own response
Use it as an opportunity to move your next leadership action to a new place of sensitivity and effectiveness.

Sensitive leadership is not namby pamby stuff. Being sensitive to ourself and others in our practice of leadership requires discipline, awareness, courage, intentionality, strength of character, the practice of ethical behaviours at all times.
As I said in the first episode in this series of posts: Good leaders use their sense, their sensitivity and their senses in being leaders in the moment.
Best wishes in your practice of sensitive leadership. I’d be delighted to hear of your experience in this domain.

Deceptive Leadership

I have been an admiring reader of Jeffrey Pfeffer’s work on Leadership for many years.

All that went out the window this week when he published an article in Forbes magazine titled: “Why Deception is Probably the Single Most Important Leadership Skill.” (Forbes, June 2,2016)
Pfeffer described the world of truthfulness, candour and transparency as being illustrative of “the kumbaya nature of leadership advice.” Really??

He advocates that it is OK to:

  • create false expectations in order to influence a persons performance
  • deceive others by creating placebo effects to create self fulfilling prophecies whereby an “idea produces behaviours that make the idea, even if originally false, become true.”

He says that leaders should not display uncertainty and insecurity even if they do not have “a real understanding of where they are heading.”

Notwithstanding that, in Australia at least, such conduct may constitute the criminal offence of deceptive and misleading conduct under the CorporationsLaw, this is just plain morally and ethically wrong. Do not do lie to those who put their trust in you.

Pfeffer attempted to justify his position with references to great American business leaders who successfully adopted this approach as a means to the end of creating business success.
No wonder so much of the world of business is in diabolical trouble.

If you can:

  • level with your followers
  • tell the facts
  • affirm your determination to go forward, even in the face of difficulty
  • provide believable next steps that will allow others to step up
  • be honest about the possibilities of success,

you are a leader.

If you can’t, you should not be in a formal leadership position. No matter what your title says, you are not a leader. Get out of the way and let someone else with the fortitude to say what is so and provide realistic next steps, come forward.

In the world of ontological leadership, this is a great example of inauthenticity at work. Pfeffer’s advocacy of deception is a sad but powerful example of the inauthenticity of inauthenticity. Shame on you, Professor Pfeffer.