Category Archives: organizational Development

Leadership & Creating an Environment of Service

Servamt Leadership 2 No_optA lot has been said about the leader as “servant”. I expect, given that it is a relatively young term (having been ‘born’ in 1970), it is also subject to wide interpretation. As such, while some people will experience great results from their efforts to serve, others will consider it a fad that will go away if they ignore it. Still others will make every effort to embrace the notion of the Servant Leader but find themselves exhausted, confused and possibly resentful because people seem to be walking all over them.

So what to do?

Well, first I’m thinking that we need some clarity about what it means to serve or be a servant. So I looked it up in a number of dictionaries and found this:

“Servant leaders are humble stewards of their organizations’ resources.”

A Servant is one who serves another, providing help in some manner.”

“A servant is a person who performs duties for others”.

So far so good.

Then I went to the Thesaurus for some synonyms for the word servant. Between the words attendant and steward lay these words, lackey, flunky, minion and drudge.  Okay then, herein may lie a problem.

Perhaps it is that many of us, when we think of the term Servant Leadership, take this subservient perspective (a.k.a. lackey, flunky, minion and drudge). In other words, it suggests that by serving, we are also submitting to the whims of others for no other reason than to render them superior. And, let’s face it, our egos are going to have a hard time with that. So, if you have been leaning in that direction when you think about the notion of Servant Leadership, I have some good news for you. I don’t think it’s about that at all.

Here’s what I do believe it’s about. It’s about…

knowing the Over-arching purpose I believe a good servant leader will focus on an over-arching purpose. This purpose becomes the master and the guide for all activities undertaken within the framework of the company. The leader serves the purpose through people. For instance, Southwest airlines’ over-arching purpose is stated as: “To provide the best service and lowest fares to the short haul, frequent-flying, point-to-point, non-interlining traveler.” This simple statement lets everyone know why Southwest Airlines is in business and whom it is there to serve.

However, in order to succeed, this understanding of service must permeate the organization and so it also becomes the role of the leader to:

Serve the people who are working to fulfill the over-arching purpose. This means providing the resources needed for people to do their jobs well and happily. It includes delivering needed training, supplies, connections, information, accommodation, direction and anything else that allows people working in the company to move the organization closer to the achievement of its purpose.

Encourage and develop an environment where people serve each other.  Where we can go wrong with this servant leadership thing is that we fail to expect all people working in the organization to serve too. Or, we simply don’t convey it very well.

Those who believe servant leadership to be a role only for the designated leader would be wrong. In truth, an environment that embraces service will do so in an all-encompassing way. This means that regardless of title or position, each person will both lead and serve another, or a group of others, to achieve company goals and make a contribution to the achievement of its purpose.

So, having said all that, what does it actually take to create this environment where service is king? Well, for what it’s worth, this is what I think about that.

It takes Discipline: Staying focused on the over-arching purpose and using it, as a guide for providing service to others is not easy. As humans, we can become easily distracted. It may be easy to stay the course and remain true to the purpose when times are good. But, when they are not so good, it becomes tempting to stray and do what is expedient instead.

It takes Humility: Putting others before ourselves is sometimes a challenge, especially in business, but humility is an essential ingredient in a successful service environment. I’m not talking about being obsequious here. I’m talking about simply being unselfish and mindful of others’ needs and contributions.

It takes Collaboration: Simply put, in order to serve the purpose and each other, we have to learn to work together, avoid internal politics and protectionism and share our ideas and resources with each other more freely.

It takes Trust: Trust is often an earned thing. However, a leader who serves the people will, in my view anyway, start from a platform of trust rather than skepticism. In my experience, people respond well to a leader who conveys faith in their intent. People who feel trusted are more likely to be willing to serve the over-arching purpose. Will you be disappointed? Yep, from time to time you will. But, if you start out not trusting my hunch is you’re going to be disappointed anyway.


It takes Faith: I’m not talking about the religious kind of faith here. I’m talking about the kind of faith that makes you believe so strongly in your company’s purpose and its people that all of your activities centre around them and the financial results that you realize from that come as a by-product of your collective effort.

So, is servant leadership for the faint of heart? I’d say no. Is it about subservience, or slavery? Certainly not.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?

*Note: this post was originally published in 2010.

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Filed under communication, Customer Service, Employee engagement, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Style, organizational Development

Leaders and the Learning Organization

senge2It is a testament to our naïveté about culture that we think that we can change it by simply declaring new values. Such declarations usually produce only cynicism. ~ Peter Senge

Peter Senge is one of my favourite Thought Leaders. You will probably know that he has been around for a while but his message, at least for me, is as relevant to our current time as it was when he first introduced his book, The Fifth Discipline, twenty something years ago.

So far, in my experience anyway, we have not been great students of his philosophies…or we have been great students but just, well, crappy at the execution part, proof perhaps that naïveté also lives in our belief that any of this stuff is easy.

There was a time when everyone was jumping onto The Learning Organization bandwagon. This usually happened when times were good, when organizations felt a little more ebullient about their prospects and generous toward their employees. And then when things started to look a little gloomy, heads turned back to the way things were. Budgets were cut and the Learning part of the organization dried up while the focus snapped back in line with the notion that wisdom and decisions could only come from the few and learning for the many was a luxury no one could afford.

I’m thinking though that it is in the difficult times that leaders need to embrace the concepts of the Learning Organization and to build a culture of shared leadership.

I must confess that not being particularly academic in my own learning process, I found The Fifth Discipline a little dry. Having said that, I also think the five main components of a Learning Organization continue to make great sense and are actionable, to greater or lesser degrees, by everyone regardless of whether we lead in large organizations, small ones, or are simply striving to lead a meaningful life.

Each of the Learning Organization components, personal mastery, mental models, team learning, shared vision and systems thinking allow for the opportunity to create lives and organizations that are resilient, flexible, inclusive and dynamic. The question often is though, how do we to start?

Here are some of my thoughts about that:

Personal Mastery: is, for me, the place where everything really begins. Taking the time to study and understand our reality, and our purpose, serves not only ourselves but also everyone with whom we come in contact.

Practically speaking, there are a lot of instruments available on the Internet that will help us confirm what we might already inherently know about ourselves or uncover some things we didn’t know. However we do it, the key to successful personal mastery, I think, is to trust in the information we receive; to be curious and ask questions either formally or informally; to observe the impact we have on others when we interact with them; and to act on any new knowledge we get about ourselves.

Mental Models: are, simply put, about assumptions and biases in our thinking. There is a proverb that says, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.

This speaks to the dangers of clinging to, and operating from, narrow perspectives. I believe the goal for leaders in this century is to widen the lens of their thinking by challenging not only their own assumptions but also the beliefs and biases on which their organizations operate. I hazard to say that if we were each to bring heightened awareness to our assumptions, our ability to be receptive to change would be that much greater.

Team Learning: There are many books written on the topic of teams, and an amazing array of teams within organizations too. It can get pretty complex. But suffice it to say that in an age where shared leadership is, or will become, critical, the need to understand the dynamics and functional operation of teams is pretty great. Here, I think it starts with gaining an understanding of what a truly successful and highly functional team looks like. In my observation, it always seems to come down to how team members communicate with each other; how they manage conflict and; how they examine their successes and more particularly, their failures.

Shared Vision: I expect this one is pretty familiar to most people. And yet its usefulness is so often diminished because the vision is developed at the top of the organization and seldom shared by those who are expected to work toward its achievement. To me, a Shared Vision is just that…shared. It may start with one person but if it is going to come alive and guide the company’s activities, it must be embraced and shared by all. It doesn’t have to be a sweeping statement with big words either. For example,, the online department store’s vision is, Delivering Happiness. It is a clear, simple statement that provides great direction to anyone who works there. To me, the message is, if what you do delivers happiness, it’s probably the right thing.

Systems Thinking: When most people talk about Senge’s model of a Learning Organization, they usually start with Systems Thinking. I keep it to the end because really this is about paying attention to the connections between and among a variety of elements that make up the whole. In organizations, we have this tendency to create silos of operation where people make decisions based only on their own needs. When this happens, others are affected, (often negatively) and that creates unnecessary and unproductive tension within the organization.

So, I suppose a place to start with respect to systems thinking is to ask, Who will be affected by what we are about to do? How do we involve them? Why should we care?

Really, systems thinking is  kind of like the plumbing in an old apartment complex. If there is a breakdown in one person’s apartment, it can affect the water supply to all of the others.

Some people may think the concepts put forth in The Fifth Discipline are old too. But, I think that they are timeless. If more organizations were to embrace and enact these philosophies, they would find ways to remain pliable and resilient in even the most treacherous of time.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?

*note: this post was originally published in 2010


Filed under Change Management, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Vision, Leading Teams, Learning, organizational culture, organizational Development, Organizational Effectiveness

The Language of Leadership in the 21st Century

I’ve always loved language. Admittedly, my facility in it is sadly limited to English, a few French words and phrases, body language (on a good day) and oh yes, a little pig Latin. But, what I love about language is its power to shape ideas, create images, evoke emotion and give birth to new habits and traditions.

In organizations, language also has the power to determine what matters. For instance, the language of the 20th Century stressed, among other things, the importance of control, competition, individual targets, winning, losing and results. And while many of these words allude to activities that continue to be important, there is other language creeping into the 21st Century landscape that will affect our behaviour and change the way we go about things.

To some, this language is associated with the softer side of life. In the past, It has often been derided and dismissed as being too ethereal or without merit in the workplace. But, as this new century unfolds, language like this will re-shape what matters and reveal its harder edge as we put it into practice.

So, what specifically am I talking about? Well, no doubt you will have heard and used the words. But because I often think it’s easy to use words without really understanding what they mean or how they might be used in any sort of practical way, I thought I’d have a go at bringing them into the light if only for the sake of provoking your own thoughts about their applicability in these highly challenging times. Words, after all, have a way of being open to interpretation and I’m sure you will have yours. But, for what it’s worth here are mine:

The first word is Empathy. To me, empathy in action looks like this. You and I are sharing our viewpoints over a particular issue. It is a difficult conversation. What I’m hearing from you sounds foreign and unlikely and yet I want to make sense of what you are saying. So I stop. I let my ego and my belief that I am right go, and I step into your shoes. I do that by asking questions and exploring the issue from your perspective. I seek to see what you see. In so doing I search for what you might be feeling and when I find it, I begin to understand what it’s like to be there. In short, empathy is about understanding. But just to be clear, it is not necessarily about agreeing.

Here are some other key words that come to mind:

Inclusion is about creating an environment where people feel they belong; are valued and respected. Including people means asking their opinions frequently; trusting them to take the lead in situations where their strengths will better serve the purpose; acknowledging their contributions sincerely and often.

Self-awareness is about knowing our own strengths, weaknesses, behaviours and attitudes well enough to understand our impact on those around us and how effective, or perhaps ineffective, it is in certain situations.

Cultural awareness is about the values, beliefs and perceptions that are part of the organization and the people who work in it. Organizations with an enduring culture will be ones that align their activities and practices with their values and beliefs. These values and beliefs are brought alive through action and thought; in their approach to the customer; in their hiring practices and in the kind of business they choose to conduct.

Diversity is about achieving a real appreciation for the heterogeneous nature of the world and it’s people. To me, embracing diversity means appreciating, understanding, valuing and using our differences to enhance the work and create something greater than we might otherwise do by behaving divisively and out of ignorance or fear.

Openness is about being truthful and giving people the information and resources they need to do their jobs. It also reminds me of the critical need to be receptive to new ideas from a variety of sources and people. In the last century, information was often used as a power tool by a few against the many. Today, I think that power is at its most effective when it is collectively held and willingly shared.

Adaptability in this century will be key to not only successful organizations but ones that simply seek survival as well. This is about learning to accept change as an every day occurrence as opposed to an event that must be planned and carefully managed. It speaks to the necessity to be continually reading, questioning and challenging the current environment. Today becomes yesterday in the blink of an eye. I think that those who learn fast and change faster will do better in these times than those who don’t.

Collaboration speaks to the need to work together for a common purpose. The 20th Century organization was rife with silos and walls that provoked, or perhaps encouraged, internal competition and rivalries. Now it’s time to build bridges between people and lines of business; to eschew hoarding behaviour and learn to share ideas and resources for a purpose that will be of service to everyone involved

These are just eight words that I think, when put into action, will define leadership, and organizational life, in the years to come. There are, of course, others. But, my point is that the more we use this language, and seek to understand its meaning and application, the better equipped we will be to meet the challenges that this century presents.

What do you think? What words come to mind for you when you think about leadership today? What do they mean to you? How will they affect the way we work?

Note: This post was originally published in October 2010

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Filed under Building Relationships, Change Management, communication, Leadership, Leadership Development, organizational Development, Organizational Effectiveness

Why Do You Choose Leadership?

 This post, from 2012, poses a question about leadership.  It asks us to examine our motivation for choosing to undertake an organizational leadership role.  And, it highlights a couple of obstacles that can get in the way of our making the right choice, both for us and for those who will be affected by it.


In many organizations, there is this implicit assumption that everyone aspires to be a leader.  As a result, leadership roles in these places are ever in danger of being populated by people who privately lack the interest or desire to develop the skill required to lead others effectively. We’ve probably all seen, and felt, the consequences of  this at some time or another.

So, where is the source of the problem?  To be honest, I’ve been struggling a bit with this question but I have a few thoughts so here they are.

First, I think we have to look to organizational culture and practices.  And second, we have to explore the possible reasons people apply for leadership roles in the first place.

From an organizational perspective, these two questions come to mind:

What does the culture of the organization support?

Culture has a lot to do with the caliber of leadership existing in any company.  In many places, those who say they aren’t interested in leadership roles are viewed as having no ambition…or worse.  If the work environment does not support or value those who prefer individual contribution, some people will feel pressure to step into roles for which they are unsuited perhaps because they feel it is expected of them or they don’t see anywhere else to go to improve their lot.

What false assumptions might the organization be making?

In some companies, those who excel in one area of the work are often promoted and placed in charge of a group of others doing similar work.   The assumption is that s/he who excels is willing and able to bring the others up to his or her level of excellence.  In my experience, those who are good at doing are not necessarily good at teaching.  And so, often, the results of this tactic are disappointing for the company and frustrating for the individual.

There are of course other questions to ponder but the point is that if you find too many unhappy people in roles that don’t suit them, the first place to look is at how the organization may be unwittingly supporting it.

Okay, so aside from organizational concerns, why do people choose leadership roles?   Well, I think that’s a question that every person should be asked when making application because to make it simple, there are good reasons and there are bad reasons for choosing leadership.

For instance, I think you may be on the right track if:

You want to change something for the better

You have a genuine interest in influencing others

You see the reward and benefit of working with and through others.

You believe strongly in the power of collective effort

Coaching, teaching, and guiding are words to which you strongly relate

Building relationships and communicating with others is important to you

You accept that people will watch you, do what you do and say what you say… for better or worse.

You accept that not everyone is going to like you.

You are willing take the blame for group mistakes even if you didn’t make them.

Conversely, you may be barking up the wrong tree if:

Your primary interest is more money and a promotion

You like the idea of telling people what to do

Position or status is your principal motivator

You view this as an opportunity to delegate the work you don’t like to do.

You want a leadership role solely for the purpose of your own development

The Bottom Line:  Creating workplaces where leadership roles are filled only with people who are good at leading and want to be there, relies on the willingness of organizations to give greater value to, and make room for, those whose skills and talents lie elsewhere.  It also relies on the willingness of individuals to examine their real motivations before throwing their hat in the leadership ring.

That’s what I think anyway. What do you think?  Why would you choose leadership?  What else has to change?


Filed under Leadership, Leadership Development, Management, organizational Development, Organizational Effectiveness

Leading Collaboratively…A 21st Century Necessity

This, from January, 2011.


I don’t know about you, but when I was little, one of the things my parents were always on about was the importance of playing well with others.  In school too, I was encouraged, along with my classmates, to work together to complete projects and participate in sports events.

Then, in adulthood I got a job and for some reason, the emphasis there was not about that.  It was more about doing what I was told.  It was about individual survival and competition.  And somehow, while civility remained (for the most part anyway), a spirit of collaboration, where people shared information and resources freely to achieve something important together was rare.

In childhood we could perhaps afford to run afoul of collaborative efforts.  Then, the consequences were fairly minor.  But, as adults, we must go beyond the notion that collaboration is something we do to be nice. More and more, it is becoming something we must become skilled in if we are going to survive.

By now, most of us know why that is, at least on a global scale. In our current economy we are having to learn how to do more with less.  Our successes often depend on the successes of others, not only other individuals, but also other countries, other continents even.  Technology, too, has brought us closer together and the opportunities we have to develop relationships and work with others on-line are many and varied.

But what does this means to a leader at ground level, the woman or man who goes to work every day with the responsibilities associated with leading a group of others in the achievement of seemingly everyday things?  What part does s/he play in this collaborative effort?

Well, for one thing, I don’t believe it possible for one person to successfully demand collaboration from another.  It’s usually something we choose to do, or not.  And to me, that means that leaders at all levels must find ways to make it worth choosing.

So, if you are a leader, wondering how to help people in your place of work choose collaboration over other, more independent approaches to getting work done, I’ve had a couple of thoughts that may help.

Provide Clarity of Purpose

There is no doubt that people work much better together when they are certain about what they are working to achieve. We should not assume that everyone involved is clear about the goal. Clarity of purpose also includes ensuring that those involved have a shared understanding about why the work (and the achievement of it), is important and what working together in a common interest can accomplish that working out of self interest could not.

Offer Appropriate Reward

It is often the case that while we talk a lot about collaborative work in organizations, our reward systems frequently continue to acknowledge individual effort disproportionately.  This makes it difficult for people to choose collaboration over internal competition.  So, to me, the task for the leader is to model and acknowledge group effort at every opportunity and reward group achievement both in tangible ways and in ways that appeal intrinsically to its participants.  Or, simply put, rewards are structured in a way that people gain a sense of deeper satisfaction from working together than from working individually.

Share Freely

Sharing information and assets between and among various concerns is fundamental to effective collaboration. It is the leader’s role to demonstrate this by discouraging hoarding and secretive behaviour; by being candid with their views and generous with resources; and by helping others see that doing so will bring them closer to achieving their collective goal and enriching their personal experience.

Avoid Potential Pitfalls

Some people might think that collaborating requires us to always get along.  However, when we work together authentically, we are not always going to agree. So, taking unnecessary pains to avoid conflict in the group, often serves to impede its progress. As well, it is tempting to collaborate only with like-minded people for the same reason. On the other hand effective collaboration can be negatively affected if people get into the habit of attacking each other instead of the issues that get in their way.  So, the leader’s job is to strive for and encourage a balance that allows for healthy discussion, respectfully and productively conducted.

All this sounds like work.  And it is.  But, collaboration, when carried out effectively can produce wondrous things. Like this:

The bottom line is this. Whether we are engaged in for-profit business, non-profit organizations or more philanthropic efforts, our ability to work together in the pursuit and achievement of a common purpose has never been more critical. And, if our individual experience has so far not allowed us the opportunity to collaborate with others, now would be a good time to start, regardless of where we lead, or at what level.

That’s what I think anyway. What do you think?

p.s. Here are some links you may find interesting:

Collaboration from Wikipedia ,  Collaborative LeadershipDefining Collaborative Leadership


Filed under building awareness, communication, Employee engagement, Leadership, Leadership Development, organizational Development, Organizational Effectiveness

Corporate Culture: 10 Elements That Help Drive Results

Recently, in the National Post, there was a whole section dedicated to Canada’s most admired corporate cultures.  In it was highlighted some very successful, vibrant companies, diverse in their business interests but with many themes in common. These themes reinforced my belief that success in any enterprise relies on its ability to bring people together and extract from them their best work, not through rules, policies, processes and bottom line focus but by creating cultures that invite participation .  It is from this softer, yet more difficult perspective that these companies drive results.

So, what does this “softer” perspective look like?  Well, as I read through the variety of articles on offer, I picked up ten elements that figure prominently in the cultures of these highly successful organizations.   Here they are:

Clarity of Vision and Values ~ This of course, comes up every time.  Most companies have some kind of vision statement and a published set of organizational values.  Not all actually use them as their guiding force.   And not all faithfully model the values they espouse.  Creating clarity about what business you are in; where you see it going; and how you intend to get there is a critical ingredient in everything else you do.  That’s the philosophy Claude Mongeau, CEO of CN Rail, has embraced and it has proven to be highly effective.

Respect and Civility ~ Eckler Ltd, an actuarial consulting firm has a simple but powerful mantra.  “Treat people like adults

This company has high expectations of its workforce.  They hold themselves and each other accountable for the commitments they make while limiting the number of rules and policies they enforce.  Operating from a platform of respect and civility seems like such a simple thing to do and yet its potential for making productive conversations easier is enormous.

Learning and Growth ~ In highly successful companies learning, growth and development is not just a nice to do thing.  It forms part of the fabric of the organization and as such is not the first thing to get cut from the budget when times get a little tight.  Companies like Medavie Blue Cross see it as a critical part of ensuring a solid future for the company and everyone in it.

Service Before Selling~  Arthur Mesher is CEO of Descartes Systems, a Software Company in Waterloo Ontario.  When he first joined the firm, he noticed that people were not delivering on their commitments.  Theirs was a ‘sales’ culture that seemed to leave the customer out of the equation.  Mr Mesher recognized the limitations of the sales philosophy and the ineffective practices that went along with it.  And so he went about shifting the focus, away from sales numbers toward the achievement of customer satisfaction first and foremost.  This shift, while financially painful at first, now reflects the wisdom of the new maxim of service before selling in 2012 results any organization could be proud of.

Collaboration ~ Ray Kroc, Founder of McDonald’s Restaurants once said, “ None of us is as good as all of us”

This has formed the basis for McDonald’s organizational culture, which continues to value and build on collaborative relationships with its employees, franchisees and suppliers.

Social Responsibility ~ In today’s world, establishing roots in the community is an essential part of building a successful business.  Those who participate through sponsorships and volunteerism build a rich environment that people want to be a part of.  Organizations like McDonald’s, CIBC and Camp Oochigeas (a camp for children with cancer) are a testament to this.

Balance ~ When you treat people like adults, you also give them flexibility to find their own formula for delivering on their company commitments.  As Stuart Suls, CEO of Mr. Lube puts it, “ You only have one life.  It’s up to employers to give people the space to balance things out”

Simplicity of purpose ~ Being able to state your organizational purpose as simply as possible provides great clarity especially in hard times.  For instance, at the North York General Hospital, the CEO, Tim Rutledge expresses his organizational purpose in a way everyone can understand.  It goes something like: To make people better; keep them safe ; and give them timely access to care.  Everything else can flow from that.

Innovation and Finding a Place for Failure~ At Cineplex Inc., CEO Ellis Jacob says, “ I would rather you try something and fail, and learn from it than never try at all”

This is a tenet that so many have difficulty with because it can be costly.  But, in today’s world an essential ingredient to success is risk… and sometimes failure.  So taking a more positive perspective on failure is becoming increasingly important.

Diversity and Inclusion ~ This is a common theme among many of the companies recognized as having corporate cultures to admire and emulate.  There is, after all great richness in the diverse talents, skills and experience people bring to work every day.  Organizations who make the best use of their available resources tend to challenge their own assumptions, suspend judgement and invite a wide variety of people to take an active part in their present and future.

There are of course other themes that exemplify workplaces with much admired corporate cultures. But, if you are starting a new business or are working to effect change in your own organization this might be a place to start.  It couldn’t hurt.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?


Filed under Employee engagement, Leadership, Management, organizational Development, Organizational Effectiveness, Uncategorized

2012 ~ A Year in Review with Dr Seuss, Darwin & Hemingway Too.

This week, I’m joining a myriad of others in reflection.  Being a person prone to pondering (and alliteration it seems), reflection is not something I necessarily reserve for the beginning of a new year. But, now is as good a time as any to have a look back. So here are the posts that you, (judging from your visits and comments), seemed to have enjoyed the most in 2012.

When Leaders Lose Sight of Their Primary Purpose

Lives are lost.  Trust is broken. Property is destroyed. And, the captain is forever tainted with the whiff of cowardice, no matter what the outcome of official investigations to come.  That’s the sad tale of the cruise ship, Costa Concordia.

And Why?  This is why.   Read more

If I Ran The Zoo ~ A Whimsical Look at Leadership

When my boys were little, one my favorite things to do was to read stories to them at bedtime.  A well-loved story was Dr Seuss’ “If I Ran the Zoo”.  Basically, it is about a little boy, Gerald McGrew, who decides that the animals he sees in the Zoo are too ordinary and he begins to imagine what it might be like if he ran the Zoo instead.  I’m not sure what started me thinking about it but a whimsical mood has led me to creating my own version of “If I Ran the Zoo”.  So, with apologies to Dr Seuss, here it is: Read more

Leadership Lessons from the Old Man and the Sea

The other day, while channel surfing, I caught a glimpse of Spencer Tracy playing Santiago in Ernest Hemingway’s, The Old Man and the Sea.  It didn’t register much at the time because as you may know, when one channel surfs, the little grey cells kind of take a nap.  Later though, I began to think about that story and the lessons it has to teach us.  Read more

Why Do You Choose Leadership?

In many organizations, there is this implicit assumption that everyone aspires to be a leader. As a result, leadership roles in these places are ever in danger of being populated by people who privately lack the interest or desire to develop the skill required to lead others effectively. Read more…

Philosophy and the Corporate Boardroom

I was having a conversation with my son the other day.  We were talking about higher education and business.  At some point, those two conversations, while starting out separately, merged.  I think it was when he told me about a respected business colleague whose strongly held opinions included the notion that philosophy graduates have no place at a corporate boardroom table.  I’ve been thinking about that conversation ever since.  Read more…

Leadership – What’s Charisma Got To Do With It?

Charismatic leaders paint the picture of the leader as hero.  These are people who suggest, by their very presence, they can take care of us; cure our ills; make change possible; maybe even be the saviour we have long sought.

In reality, no one can do that single-handedly. Read more

Leadership and the Destructive Nature of Emotional Stupidity

Aristotle once said, “Anyone can get angry. That’s easy. But to get angry in the right way, for the right reason, at the right time and with the right person…that’s not so easy”

I was reminded of this the other day when on television, I, along with countless others witnessed this.  Read more

Leadership and Courage

Courage has many faces.  It doesn’t always show up complete with epaulets and a shiny sword yelling “Charge!!”  In fact, I would suggest it more often demands a much subtler approach.  Either way, courage is not something we can buy or fake. Read more

Personality vs. Character in Leadership

A recent, and much discussed event in the news has started me thinking about the difference between personality and character.   There are perhaps some who have spent little time considering if there even is a difference between them.  Even the Thesaurus on my laptop suggests the word ‘character’ as an acceptable substitute for the word ‘personality’.  But to me, they are quite different.

With my strictly layperson’s eye, I see that distinction as this- Read more

Leadership Perceptions ~ Changing the Record

I read an interesting article last week that started me thinking about the messages we send out to our children concerning what it is to be a manager.  I was thinking too, or perhaps worrying, that in spite of herculean efforts on the part of many ‘experts’ to change the perception of what it takes to be a good manager, we seem to be failing to convey a more enlightened message than the one that prevailed at the beginning of the Industrial Age.  Read more

6 Ideas About Creating Organizations That Value Ideas

Now, more than ever, businesses are having to rethink their product and how they deliver to market. So, the question, (or at least one of them) is, how do we build organizations that actively value idea creation and development?  Read more…

Leadership and The Value of Exploring Beyond Your Door

Success in these times will depend on our ability to reach beyond our current level of understanding about the world and about each other. Whether we choose to sail to far-flung places or find other ways to expand our knowledge, we must reach out and explore beyond our own particular doors. Read more…


Thank you very much for your readership over the past year.  I am especially grateful to those of you who have chosen to subscribe to this blog.  I hope it has served you well and will continue to do so in 2013.  My best wishes for a happy, healthy, purposeful and prosperous year ahead.



Filed under Leadership, Leadership Development, Management, organizational Development, Organizational Effectiveness, Uncategorized