On Leadership and Knowing Your Audience

Know Your Audience

Imagine this in your current role: You have taken a position on an issue that really matters to you. And you now need the backing of some of your key colleagues to turn your ideas into reality. 

So what should you be thinking at this point?

Leading Your Path to Success

In thinking about your next steps:

  • You recognise that without the active support of certain of your peer group or seniors you will find it a challenge to move head.
  • You decide that the best thing to do will be to speak with them so that you can take them through your thinking and influence them about the merits of your case.
  • Your arguments make total sense to you. You think they represent good value for your employing organisation, your teams and your customers.

But when it comes to speaking with your senior colleagues about the issues, you find that no one else gets it.  In fact, you are stumped by the degree to which they don’t get it.  As far as you are concerned, you put your case clearly, your arguments were robust and the benefits you described were crystal clear.

And yet still no one else around the table gets it…

Your views were dismissed outright by some of the leaders present and only considered in a shallow way by others.  You were baffled and still don’t know what happened.

On Knowing Your Audience

What could account for why a perfectly sound set of arguments fell on deaf ears?  Put simply, your ideas didn’t hit the spot because you didn’t position them carefully enough for them to appeal to your audience given their concerns, their priorities and their values.

Your plans appealed to you. But they didn’t appeal to your audience to the same degree because you:

  • Didn’t spend enough time at the start of the meeting positioning your proposals to appeal to your audience’s ears and not your own.
  • Didn’t manage the perceptions you created in the minds of your audience carefully enough.
  • Used the wrong arguments.
  • Started the discussion in the wrong place by going straight to your agenda instead of theirs. And, in this case, these two agendas were crucially different.

A Case in Point

Consider the following example:

A team leader decides to approach his boss and outline his plans to re-organise the management structure in his large customer-facing team.  The team leader involved is methodical, systematic and logical in his work style. He succinctly describes to his manager the inefficiencies in the current team structure, the ways in which these inefficiencies adversely affect customer service, and the ways in which they create challenges for inter-dependent teams.

None of this is news to his boss who is well aware of the shortcomings of the team structure. Then the team leader identifies the specific changes in the reporting lines which he wants to bring about, and tells his boss about these too. He is not expecting to have to argue the point. They’ve talked about these problems before, although this is the first time he has presented her with a solution.

He sees this discussion as a done deal and is simply amazed to discover that his arguments do not meet with his boss’s approval.

In fact, she moves the conversation on immediately to a series of other issues which are on her agenda telling her team leader that “This isn’t a good time to be making changes.

The team leader now faces a choice between asking her for more information about why she isn’t interested in his proposals, going ahead with his re-structure anyway and potentially incurring her displeasure, or dropping plans to which he is quite wedded.

Let’s Examine This…

So what happened? 

The boss regards her team leader as being somewhat into the detail and not strategic enough in the way he goes about his business. She has long held this view and has made it an issue between them several times, although never to the point of dismissing his plans before.

She is very much preoccupied with falling sales figures and the impact of the recession, issues which her team leader is aware of but which he hasn’t factored into his thinking sufficiently before he approaches her.  She thinks that her report isn’t bold enough or courageous enough in his plans for his team, doesn’t focus sufficiently well on new business development, and tends to make incremental changes which he values but which she doesn’t think add sufficient value to justify the amount of time it takes him to originate them.

As soon as he starts to speak about altering the reporting structure in his team she, being as preoccupied as she is, forms the view that he wants to make another series of small scale alterations which won’t add much overall value to her operation at a time when her figures are down, clients are not ordering in bulk, and the recession is affecting her revenue streams.

Given all these circumstances she thinks she could reasonably have expected some effective support from her report, and when she hears him wanting to take up her pressured and valuable time with another minor tweak, she switches off without really listening to him and moves the discussion on to other things.

From the point of view of her report, however, a number of issues have been raised. Each of the strengths of his proposition, in fact all of the compelling aspects of it as he would see it, were regarded as weaknesses by his boss to the point where she wouldn’t even consider them.  Instead of gaining political currency for his proactive problem-solving and customer focus, the team leader finds that he loses credibility with his boss in a situation in which they could reasonably have expected to gain it.

Positioning Your Plans and Proposals Effectively

So, what can he learn from this situation? 

  • He needs to think through what his plans and proposals will sound like – what they will mean – to his boss given her different style, values and priorities.
  • He knows she is highly focused on sales and worried about the impact of the recession on the organisation’s figures.  So, to gain her buy-in and appear to be up to speed as she sees it, he needs to start the meeting with his boss: with her current and longer term goals, her priorities on  that day and her concerns at the moment.
  • Having touched based with her and found out what is on her mind, he could then position his re-structure to appeal to her agenda.
  • He could say that while his plan might not bring in more business it will certainly enable existing customers to receive a more consistent and timely standard of service.
  • He could say that it would free up more of his team’s time to examine viable ways of adding value to the services they offer to their existing customers, and enable them to look for opportunities to sell add-on services to them.

Leading a Better Approach

Handling things this way will mean that he presents himself to his boss as someone who is on the same page as her, sharing the strain of getting the numbers up while also presenting himself as proactive and able at adding value to the operation. Using this approach will make it much more likely that he:

  • Avoids appearing out of touch with his manager’s reality.
  • Avoids a series of value judgments which his boss will make about him if she hears his plans as trivial or unimportant.
  • Gives himself the best chance of securing the endorsement of his boss to his proposals.

So, the next time you approach a key set of colleagues to secure their endorsement to your plans: think through how you can best link your proposals to the issues that sit at the top of their priority list so that you stand the best chance of getting the level of buy-in and active commitment you need.

Identify a situation in which you want to influence your peers or seniors to endorse your plans.  Who did you want to influence and in what way?  How will you position your argument with them? What key points do you plan to emphasise?  In what ways will these points appeal to them given their priorities and values?  Where do you want to start to meeting to have maximum influence?  What aspect of your proposals will appeal most strongly to your colleagues and how do you want to present these issues to them?


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Aryanne Oade is Director of Oade Associates
She is a Chartered Psychologist, executive coach, facilitator, author & speaker
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On Leadership and The Value You Bring Your Followers

Value Proposition

So Leaders: What’s your value proposition to your followers?

The employee is regarded by the employer merely in the light of his value as an operative. His productive capacity alone is taken into account.” ~ Leland Stanford

Compelling Value Proposition

In the world of modern sales and marketing, providing customers and clients with a compelling value proposition is the maxim.

  • Companies strive to engage by enticing potential customers with a vision of what life might be like if their pain were removed or they could achieve their dream.
  • Every effort is expended to nurture the customer until they beg to find out how this dream can be realised.
  • Then and only then is the solution provided and heaven help the company that fails to deliver the promised value.
  • This is not an equal exchange of value because modern consumers expect value greater than the money they pay.

Why then do many employers not have the same value proposition approach to their most valuable capital, their employees?

Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens people feel centered and that gives their work meaning.” ~ Warren G. Bennis

Making Value Choices

All organisations want to recruit and retain high potential internally motivated staff to achieve the company mission.

>>> So what’s in it for the employee and why should they choose you over other opportunities.

>>> More importantly, what is it you do for them that would make them want to stay? (It is not just about money…)

>>> What is your value proposition for them and how do you intend to deliver it persistently and consistently?

Making Monetary Choices

To paraphrase Vernon Hill at Metro Bank, how do you turn your staff into fans not just your customers?

Telefonica O2 said, “An organisation that does not enlist its own staff to its ‘fan base’ is not maximising its long-term value.

Does it make a financial difference?

Towers Perrin-ISR’s 2006 findings four:

Those companies with a highly engaged workforce improved operating income by 19.2 per cent over a period of 12 months, whilst those companies with low engagement scores saw operating income decline by 32.7 per cent over the same period.

Over a 12 month period, those companies with high engagement scores demonstrated a 13.7 per cent improvement in net income growth whilst those with low engagement saw net income growth decline by 3.8 per cent.

Making Value Propositions

You can find much more on the business benefits of a values proposition to employees in a report to the UK Government “Engaging for success: enhancing performance through employee engagement

So, let’s look at the employer/employee relationship at its most basic.

An employee offers their effort and expertise to an organisation and in turn they gain reward most usually but not always in the form of money. Balancing the equation is the hard part. The employee wants a fair reward for a certain level of input and the employer wants the maximum amount of input from the employee for as little as is reasonable to pay them.

It might be expressed as:

Motivation = Perception of benefits minus Perception of costs

The ideal situation arises when an employee invests “above and beyond the call of duty” just because they are motivated to do so by other factors outside of remuneration. Somehow their internal motivation has been triggered and they are self-sustaining. What value can you the employer give to your staff which would likely catalyse this behaviour or at least create the environment for it to develop? Peter Drucker said:

The true business of every company is to make and keep customers.” ~ Peter Drucker

But he also said:

Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.”

If we synthesise the two we might get:

The true business of every company (organization) is to make it easy for its staff to make and keep clients

The Tangible and Intangible Factors

The value given to followers comprises both tangible and intangible factors.

Key contributions might be:

  • Authentic listening
  • Identification of direct interferences restricting employees’ capability to achieve goals
  • Mitigating or removing such interferences

This is essentially the same thinking used daily by sales people to convert a prospect into a customer. Warm the prospect up first with sincere enquiry to identify their pains and dreams and then explain how the pain can be removed or their dreams achieved by your product or service.

You can find a compilation of the personal visions of 12 TED speakers on the subject of inspiring, values proposition-based leadership here.

Sellling The Vision

Ask yourself tehse questions:

  • So, how might your task as a leader alter if you considered your purpose was to “sell” the vision of working (and staying) with your organisation as a value proposition?
  • What value would they receive in “buying” into your offer?
  • How can you maintain, nuance and increase the value they receive in order to keep them?

This does not mean you roll over and give more than you can afford but we are not just talking about the money here. As has been proven so many times the last thing you talk about with sales prospects is the cost the first is what will change for them and by how much. Why would you expect the mindset of your staff to be different?

Your key actions for today

  • In today’s conversations with staff did you add value or take it?
  • Are your organisation’s job adverts value propositions?
  • Review one report’s job description today – on a scale of 1 to 10 is this a value proposition or a description of demands (i.e. tasks and responsibilities).

Further Reading

Drucker on Leadership: New Lessons from the Father of Modern ManagementWilliam A. Cohen PhD

For those will an interest in basic research on the psychology of business:

Harter, Hayes and Schmidt (Gallup, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and University of Iowa) Business-Unit-Level Relationship Between Employee Satisfaction, Employee Engagement, and Business Outcomes: A Meta-Analysis in the Journal of Applied Psychology.


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Leadership and Truth Found in a Comma


I just lost thousands of dollars because of a punctuation mark. A comma, of course.

Yes, a simple comma cost me much in a legal case.

The Little Stuff Counts

The Story of a Comma

Excited to move my business practice ahead, a contract was on my desk to sign. The agreement to hire and gain more sales was attractive. I was thinking this was a legitimate proposal and was not thinking that it might be a scam.

I looked over the contract and read the expectations that the service would be rendered without any hitches. I was eager to move the business forward. The contract was simple, just a couple of pages, and did not seem to need any more proof reading.

Flash Forward

Now, three months later, I am listening to the voice of the court clerk asking me to read the name of the business that had not kept its agreement and had been over paid for services not rendered.

  • I read the name.
  • Again, I read the business name.
  • A little confused, I read the business name once more.
  • The court clerk, asked me again to read the name of the business.
  • Again, I read the name.
  • What was I missing?
  • The court clerk then asked me if I could see the comma?

I looked carefully at the corporate register’s search document and saw that a small comma in the business name was visible.

What Did That Comma Mean?

A Stupid, Stupid Comma

The comma was a part of the business legal name and when the comma was left out of the Affidavit of Service it would cause the case I was filing nullified. A little item like a comma could play a significant part in the outcome of the complaint I had. A little object, like a comma could cost me thousands of dollars.

Few businesses use a comma in their name and surprised I  learned the comma was a ‘red flag’ to the court clerk. For me, it was not something I had expected. This made me realize that lies are often subtle and rarely expected.

A small comma is like a small lie. It can seem insignificant but have multiple impacts. The comma could have stopped the legal process. The comma could have prevented justice. The comma could have …blah, blah, blah…

A Comma in a Business Name

The legal name of the parties involved in a contract is a very important consideration. A small oversight such as a comma in the legal business name can nullify a court proceeding. To make sure that the document is correctly written, a corporate profile search undertaken at a registry office.

This double-checks that the legal name matches the contractual agreement. If a civil court case ensues this documentation is helpful. Some companies know a case loses because of this small oversight, so do the research before going to court.

How Prepared are You When Signing Contracts?

Your Ethical Journey

Business leadership is an ethical journey but sometimes unethical people lay snares that entangle and cause serious disruptions in the day-to-day operations. Therefore, contracts are an important source of truth and writing one carefully can save future misunderstandings, reduce operational headaches and risk.

All written contracts should make sure that both parties are evenly and fairly represented. The contract is a binding document that is easily to interpret and to follow.

Leadership and Truth in a Legal Agreement

Legal clauses are crucial in interpretation from what the contract states to meaning from the words written. The contract states and clarifies short and long-term commitments. The legal clause are found in change in control agreements, publishing agreements, speaking contracts, etc.

Legal clauses are disclaimers, non-disclosure statements and business-marketing strategy agreements.

Understanding detailed legal statements requires expertise beyond the scope of this blog; however the point that legal jargon is relevant and important for leaders is critical.

Truth in a legal contract is a trust that extends to both parties of the agreement. The buyer and the seller in a contract want to gain from the relationship. Neither expects the other to defraud. However, fraud results as the outcome of side-stepped truth.

So, just like the comma is a ‘red flag’ to keep in mind to prevent possible snares documentation is also important.

Solidify Your Business Contract

Documentation is the single biggest reason projects succeed. To write successful contracts include statements that are meaningful and understandable.

The following sentence will show a good deliverable.

Target decision makers called without allowing no downtime in the campaign.

The following sentence will show a better way to write a good deliverable.

Target decision makers have a website that is under performing with a page rank of 0-3; and furthermore allowing no downtime in the campaign hours between 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM on weekdays.”

Good Leadership Documents Outcomes

The best way to decide if the contractual agreement works is to document outcomes.

Create a spreadsheet to track the obligations of the buyer and the seller; such as, the date, name and deliverable in the contract on the spreadsheet.  Documentation of calls, emails, personal and business meetings recorded give evidence.

In the following contract, three key questions see whether excessive downtime caused problems in the campaign.

“Target decision makers have a website that is under performing with a page rank of 0-3; and furthermore allowing no downtime in the campaign hours between 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM on weekdays.”

  • Were the decision makers called?
  • Did the campaign run on the expected hours?
  • If a website was under performing did they get help?

This documentation of outcomes reduces anxiety and measures expectations realistically.

Truth is justified when seen with evidence. For example, get the evidence that your website is not under performing with critical web analytics today. Gain confidence knowing your management and leadership performance with executive video assessments. Documented outcomes are how leaders can solidify their businesses.


Q: So then, what documented outcomes do you value?

A: Please post your comment below. I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Loreen Sherman

Loreen Sherman is CEO of Star-Ting Inc | Executive Coach | Sr. Mgmt. Consultant
She serves clients with a 3-D Analytic Assessments and Succession Planning
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On Leadership, Core Values and Adhering to Principles

Core Values

Everyone knows we should have core values, yet the litany of disasters where companies and people failed to live up to their own core values grows yearly. Public cynicism is understandable given so many organisations claim laudable core values but their behaviour screams “we don’t care about them.

Don’t get me wrong: Profit is fine, but don’t hide behind a mission that is fake.

Culture and Core Values

The culture/core values relationship is at the centre of everything. Complex reasons lie behind core value misalignments.

They include:

1) Fundamental misunderstanding of the worth of core values.

Steve Jobs understood the need to identify, understand and live by core values. The two phases of Apple’s outstanding success under his leadership happened when they aligned their core values and actions.

2) Failure to exercise and embed core values in everything we do.

The complex dynamics of a disconnect between Enron’s culture and espoused core values was described elegantly by David Burkus in his 2011 paper in the Journal of Values-Based Leadership.

Core Values and Principles Must be Non-negotiable

Core Values

Core values are expressions of who we are, why we do what we do and are inherently non-negotiable. That’s not to say they can’t mature over time. They should belong to you and not be influenced by someone else’s opinion of moral or ethical norms.

“Leaders honor their core values, but they are flexible in how they execute them.” ~Colin Powell

Getting to grips with our real core values is challenging and requires we understand ourselves at a fundamentally honest level. Daniel Goleman in “Focus – the hidden driver of excellence” cites research indicating self-awareness as a crucial characteristic of successful leaders of equally self-aware organisations.

Sadly we usually start by ruminating on words claiming the hypothetical moral high ground; listing characteristics of “worthy ethical people or organisations”. Beware, this list is biassed by current mood, recent events and personal history. Organisations generate bland mission statements describing values they believe will appeal to clients and staff. To aspire to Steve Job’s view of core values we must re-frame and re-invent this process to create a dynamic living tool capable of steering our decisions and actions meaningfully.


Even the worst despots have core value, reprehensible though they may be to most people. Therefore, it is the principles and ethics that we hold to be truths which in turn asset in the creation of our core values.

“Principles are natural laws that are external to us and that ultimately control the consequences of our actions. Values are internal and subjective and represent that which we feel strongest about in guiding our behaviour.” ~Stephen Covey

The Physics of Core Strength

Dancers, athletes and gymnasts depend on core strength to achieve excellence. In the video notice, no matter how extravagantly she moves her arms and legs her core remains steady. Core strength comes from deep muscles around the pelvis working semi-automatically to maintain balance and connection between our legs and upper body.

We all rely on our core strength to sit, stand and walk.When we ask our bodies to do something out of the ordinary our core muscles must work harder. This excessive demand can become uncomfortable. We may lose balance and fall over. Dancers and athletes enhance balance by training their core, allowing them to do more adventurous movements.

What we see is “effortless” performance.

They also refine conscious and unconscious sensing systems feeding back to support yet more adaptation to changing demands.

Consider your personal and organisational core values as a dancer might exercise their core strength; holding you true and level whilst you experiment and  innovate. Start from the mindset of the novice by exercising a particular value, trust for example, be curious about your reaction to trusting.

How do others react to you trusting them? You might end up moderating your value to “smart trust.

When values don’t fit, you sense imbalance, an uncomfortable internal tension manifesting as feelings of hypocrisy or dishonesty. It you feel such sensations, rely your senses and know this value can’t really be yours; it needs modifying or rejecting. As you assess each core value in turn, testing your response to exercising it, you create your authentic immutable list!


Core Values Cards

Core Values Cards

Determine Your Team’s Core Values


What’s Next?

OK, I have my list of core values, now what a I meant to do?

You have in your hands the very thing Steve Jobs held so valuable, your core strength as a leader. More than that you have a practical tool for exercising and sensing the impact of your values and decisions as you become more adventurous and innovative.

You will also rely on your core values to absorb the inevitable hard knocks and develop personal and organisational resilience.

Real-World Impact

Do core values and principles make a difference?

  • People function best when they have purpose and feel in control.
  • Organisations staffed by people who feel in command excel.
  • When performing at their best athletes describe “being in the flow.”

They’ve so embedded their core strengths during training they perform unconsciously. Developing your core values by asking yourself, “is this decision or action aligned with my core values?” seems artificial at first, but with practice it becomes automatic.

Organisations reaching this level of insight thrive both in times of plenty and scarcity because they avoid wasting time on unnecessary internal tension; instead they concentrate on what they do best.

For a list of the core values of 15 successful companies take a look at YFS Magazine.

Do you understand your awesome purpose? What are your non-negotiable core values and principles? Do you exercise your core values every day? Is your company’s culture fully aligned with your core values? What feedback systems do you have to test your core values? Are their alarms bells ringing indicating a breach of your core values?


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 Gary Coulton

Dr Gary R Coulton is CEO of Adaptive Intelligence Consulting Limited
He empowers leaders to release their Adaptive Intelligence
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Leading Colorblind – The Strength of Belief


Leading people when you have “belief” as one of your top strengths makes you stand out in any environment. It is a characteristic that brings one’s core values to the surface time after time in an uncompromising way. 

And when it comes to belief, few things are more clear to people.

It’s Black or It’s White

“It’s the right thing to do.” That’s your bottom line. Come hell or high water, you will not budge from what you feel is right. Your value system is an essential part of your design.

So essential, in fact, you use it to evaluate everything; people, situations, job opportunities, etc. Those you surround yourself with often have a similar, if not identical, set of values and are more than aware of their importance to you. This code that you live by allows you to view the world in black and white.

There is no gray – it either lines up with your values, or it doesn’t. Plain and simple.

If this sounds like you, you’re displaying your Belief strength.

No Gray Means No Compromise

Having a strong Belief strength means having a set of core values that have an omnipresent bearing on your life. Though these values vary from person to person, they often lead those who possess them to have a high sense of responsibility and ethics.

This means that when push comes to shove, they know exactly where they stand, and so does everyone else.

Where other people may experience confusion, they have only clarity. There is no gray when it comes to their Belief; therefore, there is no compromise.

For this reason, people find them to be reliable and extremely trustworthy. Their Belief acts as a guide, shedding light on the darkness, allowing them to be consistent, or, in other words, dependable.

Leading and Being Lead

It is important for those strong in Belief to do work they find meaningful. It will only be meaningful if it allows them to utilize their values. This is great news for any leader with someone strong in Belief on their team. As their leader, you will have their undying support, as long as you and their work line up with their values.

Once Belief feels that you have violated their core values, it’s near impossible to get them back on your side.

As a leader you most likely have a set of values you also operate by, however, you may have a strength that Belief does not get along with. For example, if you are high in Competition, and willing the bend the rules a little bit to win, you may offend Belief depending on their values and what rule you bend. Remember, there is no gray, not even a slight shade.

Values Drive Decisions

If you are a leader with Belief, it’s important for you to understand there are different sets of values out there. Although they may be different, they aren’t inherently wrong. There are many ways to determine what your team members values. Here’s one way.

Belief should not equate to “Judge and Jury”.

This will most likely be difficult for you to keep in mind, but it’s necessary as a leader to support your team, even if they’re different. This does not mean you should disregard your values at work, in fact, that would be detrimental to your happiness and success as a leader.

Belief makes you a reliable leader with clear standards, which is great to have when you’re the boss. Just remember, some people need to operate in the gray to play to their strengths – it doesn’t make them wrong, just different. Use your value filter wisely and you’ll find an abundance of success!

As a leader, what are the advantages of being strong in Belief? Some of the pitfalls? Have you ever been lead by someone with Belief? What did you like most about their leadership style? Least? If anyone on your team has Belief, are you always clear on where they stand? Do you find them reliable and easy to trust?


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Alexsys "Lexy" Thompson HCS, SWP
Alexsys “Lexy” Thompson is Managing Partner at Fokal Fusion
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Leadership Nostalgia: The Perils of Leading in the Past

Leadership Nostalgia

Are we leading organizations, ministries, groups or teams as though we are living in 1990 – or worse yet, 1950? Non-profits are most guilty, living in the founder’s dreams way beyond their life cycle.

Such visions were birthed in a former reality and the values, decisions, strategies and structures reflected that reality.

News Flash – it is 2013.

Looking Back

The past is cool, even if it was hard. Every day brought doubts, fears and unanswerable questions:

  • Will we have enough customers, recruit enough attendees, ever have a positive cash flow balance?
  • Will we be ready to handle what an uncharted future holds?
  • Will we ever really know what we we’re doing?

It was wild, and we were irrational. Especially we entrepreneurs! Just ask Jeffrey Bussgang

Leadership Nostalgia

Leadership Qualities

There is a kind of “leadership nostalgia” that robs us of present-day effectiveness and a truly transformational future. Just look at any arena of work. The problem is nostalgia is selective; we only remember the extremes.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” said Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities, a perfect opening line for any new venture! As we recall the past, we either lived from one crisis to another or “everything just exploded and we could not even keep up with demand…what a rush!!!”

There were no normal days…or so we thought. But leading in the past is dangerous.

Look at these examples:

  • In America, one political group wants to restore American values while another wants to recreate the protest–driven activism of the 1960’s.
  • One graduate school clings to maintaining a purist “on-campus” experience for everyone; another hires a new President who will “take us back to the glory years” of our institution.
  • One church does a contemporary makeover – cooler music, hipper pastors, newer buildings, but still equates more butts in seats and dollars in the budget as success. Another appeals to “the early church” as THE model, unaware that all 1st century strategies do not meet 21st century challenges.

Leading the Future

We need to be leading OUT OF the past, not IN the past.

We need to be learning FROM the past, not longing FOR the past.

Here is what it takes to make that change:

Look Backward Briefly

Driving blindly into the future creates the same head-on collision as staring intently into the rear view mirror. Mine lessons from the past quickly because too much leadership nostalgia sucks the creative energy from the room. And take time to learn from mistakes. Scott Berkun has a great post on how to categorize and analyze your mistakes.

But don’t dwell on the past – mistakes or successes.

People care very little about what you did 40 years ago; time to get connected to the world TODAY and tell some new stories.

Get Very Clear about the Core…and Move On!

Look closely at values, culture, services, and products. Do we need it all? What some think is “our DNA” is really an extension of personal philosophy. If the organism is changing, so is the DNA.

Preserve only what really matters.

The Future is Not Yours Alone

Here is where most founders and long-term leaders get stuck. They have a “This is my baby” mentality – I gave it life!” Thinking they are “passing the baton” or “preparing the next generation to lead” they have changed only the ship’s crew, asking them to sail the same vessel.

Sure, it got a paint job and some high-tech navigation equipment, but it is still The SS Yesteryear.

In the cargo hold you’ll find the same vision, same strategies, and desires for younger leaders to utilize the same leadership style (theirs, of course). For church leaders, look at Protégé: Developing Your Next Generation of Church Leaders by Steve Saccone and for business leaders you will gain much from Feeding Your Leadership Pipeline by Dan Tobin.

Do you have the courage to hand the rudder to a new crew and let them overhaul the entire vessel? Or even put this boat in dry dock and build a new ship? That’d be courageous leadership!

From Wall Street to Main Street to the streets surrounding Capitol Hill, it is time for new leadership models, approaches, strategies and structures.

Will you be part of the team to build them? Will you let others really own the process and the outcomes? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Dr. Bill Donahue
Dr. Bill Donahue is President of LeaderSync Group, Inc

Bill is a professor at TIU and a Leadership Speaker and Consultant
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Servant Leadership: Authenticity and the Spiritual Journey


Leading with a Noble Purpose and pursuing a life of service to others only becomes authentic, dynamic and revitalizing when your spiritual practice evolves to the higher stages.

Until then it is mainly a “prepersonal” exercise firmly anchored to your egocentric self.

Being Selfless or Selfish

Leading without a spiritual purpose boils down to a simple ego-boosting technique that may make you feel better, but it will not lead to authenticity and into the ranks of the BIG L Leader.  Doing good and being your highest self is not the same thing.  Doing good can have at its essence an inflated ego drive – at a prepersonal level.

Authenticity and right motives may be repressed by the cocoons of denial and self-deception always assuring you of what a good person you are.  When in reality, Authentic Servant Leadership requires brutal self-honesty (as to your true intentions) and that you truly acknowledge with kindness and compassion your own vulnerabilities.

You have no choice here!

“Be the most ethical, the most responsible, the most authentic you can be with every breath you take, because you are cutting a path into tomorrow that others will follow.”  Ken Wilber

Detaching From Self

This developmental process is ongoing throughout life and it presents itself at both our strongest and weakest times.  If your understanding of “self” is deep and broad enough, you will have the opportunity to detach from ego and with work, experience your higher self.

Then your Servant Leadership style will move towards authenticity and it will resonate in all you do.

This is the true meaning of service and responsibility blended within the presence of a true seeker seeing from multiple perspectives and choosing right actions in being in the world.  Alas, you are awakening; you are beginning to know who you are and what matters to you.

“If you put yourself in God’s position, you will see that you wouldn’t be able to create the future in and through a selfish, self-centered person who deeply experiences incarnation as a burden.  There simply wouldn’t be any room for you in such an individual’s heart, mind, and soul.  This is why our enlightenment – our development beyond ego – has become nothing less than an evolutionary imperative.”  Andrew Cohen

Making a Difference

If you have or are about to take up the practice, you have chosen to use yourself in modeling your beliefs, values, and gifts each day.  You are now truly being in the world, however beautiful or ugly each day presents itself.

This is where you will stand with no excuses, apologies or wavering.  You are here.  You are not lost.

The manifest and absolute realities of life will show themselves.  You are beginning to understand what you are here to do and have accepted the reality that your story (indeed all our stories) will end.  As a Big L Leader, you will take a spiritual stance in your leadership beliefs and actions.

This path leads you to discover how you will make a difference by contributing what only you can give.  Is there any nobler path other than the one that leads to your inner self?

“What is this precious love and laughter budding in our hearts?  It is the glorious sound of a soul waking up!”  ~ Hafiz

A New Frontier

As many of us have discovered, these moments of spiritual depth and insight may strike us suddenly and leave us a bit unsure about our previous worldview.

They illuminate for us a new frontier of profound growth and development.

That what we seek – our true self – is right in front of us.  Are we ready to tap into this awesome potential?  Deep experiences of this scale are essential for next stage progression in consciousness and awareness. Helping us evolve spiritually and integrally.

But we need the courage and commitment to step up and out on to this new frontier in order to feel the solid ground that will hold and lead us to our new-found “self” and the dangers, opportunities, responsibilities and obligations that await our arrival.

  • How will you find your true self and immerse yourself in the authentic leadership experience that offers you the noble purpose way forward in your life and work?
  • How do you continue to grow and deepen continuously, even when you are not in touch directly with these deeper developmental insights?

To paraphrase Rumi:

“These spiritual window-shoppers, who idly ask, ‘How much is that?’

Oh, I’m just looking.  They handle a hundred items and put them down, shadows with no capital…

Even if you don’t know what you want, buy something, to be part of the exchanging flow…

As a leader, can you hear the spirit calling? If you cannot, what can you do to tune your ears, heart, and soul toward your calling? If so, what are your next steps in influencing others to greater heights? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Doug Ramsey

Doug Ramsey is Managing Director at Designed Management, LLC
He serves with Company Building, Growth, Leadership Development, and Coaching
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