Why change needs leadership

Create the path

Organisations need people who challenge the status quo and look for new sources of value because business-as-usual leads to decline. Disruptors are everywhere and are very much part of the 21st-century competitive landscape.

Step 1. Generate Urgency

There are plenty of examples of companies that have been left behind because they didn’t have leadership looking into the future. Kodak missed the digital revolution, Nokia missed the smartphone shift, Amstrad was once the UK’s largest computer supplier that lost its foothold because it failed to understand the concept of networking, and DEC (The Digital Equipment Corp) in the 80’s was second only to IBM. However, its president proclaimed that there would never be a market for a computer in the home. Oops!

It takes leadership to step outside of the b-a-u model and start to generate a real sense of urgency amongst key stakeholders. The pushback comes in waves of logic insisting that the business needs to focus on the here-and-now. This kind of logic is hard to defeat because it has certainty on its side and it can be backed up with accurate projections.

Following the same path is seductive because to looks safe, but it’s only a matter time before a new business model shatters this illusion.

Step 2. Get the right people onboard

Effecting change requires a team of influential stakeholders that are interested in exploring the future.  Finding the next disruptive innovation is a challenging exercise. Turning it into a commercial success requires more than the willpower of one individual, it requires complementary knowledge and skills that only a team can bring.

To address the logical arguments for the existing business model, you must develop more compelling and robust arguments for the new prototype. Tools such as the business canvas and design thinking are essential and require a team to test assumptions, build hypothesis and research changes. Pulling this team together and engaging them in search the future is the output of great leadership.

Step 3. Developing a Vivid Vision of the Future

As most successful athletes will tell you, seeing the win before it happens is a critical component of their preparation for success.

Setting out to build a vivid vision opens up the list of topics to be discussed by the team. It shifts the focus from big generic ideas to specific details that make the vision more tangible. Conversations about what the offices will look like are not trivial because they open up discussions about culture, people and the kinds of aspirations that the team has about where and how they want to work. Storytelling, in this way, improves how the teammates understand each other’s values and motivators. Sharing builds the team’s common ground and develops a sense of belonging which creates the bond necessary to enable them to meet tough challenges together.

Step 4. Communicating the vision clearly and often

When you develop the vision, follow Elon Musk’s example, check out his plan to colonise Mars, rich visualisations are within everyone’s grasp; use pictures, videos, animations, and of course PowerPoint to share and more importantly allow audiences to interact with the vision. The questions people ask are sources of enrichment, especially questions you or your team have not yet asked.

The more you share, the more you can learn, providing you remain open to questions and are curious about the views of others. Seeing your vision from multiple perspectives adds ideas that can be used to make your vision better and more vivid.

Step 5. Removing obstacles

If you are going to disrupt your own company’s business model, there will be obstacles that will need attention.

Map out the plan to get from where you are to where your future lies. Plot major obstacles and begin by asking who do you need to put in a room to remove each obstacle. For inspiration, think about the challenge that faced Steve Jobs when he wanted to launch iTunes. Jobs and his team had to convince the record label bosses to put their collections in their store online. This intervention created the digital music market.

Step 6. Celebrate Short term wins and avoid premature declarations of victory

Disrupting an industry can bring quick wins. Celebrating these is an important strategy to maintain the high levels of engagement needed to turn quick wins into a sustainable business model. At this point, the leader must become a chess player.

Planning to celebrate small wins is an exercise in maintaining morale as well as building culture. Every successful leader knows that culture is the key to sustaining a successful business. As plans are executed, what gets celebrated, and what is rewarded, tell the story of what is being built, these are the cultural artefacts that people share, and they will become the mythology of the business.

This is why change needs leaders. It takes leadership to guide people through all of these steps and engage the many stakeholders needed to make change a reality.

learn more

Kotter’s Model

Tim Brown Design Thinking

Circular Economy 


It’s never too late to follow your dreams

2016 is almost gone

Inspiring Vision

2016 is almost gone.

Was it the year you wanted it to be?  Big changes happened, for sure. Some have left some people worried and others elated.   These big changes will affect all our lives slowly.   The changes that matter most are the little ones because they affect our lives more quickly and more meaningfully.   Little changes that make a difference to your significant relationships, to your health, or to your dreams.


Make 2017 the year you care about the little changes.


Start with your dreams.

  • What had you planned?
  • Where were you going?
  • How close are you now?

Dreams change as life shows up and we see new value in things we didn’t understand.  For instance, when you have kids.  When you are young, children are a possible part of your future, but when they arrive and you hold your baby in your arms for the first time, your dreams change in little ways that have a profound affect on your future.  This is normal and it’s OK.

However, the drama that surrounds change can obscure your view and stop you from staying connected to what is important to you, perhaps forcing you to make compromises that seemed inevitable.   Sometimes all we seem to have is Hobson’s choice, which is no choice at all.

The good news is, you are older now and wiser too.  You can examine your life’s choices and compare these to the dreams you had for yourself and decide where you want to go now.    If you do this today, focus on your heart’s desires, your passion in life and not material possessions.  In the final analysis, stuff won’t bring meaning to your life, whereas purpose and passion will.

Age is not a reason for not chasing your dreams, being older can be a real bonus.  If you need some inspiration check out this list of awesome people who didn’t launch their dreams until they were older.


In their 40s

  • At 40 Donald Fisher, with no experience in retail, opened the first Gap store in San Francisco in 1969 with his wife, Doris.
  • Vera Wang only entered the fashion industry at 40; now she’s a world-famous designer.
  • At 43 Samuel L. Jackson had only had bit parts and then in 1991 he landed an award-winning role in Spike Lee’s film “Jungle Fever”.
  • Sam Walton was a retail manager through his 20s and 30s. He was 44 before he stepped out on his own and opened the first Walmart in Rogers, Arkansas, in 1962.
  • Henry Ford was 45 when he created the car that revolutionized the auto business – Model T.

In their 50s

  • Jack Cover became a successful entrepreneur at 50 when he invented the Taser gun in 1970, before this he worked as a scientist for NASA and IBM.
  • Betty White was 51 when she joined the cast of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in 1973, this was the break that leads to her iconic status today.
  • Tim and Nina Zagat were both 51-year-old lawyers when they published their first collection of restaurant reviews under the Zagat name in 1979. It eventually became a mark of culinary authority.
  • Ray Kroc was 52 when he decided to leave his career as a milkshake device salesman and bought McDonald’s which, as everyone knows, he grew into the world’s biggest fast-food franchise.

In their 60s

  • If you grew up loving the TV show “Little House on the Prairie,” consider that Laura Ingalls Wilder published the first in the “Little House” books at age 65 in 1932.
  • Harland Sanders was 62 when he franchised Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1952.
  • Anna Mary Robertson Moses, better known as Grandma Moses, began her prolific painting career at 78.


Look into your heart, find your dream again, and start a new in 2017.

Humility = Great Leadership

Becoming aware of Ego


To develop humility in leadership you have to learn about you and become especially aware of your ego. The ego is your sense of self.  Your boundaries; a feeling of being you. Ego gives all of us definition in the 3-dimensional world:

”This is my body. This is my mind. This is me. These are my preferences, my limits – my, me, mine.”

Ego is a necessary component of human life. It informs you of your choices in the world and it prevents you form being harmed. It gives you the power to act and keeps you feeling independent and strong.  It allows you to value your uniqueness and, when properly tended to and channeled, prepares you for greater service to others.

However, ego is by definition limiting.  Its function is to keep you safe, to contain you. The ego understands only that which it can grasp; “I am safe because I have a house, money, food in the fridge” is typical ego reasoning. Putting security in that which can be seen is what the ego does.  Also the ego thrives on comparison. ”Why does he get that and I don’t?” is a familiar phase from your egos repertoire.

For these reason the ego it finds it easier to generate fixed mindsets.  “When I have X I will be a success.”  “When I have Y I will be more important.” These limitations create rules and belief systems that can make it hard to become a great leader.

The biggest risk to business growth is the BOSS


If you are the BOSS then pay attention.   Generally speaking, most bosses I meet want to succeed and they want their businesses to grow.  This seems very reasonable, given the alternatives; no growth, little success or complete decline.

Yet many businesses do suffer decline or no growth.   When I get a call it usually starts with “we need more leadership…..”  and this logic again sounds reasonable, “ If we had more managers who could step-up we would have more strategically important problems solved.”

 There is nothing wrong with this assertion.   General idea: If we give managers new skills, feedback and develop their self of awareness success will follow.  WRONG!

If we do these things and then give them a new management environment to work in, success would have a real chance.

So what is wrong the management environment?  The BOSS.