Recently I did some consulting and developmental work with the Asia Pacific Regional Management Group for a major global company which is number two in its industry. The CEO was committed to building a high performance team but some of his "leadership moves" suggested to me that he was confusing Formal Authority, Informal Authority and Leadership. I recount some of my experiences in the attached article.

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 I have just posted a new Article in the Publications section called The Seven Elements of "Leadership Insight Dialogue". It is about a powerful leadership development method which we have designed to take the lid off the secrets of effective and fulfilling leadership. It is also about a way of exercising leadership. I also posted another article recently called Leadership That Transforms Groups and Organizations which describes how leaders influence their teams and organisations.



The attached short article is a thank you to my friend Betsy who I met on a learning program and who is a natural leader.

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I have loaded a document today in the Publications Section which provides short executive summaries of all my articles currently posted on this site.



I have been asked by The Australian Institute of Company Directors to give three speeches on ‘What will directorships look like in 2023?’ in February, March, and April 2013.

In approaching this I decided not to focus on governance and economics per se as there are many excellent commentators on those subjects. Instead I want to concentrate on the personal qualities and leadership capabilities that will make an effective director both for now and the future, particularly for Australian directors in the Asian century.

As James Martin said “Solutions exist, or can exist, to most of the serious problems we will face in the decades ahead. The bad news is that the most powerful people today have little understanding of the solutions and little incentive to apply them. For the powerful people who control events, the desire for the short-term benefits overwhelms the desire to solve long term problems.”

I asked Professor Sohail Inayatullah who, with me, delivers the ‘Futures Thinking and Strategy Development’ program (FTSD) at Mt Eliza, MBS, what his views are. Sohail has that wonderful gift of being equally at home in both the West and the East. Having been born in Pakistan and educated in many places including Malaysia, Europe and the United States, speaking many languages, he, to me, is well equiped for what will be required of educators for ‘the Asian Century’. The five major challenges for directors as he sees it are:

  1. The changing nature of the organisation - still vertical or far flatter?
  2. The changing nature of power - is it that the director is just about money and governance or the one who can influence by being at the centre of the node?
  3. The changing age of boards versus the age of its members i.e. we are in an ageing society but there are still many young people. Directors were older, white males but now there is the beginning of more young, female and often migrants wanting a presence.
  4. Many directors grew up in a world of one membership for life; digital natives have many identities and thus don't want one linear trajectory.
  5. The rise of Chindia, BRIC, digital natives, flatter world.

I was also fortunate enough to have a private breakfast meeting with Baroness Susan Greenfield when she was in Australia recently. We discussed leadership for the future in the context of her new book ‘Tomorrow’s People’ in which she argues that at the beginning of the twenty-first century, we may be standing on the brink of a mind make-over, far more cataclysmic than anything that has happened before. As we appreciate the dynamism and sensitivity of our brain circuitry, so the prospect of directly tampering with the essence of our individuality becomes a possibility.

Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE is Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Oxford, where she leads a multi-disciplinary team investigating neurodegenerative disorders. In addition she is Director of the Oxford Centre for the Science of the Mind, exploring the physical basis of consciousness and was the Director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain 1998 - 2010 (the first woman to hold that position).

So, as I see it, we have two major concerns that will impact on directors and us all. They are Climate Change and Mind Change.

For climate change the questions are “How will new technologies transform the way we see the world?” and “What will this mean for Financial Capital, Built Capital, Natural Capital, Human Capital and Social Capital?”

Following my visiting fellowship with the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University in 2012, I have been working with Dr Angela Wilkinson who heads up the Smith School’s futures directorate in trying to address these questions. Angela sees it as Growing vs. Knowing the Future in that prediction is paradoxical: If we can predict the future, we can’t change it. There is also the lurking danger that if we could fully determine the future through human action, some dominant power will colonise the future!

For mind change she says we have entered an era of ‘the might of might’, where leaders no longer think of the challenge of the future as simply a deficit of knowledge but also a challenge of ethics. We strive to take on responsibility for the future and to shape a better future.

‘Leading for Strategic Success’ (LSS) is our Mt Eliza program that is addressing the need for this new leadership philosophy and intervention agenda. Adaptive leadership has proved to be very effective following the work by Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky at the Kennedy School at Harvard. This has been useful in recognising that essentially it is the duty of a board of directors, and of leaders in general, to create preferred futures for the organisation. If this isn’t the case than all you need is effective management not leadership. Heifetz and his team argue that the role of leadership is to create preferred futures by providing direction, protection and order. This always involves change, which always involves people, and always involves the future, and because of this always inevitably involves working with the anxiety change creates. However, anxiety need not be an inhibitor. It can be productive if we are able to ‘slow done’ sufficiently in order to navigate the productive range of anxiety to achieve a desired outcome.

I really like this quote, “In fact one of the most common errors – I am tempted to say tragedies – I see in business and other organizations is giving in to the pressure of premature closure, of deciding on a vision or a strategy before a design space has been evolved so that there is a real choice between options” made by Richard Normann in his book ‘Reframing Business’.

The other aspect of effective leadership is that it not only has to be adaptive but it also needs to be transformative by integrating whole systems intervention methods the common features of which are systems thinking (ideas), complex responsive processes (emergence of meaning), dialogue (social capital), design (strategic interventions as creating the right conditions not controlling outcomes) by scaling change from seeing, to seeding to growing the future.