That special place…

I had a special moment last week.

I had to take a boat trip from the end of Pittwater, across Broken Bay, up to Brisbane Waters.

For those who don’t know Sydney, Broken Bay is the large waterway about 20km north of Sydney.


It’s one of the very special places on this earth. Beautiful. Serene. Large. Very Large.

I was in my inflatable tender and I was on my own. (I had all the right safety gear, so no need to fret!)

As I passed Barrenjoey headland heading across the mouth of Broken Bay, I stopped.


I turned off the engine.

There was little swell, little wind, and a lot of sun.

It was warm for a winter’s day.

It was quiet.

It was magnificent.

I was in awe.

I had a “stop the world” moment.

I have been busy, and I have not been on the water for a while.

And I realised what I’d been missing.

We all have that special place, or that important activity, that we connect with; that takes us out of the hustle and bustle; that re-energises us; that touches our very essence.

For me it’s the water.

And Broken Bay is a large part of that experience.

I videoed the moment and will use that video to remind me of what I need to do more often.

What’s your special moment and are you using it?

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What I see…


I love facilitating.

Lots of clever people coming together to discuss and change something.

There’s energy, frustration, different levels of understanding and skills, but generally an aligned purpose and a desire to do the right thing.

What inspires me most is seeing the different styles of leadership in a dynamic group environment.

So I’ve thought about some of the leadership styles I see and here are some of my observations:

  • I see people who just seem to have a natural ability to attract “followers”, that important element of leadership. Let’s face it, a leader without followers is probably not a leader but an isolate, right? Those who attract followers tend to have a leadership advantage.
  • Because leaders have followers, the sustainable, successful leaders tend to think about teams and teamwork. And they use language associated with teams, not individuals. As Lao Tzu indicated, “when the best leader’s work is done, the people say, ‘we did it ourselves.’”
  • As great leaders tend to empower their people to success, there’s no surprise they are often asking their people 3 simple questions to help them and build and strengthen relationships:
  1. How are you?
  2. How are we (i.e. how’s our relationship)?
  3. What can I do to help you (achieve your potential)?

They know people, and more than just at a superficial level.

And they tend to personalise the way they engage – they remember key personal facts and circumstances.

  • They tend to be open and not concerned about exposing themselves as REAL humble, vulnerable people. They have an ethical or moral compass which guides their approach. Don’t get me wrong, they also have an ego, but it’s controlled and in check.
  • And they are simple and effective communicators. The message received by the people to whom they communicate is the real message. So, they explain things in a way that people can understand. And they tend to tell lots of stories. Cultures are built around stories and these leaders are great at the skill!

Always learning!

A curious mindset


Ever met one of those people who knows everything?

We all have.

How do you feel when you encounter them?

  • Hmmm?
  • I’m more focused on how the person makes you feel than their delusional perspective.
  • Maybe they do know everything, but I doubt it….

Contrast that to someone who demonstrates they are genuinely curious.

They ask a lot of questions.

They find out about you, and what you know and think.

How do they make you feel?

  • Different, right?
  • Pretty good I suspect!

So, here’s the deal – in dealing with other people, be curious.

  • Treat them with unconditional respect, irrespective of history.
  • Ask lots of questions.
  • At a personal level about their life, their hobbies, their interests, their ideas.
  • And at a professional level about ways to improve the business, the customer, the next big thing.
  • Build a 1:1 relationship.
  • Encourage them to explore their ideas; empower them to take some risks, to do things that stretch them. And you.
  • Allow them to make some mistakes, and have success. Ensure they explore their boundaries, and help you do the same.
  • Recognise their differences and allow them to be themselves. Learn from them. Teach them.

It takes some strength of character to be vulnerable; but seeking to learn is actually an implicit example of vulnerability.

It means there’s plenty you don’t know. And you acknowledge it!

And people feel closer to someone who is vulnerable and strong enough to share their vulnerability, right?

A few questions, a curious mindset.

Simple, actionable.

It’s harder for young leaders


Super Hero Boy

I had the honour, on the weekend, of speaking at two events.

One was on a panel at University of NSW at the 21st Century Leadership Summit on Saturday afternoon.

What a panel! Phil Crenigan, Vanessa Wolfe-Coote, Lynn Wood and Andy Hedges. Out of my league but a great honour to meet these wonderful people and the attendees at the event!

The other was at Mark Taylor Oval at Waitara in Sydney talking with the captains of the Northern District Cricket Club.

NDCC was the club I played for all those years ago…

Both were great sessions.

And both took me back many years.

I studied at UNSW when I left school as a part-time student…AND….at that same time, I was playing grade cricket for Northern District CC.

Now, I can’t honestly say that they had the same impact on me in terms of memories! 🙂

My memories were far better at Mark Taylor Oval!

Although it wasn’t called Mark Taylor Oval in those days.

Mark Taylor hadn’t graced the scene at Waitara when I first started playing, though he ended up becoming a great team-mate.

Although I am sure that my poor wicket-keeping was the reason Tubby ended up becoming such a brilliant first slip fieldsman!


The Club has a leadership program to assist the various team captains.

It was just sensational to spend some time with the Club’s captains and talk about leadership and its challenges.

I have to admit that it also brought back memories with some of the great photos on the walls in the Club room – I did look so much younger in some of the (ageing) team photos on the wall!


But here’s the challenge.

In my playing days there were very experienced, older players captaining teams.

As a young player, I served on the club committee but with people like Tim Caldwell who was then Chairman of the Australian Cricket Board, Austen Hughes who went on to be Club President for 30 years, and on the NSW Cricket Association with Alan Davidson who was president for half a lifetime and a test-great himself.

I played under retired Test and Sheffield Cricketers like Ross Edwards, Kerry Mackay, Mark Clews, and Neil Marks who, some people say, played youth cricket with Bradman (That was joke Harpo! ).

Experienced and wonderful people who had a big influence on young people.

However, the captains of today don’t have the experienced guys playing in the same teams any more.

Life is busier. Players retire and move on to the next stage of their life. They tend to have families later; children’s sport is played anytime form Friday to Sunday; it’s a 24/7 lifestyle.

It’s harder.

Which means the captains are young.


And they will generally not have had the role models I had in my day – deeply experienced campaigners in life and cricket.

Hence the wonderful work done by the Club to have leadership development as a program. Is it little wonder that NDCC won the NSW Club Championship in 2016/17?

So, what’s my point?

First, I learned so much about life playing cricket. And I learned a great deal from the experienced “elders” I was privileged to play with. About cricket, sure, but also plenty about life.

Our wonderful young leaders need support, mentors, guides.

Secondly, I wonder whether, as a society, have we dropped the ball in staying part of the great institutions which added so much value to our lives? Our schools, unis, sporting clubs, social clubs, RSLs, PCYC, churches….

Perhaps a call to action – how can we all take the responsibility of contributing something back to the young people who are following in our footsteps, but in a different time?

Our leadership of the future need us.

Food for thought….

Release the potential !


As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honour and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate. When the best leader’s work is done, the people say, ‘we did it ourselves.’ – Lao Tzu

I was talking to a director of a company recently about the situation inside a company they were involved with.

They were making some interesting observations about the company and, surprise surprise, the core subject was leadership.

What was interesting was the discussion about style of leadership.

You see, it’s easy to think that the best leaders are the loudest ones, the most confident ones, the ones with all the ideas.

But that’s not the case.

A true leader is one who has people on the journey with them.

Being the dominant leader works in some situations, for a period of time.

But not everywhere. And not for ever.

So, thinking about being the long term, sustainable leader involves a few framing structures:

  • Make sure people know the path forward in terms they understand. If they can’t explain it to their mates at a BBQ, is it really understood?
  • Make sure there is genuine trust in the business. Not words on a poster, and not nodding agreement and actually feeling the opposite. How do people actually operate when no one is watching?
  • Make sure the old 2:2:1 (2 ears, 2 eyes, and 1 mouth) ratio applies. Is input sought and valued? Is it ok to provide constructive criticism, even of the leadership? Or are people scared of providing input?
  • Make sure values are espoused and lived. No point in having values that are good for posters, or good for everyone else, but not lived by the leadership, right
  • Importantly, make sure the perception of leadership is what other people say, not what the leader thinks.

So here are the key questions:

  • As a leader, are you really sure that your views of your leadership align with what other people think?
  • Or are you too arrogant to ask?
  • And, if you did ask, would they tell you the truth?

It’s actually the power of the team that follows the leader that makes the organisation successful.

And it’s the focus on them that really is the spark that drives success for every team, right?

Food for thought.

Being a leader is about being impregnable, right?


Perhaps not.

The stereotype for a strong leader is someone who has all the answers; has a “shield of steel” level of confidence that just can’t be breached.

But that’s actually not the full story.

Sure, being confident is important.

People will follow a confident leader.

Let’s face it, it’s hard to inspire people to come on a journey with you if you don’t fill them with confidence that you know what you’re doing, you believe in the mission, and you are skilled in overcoming the inescapable problems that will arise along the way.

But we have all met the impregnable leader as well, haven’t we?

You know, the one that you just know is putting up a front; a façade that that they will not allow to be breached.

Why do they do that?

It strikes me that people relate to real people and we all have our vulnerabilities.

You know, the ones that niggle away late at night, the ones that shout at you when you are standing on stage about to give a speech; the ones that actually make you think twice before acting; and the ones that have saved you on many occasions.

Actually, being vulnerable is an important element to be authentic and successful and grounded.

And people follow authentic leaders.

So why hide a great strength?

It doesn’t mean that you become a blubbering ball of uncertainty or an amoeba!

But it does mean acknowledging that you have some areas where you feel the same as everyone else – vulnerable, exposed, knowing that you have a weakness.

People will help, they will complement you and compliment you. They will better understand you. They are more likely to come on a journey with you.

So being impregnable might not be providing you the benefit you think it is. Because your brand is what other people think of you, right?

My question is this – are you brave enough to be vulnerable?

To get the slingshot effect of Synergy…


As you know, in my view leadership is very much about creating followship.

And once you have followship, you have a group of followers, right?

I’m not a great fan of groups.

“In mathematics, a group is an algebraic structure consisting of a set of elements equipped with an operation that combines any two elements to form a third element. The operation satisfies four conditions called the group axioms, namely closure, associativity, identity and invertibility.”


Ok, ok. I’m making a point.

I like musical groups. And I guess a group of ducklings is cute!

But an effective group must become a team. And when you have a team, you can have synergy. Let’s face it, Coldplay is an amazing team producing magnificent music.

So, it’s logical that leadership is also about building a team.

But how do you make that team cohesive?

Here a re a few simple tips on making sure your group becomes a COHESIVE TEAM:

Be close to the members of your team

  • Take the time to get to each member on a personal level; know them very well
  • Be a listener and ask lots of questions
  • Encourage innovation and some individuality
  • Celebrate with them
  • Recognise their personal and professional success and achievements
  • Be hands alongside your team members on when you need to be

Get the balance right

  • Encourage everyone in your team to have a great life balance (I dislike the term work-life balance…) and make sure you do to
  • Recognise and encourage extra-curricular activities for everyone
  • Make sure everyone learns from what they do outside work, including you

Be open, honest and transparent

  • People sense BS when they hear it and see it. In Australia and New Zealand in particular, people are cynical and see through cheap talk very quickly
  • So, be upfront and direct
  • Give people the news, good or bad, quickly
  • And expect that in return
  • Make sure you take bad news well

Adopt a curious mindset

  • Constantly seek new ways and experiences
  • Keep in touch with changing demographics
  • Stay up to date with technology
  • Understand what’s happening in other industries and business
  • Listen to your people with an open mind, and always hear them out
  • Be supportive, and do not be overly critical

Be passionate and consistent about the Purpose

  • To create followship, people need to know where you are taking them and feel confident you are passionate about getting them there
  • And if you say something, mean it.
  • And if you commit to do something, do it.

Begin with the end in mind, and curate

  • Stay the course on your plans
  • Sure, curate along the way to adapt and improve
  • But, only change radically when you have to, and when you do change, change fast and very effectively
  • Confidence in the plan is important to followship

Expect more of everyone’s leadership

  • And make sure everyone knows what that means, and what is expected of them
  • Remember, everyone needs some ground rules
  • But focus on what’s important, not everything
  • And here’s a novel idea, if you add a new focus area, take one away
  • Delegate authority with accountability and responsibility

Synergy doesn’t come from individuals. It comes from teams.

So to deliver the slingshot effect of synergy, build cohesive teams!