Observations on Transformational Leadership


I read this fascinating article on the weekend in the HBR.

You can read it HERE

I have my 10 rules of Transformational Leadership, so it was interesting to get a observational perspective from an analysis of 2017’s ranked top transformational leaders.

The analysis focused on the leader’s ability to re-position their organisations. Interesting, as Transformation is all about the re-positioning when it’s all said and done.

So, rather than just looking at simply revenue or a subjective measure like “innovativeness”, the assessment looked at:

  • New Growth generated – that is new products, services, and business models
  • Core Re-positioning – the adaption of a legacy model to change and disrupt, and
  • Financial Performance against best in class benchmarks.

Good stuff!

The summary of the findings is:

  1. Transformational leaders tend to be Insider Outsiders – they don’t come from the traditional core of the business, rather from an emerging business within the organisation or from an adjacent business. This helped drive transformation with an understanding of how to do so in the organisation.
  2. They strategically pursue TWO separate journeys – they look to re-position the core business whilst at the same time actively investing in new growth businesses. Just changing the core doesn’t drive real transformation and, arguably, doesn’t reflect a real journey to change (think Apple with the re-invigoration of the Mac coupled with the new iPhone).
  3. They use culture change to drive engagement – they move from the traditional risk-averse (we have to protect the core) approach to one where they are nimble and fast and able to produce small increments all the time – this changes the risk appetite in the business and therefore its culture.
  4. They communicate a powerful narrative about the future – they become the story-teller-in-chief and they tell different aspects of the story to different stakeholders to make it relevant to them. Consistently.
  5. They develop a roadmap before disruption takes hold – transformation can take a long time, so that means getting started fast is important, sometimes without a really clear vision of the end state. Developing the milestones and roadmap is therefore important but so is ensuring that it is adaptable as it will evolve as lessons, technology, and other things change.

Fascinating perspective – not theory but observations.


Who can help you be the best you can be?


I’ve been doing some facilitation work recently.

I love facilitating!!!

It doesn’t matter whether it’s running strategy workshops, developing culture in leadership sessions, or hard-nosed operational reviews. I love them all and have been doing them all of late.


I love the energy, the theatrics, the challenging, and the satisfaction I get from seeing teams, and people have “aha moments“. You know the ones, where things come together and there is a major movement forward and there is some group learning and togetherness.

I was working with one great team in a beautiful town south of Sydney last week. It was 4pm on a Friday afternoon. It had been a long, but VERY, productive day. Really top notch day in fact.

But 4pm on a Friday? That’s beer o’clock time, right?

Well two awesome things happened.

Firstly, I noticed the energy in the room. It was just brilliant. These people were engaged, they were talking, they were positive. They were challenged with a big transformation and they were standing up as transformational leaders. Now, apart from being my favourite catch cry (Transformation, Innovation, and Growth is what my acronym TIG stands for, after all!!), it was real! And these wonderful people were expecting less of other people and accepting the baton of responsibility to expect more of themselves as leaders of a transformation.

My drive back to Sydney was traffic-infested. But I didn’t notice because of the energy these people created. It’s a wonderful experience driven by a massive desire to see people realise their potential. No drugs involved whatsoever..as an aside, I wish some sporting people would lesson their reliance on artificial stimulants….

Secondly, there was something that happened at 4pm as well. There was great energy but there was also a great question. You see I’ve always believed that the best way to learn is to teach. It’s actually why I love facilitating because I learn so much every time I lead a session. But someone asked about mentoring. Who should they choose? What will they learn? etc etc

Mentoring is an awesome thing to do. Because you learn so much.

But here’s the drum. Don’t mentor and lecture. Mentor and ASK QUESTIONS!

A coach gives you direction, technique, even solutions. and they are important in many ways. If you have a deficiency in an area, need some skills enhancement, want some more tools and techniques.

But a mentor facilitates you to find a self-discovered solution.

But as importantly, being a mentor is wonderful. Because as a mentor you learn. You learn to ask the insightful question. You learn to listen. You learn perspectives. It’s very unselfish learning.

If you want a mentor, perhaps have a few. Get some varied and trusted people together to ask you lots of questions and guide you to find solutions.

And as a mentor, learn to ask the insightful question. Learn the art of story telling. And learn the art of listening.

Because sometimes helping others is a step to realising your potential…

Strong leadership…from behind

With any conversation about leadership, I like to get one big misconception out of way right up front.

In most people, the idea of “strong leadership” conjures up images of someone at the front of the pack leading the charge with trumpets blaring and the troops following up behind.

That may be exciting in old war movies, but that approach doesn’t necessarily work in today’s organisations.

The people I work with are smart! They have their own ideas. They work in an ultra-connected environment and are constantly pounded by a huge array of different influences. They are flexible, informed, and need to be empowered.

So perhaps the old view of leadership isn’t as relevant today.

True leadership is getting the best out of people.

To achieve that, you have to let people express themselves.

This simply won’t happen if you stand in front of people and get in their way.

You need to get out of their way.

Perhaps the concept is not so new….the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Zu said: “To lead people, walk behind them.”

I see this as meaning that you need to encourage everyone to be a leader.

You have to give each individual a sense of empowerment and responsibility, and allow them the freedom to contribute their best to the team.

To do that you’re actually not leading the charge from the front, you’re leading from behind.

Lao Tzu also said: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”