Leadership Editorials

AI To Boost Cyber-Crime

Isaac Asimov once noted that “a nuclear blaster is a good weapon, but it can point both ways.” Most technologies that are capable of doing great good are also capable of doing great harm.  In modern history, that’s proven true with nuclear energy and genetic engineering. Both have offered great benefits while at the same time presenting significant threats to human welfare and the environment.  The most influential technologies represent a double-edged sword. That is certainly true with the most recent breakthrough branch of technology - artificial intelligence and machine learning. Britain’s National Cyber-Security Centre (NCSC) has warned that artificial intelligence might equip novice criminals to launch quite sophisticated criminal activities (1).

02 February 2024 |

Global Vaccine Database?

"Of all tyrannies," wrote C.S. Lewis, "a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies." In January, a former British Prime Minister called upon world leaders in Davos, drawn from business, economics and politics, to move us closer to the latter condition.  Tony Blair urged them to take a collective step closer to global governance.  He argued that world leaders needed to take steps to prepare for potential future pandemics, by setting up a global digital database of the vaccinated. And by extension, of course, the unvaccinated. The subtext was that global digital infrastructure would be needed in other areas, too, so we'd better get on with building it. What Mr Blair did not address were the huge potential downsides to global databases, in terms of privacy inva

30 January 2023 |

The Workspace Revolution

Teamwork, wrote Andrew Carnegie, is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results. The Covid-19 pandemic has wrought huge changes to the working habits of millions, perhaps billions, of people worldwide. For example, commuting and office work have been hit hard by Covid19. Before the pandemic, more than 20 percent of European workers spent 90 minutes or more commuting to and from work. That will definitely change for the post-Covid generation.  In a Europe-wide study earlier this year, 34 percent of people surveyed said they’d be willing to accept a lower paid job if it meant they could continue to work from home.  There are significant benefits to home-working, not least in terms of the environment.  Lockdowns have raised awareness about the difference road vehicles make to the air we breathe. In Europe, during the first lockdown of 2020, nitrogen dioxide levels were 40 percent down on the

23 August 2021 |

Leadership For The Post-Covid Age

Aristotle remarked that the unexamined life is not worth living.  If there is anything even remotely positive to be taken from a terrible global pandemic it might be this: we’ve had an opportunity, collectively and individually, to step back and rethink our values and ethics. When the dust settles on Covid-19 emergency - when it and its variants no longer pose a greater threat than flu - most of us, I suspect, will emerge as slightly different people.  Our priorities will have shifted. For each of us - and I suspect particularly those charged with leadership of a team, enterprise or organisation - this will mean a shift in focus toward certain opportunities and challenges. In the process, it may lead us to build more human-centric cultures. This would represent a major victory for human endeavour in the face of biological menace.

15 June 2021 |

Prince Philip - A Legacy of Curiosity

“The goal,” wrote celebrated author Chuck Palahnuik, “is not to live forever, but to create something that will.” That should certainly be the aspiration of anyone who is charged with a leadership role. This week much has been said and written in the world’s press and media about Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh. Some will argue that the coverage has been overblown.  I disagree, though I think there’s one aspect of his life that has not been given the coverage it deserves. That is the Prince’s contribution to our understanding of leadership. We have heard much, for a long time, about his support for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, in both her personal and public life. The Prince deserves much credit for helping hold a sometimes fractious family together. He should also be celebrated for helping steer the institution of the monarchy through some very rocky waters. In the word

12 April 2021 |

Facing Down Covid Unrest in Your Team!

What a season this has been. Without doubt, 2020 will be remembered as the year when displacement became the norm, with Covid19 as public disruptor number one. Leaders in business, education and other sectors have reported that Covid19 - and the first, second and in some cases third lockdowns it has brought - has seriously impacted team harmony. Unexpected events or phenomena have a way of potentially undermining all our hard-work on team cohesion. In my digital keynote sessions on the future mid- and post-Covid, I’m often asked: how can leaders respond positively to conflict within their teams? How can we perhaps even get ahead of the unrest, to provide both security and a model of proactive future-friendliness? Here are some ideas I’ve presented to leaders, individually and in groups.  Practice, Model & Encourage Empathy Skills Many hard-pressed, often over-worked leaders find the idea of e

06 November 2020 |

Three Big Priorities for Boris Johnson

‘The first and greatest victory is to conquer yourself,’ said Plato. While Conservative party member will rightly celebrate their huge win in yesterday’s general election, all returning and first-time MPs should engrave Plato’s words on their hearts. Boris Johnson has spoken this morning of gaining a ‘stonking majority’. He is right. This is the largest Conservative win since Margaret Thatcher was in her prime. Big wins, of course, carry with them huge responsibilities and questions going forward. For Prime Minister Johnson and his cabinet, three questions should be uppermost in their minds. The first relates to Brexit. In this election, voters rejected the idea that the 2016 referendum result was merely advisory, as some Remain voters had claimed, and that the country needs and wants a second referendum. To a degree, this election was about Brexit - whether it should go forward and whethe

13 December 2019 |

Workplace Emails: Unhealthy?

Comparing an email to a snail-mail letter, author Douglas Adams said: ‘It’s quicker, easier and involves less licking.’ Anyone who remembers what the world was like pre-email, will attest to the fact that it has made life easier on so many levels. But is email taking over more than its fair share of our lives, especially given our tendency to surrender private time to processing work-related missives? Today the University of Sussex in Britain released the results of a new study into whether workplace emails are harmful to most people. The study concluded that company bans on workers’ accessing business emails after hours could do more harm than good to employee wellbeing. While blanket bans, it said, could help workers achieve certain goals, they might slow the progress of other workers who prefer to set their own targets. The debate on the potential for out-of-hours email engagement to harm mental health and

22 October 2019 |

Entrepreneurs Wanted NOW!

“Being an entrepreneur isn’t about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.” So said Scott Belsky, co-founder of Behance, a leading online platform for showcasing creative work.    It is this ability to turn ideas into practical innovation that makes entrepreneurs so valuable. From a European perspective, the unique skillsets and sensibilities of entrepreneurs will become increasingly important over the next decade. This region faces enormous possibilities, but also some seemingly intractable problems - ranging from challenges relating to migration, to problems with the Euro. In Britain alone, faced as it is with adjusting to a post-Brexit reality, entrepreneurialism will play a vital role in reshaping the landscapes of business, finance, politics, education, media and even social services. Opportunities for innovation will incr

02 November 2017 |

Brexit Demands Leadership, Not Just Management

“I cannot give you a formula for success,” said Herbert Bayard Swope, “but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: try to please everybody.”  Rarely in its recent history has the UK needed leadership that’s aware of that maxim as much as it does right now. In the lead-up to Brexit negotiations and the inevitable emotional, economic and political highs and lows they will produce, this country needs bold leadership. I mean leadership as distinct from political management. Of course, leadership and management are both valuable assets in times of potentially seismic change. However, only leadership will facilitate a proactive, inclusive, reassuring and empowering move toward the future. As I wrote in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, management is focused on metrics, benchmarks, m

19 January 2017 |

3 Big Techs You Need To Know In 2016

If you were a school teacher grading the performance of some of the most promising technologies of 2015, you’d have to mark an ‘unsatisfactory’ beside some very big players. One year ago, augmented reality was expected to emerge near the top of the class for the year ahead. It failed miserably. You can pick up Google Glass, or any of its derivatives, for a song on eBay. In short, this was because few people felt any emotional connection with these devices and saw no unique value-add with the technology itself. We’re still too emotionally invested in our smartphones and their constantly evolving world of apps. There were not enough things AR wearables could do that a smartphone could not. Much the same could be said for wearables generally. Even the mighty Apple brand wasn’t enough to lend street-cred to wearable devices such as hyper-watches. Again, a smartphone can do all the things an iWatch can. Why buy another

26 January 2016 |

Big Data, Big Collaboration, Big Wisdom

What do NASA, Lego and President Obama have in common? In their respective areas of leadership, they all demonstrated an early appreciation for the mass collaboration culture inspired by the internet. Some years ago, NASA started enlisting thousands of helpers it refers to as ‘Click Volunteers’.  These people, operating mostly from their personal computers at home, are playing a small but important role in building NASA’s information base. They help NASA map the surfaces of planets and the movement of stars through the night skies. Lego was at first wary of internet users who virally promoted their own peculiar reconfigurations of its Mindstorms robot kits. Gradually, the toy giant came to realise that these enthusiasts were the best evangelists for its products. It now fully embraces their soft-edge anarchic approach to online sharing and its sales have not looked back. In his early run for the office of

05 February 2015 |

Millennials - Your Most Valuable Resource

Not too long ago, TIME magazine dubbed young adult Millennials the ‘ME Generation’. At the same time, the New York Times chipped in with its own epithet: the ‘Entitled Generation’. Certainly, a number of employer surveys conducted in the US, Europe and Asia suggest that this is the consensus of opinion among CEOs. Yet other studies reveal that 70 percent of Millennials – aged between 16 and 33 years – volunteer their time for good causes and 80 percent donate money or services. In one American survey, 80 percent said that making a difference in the world is of more importance to them than professional recognition. Whatever your view of Millennials, as a leader, one thing is absolutely certain. If you are to build any enterprise with a long shelf-life and growing influence, you will need to prioritise this generation – and fast. Your team might work long and hard

13 October 2014 |

How to Create a Human Digital Culture

At the birth of the atomic age, Albert Einstein famously said, 'It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.' In the workspace, we may not have gone that far but the abundance of digital communications technologies does pose unique challenges. The marketplace today is heavily invested in and impacted by digital communications. The digital revolution has arguably led to higher levels of collaboration and innovation across many sectors of industry and society. For business and civic leaders, however, it has also brought challenges relating to keeping people focused and engaged. The digital revolution is nowhere near finished yet. In its next phase, the most successful entrepreneurs and leaders will be those who can understand and negotiate some of the pitfalls associated with an over-reliance on all things digit

31 July 2014 |

How The Internet Has Changed Leadership

Yesterday, to celebrate the 25th birthday of the World Wide Web, I used the WayBack Machine site to peek at the earliest iterations of one of my own websites. Undoubtedly I was proud of it at the time. It was first set up in 1996, if memory serves me correctly, and the first version listed on the Machine was from 1998. By today's standards, of course, it is positively cringe-worthy. It looks like something a cave painter might have put together in comparison with today's all-singing-all-dancing, bells-and-whistles sites. When I sat down to create this Jurassic wonder, I could not have known just how much this new technology was going to change my life. (Thankfully, I did have an inkling that this was going to be a game-changer - and was quick to lecture any of more my poor friends who would listen, without understanding how it all worked.) Most new technologies touch one or two areas of our

13 March 2014 |

2014 The Year of Big Service

'A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits,' said Henry Ford. 'They will be embarrassingly large.' Let's get one thing clear about 2014 right at its outset. This will be the year of service. And I don't mean service in the business-as-usual fashion, as it's been done before. I mean service on a whole new scale, built on the platform of four major new developments in the way we work, interact and think in commerce and civic life.  In the months ahead, these developments will push business (and civic groups) toward a better level of service - and therefore higher levels of success. This will be the year of, for want of a better term, Big Service. Big Data Explosion The continued development of Big Data systems will be a driving edge for business throughout 2014 and beyond. Today Big Data is something of a buzzword in business (and som

08 January 2014 |

What Nelson Mandela Taught Us

A few years ago, at a rally organised by the Make Poverty History campaign, Nelson Mandela said: ‘Sometimes, it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation.’ In using the word ‘generation’ he was not, of course, referring to a specific age demographic. He was laying down a challenge to people of all ages, from all walks of life and ethnic groups.  Years later, the challenge carries even greater import. If this generation is to achieve any kind of greatness, it will need to wrestle with enormous global challenges and make the most of unprecedented opportunities. Research into group dynamics reveals that human cultures have a strong impact on individual choice. Being social creatures, even the most individualistic of us will temper our choices to fit in with the accepted norms of the groups to which we belong. Cultures shape choices and human choices are the stuff that makes tomorro

06 December 2013 |

How to Build an Innovation Culture

Bill Gates once said that, 'Microsoft is not about greed. It's about innovation and fairness.' Whether or not the software behemoth has lived up to this credo, one thing is sure. This is not a statement about the mission of a company; it is a declaration of the cultural values of the business. You can read all the books and hear all the lectures you want about the skills involved in leadership. Unless they're talking about establishing and maintaining cultures, they're often a waste of time. A healthy culture produces identity and a sense of value within the team. Innovation culture promotes a commitment to new approaches that push the boundaries and open new opportunities for growth and influence. Culture, not structure, is the key to engaging the future. Studies have shown that it takes at least two to three years for an entrepreneurial leader to develop an innovation culture within his or her team.

03 September 2013 |

Leveraging the Power of Social Media

Social media are at the forefront of a revolution in the way people converse and build relationships. Yet, speaking to civic, business and community leaders in various parts of the world, I've discovered a sometimes profound sense of wariness toward the social networking phenomenon. Many leaders seem wary of getting too involved in what they believe will be a short-lived cultural trend. Others, of a certain age, see it as just another myopia-inducing toy, built for the amusement of the under-30 Millennial generation. As such, some believe it as part of a disturbing trend toward social disconnection. Social networking is, however, a communication platform that is here to stay - and it brings with it great potential for good. Not least in business and in civic leadership. How can we leverage social media, harnessing its seemingly whimsical, stream-of-consciousness style to enhance innovation and enlarge our reach? Here are 3 important pl

09 July 2013 |

Future Leaders: Innovation Architects

In the award-winning movie The King's Speech, Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue helps the future King of England to overcome a debilitating stammer. Watching the story unfold, we become aware that the Duke of York - later George VI - is relying on the expertise of a man who has no professional qualifications. He has no letters after his name, yet Logue carries something more important than qualifications. He possesses a particular talent for innovation. Innovation is the passcode to influence in the emerging IT-bio-nano age, where global is the new local and urbanisation and digitisation combine to bring unprecedented opportunities for collaboration. I recently addressed an international conference for entrepreneurs, held in Portugal. I was asked by a reporter for the TV news what quality I thought would most distinguish leaders in industry and society over the next decade. It was an easy question to answer: they be leaders

01 May 2013 |

Creating An Innovation Hub

'Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower,' said Steve Jobs. What is true of individuals may also be true of cities. The leading cities of the world are, to one degree or another, innovation hubs. They draw inventive minds and entrepreneurial thinkers like a magnet. In some cases, such cities are not their nation's capital. Some are regional centres, yet they punch way above their weight because they have focused on certain industries and provided a culture of inventiveness. Studies worldwide reveal that certain common factors are at play whenever a city becomes an innovation hub, especially in areas involving emerging technologies. One such study compared the development of Seattle, Washington, with that of other similarly sized US centres. What was it, asked the authors of the study, that caused Seattle to become one of the world's most powerful and inventive software, internet and biotechnology

14 February 2013 |

The Big Five for the Year Ahead

‘Planning without action is a daydream,’ says an old Japanese proverb, ‘and action without planning is a nightmare.’ Strategic leadership doesn’t deal primarily in the theoretical; it plans for concrete action and tangible, measurable results. In short, strategic leadership is pragmatic, marrying blue skies thinking with grass roots activism. Arguably there is, in these high-tech times, a version of pragmatism that is less than helpful. I call it ultra-pragmatism; it pushes us to doing something just because it can be done. As I argue in my new book Fascinating Times: A Social Commentary, we cannot afford to allow the pursuit of progress to devolve into progressivism, which seeks change only for changes’ sake. Ours is an age of speedy technological development in which potent new techniques can either bring great benefits or wreak enormous havoc, dependi

03 January 2013 |

Anticipation, Concentration, Imagination

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…’ So begins one of Charles Dickens’ most celebrated narratives, The Tale of Two Cities. Wherever you live and work, those words might just as easily be applied to your city and your industry in our time. Ours is an age of exponential change in which we see unprecedented opportunity mixed with enormous uncertainty. This is a season of huge possibility on the technological front, mixed with great insecurity in terms of the financial outlook. When we consider some of the likely changes coming at us in business and civic life, we might concur with former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who said: ‘It’s not enough to be up-to-date; you have to be up to tomorrow.’ The need for strategic leadership has never been greater. Yet relatively little is understood about what constitutes a st

25 September 2012 |

The Future of the Leader

Leadership shapes cultures, which shape human choices, which more than technology or events, shape the future. Whether the next decade is a glorious new chapter in the human saga, or a disaster will depend largely on the quality of leadership people are offered – globally, nationally and locally. In the past decade, we have entered potentially the most exciting – and risky – period in our history, the IT-Bio-Nano era, of which today’s digital revolution is just a foretaste. In this epoch, we will increasingly automate and robotize industry, agricultural processes and even human biology. The IT-Bio-Nano age presents societies with huge challenges and wonderful opportunities. For communities, the next decade will be a time of increasingly rapid change in which a plethora of new options in medicine, genetics, bio-technology, education, communication and more will stretch our ability to make informed choices. The n

22 June 2012 |

Discover iSolutions

‘It takes a long time to grow an old friend,’ said the American cultural critic John Leonard. In the wake of the digital revolution, ours is the age of We-Think, the ‘hive mentality’, or what online gamers call the Architecture of Participation. In the cyber-world, with its ubiquitous social networking, collaboration is everywhere. NASA has its remote, volunteer ‘click workers’ who help map the surface of planets. Lego allows its users to reinvent its toys online and Nintendo chose the name ‘wii’ because it sounds like ‘we’. Yet many people are starting to look to the digital experience for much more than arms-length collaboration. They want connection. Absent Presence Over the next two to three years, society will face a huge growth in the social phenomenon known as Absent Presence. Imagine a room filled with people, none of whom are wh

18 February 2012 |

Five Leadership Shifts for 2012

Sir Jonathan Ive, Apple's recently knighted chief designer, has said that 'it's easy to be different, but very difficult to be better.' He should know! The entire foundation of Apple's domination of the phone and tablet markets is driven by one thing above all. It is committed to delivering products that provide a consistently better user experience than its competitors. Steve Jobs will be remembered in history not for his design ability so much as his willingness to try to proactively shape the future. Influence in any market or sector of industry or society comes not from how well we celebrate past glories. It is not a product of how well we enjoy our present situation. Truly game-changing influence comes from how well we engage the future, with curiosity, wisdom and passion. As a leadership speaker, I am privileged to observe the changing face of leadership within organisations of various kinds in many parts of the world. The

31 December 2011 |

Hope versus Hype

On June 4, 1940 Winston Churchill rose in Westminster Parliament to deliver what became one of his most celebrated speeches to the House of Commons and the people of Britain. On the same day, the last allied soldier arrived home from France at the end of a 10-day operation to rescue hundreds of thousands of retreating allied troops trapped by the German Army. In moving language, the Prime Minister described the "miracle of deliverance" from Dunkirk. One part of his speech still resonates in the hearts of people in many parts of the world. While other states had fallen into ‘the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule,’ he said, ‘we shall flag or fail.’ He continued: ‘We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may b

14 October 2011 |

Tapping The Trust Revolution

The future is not simply about accruing more knowledge, but adding value to that knowledge. In the first industrial revolution, we swapped farms for factories. In the second, during the latter half of the twentieth century, we exchanged brawn for brains. Today, we are increasingly replacing information with innovation as our core priority, in industry, civic leadership and life in general. The enterprises that not only survive but thrive in the emerging economy will be those that are able to add value to change; to create innovation from raw information. How do we create a culture of innovation in our teams and enterprises? Building a trust culture is central to the process. Trust is at the core of all innovative team cultures. In the digital age, with the advent of Web 3.0, the Cloud and so on, a trust revolution is underway. It all started in the retail sector, with the person-to-person (P2P) direct selling of web services lik

22 June 2011 |

Building a Culture of Innovation Part 2

In the aftermath of the information revolution, influence is no longer a product of how much we know. Influence and impact in any market or sector of industry or society is about how much we can innovate with what we know. The future is not simply about accruing more knowledge, but adding value to that knowledge. How do we create a culture of innovation in our teams and enterprises? In Part 1 of this piece, we looked at how an enterprise becomes more innovative as leaders learn to celebrate divergence and to make space for associations – between people and, therefore, ideas. But this is just the beginning. Here are a few more pointers. I think I can guarantee that applying these principles will help your team respond more quickly to fluid situations, producing more with less. Reward Fractal Solutions If you’ve studied either biology or computer science, you’ll likely know something about fractals.

31 March 2011 |

Building a Culture of Innovation

Great leaders not only keep pace with change, they stay slightly ahead of change. To stay ahead, which is where the real influence is to be found, we need to have innovation at the core of our corporate or organizational cultures. In the aftermath of the information revolution, influence is no longer a product of how much we know. Influence and impact in any market or sector of industry or society is about how much we can innovate with what we know. The future is not simply about accruing more knowledge, but adding value to that knowledge. How do we create a culture of innovation in our teams and enterprises? Here are a few pointers. I think I can promise you that they will help your team respond faster to challenges, as well as multiplying their productivity. 1.      Celebrate Divergence In tough times, or seasons of rapid change and upheaval, leaders feel

03 February 2011 |

Christmas: Your Opportunity To Lift The Team

‘Christmas,’ said Norman Vincent Peale, ‘waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.’ We may not all share Peale’s natural romanticism, but Christmas is still a very special season for most people. For folks in many regions of the world, young or old, religious or not, Christmas stands alone as the season for festivity and fun. They also value the opportunity it provides to reflect on a year that's ending and another that’s about to begin. Right now, members of your leadership team will be looking forward to holidays and the bonhomie of time with friends and family. But for leaders who are willing to think creatively, this season also provides unique opportunities for team motivation and the boosting of esprit de corps. You will do yourself and your enterprise a huge service for the year ahead if you invest in the following five gifts for your team. A

14 December 2010 |

Strategic Leadership: Wide Horizon Thinking

Leaders at any level, in any field or endeavour, universally recognise the importance of vision. In fact, so much is said and written about vision today that it is in danger of becoming nothing more than a buzz-word. In some quarters, vision has become an industry in its own right; entire bookstores tell us how to set goals and targets for achievement. The most successful and effective leaders, though, see vision as much more than a buzz-word, or something 'sexy' to juice up a seminar. As leaders, vision keeps us alive. It keeps us focused and disciplined, enabling us to say that most difficult of words, 'no', to things that will distract us from our core purpose. Without vision, we are in danger of losing our grip on what is essential for us, becoming emergency-driven responders rather than purpose-motivated leaders. Sadly, vision is all too often replaced by things that seem easier to control. F

01 December 2010 |

Pioneer Leadership Thinking

‘Nelson Mandela,’ wrote Fintan O’Toole, ‘always carries within him the sense of being at the beginning of something rather than at the end.’ Mandela inspired change in a nation locked in institutionalised backward-thinking and he did so because he was more than politician. He was and is a pioneer. The forward progress of every great human endeavour has come about through the work of pioneers. Whatever the venture, in whatever field, any great achievement has been the fruit of pioneer thinking. In the sphere of education, we celebrate Helen Keller and her reforms to the teaching of disabled children. In social action, we revere Mother Teresa for her work in the slums of Calcutta. In the world of race relations, we remember the words and example of Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. When it comes to space exploration, we celebrate Neil Armstrong and his ‘one small step’. All of

26 October 2010 |

Leading Great Charities And Associations

It was late 2009, and Britain was suffering its worst recession in sixty years.   The nation’s most well-known charity, the Red Nose charity, was holding its annual appeal for money to support children’s causes.   People bought their red noses and wore them at the office. Others bought noses for their car bonnets, in a show of support. Thousands of others found creative ways to raise funds through local events.   At the end of the appeal, the nation had given a record amount of money to this charity. Some commentators were confused. How could this happen at the height of a global financial crisis, and one which had been particularly brutal for money-centres like London?   I wasn’t so shocked. After all, that’s the way human beings think. In most communities, when material security becomes shaky moral altruism often goes through the roof

24 September 2010 |

Leadership, Not Technology, Shapes The Future

Leadership shapes cultures, which shape human choices, which more than technology or events, shape the future. Whether the next decade is a glorious new chapter in the human saga, or a disaster will depend largely on the quality of leadership people are offered – globally, nationally and locally. It has been said that there have been four great ages in the long arc of human history.   Early in the human story, the hunter-gatherer age saw us reliant on nature to provide our needs. The agricultural age saw the advent of basic technologies, through which we learned to control nature. This enabled the development of civilisations in the upper Nile region, and around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.   The industrial age brought the mechanization of industry and agriculture. Much has been written on the industrial revolution and the many technological, as well as social and cu

20 September 2010 |

How To Enlist The Millennials

The key to influence for any enterprise - be it political, civic or corporate - is engagement with the future. Influence and growth come not from how much we celebrate past, or enjoy the present; they are a product of how much we engage the future now.   Future-engagement means enlisting the support and involvement of the people who will carry the future on their shoulders, even if we seem to have very little in common with them.   Our research at 2020Plus has shown up some of the likely flash points for our society over the next decade. One of the biggest potential pressure points for business, community groups, charities and organisations of all kinds, will be based not around gender, race or religion, but generations.   Businesses and other enterprises that want to build influence and market presence for the long-term must start now to engage the interest and suppor

06 August 2010 |

Learning Mandela-Style Leadership

A few years ago, at a rally organised by the Make Poverty History campaign, Nelson Mandela said: ‘Sometimes, it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation.’   In using the word ‘generation’ he was not, of course, referring to a specific age demographic. He was laying down a challenge to people of all ages, from all walks of life and ethnic groups.    Fifteen years later, the challenge carries even greater import. If this generation is to achieve any kind of greatness, it will need to wrestle with enormous global challenges and make the most of unprecedented opportunities.   Research into group dynamics reveals that human cultures have a strong impact on individual choice. Being social creatures, even the most individualistic of us will temper our choices to fit in with the accepted norms of the groups to which

17 March 2010 |

How To Choose the Best & Brightest

A good friend of mine leads a very large organization, which has branches around the world and has been a real game-changer in its field. I asked him what he thought was his greatest skill as a leader.   His answer was clear and immediate: ‘The ability to identify great young leaders and to keep them on board for long periods of time.’   Your enterprise will only ever be as strong as those young and emerging leaders to whom you entrust its future development. What are the key criteria for identifying emerging leaders?   Here are a few born out of my own (sometimes costly) experience:   Promote DNA, Not Just MBA.   Promoting young leaders purely on the basis of academic qualifications is often a sure road to disaster down the track. You need to ask the question: how will this individual fit wit

03 February 2010 |

9 Steps To Better Problem Solving

The speed of modern life, according to new studies, can be measured at the weight of 2.3 words per second, or about 100,000 words a day.    That is the amount of verbiage bombarding the average person in the 12 hours they are typically awake - from emails, texts, the internet and other media and reading.   It is estimated that if you add to that the images we receive through videos and games we’re faced with around 34 GB of information every day. That's more than enough to fill the average laptop every week.   Data overload, say some neuroscientists, may be rewiring or reshaping our brains. Under threat from all this information, the lower faculty areas of the brain - those responsible for fight or flight for example - may overtake the higher faculty areas responsible for empathy.    We may end up a race of individuals wh

06 January 2010 |

Before You Turn The Page On 2009

'A life not reflected upon,' wrote Henri Nouwen, 'is a life not worth living.' The start of the Christmas season normally marks the beginning of a period of review for leaders - and so it should. In any enterprise, the strength of our future is largely a product of the scrutiny we give to our recent past. Without a proper evaluation of our achievements and areas for improvement, strategy lacks accountability and people are robbed of the opportunity to celebrate and to grow. Yet some leaders are prone to leave issues from the last year unresolved, even while they busily make resolutions for the year to come. This is akin to turning the page of a book before you've finished the previous page. The next part of the story won't make much sense unless you completely finish each page. You must take everything you can from the last season of life if you're to be fed and warmed in the next. There ar

18 December 2009 |

Energy vs. Entropy

The principal of entropy is a cornerstone of modern physics. It says that any natural system left to itself, without the application of outside energy, will eventually wind down. The same principle holds true in the leadership of companies and organisations. Without constant attention and engagement from leaders, the central vision driving an enterprise will eventually leak energy and die. Every vision will pass through several phases - unless, that is, leaders are aware of the cycle and proactively engage to head off entropy. The first phase in the life of a vision we might label 'innovation'. Product and project ideas are forming quickly and creativity is at its peak. Team members are energised with the pioneer spirit. This is an exciting time for all involved. Over time, innovation gives way to 'adaptation'. Original ideas are tweaked, romanced and re-engineered to better meet the needs of consumers.

03 November 2009 |

Expand Your Worldview

A leader with a narrow worldview has a very short shelf life. In an age of increasingly rapid change, professional qualifications and an impressive resume are no longer enough to guarantee longevity of tenure, or enduring influence. By 2014, the average American will receive up to 9000 commercial emails in his/her inbox each year. In much of the developed world, each of us is exposed to as many as 1500 commercial messages every day in one form or another. This is the age of data overload. In fact, the global community generated something like 161 exabytes of information in 2006. One exabyte is one billion billion bytes. People no longer need raw data; they need value-adding data. People in industry, as in life generally, are looking for information that has been processed through the filter of a wide band of knowledge and wisdom, so that it can be applied constructively and quickly. The wide

20 August 2009 |

Making Your Communications Count

In tough times, when companies and organizations and their leaders are under pressure to get results fast, our communications often let us down. You're not a leader until and unless you can make the tough calls. But dealing with tough calls requires that we have ready access to information and that we're able to assimilate and disseminate it quickly. Whilst reflection is an important part of leadership and taking time to digest data is a key to wise decision-making, too much time and energy are often wasted simply because of slow reaction times. Leaders must be able to feed their teams up-to-date information on developing situations - and fast. Otherwise, staff are left hanging in the wind, working on priorities that have ceased to be the most important. When that happens, instead of focussing on what's important, team members will lock onto what's urgent and the big picture goals will be lost in the fog of acti

05 May 2009 |

3 Keys To Healthy Strategy

Leaders at any level, in any field or endeavour, recognise the importance of vision. In fact, so much is said and written about vision today that it is in danger of becoming nothing more than a buzz-word. In some quarters, vision has become an industry in its own right; entire bookstores tell us how to set goals and targets for achievement. For a leader, though, vision must be seen as much more than a buzz-word, something to put in the title of a seminar. Vision keeps us alive. Vision keeps us focussed and disciplined; it enables us to say that most difficult of words, 'no', to things that will distract us from our core purpose. Without vision, we are in danger of losing our grip on what is essential for us, becoming emergency-driven responders rather than purpose-motivated leaders. Sadly, vision is all too often replaced by things that seem easier to control. For example, a reliance on admin

19 April 2009 |

Leadership For Tough Times

The December 29 edition of TIME Magazine notes that, "Just like its banks and its carmakers, America's shattered confidence is in serious need of a bailout." After interviewing President-elect Barak Obama, the magazine adds: "'Yes, we can' is both an affirmation of optimism and the essential claim of the competent." Competence and optimism are two of the most important aspects of leadership - especially in times like these, where executives, managers and the general work-force face great uncertainty and tough economic choices. Competence and confidence are not the only aspects of leadership, but they are the most needed in difficult seasons. In many ways, confidence comes out of competence, both personally and corporately. People will never overcome great challenges unless they are surrounded by a culture of confidence; unless they work in an environment where success is celebrated a

22 December 2008 |

The Future of Business is X

Leaders, almost by definition, influence their environment more than it influences them. Leaders who are serious about building teams for long-term impact must take a long-term, strategic and generational approach to influence. Being generational means building on the past and the present a platform for the future. It also means building strategies for growth based upon the fundamental strengths of each of the major generations of our time. There are three key generational blocks in the major cities of our age. Baby Boomers are generally recognized today to be aged in their early fifties to late sixties. The generation that follows them, known most often as 'Generation X', after a book by Douglas Coupland, comprises people aged somewhere in the late twenties to late forties range. And the rapidly emerging Millennial Generation - sometimes called 'Generation Y', though this ties them unnecess

15 December 2008 |

Becoming An Ideas Generator

Life is full of 'suddenlies'. You know - those moments when life surprises you, confronting you with something unexpected and unexpectedly exciting. In those moments, you can't afford to rely simply on happenstance or fate to decide your next move. When new opportunities are presented, you need to be ready to grab them and make of them a platform for new influence. If you're going to be ready for new influence when it arrives, you will need to be an ideas person. Not just someone who is comfortable with other people having ideas; but an individual who is marked out for their ability to generate ideas, finding solutions sometimes out of what seems like thin air. In so many spheres of leadership today - from business, to government, to church and community life - new ideas are rare. Everybody seems content to move along quietly and meekly with the crowd, never stopping long enough to ask a question or challenge a preconceive

13 December 2008 |

Becoming A Player In The Wired World

The power of the electronic media impacts every area of our lives today. Through it, world events have become a part of our individual experience - the global has become imminent. Just when we thought the media might have reached saturation level, in the early 90s, along came the Internet revolution, followed by video-on-demand, 3G material on phones, PSP video players and much more. The Net has forever changed the way we bank, buy and even build relationships. Its size and scope are widening at an incredible rate. It all began, of course, with the explosive growth in the PC market. Today, there are more microprocessors than there are people in the world. If computers continue to double in processor power every eighteen months or so, as they have done for the past decade, by the mid-2020s our PCs will contain chips that are 10,000 times more powerful than the ones we have today. And that's without taking into account the rapid

13 December 2008 |

The Currency Of Trust

Whichever way you turn, you can't escape the long arm of politics. I suppose you could say that's especially true of American politics. Those of us who live outside the USA have no opportunity to shape its domestic governance, yet we will all, to one degree or another, be impacted by its decisions. H. G. Wells observed that, 'In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues…' Aristotle saw politics not just within society, but within human nature. He declared that, 'Man is by nature a political animal.' We might certainly debate the 'animal' part of his description, but there may be some truth in the idea that we're inherently political. After all, politics does seem to find its way into all kinds of human group behaviour. This may dismay some of us, who can only take so much talk about politics and politicians. Yet the

12 December 2008 |

Leadership: Building A Culture Not A Brand

It is fundamental to a leadership mindset that human beings are wired for influence. Buried deep in our DNA or our psyche, or both, there is a drive to influence our environment more than it influences us; to shape our world more than it shapes us. This is part of the drive for extreme sports and adventure tours. It's behind our urge to succeed and be promoted. It's a corollary of our innate need for respect. Influence is hardwired into the human condition and one way or the other influence will flow. Either we will influence the culture around us or it will most certainly force us into its mould. In every sphere of public life today, there is a battle for influence going on. It's a battle for accountability in leadership versus 'do you own thing and let the chips fall where they will.' It's a fight for truth and transparency versus self-serving spin. It's a struggle for pure profit versus growth mixed with a

12 December 2008 |

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