Tag Archive for: leadership

The parable of the bicycle, dad and leadership models

As a facilitator and a learning protagonist, over many years, I have lost count of the number of leadership models shared in workshops. I have probably forgotten more than I have remembered!

Which model?

There are my favourites such as situational leadership, servant leadership, values-based leadership, action centred leadership, adaptive leadership and a whole list of styles and 4 box grids that I have used and am very familiar with. Recently however, towards the end of a workshop a curious thoughtful participant asked, “So, which leadership model is best?” A very direct question indeed. My response was a simple one, “well……that depends”

While most of us can recognise good leadership when we experience or observe it, oftentimes it is hard for us to determine the best model to use in a difficult situation, subsequently blending leadership models as needed is a popular fix. But then it struck me. As I reflected upon the many leadership experiences I’ve had in life, a clear analogy came to mind.

The parable of the bicycle and toolbox

As a child, I recall one day that I wanted to go out on my bicycle for a ride. Forlornly, there were several issues with my bicycle, including a wobbly seat, a flat tyre, a loose wheel, poor brakes, and handle bars that were more than just a little squint. I’d not been out for a ride in a while and sadly my bicycle had fallen into disrepair. I called my dad down to the shed in the garden. He came and looked at the bicycle commenting upon the amount of work it needed to get it back into shape.

After a long pause, I recall that he set to work immediately and pulled out a big box of tools. The box was a little higgledy piggledy, and as I learned throughout his life – that that was my dad! No matter, one small spanner was used to tighten the wobbly seat. Another set of tools were used to remove the wheel, repair the puncture and blow up the tyre again and tighten it into position. Dad then got out a set of pliers to fix the brakes. Finally, another wrench was used to straighten the handlebars. All in all, using a variety of tools, after a short time, the bicycle was fixed and off I went on my ride with a gleeful smile. “Dads are great” I thought!

So, it is with leadership. Oftentimes, whilst managing and leading others we are faced with a vast array of different problems, challenges and issues. Yet, just like the multitude of tools in my dad’s box, so we too have a broad range of different leadership models to help us resolve/fix/repair/manage/lead even the most mind-boggling obstacles at times.

Tools equip us with solutions. What new shiny model do you have in your leadership toolbox, or maybe that old well-worn rusty model, over there in the corner is the best solution perhaps.

“It depends” is indeed the correct answer after all.

  • Do you have a favourite leadership model?
  • How do you apply the “tools” in your day to day responsibilities?

Why would anyone want to be led by you?

Why would anyone want to be led by you?

Yesterday, I was busy redesigning a virtual workshop on leadership and management. After some initial contextual positioning on the topic, this forceful reflective question is asked to each participant. It’s posed deliberately, to literally stop participants in their tracks and give them some time to think.

The question arose from a Harvard Business Review some 20 years ago, and has been further developed in their book of a similar name by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones.

My experience of leadership has been three fold:
– By academic study
– Through first hand experience over many years
– In my own consultancy practice.

My discovery is this simple – ultimately, leadership is all about one thing – 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐮𝐥𝐭𝐬!

Today is a supremely important day in the USA, that comes around every 4 years. It is election day. For months, we have all been witness to a flood of exaggerations, claims, counter claims, fake news and hyperbole. Today is judgement day.

Both candidates have outlined their answer to the question many times over, outlining what they stand for.  Hopefully, we’ll know the result in the next few days.

So, how about you? Are you clear yet?
What do you stand for?
Why would anyone want to be led by you?

Developing Patience

“The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time” – Abraham Lincoln.

Reflecting this morning on the last 6 months since lockdown on March 23rd, I recalled a scripture from the New Testament, from Romans 5:3, when the Apostle Paul taught “We glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience.”

I find that statement both fascinating and enlightening.

Tribulations 𝒅𝒆𝒎𝒂𝒏𝒅 patience, but at the same time they also help us to 𝒅𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒍𝒐𝒑 patience.

These last 6 months have been filled with a variety of tribulations – “distress or suffering resulting from oppression or persecution. A trying experience.”

Sad to say, but the next few months will be exactly the same, if not more challenging in some ways. Yet, I believe as we patiently endure these difficulties with forbearance and fortitude, developing within each of us, if we allow it, will be the strength and resilience to face whatever comes.

The daily tests of endurance that each of us are currently facing require patience.

Our struggles will continue, one day, one step at a time. But these times for certain, will come to pass.

How can you be more patient today?


“There is no substitute for hard work” – so said Thomas Edison.

It was in my childhood that I started to learn the value of work. Throughout much of my school years, I was up early to deliver the morning papers. No matter the weather, I was up and out on my round by 6 am.  An early rise has been the pattern of my entire life.

Even before my early departure, I remember, mum or dad being up to clean out the coal fire, remove all the ash and set it for the day ahead.

There is a certain charm in a real coal fire, but there is also a lot of hard work to enjoy those benefits.

“Work is honourable. It is good therapy for most problems. It is the antidote for worry. Work is the equaliser for deficiency of native endowment. Work makes it possible for the average to approach genius. What we may lack in aptitude, we can make up for in performance” – J. Richard Clarke.

No matter what we do, or who we work for, we should give of our best – always.

By finding something that you really love to do, working will then not be a chore or a burden, it will be a joy.

I’ve seen work without success, but never success without work.

Keep stoking the flames of your own coal fires of life, a strong work ethic, will always keep the fire burning.


Slowly, …in fact very slowly, I’m beginning to learn that small and simple is much better than big and complex.

Lots of virtual facilitation recently has reminded me of the following…

𝐒𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐬 𝐩𝐨𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐟𝐮𝐥.

We must eliminate the unnecessary. It cuts through the noise. Great results follow.

When simplifying – consider these five questions…
1. Will it matter in 10 years?
2. What do I need more of in my life?
3. What do I need less of?
4. Is it essential?
5. How can I make this simpler?

By answering these questions regularly and honestly a new ability, perhaps a skill even – of being able to say no, deciding not to do something, being able to identify the things that are really worth doing and conversely the things that really aren’t worth doing at all – will start to shine through. Things become much simpler, clearer and understandable.

Why not start today and ask yourself the questions!

Lessons in Leadership

Being appointed to lead an organisation brings with it a host of feelings – ranging from excitement, to sheer terror!

I recall one appointment many years ago and during the first few days thinking to myself “Have they got the right person here? – just what can I do?!” Several weeks into the new role, as I was considering the future of the organisation, a rather unusual image of conflict and war kept coming into my mind. I scoured the internet for as close an image to what I had in my mind’s eye and eventually settled on this picture “The Periscope in the Trenches”.

I have reflected upon this image on many occasions and time and time again it has taught me so many insightful lessons. There will be yet more said on the start and end of the Great War.  Conflict is a daily occurrence in the world, whether it be Israel, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Ukraine or elsewhere – it is inescapable.

This image however of conflict and its application in the leadership world is a powerful one – let me explain.

  1. Periscopes

    What do these simple and yet powerful tools actually do? “A periscope is an instrument for observation over, around or through an object, obstacle or condition that prevents direct line-of-sight observation from an observer’s current position. In its simplest form, it consists of an outer case with mirrors at each end set parallel to each other at a 45-degree angle. This form of periscope, with the addition of two simple lenses, served for observation purposes in the trenches during World War 1″ (Wikipedia). From a position of safety, in this image, the periscope allows the soldier to see things at a different height level or in other words raises the vision of the soldier to view the atrocities of the battlefield above him. Over the years, I’ve discovered many tools to use as periscopes, to lift, inspire and raise the vision of others. Invitation #1, consider, or discuss with colleagues, what is the instrument or tool that will raise your organisation’s vision?

  2. Check in Often

    In order to assure his own and his company’s safety, the soldier had to regularly observe through his periscope the conditions that were prevailing above on no man’s land. In essence, frequently checking in on the activities on the battlefield enabled him to call for the correct actions to pursue. And so, it is as we establish the vision for any organisation, we must frequently check in on the condition of our people, their skills, abilities and needs, establishing changes in tactics and employing the right tools to ensure success. Invitation #2, when did you last check in on your people’s skills and abilities – are your key talent in the correct role?

  3. Courage

    I’ve often thought about the courage of these men who fought so valiantly, who gave their today’s that we could have our tomorrows. There is at least one moment of truth in everyone’s life; an instance, a tipping point in time where strength of character should be shown, or a stand against the odds is required. For thousands of young men, that moment over 100 years ago, began with the sound of a whistle and the command to go over the top. We need to be prepared to step up on to the firing line or step forward. Courage comes in different forms, physical and moral. Where physical courage often prompts others to follow and take action, moral courage can be very isolating. When a person stands on principle, speaks truth to power or tells peers what they are doing is wrong, others may sometimes fall away. Moral courage frequently puts people in a lonely place; however, to increase our vision, strength of character is often required by anyone to display moral courage in all of their actions. Invitation #3 – consider the courageous decisions you have made recently, have you faced up to doing the right thing?

  4. Keep it Simple 

    During the 2012 Olympics in London, two of my children and I visited the Science Museum on Exhibition Road in London. Whilst there, I was able to see close up, a periscope similar to the one on the image displayed here. As I looked at the construction of the periscope, it was a fairly crude and rudimentary instrument, much larger than I thought, made from wood, with mirrors used at the correct angles to provide a simple and yet extremely effective tool. I’ll repeat that phrase again, “Simple and yet extremely effective tool”. In order to increase our vision, don’t over complicate processes and procedures – keep it simple…..All of the time! Invitation #4 – What processes and practices currently in place, need to be simplified?

  5. Perspective

    Two soldiers are shown in this image and I’d like to think that they took it in turn to view the battlefield above them, and then discuss each other’s perspectives on the course of action to pursue. Likewise, it is with us in the organisations we serve as we consider how to increase our vision. Trying to increase vision in isolation is difficult and challenging – sharing insights, observing conditions, getting feedback from trusted colleagues is critical to success. Invitation #5 ask yourself what more can I do, to ensure that other leaders understand my perspectives?

These are only some of the lessons I’ve learned about increasing vision from this WW1 image.

What are yours?

Great leadership behaviours…

It’s in times of crisis when leadership matters most.

The strength of any organisation, or the strength of any nation does not lie in its buildings, its headquarters, its brands, its institutions, it universities or schools – these are all means to an end.

The strength of a family, an organisation or a nation lies in the hearts and minds of the people, individuals – one by one. When an individual knows who they are, knows of their potential, their personal worth and what they can become – then great things can happen.

Character counts. It is everything.

In my experience the greatest leaders – exemplify all of these behaviours: Kindness, Patience, Meekness, Humility, Honesty, Forgiving, Commitment, Respectful, Selfless, Obedience, Self-discipline.

They are the very roots of civility, homes and organisations. There is something reassuring about standing for something and knowing what we stand for.

Those who commit to and pattern their lives on these behaviours, will always flourish.

They may sound old fashioned, to some, even namby pamby, but quite the opposite is true – these are virtues of courage and authority. Practicing them individually and collectively will be a powerful antidote to a multitude of ills & societal problems.

What do you stand for?

Disruptive Innovation

Dinosaurs are extinct. A seismic cataclysmic change brought their ultimate demise. Currently, many organisations face a similar fate.

The global economic crisis is tightening its grip, daily choking long established companies as well as new players on the world stage.  One by one countless organisations are failing. Every organisation large or small is being challenged by this unprecedented time of disruptive change.

Organisations must adapt or they will fail.  Governments are grappling daily with the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.  Whilst frantically, organisations are coming to terms with their new reality.

The Greek root of the word crisis, literally means “turning point” or “decisive moment.”

This is it. 

This downturn is changing the way we live and work.

No organisation can stand still. Many are already faltering or in reverse. They must change gear, tailor an agile response and move forward, or like the dinosaurs they too will become artefacts, cast into a museum for us to recall how the once mighty have fallen.

In order to survive organisations, need a breakthrough, a complete paradigm shift from business as usual in order to adapt to the acceleration of external change.  In turn they must progress to new ways of working and new norms. A gargantuan effort to find new innovative ways to survive is crucial.

Whatever advanced operating practices, products and services are on offer – they must remain relevant to the new world order.

  • Why is change inevitable?
  • How are you adapting?
  • How agile are you?
  • What does your new beginning look like?
  • What new leadership behaviours are emerging?


Slow Ahead

Are your summer holiday plans in ruin? Our hopes of a Norwegian Fjord cruise planned for July with a dear friend faded, as the global pandemic impacted holidaymakers the world over.

And what now? In the current global turmoil, holidays almost seem so trivial.

Waking up this morning to the disturbing news of further rioting in the USA over the death of George Floyd, put into context any thoughts of holidays.  Watching the protests and Trump’s response was tragic. Slow ahead or even half astern may be more appropriate terms to use as chaos unfolds in the land of dreams.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said in 1962, “We are simply seeking to bring into full realization the American dream – a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality, of opportunity, of privilege of property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men no longer argue that the color of a mans skin determines the content of his character, the dream of a land where every man will respect the dignity and worth of human personality.”

Currently, there are many leaders sat in the Captain’s chair. Their greatest challenge is to navigate their organisations and governments through stormy waters, into a safe harbour – slow ahead. Working together, building mutual respect, understanding and leading by serving one another is key.

Consider this question – how can I best serve others?


We’re quite protective over the notion of normal.

Before we rush back to “normal” can we just pause and think about what parts of “normal” we really want to rush back to.

For starters – what exactly is normal?

In our present day, normal is perhaps most often used to mean “conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern,” or “ordinary or usual; the same as would be expected.” But types, standards, and regular patterns (or what is considered “regular”) unquestionably shift, as we have seen in the last few weeks during lockdown. Yet each of these definitions can lead to different (and contradictory) interpretations of what normal could really mean.

What is normal for one person may be abnormal for another.

As I have started to ponder what normal actually means, over time I have attached my own meaning to the words normal and abnormal. Ultimately I’ve realised that normal has a very different meaning for everyone!

Whatever your new normal is, ask yourself what have I discovered about myself? Then, going forward together, lets choose to build a more humane, compassionate and sustainable world – please!

So, what new normal are you creating for yourself?