Leading in difficult times

Oct 24th

Everyone knows good leadership is more important than ever in difficult times. But what does it mean in practice?

How leaders behave is highly visible to the organisation, in ways they often don’t realise themselves, and has been shown to be by far the strongest influence on how employees behave.

What are leaders in Tesco doing while media headlines analyse its collapse? Chief executive Dave Lewis has resisted the standard new CEO default of unveiling a ‘magic bullet’ strategy. Instead, he’s selling off the company’s four corporate jets and travels by train instead of limo, saying, “There’s an opportunity to go back


Old-fashioned leadership?

Aug 20th

A well-respected client has been moved temporarily into a COO role in a complex organisation.
I asked him how he was going to handle the new and wider range of accountabilities.
“Old- fashioned leadership, that’s what we need”, he said.


A moral compass on the dashboard

Jul 16th


by Andrew Jackson

Integrity is an essential quality of any good leader. The banking crisis brought to the foreground the importance of the right culture and acting with principle. One international investment bank leader kick-started culture change by telling all its employees he regretted profitable decisions made in the past that were not in the clients’ best interests, whatever the prize at the time.


50% of leaders fail – what’s going wrong?

Jul 14th

A frightening statistic is that more than 50% of mergers fail. Perhaps a more frightening statistic, less widely discussed, is that 50% of leaders fail. Of course, it’s harder to measure leadership failure or success unless it’s tied directly to company performance, such as long term growth in shareholder value with Jack Welch and GE. Or to obvious failure, such as Jeff Skilling and Enron.


This article is filed under: coaching, leadership


The people side of mergers

Nov 23rd

Most M&As are a mixture of planning and chaos.  Have you noticed, however, that those involved, looking back once the dust has settled, often forget the chaotic bits, and tell the story as if it all went according to plan in the end.

In reality, integration plans are constantly changed in order to take advantage of unforeseen opportunities or problems.  Synergies which rely on people changing their behavior and ways of working often prove to be much harder than expected to realise in practice.  And the challenge for leaders tackling M&As is that most of the synergies they need to bank


This article is filed under: Leading change, Mergers and acquisitions


Empowerment: What does it mean?

Nov 23rd

Empowerment, like communication, often stands as a proxy for what the organisation is unhappy about. Feedback and staff surveys scoring low on empowerment or communication are a serious matter for the business, because they point to disengagement in the workforce.  And disengagement means people not giving their best efforts to achieve the aims of the business: bad news. But it’s only by digging beneath these findings that the business can discover what they actually mean, what’s really going on that is damaging performance and reducing the capability of the business to achieve results –and by understanding what’s going on,


This article is filed under: Empowerment, organisational performance

Why carrots and sticks don’t always work

Nov 23rd

I’ve witnessed many board level discussions about performance management systems – they all seem to focus on the technicalities, and to take place against an underlying belief that somehow a perfect cascade of objectives from strategic plan to lowliest employee will make for perfect corporate performance. And the debate then goes into the complex rules that attend theses systems, the rewards that get tacked onto them, and the rafts of performance indicators that are meant to give ever more objective measure of accountability.

Onora O’Neill’s Reith lectures (2002) on a ‘Question of Trust’ gave a


This article is filed under: employee motivation


What are the risks of working with leaders?

Nov 17th

A client asked me this very good question in a discussion about leadership capability. You’ve talked about the risk for us as leaders of the organisation, he said, but what are the risks for you as leadership practitioners? What keeps you awake at night?

This is the answer I came up with:

Being spat out. If leaders don’t like what we have to offer, they are in the driving seat and they can simply reject it by disagreeing with it or devaluing it. That’s why we work so hard to tailor leadership work to the real needs of the business, and make


This article is filed under: leadership development