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Nurturing: Deepening the Essence of Holistic Leadership

July 25, 2016

If you haven’t already, be sure to download the third edition of my e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader: Strategies for Successful Leadership using a Principle-Based Approach. This post looks at Nuturing as one of the four components of Holistic Leadership.

Nuture 1

The ability to nurture is an important part of leadership, yet it’s only beginning to receive the attention it deserves. To become a Holistic Leadership, however, Nurturing is absolutely essential. Its five enabling elements are tightly interwoven:

  • Empathy
  • Communication
  • Diversity
  • Bonds
  • Wellness

Unfortunately the idea of leaders, whether male or female, embracing a nurturing mindset is alien to many people. It’s a female role, not a male one, many would argue. But is it in reality?

It’s time to get over old, worn-out stereotypes of authoritarian leadership, where people are told what to do, how to think and how to act. This has no place in 21st Century organizations, not with the rapidity of change. People can’t be forced to be creative or to innovate.

Some people would call Nurturing, as part of Holistic Leadership, the really soft stuff. Because it’s strongly oriented around relationships and the human dimension, Nurturing is not easily quantifiable. Moreover, it’s an area that hasn’t traditionally been part of the heroic leadership mindset, historically dominated by males.

The ability to show empathy is vital to enhancing our leadership. To be empathetic means to be able to put oneself in another’s shoes, or frame of reference. The late Stephen Covey, in his book LINK The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, spoke of the habit of Seek first to understand, then be understood. This is a difficult habit to learn because it requires us to listen carefully to the other person and to really understand their point of view, all the while refraining from speaking ourselves. If we wish to be understood, we must first understand from where the other person in coming.

Nuture 2.jpg

Improving our ability to empathize will in turn enhance our communication skills. Creating meaningful conversations is essential if organizations are to enhance their collective ability to learn. But the challenge to this is the diversity that’s growing in organizations. The Holistic Leader is able to see the value in diverse needs, wants, beliefs, expectations, personalities, backgrounds, gender, color and age. Being able to see from a systems perspective the benefits that diversity brings to an organization, and in turn influencing it in a forward-thinking way, is a strong leadership asset.

This leads to the creation of bonds within the organization. The Holistic Leader has contributed to creating a web of relationships, despite the challenge of addressing diversity in an organization that faces unrelenting change. These bonds, in turn, support collaborative learning and the creation of a learning culture.

The Holistic Leader understands and pays attention to the need for developing the triangle of spirit, mind, and body. Without daily practice of these three equally important parts, it’s difficult to achieve and maintain a high state of personal wellness. As with personal mastery, personal wellness starts from within. But the Holistic Leader also strives to help her co-workers (and followers) increase their awareness of this important element of nurturing leadership. For example, the network leader sows “wellness seeds” in the organization as a way to assist the organization create a healthier workplace: spiritually, intellectually, and physically.

The following two leadership vignettes provide contrasting examples of Nurturing Holistic Leadership.


Sounds into Syllables

Leadership resides at all levels of organizations and communities, and is not specific to certain age groups. Many young people, including teenagers, have done exceptional things for their communities and society. Kayla Cornale received a Gold Medal for Health Sciences at the 2006 Canada Wide Science Fair. At the time Kayla was a grade 11 student in Burlington, Ontario. Her project was entitled Sounds into Syllables: Windows to the World of Childhood Autism.

As a high school student Kayla wanted to have a closer relationship with her cousin, Lorena. However, due to Lorena’s autism this proved very difficult. As she watched Lorena memorize songs, something she excelled at, Kayla got the idea to use the piano as the medium for communication. By assigning letters of the alphabet to the middle keys in the form of chords, Kayla then connected them to language. The result was a trademarked patent viewed as a major breakthrough in autism research.

Kayla’s Sounds into Syllables method was used in a number of school districts around the Province of Ontario starting in 2004. Winning over 50 awards world-wide, Kayla represented Canada at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2005 and 2006, placing 1st in the world in the category of behavioral and social sciences.

Kayla was later recognized by CNN’s Heroes’ Award in November 2007. Indeed, she was the only Canadian finalist among 7,000 people nominated by viewers in 80 countries, and one of the three finalists in the Young Wonders category for people under 18. She received a scholarship to Stanford University in California, graduating in 2011 with a BA and a Masters of Linguistics in 2012.

from BBS upload

The Peacemaker

Captain Nichola Goddard was the first female Canadian soldier to be killed in combat since the Second World War. Her death occurred on May 17, 2006 during a brutal firefight with the Taliban in the Panjwaye District in Afghanistan. Goddard’s role as crew commander was to call in artillery fire. This meant being in a forward position during the battle and physically exposing herself. A rocket propelled grenade fired by the Taliban struck her LAV vehicle, exploding on impact and killing her instantly.

Her husband received on Goddard’s behalf the Memorial Cross (also known as the Silver Cross).

A strong student and member of the debating club, Captain Goddard received a scholarship to attend Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. Despite her fondness for the military, she was also deeply interested in humanitarian issues and how to bring about peace in areas of conflict. Because of imperfect vision she wasn’t able to join the Air Force and chose the Army instead. Her strong math skills lead her to specialize in artillery.

Captain Goddard was highly regarded by her peers, and remembered for her vivaciousness, kindness and listening skills. Serving her country was more than just about being a soldier and learning technical skills, but about leadership and how to make the world a better place.

The gateways to wisdom and knowledge are always open. (Louise Hay)

Holisti LeadershipClick here to download a complimentary copy of Jim’s e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader, 3rd Edition.

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How To Create a Positive Work Environment To Boost Customer Relations

July 18, 2016

People Slapping Hands

I’m pleased to host a guest post with Brooke Cade, a freelance writer who’s committed to helping businesses and sales professionals build stronger connections with their customers. In her spare time, she enjoys learning more about inmoment, her CX platform of choice, reading books and articles on industry news, engaging on twitter, and exploring her local neighborhood coffee shop.

We’ve all heard the saying, “it’s what’s on the inside that counts.” This statement couldn’t be truer when it comes to your business: the more transparent you can be, the better.

To create a successful business, it all begins on the inside with your employees. Employees who work in a positive environment feel more valued and appreciated by their company, and are more inclined to work harder in order to strengthen customer relationships and provide superior customer service.

Value Their Opinions

One of the most important things you can do as a business owner is to actively listen to your employees. When employees know that their voices are being heard and their opinion is valued, they feel empowered. This empowerment will lead to better relationships within the company culture and come through interactions between employees and customers.

Because employees are the face of your company and the people your customers are dealing with on a daily basis, it is critical that invest time and resources in your employees to ensure that your employees have the tools to succeed and can serve your customers in a positive and professional manner. As you look to implement new programs and strategies to improve company culture, take some time to gather both employee and customer feedback to see which areas you’re excelling at and where you can improve on.

Let Your Employees Know They Matter

Investing in your employees’ future is another excellent way to let them know they are valued. Pay for employees to attend conferences, hold employee appreciation events, and help them continue to learn and grow so they can promote within your company. Some fun ways to do this? Encourage employees to set personal and professional goals each quarter, set up team building activities to help employees get to know each other better and feel more connected, or hold team training where someone from each team teaches everyone else something new. The list is endless, but the key is to provide a positive workplace environment where everyone feels supported and can continue to grow.

Create a Positive Company Culture

Young People2

The best way to build up your company from within is to establish employee engagement by creating a positive company culture. No one likes working in an environment where they’re constantly criticized or in fear. Take time each day to make sure the culture you’re cultivating is a positive one where employees are happy and everyone feels valued.

When your employees are happy, this happiness not only carries over into their work as they interact with customers, but continues in their personal lives. Cheerful employees will naturally attract other excellent people who want to be a part of such a great work environment, allowing you to have higher caliber candidates applying who will be happy to join your team and help build your business.

It’s All Up to You

As the owner, you set the tone for your business. You can create a working environment where your employees feel comfortable, confident, and happy to be there, or you can do the complete opposite. When you choose the former, you will be able to build a company that’s strong from the inside out, ultimately resulting in a successful and thriving business.

The signs of outstanding leadership appear primarily among the followers. Are the followers reaching their potential? Are they learning? Serving? Do they achieve the required results? Do they change with grace? Manage conflict?
— Max De Pree (Ret’d CEO, Herman Miller; Author of leadership books)

Holisti LeadershipClick here to download a complimentary copy of Jim’s e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader, 3rd Edition.

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Are You a Spontaneous Leader?

July 10, 2016
500th Post on WordPress!
How the time has flown over the past seven-plus years since I started blogging on leadership and management issues. Technology enables writers to reach people around the globe in mere seconds. And with readers in over 160 countries it’s a thrill, and a privilege, to have you take the time to read my blog. Thank you for your loyal readership. …Jim



There’s no cookie cutter recipe for leadership. Each leader, or potential one, has a unique personality that has developed from the immediate world in which the individual grew up and matured. Our mental models (the tailored set of assumptions acquired from life experiences) is the principal driver of human behaviour, greatly influencing the lens through which we see the world.

As a consequence, trying to lead others based on how you see your friends or co-workers lead can become a frustrating and ineffective endeavour. Followers, too, have their own needs (eg, developmental readiness), thus adding more complexity to the leader’s work.

This brings to mind the dynamics of jazz and how musicians interact. While there’s always a leader, in whatever dominant or subdued form, there’s the ever-present aspect of shared leadership, and by attachment, spontaneity when the music begins.

In his excellent new book How to Listen to Jazz, Ted Gioia talks about how jazz musicians make every performance unique and spontaneous. He explains:

“You can’t measure the spontaneity in a jazz performance. But you can feel it. And you especially notice it when it’s gone. … If you see the same jazz musicians play a song on several different occasions, you eventually figure out how much spontaneity enters into the proceedings. … After you have developed your listening skills in jazz, you probably won’t need to make such inquiries. You will feel it in the music and cherish it as the most magical part of the jazz idiom.”

The word “jazz,” he explains, was first seen in print in a California newspaper in 1912. The reporter noted that jazz referred to a wobbly pitch that was hard to hit by batters. From this first encounter with what would later become a ubiquitously used term, jazz became synonymous with anything new and exciting in society.


On the more dominant leadership front, Gioia recounts the story of acclaimed bassist Charles Mingus (pictured), who was known to shout at his band members when they played a solo that got the audience applauding, “Don’t do that again!” Gioia suggests, against the prevailing view that Mingus was trying to remain the centre of attention, that he was trying to prevent “rigor mortis” from setting in to the musicians’ playing crowd-pleasing solos. In other words, Mingus may have been trying to move his band members to higher levels of performance and spontaneity.

Similarly, 1920s American pianist Jelly Roll Morton, who blended ragtime with dance rhythms, took a strict approach to solos. The musicians could do them but “… only in small doses, with the distinctive personalities of the band members subservient to the holistic quality of the performance.”

Big band leader Benny Goodman was a perfectionist, regularly burning out his musicians. In contrast, Duke Ellington took a very different approach with his orchestra. He avoided trying to seek perfection in the music played by his orchestra members, instead providing an enabling environment in which the musicians could experiment and develop their skills. The Duke’s leadership style, as Gioia puts it, produced a group of musicians whose success over 50 some years has never been matched in terms of “constant productivity and high artistry.”

Translating jazz leadership to the practices of organizational and community leadership has enticing possibilities. From a shared leadership perspective, where people play varying roles in contributing to leading a group or cause, there’s no pre-conceived template from which to draw. People bring out their best and express their capabilities in constructive ways.

From a more formal, positional approach, (aka managerial leadership), the individual leading the group is stifling his or her potential effectiveness by adopting a one-fit style of leadership. Just like an excellent jazz leader, the effective managerial leader embraces shared leadership and encourages spontaneous behaviour that contributes to the group’s vision.


One jazz musician who comes to mind who practices the above is Herbie Hancock. At 77 years of age, Hancock has the energy and vitality of someone half his age. His electrifying performances, blending jazz standards with jazz fusion and pop, introduce up and coming young musicians. It’s an incredible experience to watch one of the great jazz masters step back during a performance to share the leadership with much younger musicians. There’s no big ego with Hancock, as witnessed during my volunteer work with the Ottawa Jazz Festival. Backstage, Hancock is very approachable, in contrast to many big-name jazz musicians who have handlers keeping people away.

Being a spontaneous leader means being able to not just react to the occasion but, more importantly, to anticipate it. This type of leader thrives on both sharing the power with followers and peers, and demanding that they produce their best. This doesn’t mean that you have to pull a “Don’t do that again!” Charles Mingus move.

Not every individual working towards becoming a better leader wants to follow the above approach. Spontaneity scares a lot of people; routine is often the preferred route. In this case, Ted Gioia puts it succinctly in his book’s conclusion:

If you don’t, you can always leave the jazz club and check out a rock or pop covers band. That’s perfect entertainment for people who want to live in the realm of perfect replication. Jazz, in contrast, is for those who want to be in attendance when the miracle happens.

Forget about trying to compete with someone else. Create your own pathway. Create your own new vision.
— Herbie Hancock

Holisti LeadershipClick here to download a complimentary copy of Jim’s e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader, 3rd Edition.

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Tolerating the Tolerance of Intolerance

July 3, 2016

Trump Rally

We’ve become a community of voyeurs, titillating in the humiliation, pain and travesties experienced by others. The media, omnipresent in this voyeuristic universe, has become a master in the art of instantly capturing and reporting on the salient details of a smorgasbord of lurid events.

Canadians have become among the world’s most capable voyeurs. As the political train wreck unfolds south of the border, Canada’s mere population of some 35 million is soaking up the entrails of Donald Trump’s presidential ambitions, which no doubt began as a half-hearted effort to gain access to the keys to the highest office in the land, but more certainly as a concerted attempt to further build his Trump brand and buff his over-sized ego.

And here we are now, entering the dog days of July, where in a matter of a few months either the despised Hilary Clinton, spouse to serial philanderer Bill Clinton, becomes president, or Donald Trump wins the biggest reality show of all time.

Along the way, the public (around the globe) has witnessed some of the most vitriolic comments coming from one politician’s mouth in particular. There’s no point in repeating any of them since the internet, including the accomplices of print media, TV and radio, has made them routine daily rantings.

Members of the media interview residents of the neighbourhood near the secondary crime scene following an elementary school shooting, in Sandy Hook

However, it’s not just the nasty and underhanded remarks by Trump and company that has helped refine the nation of voyeurs but also the violence perpetrated on a daily basis against a wide range of society’s demographics. Whether it’s sexual assault against women on college campuses, harassment of female RCMP members, mass shootings such as in Orlando and Sandy Hook, or racial stereotyping of people from the Middle East, plus much more, we’ve become numb to it collectively as a society. To put it another way, we’re learning to tolerate the tolerance that the media is showing towards the subject of intolerance, in all its sordid forms.

To the media at large, it’s all about ratings and bringing in revenue projections. The media has played a major role in promoting the pornography of violence and racial intolerance, spawning a new class of thirsty voyeurs. On a recent edition of CBC Radio’s Sunday Edition with host Michael Enwright, one of the guests was a 24 year-old female journalist who had worked for Newsweek covering crime and events involving violence. She burnt out from that gig due to the never-ending onslaught of violence.

She explained how the media has templates laid out that are quickly put into place when an act of violence occurs. For example, call lists to law enforcement people are activated, profiles of the victims are drawn up, including the perpetrators. Everything has a sort of cookie cutter recipe; just fill in the blanks.

During her time as a crime beat reporter, she avoided watching fiction TV, especially shows involving gratuitous violence. Since leaving this role, she has been working on covering business and culture news and events. What was striking in listening to her talk about her previous work was how young she was, yet wise to the world.


Before you feel downbeat about how low society has descended when it comes to intolerance, specifically the venal barbs uttered by politicians at others, take a moment to read the following passage from James Tobin’s excellent book The Man he Became, a biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s difficult years after he contracted polio. The dateline is just before FDR was re-elected governor of New York in 1930. The delegates to the Democratic national convention had just received an anonymous circular in the mail. It read, in part:

In the home office of every life insurance company in the United States, there is on file the health examination report of every person holding a life insurance policy….If you will examine the health examination report of Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, you will find that he is suffering from locomotor ataxia produced by syphilis. For almost ten years, however, Governor Roosevelt has been parading himself before the public as a victim of infantile paralysis in order to gain sympathy and to hide his real affliction. Carrying on the deception further, Governor Roosevelt has induced some men of wealth to establish at Warm Springs, Georgia, a sanitarium for the treatment of the real victims of infantile paralysis. The most disgusting, vicious and really dangerous thing about this matter is the fact that Governor Roosevelt (with his loathsome and infectious venereal disease) bathes in the same pool with these poor innocent children.

Donald Trump, as vile as he may be, has spewed forth a lot of nonsense and vindictive comments, whether at Hilary Clinton, President Obama, the heads of other countries, or his Republican opponents during the primaries. But it would be hard to argue persuasively that whatever Trump has said to date could match what was aimed at FDR 86 years ago, one of the lowest points in American politics.


We, as a supposed civilized society, can continue down the path towards innuendo, character assassination and hate-filled intolerance to those “different” from us (whatever that means in a globalized community), or we can push back against the perpetrators who financially benefit from its exploitation. If there’s one individual who amply demonstrated that he could rise to the occasion and shove aside the vitriol that was shovelled at him it was FDR, who became one of America’s greatest presidents.

Stop tolerating the tolerance of intolerance that the media has skillfully manipulated to great success. The reporting of such tragic events as the Orlando nightclub murders of 49 people in June or the slaughter of 20 little children and six school staff in December 2012 at Sandy Hook elementary school is necessary to a point. However, long before the media’s saturation point is reached the message has gone out to other mentally unbalanced people that a new goal needs to be reached. It’s time to stop being a nation of voyeurs.

If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

Holisti LeadershipClick here to download a complimentary copy of Jim’s e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader, 3rd Edition.

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Participating: The Inclusion Dynamic of Holistic Leadership

June 26, 2016

Participate 1

If you haven’t already, be sure to download the third edition of my e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader: Strategies for Successful Leadership using a Principle-Based Approach.

We all know that participation is key to achieving meaningful results in organizations, whether it’s in the private sector, government or not-for-profit sector. However, it’s easy to espouse the importance of participation, especially from the management rooftop. It’s quite another challenge to bring it down to the ground where those leading others actually put participation into daily practice. This means engaging everyone throughout the organization, and encouraging people to bring out their personal leadership attributes.

It doesn’t matter what expression is used: shared leadership, participatory leadership, post-heroic leadership or roving leadership. The point is that participation, as one of the four main components of Holistic Leadership, is critical to helping organizations create learning cultures that are based on the five enabling elements:

  1. Power-sharing
  2. Inclusion
  3. Enrolling/Aligning
  4. Collaboration
  5. Commitment

Much has been written on participatory leadership. In both the private and public sectors, it’s often espoused by senior management as how people should work together. However, what’s said publicly is often not practiced. This applies not just to management but staff as well.

Modelling the desired behaviors that accompany participatory leadership is fundamental to its eventual success. Network leaders, for example, must practice the enabling elements contained in this Holistic Leadership component. As staff, these leaders need to learn how to collaborate and how to find common ground when conflict arises. People need to take ownership of their actions and not necessarily expect management to come riding to the rescue whenever conflict among staff members breaks out.

Participating 2.jpg

Some time ago, I read an article that talked about the tacit collusion employees engage in to protect their job’s boundaries. People follow unspoken norms with respect to staying out of one another’s job areas. When these norms are not followed, conflict typically emerges. The consequence is the cementing of behaviors and practices in organizations. When a major change initiative is introduced, senior management becomes frustrated by the rigid silos that have been erected among functional groups, and which in turn contribute to resistance to the change effort.

Participating is an important component of Holistic Leadership because it provides the conduit to unleashing the potential of people. Again, this is important to those in senior and front-line managerial positions, and also to those who seek to play informal leadership roles.

For an example of an individual who excelled at Participating read the following leadership vignette.

Pat Tillman began his football career as a linebacker at Arizona State University in 1994. By his senior year he was voted best defensive player. He was also a strong business student, and in 1998 had been recruited by the Arizona Cardinals. Early on in his NFL career, he refused a highly lucrative offer from the St. Louis Rams because of his loyalty to the Cardinals.


Despite his solid performance in the NFL, he declined a $3.5 million contract offer from the Cardinals so that he could join the U.S. Army. Why? Because his country had just been attacked by al-Qaeda and he felt duty-bound to serve. He and his brother joined the Rangers in 2002, and they completed the program after the first invasion of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was later deployed to Afghanistan, where he was killed by friendly fire during a firefight. The subsequent cover-up was finally revealed, to a degree, and a U.S. Congressional investigation found that the President G.W. Bush administration and the Pentagon withheld critical documents on Tillman’s death, refusing new document release requests from Congress citing executive privilege.

Tillman was known to be well-read on a variety of topics by many authors. After the invasion of Iraq he became critical of that effort and had openly expressed his views. He had planned to pursue exploring that issue upon his return to America after his Afghanistan tour was completed.

Pat Tillman didn’t have to enlist in the U.S. Army–there was no draft at that time–but he did it out of unselfish service to his country. The road was paved to a highly lucrative professional football career, but he put that aside for what he saw as a higher calling.

Reflection Question: How do you share your leadership within your team and more broadly within your organization?

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.
— Muhammad Ali

Holisti LeadershipClick here to download a complimentary copy of Jim’s e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader, 3rd Edition.

Bay St. Lawrence BLOGVisit Jim’s e-Books, Resources and Services pages.

Contact Jim for information on his Holistic Leadership Workshop

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The Discontinuity of Donald Trump

June 19, 2016

Trump Shrugging

The past six months have turned US politics on its head. As the Democratic and Republican parties fumbled their way through their tortuous primary processes, both with their odd idiosyncrasies, wisdom has been thrown out the window. Bernie Sanders, the rumpled, always-angry 74 year-old, surprised supposed informed commentators with his consistent performance and enthusiastic supporters, albeit on a single message campaign.

On the other side of the political fence, conventional wisdom has really taken a beating as the candidate who was scorned and ridiculed from the start left all of his opponents in the dust. Donald J. Trump, once again, has prevailed in what’s become a new reality show version of US politics — except in this case the stakes are huge for not just the country and its 315 million citizens but the world at large.

And through the carnival-like atmosphere one key ingredient has been missing: leadership, the kind that makes nations great and that earns the respect from others.

Donald Trump’s successful invasion of US politics through his patented take-no-prisoners approach has taken everyone by surprise. He’s a lightning bolt out of a sunny, blue sky, with no apparent logic explaining his massive popularity among not just a segment of the Republican Party but among traditionally disenfranchised Americans who have tended not to vote in the past.
But should we be surprised with his rise in political stature, or was there writing on the wall, ignored by the pseudo intelligentsia?

Understanding what the concept of discontinuous change represents and how it operates in a highly volatile geo-political world helps point us in a direction to adapt to it.

Runner in Storm.jpg

The late Charles Handy, a British management thinker, talked about how we live in a period of Discontinuous Change. It refers to change that occurs in erratic, unpredictable bursts. Handy, regarded as one of the top thinkers of all time, ranks beside management guru Peter Drucker. Author of such highly acclaimed books as The Empty Raincoat, The New Philanthropists and The Age of Unreason, Handy was at the forefront of identifying global trends.

Along a similar vein, author Nassim Nicholas Taleb talks about what he calls Black Swan events, which may be briefly defined as: “An event or occurrence that deviates beyond what is normally expected of a situation and that would be extremely difficult to predict.” (Financial Times of London.) Take a moment to read Black Swans: The Achilles Heel of Leadership for a commentary on predictability.

The 2016 political primaries in the US may be viewed, to a degree, as discontinuous events. Much hand wringing by Hilary Clinton supporters and hair pulling by opponents to Donald Trump’s candidacy has produced no satisfactory results, especially in the latter case. In Clinton’s case, she may be the presumptive winner but it was due to a lack of adequate competition in the Democratic primary process. In national opinion polling, she edges out Trump but only because people are holding their noses when indicating who they would vote for in November.

Watching Republicans collectively wipe the egg off their face as such people as House Speaker Paul Ryan and Arizona Senator John McCain tepidly offer their support to Trump is indeed a weird spectacle. Yet failure to do so would ultimately wipe out any hope of winning November’s presidential election.

The coming match-up between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump has been referred to by some political commentators as an Alien versus Predator contest: both candidates are reviled by many voters but who are going to have to, as the vernacular goes, suck it up and vote for their party.

Hillary and Donald.jpeg

What’s predictable about Trump is his unpredictable comments and behaviour, from at times rational (more as of late when trying to appear presidential) descending to intemperate and inflammatory (“The Donald” the public has come to know). However, what should we expect of Trump as a hypothetical president? More discontinuity? In other words, if we’re to believe his critics, whether voters, politicians of all stripes or business people, would Trump get an itchy finger for the nuclear missile launch button if Iran or North Korea pissed him off?

But what about Trump as a responsible president? A long-time friend who’s lived in the UK for many years and who works in pension fund investments, argues that Trump would likely mellow as president and surprise people by acting responsibly. Perhaps. The problem that has escalated since Trump has surprised the world at large by his massive success in the primaries (far exceeding his business success and TV entertainment) is a pile-on effect.

It’s become the de facto (perhaps Pavlovian) response to express how horrible he would be as president of the United States. Your correspondent, admittedly, has jumped on that band wagon. Check out Good Leaders Avoid the Donald Trump Fear Mirror.

Discontinuity, as explained at the start of this commentary, is about sudden, unanticipated events that impose dislocating effects on society and the economy. That Donald Trump is perceived as nothing short of Satan, albeit with blonde hair and wearing an expensive suit, discards any notion that he could conceivably function in a responsible and strategic manner when faced with a crisis.


Our mental models (ingrained assumptions about the world that we acquire as we grow into adults) have become locked into one mode of what the world would look like under a President Trump. That may prove to be an ugly picture if he’s elected president. Yet history is full of examples of politicians perceived as not possessing exceptional leadership skills or who faced insurmountable odds, but who surprised people when they rose to the occasion when faced with a crisis. Examples include Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Franklin Roosevelt.

A more recent example of discontinuous leadership is President George W. Bush. He was dubbed by some media commentators as a “certified one term president” when he was elected in November 2000. Then an event occurred that rocked the world and which completely changed the context of his presidency—911. Bush rose to the occasion to lead the country during the ensuing months. However, his second term proved to be a disaster as poor planning and hubris led to the Iraq fiasco, which is seen by geo-political experts as the birthplace of ISIS.

North of the American border, the election in November 2015 of 43 year-old Justin Trudeau as prime minister shocked political commentators, and Canadians at large. Trailing in third place in the polls and perceived as a dilettante to national politics, Trudeau surprised everyone by his perseverance in campaigning for the country’s top job. Since being elected, his government has wobbled as Trudeau tries to deliver on his numerous promises. Never did informed people think that Justin Trudeau, with his many eccentricities and at times adolescent behavior, would become prime minister. Yet Canada now has a controversial leader who must attend to dozens of intersecting issues that will determine the country’s future growth and prosperity.

The purpose here is not to compare Donald Trump (or GW Bush or Justin Trudeau for that matter) to three revered national leaders. The point is to underscore our tendency to let our ingrained mental models guide our thinking, something to be avoided in a sea of discontinuous change. In the words of the late cultural anthropologist and leadership practitioner Angeles Arrien: “Be open to outcome, not attached to it.”

It’s always good to be underestimated.
— Donald Trump

Holisti LeadershipClick here to download a complimentary copy of Jim’s e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader, 3rd Edition.

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Directing: The Pillar of Holistic Leadership that Gets Measurable Results

June 12, 2016

Directing 1

If you haven’t already, be sure to download the third edition of my e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader: Strategies for Successful Leadership using a Principle-Based Approach. This post looks at Directing as one of the four components of Holistic Leadership.

Management, as a vital practice to the success of organizations, continues to get pushed into the back seat in favour of leadership. The poorly understood inter-relationship between management and leadership has diverted attention from the former when it comes to the overall literature and what we read and hear in the media. In short, management is not as sexy as leadership.

In the four part Holistic Leadership model, Directing is critical to those in managerial leadership positions, especially at the senior level. We read in the management literature how managers must possess certain key elements. They need to be visionary and strategic, yet also have a burning sense of urgency to move forward. And they must be results-oriented. To achieve this means that managers must be capable of mobilizing people. Directing encompasses five enabling elements:

  1. Vision
  2. Strategic
  3. Urgency
  4. Mobilize
  5. Results

That these five enabling elements are essential for effective formal leadership is not in dispute. But what about middle managers and employees? Little has been written on the need for people at the middle and lower levels in organizations to develop their skills for these five elements. However, they are critical skills to acquire if we wish to see a change in the culture of leadership in organizations.

Directing 2

There are three main types of leaders in organizations: senior managers, front-line managers and supervisors, and network leaders, or who are also called thought leaders. Network leaders comprise people at all levels, and are typically those working in non-managerial positions. They self-initiate, working across organizational boundaries, sharing information and linking people together.

All three categories of leaders must interact because they each possess certain strengths. Unfortunately, front-line managers have not been given sufficient attention with regard to improving their leadership abilities. In terms of Holistic Leadership, front-line managers need to ensure they develop the Directing component, because they’re the ones who are best positioned to mobilize their staff. They sit on the interface between senior management and staff, and tend to have a grasp of the big picture. This means they also need to be visionary and strategic, as well as results-oriented.

Network leaders are the seed planters, sowing ideas in their organizations and bringing people together. They work typically in non-management positions. Their interaction with front-line managers is vital, in terms of reciprocal sharing of knowledge and ideas. They also play a key role in influencing senior management. Network leaders need to ensure they develop the elements contained in the Directing component if they wish to increase their effectiveness.

Consequently, it’s important that we rethink our assumptions on the Directing component of leadership. These assumptions are oriented around power and authority and who possesses them in organizations. If we really wish to see our organizations evolve to embrace collaborative learning and shared leadership, then we need to shed some of our traditional beliefs on leadership.

Take a moment to read about an incredible corporate leader who portrays the Directing component extremely well.

Anderson Carpets.jpg Meet the World’s Greenest CEO:

Ray Anderson grew up in Georgia during the end of the Great Depression and World War II. After graduating from college he worked for almost 20 years in industry. Then in 1973 he took the plunge, leaving his employer to form Interface, drawing on an idea, his life savings and funds from a few investors.

Today, Atlanta-based Interface Inc. is one of the world’s largest flooring companies, with plants in the United States, Canada, England and Australia. However, the company’s growth and evolution has been far from ordinary. For example, in 1994 Anderson took a gamble and initiated a process to transform the company using nature as the model.

His QUEST process (Quality Utilizing Employee Suggestions and Teamwork) focused on eliminating waste from cost and measuring workers against perfection. For example, it was found that 10% of each sales dollar went to waste. Between 1994 and 2004, Interface calculated that the elimination of waste represented 28% of its operating income. And from 1996 (his baseline year) to 2008 Interface cut its greenhouse emissions by 71 % in absolute tons! Yet sales increased 66% and earnings doubled. Anderson more than amply demonstrated that business can make money while reducing its carbon imprint on the planet.


Anderson and his management team were inspired earlier on by Janine Benyus’s book Biomimicry. In fact, the manager of product development was so moved that he took his design team deep into the forest to study nature to determine how floor covering could be produced using nature’s design principles. The outcome was new flooring, which when installed has virtually no waste since cut pieces are reintegrated into the production process.

“Everything stays in the flow, the material loop. All of that is basically emulating nature in an industrial system, and that remains our goal,” asserts Anderson. One of Interface’s measures is carbon intensity, the amount of petroleum removed from the earth and then processed through the supply chain to yield one dollar of revenue. The company’s carbon intensity fell by one third over nine years, and it closed 39% of its smokestacks and 55% of its effluent pipes.

Anderson referred to climbing Mount Sustainability in Interface’s pursuit of sustainability. Understanding how to climb each of the seven “faces” to the peak will yield a zero environmental footprint. His vision is called Mission Zero, referring to Interface achieving a zero carbon footprint by 2020.

What made Anderson such an intriguing person and exceptional leader is that he’s on a never-ending quest to reduce waste and to cut emissions in order to reach a zero carbon footprint. Although employees are proud of their collective achievements, Anderson worked diligently at transforming the company’s corporate culture and ensuring that all employees share his vision. Despite low staff turnover, it’s been ongoing process to ensure that the company’s values remain engrained in everyone, and that new employees are quickly brought into the fold.

Ray Anderson exemplified what it means to practice stewardship and to be a true leader in enrolling and aligning his employees towards a common purpose and shared vision. He set, and was, the benchmark to which executive leaders should aspire.

A leader in corporate social responsibility, Ray Anderson died from cancer on August, 11, 2011.

Reflection Question: Whether you’re a senior executive, middle manager, thought leader or an aspiring leader, how do you influence others? Do you have a personal vision?

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