Monday 23 January 2017

Confronting a Crisis of Leadership

Like the good leaders we (think) we are, we’re hoping that whatever we write will be a timeless masterpiece. So I’ve always chosen to ignore passing fads and fancies, preferring to ignore, so-called news, that noisy rumble of history being made. These short (hopefully) to-the-point columns are about insights into the leader’s psyche (and those who have the burden of “serving” them), if that’s an allowable word in these days of hyper-political correctness (HPC to you).

What, I would like to think, is that many years from now you’ll pick up these columns on some leadership-linked search engine and it will still seem fresh, vital and relevant to the times in which we live. In a world where b-school professors can make a nice living writing and lecturing about the dubious leadership quirks of 12th century Mongolian warlords, stamping a date on a thought piece about the habits of 21st century CEOs might not be that bad after all.

So, after much soul searching – while sampling a glass or two of excellent Bordeaux - , I’ve decided to throw caution to the winds and mention the “T” word. To be honest, I swore I’d never do it, but just watching our leaders get it so wrong, so often and with such seemingly self-satisfied smugness, I felt I had no choice, but to take up the keyboard and get it out of my system.

In the months that have passed since Mr T (why do I still think of that big guy from the awful TV series the A-Team (*) when I write that ?), all I can say is that, ladies and gentlemen I am shocked.

I am shocked that :
- The pundits didn’t know, but now spend hours talking drivel of what went wrong
- The media didn’t know, never did, never will.
- The politicians didn’t know (but like to pretend they do). 
- The pollsters got it wrong again, and again, and again
- The big bucks-earning,heavy-hitter CEOs were as surprised as you were. Do you know ANYONE who has predicted anything correctly lately?

Ok, ok, it’s easy to mock and make fun, but this is serious guys. All my experience over many years says that the very first test of leadership is that you have a plan. And the second test is you have plan B (because every idiot knows plan A never, ever works – right?).
When plan B doesn’t work you show your true  leadership by having a plan C, at least  to the point that you exude enough confidence so people feel safer, more in control, having some direction in their lives (countless studies show what 99% of all employees want is to feel safe, and if they make money too that’s a bonus).

People didn’t vote to leave Europe; and they didn’t vote for Mr T. they voted because there is no leadership. They are rootless and rudderless.
This is the worst state of leaderless mania I have ever witnessed. There’s just no one to look up to. And, ultimately if you don’t have faith you create a vacuum in which no decisions get made. Currently our leaders have shown they never had a plan A to begin with, forgot what plan B was supposed to achieve  and their in-tray is on fire.

I’ve written extensively that people need direction and they need to believe that someone knows where the boat (be it an organisation or a nation) is going and how we are all going to get there. In 2016 we spent about $10billion on leadership training. For what ? CEOs still pull down huge millions, for leading our organisations on a rocky road to nowhere; Politicians get lauded and rewarded with honours, for making simple, stupid errors. Trouble is we have all forgotten what leadership is about.  Let me make it ever so simple. Leadership is about picking a direction, and getting a bunch of (hopefully) like-minded individuals to follow you and reap the rewards, possibly spreading a little inspirational stardust along the way. Maybe Mr T has that (or maybe we’d just better wish really, really hard that he has). 

Sorry to say folks, but leadership ain’t what it used to be and that’s the simple truth. My question to you is, are we going to do anything about it? Sadly there’s not much sign that our leaders are wonderfully equipped to put the esprit de corps back into the corpse, we’ve left lonely, lifeless and abandoned by the corporate highway as a sad legacy of our own failings. Aren’t we better than that ? Come on let’s go and seek out some inspirational leaders. I’ll be back with a route map soon. Promise.

(*) For those that need to know The A Team was a cult shoot’em up tv show  of the 1980s

This column on leadership and organizational development is written exclusively for the IEDP by Rudi Plettinx, Managing Director of Management Centre Europe, the Brussels-based development organization. Have a comment or a question? Engage directly with Rudi Plettinx here.

Thursday 12 January 2017

Leading from behind

There’s a guy I know really well. He’s hugely successful at one thing – leading from behind. Once you know him, you’ll all too quickly realise that there’s just no question that you’ll ever find his bloody and battered, all too finely tailored tweed suit, torn and stained after the battle is over and the ink jets have sputtered their last dribbles of magenta ink, he’s too smart for that. Those amongst you who like historical novels will no doubt have read about the ‘Forlorn Hope’ that misguided band of soldierly derring-doers who in less civilized times, in the vague hope of getting a quick promotion hurled themselves bodily into the gaping jaws of death (read missed budget sales targets) dying messily under a hail of bullets shrapnel and associated grapeshot in the final battle for global product domination.

Yet, stride over the ruins days later as senior corporate honchos hold lengthy meetings called post mortems and you’ll never see Jean-Claude anywhere near. No whiff of that expensive after-shave will even be able to eradicate that acrid taste of decaying market share.
For Jean-Claude has learned the secret. He’s bullet proof, he’s smart – and he ALWAYS leads from behind: you’ll never see his grass stained knees as evidence of brawling over a tense turf war.
Let me tell you -  as you are obviously a seeker of ever higher office in the corporate hierarchy of things – how it works.
First, meeting Jean-Claude for the first time, he’s everyone’s ideal recruitment poster squeezed into one bright package. Fast thinking, sociable (oh that warm smile and ‘can-do’ nod of the head!) He’s open, makes good unblinking eye contact and wins your confidence 30 seconds after you’ve met him.
Second, he is a serial volunteer. Never passes up a chance to offer to do the impossible (looking back it always is just that - IMPOSSIBLE).
Third, due to his ‘can-do’ determination, he’s usually chosen to be the team, task force or project leader. And he always pretends it’s a surprise, but he always says “yes.” The others are also happy too, they are caught up in the aura of Jean-Claude’s world – a place where good things SHOULD happen. They believe in him (because we’ve been told just how good he is), a bit like they used to believe in the Easter Bunny. Nice to look at- dangerous to live with.
I saw him just the other day, fresh from dodging his way out of the equivalent of yet another corporate car crash. Bouncing along the moving pavement at Frankfurt Airport (FACT! Eventually, everyone earning some sort of executive-level salary HAS to pass through Frankfurt Airport at least once every five years. Don’t even argue about it, it’s the third law of Executive Coincidence, (the same one that specifies that mega-rich hedge fund managers live until they are 95 and never have trouble sleeping at night).
As I passed by, there were news feeds on monitors in the Executive lounge with earnest-faced anchor-men gleefully listing the meltdown of Big Bucks Business XYZ, while Jean-Claude, oblivious to his latest self-induced disaster movie playing out in front of him, waded thigh high in his old so well polished, boots through yesterday’s doom and gloom headlines. Markets might be tumbling. Masters of the Universe may be biting their finger nails but Jean-Claude was doing just fine.
Why? Well, you see, they’d paid him off again. Jean-Claude’s ace-in-the-hole his secret talent is a work of genius. Albeit a work in constant progress. When Jean-Claude volunteers to lead the faithful to the next Holy Grail, they lap it up. Every last ambition-clouded corporate soldier will follow to the ends of the earth. Only when they get there, he’s gone. You see they never catch Jean-Claude holding the wrong end of anything, he’s too smart for that. And the levels and multi-layers of embarrassment make it easier to pay him off (a couple of millions plus in this case). It’s a small price to pay as one of his victim’s recently said, “for looking really silly.”
I can see you shaking your head. Thinking I’m making this up. I’m not. There’s a lot of money to be made for not looking stupid. It’s the corporate equivalent of pass the parcel. When the music stops, the last man holding the box is subject to a lifetime of public ridicule (still, don’t believe me try going to a soccer match and hear the comments aimed at the jowly men in blazers - they’re the ones still drinking the good Bordeaux). Jean-Claude succeeded because he led from behind, letting all the other eager beavers out front get mown down by opposition machine gunners. And it was so embarrassing. We started the war and we had to pay a high price to cover our retreat and save our reputation – again!
He’s on the loose again now. Confounding all those sensible chaps tasked with corporate oversight. He’s leading a charge from behind backed by the finest PR machinery yet devised. There should be a UN resolution to ban corporate stupidity. Sadly, leading from BEHIND is perfectly legal, but boy isn’t it embarrassing? They used to say money talks. The fact is it keeps quiet, very quiet, which is why it will keep on happening and Jean-Claude will keep right on smiling as he leads from behind!

This column on leadership and organizational development is written exclusively for the IEDP by Rudi Plettinx, Managing Director of Management Centre Europe, the Brussels-based development organization. Have a comment or a question? Engage directly with Rudi Plettinx here.

Tuesday 8 November 2016

A Cheer for the Old Dogs

Do you remember the days when anyone over 40 was already on the corporate scrap heap? Used to be a leader who had lost his moxie was doomed to a netherworld of hoped-for and patronisingly-given exec directorships allowing him or her to eke out their days until retirement mercifully kicked in. “It’s a young man’s game,” we were told. There was just no room in the world, where youth was king, for those who fell from grace just too early, still clinging desperately to the success ladder with white, shaking fingers.

But lately, I’ve been hearing stories – and most importantly seeing evidence – that being on the ropes doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all over.

Last month, one of my oldest friends fell foul of their board and the other got shanghaied in a shareholder revolt. Result? no job, no title, just the pay–off for a job that had taken its toll over the years. Not wanting to admit defeat and say sayonara to a life of getting the golf handicap into single figures, they called some pals and the results were amazing. Within a matter of days, they were looking at job offers from all over the place. What was most interesting about the whole process was the variety. Private and public sector, plus offers of lucrative consulting and turnaround assignments. From an expected vacuum and a real struggle to get back onto the radar, the phone’s been ringing off the hook.

I chatted to both of them about their next moves. Mark is 55 and in good shape with a great track record as an inspirational leader. Joshua is 60, he’s led a whole series of big businesses, done start-ups, M&As the whole thing.

The one question that was on all their minds was the single word - “Why”? 
“I don’t understand Rudi,” Mark told me. “I thought we were supposed to be over the hill, dead and buried like yesterday’s news.”
“It’s incredible,” said Joshua. “I’ve been contacted by so many people; they all want me to sign on tomorrow.”

Talking with these two novices for a time, I’ve come to the conclusion that their career resurrection is down to one thing. Organisations crave experience and battle-hardened warriors. They need to feel there is someone in charge who has been through the ups and downs and come through, battered and bruised but with all flags flying.

It may be good to be a 20 or 30-year-old whizz-kid, hyped up on technology, but most of them are very, very short on street fighting techniques. The oldies offer experience, consistency and wisdom. Being calm in the storm is a whole lot easier when you’ve seen a lot of storms and survived them.
Mark and Joshua with their long track records across industry bring the kind of insight that only serving time can bring. And in a world that’s full of daily surprises, that is the new “we want” currency.

So what will they do? They have four rock-solid offers each. They also have no illusions that nothing is forever – recent history is there to keep them firmly planted in the real world, where there are few fairy-tale endings.
Mark will take on a leadership role with a commodity firm (his global contacts and long-time relationships are worth their weight in the very sizeable package they’re giving him). Joshua isn’t quite ready to step back in. He’s signed up to be a top level mentor to a group of start-ups, bringing sane advice and counsel where it’s needed most. He’s the den mother where his leadership skills will carry a lot of weight and bring about the repositioning of the firm and its culture as it grows.

I wish them well and hope they find satisfaction in the next chapters of their careers. There’s an old saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. My two friends, Mark and Joshua are out to disprove that statement. As uncertainty becomes the watchword all of us must lead and manage by, my guess is that those young rebels in the corporate suite will be ever more willing to listen to the grey hairs of their elders and until proven otherwise, presumably betters.

This column on leadership and organizational development is written exclusively for the IEDP by Rudi Plettinx, Managing Director of Management Centre Europe, the Brussels-based development organization. Have a comment or a question? Engage directly with Rudi Plettinx here.

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Running Scared Is No Way to Lead

Facing the fear of uncertainty that forces wrong decisions and creates low productivity and underperformance. 
Those of you who read these columns will know by now that I’m a pretty inveterate world traveller. Give me a comfortable seat, preferably in business class (‘cos I’ve got the air miles to do it) my trusty tablet, a cold drink and a half decent meal and I can put up with hours and hours in the sky, no problem. And often to while away the passing miles I get to meet the most interesting people. But lately, I’ve found in my travelling companions a new, disturbing phenomenon that doesn’t seem to have been there before – they’re scared. Not of flying, or of whacko terrorists, just plain old-fashioned scaredy-ness. There’s something deeply disturbing about this that has me wondering if we as business leaders are really doing all we should to take some of the angst out off the work equation.
In the past months I’ve been in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and Northern Europe.  On every flight, I’ve got into conversation over the plastic pap they serve you that usually begins like this.
We exchange a “hello,” swap names, explain what we do, who we work for and then one of us always asks THE question, “So, how’s business in the XYZ industry?” Depending how confident we feel (or how many aperos we may have had) we tend to bend the truth a little (bullshitting it’s called), usually giving the impression that all is right with the world and our business is floating along smoothly at 35,0000 feet like those clouds outside the window of seat 3A.
Normally, these chats with total strangers are a pleasant diversion (sometimes you even learn a thing or two from the experiences of some ageing corporate soldier like myself). Then the wheels hit the tarmac and you go on your merry way to the next client meeting and the same soulless hotel room (whoever writes about hotels as a “lifestyle experience” should be locked up in one of their own rooms for a millennium).
But recently these candid, virtually anonymous exchanges, have taken on a new, ever so slightly, sinister feel. Sure, people still tell you how good their business is, but behind the false bravado there’s a real, tangible frisson of fear. It’s not about under performance either. It’s about doubts. How long they’ve got until the dice rolls the wrong way just too many times? In simple terms these big deal, business-class travellers are scared that there is just too much uncertainty in the world. And it seems no matter how they try to plan for it, how many contingencies they’ve got up their sleeve, something big and bad is going to happen. And there isn’t a darn thing they can do about it.
Take Carlos, met him on a flight to Dubai last week. He’s got the jitters like a professional golfer with the yips that’s ruined his putting stroke. And he can’t say why.  Or Andrea, a hard-boiled vice president, who frets if she’ll be in a job by year end. And Frank who’s so worried that he’s has a tremble in his voice as he nervously describes his concerns about what happens tomorrow.
Seems to me they are all dealing with the one thing that all their training, experience and get-up-and-go can’t give them – UNCERTAINTY. It’s like a disease. It weakens you. Forces you into wrong decisions and creates low productivity and underperformance big time.
What to do? Well, we as leaders have to step up and just get good at fighting the big, bad, bogeymen that are pervading our workspace and workplace. We need to take the time to reassure our people and our top teams (tuck them up with a warm drink and a teddy bear and make sure they get a dreamless sleep, with no nasty corporate nightmares).

Of course, there’s plenty of people who will say we shouldn’t bother, we reward our people to be tough, resilient - they should just get on with it; but is that right? If we can try just that little bit harder to reassure our people that all will be well; if we can coddle them just a bit more, surely it will pay off in better performance and probably less anti-anxiety pill-popping, an epidemic that is now an established, de facto part of today’s corporate culture.
Leaders aren’t just supposed to know stuff. They are there to reassure the troops, be able to think the unthinkable and make their top performers feel better about the uncertainty in a world we have inherited.
Maybe a leader needs to face that uncertainty, admit it to themselves, then go and help the rest who are struggling. From my experiences, and the frightened confessions I’m hearing in seat 3A, I can vouch for that.

This column on leadership and organizational development is written exclusively for the IEDP by Rudi Plettinx, Managing Director of Management Centre Europe, the Brussels-based development organization. Have a comment or a question? Engage direct with Rudi Plettinx here.

Thursday 8 September 2016

Stop Asking For Feedback!

If I am asked to give any more feedback I will probably shout at someone! And I will probably shout at the managers who think that a good way to manage customer service is to insist that staff collect feedback every time they say hello to a customer. Know what I mean?

Here is my story:


During a recent hotel stay I was asked for feedback on the quality of service after my breakfast, then again after my evening meal. I was asked by the cleaner and chambermaid, and the floor manager. I even had a call from the gym within 30 minutes of my session to ask me about my experience!


Each staff member asked me “would you please give feedback on how I have helped you and how pleased you are with me’. In three cases, I was specifically asked: “if I get some good feedback then it means my job is going to be secure and helps with my rate of pay”. Each person stood in front of my exit with a full smile.


I felt I was being blackmailed, pressured into saying nice things, having my privacy invaded, and became very, very annoyed. The feedback I gave was ‘stop asking me for feedback’!


Why do I care? We know that managers do not usually give their direct reports enough feedback. We know that most of the feedback people often hear is negative. We also know that it is good to receive positive feedback. Feedback should not be used out of proportion. It should not be used as a tool to breed fear into junior people who feel they will be rebuked or disadvantaged unless they proactively seek out volumes of the stuff.

The rules for feedback are simple. Make sure you notice when people do things well and give feedback on it. Make sure you notice when people need to be corrected and give feedback on it. In other words, get better at spotting when feedback is appropriate and give it. Don’t ask staff to go and chase guests around the hotel. Feedback should be personal and specific, and given at a time as close as possible to when it was observed.

Train the people who need to give feedback to look for the behaviours, actions, words or voice that results in good work, or, a need for improvement. Do not fall into the trap of giving vague and imprecise feedback. I can guarantee that the hotel manager in my example will give feedback something like ‘I expect better from you’ or ‘you’ve done a great job this week’ – very imprecise.
These scenarios leave the receiver very unsure what they did wrong, or correctly, and no clearer about what to do next.

Finally, remember to C.A.R.E. about the people to whom you give feedback. I do not believe the managers in my hotel experience really cared about the team; it was simply a technique to collect a quota of feedback for performance records.

Feedback with C.A.R.E. is effective if you follow a few simple rules:
  • Give the CONTEXT where the event occurred.
  • Talk about the ACTIONS you observed or heard.
  • Describe the RESULTS on your feelings or thoughts.
  • EVALUATE yourself. 
    Why did you notice the event and why did it matter to you?
Feedback is an essential management skill, use it skilfully and not as a ritual each week. Give it when it is needed, and as often as you give feedback, ask for it in return.

I am looking forward to the online version of feedback that I will no doubt be asked to provide next week from my recent hotel stay. I will probably tell the hotel to take a lesson on how to give feedback.

Feedback using the C.A.R.E principle is a central component of several core MCE Leadership Courses.

About the Author:

Nigel Murphy supports is Director of Portfolio and Capability Development at MCE and he has a background in management in manufacturing, education and training. 
For the past 10 years he has worked on leadership programmes across the globe. He is interested in the mentoring of new managers and leaders, and leading remote teams of people in today’s globally dispersed businesses. 

Friday 12 August 2016

Working Better is Working Smarter

Larissa Hämisseger
Based in Switzerland, Larissa Hämisseger, has a background in the business working in the fast-paced startup environment, where she is constantly in contact with people that work long hours on a daily basis. She is also a yoga instructor, teaching about, different health practices in the workplace. She is convinced that we are able to change everything in our lives that doesn't serve our highest best interests.
That's why she, sees a huge value in applying these practices in the business environment. Because both, organizations and individuals, have to play their part in creating stronger organizations with healthier and happier people.Here she gives her views of being healthy in today’s work environment.

MCE : There is so much being written and talked about stress at work. Do you think that we need a new approach to looking after ourselves better in our workplaces?

Larissa Hämisseger (LH) : There are so many approaches out there. Instead of coming up with a new one we just have to become more disciplined in following the existing ones. For example, the very simple one of taking breaks to find a balance between tension and relaxation within the working hours is a very valuable approach.

However, let's look at one of the still most mentioned approaches: work-life balance. Let's be honest, that one just arose because work was perceived as too negative (stress, pressure, too long working hours, etc.). So suddenly we came up with the idea of taking clear breaks from working in the evening, during holidays or weekends. However, this concept does not take into account making the hours at work less painful and even fun.

We gained more knowledge about what creates a healthier work environment though a strong and healthy company culture. Policies and exemplified behavior by the leaders such as no internal emails, not having to be reachable at any hour of the day, and especially supporting the employees in taking brakes do help.
Yet, we all choose for ourselves how we are living our lives and the organization is limited in supporting the people. If you are unwilling personally to change something about your stress level, it will be much harder for the organization to support you and vice versa.

If you had a choice what would you say are the three most important things to get right about looking after yourself at work?

LH :
guess it's the same you do in whatever area in your life.
First , being very conscious about your stress level is crucial yet many of us lost this ability. Get to know your body and don't ignore the signs that make you notice when a short break is necessary, or when a situation needs to be changed. Interpersonal relationships, for instance, need to be healthy, everything else makes you sick. So never ignore these signs and unhealthy situations but act on them. They arise for a reason.
Second, very basic but very important: get enough sleep, eat healthy and drink a lot of water.
Finally , Remember you always have the choice. Having piles of work to do is less stressful if you stop thinking about it and just focus on the task you are working on.

MCE : We all seem to complain about so-called ”digital overload”. Any tips for dealing with that or should we just make a rule to switch off once or twice a day ?

LH : First of all, don't complain because it's always a choice.
It's a challenge to wake up and not check your phone immediately, or wait for the bus and not reading the newest posts. But why bother to take a minute of doing nothing? Well if you are a 100% healthy, completely happy, not stressed, have great sleep and are doing what you love, then don't bother.
During the day switching from and tuning into different channels in a short time creates sensations of stress. Focus on one device and one channel at a time and keep breathing.

I would say the most important thing though is to set the rule to not check your phone as the last thing you do before bed and the first thing you do after waking up. If you manage to have a more healthy evening and morning ritual, without rushing and without any brain stimulation, you are doing a pretty good job. If that is hard, choose one day in the week where you apply another ritual than checking your phone.

MCE : Give us an example of a “good way” to switch off and the kind of benefits you get : e.g. better ideas, more creativity, happier employees ?

LH : As mentioned before taking conscious breaks from your task does not only help your stress level but fosters your creativity, thus your ideas and your solutions. By stubbornly staying at a task for hours you will most likely not deliver the best solution, it's frustrating and you had no time for human interactions. There is two ways of taking breaks: one is moving completely away from your task, having a chat with your colleagues, play some foosball or even go for a run or read a book. It helps you to look at your task from another angle and maybe more inspired.

Yet you can also take a break by becoming very conscious about the situation you are in and all that is related to the situation by centering yourself and looking at everything objectively, called mindfulness. Taking a few moments every day to just observe your breath (basic mindfulness exercise) can make a huge difference if practiced on a regular basis. It brings you back to the moment and helps you to act consciously instead of out of rage, tension or any other sensation. Not to mention all the other even scientifically proven benefits, mindfulness meditation has, such as more focus, better creativity, and healthier relationships.

Thursday 11 August 2016

Leading in a Disruptive World

The tragic trail of events, that seem to permeate our day-to-day lives, has become a sad, yet all too real, defining trend to the start of this new millennium – an age that promised so much. Looking back through the blurred and bloodied lens of recent history, it doesn’t seem that we have very much to hang our hopes, dreams and aspirations on. In fact, for many of us the opposite is true, fear becomes replaced by defiance, rhetoric is reduced to often hollow phrases as we find it hard – perhaps impossible – to comprehend what’s going on (or going wrong) with our world.

It is then that we need our leaders more than ever: individuals who have the innate ability to make us feel better about ourselves and safer in our skins. Despite the terrible events of recent history, we must not forget that we live in what has been termed a VUCA world.

A world that is by turns Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous

It is a most unforgiving place, where seemingly anything and everything can happen and really does. It is a world where disruption is the order of the day.

It is Volatile: Because at any moment the box of tricks called ‘life’ can explode in your face. Just when you thought you had all the loose cannons tied down on the deck, a storm appears out of nowhere.
It is Uncertain: Whatever you think will happen won’t – and just when you least expect it.

It is Complex: There’s no doubt that a techno-driven web of super-complexity and connectivity drives our world and we cannot get away from it – not even for a nano-second.

It is Ambiguous: The rules we grew up with just don’t apply anymore. It is almost as though doing the opposite from what logic tells you is the right response.

There’s a lot of utter rubbish talked and written about leadership, that’s what keeps the consulting industry gainfully employed. But what seems most clear to me is that every CEO or so-called world leader has one thing they need to do and take responsibility and accountability for recognize that the world is, as I’ve just emphasised, unbelievably complex and no single person, no matter how much a genius they may be, can run it effectively. 

Therefore, as we wade ever deeper into the mire and slime of our self-inflicted VUCA world, the ability for our leaders to build effective teams of people around them are going to be what defines our organizations (and governments) of tomorrow. Equally, the ability of these leaders to inspire their teams to go the extra mile to try and navigate the storms of tomorrow is going to be paramount.
If we are to succeed and prosper in a world defined by ongoing disruption, where our world can be instantly turned topsy-turvy by a single, terrible act, then we must be able to feel that those who run our organizations have access to the best advice and counsel they can get. 

This is no great time to be a CEO; a toxic climate marked by markets in turmoil, geopolitical tremors and zealous stakeholders finding new agendas to prosecute. All this takes the attention away from providing fulfilling work experiences, not to mention the small matter of turning a profit. Little wonder then that many of the best and brightest prefer to take a back seat rather than face the cut and thrust of daily life in the spotlight.

My message to leaders is, take it on the chin. Surround yourself with the best and brightest you can get (a few battle-hardened old war horses aren’t a bad idea either). Then when all hell breaks loose (and all the signs indicate it will do just that sooner or later) be as ready and able as you can. There’s not much more we can expect, but being ready to act is giving yourself an even chance, which is not a bad outcome when the odds are stacked against you.

We didn’t deal the cards, but we can dictate how we play them.
Real leaders know, intuitively, what’s in their hand all the time. Think about it for a moment. A suit of cards is not unlike a team of people; all have their uses. You just hope you don’t get dealt too many Jokers.

This column on leadership and organizational development is written exclusively for the IEDP by Rudi Plettinx, Managing Director of Management Centre Europe, the Brussels-based development organization. Have a comment or a question? Engage direct with Rudi Plettinx here.