Showing posts with label leadership culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label leadership culture. Show all posts

Saturday, 12 December 2015

How to move forward as a leader

Leaders Must look beyond the Horizon for Success: 

(Five Tips For Moving Beyond Certainty in Business)

It is always easy to look backwards and see how a business has evolved to where it is today, than to look at where a business is today and predict where it will go in the future. Looking backwards from essence of an idea, to the formative stage in which it was created and how it has evolved to where it is now, journeys look logical and rationale. When leaders look at their business, the rational behind the direction setting they took seems obvious today and makes perfect sense, but the truth is that at the time of making those vital decisions it was not.  

Making decisions about the future is never easy and certainly not simple. The lack of information about the future, the uncertainty of what will happen within any sector and the singularity of ownership of the big decision weight on leaders minds often leads to procrastination and delay.

Seeing beyond the horizon, to what the world will look like in three to five years time requires leaders to look beyond today's certainty over the horizon into uncertainty if they wish to succeed. What makes some leaders succeed in moving beyond the known is not just having an idea, but to create sustain and drive towards their passion. Being willing and able to think beyond the known an visible to see a world which does not yet exist.

I am sure you have seen the list of six famous failures, from Albert Einstein to the Beatles. All of whom ended up succeeding, but at the time of their big decisions they were unknown, from Walt Disney who was fired from newspaper for "lacking imagination" or Oprah Winfrey who was demoted from being a news anchor because she "wasn't fit for television".  If they had listened to only those voices where would they be today. Would the Beatles have bounced back from Decca records, would Steve Jobs have fought back to success having been fired from his own company by the man he hired, had they not had the determination, advice and courage to make tough decisions about the unknown future.    

Michael Jordan, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs,

There is a simple phrase which I often use when talking with directors as a mentor, "What's your Vision" and within that simple three word question I am asking a whole series of questions about the leadership I am talking with. Who are they, where are they going and most importantly of all why do they think they are right?

Here are five business tips to help leaders move beyond the certainty of their role.

Five Business Tips for Moving Beyond Certainty

1. Create your Vision!  (Define your destination, goal or dream which you believe you can deliver)

2. Collect people to believe in you and your passion and abilities. (Successful leaders surround themselves with people who believe in them, challenge them and keep them on the ground throughout their journey)

3. Keep being curious and challenge the status quo. (Its Not why, but why not?  Success as a leader is always about challenging, to see new and emerging opportunities).

4. Stretch the limits and push beyond your comfort zone. (If you believe in something you must push beyond the known to open up new possibilities, you can only do this if you stretch yourself)

5. Keep researching your vision (Leaders too often create a vision and then stop developing, stop redefining and stop seeing how the market is changing until their vision fails)

These five #businesstips will help leaders see and move beyond the certainty of what they can see in business and develop the #mindset and #robustness as a leader. Leadership is not a natural gift, its takes time and continual investment in development and redeveloping your skills to face and succeed in leading people to face new challenges beyond the certainty of what already exists.


Richard Gourlay

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Strategy V Culture - They Aren't Opposites

Strategy v Culture – They Aren't Opposites 

The Solution

Fundamentally leadership is about driving change, and that can only come from the leadership themselves.  You can't  delegate strategy or structural change, you have to own it live, believe it and drive it relentlessly until it achieves not a paper model but a realisation in achieving tangible outcomes towards strategic goals. Building the 'strategic model' is not strategic leadership, that is just dreaming it, it is the  'built it and they will come' approach to strategy.     

Having a great strategy is only a small part of the real challenge which leaders face. Being able to execute their entire plan, requires the ability to visualise their strategy as the big picture for the business and being able to communicate it to all levels of stakeholder with personal conviction which creates and sustains the momentum you need for your strategy to succeed. That means by beginning with the end in mind, that clear strategic objectives which fit into the future which the leadership team must believe in and focus on with ambitious and measurable goals.

Successful leadership must engage all the people throughout their organisation, so that hey all understand the strategic drivers that are creating and driving the market within which they operate. Only through open and frank discussion can leadership teams enable employees to understand the drivers and implications of change within the organisation will they be able to carry people through the change process successfully.

It is not the case of culture eats strategy, if you look at successful businesses and organisations around the world, a great strategy, well thought out resourced, driven and supported will deliver bottomline results. Great strategic thinking, creates, nurtures and sustains dynamic cultures within organisations, which in turn drive strategic thinking to new heights, creating brand leaders in every sector of industry. But short-term thinking and a lack of investing in leadership skills, robust strategic thinking processes and people investment will continue to hamper the success of strategy in business today.

Learn more at


Sunday, 12 October 2014

Leadership is about YOU

Leadership is about YOU

Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” John F. Kennedy

Your brand is what people say about you when you're not in.
Who you are as a leader

When ever I look at any organisation I am in effect seeing the style and type of leader who runs it, their character shows through.

From the first online impression the brand portrays, to the real impression I feel when I walk through is front door and meet the people, the impact of the leadership is everywhere. Good leadership makes a good impression throughout, it should be seen and felt at every level.

I recently arrived at a new client to see that their disabled parking was at the other end of the car park from the front door, while the executives had named parking bays right next to the front door.

My first question to the directors was why? Followed up with the obvious second question, what first impression do you want to make to people about your values as a business? After a pregnant pause (and implausible excuse that HSE said we needed to keep the front area easily clear so the fire brigade could quickly be deployed), the directors looked at me and said 'we do have a written equal opportunities policy in place' and 'no-one has ever complained'. I then asked what impression this first impression gave to their staff, customers and suppliers? They said 'no idea, but now you mention it there are always a few staff comments when it rains about them and us culture'.

I often see great leadership happen through the delivery of small details which great results can be achieved. For any leader making change happen successfully relies as much on the big picture plan as the implementation of the minute detail. That detail delivery can only be achieved through the character of the leaders themselves. Recognising and using that individual style to mould and shape how leaders decide to lead is fundamental to leadership success.

Great leadership is about making change by demonstrating character-based leadership skills, in other words, leading from “who you are” and not from power or position. Everyone is different and that makes every leader different. Who you are is something you cannot change, successful leadership is about developing your style, based around who you are not on trying to be something you aren't.  Trying to be someone else, from Richard Branson to Steve Jobs maybe fashionable, but its not who you are, so learn from them but don't try to be them.

The idea of character-based leadership resonates with leadership advisors today. Why? Well in my example earlier the leaders were impressed by vehicles, thats how they valued their status, hence their focus as leaders was on highlighting that attribute of who they were. When they thought about what was really important to them they immediately realised what impression they wanted to provide and the impact their current focus was making. Reflecting to my observation and then positively responding to it, told us more about who they are and what was really important to them.

By the time a visited my car obsessed customer the following week, the personalised director parking places at the front door had been replaced by disabled parking area, and the directors cars were parked alongside everyone else in the general parking. They recognised their characters as leaders were being reflected in their business, and not for the best. The result of that simple change was that staff started to engage with them more openly and the staff survey a few months later reported that people felt more valued, when questioned further staff reported that everyone was now seen to be treated equally. 
Great leadership is always about change, not just making it but really understanding it and how to pre-empt where possible and react where necessary to it. Forward planning is the most obvious way in which leaders pre-empt their market. Planning for tomorrow as an inherent culture is one key attribute which sustainable successful organisations possess, but it has to be matched by a culture of implementation. Planning is only a dream if nothing changes. The ability to see that and make that simple immediate change, reflects an openness to change and an approach to listening and implementing change, not just talking about it.

What changes?

In business, everything changes all the time, innovative new products and services become mainstream, then classics then legacy then discontinued. Change is the law of life as John F. Kennedy said, great leadership is about looking for change.

Some changes can be strategic, such as new markets or new products etc but play to who leaders are come from soft leadership skills by playing on who you are as a leader. Playing to you and your style is often as important in delivering effective leadership.

Like to know more about how to lead your business successfully? then see How to Take the Guess Work out of your Business Success

Sunday, 3 February 2013


Why GREAT LEADERSHIP is all about VISION: Do you have a vision for your business here are some ideas worth considering.


Vision, is as we all know is the most important leadership trait for a successful leader to have and present. That means they have to have a clear strategic vision for their business. Great leaders may be charismatic, they maybe forceful they may even be likeable, but for them to be successful they must have and be able to communicate and inspire others through their vision.

According to Right Management consultancy‟s survey of 1,439 chief executives and senior HR people from 707 organisations across the globe found that the outstanding trait of successful leadership is the ability to create and communicate a VISION was the most important characteristic for success. The score of 92% demonstrates just how important a characteristic this is across such a large number of very senior people in business.

Business VISION

The Right Management consultancy, which is owned by the Manpower group: survey provides clear confirmation to everyone in leadership positions that the single most important factor for success is that of creating and communicating a clear vision to their people.

“Without a clear vision no leader can succeed today in business”

Leader v Manager

The key difference between a leader and a manager is often simply summarised in that a leader sets direction while a manager ensures the delivery of the plan, or elements of it. This simplified statement is a good starting point in explaining how these two differing roles can be clearly defined.

The research, which is heavily influenced by companies from North America, revealed that leaders evolve from a wide variety of backgrounds, experience and job functions within companies across a wide range of industries. Western corporate CEOs are most likely to come from Operations and Finance, with more specialised areas providing a less likely route to becoming a chief executive. This suggests that leaders are people who understand the internal systems of the business and the underlying numbers which drive its success.

Failing Chief Executives

Conversely, the top factors that contribute to the failure of chief executives include a wide-range of factors, which include both soft skills factors as well as the obvious failure to achieve acceptable results. The leading reason cited for failing chief executives is the failure to build relationships or team culture, reflects today‟s‟ importance of talent management.

Leadership Culture

The reflection that science is now more important than the science is evident: “Leadership development today is more science than art,” said Sue Roffey-Jones, practice leader at Right Management. “In today‟s business environment leadership development needs to be grounded in real work and focused on the critical competencies required for success in Chief executive level roles.” Key Skills

The importance of being financial and operationally literate to the CEO role is also becoming more evident: “We would assume that people are promoted to CEO from operations and finance because they are perceived to have developed competencies that are important for the CEO role,” said Roffey-Jones. “However, given what research has revealed to be the critical competencies for a CEO, how would a company develop leaders who have demonstrated a track record of creating a strategic vision‟ and "inspiring others and maintaining leadership responsibility‟ when these roles are more likely to be the fairly exclusive domain of the CEO?”

Succession Planning

The importance of succession and smooth transition is becoming more important. With the exception of the sudden changes, such as BP‟s sudden need to be seen to change direction in response to events, companies today are investing time and effort in succession planning. Good well planned succession planning ensures long-term shareholder value and the ability of avoiding the football management culture of change.

Executives, board members and business leaders all recognise that talent management plans, including succession management have become essential for sustained performance in today‟s organisations. Creating, finding and developing talent is now not only about identifying tomorrow's people but also ensuring they are contributing to developing tomorrow's business, buying in and helping create the vision of tomorrow. 

If you want to develop your company's position then there needs to be a vision for it, where it is going and why. If your look for some advice on developing your company, its marketing, its sustainable competitive advantage then contact us at Cowden Consulting to see how we can assist you, or read more about us in this blog or at Cowden Consulting.

Click below to follow Richard Gourlay on social media:-

Website - Linked in - Twitter - Facebook - Blog - Link to published article

Cowden Consulting is a strategic planning and implementation business which works in partnership with customers to grow and develop their business, contact us to learn more.

Follow Cowden Consulting Strategy by Email



This content isn't available over encrypted connections yet.