That you build Trust/psychological safety – Leadership by Example

Avoid surprises, build creditability, build reliability, show authenticity and share credit

Team Unity Friends Meeting Partnership Concept

“When trust is extended, it breeds responsibility in return. Emulation and peer pressure regulates the system better than hierarchy ever could.”

— Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations

This takes time and effort. Rarely will people give you trust. Usually you will see it form quickly in a crisis or slowly through being consistent.


In the book ‘The Trust Equation’ by Steven Drozdeck and Lyn Fisher. They shared an equation that you build trust through having Credibility, Reliability, Authenticity divided by Perception of Self Interest.  A good article by Anne Raimondi covers this in detail.

Another perspective is advocated by The Trusted Advisor where The Trust Equation uses four objective variables to measure trustworthiness. These four variables are best described as: Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy and Self-Orientation.

Here are my guides for building trust:

  1. Be available and present
  2. To build trust, you must respect how others think and feel. That’s why it’s important to listen first.
  3. Proactive/Preventive support
  4. Follow through – Do what you say you are going to do
  5. Be fair and consistent – Do not play favourites
  6. Be explicit – Do not make them guess what you want from them
  7. Be an expert on something
  8. Build relationships that encompasses more than work

Countering Perception of Self Interest:

  1. Give credit to correct people i.e. who did the work
  2. Advocating may get what you need but pay attention to your peers reactions
  3. Highlight common goals amongst those have this perception
  4. Pay attention to the political and cultural landscape
  5. In cultures where people are passive aggressive they may not give you the feedback, but rather talk behind your back.  This maybe resolved by searching out feedback directly.

Be Present

When you regularly and skillfully listen to others, you stay in touch with their reality, get to know their world and show you value their experience. Active listening involves asking questions, along with concentrated effort to understand your partner’s answers–all while resisting the urge to judge. Careful listening helps you identify each individual team member’s strengths, weaknesses, and style of communication.

Additionally, you send the message that what’s important to them is important to you.

Psychological Safety

Psychological safety is a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.[1] It can be defined as “being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career” (Kahn 1990, p. 708).[2] In psychologically safe teams, team members feel accepted and respected. It is also the most studied enabling condition in group dynamics and team learning research.


Google researched what made teams successful and Code-named Project Aristotle. Psychological safety was at the top off the list. Vulnerability is a key component not something you hear often from from a bro culture.


Questions on Trust:

  • Do you know your team – who are they at work and home
  • Understand what motivates them, do not assume, ask them and explore it
  • Get to know who they are, what gravities do they have in their life e.g. family, hobbies, favorite reads/movies
  • What is their leadership style(s), does it adapt depending on the context?
  • How do they like to be led, how do they report to you?, how do they like to receive feedback check both for positive and performance improving
  • Tell them how you like to receive feedback
  • What level of transparency do you prefer?

Resources for Trust:

Back to the list of traits


That you are Coachable – Leadership by Example

Good at listening, open to change, able to change, able to let go and good at reflection


My best skill was that I was coachable. I was a sponge and aggressive to learn.

― Michael Jordan

Whilst most of us prefer to have a leader who is experienced, smart and inspiration. Most of us as leaders, have blind spots or areas that we need to grow in. Our boss may have indeed hired us to cover one of those blind spots for them or the organization. And let us not forget the world does not stay still for anyone, whether the market changes, completion takes some of our space, technology opens new doors or we evolve as a human race – we need a leader who can change, adapt and grow. Part of this is on us, how can we help our leader be better.

On the other side we like people who report to us that are coachable, if people see you are coachable, they will often help you through any trouble times, or mistakes you make. Lets face it, you will make mistakes or delay a decision, something. If your team know you are coachable you and your team will often grow into something stronger.

If you are coachable  you are more likely be able to accept new evidence/new data and change your perspective. Rather than force the new thing, into your world view, or force it into a pattern you were trying to prove.

If you are coachable, you less likely to be stubborn, judgement and people are more likely to come to you with ideas and concerns because they feel psychological safe.

Core elements to being coachable

  1. Be present and process feedback and be able taken criticism
  2. Choose the rights moments for feedback, get their permission that this is a good time
  3. Insist on the specifics in receiving feedback
  5. Reflect and not just when things go wrong
  6. Be vulnerable
  7. Experiment
  8. Take action on feedback and close the loop with those action
  9. Acknowledge, appreciation and invite more feedback

Challenges to Coachability

I have seen the lack of coachability in managers who were promoted above their ability or just too fast, some are coached to success, but working under a manager/boss/leader that is un-coachable, sucks.

  • Too opinionated/know it all/defensive in feedback situations
  • Too critical of others/Judgmental
  • A poor listener/ multi-tasking/ always on computer or on phone during meetings
  • Too blunt and too bold/lacks empathy/too controlling
  • Too intense
  • Too “me” focused/They find blame elsewhere
  • Too difficult/ unable to connect to others
  • Too nice
  • Not “edgy” enough
  • Too attached to the details/unable to see the big picture/They are not open to new ways of looking at a situation
  • Too slow to make decisions
  • Too easy on performance issues
  • They are unwilling to be vulnerable
  • Unable to change/stubborn/unable to explain their decisions/does not action feedback
  • Unable to recognize gaps and cover him/self aware
  • Picks on bad examples , rather than the story -> Receives feedback and says no, that is not the case,
  • Overwhelmed
  • Victims of their own data

“Coachable people seek out those who speak truth to them, even if it is a painful truth, because it protects them and it makes them a better person and leader.”
― Gary Rohrmayer

Resources for Coachable:

Back to the list of traits

That you make decisions – Leadership by Example

Unbiased, for the good of the team/business, conflict management, change management

Solution 1 2 or 3 Choice Showing Strategy Options Decisions Or Solving

“Problems cannot be solved by thinking within the framework in which they were created.”

Albert Einstein

Let facts drive your decision making, not opinions. As humans we have an incredible number of cognitive biases that drive us to make decisions in certain ways that are sometimes not helpful, correct or even close to the ball park.

When decisions can take time, use that time, consult people who may have something contribute and be careful about asking the same people or people who may agree with you. Have a hypothesis, test it, get rid of it when you can see it will not work. Loosely hold your hypothesis unless you can see it will work. And than ask for other solutions.

Fast decision making or decisivenesses is often see as an important trait, but it can lead to being judgmental.

Be OK with changing your mind when new facts or evidence show another angle.

Nobel-prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman has said that overconfidence is the bias he’d eliminate first if he had a magic wand. It’s ubiquitous, particularly among men, the wealthy, and even experts.

Cognitive bias

We often think we are making the best decision with data we have. Unfortunately our brains are wired to do certain things that are not always helpful. There are at least 181 cognitive biases, but here are the top 18. Cognitive bias can get in the way of making good decisions.


What is your goal?

Decision making must understand what you hope to achieve, the impact and consequences for the decision.

Good Strategy Execution Requires Balancing 4 Tensions

Disagree and commit

As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explains, to “disagree and commit” doesn’t mean “thinking your team is wrong and missing the point,” which will prevent you from offering true support. Rather, it’s a genuine, sincere commitment to go the team’s way, even if you disagree.

Of course, before you reach that stage, you should be able to explain your position, and the team should reasonably weigh your concerns.

But if you decide to disagree and commit, you’re all in. No sabotaging the project–directly or indirectly. By trusting your team’s gut, you give them room to experiment and grow–and your people gain confidence.

Change Management

Decisions often lead to change, change is hard, most humans hate change even if they agree with it.

  • Are you a dictator? e.g. “I am the director and I will tell you what you are doing”
  • Are you passive aggressive e.g. “Interesting perspective”
  • Do you hide behind others e.g. “You will tell your reports”

How to change is even important and will differ according to the culture, but here are some suggestions.

  • Involve early on, if possible get the affected to help you review the problem and solve together
  • Agree a plan of change
  • Agree messaging
  • Have a stakeholders map
  • Consider opportunities for review
  • How do you evaluate changes later to see if they were successful?

If you want a list of good exercises for serious change management checkout The Change Leader’s Roadmap.  I have used many of these exercises whilst as a consultant and they worked well

Conflict Management

How you respond to conflict will show to all what kind of leader you are.  Conflict is necessary. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team describes the lack of it as a dysfunction. Of course not all conflict is good, so managing conflict so it produces healthy results is part of a Leaders role. The biggest hint is to make sure all are heard and understood before moving to making a decision.

Unconscious bias

A quick and often inaccurate judgment based on limited facts and our own life experiences. These judgments can give individuals and groups both unearned advantage and unearned disadvantages in the workplace.

Biases are shortcuts our brain forms based on:

  • Our own experiences
  • Things other people tell us
  • Media portrayals
  • Institutional influences
  • Other external influences

11 million bits of information per second go through our senses. We can only consciously process 40 bits. 99% of our mental process is ruled by our unconscious.

If you ever get opportunity take the training.

“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”
— Abraham Lincoln


If you suffer from procrastination, maybe this slide deck will help you.  I wrote it for a Women in Technology group:

Being able to make a decision is important, how you do it and who you involved, will create your culture. So decisive is good, but sometimes you should take your time involve others in the decision making process.

Making a Decision

  • How do to evaluate alternatives?
  • Move from decisive to flexible and involve others
  • How is information used? Are you forcing your opinion or was the information used rationally?
  • How is the information evaluated? What biases have you used
  • How is communicated? How will this impact people?

Thoughts on Decision Making:

  • How do you check biases?
  • Are you rested well enough to make the right decision
  • If need to delay a decision, if it is not urgent delay it
  • Can you involve others in the decision, will this help get wider perspective or spot poor thought process
  • How do you evaluate major decisions

Resources for Decision Making:

Back to the list of traits

That you respect diversity – Leadership by Example

Diversity brings greater innovation, uniqueness challenges culture to evolve, we share and learn


Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations

Vulcan Philosophy from Star Trek

I am not sure why, but I have always believed that Diversity and Uniqueness are a good thing in humans. I used to think that my thinking had evolved from all the Science Fiction that I read as a Child. Many of the Science fictions books explored racism via different alien races, or that sexuality, gender could be so varied, or that whole civilizations destroyed each other because they could not talk to each other.

Personal I do not look for clones of me or anyone else.

Decades of research by organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers show that socially diverse groups (that is, those with a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation) are more innovative than homogeneous groups

Advocates of diversity look for ways to best leverage their asset. They implement new structures and work practices that are radically different from traditionally-minded management approaches..”

The end of “Culture Fit” and beginning of “Culture Add”

There term cultural fit, has often become a decider in recruitment, but too much Culture fit can lead to a cult, eh? (Sorry I am Canadian).  Or a monogamous culture, where everyone looks the same and thinks the same.

For any community to survive it must adapt, it must challenge itself, essential it must evolve or stagnant.  A strong way to keep evolving it is to bring on people who are different i.e. Cultural Add. And those people must be supported not socialized. I am not saying this comfortable it is not, but an evolving community is not comfortable.

“New ideas come from differences. They come from having different perspectives and juxtaposing different theories.”

— Nicholas Negroponte

How are you supporting people are different?

They may have different communication style or conflict style. What is their understanding of team working. How are you demonstrating values that they should copy?

This is journey of an immigrant and it takes about 18 months?  What is it for your company on-boarding process?


People from different parts of the country are surprisingly different..


Thoughts for Diversity

  • Are you are all one skin color, sex, gender, sexuality, culture, nationality? How about your leaders, your C-Suite/Directors, your Board?
  • Where do you recruiters target?
  • Are you still stuck on culture fit rather than culture add?
  • What are you doing?, to up your game in communication, negotiation and conflict skills?
  • Do people that are different have good internal mentors to help guide them?
  • How do you help people that are different, raise their voice?
  • How honest is your on-boarding process, is it about making them a cultural fit i.e. socialization or help them add their uniqueness to the community?
  • How do people share their uniquenesses to the organization?
  • Do you have a comprehensive Unconscious Bias Training program?
  • Are your benefits oriented to to one group or do they exclude another? young men, old men, pregnant woman?

Resources for Diversity

Back to the list of traits

That you learn and grow – Leadership by Example

Evolving you, evolving leaders and evolving the team, evolving the strategy, feedback


“When you can truly understand how others experience your behavior, without defending or judging, you then have the ability to produce a breakthrough in your leadership and team. Everything starts with your self-awareness. You cannot take charge without taking accountability, and you cannot take accountability without understanding how you avoid it.”
— Loretta Malandro, Fearless Leadership

I once worked in a place where the vast majority of managers/leaders did very little to nothing to grow their skills with the exception of doing their daily job.  There was no 360 Appraisal system, the performance reviews were annual. There was no book club, no formal training, no on-boarding, it was expected you would cope. People were leaving who just were not being given the feedback they needed and than no coaching – it was like leaders expected people to read minds – I am not sure telepathy is a thing but I have see a lot of ineffective cultures expect it. These cultures often expect implicitly that everyone understands what everyone else expects.  This is often caused by bad male leadership.

Without a doubt on the job experience is a part of our learning and you are responsible for your evolution. That said in organizations that do not really embolden learning in all aspects of leadership will often have problematic cultures.  As a Leader of leaders you are responsible for encourage your people and others to aggressively learn and share, what you have learned.

Focus Learning

If you have a primary capability you are employed to do, how do you know its improving? What are you actively doing to improve yourself?

I would suggest starting with two paths, how to bring my general game up (Growing Stronger) and how do I build for my next full on evolution (Strategic Growth).

Growing Stronger

The first might focus on your areas of development, weakness, unknowns that you do need to learn. Maybe you get this from a performance review, or a coach or a mentor or through other feedback. Find a book, a blog, a podcast that covers that key topic. Maybe its receiving feedback better – Read Thanks for the Feedback – create a checklist, put on your phone and just before you know you are going to receive feedback read those notes or summary. Phillippa Lally and her researchers found changing behavior on average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact with you taking the “better route” before it sinks in.  The researchers also found that “missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process.” In other words, it doesn’t matter if you mess up every now and then. Building better habits is not an all-or-nothing process. Also do not take this journey alone confide in someone who can help make you accountable.

Strategic Growth

Becoming your 2.0, maybe you pull a job description for the level you want to work towards, say you are missing Finance Experience? Maybe take a course at a local college or University, or you find someone who is willing to teach you. Maybe you take time to process information and you need to be faster, take an Improv course? Find a mentor who is doing that job already.

The power of writing and sharing

It is hard for a human to hold large amounts of information and actively use it in every context.  Something that will help is writing, or teaching others about what you have learned. It will force (well hopefully) you to condense your learning, and understand the wider forces in action. This is also helpful for those who are more tactically driven start developing strategic awareness.

Places to learn from

On the Job

  • Doing the job
  • Weekly Retros
  • One to Ones
  • Coaching/Mentoring
  • Performance Reviews

Designated Learning

  • Training
  • Reading Books/Podcast/Videos
  • Book Club
  • Magazines/Blogs
  • Confrence – either Sector or Skills based
  • Peers coffee/drinks/networking

Thoughtful Creation Learning

  • Creation/Sharing – Colleagues/Conferences/Blogs
  • Mentoring others – Volunteering at Startups Hub or local school
  • Coaching Others – Volunteering at Startups Hub  or local school
  • Editing books/articles of other creators

Learning in leadership has to be one of your core and aggressive skills. You cannot afford to stop, or even pause.  Even in a crisis or in a fire situation pay attention to what you needed to know and what you needed to know deeper. Find time later to understand and learn from it.

If you stop evolving you will stagnate.

“People can have two different mindsets, she says. Those with a “fixed mindset” believe that their talents and abilities are carved in stone. Those with a “growth mindset” believe that their talents and abilities can be developed. Fixed mindsets see every encounter as a test of their worthiness. Growth mindsets see the same encounters as opportunities to improve.”
Daniel H. Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Thoughts for Learning

  • What is your learning plan?
  • Who is coaching you?
  • Who is mentoring you?
  • Are you in a book club with other leaders?
  • What skills are you going to upgrade this quarter? How?
  • What is your learning style?
  • How do actively improve yourself?
  • Do your one to ones focus on operational and fires, how often do you talk about the big picture and how you fit in?  How often do you talk about your career?
  • What skills are degrading as you no longer use them?  Will you be able to get through a round of interviews in your careers?

“One of the things that limits our learning is our belief that we already know something.”
— L. David Marquet, Turn the Ship Around!

Resources for Learning:

Back to the list of traits

Stability (Protecting your Mental Health) – Leadership by Example

Understand how you react under stress, moving beyond, buy time, process, leave


When overwhelmed or under stress most of us rely on more “basic” approaches to problems, which is not our best approach. Understanding what triggers stress reactions in yourself is incredibly helpful.

The reality is we are all overwhelmed at different times, it could be last night we did not have enough sleep or a specific event, use of trigger word word – all can remove rationality from us.

Some classic examples of being overwhelmed that we tend to ignore are insomnia, headaches, and pain.  A list is here.  Most of us have experience being overwhelmed in a crisis – over time you can learn to break the problem down and delegate. You are not alone.

The reality for us in leadership is that we are often under stress and we are also the victims of stronger use of cognitive biases. They will become more pronounced such as confirmation bias, because its easily and are mental guards are down.

One Psychological test I found helpful was Birkman test, which attempts to show what behaviors you may express under extreme stress. Whilst no psychological test is likely to be 100% accurate, it may point you in the right direction to being more self aware, and where you need to develop better coping mechanisms.

Signs of been overwhelmed:

  • You feel more emotional than usually. Emotional volatility
  • Unable to be present or inability to concentrate or listen
  • Procrastinating on making decisions Difficulty making decisions
  • Unable to feel emotions e.g. Numbness or withdrawal — from other people and activities
  • More things irritate you
  • Physical symptoms include headaches, back pain, digestive issues, fatigue, insomnia

Getting past it:

  1. “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?”
  2. “Will moving this forward make all the other to-do’s unimportant or easier to knock off later?”

Time to leave?

Step back and consider:

  • Is the actual problem you? Not every organization, environment or culture is good for you and others will help you thrive and be your best
  • Is the role or project bringing out the worst in you?
  • Is it your boss?
  • Is it your peers?
  • Is the products you work on?
  • Is it the C Suite or Directors?
  • Is it the culture?

If you get a lot of yes, it may be time to move on to somewhere that is a better fit or challenge that will help bring the best out of you. If you asked a fair number of people leaving there jobs or being asked to leave they sometimes will describe it has a “Weight off their shoulders”.

If you decide to leave, consider deeply how you should do it. My advice is do not burn bridges. Not everyone is the same in every environment/culture. And most people will learn, adapt and change.

I think is universally true that we respect people who have grace under fire and if you are a leader you still have responsibility until you step off the plate.

That said you, you also do not have to do an exit interview.

Thoughts on Mental Health:

  • Take care of yourself
  • Sleep
  • Exercise
  • Take vacations
  • Have more than work e.g. play, have fun, date..
  • Have time for yourself
  • Take Breaks
  • Have time for those you care about in your life
  • Spend time with the opposite side to your work.  If is very rational/logical find an outlet for your creativity and vice versa.

Resources for Mental Health:

Back to the list of traits

Good at Influencing others – Leadership by Example

Avoid the title trap, win win, seek advice, partnership, peers, relationships


I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody.

— Herbert Swope

If the only way to get things done is by using your title or position you have failed to influence and are instead relying on control via command and control. This works for a period of time, but it is unlikely get the best out of people in the medium to long term and will impact the culture in multiply ways.


This skill is key to the success of all leaders. It should be a skill you learn, refresh and grow throughout your career. I read Getting to Yes every couple years. Every culture will impact on how you should do this.

Managing upwards and sidewards

As a leader a strong part of your success will be your relationship with your boss. A great boss will be advocate for you and your team. Be careful in putting your leader on a pestle, they will fail and they will need you to support them. You also need to call them out.

Resourcing Champion

If your team needs more people, you are the person that needs to prove this. It is a fundamental part of your and your teams success. Figure out how to prove your case and when.

Adapt your leadership style to Context

There are multiple leadership styles, the following is adapted from the book ‘The New Leaders’ by Daniel Goleman

Style Coercive Authoritative Affiliative Democratic PaceSetting Coaching
The leaders MO Demands immediate compliance Mobilizes people towards a vision Creates harmony & builds emotional bonds Forges consensus through participation Sets high standards for performance Develops people for the future
Phrase ‘Do what I tell you’ ‘Come with me’ ‘People come first’ ‘What do you think?’ ‘Do as I do, now.’ ‘Try this’
Impact on culture Negative Most Strongly positive Positive Positive Negative Positive
When style works best In a crisis, to kick start a turnaround or with under performing employees When changes require a new vision, or when a clear direction is needed To heal rifts in a team or to motivate people during stressful circumstances To build buy-in or consensus or to get input from high performing employees To get quick results from a highly motivated and competent team To help an employee improve performance or develop long term strengths

“People listen better if they feel that you have understood them. They tend to think that those who understand them are intelligent and sympathetic people whose own opinions may be worth listening to. So if you want the other side to appreciate your interests, begin by demonstrating that you appreciate theirs.”
― Roger Fisher, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In

Is Influencing bad?

Some times people get confused between Influencing vs politics vs socializing an idea. The reality is sometimes it is a good idea to talk to people about an idea. People will perceive it a certain way based on their relationship with you, if they do not like you (or the idea) or do not know, you they may see it as political and those that like you (or the idea) will see it as socializing or building the case. Be careful, people may perceive you as self promoting, that be more about them (i.e. you are showing them up) rather than what you are trying to do.

Thoughts on Influencing others:

  • Always do it with good intent and honestly
  • Listen to what they are saying to you and really understand it
  • Have a stakeholder map for each project and share it – try not to forget those affected
  • Look for the win win

Resources for Influencing:

Back to the list of traits

Inspiration – Leadership by Example

Being a motivator, Advocate for the Business, Be the boss people want to work for, happiness leads to greater productivity, Stress Resistance 


Great leaders move us. They ignite our passion an inspire the best in us. When we try to explain why they are so effective, we speak of strategy, vision, or powerful ideas. But the reality is much more primal: Great leadership works through emotions..

The New Leaders by Daniel Goleman

What helps you jump out of bed and run to work? Your team, the work you are doing, your boss? Who wants to work for you gain?

It is not always the same but they all impact on you, without a doubt part of a leaders role is to help their people do more. How do you?

Something bigger

Hopefully your vision/mission/purpose is something you understand and believe in.  Where it is, aligning this to the day to day tasks and projects, will help people connect to something bigger than themselves. Sometimes it is focus on their actual, or it could be wider the work they do as a corporate citizen.

The champion of your people

Grow psychological safety, remove the risk of talking about anything that needs to be talked about.   They need to know that you have their back. That you advocate for them and when they fail you, you help them become better, to grow from the experience.


“Optimism is a force multiplier.”

– Colin Powell

Work for a leader that believes in what they are doing and who they are doing it with, is just inspiring. They will be able to see a path through the troubled times, that everything we have done is not wasted.  Optimists create more businesses.

Colin Powell (in his book, It Worked For Me) says military training is the best preparation for approaching difficult situations with an optimistic outlook. The following was drilled into Powell: “Lieutenant, you may be starving, but you must never show hunger. You may be freezing or near heat exhaustion, but you must never show that you are cold or hot. You may be terrified, but you must never show fear. You are the leader and the troops will reflect your emotions.”

Powell tempers his optimism with logic. “Maybe it can’t be done, but always start out believing it can be done until facts and analysis pile up against it. Don’t surround yourself by skeptics but don’t shut out skeptics who give you solid counterviews.”

“Every exemplary leader that I have met has what seems to be an unwarranted degree of optimism – and that helps generate the energy and commitment necessary to achieve results.”

The Leadership Advantage, an essay from the Drucker Foundation’s Leader to Leader Guide, Warren Bennis


The best leaders are known for all their successes as they get ahead of problems before they occur. This is often because you have the information you need, as people are willing to share, sometimes early to allow you to get ahead of the problem.


“We have three innate psychological needs—competence, autonomy, and relatedness. When those needs are satisfied, we’re motivated, productive, and happy.”
Daniel H. Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Read Daniel Pinks’ book Driven.  Beyond a certain threshold money doesn’t matter; what matters is that people have autonomy, mastery, and purpose in their work and their lives. While external rewards worked for the mundane tasks of the last few centuries, they are actually counter-productive to success in the 21st century where what we really need is more creativity.

Bain Inspiration Leadership Model

In a survey of 2,000 employees, Bain & Company found 33 leadership traits:


“You may be able to “buy” a person’s back with a paycheck, position, power, or fear, but a human being’s genius, passion, loyalty, and tenacious creativity are volunteered only.”
— L. David Marquet, Turn the Ship Around!

Thoughts on Inspiration

  • Who inspires you? what can you learn from them?
  • You need a vision and a plan
  • Should be aligned with companies vision and values
  • Openness to new ideas
  • Turn problems and constraints into opportunities
  • Manage or ignore what you cannot change
  • Coherence between body language and what you say
  • Have a career plan for each member of your team
  • Pay attention to your teams, needs, wants and desires
  • That they matter to you and the company – and showing it

Resources for Inspiration:

Back to the list of traits

Clear Communication – Leadership by Example

Explicit communication vs Implicit communication, Change, Be present, Public Speaking


Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.

— General Colin Powell

The best leaders can communicate what they want and why.  The worst expect you to read the signs. Reading the signs is sadly very common, it is more common with male managers.

Communication is often the basis of any healthy relationship, including the one between an employee and his or her manager. Alex Pentland (MIT) showed that the more cohesive and communicative a team is – the more they chat and gossip – the more they get done.

The meanings of your words

Do you call your people resources? Why are they just a cog to be replaced? Or is it a word  that we use to make easy to abstract from the human. Consider the words and their impact.  Than consider the different cultures in the room and how you are effecting them.


What are the three things you need to say and repeat and repeat with examples. make your point, make it again in a different way and than embed. Should I say it again?

Public Speaking

To be an effective leader you will need to do this a lot.  The good news is this a learned skill and you will get better at it. Involving others in your speech or deck writing is a great way to seek advice and help other understanding your thinking. And they will sometimes give you great advice.

Speaking on the spot

There will often be moments where you have to just speak, rally the troops.. It happens a lot to a leader and not under the best of circumstances. First pausing to think is great it adds gravity to your words.  If you find this difficult, may I suggest taking Improv classes  (Second City is a great school if there is one close to you) these will help in many ways, but especially for this.

Alignment and the purpose bigger than me..

In all your communications show how my job, the thing you are talking about connects to the vision, the Business Goals, etc. Show alignment in all these things.

People do not all listen the same way!

In the book When Cultures Collide it attempts to show how different people from different counties communicate and listen and resolve decisions in different ways.  The same could be said of sub cultures within those countries.


Thoughts on Clear Communication:

  1. Are you talking more than listening? Maybe shut up and lets others do the talking?
  2. Who knows what your plan is?
  3. Who are your stakeholders?
  4. Are you clear about what you want your reports to do and not do?
  5. How good are you at giving feedback?
  6. Does your report know what you appreciate about them?
  7. How clear are you? Ask others
  8. Are you present? When people are speaking to you, should you take a break?
  9. When you are receiving difficult communication do you write notes, to help you process later?

Resources for Clear Communication:

Back to the list of traits

A growth mindset for your people – Leadership by Example

Useful feedback, Real Coaching, asking for advice, create opportunities, Protect, Advocate


“Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.”
— L. David Marquet, Turn the Ship Around!

If you actively support your leaders, you will, have more successful leaders. I have seen more leaders fail because their boss was poor at giving timely feedback and coaching them to success, than any other cause, of failure.


Get your leaders perspective BEFORE you make a decision or judgement when it concerns them. The worst senior leaders make proclamations about what they have done without getting their side.  It seems common sense, to say this but a lot of senior leaders fail to give timely feedback, leaving to days, weeks, months or worse until your annual performance.

Be careful about building a pattern from discrete incidents, until you understand what is going on. People often want the the bad feedback first.

One of my observations about Feedback is in a organization where people give each other feedback rather than rely on their managers above to do it, there is less politics and gossip. Encourage people to talk to each, rather than around each other. If you are unsure how, read Crucial Conversations.

Here is a detailed look at feedback:


Understand the strengths and the areas to grow in each of your reports, have a list that you do not share.  I say not to share as you can create a ripple effect and never allow your reports to RESTART when they move managers. Leaving them on option to restart, leaving the organization and you.

You may not be the best coach for certain areas, find other people to help them with targeted areas.

Creating opportunities

Find space, projects or people that could use your reports to help, when they are able to coach or mentor others, or share their expertise in a presentation.  Allow them to grow beyond you and their day to day.

Respect learning through failure

Leaders will fail. How you react to that failure will define your relationship with them. And it will be watched by everyone else. Do not Haze, this has never be shown to be an effective tool for socializing people into a new culture.


Talking someone down will lead to a self fulfilling prophecy. They will fail. There is a belief that hazing is an effective way of stressing someone to see if they are good enough. A lot of life full of stress, and the reality is that you will see more of a person when under real fire with your support.

Talking someone up can build space and influence they need to do the job you want.  But be careful not to over sell as, people on platforms can fall off.


Growing leadership takes time, and some of best emerge from failure. You will need to be patient and let people fail to some degree.

“Those who take orders usually run at half speed, underutilizing their imagination and initiative.”
― L. David Marquet, Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders

If you are a leader known to grow new leaders, you will attract talent.  You will gain deeply invested talent, who already understand the sector/domain you work in. Leadership growth does not stop once they have the manager title, each level of leadership requires different perspectives, different applications of skills and ever growing ability to abstract and strategize. Consider the Leadership levels and how your mindset and the organization development/training programs fit them.

Thoughts on Growing Leaders

  • Build a culture where feedback is the norm and ok
  • Tease out answers, do not give answers
  • What leadership style(s) are you teaching, encouraging?
  • Leadership trials. Give the opportunity to manage for two weeks, get the whole team to give feedback.  And than give another opportunity later
  • How do you react to failure

Resources for Growing Leaders:

Back to the list of traits