Friday, October 30, 2009

Socially Responsible Leadership

As I write this there are 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers stranded off the coast of Indonesia on an Australian Customs vessel. Both the Government and the Opposition in Australia are seeking political mileage by "being tough" on those who seek to jump the immigration and refugee queue. Once again blame is foisted upon the refugees rather than on the events and leadership which made them flee their homeland.

The media this week report that interest rates in Australia are almost certain to rise when the Reserve Bank meets next week. The only question relates to the extent of the rise and little is said about how financial institutions will use this to enhance profits. In the same media we learn that housing prices are again rising rapidly and making the dream of owning your own home even more difficult for many people. No-one is prepared to take responsibility for increasing the pressure on, primarily, low income earners and first home buyers.

Last week we learned that the global financial crisis had created a loss of some $160 million to the Anglican Archdiocese of Sydney - apparently the church invested using margin loans - and as a result they will need to cut back on help it gives to people. The Archbishop commented that perhaps God was trying to tell the church something but he fell short of accepting blame for the loss.

Three social issues.

Common to all of them is that leaders are caught up in events over which they now have little or no control. Also common to all of them is an apparent reluctance (if not refusal) of leaders to accept any responsibility or liability even though they could have had significant influence at very early stages.

There are three aspects to leadership - the intent, the strategy, and the execution.

Ideally the intent of leadership ought to be to create an environment in which every person can be successful - ie can lead a productive life free of such issues as starvation, violence, and discrimination. The specifics of strategy and execution - ie 'how' this is done together with the attitudes and behaviours of the leaders - will always be both culturally and organisationally specific. But the intent should remain constant because such an intent makes it possible to be economically responsible simultaneously with being socially responsible - its not an 'either/or'.

It seems to me that unfortunately many of those in politics, business, and religious groups seem to have lost sight of this.

More information about Douglas Long at

Monday, October 26, 2009

The re-creating organisation

One of the things I love about the Australian bush is its ability to regenerate.

We can have the most devastating bush fires yet, come the next significant rain, buds start emerging from the blackened stumps and, within a very short time, the bush is back. I thought about this today as I watched rain fall in Sydney.

If the pundits are to be believed, then we appear to be emerging from the global financial crisis that erupted a year or so back. Since the GFC I have watched people lose their businesses, their jobs, their homes and, in some cases, their families. I know two instances of suicides because of an inability to cope with the financial and social impact of what had happened.

Organisations that depend on donations for significant portions of their funding have also been hard hit – sure we have found money for special appeals like last year’s bush fires in Victoria, but overall funding has, I believe, been well down on what is needed.

If the pundits are right, the time is now ripe for re-creation.

Back in the Fourth Quarter 2008 I wrote about the need to simultaneously plan for the future and deal with the financial problems being faced by many organisations and people. The time may now be right to dust off those plans and consider how they may be implemented. If the economy is on the mend, we are going to need re-created organisations in order to move forward.

Of course, for a re-created organisation to be successful, there is an urgent need for re-created leaders as well.

More information about Douglas Long at

Thursday, October 22, 2009

You can have your cake and eat it!

It is possible to get significant returns to the bottom line while maintaining employee morale. It is possible to develop a culture in which people want to help the organisation grow and be a profitable, highly successful operation in which desired returns to shareholders and good corporate citizenship go hand in hand.

Unfortunately, over the years we have been seduced into thinking that the only thing that really matters is bottom line results achieved in the shortest possible period. The impact of this can sometimes be a little like the episode of “Yes Minister” or “Yes Prime Minister” in which the most effective hospital was the one which never took in patients – it wasn’t losing money.

All too often there is an “either/or” approach to change. Either you concentrate on the bottom line or you concentrate on the people. Alternatively there is a “flip-flop” approach. First you concentrate on the bottom line, then you concentrate on people, then you concentrate on the bottom line, etc. Such approaches are the reason why some 70% of changes fail.

The solution is simply one of leaders developing leadership cultures in their organisations and using this to harness the energies of everyone involved so that financial results can be achieved in both the short and long term.

More information about Douglas Long at

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What sort of model is the leader?

A month or so back I was invited to the annual general meeting of an organisation involved in community service work. During the course of the meeting the chairman stood up and harangued the members about their lack of involvement in providing various services. He accused the majority of members of inadequate commitment to the cause and, in effect, told them that they needed to change their ways.

Later I discussed this with the person who had invited me there. I was told that the very people who were being accused of lack of commitment were those who provided most of the money for the organisation to operate. Further, it was explained to me, a key factor in their doing very little else than provide money was the fact that the chairman had managed to alienate most of the members by his dictatorial behaviour. The feeling was that the chairman was seeking only those things that made him look good - he was not really interested in the organisation. Later I discovered that, not surprisingly, the rest of the leadership team exhibited similar behaviours - or they left for a new organisation.

The organisation in question has a leadership problem.

Traditionally the leader has been the one who is at the forefront of those being led. He or she is the one who knows where to go then sets the pace. The leader is the one who is seen first and after whom everyone else follows.

We see this in many areas. In business we describe those who are in top management as “business leaders”. We talk of those who are in front of the competitors as being “market leaders”. We talk of our politicians as being “national leaders”. In military and paramilitary organisations we speak of officers as being “leaders”. In almost every facet of life it is those who are in controlling positions who are referred to as “leaders” - the leader is invariably seen as being in the role of “master”

But is this necessarily leadership? And, if it is leadership, is it the sort of leadership that is appropriate today?

My research indicates that today the world is looking for leaders who:
* ensure they don't alienate their people no matter where in the organisation they may be - not just their direct reports
* are authoritative without being authoritarian
* have vision - know who they are and where they are going
* can communicate this vision to everyone who will listen
* are trustworthy and have personal integrity
* practice what they preach
* respect other people and their views rather than simply imposing the leader’s views on all around
* make it possible for others to achieve results

It is this sort of leadership that we need in all areas of society today - especially as we recover from the global financial crisis.

What are the leaders, and what is the leadership, like in your organisation?

More information about Douglas Long at

Friday, October 16, 2009

Leaders develop people

When first I arrived in Australia, I was unsure about where to settle so I drove taxis in Melbourne for about a year. Very educational - I learned a lot about people.

One Friday evening I had a fare from Tullamarine Airport to the Dandenong Ranges – a “good fare”. On the way the passenger and I got talking. He was CEO of a company in Sydney during the week and returned home to Melbourne for weekends. He was looking to fill a vacancy and, after quizzing me about myself, the trip turned into a recruitment interview – it turned out that my background was perfectly suited to meet his needs. Two days later, on Monday morning, I commenced working with him.

Peter was a leader.

Like every other good leader I have observed or with whom I have been associated, Peter was genuinely interested in other people and in seeing them grow. Where appropriate and possible he sought to help facilitate that growth. It was as a direct result of his influence that, a few years later, I returned to university, obtained my PhD and moved on.

It’s now more than 30 years since Peter got into my cab and set in train a process that changed my life. I lost contact with him some time ago as we both moved around the world, yet his influence and my gratitude have remained.

Think of the people who have had a very real and positive influence on your life.

Who are they?

When did it happen?

What did they do that made such an influence?

What sort of an influence are you having on those around you – not only those with whom you have a formal leadership role – but on everyone – perhaps even a taxi driver?

More information about Douglas Long at

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Re-creating leaders – the influence of environment

In 1896 an English moth enthusiast, James W Tutt, published a book entitled “British Moths”. In this he explained how technology had created changes in the environment and the impact this had on local moths. Tutt’s conclusion was that the environment in which we operate influences both the rate and the degree of evolutionary change.

My observations of and in organisations for more than 40 years suggests that the same is true of leaders and organisations.

I have seen leaders who were tremendously successful in one environment or organisation become total failures when they moved to another – and I have seen the reverse. I have seen organisations that were tremendously successful in one environment suffer serious decline when they have sought to establish themselves in another location – and I have seen the reverse.

Sometimes we seem to forget that leadership is both culturally and task specific. In other words, for example, being a leader in a commercial organisation demands some different competencies from being a leader as a parent or in a community-based organisation. And being a leader in a small organisation requires some different competencies from being a leader in a large organisation.

What are the environments in which you function as a leader?

In what way are these different from your previous leadership environments?

In what way are these different from the environments in which you want to lead?

What changes have you had to make in order to be successful today?

What changes will you need to make in order to be successful tomorrow?

How are you going to make these changes?

How are you going to help others in their process of re-creation?

More information about Douglas Long at

Friday, October 9, 2009

Brave new world?

The world changes. According to news reports today, apparently Australia is now ahead of the USA as a world financial centre and second only to the UK.

This presents new challenges for leaders. The leadership that is effective today may well be ineffective tomorrow – as I heard a speaker say at a conference several years ago, “the very things that made me successful today are those things that will stop me being successful tomorrow”. The same is true for organisations.

So what can be done to re-create leaders and organisations for an environment in which growth and financial strength may be key components?

1. Do some new scenario planning with particular emphasis on “best case” and “worst case” scenarios. How do your existing strategies fit with these options?
2. Carefully examine your goals and objectives to ensure they are suitable for the emergent situation and adapt them if necessary
3. Check for any blockages that may impact negatively on your moving forward and devise strategies and tactics for removing these if possible or, if not, for circumventing them
4. Ensure that everyone involved in helping you achieve the organisation’s goals has the necessary competence and commitment for their work – provide training and assistance if required. Remember that mentoring and coaching can be of real benefit here.
5. As appears necessary, be prepared to seek out and use outside help and facilitation in moving forward

More information about Douglas Long at

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Is prestige that important?

Today, October 6, 2009, Mr John Howard, past Prime Minister of Australia, is reported as telling the media that Australia must commit more troops to the war in Afghanistan. His rationale is that this is to avoid handing victory to the Taliban, a scenario he says would deal an "enormous blow" to American prestige.

Mr Howard is totally entitled to his views. I suspect that here, as he has done on many occasions in the past, he is reflecting what significant numbers of people feel in Australia, the USA, and in other parts of the western world.

Mr Howard may or may not be right. The war in Afghanistan may or may not be winnable. That is an argument for another time and place. [Although, as an aside, pulling out of Vietnam some 30 years ago turned out to not have any adverse impact on the USA’s prestige in the medium to long term.]

What is pertinent, however, is the underlying belief that prestige is more important than anything else.

Many leaders continue with approaches far beyond their “use by” date because they are unable to admit they made a mistake. This happens in parents’ dealings with children; with teachers’ dealings with students; with managers’ dealings with reports’; with executives and organisational strategies; with governments and their programs, etc. As long as this continues, re-creation of the leader and his or her organisation is impossible – and the seeds for ultimate demise are sown.

As I said in Leaders: diamonds or cubic zirconia one mark of a good leader is the ability and willingness to put doing the right thing ahead of prestige – to know when you’ve made a mistake; to apologise for it, deal with the impact of the mistake – correcting things if possible – and then move on.

Good leaders frequently ask the question “what am I doing that is fast approaching, or has reached, its “use by” date?” If they are unsure of the answer, they seek honest feedback from people they can trust to tell them the truth. Then they make the necessary changes – necessary re-creation can start.

More information about Douglas Long at

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The power, and the glory - but not leadership

In 1938 Lord Bertram Russell published his work on Power (Unwin Books).

In this he says “… One of the chief emotional differences [between man and other animals] is that some human desires, unlike those of animals, are essentially boundless and incapable of complete satisfaction. … Of the infinite desires of man, the chief are the desires for power and glory. These are not identical, though closely allied. … the easiest way to obtain glory is to obtain power. .. The desire for glory, therefore, prompts, in the main, the same actions as are prompted by the desire for power, and the two motives may, for most practical purposes, be regarded as one.” (pp7-9)

Russell goes on to say (p20) “… the leader is hardly likely to be successful unless he enjoys his power over his followers. He will therefore be led to a preference for the kind of situation, and the kind of mob, that makes his success easy. … The kind of mob that the [he] will desire is one more given to emotion than to reflection, one filled with fears and consequent hatreds, one impatient of slow and gradual methods, and at once exasperated and hopeful.”

Today, all too often, we see power and the seeking of glory mistaken for leadership.

Distributed and distributive leadership

Right now it seems to me that, in many cases, “the inmates are running the asylum” when we look at world leadership.

And we are to blame. We have the power of electing or not electing individuals—instead we vote for parties regardless of who the best person might be. And the problem with political parties of every flavour is that their primary ambition is to obtain and retain power—and they will do anything at all to realise these ends. The Boards of companies are not all that much different.

Distributed and distributive leadership are all about the difference between “leadership” and “the work of the leader”. It recognizes that everyone has a leadership responsibility and also that everyone has leadership ability. The critical thing is to learn how to unleash the leadership potential in every person and to harness their leadership ability towards positive ends.
It seems to me that understanding and applying the concepts of distributed and distributive leadership is a strategy that will go a long way to bringing vision into action.

Ordinary people like you and me can make a difference. We can stop the rot that eats like a cancer into the soul of countries and organisations - the rot that lies, distorts, obfuscates, and then does what it likes in the guise of protection of our shareholder/citizen (you choose) interests while, in actuality pursuing its own ends and furthering its self interest.

The starting point is a vision and clear strategic orientation. This then requires clear goals and objectives together with the will to attain these. Of course, it also means taking seriously the elections of governments and boards.

More information about Douglas Long at

Leadership or “leaders leading”?

I believe leadership is all about creating an environment in which people can achieve desired results – in other words, consciously setting people up to be successful rather than having success as a random variable

Leadership is different from the activity of “a leader leading” – ie, leadership is a far more broad concept than particular behaviours, habits, or attitudes: leadership is a shared activity involving every person whether or not he or she is designated as a leader in the organisation

I focus on organisational leadership (an organisation may be any size from 2 people upwards) that considers the desired end state of the organisation in a defined period (ie the vision for, say, 10 years hence) and the variables that will impact on whether or not that vision becomes a reality. Accordingly I look at how specific local characteristics and cultures can be harnessed to work in harmony with both the existing and desired cultures of the organisations with which we are working.

The issue of how leaders engage with followers is critical. Leaders need to explore and develop their own behaviours in this regard. If we want to ensure strong on-going organisations of any sort, we need to ensure that both leaders and overall leadership are developed in and for all organisations—and that requires engagement by current leaders of everyone in their organisations.

More information about Douglas G Long is available at

Leadership Development

Developing tomorrow’s leaders along with developing tomorrow’s leadership for all organisations (including societies) should be a high priority. The world today with its bigotry, conflict, inequality, and failure to care properly for all in need is not the world I want for my grandchildren.

We need leaders who show unconditional respect for all people and who will transform society in all its aspects.

So how can any organisation go about developing their overall leadership? Some approaches that have been proven to work are:
Replace dated power structures
Help staff build strong networks
Recruit young leaders to work with you
Be a mentor—listen to people for their needs rather than your own—show unconditional respect
Be a good role model (in relation to work hours particularly)
Pay reasonable salaries and benefits
Engage in succession planning
Recognise and celebrate generational differences between current CEO’s and emergent CEO’s.
Hire from outside your comfort zone

These are all things that any organisation can do without requiring outside assistance. Of course assistance, if desired, can be provided from a variety of sources and two forms of assistance that can have big payoffs are mentoring and coaching.

More information about Douglas G Long is available at

Leaders question

Good leaders question the advice they are given. They want to ensure that the actions they initiate are based on the very best and most accurate information available. They are very suspicious when advice seems to mirror their own thoughts too closely.

Yet what we still find in politics and business is that decision makers today prefer advice that supports their own opinions rather than challenging them. The result is “group think” with all its attendant problems—”Bay of Pigs” comes to mind although that was far less disastrous that George Bush’s Iraq adventure.

As followers we must question our leaders. As leaders we must question both our own preconceptions and prejudices as well as all advice we receive. It is only when there is a strong culture of questioning to the end of getting as close to the truth as possible that we get strong organisations and good leadership.

More information about Douglas G Long is available at

Its the economy - perhaps

Margaret Thatcher, when she was Prime Minister of the UK famously said “there is no such thing as society” and it appears that this is the emphasis that emerged at least in the USA and Australia during the late 20th century. We are constantly reminded that “the economy” is central to our existence.

Despite Maggie Thatcher, the truth is that society is important to most people. People want to spend time with their friends and families. People want to have time to relax.

The economy is important—but it should be a means to an end—not the end in itself. As the Bible says: “what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul”.

Leadership should be inclusive rather than exclusive. This means that each person is important—those killed as “collateral damage” in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places are just as important as our “leaders” most vociferous supporters in their home countries. We need leaders who support society—not just economics.

More information about Douglas G Long is available at

Saturday, October 3, 2009

It can be argued that over the centuries— to the end of the 20th century—society has moved from tribal to feudal to managerial. The 21st Century has seen the managerial mindset come crashing down. We may have talked about leadership and teams in the later 20th century but our organisational and societal structures remained largely the same as they were 30 years before—hierarchical power structures in which the few controlled the many.

Today it is clear that things must change. The global financial crisis was caused by people who were interested primarily in themselves—and they continue to oppose anything that might threaten their vested interests in power and money. Yet the continual move to “outsourcing” or “contract labour” in which one person might actually work for several organisations simultaneously or, serially, may have 30 or more “employers” over their working life, makes it clear that the old order, if not actually dead, is certainly terminal.

This is the age of the virtual organisation. This is the age in which young people are saying “if the job doesn’t engage me, I’ll go elsewhere”; “if the boss tries to get ‘heavy’, I’ll suggest ‘sex and travel’ and then move on.” There is a rebellion against power structures and the immediate availability of knowledge and data by such media as the internet means that even the last resort of power—information– is less available to those in authority than ever before.

People are demanding to be treated as individuals; to be treated with respect. The organisations that fail to recognise this—be they educational, government, business, religious, social, or whatever—are doomed to extinction.

The 21st century requires leadership—and leadership requires behaviours that are securely based on the foundation of unconditional respect.

There are many who will oppose this shift. We will see from these increasingly toxic behaviour that resorts to some form of fundamentalism—a demand that people submit to a supreme authority and do whatever is demanded in order to placate that authority. And we will see this eventually destroy itself.

There are others who will embrace the new world order. These are the ones who have a future. These are the ones who will make the future. These are the ones who will bequeath to their children and grandchildren a better world.

More information about Douglas Long at
About a week ago I was talking with a senior executive in relation to possible legal action being taken against one of their managers. The response amazed me. “Oh no,” she told me, “an apology isn’t on the cards.” There was a clear implication that for the manager to apologise would mean a loss of face and might undermine her authority.

One key sign of unconditional respect is the willingness to apologise.

A Sydney author, Anne Miles, (Email: ) has recently written a book entitled “Rules of Acceptable Behaviour”. In this she talks of “toxic” behaviour rather than abusive behaviour because she is trying to make the point that much of what we do has, either wittingly or unwittingly, a toxic effect on those with whom we interact. She sets out patterns of behaviour that we can use in order to avoid toxic behaviour.

Unconditional respect and toxic behaviour are mutually incompatible. A person exhibiting toxic behaviour is totally lacking in unconditional respect. A person exhibiting unconditional respect cannot behave in a toxic manner.

The Executive who I was helping work through the issue of possible legal action against one of her managers, was more concerned with what she considered to be good order and authority—the organisational hierarchy and power structure—than she was in providing an apology as part of the process of removing toxic waste.

As is well known, the problem with toxic material is the long term effects that sometimes only become apparent years after the toxic event occurred—the current problems relating to asbestos are but one example. I believe that toxic behaviour is no different.

As leaders we need to be aware of what we are doing and the possible impact this might have on our followers at some undefined future time. There is no excuse for toxic behaviour—that it may be unintended is totally immaterial.

More information about Douglas Long at

Tomorrow's leaders will act differently

I am old enough to remember when we had to use punch cards in order to use a computer. (And as a student I remember the trauma associated with dropping a pile of punch cards on the way to the card reading machine!) On these cards there was the injunction “Do not spike, bend, fold or mutilate”. The message was that every card was unique—it had its own particular message encoded upon it and anything that might affect this coding would result in error messages and computing problems.

It seems to me that we need to hear that message again when it comes to dealing with people.

A negative mark of recent years is that we have moved from living in societies to living in economies. In other words, we have moved from living in a world where relationships are important to a world where what happens to and with people is considered secondary to the economic factors surrounding the organization, area, or country.

In a society where the influx of information and the speed of change is increasing at almost an exponential rate, the need for people to receive consideration as individuals in their own right is more important than ever before. Unfortunately, for too many of them, they are grouped in socio-economic categories—and we wonder why we have problems.

Tomorrow’s organisations will need different leaders.

More information about Douglas Long on

Leadership and the Global Financial Crisis

A year ago the world was plunged into turmoil when the financial markets collapsed. There was widespread clamour for reforms that would prevent such a catastrophe being repeated.

A year on, what has changed.

Very little.

Money trumps morality. Greed trumps equity. The “Gordon Gecko’s” of the world continue to practice their mantra of “greed is good”.

Many managers and leaders are appalled at what has happened. They worry about the loss in shareholder wealth. They seek to redress the wrongs seen when companies fail to perform yet executives receive huge bonuses. Yet they are caught up in the maelstrom and wonder how they can lead in tomorrow’s world – a world in which pressure from shareholder action groups and other interested parties will mean many of these excesses are curbed.

There is a need for re-creation for leaders and organisations.

With the benefit of more than 40 years’ hindsight, I know that these leaders can be re-created. And I know, too, that re-created leaders can re-create their organisations so that they do provide increasing shareholder wealth not only this year but into the future.

These are the leaders and the organisations that have a future. These are the ones in which it is worth investing.

More information about Douglas Long at