A New Year Message for LWD Subscribers

December 31, 2011

The main New Year message to our subscribers is “Thanks For Your Continued Support”. Here are some of the ways you helped in 2011:

Susan and the bookshop

Throughout this year, Susan suggested posts and enhanced many of my more outrageous ideas often with a creative ‘yes and’.

Several fruitful meetings were held at Simply Books Bramhall, over a coffee.

The GEL leadership team

Another creative space was found in another coffee bar area at Manchester Business School. Thursday meetings with members of the Global Events and Leadership (GEL) tutors were regular sources of ideas for posts and for leadership insights

Alex and the subscribe button

Less than a year ago, the only way someone could subscribe to LWD was through their own skills at setting up the link. Then Alex Hough suggested the user benefits of the little button permitting easy join-up subscriptions. So a special thanks to Alex.

Dilemmas of Leadership (DOL)

Routledge produced an excellent 2nd edition of Dilemmas of Leadership in December. In 2012 LWD will be publishing more stories linked to leadership news stories linked to the content of DOL.

Thanks to authors and commentators

Thanks also to the subscribers who offered suggestions for posts, and sometimes wrote contributions themselves. Special thanks to participants in MBSW courses who put in additional (and ungraded) work to produce published posts.

Other honourable mentions go to those who joined on-line discussions. Most prolific subscribers in this respect have been and Samer al Sahai, and Jeff Schubert.

Don’t be shy

Another message is “don’t be worried that your comments will not be ‘good enough’. ” Your editor will help you reach the style and quality for a LWD posting.

Tell your friends and click the star

Other ways you can help influence LWD content: Recommend it to your associates. Also use the little star to vote for posts you particularly like. That helps publicise the post, and gives much-welcomed positive reinforcement.

The wisdom of John Cage

One of the last quotes I came across in 2011 was from the musician John Cage. It’s worth carrying over to the new year:

I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.

Warmest regards for 2012

Tudor Rickards

Editor Leaders we deserve

Does Simon Cowell lack the X Factor? Seven Questions for Students of Leadership

December 29, 2011

Simon Cowell

Here’s a test which may be fun to try out on your under-graduate business students. Even if the challenge is too easy for discerning subscribers to Leaders We Deserve, you may like to pose it to a family member or friend

At very least it could add to one of those discussions around the TV beginning ‘That Simon Cowell might think he’s smart but…’

A Management Today article

Management Today helped themselves to this piece of marketing from a news agency.

IFF Research, which has sent the following over to us. According to the findings of its SME [Small Medium enterprize] Omnibus, just 5% of small business owners would choose Simon Cowell to be a consultant to their business.

Beard enthusiast Richard Branson raised few eyebrows by topping the list of the most desirable celebrity business consultant, with 34% opting for him – while 30% said they’d prefer the no-nonsense ministrations of professional finger pointer Lord Alan Sugar. Below them came Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas, whose recent attempts to save the high street don’t seem to have garnered much love from business owners (she only got 5% of the vote), and Karren Brady who with another 5% of votes, is clearly getting into her role as Sugar’s sidekick on the Apprentice. Bringing up the rear were Cowell, who obviously doesn’t have the X Factor when it comes to popularity contests, and ‘city superwoman’ Nicola Horlick, with just 1%.

What’s slightly depressing is that just 20% of business owners picked women – even though Brady (for example) became the youngest-ever managing director of a UK plc at the age of just 23, while, having juggled six children and the running of an investment fund, Horlick could certainly show Branson a thing or two when it comes to multi-tasking. Sugar, on the other hand, has managed to build a reputation on crushing the hopes of young business wannabes. Which suggests, as IFF MD Mark Speed points out, that ‘there is more to be done if women are to be on an equal footing with men’.

The Leadership Challenge

The piece got me thinking about why the survey was carried out, and whether the results have much credibility. The best use for it I could think of was a way of encouraging ‘map-testing’ for students. So here’s my undergraduate test based on the news item.

Test the credibility of the survey along the following lines:

[1] What choices do you think were offered to the respondents to the survey?
[2] What proportion of respondents do you think were women?
[3] How might the answer to [2] influence the survey results?
[4] What proportions of respondents might have heard of each of the various candidates evaluated?
[5] How might the answer to [4] influence the survey results?
[6] What might explain Richard Branson’s popularity?
[7] Why might IFF Research have carried out this survey

A thought for Christmas: How Feedback loops work for your web traffic

December 24, 2011

Peter Senge

A Christmas message from Tudor Rickards

I noticed today how a decision I made had contributed to a little bit of web traffic (or lack of it), in the build-up to Christmas.

Over the last few days, [Dec 20th-23rd] visits to the Leaderswedeserve site have dropped roughly to half.

I might have become more active, but…

On discovering this, I might have become more active, tweeting furiously, or posting something from a small stock of draft posts kept in reserve for times when stories are hard to come by…


But instead, at first I took the view that if there’s not much traffic, there’s not much point in blogging.

Peter Senge’s feedback loops

It’s a nice example of one of Peter Senge’s feedback loops. A change in inputs lowers outputs which produces further change in inputs and so on. Business down, wait for better times, which (maybe) sends business down further …

Systems theory does work…

Systems theory does work. Although, sometimes action can ‘break the loop’. [Do I hear a faint cry of Bah Humbug from somewhere?. A Happy Christmas, everyone.]

But I did post this, didn’t I?

Well spotted (if there’s anyone out there spotting). Just let’s say it’s a triumph of optimism over rationality. And a way of [b]logging the idea about feedback loops.

Chief civil servant calls for creative leadership

December 22, 2011

The departing chief civil servant Sir Gus O’ Donnell calls for more creative leadership in public life in the UK

[Critique by LWD Editor and Creative Leadership advocate Tudor Rickards]

The creative Civil Servant

Creativity was hardly the first characteristic looked for in a career civil servant in the UK. I can recall when a feeble joke in Whitehall was to send a colleague a brochure for a course on creative thinking. But times change. More recently [from memory it was just before Alistair Darling’s arrival at the Treasury], there had been efforts involving testing approaches for stimulating the creative juices.

And now in one of his last public announcements as head of the Civil Service, Sir Gus o’ Donnell, argues for creative thinking as a way ahead for more innovative contributions in the future. This is what he wrote [sub-edited for LWD style. Sir Gus does not do sub-headings]:

Overcoming cultural inertia

It is not enough now for the Civil Service simply to respond to a dampened economic climate: it needs to become a central part of its recovery and growth. There is of course some cultural inertia to overcome, but there is a voracious appetite among departments to take on this challenge: to keep adapting, to think more creatively, to reach out to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), to find better ways to fulfil the duties of government without increasing the cost. We know we need to deliver better for less.

The Red Tape challenge

The Red Tape Challenge, an initiative set up by the Prime Minister to do away with unnecessary regulations, is my favourite case study. This is of interest to everybody, but of critical importance to SMEs, which are disproportionately affected by new rules and red tape.

Topic by topic, we have been through the book of regulations to ask whether each one is really needed and whether it still serves the purpose originally intended. Civil servants have proved themselves to be good at this: of the more than 1,200 regulations looked at so far, we have recommended scrapping over half of them.

Innovation not regulation

I was particularly happy to become involved in the Red Tape Challenge because I am an economist by trade. Indeed, I have been an economist longer than I have been a civil servant, and I believe successive governments have been far too quick to solve problems with regulation and legislation.

I understand why this is – all our ministers sit in one or other legislating chamber – but we must be more creative and innovative in the way we solve problems without always resorting to the creation of new rules.

A more grown-up approach to failure

We must also be prepared to take more risks. In a media environment where failure is punished much harder than success is celebrated, this is more difficult for ministers and civil servants than for our friends and colleagues in the private sector. There are some promising signs that we can, in fact, do this quite well, but taking risks means having a grown-up approach to failure. We should celebrate success and learn from failure.

The Civil Service is an engine for growth

The more we can innovate, the more we can find alternatives to legislation and regulation, and the more we can overcome our aversion to risk, the more we can help drive the economy and really ensure the Civil Service is an engine room for growth. I would be proud of that legacy.

Demob happy?

This is quite a remarkable document for a departing leader to produce. I’m not quite sure how to read it. The presentation of a Civil Service hungry for change seems rather unmeasured.

Much rejoicing

But advocates of creative leadership will rejoice at support from such a quarter. On a personal level I am delighted. The piece was published within a week of the second edition of Dilemmas of Leadership, with its one totally new chapter devoted to, you’ve guessed it, creative leadership.


A youthful Sir Gus O’Donnell pictured above is taken from the Leeds University Business School Web Site

Sir Martin Sorrell defends leaders’ pay rises

December 19, 2011

Sir Martin Sorrell has an impressive if sometimes controversial business career. His robust defense of his 70% pay rise captures his leadership style

Harvard educated Sir Martin Sorrell has been a candidate for a LWD leadership post for some while. He appeared on the radar screen again, as I caught the end of a BBC interview in which he justifies his most recent earnings rise of 70% last year.

His broadcast performance was consistent with that of an earlier interview [2009], suggesting a leader who was both tough and successful.

Sir Martin Sorrell is the chief executive of WPP, the company he founded in 1986, which is now the world’s largest group of advertising, marketing and communications companies. Widely regarded as one of the most important figures in his field, he recently joined Evan Davis on Radio 4’s business discussion programme The Bottom Line. He shared his vision about the future of advertising, the benefits of scale, why tough love means you sometimes have to bite the bullet and reduce your headcount, and how long the present financial crisis may last.

His 2009 predictions turned out to be rather refuted by events. However, that is largely true for other distinguished leaders in these turbulent times. There is an interesting parallel in his admiration of Rupert Murdoch with the comments made later by Tony Blair in his memoires. These endorsements of the tycoon’s achievements help us avoid the ‘hero to zero’ mentality which can be found in much of popular leadership narratives.

Furthermore, most pundits did not get close to anticipating the aftershocks of the credit crunch emerging in 2008.

Rupert understands…

Somebody like Rupert Murdoch understands that he’s not just in the TV business or the film business. He understands he’s in the communications business. Rather like Theodore Levitt used to talk about the buggy whip industry. They’re not in the horse and buggy industry. They’re in the transport industry. And when the railroads came in, they were threatened; but if you thought about it as being the transport industry, you won.
Rupert understands that. He’s in film, he’s in TV, he’s in outdoor sites in Russia. He’s spread his empire around the world.

“A recovery of sorts”

“The first half of 2009 will be very tough – I think the second half of 2009 will get relatively better. Relative to the first half.
And I think in 2010 we will get a recovery – what we called in a recent statement a recovery of sorts “.

Tough love

Sir Martin’s career has been hugely successful and his success has been rewarded with honours and wealth. He takes risks and cuts his losses when they occur. In the interview he also talked about ‘tough love’ and the benefits of ‘letting people go’ however painful the decision. (Although he didn’t seem too pained, it seemed to me).

The Daily Mail, a popularist tabloid newspaper, was unconvinced about Sir Martin’s case. In an article hostile to his lifestyle The Mail noted:

My pay is very low, moans advertising tycoon with a basic salary of £1 MILLION a year

Sir Martin, 66, said his bumper income, which rose by 83 per cent to £4.2million last year, was fully justified and was mostly linked to the firm’s performance. He added that he considered his basic salary, of just over £1million, to be ‘very low’.

The juicy details

The article also replicated much that can be found on wikipedia on juicy details of his high-profile divorce which has arguably contributed to his celebrity profile, albeit for non-business matters.


To the website Short Person’s Support for the image of Sir Martin. The site also offers the following quotable quote:

Aunt Vorthys: “A nice young man … A pity he’s so short.”
Lady Ekaterin: “He’s not so short … He’s just concentrated”

[Lois McMaster Bujold, in Komarr]

Which Business Leader Said…?

December 16, 2011

Which business leader said: “I’ve had no life for the past two years …”? George Bush? Tony Hayward? Or was it Lloyd’s CEO Antonio Horta Osorio? Or someone else?

The Quiz question

This is your LWD quiz question and puzzle for the festive season. Challenge yourself, or try it out on friends (or enemies, if you aren’t quite in the festive spirit).

The quote continued:

” …The past six months have been particularly lacking in quality of life. It has taken a huge toll on me, and it has taken a huge toll on those around me.”

So what do you think? Was it George, Tony, or Antonio?

Don’t be fooled

The quote may seem familiar, but don’t be fooled …

It wasn’t Tony Hayward

No, it wasn’t Tony Hayward of BP. Faced with the biggest crisis under his leadership, Hayward uttered words that were reported around the world, and were to later associated with his losing his job: “I want my life back back”.

It wasn’t George Bush

It wasn’t George Bush, pictured above. Don’t know what he’s up to, and he may indeed have more time for other things now such as watching President Obama struggle with the dilemmas of leadership…

And it wasn’t Antonio Horta Osarios

And it wasn’t Lloyds bank leader Mr Horta-Osório, who eventually returned to his post after eight days [November 2011] at The Priory medical clinic recovering from the effects of extreme sleep deprivation. According to The Telegraph,

The 47-year old Portuguese banker described the experience of being forced to relinquish his duties on October 31 as “humbling” and said he had to “rebalance” his life to ensure that he did not let things go “too far” again.

“With hindsight, I probably threw myself in too much. Focused too much, with too much intensity and I should have dealt with it differently. This was a humbling experience for me and I took the proper lessons from it. I will do things differently going forward.”

Another hint

Here’s another hint about the unnamed leader who was also reported as saying:

“It was like when the flutter of a wing of a butterfly in the Amazon causes a storm in Alaska,” recalls Mr ******.

The Leader was …?

Who is Mr ******

A special mention will be made of any reader who sends in the correct answer, together with a URL link [use the comments section below].

Special mentions also for creative guesses such as George Bush (pictured above). More about Mr ****** will be published for Christmas [Posting scheduled for December 24th, 2011]

Author’s Delight

December 14, 2011

Leaders We Deserve draws deeply on the textbook Dilemmas of Leadership. The author captures his feelings on the day the second edition was published