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CAPE TOWN +27 21 468 7000

January 12, 2016
7:29 pm
by Judy Hofer

Why Leadership Development Programmes Fail

Why Leadership Development Programmes Fail January 2016 - Judy Hofer


Company’s monetary investment on leadership programmes and leadership development is listed by the vast majority of organisations as a top priority. However, the act of training even a high potential does not guarantee they emerge as a leader capable of courageous and visionary leadership. So what makes development programmes fail?

Beyond the pragmatic, there’s perhaps something fundamental at the root of the problem. Mike Myatt, leadership myth-buster and contributor on Forbes, says it is primarily because we mistakenly believe the term training and the term development to be interchangeable. This small but critical distinction is lost on most companies, he claims. He lists 20 essential differences between the two:

  1. Training blends to a norm – Development occurs beyond the norm.
  2. Training focuses on technique/content/curriculum – Development focuses on people.
  3. Training tests patience – Development tests courage.
  4. Training focuses on the present – Development focuses on the future.
  5. Training adheres to standards – Development focuses on maximizing potential.
  6. Training is transactional – Development is transformational.
  7. Training focuses on maintenance – Development focuses on growth.
  8. Training focuses on the role – Development focuses on the person.
  9. Training indoctrinates – Development educates.
  10. Training maintains status quo – Development catalyzes innovation.
  11. Training stifles culture – Development enriches culture.
  12. Training encourages compliance – Development emphasizes performance.
  13. Training focuses on efficiency – Development focuses on effectiveness.
  14. Training focuses on problems – Development focuses on solutions.
  15. Training focuses on reporting lines – Development expands influence.
  16. Training places people in a box – Development frees them from the box.
  17. Training is mechanical – Development is intellectual.
  18. Training focuses on the knowns – Development explores the unknowns.
  19. Training places people in a comfort zone – Development moves people beyond their comfort zones.
  20. Training is finite – Development is infinite.

Peter Bregman, writing for Harvard Business Review says there is a massive difference between what we know about leadership and what we do as leaders. Every person deemed a leader has read innumerable books on leadership, taken leadership skills assessments, and attended multiple training programmes; including executive leadership programmes at top business schools. But somehow they fail to lead. He believes what makes leadership hard isn’t the theoretical, it’s the practical. It’s not about knowing what to say or do. It’s about whether you’re willing to experience the discomfort, risk, and uncertainty of actually saying or doing it.

It’s about emotional courage: which means being prepared to stand apart from others without separating yourself from them. It means speaking up when others are silent. And remaining steadfast, grounded, and measured in the face of uncertainty. It means responding productively to political opposition without getting sidetracked, distracted, or losing your focus. It is staying in the discomfort of a colleague’s anger without shutting off or becoming defensive.

Perhaps not something that can be easily taught? His recommendation is two-fold.

Integrate leadership development into the work itself. You can’t just learn about courage and communication, you have to be put into situations that demand that you do it, in the heat of the moment, when the pressure is on, and your emotions are high; and

Teach leadership in a way that requires emotional courage. Most leadership programmes strive to create a safe environment for people to learn. At best, they teach about courage. They articulate why it’s important, what it looks like, how it plays out in a case study. Maybe they do a simulation. But that’s a mistake.

The only way to teach courage is to require it of people. To offer them opportunities to draw from the courage they already have. To give them opportunities to step into real situations they find uncomfortable and truly take the time to connect with the sensations that come with that.

McKinsey tells us there are 4 common mistakes made in the implementation of leadership development:

Overlooking context. A brilliant leader in one situation does not necessarily perform well in another. Too many training initiatives rest on the assumption that one size fits all and that the same group of skills or style of leadership is appropriate regardless of strategy, organisational culture, or CEO mandate. Focusing on context means equipping leaders with a small number of competencies (two to three) that will make a significant difference to performance instead of a long list of leadership standards, a complex web of dozens of competencies, and corporate-values statements.

Decoupling reflection from real work. Companies should strive to make every major business project a leadership-development opportunity as well, and to integrate leadership-development components into the projects themselves.

Underestimating mind-set. Becoming a more effective leader often requires changing behaviour. Identifying some of the deepest, “below the surface” thoughts, feelings, assumptions, and beliefs is usually a pre-condition of behavioural change; one too often shirked in development programmes.

Failing to measure results. When businesses fail to track and measure changes in leadership performance over time, they increase the odds that improvement initiatives won’t be taken seriously. One approach is to assess the extent of behavioural change, perhaps through a 360-degree feedback exercise at the beginning of a programme and followed by another one after 6 to 12 months. Another approach is to monitor participants’ career development after the training. Finally, try to monitor the business impact, especially when training is tied to breakthrough projects.

If you have any questions or if we can help in any way, please get in touch.


November 10, 2015
12:31 pm
by Judy Hofer

Leadership: Hiring or Developing for Culture Fit

Leadership Hiring or Developing for Culture Fit November 2015 - Judy Hofer

There’s no longer any doubt that culture fit is a strong component of productivity and success in a leadership role. It’s also essential for long-term engagement and retention. Culture fit can cover a variety of characteristics, but ultimately, the question hiring managers should be looking to answer is, does this candidate’s values align with those of the company, be they work-life balance, corporate mission or how to handle a customer phone call?

Evaluating for culture fit shouldn’t come at the expense of evaluating for competence, however. Always strive for candidates with both high culture fit and high competence, but if you do have to make a choice choose the medium competence candidate who most closely shares your vision, values and purpose. Also balance your evaluation against the need for diverse backgrounds, experiences, ideas, and working styles within your leadership team.

The truth is even the most qualified candidate may fail if he/she doesn’t fit within the corporate culture; and all to often an ill-fitting candidate can prove toxic to the culture itself. So, how do you hire or develop for something as nebulous as culture fit? Begin by making sure you have defined your culture and then screen candidates for their fit against what you have defined. Sheila Margolis recommends using the following 3 P’s to do so:

Purpose (The Why) Your Purpose is the fundamental reason why the organisation exists (beyond profit) and is central to its culture. When the purpose of the organisation is meaningful to an employee, it provides a connection to work that is not just rational: it’s also emotional. Your purpose statement should be brief but broad in scope and should address the following:

  • Is it a contribution to society – not a product or service?
  • Does it answer the question: Why is the work we do important?
  • Does it inspire and motivate?
  • Does it use powerful words?

Philosophy (The How) Your philosophy is a set of fundamental, distinguising and enduring values that directs behaviour within the company; employees use them to guide their decisions and daily actions. Identify candidates who obsess about “how” you do things at your company – this will produce a workplace where employees live the principles consistently. Spend time analysing the company’s values and determining how those values can be translated into actions. A few questions can reveal your philosophy:

  1. What value has been fundamental and distinctive to our organisation since its founding?
  2. What special attribute does our company’s founder possess that has influenced the character of the organisation?
  3. What ideals drove the organisation’s creation?
  4. What makes this organisation feel different from other companies in the same business?
  5. What is central to who we are as an organisation that should never change?

Priorities (The Strategic How) Priorities guide ‘how’ the purpose and philosophy are put into practice; think of them as strategic values. They are the ones that will allow you to compete and thrive and to reach your goals; hence you need to know your goals to be able to define them. Specific areas of a company may have additional unique strategic priorities, informed by their goals and objectives. In selecting people for culture fit, they must be aligned with both the organisation-wide strategic priorities and the area strategic priorities where they will be working. Ask the following to uncover your priorities:

  1. What should we focus on and pay attention to?
  2. To effectively achieve our goals, what values should guide everyone in how we work?
  3. What key values, if followed, will allow our organisation to compete and thrive?

To further understand your culture, The Bridgespan Group recommends asking the following questions:

Work Style

  • How do we get our work done? Collaboratively? Independently? A combination?
  • How do we make decisions? Consensus-driven? Authoritatively?
  • How do we communicate? Verbally or in written form? Directly or indirectly?
  • What are our meetings like? Serious? Lighthearted? Tightly or loosely structured?

Professional Opportunities and Advancement

  • What types of people tend to do well here? Individual contributors? Team players? People who are proactive or more responsive?
  • How are we structured? Hierarchical or flat? Centralised or decentralised authority? Clear reporting structures or matrix?
  • How do we reward people who do well?
  • What happens when people don’t perform well?

Work Hours and Commitment to Work

  • How many hours a week do we expect senior management to work on average?
  • Do we provide flexible work schedules or allow for telecommuting, or do we prefer people to work set hours?
  • How much travel do we expect of senior management?
  • Are we looking for someone who will be here for a certain number of years or as part of a succession plan for senior management?

Architecture, Aesthetics, and Atmosphere

  • How are our offices set up? Open environment? Closed-door offices?
  • How do we dress? More formally? Less formally?
  • How do we have fun?

Also ask yourself what you are looking for in your leadership beyond their job descriptions:

  • What kinds of senior management personalities and work styles currently exist in our organisation?
  • What adjectives would we use to describe the people who have been successful in our organisation?
  • What kind of decision-making style do we want this new senior leader to have? Are we looking for an approach that is similar to the executive director’s or for a different, complementary style?
  • Are we looking for someone to create more teamwork within the organisation or to establish more authority and hierarchy?
  • What kind of leadership style are we looking for in this position? Someone who will promote the status quo or someone who will shake things up within the organisation?
  • Are we looking for a senior leader with more “gravitas” or someone who will lighten up the existing team?
  • What types of personalities work well with the various stakeholders we interact with and what characteristics will this person need to have in order to be successful in these interactions?

Once you have defined your core culture make sure your recruitment, interviewing (remember to use behaviour-based interview questions), hiring and internal development processes reflect and support it.

If you have any questions or if we can help in any way, please get in touch.


  1. Hiring for Culture Fit – Sheila Margolis
  2. Should You Really Hire for Cultural Fit over Competence? – Diana Martz, Openview Labs
  3. How to Hire People Who Fit a Company’s Culture – Will Staney, Head of Global Recruiting, Glassdoor, as seen on Entrepreneur
  4. Determining a Candidate’s Culture Fit – The Bridgespan Group


October 12, 2015
11:44 am
by Judy Hofer

Leadership Development: Retention Programmes

Retention Programmes October 2015 - Judy Hofer

An effective retention programme is essential across all levels of employee for any company, but perhaps even more important is a well thought through retention approach for high performers and future leaders. After all, these rising stars can have enormous impact on business results and finding them is expensive, so it makes sense to keep turnover to a minimum. Despite today’s scary economy, research shows top performers are confident enough to leave their jobs (secure as they are) in their quest to find something new. They are also extremely attractive to your competitors.

From Joseph A. De Feo, Chief Executive, here’s a strategy focused on helping your top performers reach their maximum potential, which is what they value most, thereby keeping them engaged and loyal to your company:

Assess Your Top Performers and Let Them Know They Are on Top. Determine why your top performers are successful. Look beyond the results they’re achieving to the tactics and execution style they use to produce them. Make sure your organisation understands their personalities, values, life plans and work expectations. By knowing your rising managers well, you can make more confident decisions about who will make good leaders and who will be better in other roles. You’ll be able to structure the best development plan for each.

Improve Their Performance. Align your top performers’ development plans with your company’s strategy, so what they do supports the organisation’s needs as well as their own. Determine the best pace for their development and let them participate in career track planning from the beginning. You can use many different kinds of development techniques, including mentoring, formal and informal training, on-the-job experience, rotation out to suppliers, process improvement team projects, executive education, tuition reimbursement, shadowing, executive coaching, job swaps, stretch assignments and specialised skills training. Don’t make it public about who’s a rising star or you’ll create a culture of winners and losers.

Measure Progress Quarterly – Not Annually. Your high-potential managers should be given quarterly evaluations as many are in jobs that are totally new for them. Continually monitor and measure the results they’ve achieving and take corrective action if necessary to get them back on track. De Feo suggests having them make a presentation about the results they achieved since the previous review, identifying goals reached and those missed. Make the meeting communal, the manager’s advocate participates, and senior leaders provide encouragement and support. Not a word is said about salary, which is negotiated later. Note that salary is only one of the factors that affect retention but disappointment with raises can impact retention rates.

From Harvard Business Review here’s what to avoid:

Assuming That High Potentials Are Highly Engaged. Double your efforts to keep them engaged. Studies show:

  • One in four intends to leave your employ within the year.
  • One in three admits to not putting all their effort into the job.
  • One in five believes their personal aspirations are quite different from what the organisation has planned for them.
  • Four out of 10 have little confidence in their co-workers and even less confidence in the senior team.

Equating Current High Performance with Future Potential. HBR’s research shows that more than 70% of top performers lack critical attributes essential to their success in future leadership roles.

Delegating Down the Management of Top Talent. Responsibility for high potentials’ development must be shared by general managers. When you leave the task of identifying and cultivating tomorrow’s leaders exclusively to line managers, here’s what tends to happen: Candidates are selected solely on the basis of recent performance. They are offered narrow development opportunities that are limited by the business units’ scope of requirements and focus mostly on skills required now rather than tomorrow.

Shielding Rising Stars from Early Derailment.  Human resources executives and line managers alike often go to great lengths to ensure that employees with promise are placed in training assignments that provide a bit of a stretch but little real risk of failure. However, this can thwart employees’ development and put the business at greater risk in the long term if emerging talent is never truly developed and tested.

Expecting Star Employees to Share the Pain. Great leaders elect to suffer alongside the rank and file so it might seem that your star employees would embrace that same sense of honor and duty. However, freezing or cutting salaries and performance-based compensation across the board may seem fair, but it erodes the engagement of the stars. The bottom line: An employee’s rewards should be in line with his or her contributions. And if you’re treating everyone equally, you’re not doing enough to support and keep the people who matter most.

Failing to Link Your Stars to Your Corporate Strategy. An organisation that goes ‘radio silent’ with respect to its strategy runs the risk of disengaging its rising stars just when they are needed most.

In conclusion, get to know your rising managers.  Let them know they’re valued and that they can achieve all their goals at your company and you’ll create powerful, productive leaders who may be less interested in jumping ship.

If you have any questions or if we can help in any way, please get in touch.


  1. Three Keys to Retaining High Potential Employees – Joseph A. De Feo, Chief Executive
  2. How to Keep Your Top Talent – Jean Martin and Conrad Schmidt, Harvard Business Review


September 14, 2015
12:30 pm
by Judy Hofer

Leadership Development: Career Planning and Skills Roadmaps

Leadership Development Career Planning and Skills Roadmaps - Judy Hofer

Alongside the ever-present challenge of identifying potential candidates to fill future leadership roles, companies face an equally pressing challenge: that of cultivating and developing their leaders of tomorrow. In addition, corporate development programmes need to cater for both managers and leaders as each requires a different set of skills. Managers are responsible for the smooth running of day-to-day operations while leaders influence, inspire and drive people towards common goals.

Since approximately 60% of employees leave jobs due to a lack of career advancement opportunities, career-planning services can make all the difference when it comes to developing leaders. If a company does not provide its talented team members with career-planning programmes or advancement opportunities, these employees will simply look elsewhere until they find a company that does.

Once your company has determined its most suitable leadership style, identified current and potential leaders and any leadership goals, it will have developed succession plans. The next step, according to Oracle, is to create career planning goals and skills roadmaps for future/potential leaders.

Once the singular responsibility of the individual, career planning is now a focus for high performing companies wishing to develop and retain future leaders. Career development should be considered from the perspectives of both the organisation and the employee:

  • Organisation: What skills and knowledge do we require to achieve our business goals?
  • Employee: What are the skills and knowledge I think are critical to my current and future career plans?

Combining employee development with career planning will empower and motivate your high potentials to explore different career paths as well as monitor and progress through the development activities necessary to attain them. Engagement increases as managers and employees work together to create development goals that balance the needs of the organisation with employees’ career aspirations. Tying competencies to relevant development activities will allow you to incorporate development plans into performance review processes.

Effective development conversations include a candid discussion of the staff member’s aspirations, career trajectory, and goals for the future, as well as an honest assessment of the skills and competencies he/she needs to develop to get there:

  • Current job: Does the employee have the skills to meet the responsibilities of their current job?
  • Gaps: Assess the person’s current levels of competency and their future requirements. This will reveal what gaps need to be addressed to develop their skills so they can meet future job requirements.
  • Future aspirations: Where does the employee see themselves in the future?  What business results do they hope to achieve?
  • Career plan: Develop a roadmap that enables the employee to acquire the skill set needed for their current job and for the future. Use a career plan template as part of the performance review process. The template should include:
    • Areas of development
    • Development goals:
      • Action steps
      • Expected completion date
      • Obstacles and solutions
      • Evaluation criteria 

Skills road maps are key to any employee development program because inside talent can be given a list of the necessary skills for advancement, and then opt to educate themselves via continuing education or on-the-job training. Once the required knowledge and skills are obtained, the employee is then rewarded for their hard work with a promotion. Incorporate both traditional learning as well as activities such as coaching, rotational assignments, job shadowing, mentor relationships, and project leadership.

Career development is a key component of a company’s attraction and retention strategy. Many candidates will not consider employment with an organisation unless it offers career development as a basic component of its culture.

If you have any questions or if we can help in any way, please get in touch.


  1. Seven Steps for Effective Leadership Development – An Oracle White Paper


August 11, 2015
12:46 pm
by Judy Hofer

Succession Planning for Critical Roles

JUH-succession-planning-august-2015 copy

We all know that talent has become recognised as the key differentiator between business success and failure. We know that skills scarcity, shifting demographics and increased talent mobility impact our ability to fill critical roles. And yet for many companies succession planning (defined as ‘the systematic process of identifying and developing candidates for key managerial and professional leadership positions over time in order to ensure continuity of management and leadership’) is overlooked. This is done in favour of focusing on ‘immediate needs,’ until a senior member of the team or a critical skill announces plans to leave or retire, often putting the organisation into crisis mode.

Long thought of as replacement planning for the C-Suite, succession planning has evolved to include critical roles; the jobs and positions your organisation couldn’t run without or that are critical to strategic/operational success. They could be customer facing, technical or other roles that demand a specific skillset, range of experience or knowledge that cannot be easily replaced. These will differ from company to company. In assessing how critical a role is, Karen Caruso of Via People suggests a company should assess a mix of internal and external factors:


  • What is the level of risk to the company if the position is left vacant for an extended period?
  • To what extent does the position:
    • Drive revenue and impact bottom-line financial results?
    • Involve developing strategy, designing new products, or creating growth opportunities for the organisation?
    • Require broad decision-making authority?
    • Involve relationships with external customers and key stakeholders?
    • Influence the performance of or manage other critical positions? 


  • What is the current market value of the position? How has the value changed over time?
  • How is the position valued by other companies?
  • What is the degree of competition for qualified candidates for this position in the marketplace?
  • To what extent does the position require the use of rare/unique capabilities and skill sets?

Once you know what your critical roles are, ascertain what skills, competencies, experience and knowledge is needed for success in these roles and identify ‘feeder roles’; the roles in which these are likely to be developed. Look for top performers or high potentials within these feeder roles.

Examples of Performance:

  • Demonstrated goal achievement
  • Positive performance trend over time
  • Demonstrates depth of experience
  • Delivers results, builds teams and organisation capability

Examples of Potential:

  • Ability to take on more
  • Capable of advancement
  • Possesses key leadership competencies
  • Demonstrates motivation and commitment
  • Fit with vision and values
  • Strong personal ethics

Next, gauge where your top performers and high potentials are right now, how long it will take for them to be ready to seamlessly fill critical positions and formulate development plans to get them to where they need to be.

Key commandments, from Jamie Lawrence of HRZone, to keep in mind during your succession planning and management, are:

  1. Make sure your succession planning is aligned to the medium and long-term business strategy.
  2. Succession planning, whilst managed by HR, needs to be supported and driven by senior management.
  3. Look inside as well as outside the organisation to identify and maximise your talent.
  4. In addition to looking outside the organisation, look outside a department or team where there is a succession issue. Succession candidates should be able to come from any part of a business providing they personify organisational values and preferred behaviours.
  5. Ensure you have a plan which is clear, visible and communicated. From an organisational perspective, there is nothing worse than losing hidden or identified talent because they are not aware of the organisational succession planning or talent management.
  6. Succession planning needs to be a key part of the wider employee engagement offer and should be aligned to recruitment, training, development and performance review.

Effective, proactive succession planning leaves your organisation well prepared for expansion, the loss of a key employee, filling a new, needed job, employee promotions, and organisational redesign for opportunities.

If you have any questions or if we can help in any way, please get in touch.


  1. Succession Management is More than Just a Plan: Identifying, Developing and Retaining Talent for Critical Roles – Success Factors, A SAP Company
  2. Identifying Critical Positions in the Succession Planning Process – Karen Caruso, Via People
  3. Ten Commandments for Successful Success Planning – Jamie Lawrence, HRZone


July 7, 2015
8:43 am
by Judy Hofer

Effective Leadership Development: Closing the Gap









Study after study shows that businesses investing in leadership development enjoy clear advantages. These advantages include:

  • Improved business growth
  • Improved employee retention
  • Improved bottom-line performance
  • Improved ability to attract talent
  • Solving problems earlier and at lower levels
  • Increased organisational agility
  • Improved business sustainability
  • Greater market value over time

However, with millions of boomers preparing for retirement, a significant number of companies acknowledge they are facing a potential leadership gap. A Global Workforce Leadership Survey, which polled 1,000 human resource professionals in eight countries, found that less than half (47 percent) of respondents said they have an adequate pool of talent to fill leadership roles in their company. Even more disconcerting: only 12 percent of employees aspire to the corner office.

Part of the issue is the way in which workers define leadership has changed from generation to generation. While boomers and even generation Xers tend to associate leadership with management roles and C-suite titles, for millennials, leadership is less title-driven and more situational. The survey also showed a disconnect between what employees want and what employers offer in the way of training, continual development, mentoring, guidance and feedback.

While specific leadership competencies will be unique to your corporate culture and strategy, a 2009 study by the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL) identified these leadership skills as essential:

  • Leading people
  • Strategic planning
  • Inspiring commitment
  • Managing change
  • Resourcefulness
  • Being a quick learner
  • Doing whatever it takes

Companies report gaps across all of these skill areas. The reason is not as simple as demographic challenges, problematic generation Ys, or the elimination of middle management (the former senior leadership training ground). The gap appears when leaders are either focused on the wrong areas, or when they are focused on the right areas but are not fully performing for one reason or another.

Thus, the leadership gap inherently comes down to a lack of definition of the leadership skills and behaviours required now and in the future; as well as a failure to build and successfully implement a cohesive and aligned strategy to support and develop high potential candidates, new and current leaders in these areas.

According to Oracle, a successful leadership development program begins with the alignment of leadership development with company strategy and an understanding of the type of leadership style(s) needed to execute that strategy. A continuum of steps which positions an organisation for current and future leadership includes:

  1. Determining the best leadership style for your organisation
  2. Identifying current and potential leaders within the company
  3. Identifying leadership gaps
  4. Developing succession plans for critical roles
  5. Developing career planning goals for potential leaders
  6. Developing a skills roadmap for future leaders
  7. Developing retention programs for current and future leaders

John F. Kennedy once said that leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. In today’s complex world, his words have never been more meaningful. Organisations that move to understand their leadership situation and close the gap are the ones that will lead the pack.

If you have any questions, or if we can help in any way, please get in touch.


  1. Seven Steps for Effective Leadership Development – Oracle
  2. Closing the Gaps in Leadership Development – Brigitta Theleman, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School
  3. The Leadership Gap – Centre for Creative Leadership


June 4, 2015
4:12 pm
by Judy Hofer

Traits of Great Leaders



The path to leadership isn’t an easy one. In the past, managers were expected to maintain the status quo in order to move ahead, but today’s leaders are expected to be visionary. Through good times, stressful times and terrible times, great leaders must be both learners and teachers, foresee paradigm changes in society, have a strong sense of ethics, and work to build integrity in their organisations. Here are some key qualities that good leaders tend to possess:

  • Emotional Stability. Good leaders tolerate frustration and stress, are well-adjusted and have psychological maturity.
  • Self Assurance. They tend to be free of guilt, have little or no need for approval and are usually unaffected by prior mistakes or failures.
  • Enthusiasm and Optimism. The very best leaders are usually active, alert, expressive, energetic, optimistic, open to change, and they tend to be uninhibited.
  • Conscientiousness. Leaders usually have a very high standard of excellence and an inward desire to do their best. They also have a need for order and tend to be very self-disciplined.
  • Honesty. Strong leaders are extremely ethical and believe that honesty, effort and reliability form the foundation of success.
  • Accountability. Extraordinary leaders take responsibility for everyone’s performance, including their own.
  • Tough-mindedness. Good leaders are practical, logical and to-the-point. They tend to be low in sentimental attachments and comfortable with criticism.
  • Focus. Extraordinary leaders plan ahead and think through multiple scenarios and the possible impact of their decisions.
  • Ability to Delegate. Good leaders avoid micromanagement. They decide what strengths each employee possesses and assign them tasks that best fit those strengths.
  • Communication. They consistently communicate work expectations and give constructive feedback.

Beyond these basic traits, leaders of today also possess traits which help them motivate others and lead them in new directions:

  • Intuitiveness. Rapid changes in the world today combined with information overload result in an inability to ‘know’ everything. Good leaders know the value of using their intuition and trusting their gut when making decisions.
  • Team orientation. Business leaders today put a strong emphasis on team work. Instead of promoting an adult/child relationship with their employees, leaders create an adult/adult relationship which fosters team cohesiveness.
  • Charisma. Leaders who have charisma are able to stimulate strong emotions in their employees by defining a vision which unites and motivates them.
  • Humor. Although not a requirement, a sense of humor goes a long way in leadership. It helps create a positive work environment and enhances a feeling of camaraderie.

Great leaders always have a definite purpose and a plan for attaining it. They surround themselves with talented people who share their vision.

If you have any questions or if we can help in any way, please get in touch.

Other articles in this series:

  1. Understanding the Differences: Management vs. Leadership
  2. Core Leadership Theories
  3. Leadership Styles
  4. Challenges Facing Today’s Leaders


  1. 31 Traits all Great Leaders Share – Business Insider
  2. Top 10 Qualities that Make a Great Leader – Forbes
  3. The 9 Traits that Define Great Leadership


May 11, 2015
10:16 am
by Judy Hofer

Challenges Facing Today’s Leaders


The life of modern-day leaders is more demanding than ever. Internally, they need to motivate diverse groups of people, work across organisational boundaries, improve efficiency and achieve growth. Externally, they face a complex and globalised environment in which they have to keep ahead of competitors and exceed the expectations of other stakeholders.

According to a survey conducted at the Center for Creative Leadership, involving 763 leaders across seven counties, there are six primary leadership challenges facing all leaders no matter where they are in the world:

  • Developing managerial effectiveness: The challenge of developing relevant skills; such as time management, prioritization, strategic thinking, decision-making, and getting up to speed with the job; to be more effective at work.
  • Inspiring others: The challenge of inspiring or motivating others to ensure they are satisfied with their jobs and motivated to work smarter.
  • Developing employees: The challenge of developing others, especially through mentoring and coaching.
  • Leading a team: The challenge of team-building, team development, and team management.
  • Guiding change: The challenge of managing, mobilizing, understanding, and leading change.
  • Managing internal stakeholders and politics: The challenge of managing relationships, politics, and image, such as gaining managerial support and getting buy-in from other departments, groups, or individuals.

These are difficult challenges, and many leaders feel ill-prepared to tackle them. The most frequently mentioned challenge is developing managerial effectiveness. Here are some recommendations:

  • Goal-setting is important. Be proactive in setting goals, as well as timelines and deadlines which are required to meet those goals.
  • Delegate more. Delegating can, in fact, make you more productive. The act of delegation can also empower the people to whom you have given work.
  • Work on tasks that maximise your unique value-add. There will always be important tasks that only you can do. These are the tasks on which you should focus as you will maximise your specific value to the organisation. Everything else, try to delegate.
  • Gain some role clarity. Understand what your work does and does not entail. With that, you may have to practice and be comfortable saying “no.”

The division between task- and relationship-oriented leadership has long been a challenge. Three of the challenges namely inspiring others, developing employees and leading a team; are all related to the relationship-oriented part of leadership. Here are some considerations:

  • Take an active role in mentoring, coaching, and developing others. Provide challenging opportunities, broadcast successes to upper management and empower others to increase their area of competence. Support your employees by providing guidance and feedback.
  • Meet the needs of your employees. It’s not just about making sure your employees have the right software or enough office supplies. You also have to meet their psychological and social needs.
  • Manage team effectiveness. Make sure your team has a clear purpose, strong support, and effectively shares information among the group and with important stakeholders outside the group.

Guiding change is a key challenge for leaders. Organisations exist in a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) and leaders need to be adept at managing, mobilising, leading, and dealing with change. Some suggestions include:

  • Try it, you might like it. It’s natural that people don’t like change. Leaders should try to transform their own thinking, and be more open to fresh ideas. People may witness that shift in attitude and embrace change.
  • Embrace emotional reactions to change. It’s not enough to use rational arguments. Leaders also need to be sensitive to employees’ emotions and show empathy.
  • Since you cannot be clairvoyant, be clear. Nobody can tell others what the future holds, but you can definitely tell others about the present and what you’re doing to reach the desired future stage.

Another frequent challenge is managing internal stakeholders and politics. To more effectively accomplish this, leaders need to develop and enhance their political savvy, defined as “the ability to effectively understand others at work and to use such knowledge to influence others to act in ways that enhance one’s personal and/or organisational objectives.” There are several ways to do this:

  • Mingle strategically and build strong networks and relationships.
  • Manage up. Proactively keep your boss informed: the struggles you and your team are having, and what is going well.
  • Read the situation. Observe and gather information from others and the environment.
  • Leave people with a good impression. Being politically savvy is not being manipulative. Having integrity and being authentic are of the utmost importance. Get feedback on how your message and behaviour really come across to others. Avoid gossiping. Keep confidences. Deliver on the promises you make.

If you have any questions, please get in touch.


April 16, 2015
10:27 am
by Judy Hofer

Leadership Styles


Leadership styles are not fixed in place, cast in stone for all time and permanently attached to an individual’s personality. They are interchangeable. The best leaders know that different styles are applicable to different situations and to different people, and will choose the style best suited to get the desired results. It’s probably true to say, however, that each leader has an instinctive, dominant style. Following on from last month’s article on leadership theories, let’s look at some of the main leadership styles:


Useful for when there is no need for team input or input will not change the end decision. This style has the leader making decisions without consulting anyone and has been shown to be the most demotivating.


Builds consensus through participation and is most effective when the leader needs the team to buy into or have ownership of a decision, plan, or goal. It is not the best choice when a quick decision is called for.


Leaders offer support and advice but largely give the team freedom in how they manage their work. Very high job satisfaction for people with high autonomy but damaging for people who don’t manage their time well or need additional knowledge, skills or motivation to get their job done well.


Moves people towards a shared vision and openly shares information, telling them where to go but not how to get there. This style is best when a new direction is needed but can fail when trying to motivate more experienced experts or peers.


This style connects wants to organisational goals, helping people find their strengths and weaknesses and tying these to career aspirations and actions. This style is good when delegating challenging assignments, demonstrating faith that demands justification leading to high levels of loyalty. Done badly, this style looks like micro-managing.


A very collaborative style focused on emotional needs over work needs, creating people connections and harmony. Often used alongside visionary leadership, it’s useful for healing rifts and getting through stressful situations, but used badly allows for the avoidance of emotionally distressing situations such as negative feedback.


This “do as I do” style expects and personifies excellence and self-direction. Great if staff are already highly skilled and self-motivated and quick results are needed. Over the long term though, this style can lead to exhaustion and decline.


Soothes fears, gives clear direction and expects full compliance (agreement is not needed). This approach is best in times of crisis when safety is at stake, when you need rapid in questioned compliance or with problem employees who do not respond to other methods. It should be avoided in almost every other case, because it can alienate people and stifle flexibility and inventiveness.

Bureaucratic Leadership

Rigorous rule-followers, this leader ensures that people follow procedures precisely.

Appropriate for managing people who perform routine tasks or for work involving serious safety risks or large sums of money. This style is much less effective when flexibility, creativity, or innovation are called for.


This style is exemplified by integrity, self-awareness, empathy, humility and high emotional intelligence. Transformational leaders motivate people and communicate well. They set clear goals, have excellent conflict resolution skills and hold themselves accountable for their actions.


Charismatic leadership resembles transformational leadership: both types of leaders inspire and motivate team members. The difference lies in their intent. Transformational leaders want to transform their teams and organisations, while charismatic leaders often focus on themselves and their own ambitions.


If you’d like to identify your instinctive leadership style, here’s a handy online quiz.


If you have any questions, please get in touch.



  1. 6 Leadership Styles and When you Should Use Them: Robyn Benincasa, Fast Company
  2. 8 Common Leadership Styles: Rhea Blanken, FASAE
  3. Leadership Styles: Changing Minds
  4. 6 Emotional Leadership Styles: Changing Minds
  5. Leadership Styles: Kendra Cherry, Psychology Expert



March 2, 2015
8:27 am
by Judy Hofer

Core Leadership Theories

JUH-leadership-theories-march-2015Core Leadership Theories

Mankind has long been fascinated with what, exactly, makes one person emerge as a leader over others. Personality? Character? The situation? It’s only been since the mid 19th century or so, however, that we have formalised this fascination into theoretical exploration. Early leadership theories focused on what qualities distinguished leaders from followers, while subsequent theories looked at variables such as situational factors and skill levels. Eight major theories, commonly categorised by which aspect is believed to define the leader the most, have emerged:

  • Great Man Theory

Originally proposed by Thomas Carlyle in the 1840’s, the Great Man theory assumes that leadership is inherent; that great men are born not made – they are destined from birth to emerge as leaders. The term “Great Man” was used because, at the time, leadership was thought of primarily as a male quality, and leaders were often ascribed the qualities of mythical heroes.

Great Man theory did much to establish and reinforce popular support for trait-based leadership thinking then, and for many years afterwards.

  • Trait Theory

Similar to Great Man theory, Trait theory assumes people are born with inherent traits, some of which are particularly suited to leadership and those with the right (or a sufficient) combination of the right traits will make good leaders. The focus is on discovering what these traits are, often by studying successful leaders. Indeed distinct traits DO arise in the profiles of effective leaders and in the way that followers desire to be led; however, this does not alone adequately explain what effective leadership is or how it can be developed.

General acceptance of trait-based leadership theory remained virtually unchallenged for around a hundred years.

  •  Behavioural Theory

Behavioural theory offers a new perspective – that leadership is based on definable, learnable behavior: leaders are made, rather than born. This theory looks at what leaders do rather than who they are. This implies that anyone can learn to be a leader simply by learning how to behave like one: a remarkable shift. Behavioural theory divides leaders into two categories: those concerned with task and those concerned with people.

  •  Participative Theory

This theory suggests the ideal leadership style is one that takes others into account. The assumptions, as summarised by changing minds, are:

  • Involvement in decision-making improves understanding of the issues by those who must carry out the decisions.
  • People are more committed to actions where they have been involved in the relevant decision-making.
  • People are less competitive and more collaborative when they are working on joint goals.
  • When people make decisions together, the social commitment to one another is greater and thus increases their commitment to the decision.
  • Several people deciding together make better decisions than one person alone.
  • Situational Theory

Situational theory proposes that leaders choose the best course of action based upon situational variables. Different styles of leadership may be more appropriate for certain types of decision-making. For example, in a situation where the leader is the most knowledgeable and experienced member of a group, an authoritarian style might be most appropriate. In other instances where group members are skilled experts, a democratic style would be more effective.

  •  Contingency Theory

Similar to Situational theory, Contingency theory proposes that success depends upon a number of variables, including the leadership style, qualities of the followers and aspects of the situation: there is no one best way of leading – a leadership style effective in some situations may not be successful in others. The main difference is that Situational theory focuses more on the behaviours the leader should adopt, given situational factors (often about follower behavior), whereas Contingency theory takes a broader view that includes contingent factors about leader capability and other variables within the situation.

  •  Transactional Theory

This theory bases leadership on a system of reward and punishment. Transactional leadership is often used in business: when employees are successful, they are rewarded; when they fail, they are reprimanded or punished. Additional assumptions are:

  • Social systems work best with a clear chain of command.
  • When people have agreed to do a job, a part of the deal is that they cede all authority to their manager.
  • The prime purpose of a subordinate is to do what their manager tells them to do.
  • Transformational Theory

The essence of transformational theory is that leaders transform their followers through their inspirational nature and charismatic personalities. They inspire followers to change expectations, perceptions, and motivations to work towards common goals. Overall, they balance their attention between action that creates progress and the mental state of their followers. Perhaps more than other approaches, they are people-oriented and believe that success comes first and last through deep and sustained commitment.

The leadership field has made great strides forward since the 1840’s in uncovering whether leaders are born or made, how followers affect how successful leaders can be, how some charismatic leaders build up societies and others destroy them, as well as what impact leading through technology has on individual and collective performance. Where leadership theory and research will take us over the next decade is indeed intriguing.

If you have any questions, please get in touch.


  1. Leadership: Current Theories, Research and Future Directions – Bruce J. Avolio, Fred O. Walumbwa and Todd J. Weber
  2. Core Leadership Theories – MindTools
  3. Leadership Theories – Changing Minds
  4. The 8 Major Leadership Theories – about.com
  5. Leadership Theories – Leadership-central
  6. Leadership Theories – Business Balls