Does your firm lack leadership?

‘If the eyes of your team members aren’t shining brightly, how are you being?’ An interesting quote from Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra.

I’ve just been reminded of this quote while working with the banking sector in Mauritius on leadership issues. A delightful island with delightful people and shining eyes.

On top of that, I had the pleasure of working with an old friend who has become a guru – well, he’s written the best-selling book on leadership, Leadership: Plain & Simple.

Here are some of the key messages from the book. They are so relevant to professional service firms.

  1. There has been a lot of hokum written about leadership making it sound complicated. It isn’t! There are simply three critical words for leaders to focus on: FUTURE, ENGAGE, DELIVER.
  2. Our careers have typically progressed through first being an operator, where our technical knowledge is important. If we demonstrate we can do that well, we then get made a manager. We then are given projects and people to manage and we have to ensure stuff gets done on time and to the quality that’s required. If we do that well, we then get offered a leadership role. But few people realise this is such a big and challenging transition.
  3. The most effective leaders have one step in the future. It’s just too easy to drown in the present too much with all those emails, meetings, important deadlines to deal with.
  4. Many leaders find their role challenging and get tempted to dabble in managerial or even operational aspects of the business. They’ll re-draft something or attend meetings they don’t need to or not delegate something they could. This massages their egos. They’re good at these activities. It makes them feel good. But who’s then doing the leading while they’re spending time on such activities?
  5. Top management are culpable in this chain of events. Despite sending their business group leaders on a leadership training course, they then give them 309 things to do by next Tuesday. It’s hard to have one foot in the future whilst baling out the leaking boat!
  6. Leaders also need to provide the bigger picture. A manager looks at ladders to see how they can get up them. Leaders check the ladder is up against the wall!
  7. To be engaging, leaders need to find their passion and ‘be up to something’. Ideally this passion should align their personal aspirations with what the organisation needs.
  8. Leaders should not be put off by the scale of their challenge or be overwhelmed by the issues in the present. The combination of truly caring about something and having courage and daring should be sufficient to see you through and keep you in leadership mode.
  9. If people aren’t delivering, start by asking how you’re being. Do you have an exciting vision? Have you done all you can to engage your team members? Are they just carving stones or are they building cathedrals?
  10. Enlightened leaders don’t just tell people what to do. That uses up so much energy.  They’ve learned to pull energy from their team members. That way they get real commitment – not just compliance.

For a helpful checklist on leadership for business heads see

For more about Leadership: Plain & Simple see:

This entry was posted in Coaching and Training, Leadership and Management, Managing Change, Strategy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s