Cerah Associates is active in the areas of Consultancy and Learning. In this blog I like to write about a subject as old as the road is to Rome i.e. leadership. Based on 30 years working in either the private – and public sector, allow me to share some key leadership thoughts. 

Let me ask 1 question first; ‘’do you have your own leadership philosophy?’’. If a young student of 20 years were to ask you this question, what do you answer?  

That’s the key question, ha! I can stop now. I have asked this question over 100 times to all different kind of people I’ve met along the way, and 99% of the time, people look at me – glazing.     

At times, people tend to sputter some words like ‘’inspiring others, getting results, developing talents, lead by example etc’’, and that tends to be it. 

Other times, responses will cover concepts as developed by people such as Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey; Noel Tichy; Kotter in the context of how to deal with change; the fifth discipline booklet of Peter Senge sometimes gets referred to, and in the context of personal leadership, Steven Covey tends to get mentioned. 

The question still though was – what is your leadership philosophy? 

In my life to date, there have been three people, who come to my mind, who have taught me certain essentials by having their own personal leadership philosophy. These philosophies have impacted me, a fair bit, and therefore have steered me to shape and develop my own.  

The first one is Idris Jala (ex Shell, ex MAS, currently with Pemandu Associates). Idris has developed throughout his life his own transformational leadership philosophy. Books can (and should) be written about it. The essence is; ‘declare your impossibility and go for it’. Whatever you set out to achieve is impossible, so before you start, give up the notion that you’ll get there. It is impossible, therefore you ‘should’ fail. Since you know ahead before you start that you will fail, you might as well give up the fear of failure. Failure is implicit! Giving up the fear of failure is liberating in itself, you get tons of energy. You will try and explore extra-ordinary activities (which you have never tried before) in order to aim to get close to the impossibility you have declared. Since you enter unchartered territory, you may learn new insights and skills. And based on what you learn anew ……… you very well may become a different person than who you originally were. So here the doing (activities you explore doing in order to get close to the impossibility) drives the being (what you learn and who you become as a consequence). This is where the word transformation comes in, hence Idris talks about personal transformational leadership. Remember; it all starts with declaring your impossibility! Thank you Idris!

The second one is Gary Steel (ex Shell, ex ABB). A key characteristic of Gary’s way of working and leading, was that he always looked and assessed how good and motivated people were around him. Gary (un)consciously practiced key essentials of Noel Tichy’s situational leadership idea i.e. if people are good and motivated, manage them by objective. If people are not that good and not that motivated, manage them by task. Great concept, simple! But there was a 2nd dimension which made the above even more powerful, and that is the thought ‘do not take yourself too seriously’. Gold! Please try doing so, you’ll make life so much easier for yourself and for those around you. By accepting the notion of not taking yourself too seriously, you also accept that other people, often, know more than you and are better at performing certain tasks than you. As a boss and/or team member, try not to hold this self perception that you must know it all, and should be on top of it all and direct those around and ‘’beneath’’ you. Nonsense. Feel free to disabandon yourself to the talents of those around you, find your own space where you truly can add value! Thank you Gary!               

The third one is my late mother, who carried a lot of life lessons with her. These lessons have stimulated me to look for more and other life lessons. Some of these lessons of my mother were;

  1. Never behave in a group differently, compared to how you would behave as if you were on your own.
  2. Don’t speak bad about a person in public, if you have not shared these ‘bad thoughts’ in private with the person in question first. 
  3. Be on time. If you are not going to be on time, at least, manage the situation and let those effected know (so they can manage their time). 
  4. Focus on what you can influence and control.
  5. Just be honest. The good thing of that is that you don’t need a good memory!
  6. In sports always aim for the win, be intens, but always be a ‘’good’’ loser. 

Big lessons of character. There are several other statements like the above I can think of, but for now will leave it with these. Thank you mum!

The question still is – what is your leadership philosophy? 

Since I ask you, it is only fair that I share share some key ingredients of my leadership philosophy. There are 3 important words really;

Thinking; You must have a concept, a thought provoking idea what intellectually moves things forward. The power of the brain. Define what you want to achieve? This is where Idris Jala comes in ……..

Doing: Once you have a concept, an idea, aim to get it implemented. The power of getting it done. Define who does what, how and by whom? This is where Gary Steel comes in ……..

Being: It is about the character you build up over time, who you are, what you stand for and believe in. Define what you accept and what not. This is where my mother comes in ……..    

One more time – what is your leadership philosophy? 


3 thoughts on “Leadership

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