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Andrew Priestley



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Where are you getting your ideas about business leadership?


When I started researching business leadership several years ago I sampled a big range of books, DVDs, CDs and courses.

Most of our ideas about leadership come from politics, military, sports or corporate. I specialise in business leadership so I had to pass on books about Winston Churchill or Colin Powell or Ian Botham.

My search lead me to books by Sir Richard Branson, Anita Roddick, Lord Alan Sugar (most recently), Jack Welch, Donald Trump, Lee Ioccoca etc. At best they are a collection of desirable traits or qualities - concepts - with anecdotes to explain the concept i.e., leaders are curious, leaders are charismatic, leaders are certain.

From a clinical perspective there are a couple of problems.

Firstly, while an anecdote is an interesting way to explore a concept it does not provide much clarity on how to operationalise the concept - meaning - successfully replicate the the behaviours.

When I was 18 I worked ina five star restaurant and the owner, Jeff Dans, had been trained in the army as a precision caterer. This meant he was able to comptenetly run dinners for visiting dignitaries to a superior silver service level. I was trained how to do what Jeff did through instruction and observation and I admit, mimickery. I was able to 'do' what Jeff with startling accuracy - but essentially I 'aped' Jeff's flair and mannerisms - and did so for years. It was a very effective model - and I carried much of what I learned under his mentoring into my own business life. And I made a lot of money. But in the end I am NOT Jeff and there were many times when mimicking Jeff did NOT produce the result. 

Any more than immersing yourself in Jack Welch's style. A mate of mine worked with Jack Welch, and Jack could throw 50 MBAs at a problem if need be. But as much as I admired Jack I did not have Jack's resources. Or power. And I did not work in a corporate structure that gave me access to that level of resourcing. So in the end trtying to emulate Jack failed me. Be clear, bits and pieces do work and over time you fashion a leadership 'style' from these influences.

But this is not true leadership.

Lee Ioccoca said there were nine C's of leadership but again they are qualities and I don't have Lee's power base.

I read Colin Powells 13 tips for leaders but almost all of them require Powell's authorative power as a general and many will not translate for business people.

Since 1998 I have been coaching executives - many of them with leadership includeed in their MBAs. One client graduates from Harvard Business School IN leadership ... so why did he need an executive coach. This is not the exception. I have coached politicians who wield power, are in leadership roles and are tapping into leadership best practice ... who were struggling to lead.

I think the problem is most courses and books I've looked at go down this quality, style route and hope that anecdotes or regulatory guidance will make them remarkable.

I have found five factors that will definitely help you become a remarkable leader. An analysis of leadership anecdotes reveals all remarkable leaders had good self-awareness - they knew what was happening. They could communicate their awareness to others. They could broker agreements. They could manage those agreements. And they were constantly reflecting on and tweaking their skills. These five factors each contain sub steps that enable you to operationalise each factor. 

But more on that next time.

(c) 2011 Andrew Priestley Grad Dip Psych, B.Ed

You can read more on remarkable leadership at and scroll down to the Leadership Competencies pdf. This is free to download and you are NOT required to provide your name or contact details.

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Andrew Priestley


Read more from Andrew Priestley

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