Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

Why there is no more room for the “Blame Game” in 21C LEARNing Culture…

In Educational Leadership, ELT and ELL, Our Schools, Our Universities, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 19/09/2013 at 10:47 pm

21C Logo TG ver 02

I know, I know

…I promised that I would stop using the phrase “21st Century LEARNing”.


SUE me (Ver 02)

OK – so glad we got that out of the way!


In one of my very first posts (seems like a lifetime or three ago…but it is, in fact, only 30 months) –  The End of the Highway – I talked about the type of organisational culture that I saw evolving over the next few years (for the Information Age and Knowledge Economyso now you see why I went with “21C” a wee bit later).

A culture, I suggested, that was characterized NOT by the “old world” my-way-or-the-highway approaches adopted by so many of the “bosses” we had when we were younger…but by a “new world” organisational culture grounded on:

21C Org Culture (ver 02)

OMG! My graphics were pretty lousy back in the day, yes?


Now, that’s a place I want to live…the kind of place I want my grandkids to LEARN within (no, just stop asking me about that bloody “manopause” thing already)!

A true LEARNing Culture for the 21st Century!


But, what happens, for example, if I meet with an untimely demise – there are many Mütevelli Heyeti Presidents out there (a few YÖK employees, too) that would not be too unhappy if Tony Hoca “disappeared” or just started sleeping with the fishes (shock-horror).

Or, perhaps…I just get eaten by Zombies

Zombie Grammar In Use


Those grandkids of mine might grow up (in canım Türkiyem, of course) with a wonderful degree of control over their mother-tongue…but be not so hot in their grand-daddy’s tongue.

Heck, they might even have to go though Hazırlık for a few months…

Hazırlık Mob (Proficiency Test)


As I suggested in my last postall is not well in the state of “hazırlık” – apathy and lack of interest in the most important medium of global communication on the part of many hazırlık students, has evolved into a zombie-like pandemic! 

Bloody hell – just typing those words scared the beejeebers outta me…

Hocam will this be on the test 

The Ottoman Empire was once described as the sick man of Europe – today, it is Hazırlık that is being described in similar terms:

Hazırlık (sick man of HEd) ver 01

In truth…all of HigherEd in canım Türkiyem…needs a check-up!


However, rather than help “fix” this very real problem – there is many a faculty lecturer, a head of department, a dean (or Vice Rector…even) within our so-called English-medium universities that would love us all to believe this (perhaps to cover the fact that their own English language skills are not that great or that they are still “delivering” English-medium “courses” in Turkish – of course, all down to the fact that the Hazırlık “Team” taught them nowt)!

These critical hazırlık stakeholders” (many of whom do not even know where the hazırlık building is) just can’t get enough of passing-the-buck – or playing…

Blame Game (TG ver)

 …you know how it goes, yes?


You also know the question that always gets asked…first!

Who is to blame


Will they never LEARN?


We could, of course, point all those fingers at the students themselves. I mean it’s not as if they don’t give us enough reasons.

Reasons, I might say, are all reinforced by the things many hazırlık teachers have been overheard sayingthunkingagain and again!

Kids today

Go on! Raise your hand, if you have NEVER said one of these…


The parents?

Yes, they started all this…

Pointing at the belly

…and dragged their kids up to be all the things they never could…be…afterall!


There is no shortage of “targets” for our fingers – just look at how many we have in both Hazırlık…and the post-Hazırlık world (remember guys…there is a life after the proficiency exam – before, too)!


…and, let’s not forget those pesky trouble-makers – Teacher Trainers!



Hang on there

Weren’t we saying something about…a 21C LEARNing Culture?


How does this “finger-pointing” fit in with a climate of collaboration… – and what were those other thingimejigs we all say we want to see in our institutions?

21C LEARNing Culture (TG ver 02 upgrade)


Heck, if we look at our websites – we ALREADY have them…ALL!


If we really believe that this type of LEARNing Culture is who we arewhat we need – is there “room” for the BLAME GAME?


Sorry about that full stop…beating off Zombies here!


Call me a “dreamer” (I take that as a compliment, BTW)!

Call me a “fool” (Mmmm, this one…not so much)!


Is it just me…acaba…that thunks…



A good start is this one:

Rather than (Peter Block)


Every single “stakeholder” in every single university across canım Türkiyem has, in some way, contributed to the pandemic spread of the Lise5 Syndrome – even the parents (and those Vice Rectors I mentioned).

And, you know what?

I’m guessing many other English-medium universities around the globe…have their own strain of the Zombie virus we have been looking at.

You can take that to the bank…




THUNKing a wee bit differently…is the key!


If we could just get to that first “question flip”, we might have a chancewe might survive!


Hey, you never know…we could then perhaps ask a few other questions:

Perhaps then (Peter Block)


That having been said…

Give LIFE a SHAKE (Ian Gilbert)


…maybe, we can just keep “living” with the “walking dead”!



NOTE from the CBO

This post is a “potted” (and updated) version of a mini-dizi I did back in May 2013 (for all you busy, busy folk). If you want to take a closer look (and consider even more “thunking questions” for the challenge that is hazırlık here in Turkey, take a look at the following posts:

The Cornerstones of TEACHer LEADership

In Classroom Teaching, Educational Leadership on 07/05/2012 at 5:16 pm


This morning, as I was doing a bit of surfing (you know, the virtual type), I popped into one of my favourite teacher sitesVenspired (from Krissy Venosdale aka @ktvee).

I saw the first few lines of her latest post:

“What do you do?”

“Oh, I’m just a TEACHer.”


OMG! This is not the Krissy I have come to know and lovehang on, the next line read:

Have you ever said that? It’s only true if you believe it.


That’s better – take a look at the full post – then, come back!


Didn’t you just love what her little “World Changer” did? Didn’t you just love the LEADership her little “World Changer” demonstrated…and how that made Krissy feel?


Palmer QUOTATION - Circle of Trust


A few weeks ago, I was running a session with a group of trainers-in-training – and we wandered into the whole area of teacher LEADership.

This was not really planned…at all!

One of the participants said she was a bit uncomfortable referring to herself as a “LEADer”.

“I’m not a leader…I’m just a TEACHer…who wants to be a TRAINer!”

She told me.

Many of the other participants agreed.

I stopped the session…we had hit a “LEARNing moment…but I wasn’t ready for it!


Luckily there was a “phone box” in the room (my hard-drive – with a few rough notes on it).


In 1989, a bunch of LEADership gurus / boffins decided to set up a series of what they called the “Leadership Masterclass” – the first one was led by John Gardner and he outlined his views on what LEADership was all about…

  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Assertiveness
  • Capacity to motivate people
  • Courage and resolution
  • Decisiveness
  • Eagerness to accept responsibility
  • Intelligence and action-orientated judgment
  • Need for achievement
  • Physical vitality and stamina
  • Self-confidence
  • Skill in dealing with people
  • Task competence
  • Trustworthiness
  • Understanding of followers and their needs

Isa, Meryem and Yusef…no wonder so few educators have the kahunas to refer to themselves as a “LEADer” – the “Man of Steel” himself would struggle to fit into those tights and cape!

And, YES…I did have to place that text onto that image very strategically!


Fast forward 20 years (to 2009), the Masterclass boffins invited someone very different to speak to them. This speaker gave a much shorter definition of what matters in allthingsleadership:

  • Trust
  • Talent development
  • Openness and honesty
  • Learning from experience

That speaker was an EDUcatorSir Roy Anderson (ex-Rector of Imperial College, London)…

These were the two definitions I pulled off my harddrive…as part of this impromptu session.

I split the group in half and told each group to decide (in terms of the “definition” I had given them) whether they were LEADers – or not.

Do I need to tell you…really…what happened?


Many of us today still operate with “Superman model” of LEADership – and we forget that even little children can be “World Changers”.

The “Superman model” is also still very much based on “formal roles” – and this is one of the reasons we are often so disappointed with our “educational managers”. How does that old phrase go – “not all LEADers are managers, not all managers are LEADers”!



As Max Weber suggested, more of us need to start focussing on “acts of LEADership” (rather than “LEADers”). When we do this, we start to see that it is not only senior administrators that “do” LEADership

When we look at what LEADership is (through the eyes of an educator – like Sir Roy)…we begin to see that all TEACHers can (and should) be LEADers LEADers that are frequently only limited by what they believe about themselves…and what they do with those beliefs when they are with their own future “World Changers”.



So, here’s the deal – this is a set of thunks of what matters in Sir Roy’s definition of LEADership


If we look at this definition, we start to see a number of cornerstones



As another great man said (I have forgiven him for his unLEARNing rubbish):

Educators (along with nurses) are perhaps some of the most important “servant LEADers” we have on the planet – and we don’t have to “work at” as hard as those in other sectors. The whole purpose of education should be to help create an army of “World Changers” – as Greenleaf noted:

So, tell me again why we focus so much on “standarised tests”?



One of my favourite “World Changers” can be seen in the movie  Pay It Forward (yes, I do love the “boy genius” and old Kevin and the lovely Helen – and, remember that Kevin Spacy played a TEACHer in this movie).

If a “kid” can work out that he can touch 4,782,969 people in two weeks, and school managers can’t – we have got something seriously wrong in the “adult world”.

Caring for others is perhaps the best way to breathe life in to the role of the servant LEADer . This really comes out in the work of Mayeroff (1971) – who  defined care as “helping another grow and actualize himself…a process, a way of relating to someone” that involves development by

  • “being with” another
  • “being for” another
  • “being there” for another

All great TEACHers “get” this – so do many “World Changers”…



I think it was Albert Schweitzer that said, “The first step in the evolution of ethics is a sense of solidarity with other human beings”.

Sometimes, especially in the world of business, we forget this:

Peter Koestenbaum hit a home run when he said true LEADership:

…is empathy, which means service. It’s an attitude of love and compassion, of caring, of including people, of valuing them, of hearing them, or suffering when they suffer, and of being proud when they succeed.

Education is about “moral purpose” – a notion best explained by Micheal Fullan:

Moral purpose of the highest order is having a system where “all students learn, the gap between high and low performance becomes greatly reduced, and what people learn enables them to be successful citizens and workers in a morally based knowledge society” (The Moral Imperative of School Leadership, 2003)

It’s often said that LEARNers pick up more from who their TEACHers “are” – than what they “TEACH”. Ethics matter!



 We all know that trends may come and fads will go but:

Covey talks about “true north” principles in his 7 Habits:

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First
  • Habit 4: Think Win/Win
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand
  • Habit 6: Synergize
  • Habit 7: Sharpening the Saw

Then he gave us “Habit 8”:

  • Habit 8: Find Your Voice & Inspire Others to Find Theirs

I have not met many people who go wrong when they “live” these types of principles. And, that last one is how we co-create more “World Changers”!


LEARNing (the final, but most important, cornerstone)

Did you forget the name of the blog you are reading? Sir Roy didn’t forget it…the best LEADers don’t either.



Leadership…QUOTES that tip the balance!

In Educational Leadership on 05/10/2011 at 2:49 pm

I remembered (this morning) that I had not done a “quotes” post for ages.

I also remembered that I sign up to the Linked-In group called Linked2LEADERSHIP – and that they have had a long-standing discussion on members “favourite” motivational leadership quotes. This discussion has been going on for ages – but I had not taken a closer look at what it had “produced”.

Wow – they had been busy! Pages and pages… 


I tried to choose a few of my own favourites – there were some good proverbs:

Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare. Japanese Proverb

If you think you’re leading and no one is following you, then you’re only taking a walk. Afghan Proverb


There were also some that we might call “classics”: 

Be the change you wish to see in the world. Ghandi 

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. Mother Teresa 

Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere. Albert Einstein

No man is fit to command another who cannot command himself. William Penn 

Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. Albert Camus

The leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselvesLao Tzu 

The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it. Theodore Roosevelt


Or, “updated” classics:

If you want to change the world, take a look in the mirror and make that change. Michael Jackson

Risk more than others think is safe
Care more than others think is wise
Dream more than others think is practical
Expect more than others think is possible

 All Leaders are Readers!

There were quite a few from the “world of business”:

It’s amazing what you can achieve when you don’t care who gets the credit. Henry Ford.

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish! Steve Jobs

If you give people the tools, and they use their natural ability and their curosity, they will develop things in ways that will suprise you very much beyond what you might have expected. Bill Gates 

Leadership is about creating a domain in which human beings continually deepen their understanding of reality and become more capable of participating in the unfolding of the world. Ultimately leadership is about creating new realities….Leaders are designers, stewards and teachers. They are responsible for building organizations where people continually expand their capabilities to understand complexity, clarify vision and improve shared mental models – that is, they are responsible for learning. Peter Senge


There were others that were, put simply, just very powerful:

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant. Max de Pree

A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent. Douglas McArthur 

It is never too late to be the leader you might have been. Jack Needham

You are on more secure ground helping him achieve what he values rather than telling him what to value. Jeanne Laskas

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, then there will be true peace. Sri Chin Moi Gosh


However, as some members of the group had begun to note – there were very few by women, for women, on women:

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. Jane Howard 

Change is not a process for the impatient. Barbara Reinhold 

Getting what you go after is success; but liking it while you are getting it is happiness.Bertha Damon

I have always grown from my problems and challenges, from the things that don’t work out, that’s when I’ve really learned. Carol Burnett 

I praise loudly, I blame softly. Catherine II of Russia 

Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely. Karen Kaiser Clark 

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. Maria Robinson 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. Marianne Williamson 

People won’t remember what you said or what you did. They will remember how you made them feel. Maya Angelou 
Sometimes it is the inquiry itself that offers the answer. Jacqueline Westhead 

The leadership instinct you are born with is the backbone. You develop the funny bone and the wishbone that go with it. Elaine Agather 

The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. Anna Quindlen 

Those who are lifting the world upward and onward are those who encourage more than criticize. Elizabeth Harrison 

To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe. Marilyn Vos Savant 

What I am looking for is not out there, it is in me. Helen Keller 

When nothing is sure, everything is possible. Margaret Drabble 

Don’t be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality. If you can dream it, you can make it so. Belva Davis 

If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher. Pema Chodron 

If you are never scared, embarrassed, or hurt, it means you never take chances. Julia Soul 

In organizations, real power and energy is generated through relationships. The patterns of relationships and the capacities to form them are more important than tasks, functions, roles and positions. Margaret Wheatley 

If your happiness and your work aren’t the same thing, you’re doing the wrong work, or working the wrong way. Change. Martha Beck 

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain. Maya Angelou


Now, I’m not sure about you – but the women seem to send a slightly different message. Perhaps, we should listen to their advice!

But, I’ll finish with one from a man…and his CASTLE!


My thanks to Barbara Novak-Rowe for starting the discussion, all the people who shared their thoughts – and to Marie Bankuti for tipping the scales back towards women!


In Educational Leadership, Our Schools, Our Universities on 25/09/2011 at 10:54 am

I guess I really have to get round to writing some of these “Dummies-Guides” I have been talking about – but somehow I think that Wiley & Sons might not think I am their “type” of author…

Till then…another DVD Box-Set!

I’m actually doing these as a way to summarise a lot of the posts we have been putting up over the months (mostly for new “bloggers” – guys, just hit the “red links” below to take you too the posts)…

This time its allthingsleadership!


Sadly, many of our understandings of allthingsleadership are rooted in images of war, sufferring and conflict…and of the military “heroes” that step up and save the day. This is common in nearly culture on the planet!


The business community are especially “fond” of this conceptualisation:


Hey, if the business community can do it – so can we:


Mmmmmm…doesn’t quite “fit”, does it?


It’s probably a good idea to ask ourselves a few questions about where we are with Educational Leadership right now. In this post we draw on the ideas of Tom Peters (the “man” – in the business community) – and tweak them a “little” to better suit the way we “do business” in education:

One our very earliest post was very well received – seems it touched a nerve for many of you. It raises the issue of what type of educational leadership we need for the 21st Century – and the type of organisational culture we need to be co-creating for the future:

We also did this one in Turkish, too:


Building on this…we thought we’d take a quick look at some of the principles that should perhaps be guiding how we think and act as educational leaders – and what perhaps our foundation capstones need to look like:

Again, in Turkish…for those of you that would prefer:

These posts also touch on the importance of “habits” – so how could we not do more on “Mr. 7 Habits” himself:


We also have a lot of educational-wannabesthose “using” education for purposes that are far removed from allthingslearning – we need to ask if we need these “leaders” at all;

And, what we can do when we confront people like this:


My love of TV shows also got the better of me and I looked at whether Tony Soprano could add anything to our knowledge base (turns out he can):


We’ve also tried to show the types of leadership Turkish educators are showing in our “Çay ve Simit Interview” series:


As well as examples of the leadership shown by their learners:

We’ll have more of these – coming to a DVD store near you soon!

The FIVE Corners of Educational Leadership

In Educational Leadership, Our Schools, Our Universities on 03/03/2011 at 10:21 pm

I want to share a little secret with you all – not many people know this.

As part of my first degree, I actually studied Turkish political and economic development – and, I have Prof. Dodd to thank for starting me on a road that led to the life I have today.

These studies led me to amass a great many facts and info-bytes that reside in the darker corners of my grey matter – and, I still wager that I could beat most adult Turkish citizens in a “TV quiz” on “Atatürk Devrimleri ya da Atatürk İnkılapları”.

Primary kids would probably “wipe the floor with me” – However…


Why is this important to a discussion on educational leadership?

In a recent management development session I was running, I asked the participants to write down the first thought that came into their minds when I said the word “leadership”.

Over 90% of replies used one word only – Atatürk.

Hardly surprising. He is the archetypal leader – he kicked out all the “unwanted tourists” who had overstayed their visas after WWI and initiated a series of reforms that reinvented the whole country. True leadership.

However, I was working with educational managers and I reminded them that our job was to lead “educators” and “learners” – not establish an organised national resistance movement against occupying forces (although – have you to been to Marmaris or Bodrum in the Summer, lately), rewrite Lausanne or even imagineer the creation of a representative democracy and parliamentary sovereignty.

This view of leadership – generals, conflicts, crisis, suffering and the “hero”, followers, victory – is common across many cultures.

These ideas were also imported from the “battlefield” to the “boardroom”in business (probably the reason we do not have many female “generals” in the world of business).

That works more often than not – this is why we teachers do not always do well in business.

The problem is that this model does not translate well into the “school” or “classroom”. Many have tried – and look where we are today.

Let’s get one thing clear, leadership in education is NOT about:

  • Being the boss
  • Holding onto territory or
  • Controlling people

It is about:

  • Caring for people and being a useful resource for them
  • Being “present” for people and being your best and most authentic self
  • Creating a place in which people can do good work and find meaning in that work

Atatürk knew this – and lived it!

Seriously, in education we need to look at educational leadership through a “new lens”. The kind of lens Audry proposed:

Leadership, like life, is largely a matter of paying attention (Autry, 2001)

This type of leadership has FIVE corners:

  • Service
  • Care
  • Principles
  • Ethics
  • and, …..(you have to wait for that one)

Let’s take these one by one.


SERVICE – as another great man said:

The simplest and shortest ethical precept is to be served as little as possible……and to serve others as much as possible (Tolstoy)

Greenleaf elaborates:

If a better society is to be built, one that is more just and more loving, one that provides greater creative opportunity for its people, then the most open course is to raise both the capacity to serve and the very performance as servant of existing major institutions by new regenerative forces operating within them (The Servant as Leader – 1970)


CARE – Mayeroff (1971) viewed care as:

“helping another grow and actualize himself, is a process, a way of relating to someone” that involves development by

  • “being with” another
  • “being for” another
  • “being there” for another

All great teachers “get” this – if their leaders do not, we have a major problem on our hands.

For me the notion of “care” was best expressed through the movie Pay It Forward (yes, I do love the “boy genius” and “old Kevin” and lovely Helen). If a “kid” can work out that he can touch 4,782,969 people in two weeks, and school leaders can’t – we have got something seriously wrong in the “adult world”.


ETHICS – education is about “moral purpose”. This was best expressed by Micheal Fullan:

Moral purpose of the highest order is having a system where “all students learn, the gap between high and low performance becomes greatly reduced, and what people learn enables them to be successful citizens and workers in a morally based knowledge society” (The Moral Imperative of School Leadership, 2003)

Further, as Albert Schweitzer noted, “The first step in the evolution of ethics is a sense of solidarity with other human beings”.

Not control, not ritualized game-playing and certainly not playing the blame game to “CYA”.

Koestenbaum brought this all together when he said “true leadership”:

…is empathy, which means service. It’s an attitude of love and compassion, of caring, of including people, of valuing them, of hearing them, or sufferring when they suffer, and of being proud when they succeed.

It is not:

The “forth corner” is:

PRINCIPLES – Trends may come and fads will go but:

There are three constants in life… change, choice and principles (Stephen Covey)

Covey talks about “true north” principles in his 7 Habits:

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First
  • Habit 4: Think Win/Win
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand
  • Habit 6: Synergize
  • Habit 7: Sharpening the Saw

Then he gave us “Habit 8”:

  • Habit 8: Find Your Voice & Inspire Others to Find Theirs

I have not met many people who go wrong when they “live” these types of principles.

OK – that’s FOUR CORNERS, Tony.

What’s the fifth? Wait a minute – how the bloody hell can you have a FIFTH CORNER? – Thinking outside the “square”…





LEARNING – Did you forget the name of the blog you are reading?

I had something really grand planned for this one – but Senge said it better:

Through learning we re-create ourselves. Through learning we become able to do something we were never able to do.


My eternal thanks to Prof. Dodd – for showing me how to read more than is humanly possible in 24 hours (and improving my “Mancunian grammar”) – and for helping me find my soul-mate on the other side of Europe!


Are YOU a Committed LEARNing Leader? PROVE IT!

In Educational Leadership, The Paradigm Debate on 24/02/2011 at 2:28 pm

Two CEOs walk into a bar and…


Sounds like the start of a very bad joke…but let’s run with it for a minute.

They sit down and, being worried about how their organisations are doing, they each have a question and decide to pick the brains of the other:

  • CEO #1: What should I do to dramatically increase the performance levels of my staff?
  • CEO #2: How can I dramatically increase my organisation’s ability to learn?

Both questions are quite straightforward but fundamentally different.

Both say a lot about the “mindset” and “values” of the respective CEO – and also the type of “culture” they are likely to create. The two CEOs also clearly have a very different “worldview” – and probably differ quite significantly on “what matters” in their organisations. They might also see their “purpose” and the purpose of the organisation in very different ways, as well.


Don’t get me wrong – the questions both CEOs are asking are “good”:

  • CEO #1 – is interested in “results”. No organisation can survive without these! In education, the results that relate to student learning are our “bottom line”.
  • CEO#2 – is also interested in results. However, she (bet you thought I would say “he”) also has a focus on learning – she has a focus on the learning of her people and sees this as the key to bigger and better results!


The problem is that many leaders have built up their stockpiles of values (and their mindset) in a largely “unconscious” way – and remain “blind” to what many of these values are and the impact they have on organisational culture.

Most of us appreciate the importance of leadership and “leaders” – in terms of how they can determine the level of success and effectiveness of an organisation. However, it’s important to remember that “leaders” do not directly influence that success or effectiveness. Instead, they exhibit behaviours and make decisions that indirectly “shape” how an organisation develops and its culture evolves – and, more importantly, whether “good people” stay or move onto greener pastures!

It is the people who “live” and “work” in the culture that have the biggest say on results.

If the values of most leaders are hidden away – or remain “invisible”, we are going to have a pretty hard time trying to figure out someone’s mindset.

Worse than that – how the hell are we going to try and improve something that we cannot even “see”!


There is a way!

Bob Haas, Chairman of Levi Strauss, has said that there are two essentials required of organisations that wish to be true to their purpose: “The first is the value of people; the second is the importance of values”.

One minute, one minute…let’s think about that for a minute (or two) and dig a little deeper.

People are “engineered” for learning – it’s what we “do” best. If organisations and CEOs believe that people are their most valuable “resource” – then, these CEOs and their organisations should also value the value of learning!


But…yes, you knew it was coming!

Experience has showed us that it is not enough for an organisation or a CEO to “pay lip-service” to the idea that its people are its most important asset or resource; it has to “walk its talk”. This has been evidenced by research into the most effective and elite organisations in the world: research that demonstrates a clear relationship between a culture that values people and how they learn and specific actions and reward systems that build both “community” and “capacity”.

Now, far be it from me to suggest that some CEOs may be acting  like “snakes in suits” (there is a book called just this – a great read BTW)………there are also a great many “well-meaning” CEOs…………..who just can’t see stuff! No fault of their own.


The Solution – CEOs need to GET CONSCIOUS and GET REAL!

The starting point is for CEOs to (really) have a good ‘ole think about “culture”. This is because (in a very basic sense) organisational culture is the “shadow of the leader”.

They could ask themselves a few questions:

  • What is the exact nature of my shadow?
  • How far does it reach?
  • Who does it touch – directly and indirectly?
  • What type of consequences does it lead to?
  • How do others “see” my shadow?
  • How do I know these things?

If the same CEO is “serious” about learning, a few other questions should be asked – and answered honestly:

  • What type of broader culture do I want to drive my organisation?
  • Does learning figure strongly in the vision I have for the culture of my organisation? Why/why not?
  • Do I really believe in the power of learning? Why/Why not?
  • Do I really believe that all people can learn? Why/Why not?
  • Am I clear how much I value learning?
  • What have I learned in the past 7 days?
  • What new concepts and ideas am I using today that I wasn’t using last month?
  • How do I improve and expand my own capacity for learning each and every day?
  • How well do my people currently learn? How do I know?
  • Do my people really understand what we mean when we talk about a “learning culture”?
  • What things are inhibiting the learning of my people?
  • What needs to change for me to create the conditions for improved and expanded learning in my people?
  • How do I know all these?

If the CEO really wanted to push the envelope – she’d also ask herself:

  • What is the “glue” that holds my organisation together?
  • What sort of relationships and social networks characterise a meaningful, productive organisational culture?
  • What shared meanings, values or habits “drive” my people?
  • What can I do to enhance the relationships and social networks my people use to “do business”?
  • How do I know? How do they know?


A FINAL NOTE: Of course, “leadership” is not something just for CEOs!

A lecturer, a teacher, and an academic team-leader walk into a bar…


[It’s quite difficult for me to thank everyone who contributed to this list of questions – I have “gathered” them over many years, from many people and even more books or articles. To mention a few – Terry O’Banion, Peter KoestenbaumEdgar Schein, Steven Bowman, Peter BlockMarcia Connor, and Ziya Selçuk. My special thanks also to John O’Dwyer – for reminding me to “get real” recently!]