Bad weather leaders are constructive, not positive!

February 5, 2016 0 comments

This Monday morning, I knew something bad had happened when, switching on my mobile, it did not stop ringing, announcing all sorts of messages frenetically arriving.

And the news was immensely sad: A client I admired and loved very dearly, had apparently decided to “draw the curtain”, aged only 44, leaving behind a shattered widow, an inconsolable young son and his whole team in shock. None of those who knew him understood… He was on top of his game, had been awarded the title of world’s best in his area, he was full of projects… and he left!

In spite of being a famed artist, having acquired a true “star” status, he had managed to remain extremely modest, always putting the team’s performance first. In a highly traditional industry, management wise, he had courageously supported and integrated the unusual leadership style we had recommended to ensure that his happier employees would make clients even more satisfied.

When the Chairman of the Board was interviewed by the media, I wondered: “How will he be positive under such dramatic circumstances and with the loss of the heart and soul of the business?” Well, simply, he wasn’t positive. The Chairman did far better: He decided to be constructive. In a short interview he managed to speak to the heart and logic of the people. After demonstrating empathy for the situation, he shared how he was personally affected (vulnerability and making it personal). The constructive part came when he explained that “the Chef” had chosen this team and that he wanted and expected the best talents to surround him. Well here they were to prove him right, in memoriam!

Simple, efficient and constructive: In times of storms, people do not need “positive leaders”. A positive leader will:

  • Deny the evidence and persist to depict things in optimistic terms
  • Gradually lose touch with the harshness of the situation their people are in and see their credibility vanish
  • Maintain them dependent of his capacity to be motivational and visionary

And this may suddenly turn against him.

A “constructive leader” will:

  • Acknowledge the evidence and describe it as factually as possible
  • Demonstrate empathy and a personal stake in the game
  • Provide their people with actionable levers, encouraging them, as quickly as possible, to regain control of their destiny

The team of “Le Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville de Crissier”, unanimously decided to honour their deceased leader’s sense of professionalism and delighted their clients as wonderfully as usual from Tuesday on…

And to us all, on top of our game, on our Leadership Journey, where Fall is just the other side of the Recovery coin, and in a tribute to Benoît, who leaves a strong legacy and will be celebrated for ever as a rare Master and outstanding human being, I would like to dedicate this amazing clip (already commented on this blog) of this graceful and fragile exercise by Miyoko Shida: No matter how hard she works, no matter how amazing her talent is, no matter how fantastic and unique the result of her work, it is so vulnerable that it depends on the weight of a simple feather. This simple feather is called our Deep Intent!

Enjoy your Leadership Journey, even if some days are sadder than others…


  • Engaging leaders take a stand!

    January 30, 2016 0 comments

    In this beginning of 2016, I have the opportunity to observe business leaders, in different places of the world, at the moment that they share their “State of the Nation” speech and their encouragements for the near future. Two categories emerge: Those who succeeded (like the one mentioned in my post last week) to engage their people and those who…

    Read the full article →

  • What will my “Leadership Legacy” be?

    January 21, 2016 0 comments

    I was recently invited to sit and watch a CEO talk. His mission was to prepare the engagement of some senior leaders in the company’s vision for the future. I was expecting some kind of well-polished speech, maybe a good video clip, but instead he asked: “What will be your legacy? What will you be proud to have left behind…

    Read the full article →

  • Stop trying to engage your people: Let them engage you!

    January 14, 2016 2 comments

    I could not dream of a better way to start my professional year, on January 4th, than by having an informal conversation in a Paris bar, with the CEO of one of our favourite clients. Talking about some of the details he would like to see change in his organization’s culture, he said: “When I see the amount of time…

    Read the full article →

  • The quality of our Relational Network is the strongest indicator of success, following a 75 year-long Harvard study.

    January 7, 2016 0 comments

    Looking for an inspiring topic which would help us with our New-Year’s resolutions, I fell on this very recent (November 2015) TED speech from Harvard Professor and psychiatrist Robert Waldinger. He is the 4th director of a 75 year-long study on adult development. During those years, the researchers tracked the lives of 724 men, of which 60 are still alive…

    Read the full article →

  • Next year, who will you chose: the scrapper or the silver spoon?

    December 11, 2015 4 comments

    A client asked me three years ago: “Do you know what makes your team very different?” I hesitated a bit as she continued: “You all obviously carry a heavy story on your shoulders and that makes you credible and different in my eyes!”. I remember leaving the meeting, proud for having gone after “atypical” people rather than exclusively invite the…

    Read the full article →

  • Purpose, connections and relationships are the three pillars of agile organizations

    December 5, 2015 7 comments

    I just finished touching base with Laurent Bonnier, Managing Partner of Strat-X, the company who is behind the Strategic Marketing simulations used by 90 of the top best MBA’s. Amongst the things that surprised him was the fact that, no matter which conference or lecture he recently attended (Strat-X has a strong academic background, having been founded by Prof. J.C.…

    Read the full article →

  • Relationships are pathways to the intelligence of the system

    November 28, 2015 0 comments

    For years, I have been looking for a client that would be brave enough to organize, in the context of one of their convention or seminar, a blind dinner in restaurant such as “Dans le Noir”in Paris, or “Blind Kuh” in Zurich. The purpose of taking your whole team there, would be to sit people who do not know each…

    Read the full article →

  • The view of a CEO on the VW scandal

    November 20, 2015 4 comments

    Looking back at last week’s post, it becomes clear that when fear and power distance replace trust and collaboration, a whole culture will dangerously shift from creative and performant to risk averse and compliance driven, from honest, challenging and transparent to deception and lies loaded. A lot has already been published on the VW scandal but a recent column written…

    Read the full article →

  • “In the routine performance of their duties as leaders and commanders, U.S. Army officers lie”

    November 13, 2015 2 comments

    On February 27th, CNN commented a recent publication by the War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, commissioned by exiting Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. Following the research, conducted by Leonard Wong, a research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute and retired Army officer, and behavioral sciences Professor Stephen Gerras, who held company and battalion command roles during his 25 years in…

    Read the full article →

  • Are you ready to shift from GPS to Waze leader?

    July 4, 2015 0 comments

    Disruption… Recently, Gerd Leonhard published a series of short (2’) clips on different and unusual aspects of this phenomenon (privacy failure, knowledge & learning, future of jobs, automation, offline as the new luxury). I encourage you to take a look at his site and watch the 6 of them. This is just the introduction. Disruption, like change, has become an…

    Read the full article →