How do you define leadership?

The Leadership Map story so far...

In 2001, I was heading up a change programme in the Inland Revenue as it was then called (before it became HMRC). The programme was called Core Purpose, and it was designed to engage every person in the Inland Revenue (all 86,500) in local meetings across the country to understand what the core purpose of the business was, and how it would translate into customer excellence. These engaging workshops were going well, or so I thought!

Three months into the programme I was attending the monthly Board meeting where I was due to give my update, and before I could get to my feet, the Chairman, Sir Nicholas Montagu, announced that we had a problem. His observation was that the programme was ‘stuck’ at middle management level. They were not owning the programme and were therefore not engaged with it.

With a colleague of mine we interviewed 30 middle managers and asked them the question ‘How are you judged as a leader?’ Their response was fascinating and alarming in equal measure. It ranged from a blank stare, to a number of objectives and targets to simply ‘my boss decides that’. Here we had an organisation with well-educated people, running teams of people with big budgets who had no common understanding of what leadership is. Over the coming years I was to find out that this was not uncommon. We are trained in all sorts of practical management programmes, but not in what leadership is.

My team and I created a programme for over 500 managers in the Inland Revenue that used a brilliant leadership framework from The Leadership Challenge, by Kouzes and Posner. It has five areas that they believe make up leadership, which are: Inspire a Shared Vision, Model the Way (values), Challenge the Process, Encourage the Heart and Enable others to Act. Following the successful implementation of the programme the problem was unblocked and this critical group started leading. They now had clarity and alignment about what it meant to be a leader. They had to inspire their people about the future of the business, live and breathe their values, challenge and improve the way things were done, motivate and engage their teams and develop them to fulfil their potential.

"You seem to spend a lot of energy on the question of how to be successful. But that is the wrong question." He paused, then like the Zen master thwacking the table with a bamboo stick: "The question is: how to be useful!" A great teacher can change your life in thirty seconds.

The Leadership Map was born

Over the next ten or so years I developed my thinking about this framework and gradually added some other areas, that for me, completed the map of what leaders needed: The Leadership Map. In 2012, I started to use this map with the CEOs and Directors I was working with to establish what was in place in their businesses, what was working and what was missing. Then, in 2018, I launched a series of leadership workshops across the UK called ‘The Leadership Map’. Two and a half years later I am still delivering these workshops to over 250 CEOs and Directors every year. As leadership behemoth Peter Drucker might have said, “I am being useful.” In that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to win three awards for my programme.

From the programme has sprung a book of the same name, which will be published in May 2021. Writing the book has allowed me to indulge my passion and fascination with leading and leaders. I’ve packed it full of stories like the one above, alongside tools, techniques and examples of great practice in each of the twelve areas that now make up the full leadership map.

Strategic Decision Filters

1. Purpose

2. Vision

3. Values

4. Strategy

People & Teams

5. Status Quo

6. Dream Teams

7. Engage the Emotions

8. Show Grit

Strategy Execution

9. Structure

10. Strategic Priorities

11. Measuring Success

12. Meeting Rythym

This success has now led me to create my first open programme and in January 2021 I will working with the first cadre of ‘aspiring leaders’ to take them through a two-year programme covering every element in detail and showing them how to adopt these practices back in their businesses.

If you’d like to apply for the programme, please do get in touch. You can also pre-order the book at Amazon.

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