Leadership and transformation: It’s not what you think

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BALTIMORE TRAIN STATION — Harvard Business Review has a cover story about Apple founder Steve Jobs.


The title is not capitalised like that, but it might as well be.  It screams from the news-stand. And maybe some people will part with $25 to buy a copy.

Unfortunately the article fails where almost everything else I have read on leadership does as well: it’s too specific and not useful enough.

The leadership lessons or Mr Jobs go roughly like this:
1. Focus
2. Simplicity

And then, remarkably, there are 12 more lessons that follow that.


Fourteen in total.

I have always said — having worked through university as a tennis instructor — that the moment you ask someone to do more that one or two things they couldn’t hit anything.

John P. Kotter in many other HBR articles insists that leaders focus on one or two things.

And then there are some of the other leadership gurus who say they’ve boiled it down to 4 things (plus 2 more)… or 5.  There are definitely only 8 says another.

One day I will make a list.  I can say for sure though that in HBR’s 10 “must read” articles on leadership there are no less than 61 things that great leaders must do.

Is it any wonder consultants and business researchers have a bad name!?


As I head into another week delivering low-key leadership training for one of the world’s biggest companies, I remain convinced of one thing.

That’s ONE thing.

There are only a few things that leaders need to know how to do.  One of them you’re going to be good at — even really good at.  One of them you’ll be… okay.  You can do it.  But you may not like it, or you may be less good at it.

And one thing you’re probably going to be quite bad at.

But that’s okay too.  You can learn.

Yes you can.  You can learn to make up the difference.  It’s not magic.  It’s just practice and learning.

We’d be happy to talk to you about it.

We’ve been doing it for many years.  For thousands of executives.  You’d recognise almost all the company names.  (It might even include your business!)

Just don’t try all 14 of Steve’s “real leadership lessons”. Life’s too short.


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