Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Leadership: Passion In The Workplace – Why Does it Die?

Saturday, August 7th, 2010
It is 10.30 in the morning. Candidates are being interviewed. Later that day a candidate is selected for the role subject to reference checks. References are excellent. The successful candidate is strong in the areas required. The candidate’s passion for the organisation and for the role is very high.

Eighteen months later, despite passion for the organisation and the role, this employee resigns. What went Wrong? Let’s examine possible causes for the resignation. First, we must understand the meaning of passion.

What is passion?

Passion is strong emotion, strong enthusiasm for a thing, for doing, (The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary).  In the workplace, passion is being very enthusiastic about what you are doing.

However passion without self-control, discipline and determination results in failure. Why? Because in the workplace enthusiasm needs to be focused on meeting performance requirements on a day to day basis. And it is at this point that passion can deteriorate into job dissatisfaction and conflict.

Why does passion die?

I am often asked “What can leaders do to create passion in employees?”. This is the wrong question. The question should be “Why do employees lose their passion?”.

Just as a tooth ache can be caused by many things, there can be many causes for employees losing their passion – the passion they had when they were recruited. Some typical causes include:

  • Poor leadership processes
  • Lack of recognition for achievements
  • Unclear role requirements
  • Strange pay structures
  • Strange organisation structures and reporting lines
  • Workplace conflict

 These factors drain away the positive energy of employees. Eventually they have only sufficient energy to meet minimum performance requirements, or they resign and move on.

Leader’s attempts to repair the damage rarely succeed. It is too late. Organisation performance declines and employees are no longer a competitive advantage, instead, they become a millstone around the organisation’s neck.

© Dallas Burgess PeopleAdvantage Pty Limited 2010

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Leadership: The Connection between Self-Awareness and Effective Leadership

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Self-awareness is critical for effective leadership. Why is this so? What is the connection between self-awareness and effective leadership?

When a leader has poor self-awareness they project their own prejudices, beliefs, problem solving methods and emotional state into the situation or onto a direct report that has a problem. An unaware leader does not know they are doing this. They are part of the problem rather than the solution.

A leader with good self-awareness is able to (metaphorically speaking) draw a mental border around their own feelings and prejudices, step back and recognise that their ideas and feelings are not necessarily appropriate and may not help to solve the problem. The leader is then able to listen, understand the dimensions of the problem and assist in developing solutions. The leader is part of the solution rather than the problem.

Dallas Burgess

Organisation Psychologist

PeopleAdvantage Pty Limited

TF 61 2 99573511


© PeopleAdvantage Pty Limited 2009

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Leadership: It’s Time to Review the Role of Executive Intelligence Factors on Effective Leadership

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

The current global economic crisis demands a critical review of how executive potential is identified and what criteria is used to select, assess and evaluate the performance of executives.

In my letter to the editor published on 22 January 2009 in the Business Review Weekly (BRW) I suggested that:


“… While a high level of general intelligence is important, the crucial

issue is the nature of the intelligence. The difference at the chief

executive level is the ability to identify and understand complex and

ambiguous factors, rearrange and reinterpret those factors, and

construct a qualitatively different clear picture of what the future

looks like. This ability is a differentiator between average and

top-performing chief executives. This is the strategic planning

capability that boards need to look for …”


When testing people for executive roles scientifically researched and proven personality questionnaires will often place a heavy weighting on the intelligence factor. This reflects research that shows how both the quantum and nature of intelligence impacts on many of the remaining personality factors measured by these questionnaires. For example, a leader with a reasonable level of intelligence is likely to more easily accommodate feedback about his ineffective leadership style – although this is not always the case!.

Alternatively, a leader who is struggling to cope with the intellectual complexities of the role, and is stressed, may find it more difficult to understand then adopt new ways of influencing people.

Caution – Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!

I am not suggesting that organizations abandon the current emphasis on leadership styles and transformation leadership. However I am suggesting that there is currently a gap in the identification, selection, assessment and evaluation of executive performance. That gap is a failure to map intelligence related factors.


It is critical that organizations select, assess and evaluate executive performance holistically rather than simply focusing on leadership style. The context complexity at each organization level of work needs to be mapped. It is then necessary to identify the impact of the complexity of each level work on the psychological resources that executives require to effectively perform at that level. This methodology is also the key to identifying executive potential, particularly within the context of executive succession plans across the organization.

For more information on how to identify executive potential, select, assess and evaluate executive performance call me on 61 2 99573511.


Dallas Burgess

Organization Psychologist

& Executive Director


I spent a good deal of time reading and appreciating the resources shared purchase new information in a recent tech tips newsletter focused on the concept of the flipped classroom


Leadership Coaching: Why Some Executives Resist Change

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Some executives over-estimate their leadership effectiveness. Other executives are not ready to change.

 Over-Estimation of Leadership Effectiveness

 There is evidence that the more an executive over-estimates their leadership effectiveness compared to the ratings of others, the less likely they will improve with coaching. This is supported by the research literature.

 For example Atwater and Yammarino (1992) found a negative correlation between over-estimators and predicted leadership improvement outcomes. It is suggested that over-estimators use the information to reinforce their opinion that he or she is doing well and no changes are needed.

 In my coaching practice, using 360º Leadership Feedback, I have found that when a leader’s effectiveness self-rating is significantly higher compared to the ratings of others, there is often only minimal improvement made by the leader. In extreme cases the leader’s self-perception of their effectiveness will border on delusional thinking. As a result the leader will not see the need for change and is not motivated to change.

 Readiness for Change

 A second area of resistance centers on an executive’s readiness for change.

 The Transtheoretical Model of Change (Grant 2006) sets out the stages of change as:

 Precontemplation: The leader has no intention to change in the foreseeable future.

  1. Contemplation: The leader is considering making changes, but have not yet made any changes.
  2. Preparation: Increased commitment to change , intend to change in the near future, and are making small changes.
  3. Action: The leader is practicing new behaviours, but has only been doing for a short period of time, say six months.
  4. Maintenance: Consistent practice of new leadership behaviours for at least six months.
  5. Relaps: often there is a return to ineffective leadership behaviours.

 It is very important for the Leadership coach to quickly determine at what stage the leader is at in their development. If it is the Precontemplation stage then a key strategy for the coach is to broaden the leader’s self-awareness of their actual leadership effectiveness. My experience is that the best way to do this is through 360º leadership feedback. In my opinion the best researched, most valid and reliable instrument for this purpose is the Multi-Factor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ).

 It is a waste of time and money if the coach attempts to facilitate a leadership development program if the executive is not ready for change.


 A leader’s over-estimation of their leadership effectiveness, particularly if it is significant, will reduce or prevent the leader moving from Precontemplation through the stages to Maintenance. The challenge for the coach is to find ways to broaden the leader’s perception about their effectiveness.

 If you would like to read further about how leaders can deceive themselves click Organization Renewal Online Store (see Blogroll) and read the reviews for:

 “Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box: Published by The Arbinger Institute.”

 I also recommend:

 Evidence Based Coaching Handbook: Putting Best Practice to Work for Your Clients; See below for reference – This book can also be purchased through our Organization Renewal Online Store


 Does self-Other agreement On leadership Perceptions Moderate The Validity Of leadership and Performance Predictions?: Personnel Psychology 1992, 45; Leanne E. Atwater, Francis J. Yammarion.

 An Integrative Goal-Focused Approach to Executive Coaching in Evidence Based Coaching Handbook – Putting best Practices to Work for Your Clients; Dianne R.Stober and Anthony M. Grant; 2006; John Wiley & Sons.

Dallas Burgess


© PeopleAdvantage Pty Limited 2008  All rights Reserved.














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Leadership: Three Ways to be Effective

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

The first level of leadership is being able to lead yourself. This includes three important attributes:


1.      Self-awareness

2.      Confidence

3.      Stress management


1. Self-Awareness


This means being aware of how we feel and what we understand in relation to other people. For example, a staff member is very angry about their treatment  by a supplier. If we are not consciously aware of our own anger we may react over negatively to the supplier’s behaviour, and inadvertently give the staff member the message that it is appropriate to be aggressive with the supplier. If the supplier is critical to the business operations then our lack of awareness could have a major negative impact on the business.


Research suggests we have three responses to danger: Flight, fight or freeze. These reactions are built into the primitive parts of our brain. When we are threatened the primitive brain takes over – we stop thinking rationally.


Self-awareness helps us to engage our higher level cognitive brain and this helps us to ask ourselves important questions at the time of the interaction  – this also helps us slow down so we can make better judgments.


In their book “Crucial Conversations – Tools for talking when stakes are high” (2002) Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler provide the following advice:


 1. Focus on What We Really Want


Understand our motives:


{     Ask “what does my behaviour tell me about what my motives are?


{     Clarify what I really want. Ask: “What do I want for myself? For others? For the relationship?”


{     Then, ask: “How would I behave if this were what I really wanted?”


Leadership involves shaping perceptions of others. This means every conversation is important and impacts on the business. Self awareness is a significant factor in effective leadership.


2. Confidence


Confidence is important for motivation. Particularly during times of uncertainty. People rely on confident people for reassurance. Confidence is also a key ingredient for inspiring others to achieve.


We vary on the confidence dimension from low levels of confidence to overly high levels of confidence. Both extremes cause major problems in organisations. A low level of confidence can result in over reaction to threats, negativity, second guessing of the motives of others and lack of action for fear of making a mistake. It is also common for people with a low level of confidence to be overly detailed minded rather than focusing on the goal.


An overly high level of confidence can lead people to ignore critical negative feedback. These people can lead others in directions that are dysfunctional.  Over confident leaders are often impulsive, superficial and narcissistic. These temperaments and behaviours are destructive on organisations and people.


A balanced level of confidence is often associated with middling extraversion and introversion – at times the leader is working and communicating with people, at other times the leader is analysing, reflecting, creating and planning.


We can see how good self-awareness and a balanced level of confidence provides an effective foundation for good leadership behaviour.


3. Stress Level Management


How do you manage your energy?


Coping with change is energy draining. A considerable amount of research suggests that it is not the management of time but the management of energy that matters.  For example, how often have you said to yourself “I would like to do … but I’m just too tired”. You have the time but not the energy.


In their book “The Power of Full Engagement – managing energy, not time, is the key to performance, health and happiness” Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz discuss four categories of energy:

{            Physical Energy – fuelling the fire – eating well, physical exercise

{            Emotional Energy – access pleasant and positive emotions – activities that are enjoyable, fulfilling and affirming

{            Mental Energy – organise our lives and focus attention – realistic optimism

{            Spiritual Energy – deeply held values and purpose  – authenticity – fuels passion, perseverance and commitment

 Recovery and Renewal

Loehr and Schwartz suggest we stretch ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This is particularly the case when experiencing change. We must take time out regularly to recover and renew.



They also emphasise the importance of rituals. These are important for coping with change. We are creatures of habit. Much of our functioning is automatic. When we are experiencing change we cannot behave automatically and rely on habit. So change is energy draining because we have to think before we act.


It is important to create rituals that help us form new habits as quickly as possible. In this way we can again function automatically and save energy.


Life Balance 


Re-establishing or maybe establishing (for the first time) a balance in our life is important for helping us cope with stress.


Change Survival Tips


Here are a few tips for surviving stressful change leadership in organisations:

1.             Obtain information from those who really know what is going on.

2.             Find ways of managing stress and anxiety e.g., relaxation classes, discussing issues with peers, taking time out and ensure you ask the right people to get the information you need to feel more certain about what is happening.

3.             We need to see our reactions to change as normal, and are experienced to varying degrees by all of us.

4.             View change as a learning opportunity rather than as a loss situation.  We will be more relaxed about the changes taking place.

5.             Get involved in planning and implementation exercises associated with the change.


 Leadership is hard work. It is constant and unrelenting. Each conversation is critical. We must maintain our confidence and manage our stress levels – all the time.


Leadership is particularly stressful when it involves an intense level of Cross Functional, Multi-Discipline Leadership. See our article on Effective Cross Functional, Multi-Discipline Leadership will Power Performance – posted on

11th August 2008 – Category “Leadership”.





© PeopleAdvantage Pty Limited 2008  All Rights Reserved

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Leadership: Psychometric Assessment Cuts through the Glass Ceiling.

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Do women make better leaders than men? Do men make better leaders than women? Answer: Top performing women and men have the same executive competencies profile.


Some years ago we were engaged to assist a local government authority to select the Head Librarian. A male had been acting in the role for some time. The council advertised the role and short listed candidates. We administered a series of psychometric assessments specifically designed to identify executives with potential for high level performance. A female candidate emerged as the top candidate.


Nevertheless council felt a loyalty to the male who had been acting in the role for some time. However we presented the results of the psychometric assessments and strongly recommended that the lady be interviewed. Council did interview her and she was selected for the Head Librarian role.


If the results of the psychometric assessment were not available the best candidate, in this case a women, would not have been selected.


Our experience demonstrates that top performing female and male executives have the same psychological profiles. Our experience also highlights that one of the best ways of eliminating discrimination is to utilise appropriately designed psychometric assessment tools – particularly for executive level roles.


High quality executive talent is in short supply. Ensure your organisation has the best psychometric tools available to both identify potential and develop your people.


For more information see the Leadership category Identifying Executive Leadership Potential using Organisation Levels of Executive Work and Psychometric Testing” posted on 19/8/08 (8/19/08).


Copyright 2008 PeopleAdvantage Pty Limted

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Identifying Executive Leadership Potential using Organisation Levels of Executive Work and Psychometric Testing

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

“Capacity to forecast is limited by the expectation that in five years things will be the same as now only different”


Identifying executive leadership potential is about building capability for the range of anticipated needs and having the flexibility to respond to the unexpected.


There is an extensive literature on leadership capabilities, particularly behaviourally based leadership. This is generally centred around self awareness, listening skills and inspiring others. However there is far less information about how to identify potential executive leaders and what types of roles they will need to perform over a three to five years and longer time spans.


The key to identifying executive leadership potential is to apply the concept of organisation levels of executive work. To do this it is necessary to understand how executive work increases in complexity as the context within which the executive must perform increases in complexity. In broad terms it is about understanding the differences between supervision, middle management functioning and general management functioning.


How to do this


Criteria are developed to evaluate individual managers in terms of their current effectiveness level and their future effectiveness level expressed in estimated time frames eg, within 12 months, one to two years, three to five years.


An extract of the Management Levels Development Potential Assessment Criteria is provided below. The extract contains two organisation levels of work for line management. These levels relate to Operations Manager and General Manager Operations roles.


The key issue is that the Development Potential Criteria are developed consistent with standard organisation levels of work. If this approach is adopted the results of evaluations can provide a realistic indicator of the manager’s current level of effectiveness and future level of effectiveness eg, current level of effectiveness may be evaluated as middle management however there may be indicators that the manager is capable of effectively functioning at the general management level within five years.


Management Levels – Development Potential Assessment Criteria (Extract)


Effectiveness Criteria

Level 1 (Operations Manager)

Level 2 (General Manager Operations)


Business Knowledge Scope



Detailed understanding of;  the manufacturing plant’s role and its relationship with other areas in the company. 


Is able:  to coordinate with other areas and activities of the company.

National understanding of:  the company ‘s major business sectors;  industry and major competitors.


Is able:  to develop national business strategies;  to monitor the operations of competitors.

Management Planning Effectiveness

Is able:  to develop annual plans;  to generate alternative plans;  to review annual planning processes and methodologies;  to Identify alternatives;  to recommend and/or implement changes. 

Is able;  to develop five year national operation plans;  to develop alternative five year plans;  to review and recommend changes to the five year planning process.


Is able:  to lead up to 300 people through a number of direct supervisors;  to ensure output meets deadlines and quality requirements;  to guide, motivate, coach and counsel supervisory staff;  to conduct performance appraisals, train and  develop supervisors;  to improve supervisors responsiveness to change.  

Is able:  to lead a group of Operations Managers;  to manage the national integration of the major operations functions;  to ensure the operations function performs consistent with the business strategy;  to ensure the appropriate development of Operations Managers.

Judgement & Decision Making

Is able:  to judge and decide based on learned experience over a number of years;  to generate alternative solutions and related consequences to complex situations;  to exercise judgement to choose the optimal solution;  to develop new approaches and methodologies to typical management issues.

Is able:  to identify major national operations issues and their impact on the business;  to develop alternative solutions and related consequences;  to generate innovative solutions based on an understanding of the interrelationships between issues and solutions;  to identify and recommend alternative national operation plans and understand their consequences on overall business strategy.



©  PeopleAdvantage Pty Limited 2008  All Rights Reserved



Psychometric Testing For Executive Leadership Potential

In conjunction with the use of Development Potential Assessment Criteria it is essential to ensure that managers selected for leadership development possess essential general management characteristics. If a manager does not possess these characteristics it is unlikely he/she will effectively perform beyond the middle management level.  Moreover, there may already be managers in middle management roles that actually only function at the specialist level i.e. Technical Professional level.


There is an enormous amount of material in the form of books, articles and training programmes espousing the characteristics of good leadership.  Moreover, there are a large number of psychometric tests designed to measure many of these characteristics. 


Unfortunately, much of this material, including psychometric testing, is aimed at the team leadership, supervisory, middle management level rather than at the general management, senior executive/Chief Executive Officer level. 


General Management Capability


Notwithstanding the preceding comments there are psychometric assessment processes that effectively test for general management capability and can assist in identifying executive leadership potential.  The characteristics identified by these assessment processes include:


Social Role Skills;


{     Strong self-confidence

{     Balanced extroversion, introversion

{     Spontaneous and not overly reserved


Reaction to pressure;


{     Initiative

{     High level of general drive

{     Positive response to setbacks

{     Balanced enthusiasm for life




{     Planning and organising in an integrated manner

{     Intuition and originality

{     Good judgement

{     Conceptual ability

{     Able to think for oneself


Some psychological characteristics which lead to failure at the general management level include:


{     Narcissism

{     Psychopathy

{     Paranoia

{     Obsessive-compulsive

{     Excessive introversion or extroversion



This brief article outlines a methodology for identifying Executive Leadership Potential. Our experience suggests that this methodology effectively identifies high potential executive leadership people. Is also cost effective.



Dallas Burgess



© Organisation Renewal Pty Limited 2008 All Rights Reserved

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Effective Cross Functional, Multi-Discipline Leadership will Power Performance

Monday, August 11th, 2008



Effective cross functional, multi-discipline leadership is the ability to effectively influence others across diverse functions in the organisation.


Competitive advantages flow from harnessing complex lateral interdependencies particularly in the areas of:


·        Executing strategy


·        Sharing the meaning of the mission


·        Ensuring values are understood and applied.


Leading across the organisation is more complex than vertical leadership. As a result managers must be lateral thinkers – unorthodox thinking to solve problems. This is critical for implementing strategy and leading complex change. 



Case Study – Leadership Development Program for a Non-Government Not-For-Profit Organisation


Key Challenge


This is a complex people intensive organisation in the disability sector. The key challenge is to cost effectively deliver multiple, diverse services. This requires effective leadership of diverse, interdependent complex functions across the organisation and within key service delivery groups. As a result effective middle management leadership is critical to achieving objectives. Recognition of this resulted in the Leadership Development Program (LDP) for middle managers.


The Task


The LDP involved 25 middle managers representing the full range of functions and service delivery programs. A key feature was 360º Leadership Feedback. Whilst ensuring confidentiality and ethical practice the program included:


Feedback:                  360º leadership assessments to identify strengths and areas for development. Individual feedback provided to the manager and their senior manager. Senior managers provided with an organisation overview of middle management Leadership strengths and areas for development.


Training:                    Two day Leadership development workshop including development of Leadership Development Plans


Coaching:                  Individual coaching for managers




Middle managers reported significant insights into their strengths, current leadership styles and areas for development. Their senior managers reported significant improvements in the effectiveness of their middle management team in dealing with the myriad of complex issues that inevitably arise when providing multi-discipline critical care to clients.


Middle managers are now alumni and provide leadership support to each other.


An effective strategy implementation culture at the middle management level now exists.





Lateral Leadership is critical for powerful execution of strategy and performance. Chief Executive Officers cannot neglect this factor and must continually review and enhance cross functional, multi-discipline leadership processes.



Dallas Burgess



© Copyright Organisation Renewal Pty Limited 2008 




























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