Change of Direction

Returning to my passion

Over the past year I have been posting blogs on internet marketing as this had interested me for some time and I thought that I would give it a whirl. However, I now recognise that it has taken me away from my passion of writing about Enabling Leadership.

There are an increasing number of employees who are disenchanted with organisations that still operate the command/control type of management. Although there may be some types of organisation that need things to be done in an agreed specific manner and want employees to consistently deliver what is wanted, there are more that operate in a dynamic marketplace. This requires a greater degree of innovation and flexibility that is coupled with developing the skills necessary to keep ahead of the competition.

Enabling Leadership

I have noted that much has changed in the field of leadership since I first published my book entitled Enabling Leadership. There are more authors writing about styles of leadership that are about consensus, participation, empowerment and servant leadership. It has been very encouraging to see the move away from the authoritarian styles which were probably more suited to the time of the industrial revolution. However, with a better educated labour force able to approach their work in an intelligent and thoughtful manner there is less need for close supervision.

It has been interesting to observe that each new generation tends to be labeled in ways that instantly stereotype them often in quite dramatically positive and negative terms. The reality is that every generation produces a wide range of people with very different style. The one constant through the generations if the increasing access to appropriate education and the promotion of the notion that the more you acquire the better your career progress would be. Unfortunately, associated with acquisition of higher education credentials was the increase in competition in the workplace and secondly being lumbered with significant student loans. Faced with both these hurdles many graduates have become disillusioned and frustrated at the difficulty they encountered trying to find a position relative to their qualifications.

Is pursuing higher education worth the effort?

I have no doubt that society benefits from investing in education of its citizens, however, the issue is whether the current education industry is meeting the need in an effective manner. The answer from many graduates of different sources of education and training would suggest that the offering is too traditional and somewhat out of date compared with what working in the current world needs. Part of the problem is the reluctance of the educational establishment to embrace new initiative that move learning from mass to individual. For many of the suppliers of education and training is is much more cost effective to gather large numbers of students in a lecture theater that seek ways to deliver specific learning to each individual.

There is a case to be made for the delivery of information to both large and smaller groups where it is about establishing a foundation of knowledge or skill. However, there is still the tendency to fill a lot of the information with out-of-date padding that has little relevance to the present world of work. There is evidence to show that some of the better suppliers have developed ways to deliver learning using the best of internet technologies through the use of computers and tablets. Being able to learn at your own pace has been a boon to many students as it enabled then to fit the deliver to suit their individual learning preferences.

Learning preferences and self-managing

In my next blog I will explore the concept of learning preferences coupled with the importance of encouraging self-managing practices. If you found this blog interesting or would like to comment send an email to


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Enabling Leadership

My Leadership Mission

I have a personal mission to explore the most effective ways of assisting people to become enabling leaders in their chosen field of service/contribution. There are so many very capable people in all types of organisation who have the talent and ability to be truly effective leaders. However, and unfortunately, many organisations appear unable to develop these same people to become leaders that their colleagues would be proud to work with.

I have started a blog called to share my thoughts and ideas on how to become a self or enabling leader. My aim is to explore the practical ways that most people can take to develop their leadership skills without feeling the need to fit into a particular leadership model. This is simply due to the fact that we are all different in many ways and this makes it impossible for a “one size fits all” approach to leadership. Therefore my way of thinking about leadership is based on a very clear appreciation that effective leadership is critical in today’s rapidly changing business world and that there is a need for everyone to be a leader.

No one has all the Answers

The level of complexity that most of us experience in organisations of different sizes makes it impossible for any one leader to have all the knowledge and experience to know what to do most of the time to enable their organisations to be truly effective. This is simply due to the fact that the way most organisations are structured in compartment or silos adds to the complexity as each silo has its own culture, rules of engagement, mission, and general modus operandi. In many instances there is more energy expended defending a silo territory than is invested in fighting the competition in order to improve the organisations ability to be measurably competitive and profitable. Therefore to expect the CEO or any other senior executive to clearly know what is the best way forward for the organisation is usually based on the misconception of the person’s omnipotence.

If no one has the knowledge and experience then how do organisations obtain the focus and direction needed to achieve the level of productivity necessary to by competitive. The answer lies in the collective knowledge and experience of all those who are employed in the organisation. The leadership challenge today is to find ways to tap into the collective capability to enable clarity to be achieved about what the organisation needs to be doing to obtain the level of performance needed to compete in a highly competitive business and commercial world. This is where every person needs to be ready to provide leadership when required as the time will certainly arise when their particular leadership contribution will be needed.

Issues viewed from Different Perspectives

It is enlightening to compare the view the directors have of their business with those engaged in different parts of the business from operations across to those at the customer interface. The issues considered by each group tend naturally to be quite different due to the degree of responsibility and accountability. However, my real concern is that decisions are being made by the directors that are frequently based on flawed information that could easily be clarified by simply asking the people who know intimately the ins and outs of the issue under review. Yet this does not often happen as the decision makers believe that they know what is best and proceed from this generally false premise.

To obtain a clear picture of any issue now requires it to be viewed from a number of different perspectives. The benefit of a form of triangulation is that the shape of the issue tends to firm up as different parts of information and insight is uncovered through dialogue with those actively involved in the issue. In many instances one right answer or solution is sought when in fact several options should be generated from which one that appears to offer a sound solution can be selected. If for some reason this does not work the other options are still available and with the information about what did or did not work with the first option a new strategy can be created.

Valuing every Contribution

An effective leader recognises and demonstrates the fact that they value contributions from anyone willing to contribute thoughts, opinions, and ideas on an issue. The benefit from this way of working with others comes from the fact that many really useful and innovative ideas have been suggested by people who normally would not be expected to be creative. When a person feels respected for the contribution they make they also feel valued and this builds their confidence to continue to promote their ideas. This process is the basis of enabling leadership in terms of creating an environment in which everyone’s contribution is encouraged and respected without it being judged in an inappropriate manner as this is what usually tends to stifle and demotivated those who could truly add value…

It is a pity that organisations based on the hierarchy are usually inept at growing their people to encourage them to be willing and open with their comments and contributions. You soon learn to know where your place is in the pecking order and that it is career limiting to challenge or confront management. The result is usually a significant level of mediocrity is achieved when the opposite is very possible in that high performance is readily available when enabling leadership is actively practiced, even in hierarchies!!!

Enabling Leadership Journey

I have produced a number of blogs in to set out what I believe will be an effective way to become an enabling leader for the future. I have also provided insights on how many traditional organisations and managers consciously or unconsciously change you from being an unique creative person to becoming a corporate commodity. My goal is to firstly alert you to the dangers and secondly to provide you with ways to avoid the syndrome and become an enabling leader. Enabling leadership is a journey that is ongoing with frequent stops to review and reflect on progress. I will provide ideas and tools in this blog to help you on the journey.

Tom Jaap

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