May 2011

The developmental digest for emerging leader/managers devoted to growth and excellence

May 2011

Coming Soon.


Section 1 - Topical Topics

Leadership and Awareness

A Common Question . . .

It has to be the most frequently-asked question among those who discover that I’m focused on helping aspiring and emerging leaders – "How would I know that I’ve got real leadership potential?”

Since many, if not most people in business tend to be extraverted, as opposed to being introverted, they naturally assume that there’s some criteria independent of themselves that’s used to gauge their suitability for the role. When they learn I’m a behavioural scientist, their next assumption is that it likely involves psychometric profiling.

This is logical when you consider the facts. There have been millions of leaders through history and across the spectrum of human activity. Surely some one somewhere has been able to analyze the characteristics and traits of the better, more successful leaders and then distill this into some form of inventory. Aren’t great leaders readily recognized by the majority of other people? Their attributes should be described and quantified, right?

Some are incredulous when I tell them that there’s no specific profile for evaluating leadership ability. Certainly, there are common traits and, more importantly, inherent strengths that are engaged in leadership initiatives, but simple possession of these will not guarantee success. In short, there’s no identifiable, measurable template of individual attributes that will signify that anyone is, or could be a leader.

Surprisingly, the introverts among us have less difficulty with the question or the typical responses. They tend to look within themselves for guidance and quite often will construct suitable hypotheses for use as guidelines. By so doing, they are looking in the right place even though they may not be focusing on the right evidence. It is not leadership that they should study, but rather their ‘self’.

Some Form of Intelligence . . .

There’s been a lot of debate over the past ten years or more about the role of intelligence in business success. It’s reasonable to assume that you need a certain level of intelligence to master the complexities of creating value but is it also reasonable to assert that this quality has unlimited and infinite influence? Should the brightest and most intellectually accomplished among us be designated as our leaders?

The ‘gut’ response to this is definitely "No”! Many intellectuals are so narrow in their focus and so readily distracted by irrelevancies that they alienate those around them – consider the ‘absent-minded professor’. Others have intellectual capabilities in abundance but lack the basics in social skills so their impact is rejected out-of-hand.

In addition, there are many forms of intelligence – social, emotional, creative, computational, rational, etc.; I’d invite you to review the work of Howard Gardner on multiple intelligences. He does suggest that leaders need to excel in one form, that of ‘Interpersonal intelligence’, but even he does not suggest that this is ‘sine qua non’.

Surely, intelligence, specifically ‘interpersonal intelligence’ will contribute to leadership success but we need to look further. My recommendation is that we consider wisdom which I define as insight and situational awareness. One would not need to be super intelligent to be wise although such a quality or attribute could qualify one as possessing common sense. There’s more to it though - and it’s worth exploring.

The Role of Wisdom . . .

Is there a link between wisdom and interpersonal intelligence? It’s probable but wisdom isn’t confined to our interactions with others; it has to start at some point within our individual values and thought processes. Wisdom demonstrates a deeper understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations that allows us to make choices or act consistently for optimal results.

This emanates from our perspectives – the way we frame issues – and perceptions – the values we attach to our observations. It insinuates comprehension and acceptance of universal, perhaps absolute standards for evaluation so that our personal values are continuously tested, refined and improved. Clearly, it goes far beyond the interface we might have with another person.

This is heavy stuff though, very philosophical and some could argue that it’s even theosophical and well outside the bounds of business leadership. We need to be more pragmatic here, and to recognize that wisdom, for all its mystery, is just another tool for our mind to use in interpreting and reconciling the world around us.

So, if it’s a tool, what’s the focal material for our wisdom – our insight and situational awareness – to work on? If it’s not common or shared traits, characteristics and attributes, it has to be something deeper – our essential values.

The good news here is that we know where these reside and they are accessible to us, if we want to take the time and make the effort to examine them. It is self-insight and self-awareness that holds the answers to our question regarding our personal leadership potential

Frank’s Approach . . .

He was a superior salesman who suddenly found himself thrust into the role of Sales Manager. His team was made up of ten other supremely independent sales professionals in an intensely competitive market, most of whom held the belief that a new sales manager was the very last thing they needed. Having taken on the challenge though, Frank was determined that he’d be the very best manager the Company had ever known.

He asked me to recommend books, courses and other source materials and then to coach him as he merged into the role. My first action was to guide him through an assessment covering style, emotional intelligence, cognitive traits, acquired competencies and inherent strengths. He was impressed by the thoroughness of the exercise and immediately asked me if it proved that he had what was needed for the role.

I told him that it proved nothing; that was not its purpose. Instead what he was looking at was an inventory of his ‘tool bag’ for leadership and that he would now have the opportunity to select and apply the right tools for the challenges as they arose. His eyes glazed over. Obviously I’d given him too much information and insufficient intelligence to recognize the value of what he was looking at.

We reviewed his mandate as Sales Manager in the context of the organization’s objectives. He identified the areas where he would need to focus to get results and the changes he needed to effect. I then encouraged him to consider the best strategies to achieve those outcomes; he approached the job with enthusiasm and began to sketch out generic action plans at a prodigious rate.

At this point I stopped him and referred him back to the assessment we’d just completed. He’d ignored this intelligence completely, adopting instead more conventional strategies from the general domain. I used the analogy of building a patio deck and asked him why, if he had a full bag of specifically designed tools at hand, was he intending to use sticks and stones to do the job?

He began to evaluate the cognitive, acquired and inherent strengths he’d discovered in his assessment and to use them to build startling and innovative strategies to achieve his desired ends. He refined these basic strategies with his awareness of his current emotional perspectives and his preferred style of interaction with each of his new team members, and the results unfolded like clockwork!

Less than three months later, during a routine staff meeting with his team, he was informed by no less than three individuals that he was the best thing that had happened to them in a long while. As he recounted this to me, with considerable pride, he admitted to me that it had demanded no effort or strain on his part. "If I’d known it was this easy", he said, "I would have done it a long time ago!”

Celeste’s Approach . . .

Celeste was a shift supervisor in a call center and she was very good at what she did, selecting, training and monitoring operatives in her area. It was no surprise that she was chosen to be the new Call Center Manager when the job became available. However, she was less than confident in her new role and, very quickly, she began to feel the pressures in some unpalatable ways. Her family life suffered and her health deteriorated to the point that she wanted ‘out’!

She explained to me that she could not fathom what was going wrong; she loved the Company and what she did, and she knew her contributions were appreciated. So why couldn’t she sleep at night and why was she beginning to snap at people over minor issues?

I asked her to describe a typical day in her new job and then to compare and contrast it with the role she’d had before her promotion. It quickly emerged that she’d reset her self demands and expectations to a significantly higher level but had not yet changed her working practices to suit. Celeste was trapped in the spiral of trying to do more and more with the same or less resources; she was working harder and longer to stay in the same place and it wasn’t satisfying.

I took her back to the assessment she’d undertaken before she was promoted. Here again, she’d considered it to be a ‘proving’ exercise albeit one that had suggested some areas where she could make changes for future gain – when she had time. Of course, since her promotion, she’d never found time for ‘luxuries’ like self- improvement.

Celeste had become so externally / other focused, so responsive to the demands placed on her by others that she’d let go of managing herself; other people were doing this for her and they were running her ragged in the process. I encouraged her to re-examine her strengths and to trace them back to her values – what was really important to her.

At first she was reluctant to let go of the ‘here-and-now’ control that she was imposing but as her self insights grew and her self awareness emerged she quickly realized that much of what she was trying to do had little or no meaning, either for her or for the organization.

It didn’t take long. In a few weeks she was looking at the world and her work through clearer eyes; she is now relying on her newly found intuition to signal what is appropriate and what can be diverted or ignored. The stress has fallen away and the business of her life has quietened substantially. More importantly, she’s getting the kind of results she dreamed about and working less hours at the same time.

The Bottom Line . . .

Frank and Celeste are typical of many who find themselves in a leadership role and who initially fail to understand that it demands that you be true to yourself before you can ever be true to others. Your value as a leader requires that you help others by focusing the desire for change that’s resident in them, not in yourself, and that you then act as a facilitator of sustainable action to create that desired future.

This means that others will put in the effort to create the change, if you help them, because it is what they want. Your job is to contribute focus and facilitation to make their dreams a reality. You can best do this by giving them your real self; if you attempt to be other than what you truly are, they will not trust you, they will resist you and they’ll come to resent you.

Also, you must know yourself so that you can act from the conviction of your values; you need to be authentic. Others will build their own future and will not need to rely upon you and your contribution unless you impose it and make this mandatory; why would you want to do this? It would very likely limit your future options and contributions.

So, know yourself, be yourself, use your inherent and acquired strengths as well as your knowledge, skills and experience to build success and new leadership potential in the people around you. Share your real self with others – this is the greatest gift you can give them.

There’s no one else who can do what you are built to do as well as you can!

What are you waiting for?

I’d welcome your questions, comments and suggestions. We can all learn through dialogue and your viewpoints will undoubtedly gain more value when shared. Please contact me at

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Timely Insights

  • DBR Direct . . .
This is the Drake Business Review in email format and it focuses on aspects of the human capital needs of organizations as you might expect.  What you may not expect is that it carries some stimulating articles, short and to the point and well worth the effort to subscribe.
The present issue, compiled by Anne Cameron Smith, a very talented editor, is a great example. Take a look and consider adding this periodical to your essential reading list

  • Profit Path – Making Strategy Work . . .
Speaking of good sources of fresh thinking, here’s another to whet your whistle – Jim Stewart’s newsletter, now in its 22nd issue. A warning, Jim is demanding and will expect you to contribute your best thinking too – no free rides!
He is developing a great forum for strategic thinking on LinkedIn as well and will gently, yet firmly, provoke and prod you to share your ideas with other business leaders – for mutual benefit and gain of course.
See for yourself

  • Temptation at Work . . .  
Among the many distractions that keep office employees from their work, surfing the web is arguably the most irresistible time-waster of all. In order to deal with that problem, many companies either prohibit Internet use during working hours, or closely monitor employees' web activity. This means workers must wait until they get home to get their daily YouTube fix. But does forbidding this distraction actually increase productivity? 
This controversial motivational issue is debated in the HBS Working Knowledge paper of the same name just published in March. Check it out, especially if you believe you already know the true impact of this insidious activity.

  • Quotable Quotes . . .
"Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen." 
-- Michael Jordan

"The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is, that one often comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won't." -- Henry Ward Beecher

"Though I might travel afar, I will meet only what I carry with me, for every man is a mirror. We see only ourselves reflected in those around us. Their attitudes and actions are only a reflection of our own. The whole world and its condition has its counter parts within us all. Turn the gaze inward. Correct yourself and your world will change." -- Kirsten Zambucka

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Section 2 - Talk Back

Coach's Corner

A selection from frequently–asked questions

Dear Coach,

Many of the situations you address involve persons with whom there’s a formal reporting relationship. In my situation, I need to influence many people where I have no such relationship or leverage yet still I must get them to do things differently – as much for their sake more so than my own.

What strategies would work in these cases? How can you motivate others to change their behaviour when you have little knowledge and even less power over them?


We’re all challenged with this – influencing the actions and responses of others who could and should change their behaviours but, for reasons best known to themselves, choose not to do so. It’s not so much a question of ability but rather one of personal motivation, and sometimes they’re not motivated to change.

There’s a basic principle here – we cannot motivate others without their consent, in fact we likely don’t motivate them at all – they motivate themselves. Everyone is primarily stimulated by their own perspectives and perceptions – the way they choose to look at the world around them and by the deep-seated values that they append to whatever it is that they see.

All we can do is to create awareness, to draw their attention to what they might see and to raise and/or challenge the consequences that might affect them. Their thoughts and feelings are theirs alone and whatever these are will determine their resultant behaviours. If we’re aware of their perspectives and perceptions, we can help them through dialogue to realign and act upon those which are compatible with ours or more general interests. If we’re not familiar with them, this requires a different approach.

What many of us learn to do as children is to use power, authority, threats, intimidation and other coercive pressures to exert influence over others; but while these can be simple, they are also crude and dangerous. We learn quickly that we might get our way in a given situation but lose the relationship or longer-term advantage in doing so.

Compulsive or coercive tactics rarely work for long without destroying the relationship, building resistance and/or resentment. Sometimes these tactics are direct and sometimes they’re subtle, but the impact is the same! The problem is that such devices do give us a quick win and some small gratification, so we tend to repeat them especially when we’re in a hurry, pressured or stressed.

The use of power to influence others, in any form, is always problematic; the costs are usually high and often unpredictable so it’s best that we avoid their use as far as possible. Having said that, we’ve all learned that indirect or implied power can sustain leverage. However, once you’ve actually had to apply it, it loses much of its potency.

There’s a better way; using consequences. They come in two forms – ’natural’ and ‘imposed’. When natural consequences are tangible and material they can be used as extrinsic motivators, examples being financial incentives, earned opportunities, promotions, perquisites and the like. When they’re more emotional in their impact, we call them intrinsic motivators; satisfaction, pride-of-performance, hierarchical status and personal fulfillment are typical.

Imposed consequences – "I shall tell your father . . .” "You’ll leave me with no alternative but to . . . "  are statements of intended action when expected actions or responses do / do not follow. They’re frequently merged with the use of power, particularly that of coercive force, so they can sometimes backfire.

The challenge with both natural and imposed consequences is to link them to the reality of the other person(s), and this is not always easy.  If we recall, however, that others behaviour is the product of their thoughts and feelings, we can see how to achieve this. The trick is to have the other person develop awareness of the consequence in their own thought and to experience the attendant feelings on their own.

The stratagem is to use ‘questions of consequence’ – "If you persist in taking my assigned parking space, what options would you think I will have?” "If you continue to arrive late for meetings and we are obliged to wait for you, how would you imagine we might feel?” "If you continue to miss committed deadlines, how do you believe other volunteers might regard you?”

Nothing is as effective in changing my behaviour as the self realization that my actions may not be aligned with my self interests. It isn’t sufficient though that I arrive here using a purely rational approach; I will often need to consider the impact of my emotions in tandem. How many people know that it isn’t wise, socially acceptable and cost effective to smoke yet they persist? When their doctor tells them they have just months to live, or that special person deplores the habit, they can change in a heartbeat!

The combination of rational and emotional consequences is indeed powerful, even more so when it’s me that draws the conclusions. A few elegantly framed questions are all that’s required to change a behaviour or even a life!

I hope this helps.

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The Only True Leadership Is Values-Based Leadership

... by Harry M. Jansen Kraemer Jr.

My students told me time and again, "You should write a book!" Finally one of them handed me a transcript of my lectures that he had done and suggested I use it as a start.

As a clinical professor of management and strategy at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, I've been privileged to engage in many thoughtful discussions with my students about values-based leadership, and I saw that a book could take this crucial topic to a bigger and broader audience. And so I wrote From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership.

In the final analysis, writing the book was just the right thing to do. And that is what values-based leadership is all about.

As I tell my students, becoming the best kind of leader isn't about emulating a role model or a historic figure. Rather, your leadership must be rooted in who you are and what matters most to you. When you truly know yourself and what you stand for, it is much easier to know what to do in any situation. It always comes down to doing the right thing and doing the best you can.

That may sound simple, but it's hardly simplistic. Doing the right thing is a lifelong challenge for all of us. Fortunately, there are guiding principles that can help.

From Values to Action centers on what I call the four principles of values-based leadership. The first is self-reflection: You must have the ability to identify and reflect on what you stand for, what your values are, and what matters most to you. To be a values-based leader, you must be willing to look within yourself through regular self-reflection and strive for greater self-awareness. After all, if you aren't self-reflective, how can you truly know yourself? If you don't know yourself, how can you lead yourself? If you can't lead yourself, how can you lead others?

The second principle is balance, which means the ability to see situations from multiple perspectives and differing viewpoints to gain a much fuller understanding. Balance means that you consider all sides and opinions with an open mind.

The third principle is true self-confidence, accepting yourself as you are. You recognize your strengths and your weaknesses and strive for continuous improvement. With true self-confidence you know that there will always be people who are more gifted, accomplished, successful and so on than you, but you're OK with who you are.

The fourth principle is genuine humility. Never forget who you are or where you came from. Genuine humility keeps life in perspective, particularly as you experience success in your career. In addition, it helps you value each person you encounter and treat everyone respectfully.

The beauty of these four principles is that they can be applied by anyone, whether the president of a country, the chief executive of a company or the junior-most person in an organization. You don't have to--or want to--wait until you have hundreds of people reporting to you. You can always apply the principles of values-based leadership. It is never too early or too late to become a values-based leader.

I have relied on the principles of values-based leadership throughout my career, from the time I was a junior analyst in a cubicle at Baxter International until I became the chairman and CEO of the multi-billion-dollar health care company. Since I left Baxter, these principles have kept me aligned with my values in my current career as a professor at Kellogg, as an executive partner with Madison Dearborn Partners, a Chicago-based private equity firm with a portfolio of more than 40 companies, and as a member of about a dozen boards of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.

In all of these roles I have stayed committed to values-based leadership. No matter what title I've had, whether corporate executive, professor, executive partner or board member--or for that matter soccer coach, volunteer parent or Sunday school teacher — I've never lost sight of who I am and what matters most to me. By knowing myself and my values, being committed to balance and having true self-confidence and genuine humility, I can far more easily make decisions, no matter if I'm facing a crisis or an opportunity. The answer is always simply to do the right thing and the very best that I can.

Today there is widespread lack of confidence in leadership, in business, government, education and elsewhere. Every leader needs to regain and maintain trust. Values-based leadership may not be a cure for everything that ails us, but it's definitely a good place to start.

Harry M. Jansen Kraemer Jr. is the author of From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership (Jossey-Bass, April 2011). A former chairman and CEO of Baxter International, a global health care company, he is a professor at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, an executive partner with Madison Dearborn Partners, and a member of several boards of directors of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. In 2008 he was voted the Kellogg School professor of the year.

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Commentary 2

What’s Your Story? Kelly Riley-Dunbavin

A few months ago I was forwarded a link to a YouTube video, "Every Life Has a Story... If we only bother to read it.”  It turned out to be a video by an American restaurant chain, Chick-Fil-A which as the short explanation that accompanies it says "was created to remind us that everyone we interact with is a chance to create a remarkable experience.”  I felt a strong emotional reaction to the video, which in 5 minutes captures a moment in time at a busy Chick-Fil-A restaurant.  Set to music with no dialogue, the camera allows the viewer to look in on the intimate moments of a number of different customers and staff. Beside each individual or group a text explanation appears like "fired from his job and is worried how he will provide for his family” or "after years of fighting cancer he is now cancer free”.  It forced me to stop and think about how often I fail to acknowledge the lives of others.

I’m guilty (like many) of being wrapped up in my own little world.  I’m quite in touch with what’s going on in my life - I have a lot of empathy for myself.  But what about others?  If I’ve been short with the girl serving me my morning latte in the morning, I can easily reason that it was because x, y, z had happened and I was having a bad morning as a result.  But the poor girl serving me doesn’t know that and doesn’t deserve my shortness.    Conversely, nor does she deserve my sarcastic "service with a smile” comments if she is less than cordial with me.  Maybe she’s having a rough day – what’s her story?  Perhaps if I took a moment, gave her a break and proffered her a smile instead of a snarl, it could change her day.  She could in turn change another person’s day and so on.  Pay it forward so to speak.

This idea can also translate into the corporate world.  Do you take the time to get to know your team? Do you know when they’ve had a good/bad weekend? Do you ask?   There are a number of reasons that this kind of empathy would go a long way in the work place. The one that sticks out most in my mind is that in getting to know your team members better; you can build stronger team morale.  If your employees or colleagues sense that you actually care about them as individuals, they may feel better engaged in working for (or with) you.  And as we all know engaged employees can lead to increased productivity which leads to better profits, etc. etc. Everybody wins! 

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing the message for me remains the same: every person does have a story and a little empathy can go a long way to making this world a better place.

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Section 3 - On The Horizon

Carrying Your Team

...By Jeff Haltrecht

Jeff Haltrecht is a principal Leadership Coach at the Polaris Learning Academy and the Facilitator of the Polaris Alumni; he is a regular contributor to Polaris Digest

What if you had to carry your team?

Journalists call him the Mack truck.  His boss calls him the Bus.  He is tough as nails, wears his heart on his sleeve, and leads by example.  Single handedly he is the reason his team, the Vancouver Canucks, is advancing to the third round of the NHL playoffs for the first time since 1994.

Ryan Kesler is the gritty centre who improved his hockey game just when the team needed it most.  Unselfishly he performed at a level so far beyond his teammates, they themselves were in awe.

While Mr. Kesler knew he was carrying his team, he never showed it, nor did he speak of it.  When interviewed after winning the series, he said: "It will be good to get some practice time and really get some down time.  Rest and recovery is going to be key because it's not going to get any easier going forward."

Unselfishly, he considers himself just one of the guys as his team marches towards the Stanley Cup.

Now think about your business.  What if you had to work twice as hard as everyone else so your company could achieve its annual goal?  Would you rise to the occasion without complaining?

Leaders know that to deliver remarkable results, its the sum of all the parts that need to perform, even if their performance is superior to others.

Look at it this way.  No matter how good Mr. Kesler was, if Roberto Luongo, the goaltender's performance was less than average, the team would be playing golf this weekend.

When you have the opportunity to outperform, take it.  But don't forget others are also still contributing.  Deliver one for the team and then praise your peers.  That is leadership at its finest.

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Bulletin Board

Introducing the NEW Polaris website

We are pleased to introduce the NEW Polaris website at  The design communicates effectively the unique features and benefits of this highly acclaimed leadership development program.  You will find an excellent program outline along with resources, articles and discussion guides for your continuous learning at the new web site.  Be sure to take a look yourself and then refer the web site to colleagues and friends whom you believe would benefit from the Polaris learning experience.

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Your Development

Polaris Leadership Academy now accepting new participants

Now is the time to register for participation in the next Polaris program.  This is your opportunity to grow significantly as a leader and to become a key driver of your organization’s future.

  • Are you finding it difficult to engage and mobilize your people and/or peers?
  • Do your messages and points of view go unheard in the organization?
  • Do you struggle to build strong relationships?
  • Do you often feel like a voice in the wilderness?
  • Do you know deep down that you could do more?

If you answered ‘yes’ to even one of these questions, you will profit from Polaris.  Through insightful assessment, tutoring and constructive coaching, we identify, stimulate and develop positive and enduring leaders and managers, helping you to prepare for more substantial contributions, more significant roles and greater responsibilities.

Over a period of a full year we cover 9 strategies in depth through a series of interactive workouts and practicums shared with peer-level colleagues and augmented by one-on-one individual coaching.  You will gain greater self insights and awareness of personal strengths and competencies as well as learn how to leverage knowledge, skills, experience and relationships to secure enhanced results. Through this experience you become increasingly focused, self confident and resilient, contributing real value to the organization in practical, measurable ways.

A new program will be offered in the Spring of 2011.

Visit or call David at 416-254-4167 or Jeff at 905-601-0311 to find out more.

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