True Leadership Stands The Test Of Time - Proteus Leadership
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True Leadership Stands The Test Of Time

The role of leadership has changed in so many ways and yet in so many other ways, it has not. However, we seem to focus so much on the changes that have and will occur, that we lose sight of what is already working and what we have worked so hard to achieve.

We all understand the massive impact that technological change has had on our workplaces and indeed society, but at times we seem to be so wrapped up in the change process that we do not see the social implications that progress has delivered.

A whole generation has been born who are completely technologically savvy and yet seem to have missed the basic qualities of life that will never change such as, common decency, kindness, respect and integrity. It is not their fault, we simply do not teach them the importance of these qualities for survival and growth.

As I write this I am sure some readers will immediately think that this is old-fashioned thinking and something they would expect from my vintage. Well maybe it is, but I believe there are fundamentals in life that should never be replaced, because when they are, they actually break down the very structure of our society.

I am a massive promoter of change and will continue to be so, in fact I am known as the Optimistic Disturber. I love new concepts and new ways of doing things; they really get me excited and highlight the possibilities in life, but I cannot accept that they must come at the expense of the basic human courtesies of care, compassion and respect.

Unfortunately, I am of the belief that the role of leadership has fallen into the same cycle of destruction. We are encouraged to be entrepreneurs and to be productive and innovative; we are encouraged to be technically and legislatively knowledgeable, all of which are great things to aim for however, what happened to the social skills and qualities required to be great people and great communicators?

The strange thing is, the majority of problems that people and organisations have, are still related to these human characteristics and social behaviours that have not been developed at the same pace as technology.

So, what does this mean for the leaders of today and of the future?

I believe there are four core elements a true leader must possess to be efficient and effective. These qualities need to be revisited often, because without them, new ideas and change initiatives will become nothing more than passing fads.

Real Leadership can only be sustained if it adopts the following four qualities and works on developing them, with great vigour.

Wisdom and Insight

Insight truly is the missing link and nothing much will change unless we lead with it. Wisdom comes from experiences that we have had and learned from, but insight is not dependent on age or experience; rather a desire to dig deeper and look beyond the obvious and care more. Imagine when you combine both wisdom and insight – that is what a true leader of people looks like and why there are so few positive leadership role models around.

So, what is insight? My definition is: Hindsight (reflection and lessons learned) + Foresight (planning ahead and establishing targets and goals) = Insight.

It is a balanced concern for self, for others and for the task at hand.

Ability to dream and action dreams

People who live with insight have the ability to see the ‘big picture’, but they also understand reality and what is required to bring that ‘big picture’
to fruition.

I describe these people as having their head in the clouds, but their feet firmly on the ground. They understand the need to not just dream, but to also demonstrate the ability to action and assess the viability of those dreams –and then act accordingly.

Humility and Absence of Ego

Jim Collins in his book, Good To Great, speaks about Level 5 Leadership – or leaders that demonstrate Humility. He explains that being humble in leadership does not mean that you are submissive or weak; quite the opposite. It means that we consider all aspects of our role and are inclusive of other people and their ideas. Our strength comes from within, not through external demonstrations.

So, if you are your main concern, then you will never be a true and sustainable leader. If you constantly need the credit then your life in leadership will be

The fact is that people who do not demonstrate humility and have over active egos, usually have no idea that they come across that way and unless it is pointed out to them, they will continue to operate in a way that isolates others. If they do not respond positively to honest communication, then they are not the leaders that you are looking for long-term.

Unwavering in their belief

Effective and sustainable leaders will demonstrate an unwavering belief in themselves and will stand strong no matter what the opposition.

They are not ‘one hit wonders’, they are in it for the long haul and again, draw their strength from their insight and their humility.

Unless we believe in who we are, without ego and in what we are aiming to achieve, then what we do will not be sustainable.

So, let’s have a look at how all four of these qualities fit into my Sustainable Leadership Model.

Even though there are areas that we are stronger at and even have more interest in, unlike many leaders of the past, we must now be capable of displaying all four of the above characteristics in equal doses.

At Proteus, we teach the Behavioural Style Model documented by Bolton & Bolton in their book Behavioural Styles At Work. There are four styles in this model – Analytical, Driver, Expressive and Amiable. To use this model effectively we must first understand where we fit in that model and what our usual behaviours are. Then we must identify where others fit, so that we can adapt our behavior accordingly and improve our interactions, giving us a greater chance of success.

The real skill though is recognising that on any given day we are in fact all four styles, and that great leaders are versatile; having the ability to adapt to other styles without compromising their own values and ideas.

It is much the same with my, Sustainable Leadership Model.

It is not just about being strong in one area, it is about recognising that we must be strong in all four areas at the same time and adapt to meet our own needs, the needs of others and the situational needs.

This is what is required of today’s contemporary leaders and will be even more so as we launch into the next ten years of leadership in this country. But as I said earlier, these are qualities that have always been required of leaders; it is just that we were not called to exercise them all in the past.

Why Some Leaders Are So Negative!

Every time I create a leadership model, the first thing that I do is put myself through it and do an honest evaluation of how I am going. In the Sustainable Leadership Model there are certainly some areas where I am very strong, but there are also others that need significant work to bring balance to my life and my leadership role. What about you? How do you rate?

I often wonder why so many people and leaders are so negative and seem to spend their life fighting rather than celebrating the privilege of their role. This model made it very clear to me.

  • They lack insight because they simply don’t care enough to grow
  • Even if they once had a strong belief system, they now just go through the motions and what they do and who they could be just does not burn inside of them anymore. This then turns into resentment and apathy
  • They don’t dream anymore – they exist and manage the Status Quo
  • Their humility has turned into blame and cynicism. They don’t even like what they say or who they have become but have no skills or desire to make change

Do you recognise anyone?

Unfortunately our organisations are full of people like this. The important thing is that we do not fall into the same trap.

I admit that it is not always their fault initially, but we are all adults with a brain and possess the ability to make decisions for ourselves – some people just do not want to!

My advice to those leaders is very simple – get out of the way and let someone with some passion and integrity take the reigns.

The Joy of Leadership

I cannot write an article like this without talking about those people who are constantly trying to master the qualities of the Sustainable Leadership Model and understand the joy and satisfaction of living life this way.

I know that even though it can be tough at times, I love what I have the privilege of doing and leading and would not have it any other way. I also know that I am not alone. There are many amazing human beings out there who share my joy.

What they understand is that their joy comes from within; from a place that understands its purpose and a place that is constantly growing and achieving, but not forgetting to embrace the qualities of its roots.

This is a place that must be discovered personally, but is a place that we must find if we are to be true leaders who stand the test of time.

So, let’s stop the leadership struggle and focus on the qualities required to create a sustainable leadership life. When you do, you will find it has a positive impact on so many areas
of your life and everything starts to look a lot better.


Des Penny
Founder & Director Of Marketing


This article was taken from the August 2015 edition of Proteuslife magazine.
Proteus Leadership is one of Australia’s premier leadership training and development companies. Proteus Leadership provides leadership courses and management training to a range of industries and assists organisations to build positive workplace cultures, implement change and Create Great Leaders. Proteus also facilitates a range of world-class management courses, workshops, conferences and events across Australia and beyond with the sole purpose of bringing leaders together to connect and grow.

“Our core purpose is to Create Great Leaders that will in turn build Great companies and develop Great teams.”

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