Happy Birthday CLA

A year ago today we “soft” launched the Compassionate Leadership online Academy, with several pilots in different businesses, small and large, universities, school management teams and with individuals who wanted to develop their leadership skills.  We listened to their feedback and made adjustments accordingly.  We ran focus groups to discuss the impact of CLA on the organisations and discussed ways in which it would work most effectively and have the biggest impact.  We tweaked it and improved it and we were overwhelmed by the positive reaction that we got from those who tested it for us.  Now we are ready to go BIG (or LARGE if you have heard me speak).  But I wanted to write about how I came to design the Compassionate Leadership Academy and why I want to create a movement of compassion – there is simply no denying that the time for compassion is RIGHT NOW. 

Since leaving the Navy (the 2nd time, having re-joined to serve in the 1st Gulf War) in 1993, I became a professional sailor culminating in skippering in the “world’s toughest yacht race”, the BT Global Challenge 2000/1.  This life changing challenge giving me a condensed leadership experience, great stories and a public analysis of my leadership capability through the work done by Harvard and Henley business schools in researching the Skippers’ abilities, subsequently published in an extraordinary book “Inspiring Leadership”.

I have been working as a keynote speaker, leadership consultant and catalyst of organisational transformations worldwide since the race and am a Senior Advisor to McKinsey & Co.  The vast majority of my work has been as an independent consultant, but I have also sat on the Boards of companies as the Director of People & Performance to effect wholesale transformations, namely at the Atlas Consortium, HP Defence UK and latterly at Ark Data Centres.

Over the years, I met and have worked with some extraordinary people; not just business leaders but also experts in many fields of human performance, both those working in the space of physical performance as well as psychological performance, with a recent focus on developing my work to reflect our knowledge of the neural physiology of behavioural change and performance.

My varied work has led to the development of compassionate leadership as a core principle. Before any leader can successfully wield leadership tools, they need to heighten their own awareness, emotional intelligence and understanding.  The greatest leadership impact requires a strong degree of empathy, leading to conscious positive action. This, in essence, is Compassion, largely defined by the Dalai Lama as “Empathy with Positive Action”. When applied through the principle of the definition of Compassionate Leadership, “Securing the Best for All”, it creates individual and team commitment to organisational purpose and strategic intent. Gaining commitment delivers engagement, collaboration, growth, resilience, innovation, motivation, well-being, happiness, greater productivity and, ultimately, performance.

I saw many issues with the current methods of developing leaders and leadership within organisations that has created, what I believe to be an ineffective, expensive and inherently exclusive industry that works contrary to how our brain actually learns and changes.  The problem, as I saw it, was that the current system of a small, selective talent pool being developed in off-site academies is expensive and divisive and does not lead to behavioural change and certainly not in creating a cultural shift.  If I may use a rugby training analogy, we have created a system that selects only a few talented players, that are then isolated from the team, the rest of whom are now ignored, to be developed in an environment far removed from the playing pitch. They receive elongated periods of repetitive training in an alien environment which they are then expected to apply within a team that knows not what they have been taught. The training focused on developing specific skills with no comprehension of the holistic game – how to think like a rugby player. Whilst they were away being developed, the team had to play on, a few players down, scrambling to cover lost positions with an unsurprising drop in performance and increase in stress and, potentially, resentment! It makes no sense at all. It’s crazy when you explain it this way. We need to work with the neural physiology of the brain. We need to create a system that allows the whole team to receive development and creates the mindset of a leader before focusing on offering the tools of leadership. We must develop people within the environment that the new found attitude and skill will be practiced, and we must do it for a fraction of the cost of the current system. We must be able to measure the impact and, it would also be good, if the student received a recognised accreditation they can take with them wherever they work.

In response I developed an innovative, online Compassionate Leadership Academy that is designed to democratise leadership and personal development.  We created the online Compassionate Leadership Academy, deliberately priced and designed to enable a movement of compassion to influence the workplace, to encourage social mobility, to create collectively brilliant teams. A product that the CEO & the Intern, the teacher & the student, and the entrepreneur & the customer can simultaneously engage with thus breaking down the socially imposed barriers inherent in today’s development solution. The innovative approach of using highly visual, bite-sized, interactive chunks of work-based learning with the initial focus on developing the mindset of a leader before introducing the tools of leadership, all told using the power of story, has had a dramatic impact on a wide range of students.

Over the last 18 months, my work on Compassionate Leadership has helped deliver performance through gaining commitment for a huge range of organisations worldwide including; Teleflex, NATO, NHS, Citibank, Daiichi Sankyo, Drive deVilbliss, IHC, Gilead Sciences, ICAEW, BMW, Lidl, GPTW, Isle of Man Government, Ipsen, ASOS, John Lewis Group, ECB, Isagro, Energiesprong, Shell, Clarasys, PPG, Exxon Mobil, CBRE, Leidos, Novo Nordisk, O2, Synectics, Tommy Hilfiger, University College Dublin, Iconic Hotels, Greenpeace, Isle of Man Government, Leidos, Kawasaki, (to name just a few!).

In partnership with the data scientists behind extraordinary British sporting success, the My People Group, the online academy’s impact can now be quantified. The Institute of Leadership & Management has also recognised the potential of the Compassionate Leadership Academy and has become our UK accrediting body. The CLA delivers a step change in development access and impact with 2019 seeing its successful development and testing, and now ready to take 2020 by storm and create a fundamental shift toward a more compassionate workplace and society. An innovative breakthrough in leadership and personal development.

Two years in the making, one year to test and now, it’s ready. Come and join us on this incredible journey.


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