Straight Talk on LeadershipSolving Canada's Business Crisis
An urgent wake-up call—and radical action plan—for business leaders everywhere While it focuses primarily on Canadian business, this important book shares valuable insights of benefit to transformational business leaders everywhere. Without sugar coating his message, author R. Douglas Williamson, head of the prestigious consultancy, The Beacon Group, points to complacency, lack of leadership sophistication, and an inward focus as the chief reasons why Canadian companies are at risk of falling behind the rest of the world. Issuing an urgent call to action, Williamson helps leaders understand the four principle challenges facing the modern leader and describes the eight essential leadership competencies required to navigate the future. He provides powerful strategies, tools and techniques for how to reframe thinking about leadership and reform leadership strategies. Case Studies from The Beacon Group’s wide and diversified client base include The Four Seasons, Scotiabank, Nortel Networks, Research in Motion, The Hudson’s Bay Company, Export Development Canada, Holt Renfrew, and many others. An impassioned call to action for leaders everywhere combined with practical advice and tools to help leaders take up the responsibility of transformational leadership during a period of unprecedented change and monumental global challenges. One of the rare books to focus on Canadian business and business leadership, it explains why that country's competitiveness is in serious jeopardy and what can be done about it.
A Note to the Reader xiii Foreword xv Introduction: Moving Backward at the Speed of Light 1 Part I: Leveraging Our National Brand through Bold Leadership 13 Chapter 1: Crimes of Leadership Malfeasance 15 Chapter 2: Lessons from the Recent Past 18 Chapter 3: Hidden Costs of the Current Crisis 22 Chapter 4: Confronting Our Complacency 24 Chapter 5: Mastering Transformational Tension 26 Chapter 6: The Canada Brand—An Inexhaustible Natural Resource 28 Chapter 7: Leveraging the Maple Leaf 30 Chapter 8: The Canadian Mosaic, Version 2.0 32 Chapter 9: Spirits of Our Past 34 Part II: Meeting the Future Today 39 Chapter 10: Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way 41 Chapter 11: Challenge #1: Sense Making and Sense Shaping 43 Chapter 12: Challenge #2: Clarity and Credibility 46 Chapter 13: Challenge #3: Understanding and Perspective 49 Chapter 14: Challenge #4: Creating Winning Conditions 52 Chapter 15: Mistaken Beliefs and Naïveté 60 Chapter 16: Raising the Flag 62 Part III: Preparing for Transformational Leadership 67 Chapter 17: Rebuilding the Franchise 69 Chapter 18: Winning Is an Attitude 71 Chapter 19: Playing the Canadian Game 73 Chapter 20: Benefits of Healthy Paranoia 75 Chapter 21: Thinking about Tomorrow 81 Chapter 22: Clear Vision and Sensitive Radar 82 Part IV: The Basis of a High-Performance Culture 87 Chapter 23: Teamwork vs. Team Performance 89 Chapter 24: Mistakes of Leadership 92 Chapter 25: Middle Management Malaise 94 Chapter 26: Coaching to the Bell Curve 96 Chapter 27: Culture of Grit and Determination 98 Chapter 28: Battling Stagnation 99 Chapter 29: The Team Is Not the Sum of Its Parts 101 Chapter 30: Facing Reality in the Mirror 103 Chapter 31: Stocking the Credibility Bank 105 Chapter 32: Discipline and Accountability 107 Chapter 33: Understanding Your Organizational DNA 109 Chapter 34: Modern Anthropology in the World of Business 111 Chapter 35: Superstars, Studs and Starlets 113 Chapter 36: Corporate Culture and Performance 117 Part V: Strategic Thinking vs. Strategic Planning 123 Chapter 37: Peripheral Vision as a Competitive Advantage 125 Chapter 38: Digging the Puck Out of the Corner 127 Chapter 39: The Importance of Total Candour 129 Chapter 40: Avoiding Conflict Is a Mistake 131 Chapter 41: Acting when Pivot Points Emerge 133 Chapter 42: Thinking in the Future Tense 138 Chapter 43: Opportunity Sensing 140 Chapter 44: The Narrative of Intentional Choice 142 Chapter 45: Focused Ambition 144 Part VI: The Importance of Human Capital Management 151 Chapter 46: Building Bench Strength for the Future 153 Chapter 47: Decline of the Dream 155 Chapter 48: Paradise Postponed 157 Chapter 49: OMG—They Are Back! 159 Chapter 50: Generations X, Y and Z? 160 Chapter 51: Shifting Values, New Challenges 162 Chapter 52: The Experience Economy 164 Chapter 53: Redefining Work 166 Chapter 54: The War for Talent, Version 3.0 167 Chapter 55: Role of Academia 172 Chapter 56: Role of Governments 174 Part VII: The Critical Role of Talent Management 179 Chapter 57: Owning the Podium 181 Chapter 58: Striving for Mediocrity 183 Chapter 59: Intellectual Capital 185 Chapter 60: Human Capital Planning 187 Chapter 61: Tears and Disappointment 189 Chapter 62: People, Practice and Perspiration 192 Chapter 63: Cost of Benign Neglect 194 Chapter 64: Investing in Development 196 Chapter 65: Societal Change in High Gear 198 Chapter 66: The Cost of Incompetence 199 Chapter 67: Knowledge Architecture 201 Chapter 68: Playing the Modern Game 206 Part VIII: Building the Collaborative Organization of the Future 213 Chapter 69: Compromise: The Enemy of Success 215 Chapter 70: Carpe Diem 218 Chapter 71: Collaboration Recast 220 Chapter 72: Reputation Management 222 Chapter 73: Misguided Focus and Human Nature 225 Chapter 74: Truth, Lies and Mediocrity 227 Chapter 75: Fresh Air and Brilliant Sunlight 229 Chapter 76: Shared Pain, Shared Gain 233 Part IX: Unleashing Innovation and Driving Creativity 239 Chapter 77: Reimagination 241 Chapter 78: Abandoning Certainty 244 Chapter 79: Prisoners of Our Mindsets 246 Chapter 80: Games We Play 248 Chapter 81: Human Nature Revealed 249 Chapter 82: Diversity, Imagination and Originality 250 Chapter 83: Creating Value by Creating Opportunity 252 Chapter 84: Brain over Brawn 254 Chapter 85: Rebels on Mahogany Row 259 Chapter 86: Expanding the Experience Repertoire 261 Chapter 87: Mindset for the Future 263 Chapter 88: Intuitive Genius Unleashed 264 Chapter 89: Competing for Relevance 266 Chapter 90: Overcoming Our National Hangover 267 Part X: The Art and Science of Effective Decision Making 271 Chapter 91: Decision Risk 273 Chapter 92: The Fog of Business 276 Chapter 93: Learning from Failure 278 Chapter 94: Upside of the Downside 280 Chapter 95: Understanding Human Frailty 282 Chapter 96: The Bias Trap 283 Chapter 97: Covering Our Asses 285 Chapter 98: Broadening Our Portfolio of Choices 286 Chapter 99: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions 292 Part XI: Straight Talk Conclusion 297 Chapter 100: Defining Canada’s Future 299 Acknowledgements 307 About the Author 309 Bibliography 311 Index 327
DOUG WILLIAMSON is Chief Executive Officer of The Beacon Group, a global leadership and strategy development firm whose clients range from well-known multinational companies to small and medium sized entrepreneurial businesses in Canada. Over his varied career, Doug has worked in Canada, the United States, Europe, Mexico, the Middle East and Australia. Prior to founding The Beacon Group, he held senior executive-level positions with The Royal Bank of Canada and with the Canadian Government (including posts as Deputy Superintendent of Bankruptcy and as a member of the Canadian Government's 1992 Commission on Economic Prosperity).
Great business leadership has always been in high demand. In Canada today, it is a particularly scarce natural resource, even more so than in most other advanced economies. We have allowed ourselves to become distracted from the responsibility we have to build a robust pipeline of exceptionally talented, globally oriented and future focused business leaders. Our complacency, comfortable standard of living and inward focus have created a perfect storm and put Canada at risk of falling even more dangerously behind in terms of our competitiveness and relevance in the global marketplace. Doug Williamson has worked with senior leadership teams and their organizations all around the world. He has helped them transform their strategies, build their talent base and improve their leadership effectiveness. Since the global economic downturn in 2008, he has become increasingly concerned Canadian business is being outplayed, outmaneuvered and outthought by business leaders in both the emerging economies, who are more driven by the pursuit of new markets, and by the more entrepreneurial, focused and experienced leaders in the developed world. He believes Canada is being squeezed from all sides and, if it does not awaken to the threat this poses, our prosperity, our relevance and our future will be put at risk. Canadian business has a rapidly closing window of opportunity to turn this around. It can only be done if we begin to cultivate a new generation of leaders with the competencies and capabilities that can help us compete successfully on the world stage. Straight Talk on Leadership offers a radical action plan that combines practical advice and useable tools with an impassioned call to action for Canadian leaders to take up the challenge, shake off the dust and act.
Praise for Straight Talk on Leadership "This book is for leaders who aspire to make a difference by transforming their organizations for global competitiveness. It is for those who approach leadership as a privilege to be re-earned each and every day, rather than a reward for past successes. Doug covers the landscape of issues facing leaders today in a compelling, insightful manner, and always with the frankness for which he is respected in the business community." — Eric Siegel, President & Chief Executive Officer (Retired), Export Development Canada "Williamson's approach is effective and real-world: confront truths, wear them and move forward quickly with accountable action. This book is an invaluable recipe as to the "how" and why leadership is critical to Canada's economic future." — Rupert Duchesne, Group Chief Executive, Aimia Inc. (Formerly Group Aeroplan Inc.) "The turbulent fast-changing times we live in pose great leadership challenges. There are no easy leadership recipes. Doug Williamson's unvarnished straight talk puts the environment in global perspective and provides leaders with a competency framework suited to the times we live in. A must read." — Naseem Somani, President & Chief Executive Officer, Gamma-Dynacare Medical Laboratories "Succeeding in global markets requires an aggressive and competitive style. Doug has created a blueprint for success. Open communication and high transparency are the hallmarks of the best-run companies. In Straight Talk on Leadership, he makes a no-nonsense, patriotic plea for pragmatic leadership in the executive suite and a wonderful roadmap for high performance results on the international stage." — Robert Courteau, Chief Executive Officer, Altus Group Limited