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Do You Want A Thought Leader’s Perspective on Leadership?

Since the publication of my most recent book, Indispensable: Build and Lead A Company Can’t Live Without, last month, I have had the marvelous opportunity to discuss several of the key questions covered in the book with several fellow thought leaders.

This 5-part article series captures the essence of those discussions. Each piece is organized around one unique and important question. Along with mine, each article delivers perspectives from two other leadership luminaries.

For this article, I invited Rhett Power, a member of the prestigious Marshall Goldsmith’s 100 Coaches, and cofounder of Courageous Leadership, and, Mahan Tavakoli, founder of Strategic Leadership Ventures and host of the popular Partnering Leadership Podcast, to tackle this key question with me:

 “What advice would you give top leaders right now as they enter into a post-pandemic business world?”

Here’s where we came down on the topic:

Rhett: It has been more than a year since the start of the pandemic and leaders are still adapting to constant change. The past year has taught them how to be empathetic, innovative, and courageous. It has also shown them not to take anything for granted.

One of the most important lessons we have learned in the last year is that change is inevitable. Rather than fight against it, businesses should build on that truth. The pandemic gave us all permission to hit the reset button and rethink our businesses.

Mahan: Yes, and business leaders recognize the importance of trust in leading their organizations. Greater levels of trust have a positive impact on employee engagement, innovative thinking, and organizational alignment.

In PWC’s global CEO survey, 55% of CEOs mentioned that a lack of trust is threatening their growth. At the same time, leaders seem unsure how to increase trust in their organizations.

Jim: Great points! You’ve both heard me comment on the need for leaders to give people something to believe in! We do that by cultivating a vision of the business which is centered on trust and doing the work needed to build a high integrity organization that people can depend on, both, inside and outside of the enterprise.

We’ve got to enhance the sense of “being in to together” within the business and take the steps needed to build a sense of community that can energize your team and help them to care about each other. By giving them something bigger than themselves to be part of at work, we create a “safe space” for staffers to be at their best.  We need our people to be at their best in order to become indispensable to our customers.

Mahan: Yes and leaders must also lead by example. We are more likely to trust leaders whose words and actions are consistent—honoring commitments, willing to own up to mistakes, and open to feedback. Show through your actions what you want to see in your team.

Rhett: For sure, an important lesson most leaders learned is that you have to show your team that you care about them. Showing people, you care about more than the work they do is vital during any crisis, but I think after this year is going to be key to keeping good people from leaving. That means be intentional about routine check-ins and ask how they are doing both on the job and at home.

Mahan: Right, it’s about relationship-building! A vital element of a solid relationship with our leaders is the belief that they have our best interest at heart, balancing a concern for results with human factors. To build strong relationships, leaders must truly embrace a people-first mindset.

Rhett: Indeed, that’s why team dynamics deserve a leader’s attention. As divided as our society is it is important for you to pay attention to potential tension and differences between team members. If you don’t pay attention to this, tempers can get out of hand to the point where people can’t work together. It’s important to keep people focused on the mission and the many things you have in common with each other.

Mahan: Of course, leadership competence is also essential. For example, think about the captain of an airplane.  Part of trust in that leader is in the competence of that captain to fly and lead the crew through various conditions.  Therefore, you need competence in your role to engender trust and with that comes followership.

In closing, I can’t help to reference I point that I make in my latest book which is this:

One is not a “leader” simply due to title, pedigree or a conspicuous place on an organization chart. I believe, instead, that leaders are built on a foundation rich in character, which enables them to inspire others to follow. Exceptional leaders not only possess the requisite honesty and righteousness needed to gain followership, but they emanate the hunger and conviction needed to motivate others to do great things.

I’m not alone in this belief. In fact, Norman Schwarzkopf once said:

“Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.”

It seems the three of us can all agree with this idea – you might want to consider it, too.

Look for the next installment of this series tomorrow, where I explore the importance of vision development with two more influential thought leaders.


James Kerr‘s “Thought leadership” column series at the CEOWORLD magazine.
1. Do You Want A Thought Leader’s Perspective on Leadership?.
2. Thought Leadership Series Part II: Perspectives on Vision.
3. On Culture: A Thought Leader’s Perspective.
4. Trust: Part IV of Thought Leader’s Perspective Series.
5. Final Installment: Thoughts Leader’s on Authenticity.


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James Kerr
James M. Kerr, founder at Indispensable Consulting, is a long-time management consultant, vision maker and leadership coach. For nearly 30 years, he has helped his clients re-imagine the way work is organized and performed. His latest book, Indispensable: Build and Lead A Company Customers Can’t Live Without is his 6th business title. Kerr is an expert in leadership, strategy, organizational design and cultural transformation. James Kerr is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.