Episode 9 of THE THINKING LEADER PODCAST featuring Mark McNally, is now live! Click here to listen.

Are you a ‘Social Gadfly’?

Jan 23, 2020

When I was a young junior officer in the Royal Air Force, I was once called a ‘social gadfly’ by an old boss of mine. I wasn’t sure what he meant at the time and, as we didn’t have instant access to the internet (yes, it was that long ago!), I just assumed it meant something along the lines of a social butterfly. This was a fair assumption given the total of my mess bar bill each month and the occasional high jinks I found myself involved in…but never assume, right?! 

At my next performance review this gadfly word arose again. Whilst it turned out I was indeed a social butterfly (a point also raised in my performance review!), my boss said that, as a gadfly, I was a contrarian thinker and had challenged him and our ways of working a lot in my first few months on the squadron. Here we go, I thought, he’s already identified me as a young drunk with a rebellious streak. My long-planned military career was about to become very short-lived....

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Boeing’s Emails Show The Company Has The Answers – Calhoun Just Needs To Listen

Jan 17, 2020

While the internal Boeing Co. emails released last week paint a disturbing picture of a toxic corporate culture and a manufacturer that has lost its way, they also reveal something the company’s new CEO should take some solace in: Boeing’s employees know what is wrong with the aerospace giant, and I think it’s a safe bet they know how to fix it, too.

The only question is whether David Calhoun will let them.

When I started covering Ford Motor Co. as a journalist for The Detroit News back in 2005, the automaker leaked like sieve. Ford employees regularly forwarded me everything from product plans for new pickups to financial forecasts intended for the board’s eyes only.

One day, after I’d published a story revealing Jaguar’s staggering losses and the equally grim projections for the brand’s future, Bill Ford called me to complain. He asked me who had provided me with those privileged documents, suggesting several names to see if...

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In 2020, Resolve To Ask “Why?”

Jan 10, 2020

Back in the 1980s, a German theoretical psychologist named Dietrich Dörner conducted a fascinating series of experiments that offered amazing insights into the differences between good decision makers and bad ones.

He and his team used computers to create simulations of complex, interconnected systems ranging from small towns to African countries. Each of these systems was beset with a host of problems that threatened their very survival – everything from high infant mortality rates and drought to underperforming schools and stagnant industries. Then Dörner gave his research subjects dictatorial powers over those systems and challenged them so solve their underlying problems. It was like an early version of SimCity, albeit much darker and more complex.

Over the course of these experiments, Dörner discovered that bad decision makers shared several common traits. They focused on one aspect of the problem, rather than thinking complexly about all of the...

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If Boeing Wants A Better Future, It Needs To Look To Its Past

Dec 29, 2019

Boeing has been in trouble before – never more so than it was on September 12, 2001. After the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, half its orders for new jetliners were cancelled or delayed. It was only the latest in a series of existential challenges that had been battering the company for several years, including a long and costly battle with Europe’s Airbus and a difficult merger with McDonnell Douglas.

That was the hand dealt to Alan Mulally, the new president of Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes Group. Mulally, who had led the development of the Boeing 777 — the company’s most profitable aircraft ever — was promoted to that position just a few months before 9/11. His quiet confidence, insistence on transparency and team-based approach to leadership carried the company through that crisis and the painful restructuring that followed.

Mulally developed a new model of management to save Boeing.

He began by identifying and articulating a...

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Are You A Thinking Leader?

Dec 16, 2019

Bad leaders react. Good leaders plan. Great leaders think. And revolutionary leaders — the sort of leaders who transform not just companies, but entire industries — think differently. The question is: What sort of leader are you?

It is not a hard question to answer, if you’re honest with yourself.

If you spend most of your time putting out fires, responding to emerging threats, talking with your team about what went wrong and who is to blame for it, then you are a reactive leader. And that means you are probably not a very effective one.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t do better.

You can start by developing a strategy – or at least a plan – that establishes clear goals for your organization and outlines a path to achieving them. In that way, you can drive events, rather than letting events drive you.

That’s what good leaders do: lead. They do that by working with their team to figure out where they need to go, as...

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What’s Your Leadership Super Power?

Dec 13, 2019

We hear many things about what a leader is or isn’t.

For me it’s simple.

It’s about people.

It’s about thinking and enabling those people to be awesome, the best that they can be.

I call it ‘unleashing the dormant superhero within’, because there’s one in everyone of us.

Everyone has the ability to be awesome, at something, at many things. But many aren’t.

Many are shackled and hampered in the workplace. Many are disheartened and disengaged. Many aren’t bringing their A-game to work, and probably not in their personal lives either. And that’s really sad.

A leader enables and empowers people to be the best they can be. They create the environment for people to flourish, set clear parameters, and provide direction and support.

As my Mum used to tell me, all you need to grow is: Love, Direction and Boundaries. So unleash the dormant Superhero in your people. You’ll be amazed at what they can do. What’s your super...

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If You Think Leadership Doesn’t Matter, Look At Boeing

Mar 24, 2019


If you think leadership doesn’t matter, look at Boeing.

Last week, following the second fatal crash of one of its new 737 Max 8s in less than six months, Boeing Co. shares plummeted by 12 percent, destroying more than $28 billion in shareholder value. It was Boeing’s biggest loss since September 2001, when terrorists flew four of the company’s planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. In the dark days that followed, Boeing’s stock price fell to less than $28 a share from a monthly high of almost $52 as half its orders for new planes were canceled or delayed.

But over the next five years, Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes Group soared back to record sales, revenue and earnings under the leadership of its new CEO Alan Mulally.

Mulally, who had led the development of the Boeing 777 — the company’s most profitable aircraft ever — was tapped to lead the group just a few months before the terrorist attacks. His unshakeable...

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