Navigating the White Water

Trust in our organisations and their leaders is at an all-time low. When trust is questioned and transparency is demanded transformation is inevitable. Senior leaders are seeing the need for a different way to manage their complex environments.

Many have effectively run the business by securing followers and establishing reputations as rock stars. But having a bunch of rock stars at the helm is no longer a safe or desirable way to operate.

Of course these are highly skilled and competent leaders, but expecting them to individually shoulder the load of organisational demands is unsafe and unnecessary. The constant dichotomy of simultaneously running and transforming the business leaves both individuals and the organisation exposed to risk.

So how can smart leaders achieve more together - in smarter teams. Beyond the confines of a leadership group, rather working interdependently with strong relationships, engaging in fearless conversations and a focus on the best possible future for the organisation.

Three obstacles get in the way of smart leaders achieving better together: White Water, Armour and Elephants. In the next series of blogs, I’ll address each obstacle, so let me begin with the first:

Navigating the White Water

Smart leaders recognise that they must run the organisation and transform it at the same time. In a fast-paced environment, that feels like operating permanently in the rapids, where the rocks are increasing complexity, uncertainty and continual change. 

In order to cope, leaders become reactive - what is most urgent gets attended to - losing the capacity to discern what is more important from less important. That means most of their time, energy and focus is on addressing operational and tactical priorities and less on the strategic and transformational imperatives. 

Smart leadership teams spend at least 50% of their collective effort attending to the transformational agenda – those matters most important to improve the organisation’s performance and sustain its competitive advantage.

As a leadership team, how much of your collective time and effort is allocated to the ‘operational’ agenda compared to transformational, strategic priorities?

If it’s not 50:50, what do you commit to do to address it?

Should you be interested to know more about the work I do to help groups of smart leaders, transition to become smarter teams, please email me at or call me on 0414 654 437.