The ‘what’ and ‘who for’ of leadership.
Published: December 14, 2023

I want to discuss the theme of leadership but with a different twist.

The theme for this post has been in my head for a few weeks now and it was triggered (once again) by a conversation with my daughter.

As we talked, it emerged that she genuinely questioned whether it was morally right to have children (something that has always been part of her plan) at a time when the future of those children on our planet is under threat. She then went on to share her frustration that recent events such as Brexit and the cost of living crisis appeared to be drowning out any meaningful focus on the thing that scares her most. Where, she asked, has the leadership around climate change gone?

As father’s do, I wanted to help, so I reminded her that there are people who care enough about her unborn children to do something about climate change and that includes the leaders of one of our clients – Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) (

My daughter’s perspective, however, also made me question my role as a developer of leaders. In my experience at least, we put an awful lot of emphasis on the question of “how to be a leader”. My daughter made me wonder whether we give enough attention to three others.

The first is:
– “Why do you want to be a leader? Is it about the money, power and status that comes with the role, or do you genuinely want to make a difference?”
The second is:
– “What do you want to achieve as a leader? Is it about career progression, or do you genuinely want to make a difference?”
The third (and possibly most importantly here) is:
– “Who are you doing this for? Is it for you, or do you care enough for others to want to do something for them?”

I’m wondering how those of us who see ourselves as leaders might answer those questions if we really looked in the mirror?

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