"Leon was a panelist at the Churchill Club in Melbourne, at an event titled "What's your Story". It was clear that the audience loved his style, his insights, his humor and the substance in his presentation. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend him as a speaker."
Brendan Lewis, technologist and executive director, Churchill Club
The key force that will give any business the power to persuade is its integrity. Without that, it is not trusted, or at the very least, handled with kid gloves. Ethics is not a warm and fuzzy issue. It helps define strategic intent and needs to be treated rigorously. But the issue for companies is how do they do it? They settle for a code of ethics or a code of conduct? What's the difference between the two?
Based on his research, interviews and work, Leon has insights into how companies should go about developing codes of ethics, and set in place systems that ensure they work and are not defied by anyone. This includes looking at how to make it part of the training and induction programs and looking at whether companies need to run special training programs. He also raises a number of hard questions for boards to consider. Yes, it's hard and confronting but Leon leaves the audience in no doubt that they can take those important steps to stay clean.
Much of what passes for good management practices has been overtaken by events. A lot of management dogma handed down by textbooks and business schools is largely outdated. Traditional management principles built around standardisation, specialisation of tasks and functions, goal alignment, hierarchy, planning and control and rewards don't work in a world where the pace of change is accelerating and more companies find themselves on the wrong side of the change curve.
Leon talks about the 25 great imponderables that are turning management theory on its head. Everything from convergence, the end of low inflation, rising raw material costs, climate change, biotechnology, nanotechnology, asymmetric capital markets, water, ageing populations, and threats to nation states. Leon's insights are designed to get audiences thinking, to provoke discussion and come up with potential solutions. The aim is to create organisations that can not only embrace change and uncertainty, but can actually thrive on it. Leon gets the audience to look at the way their companies are managed, and ask, how can we make it better?
What is leadership? Walk into any bookshop and you will see that heroes are crowding out shelves of modern management books. Anyone from Tony Soprano to Machiavelli, All this is in line with the tradition of books that seem to have the same pitch: turn historical figures into management mavens and use them to recycle old advice. The trouble is that personalising success and deifying the leader as superhero only encourages us to embrace a model that's ultimately dysfunctional and doomed to fail. Just as significantly, it shows how little we understand this stuff.
As Leon points out, “leadership'' is one of a management consultant's favorite buzz words, along with "downsize'" and "fee". Leon looks at the literature on leadership and shows how it raises more unanswered questions than a primer on Fijian politics - and many corporate chiefs can be just as wacky. He details the new skills set required by leaders now. They need to be curators, rather than creators, of talent. And explains how they shouldn't be afraid to learn from the talented people around them, even if that means losing control. Leon leaves the audience with critical questions to consider around how they can be better leaders.
Good corporate governance is good business. Meeting global best practices, we help to ensure the healthy growth of companies. This helps to make them better employers, a better corporate citizen in the countries in which we operate and a better partner for the companies and other organizations with which we interact. Leon looks at how regulators, boards and shareholders needed to assess regularly the skills and behaviour of individual board members. And he makes it clear how non-performing directors should be bought to account.
He details how directors go about assessing the performance of their chairmen at least once a year - if chairmen failed to lift their game or are unwilling to be assessed, they too should have to step down. And he explains how boards go about developing position descriptions for individual directors, committee heads and chairmen, and then use those as frameworks for assessing board members. For Leon, the obsession with independence is misplaced. What's more important is the quality of the directors. It's a question that the audience has to work through.
Global warming is recognised as the greatest challenge now confronting humanity. But Leon takes the audience into a different perspective, looking at how it will profoundly change the shape of organisations and investment. He shows how it will create new roles in organisations, like for example the chief carbon officer and challenges the audience to consider how it would work in decentralised structure where no single person or department is clearly in charge of environmental issues, businesses can be prevented from taking in the full picture of the threats they face, their cumulative liabilities and the opportunities. He invites the audience to come up with possible solutions.
Leon also looks at the potential investment opportunities from renewable energy. He shows them how if they think the Internet was big, this will be much bigger and seismic. He also looks at a range of issues thrown up by climate change, from accounting to legal, from insurance to job creation and skills shortages, leaving the audience examining the issue from perspectives that have not previously been considered.
Globalisation is not just an economic question but one that's reshaping society and politics. Leon raises a few key questions about it. First, what is so new about globalisation? There has always been a global economy. From 539 BC for example, the world was essentially bipolar with Greek civilisation extending across the Mediterranean into Turkestan and the Middle East and Phoenecian civilisation across the Northern Africa.
Leon looks at the three main forces that make this globalisation very different. The first is about organisations that are pushing for the disintegration of national borders. The second force is money. There's a lot more of it flowing from corporations and within the different companies of corporations. And thirdly, there's technology that allows communication and allows that money to be transported around the world in seconds.
Leon looks at how the gap between the possessed and the dispossessed, the connected and disconnected is becoming wider. And the separation of humanity into two different worlds of existence will shape the political landscape in the years ahead. When one segment of the human population is no longer able to communicate with the other, when one cannot even imagine the world the other lives in, the question of globalisation takes on a political significance of historic proportions. Leon's presentation encourages widespread discussion of these issues, and pushes the audience to consider solutions.
Most Australian companies are risk averse and clueless about what innovation and entrepreneurship actually means. It is not about a lack of ideas. It is more about a reluctance to take risks, and a failure to execute. Leon looks at how Australian companies make the mistake of thinking innovation is just about research and development. They also tend to rely too heavily on customer feedback. You can't ask consumers to identify their response to something that doesn't yet exist. You need to give them something that exists.
The key to entrepreneurship is innovation. And that is just as critical within organisations as it is for start-ups. Leon looks at how to develop a business culture that encourages staff to develop innovative ideas. Entrepreneurship within the world's largest businesses is just as important as that displayed by enterprising start-ups. This is what gives organisations the capacity to create new wealth. Entrepreneurship means looking into the future and seeing what is possible. And as Leon explains, any company that cannot imagine the future, won't be around to enjoy it.
He looks at how companies should develop systems that encourage passion and ideas. For employees, being fully engaged means being involved and enthusiastic about work and possessing a strong emotional bond to the organisation that employs them. These employees have a passion for what they do. They also feel a strong personal connection to their employer. And they strongly believe they can have a positive impact, not only the quality of their organization's products and services but also on reducing total costs.