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I have worked with some leaders who were simply irresistible. Like magnets, they attracted and retained employees, customers and profits. They always got the best out of people.  They respected and took great care of their people and we, in return, took great care of the organisation’s customers. They created “simply irresistible organisations” (Josh Bersin – Deloitte) which attracted the best talent in the market and work environments where people thrived and flourished.

One of my favourite Dilbert comic strips is Dilbert’s boss explaining to his senior management team the reason for the company’s low profits. In response to this, Dilbert asks sceptically, “So they’re saying that profits went up because of great leadership and down because of a weak economy?” To which Dilbert’s boss replies, “These meetings will go faster if you stop putting things in context.”

Great leadership is indeed a difficult thing to pin down and understand. There are many studies defining the key differences between management and leadership. According to leadership guru Warren Bennis;

  • The manager administers; the leader innovates
  • The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people
  • The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust
  • The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective
  • The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why
  • The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it
  • The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing

But what are the elements that differentiate good leaders from great / simply irresistible leaders? Having studied leadership for over 15 years, I have come up with the following ten characteristics of simply irresistible leaders:

1.They are emotionally intelligent (EI)

EI is a set of emotional and social skills that collectively establish how well we a) perceive and express ourselves b) develop and maintain social relationships c) cope with challenges, and d) use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way (H. Book & S. Stein). The Centre for Creative Leadership found that higher levels of EI are associated with better performance in the following Leadership areas:

  • Self-awareness and self-control
  • Achievement orientation
  • Building and managing relationships
  • Dealing with underperformance
  • Focus, thinking skills and effectiveness
  • Positive outlook, passion and inner motivation

2. They have a growth mindset

 A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way. A fixed mindset avoids failure at all cost. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities (Carol Dweck). Leaders with growth mindsets (a) perceive feedback as chance to learn and stretch goals as helpful and necessary, (b) put in the effort and are motivated by mastery, and (c) remain empowered, not helpless, in the face of difficulty.

3. They empower people

According to management consultants, Bersin & Associates leaders who create empowering cultures and organisations follow the following practices:

  • Value and reward employees who learn new knowledge and skills
  • Values mistakes and failures as learning opportunities
  • Promote, recognise and reward collaboration
  • Create psychologically safe environments where people can be themselves
  • Invest time and energy in developing the capabilities of their teams

4. They grow other leaders

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing other leaders” (Jack Welch – Former GE CEO). A star wants to see himself/herself rise to the top. A leader wants to see those around him/her become stars” (Simon Sinek).

5. They create strong emotional connections

Our lives are becoming so transactional; full of activity and stimulation; continuously going from A to B to C and then back to A and B and so on and on (autopilot) that we might not any longer be connecting with the people we love, our colleagues, our customers, at a meaningful, emotional level. Irresistible leaders create strong positive emotional connections/bonds with people. They make us feel valued and earn our confidence, loyalty, and trust.

6. They are agile

 Agile leaders have the ability to take effective action in complex, rapidly changing conditions; are resilient and quickly bounce back from difficulties and stressful situations; work effectively with a wide diversity of people and viewpoints; are inquisitive, adventurous and curious about people and situations; seek new approaches to solving problems and view mistakes as an opportunity to learn; and challenge the status quo, constantly seeking opportunities to innovate and improve. B. Joiner & S. Josephs in their book “Leadership Agility – 5 levels of mastery” state that “Only 5-10% of today’s managers have mastered the level of agility needed for consistent effectiveness in the turbulent era of global competition.”

7. They build trust and great teams

They build trust by being authentic, demonstrating that they care about people, being accessible, dependable and reliable, sharing information and knowledge, telling it straight and being honest even when giving bad news: role modelling the organisation’s values and expected behaviours, and actively listening to people. “Contrary to what most people believe, trust is not some soft, illusive quality that you either have or you don’t, it is a learnable skill. Teams and organisations that operate with high trust significantly outperform teams and organisations with low trust” FranklinCovey.

8. They inspire others

The word "inspiration" comes from the Latin noun inspiratio and from the verb inspirare. Inspirare is a compound term resulting from the Latin prefix in (inside, into) and the verb spirare (to breathe). That is, leaders who inspire other are “breathing life into” them – they are motivating their people to become the best they can be.

The following behaviours were identified by Bain as being the most powerful in contributing to a leader’s inspiration:

  • Holding a confident yet realistic assessment of their own abilities
  • Maintaining the conviction to follow their own course of action
  • Showing passion for their work and giving energy to others
  • Showing integrity, humility and empathy
  • Putting team needs above short-term personal benefits

9. They use a coaching style

They stimulate thinking, growth, and unleash people's potential by challenging and supporting them to be at their best. They are courageous, compassionate, and curious. “The most effective leader coaches are deeply interested in the other person and how they see their circumstances – the staff member is not a problem to be solved, but a world to explore together. And they have the courage both to release control of the conversation and to ask those difficult and penetrating questions that access the “beneficially painful” aspects of the employee’s world” (David Clutterbuck)

10. They are mindful

Mindfulness can be defined as present-moment awareness with an observing, non-judging stance (Mikulas). Mindful leaders (a) find it easier to focus and remain focused. “I try to make every second count in my business and personal life” (R. Branson); (b) tend to make more rational business decisions (INSEAD Business School); (c) have better working memory; cope better with stress and stressful situations; are more creative (Leiden University); (d) have more highly engaged staff and higher engagement scores (J. Matthias, J. Narayanan & S. Chaturvedi); and (e) are more collaborative and stronger team players.

How irresistible are you as a leader? Why should anyone be led by you? What are your leadership strengths and area(s) for development? What can you start doing today to make you a simply irresistible leader? What can you start doing today that your future self will thank you for?

Pedro3-SHRM.jpgPedro Angulo is the Programme Director of the IMI Diploma in Strategic HR Management. Pedro is an Organisational Effectiveness Business Partner in AIB and Chairperson of the Irish EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council). He is a motivational speaker and regular presenter at HR, coaching, change and business conferences/events. [post_title] =>  The ‘Simply Irresistible’ Leader [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => simply-irresistible-leadership [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 09:34:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 09:34:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 12562 [post_author] => 71 [post_date] => 2016-10-25 10:26:33 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-10-25 10:26:33 [post_content] =>

Touching back on my last blog I mentioned that culture needs to become a strategic business priority (like sales, profit, etc.) and not just a HR priority.

boat with leader Source:

Leadership teams can start the creation of high performance cultures by implementing the following 6 steps:

1. Establish a sense of urgency

They need to make it clear that the current culture needs to change, articulate the vision and business case, and describe the opportunity (as John P. Kotter states in his book The 8-Step Process for Leading Change) in a way that appeals to the hearts and minds of people.

2. Develop a set of strategic beliefs

These are the beliefs senior executives have about their organisation’s environment that enables shaping business strategy e.g. Dell believed that customers would, if the price was right, buy computers from a catalogue rather than go to computer stores as the conventional wisdom dictated they would. They created a $7 billion business.

3. Develop a set of values

Values enable the organisation to act on its strategic beliefs and implement their strategy the right way. Values shape the culture of an organisation, define its character and serve as a foundation in how people act and make decisions. Dell’s values supporting its strategy and strategic beliefs include: Delivering results that make a positive difference; leading with openness and optimism and winning with integrity.

4. Capitalise on quick wins

Capitalize on and honour your cultural strengths and act quickly on any critical behaviour changes required.

5. Challenge those norms that get on the way of high performance

Norms are informal guidelines about what is considered normal (what is correct or incorrect) behaviour in a particular situation. Peer pressure to conform to team norms is a powerful influencer on people’s behaviour, and it is often a major barrier affecting change. It is always easier to go along with the norm than trying to change it…. Common samples of negative norms in some organisations: Perception that it is ok to yell at people, ignore people’s opinions, etc.

6. Role model and recognise the desired behaviours

As Gandhi wonderfully put it “Be the change you want to see in the world”. This empowers action and helps embed the desired culture you are trying to create. Behaviour is a function of its consequences. Behaviour that results in pleasant consequences is more likely to be repeated, and behaviour that results in unpleasant consequences is less likely to be repeated. According to B. F. Skinner and reinforcement theory “future behavioural choices are affected by the consequences of earlier behaviours”. The argument is clear; if you want people to be brave and challenge the status quo, you shouldn’t make them feel awkward or like difficult employees when they do. Furthermore, if want people to contribute at meetings make sure you actively listen to them and act on their suggestions and ideas.


On his famous article “On the folly of rewarding A while hoping for B” Steven Kerr argues that the way in which we reward and recognise people doesn’t always deliver the desired results. We all have being in situations where we are told to plan for long-term growth yet we are rewarded purely on quarterly earnings; we are asked to be a team player and are rewarded solely on our individual efforts; we are told that the way in which results are achieved is important and yet we promote people who achieve results the wrong / in a Machiavellian way. A friend of mine was recently at a hospital and he complained to the ward manager about the doctor’s bad manners and rudeness. The answer he got was “do you want to be treated by the best heart doctor in the country or a not so good doctor but with a really nice bed manner?”.

My argument is why can’t we have both?

Pedro Angulo is the Programme Director of the IMI Diploma in Strategic HR Management starting on 16th November 2016. Pedro is an Organisational Effectiveness Business Partner in AIB and Chairperson of the Irish EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council). He is a motivational speaker and regular presenter at HR, coaching, change and business conferences / events. _____________________________________ [post_title] => 6 Steps to start the creation of high performance cultures [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 6-strategies-start-creation-high-performance-cultures [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 09:57:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 09:57:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21835 [post_author] => 111 [post_date] => 2018-01-29 15:12:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-01-29 15:12:20 [post_content] =>   pexels-photo-374631 Have you ever had this experience? You arrive at the office with a clear plan for the day – before you know it, the day is over and you are on your way back home. Nine or 10 hours have passed, but you’ve accomplished only a few of your priorities. More worryingly, you can’t remember exactly what you did all day. If this sounds familiar, don’t worry. You’re not alone. A 2010 study by Harvard University psychologists suggests that people spend almost 47% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing: we are spending almost half our time on autopilot. We have now entered the ‘attention economy’. In the attention economy, the ability to maintain focus and concentration is every bit as important as technical or management skills. We need need to absorb a growing flood of information in order to make good decisions. However, our brains have not been designed to cope with this and hence we suffer from stress, which impacts both our mental and physical well-being. The good news is that you can train your brain to focus better by incorporating mindfulness exercises throughout your day. Based on our experience with thousands of leaders in over 250 organisations, here are five easy tips to help you become more focused, productive and effective: . 1. Practice 10 minutes of mindfulness training each day Most people find mornings the best time to practice mindfulness, but you can do it any time of day. Close your eyes, relax and sit upright. Place your full focus on your breath. Simply maintain an ongoing flow of attention on the experience of your breathing: inhale, exhale; inhale; exhale. To help focus on your breathing, count silently at each exhalation. Any time you find your mind distracted, simply release the distraction by returning your focus to your breath. Most importantly, allow yourself to enjoy these few minutes. . 2. Avoid reading email first thing in the morning. Our minds are generally most focused, creative and expansive in the morning. This is the time to do focused, strategic work and have important conversations. If you read your email as soon as you get up, your mind will get sidetracked and you’ll begin the slide toward ‘reactive leadership’. Making email your first task of the day wastes the opportunity to use your mind at its highest potential. Try waiting at least 30 minutes, or even an hour, after you get to work before checking your inbox. . 3. Turn off all notifications . leave-phone-alone-android-ambient-display-setting_5-100611521-orig The notification alarms on your phone, tablet and laptop are significant contributors to reactive leadership. They keep you mentally busy and put you under pressure, thereby triggering reactionary responses. They cause damage far more than they add value. Try this: For one week, turn off all email notifications on all devices. Only check your email once every hour, or as often as responsibly needed for your job. But don’t compulsively check messages as they roll into your inbox. . 4. Stop multitasking It keeps your mind full, busy and under pressure. It makes you reactive. Try to focus on a single task and then notice when you find your mind drifting off to another task — a sign that your brain wishes to multitask. When this happens, mentally shut down all the superfluous tasks entering your thoughts while maintaining focus on the task at hand. . 5. Team-up to stay on track Consider engaging one of your peers to do the same thing. This gives you a chance to assess each other, which can be both helpful and motivating. Schedule a check-in with yourself and your buddy – every two weeks for example – to assess how well you’re doing and to share experiences and differences you have noticed. Mindfulness is not about living life in slow motion. It’s about enhancing focus and awareness both in work and in life. It’s about stripping away distractions and staying on track with individual and organisational goals. Take control of your own mindfulness: test these tips for 14 days and see what they do for you.   This article was originally published on Rasmus Hougaard will be speaking at the IMI Membership Launch Day on 30th January. The IMI Membership Launch Day is invite only for IMI Members. If you are interested in becoming a member, please contact the IMI Membership Team.   [post_title] => 5 Top Tips for Being Focused in Work [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => 5-top-tips-focused-work [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 09:31:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 09:31:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4779 [post_author] => 15 [post_date] => 2013-09-06 09:39:08 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-09-06 09:39:08 [post_content] => With the surge of new computing capabilities afforded to us through cloud computing and data analytics there has been a significant increase in the ability to source, integrate, manage, and deliver data within organisations. The emergence of a new breed of technologies means that traditional restrictions on data processing have been overcome and the resulting boost to information capacity means that all organisations can become more agile, flexible, lean and efficient The term Intelligent Enterprise is being used to describe those that seizing the opportunities presented. This has led to a demand for people that can make this “Intelligent Enterprise” a reality. The bottom line is that without the right skills and capabilities, new technological innovations will not only be of no benefit to firms but may actually become a disadvantage to those that are unprepared to implement them. Indeed, staffing and skills have been singled out by firms as the top barrier to Agile Data Analytics, with 61% of respondents citing them as a challenge in our recent report for the Cutter Consortium. So what can organisations do to become Intelligent Enterprises and get the most from big data? We believe they need to develop three main skill bases: 1. Technology support 2. A deep analytical capability 3. A savvy understanding of what big data can deliver Organisations will increasingly be employing not only Data Miners, Data Scientists, Data Architects, Database Administrators Business Developers and Business Analysts but those individuals that combine skills from those roles such as Project Managers, Data Visulalisers and Programmers Developers. [caption id="" style="float:center" width="300"]Intelligent Enterprise Skills & Roles Mapping The Intelligent Enterprise - mapping skills and roles[/caption] At the centre of the skills bases are the Chief Information Officers (CIO) and Chief Data Offers (CDO) that will drive the transformation. With a skill set that covers all three categories, individuals are ideally placed to successfully lead their organisation into an era of extracting tangible value which is currently hidden in organisational data. It is from this perspective that we have designed the IMI Diploma in Data Business, which provides knowledge and insight into each to three areas. To find out more about how you can develop these skills come to our Information Evening for our Diploma in Data Business and Diploma Cloud Strategy in the Marker Hotel, Dublin 2, at 6pm on Tuesday 10th September register here. Tadhg Nagle is joint Programme Director of the UCC IMI Diploma in Data Business and a lecturer and researcher in Information Systems at University College Cork. With a background in financial services his expertise is in strategic innovation and emerging and disruptive technologies. [post_title] => 3 critical skills to develop if you want to work for the Intelligent Enterprise [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 3criticalskills-6 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 11:08:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 11:08:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 16066 [post_author] => 91 [post_date] => 2016-09-13 12:24:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-13 12:24:52 [post_content] => Adrian Funham photo2Previously a lecturer in Psychology at Pembroke College, Oxford, he has been Professor of Psychology at University College London since 1992. He has lectured widely abroad and held scholarships and visiting professorships at, amongst others, the University of New South Wales, the University of the West Indies, the University of Hong Kong and the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He has also been a Visiting Professor of Management at Henley Management College. He has recently been made Adjunct Professor of Management at the Norwegian School of Management. Since 2007 he has been nominated by HR magazine as one of the 20 Most Influential People in HR. IMI: Based on your current work – if you only had 6 words of advice to give a business – what would they be?

AF: Every Disruption involves threat and opportunity.

IMI: What does that mean? AF: We live in turbulent times: times of both threat and opportunity that really test managers. So what are the fundamental principles of good management to ensure staff are happy, motivated and productive? Can you teach experts to become good people managers and if so, how? What is the role of money in motivation? And how can we engage rather than disenchant our staff? We know from futurologists that the world of work is changing fast, even though many predictions have not come true. But where we work, for whom we work and with whom we work are all in flux. How do you manage the older worker? What are young people really like in the work-place? What is the work-place and organisation of the (near) future going to look like? Finally, I address the (continual) management of change. Which strategies work best and why? No one ever said managing people was easy: but we can learn to do it better and ensure our organisation thrives and survives in an uncertain world. Adrian Furnham is a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference taking place on Thursday 29th  of September. To register please click here.   [post_title] => "Every Disruption involves threat and opportunity" Six Word Wisdom from Adrian Furnham [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => every-disruption-involves-threat-opportunity-six-word-wisdom-adrian-furnham [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 10:06:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 10:06:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
F. R. Kets de Vries

F. R. Kets de Vries

6th Nov 2019

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Saving a Family Business from Emotional Dysfunction

These were the disgruntled words of Joseph (not his real name), who had come to me for help on how to “manage” his father. Joseph was the son of an entrepreneur who had created a massive enterprise. But times were changing. The digital world was having a significant effect on the business, and in spite of Joseph’s pleas for new managerial approaches, his father persisted in his familiar ways. To all who were familiar with the situation, it was very clear that their disagreement on how to take the company forward was affecting the business. Moreover, his father had a pervasive habit, when he felt cornered, of playing Joseph’s brother and two sisters against one another. And Joseph needed that like he needed a hole in the head.

Family businesses dominate and are the backbone of many countries’ economies. They are also the lifeblood of job creation. Families control about 85% of the large (worth more than $1 billion) businesses in Southeast Asia (with the notable exception of China), and 65%-75% of large businesses in the Middle East, Latin America, and India. According to the Family Firm Institute, about two-thirds of all business around the world are family-run, a figure that some estimates put at 90% in the United States. And the world is full of scions like Joseph, who find themselves frustrated by business problems that have become entangled with messy emotional issues.

The saying “Wealth doesn’t last more than three generations” reflects current family business statistics. Only three out of 10 family businesses survive into the second generation, and only one out of 10 are handed down to a third. The average life span of successful family firms appears to be 24 years (which coincides with the average time that the founder is associated with the company) according to the Conway Center for Family Business.

Although all organisations have to deal with power struggles and conflict, these challenges can be especially tough to manage in family businesses because they’re so emotional. Therefore, successfully handing on a family business requires mastery not only of the business but also of the self. The most persistent complaints I hear are that members of the senior generation refuse to share power with their adult children; that there are family members put into management positions for which they are not qualified; and that it is impossible to have a truly professional relationship with someone in the family (father, mother, uncle, aunt, brother, sister, or cousin). And all too often, the powerholders in a family business fail to address such problems effectively.

The question becomes what the family can do about it. How can they prevent these interpersonal grudges, misunderstandings, and frustrations from festering, to the detriment of the business and the family?

Focus on the Future

What I’ve found helpful as a way to begin to address the problems is to have the powerholder(s) reflect on scenarios for the future. Do they prefer to act as Louis XIV: après moi le déluge, with no regard for what happens after they retire or die? Or would they like to preserve the business for the following generations? If the latter, they need to take a number of steps to ensure continuity. To move forward, however, they must have the courage to face general business issues (which all companies have to deal with) and deal with the complex emotional and relationship issues that underlie family dynamics. In a family business you need to have both a family that works and a business that works.

Focus on Fairness

The powerholders in well-functioning family businesses need to demonstrate concern for fairness in their plans and decisions, as that will be the cornerstone of trust. Actions that are perceived as fair are more likely to be accepted and supported if they follow a number of concrete practices:

  • Give everyone voice, creating the perception that everybody in the family can make a difference
  • Provide clarity, offering timely and accurate information about family and business issues
  • Be consistent, applying the rules in the same manner to all members of the family

When a family business grows in complexity, the family will do well to reexamine the nature of its participation and engagement as a group. One important recommendation is to hold regular family meetings, which (over time) should evolve into a formal family council. Such a structure can help make people like Joseph feel less alone in their efforts to induce change.

Write a Constitution

One of the early essential tasks of these family councils is to help develop and approve a family constitution. In creating an explicit, transparent constitution, family members need to ask themselves what is the unifying purpose of having a family-controlled business in the first place. What are their values and vision? In my experience, some form of family philanthropy can be a highly effective way of binding families together. To focus on something that transcends the company — implying that there is a mission of serving others beyond merely securing the financial well-being of the family members — can provide the glue needed to maintain family unity through the generations.

The family constitution should also address issues such as training and development, how conflicts will be resolved, and decision-making practices. In addition, it should address the critical question of how family members can pursue careers in the family business. Is everyone welcome to work in the company, or are there requirements for specific educational and outside experiences? Rules of entry and exit should be made clear and explicit, along with how business ownership should be handled and how to ensure fairness and prevent or manage conflict constructively. Pursuing a successful career outside the company before entering the family firm does wonders for a family member’s sense of self-esteem.

Build a Strong Board

As the company continues to grow, a strong board of directors is needed. Effective boards of family businesses differ from the boards of public companies; they play a critical bridging role with the family council, balancing the needs of the family and the corporate system. To be an effective board member, the person selected needs a deep understanding of the relationship between the family’s values and goals and the company’s culture. Such a person can be helpful for serving as an arbiter between people like Joseph and their parents.

The family members working in business would be wise to ask themselves: If today were the last day of their lives, would they still be working in the family enterprise? If not, they would be wise to do something else. But if they love being part of a family business, people like Joseph succeeding will take much courage and soul-searching.



Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries is an executive coach, psychoanalyst, and management scholar. He is the Distinguished Clinical Professor of Leadership Development and Organizational Change at INSEAD in France, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi. Manfred delivered an IMI Masterclass on Leadership & Beyond in May, 2017.