As Leaders we need to Care to Dare

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This headline was an interesting statement from George Kohlrieser the final speaker at the World Business Forum in Sydney, in May. As Professor of Leadership and Organisational Development at the Institute of Management Development (IMD) in Switzerland, he created their High Performance Leadership Program drawing on 40 years of experience as a psychologist and hostage negotiator.

Of all the speakers, Professor Kohlrieser was the one to bring focus to what leaders need to do to be a high performance leader in a fast changing, uncertain and ambiguous world.  “Leaders are like the wind, you don’t see the wind but you feel its effect, the same is true of leaders, you feel their effect through their inspiration, influence and ability to bring about change without reverting to the now out-dated twentieth century model of ‘command and control’”.

In sharing many valuable insights with us about high performance leadership there was one aspect that stood out which was a thought provoking juxtaposition for leaders today. On the one hand, leaders want results.  They want their people to explore ideas, to take risks and to seek out and bring about change, to innovate – expressed another way to show daring.

However, he maintains that the level of daring is commensurate with the level of caring a leader is prepared to demonstrate.  Caring, not in the sense of ‘love and pixie dust’,  but caring in the sense of providing a secure base from which their people can operate.  A strong base is built on bond between the leader and their people and comes from trust, respect, collaboration, engagement and resilience.

Before people will “dare” they need to know that leaders “care”.  You cannot expect people, either as individuals or as teams, to achieve, to perform, to deliver change if, as leaders, you are not prepared to allow people to make mistakes, and at times fail. From mistakes comes learning, the lessons can be painful, however, it builds resilience and if a person or a team feels it has a secure base, it fosters the courage to continue or to even  begin again and apply the learning.

In our work with senior leaders we find this easy to espouse, however, in reality challenging to achieve because the negatives (mistakes) will always over shadow the positives as loss aversion is hard wired into us. People first look to what they will lose as opposed to what they will gain; this is particularly true of change. The concern with loss is that it can foster fear and perpetuate passive culture where people focus on avoiding risky situations, find it easier to react rather than initiate and remain safe by not deviating from policy.  Passive cultures are not breeding grounds for innovation or daring.

Leaders who provide a secure base for their people accrue a number of benefits from a people and task perspective.  From a people perspective:

  • Greater willingness to explore options and alternatives;
  • An increased sense of belonging and accountability;
  • Greater satisfaction from their work because it counts towards something meaningful;
  • Greater acceptance of change;

From a task perspective:

  • Focus is on goal achievement;
  • Building skills to become more competent;
  • To take on work that broadens their range of experiences;

Finally, in an overall sense it builds self-esteem.

This blog covering George Kohlrieser’s key note address to the World Business Forum in Sydney is the last in series that were written since attending the Forum in May.  In the last seven weeks we have covered the other seven conference speakers; Michael Porter (Strategy) , Lyn Heward (Creativity), Andreas Weigend (Big Data), Kevin Roberts (Creative Leadership), Gary Hamel (Innovation) , Ram Charan (Execution) and Randi Zuckerberg (Social Media).  These blogs are still available on our “Building the Bond” blog page on the Vivente Australia website.


Vivente Australia enables leaders and managers develop the bond between people and performance, creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its best.