Donald Trump, Theresa May, and possibilities for leadership change

January 3, 2018


Donald Trump and Theresa May are examples of leaders whose critics have regularly predicted their downfall. Why are these predictions repeatedly found wanting?

Trump’s downfall has been widely anticipated rom the time he entered the Presidential race as a political novice. Such conventional wisdom from political observers persisted to the end of 2017 and continues now into the new year.

Extract from The New press Dec 31st 2017
National political punditry was certain he couldn’t be elected, remained sure he couldn’t accomplish anything and believes his personal unpopularity will secure tremendous losses for his party in the 2018 mid-terms. In the meantime, Trump won a sound Electoral College victory, became president and now has governed for almost a year.

In the UK there has been a similar suspicion of an imminent political downfall. Yet, Prime Minister May has confounded critics since her decision to call a general election which went seriously wrong. After the election in June, she was derided as moving from strong and stable (her election battle cry) to weak and wobbly (a cruel barb afterwards). Her Government survived narrowly by striking an uncomfortable deal with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist party. Predictions of her imminent resignation persisted with senior members of her own inner circle openly disregarding her authority.

Three have ‘resigned’ recently. Boris Johnson, arguably the most blatantly disloyal and gaffe-prone has survived, seen as further evidence of the PM’s weakness and vulnerability.

In searching for an explanation, I turned to the work of Kurt Lewin, one of the pioneers of social psychology. Lewin asked the question ‘why is change in society and its social systems so difficult?’ He realised that there must be complex sets of forces holding any social system together in a state of stability. Not too stable, as that excludes the possibility of any change taking place. Nor too easy to be radically changed as that would lead to too much instability. In other words, there has to be a stable state, with potential for change.

Beckhard’s Change Factors

Lewin’s work was turned into a model for influencing change by Richard Beckhard and co-workers. Beckhard identifies three necessary components that together may help overcome resistance to change. They are:

Dissatisfaction (for example with a leader)
Easy first step (for example, speaking out without suppression of views)
Clear endpoint or vision (for example, replacement with a better leader)

If any of the three forces are absent or very weak, change is unlikely.

 Beckhard’s change model

Change is easiest where the three kinds of forces weakening a desired change are present. Take a soldier pinned down by enemy fire. There is:
dissatisfaction with the status quo
vision of escape to safety
but without an easy first step, the soldier may not act to initiate the change

A far more complex case is emerging in the violent and widespread protests taking place in Iran.

The dissatisfaction with the regime is evident.
There seem to have been first steps (if not easy, at least enacted). But is there a clear vision of a better future?


Applying the model, leads me to conclude that President Trump and Prime Minister have both survived considerable dissatisfaction with them and with their actions. Several first steps to have been initiated by those seeking change.  However, at very least, the replacement of either leader seems less imminent than commentators are predicting. At least one of the required factors (a clear vision of a better situation) seems nearly non-existent.

Discussion comments from LWD subscribers are welcomed.


How do you like your Brexit: Hard, soft, scrambled, or Vegan?

December 8, 2017
Today, after a tortuous period of over a year, the departure of the UK from the EU takes one step further forward. The week demonstrated the difficulty in setting a deadline as an absolute one, rather than a guideline in a search for reaching an objective.
I made the point some years ago in a talk to NHS professionals. Deadlines, I argued, could be treated as hard or soft. As an advocate of creative thinking, I was arguing for avoidance of Either Or thinking.
The Government (and worse, large numbers of people in and outside the UK) will, I believe, suffer from the unnecessary imposition of hard deadlines on the process of moving towards leaving the EU. The process has been widely described as Brexit, helpfully explained by Prime Minister May as ‘Brexit means Brexit.’
As with deadlines, Brexit was variously seen as hard or soft. The PM had the find ways of gaining support from those who wanted a  harder version, as well as those who wanted a softer.
Ways of serving an egg
But even that over-simplifies the assorted dilemmas to be addressed. For from being Either-Or, Brexit could be seen in a range of different ways.  How would you like your Brexit egg served: hard, soft, scrambled or without eggs at all. After all,  for ethical reasons, Vegans don’t eat even eat eggs.



Christmas Reading

November 29, 2017



IMG_0421 (2).JPG

My first three books selected for Chrismas reading

I could not resist reading John Crace’s collected pieces in advance of Christmas. The humour sustains itself, although not quite as memorably as when served up fresh and regularly.

LWD Subscribers are invited to send me their books and reviews.




November 25, 2017


Creativity has often been associated with chaos and disruption. In this respect, Schumpeter’s economics of creative destruction comes to mind. His insights have influenced much of the work on innovation theory for economists.
But we can go back in history to find creativity as a disruptive force. In the philosophy of Plato, we are warned of the dangers to stability of the state, or republic, in the creative work of the poet. Plato, of course, always requires careful treatment. He intends us to work out for ourselves the ideas he is interested in.
The American creativity scholar Stein traced the origins of the adjective ‘Creative’ in a different way. The creative artist, he suggests attempts to imitate the features of the natural world as they were created by the first creator. We might chose to see in this an echo of Plato, again, with his idea of human perception being a poor distorted reflection of reality.
I want to explore the inter-relationships between creativity, innovation, and change, with particular emphasis on contemporary events in business and society. The post is based on a presentation to ISSEK from Manchester to Moscow, November 2017
In part my presentation draws on studies by myself and colleagues over nearly forty years at The Manchester Business School, (now renamed The University of Manchester Alliance Business School). Over that period, research into the nature of creativity has flourished with journals and international networks bringing together scholars and professionals. Yet many unresolved issues remain, which I consider as challenges, or dilemmas to be addressed.
One widely accepted view today comes from Teresa Amabile, one of the giants of the field, and is found  in the title of her book, Creativity in Context.
Creativity reveals itself when considered in its social context. Amabile’s  ‘Creativity in context’ is a good ‘lens’. It encourages us to look for the uniqueness of each example of creativity, as well as seeking its connectedness with other examples.
Rickards’ rules for understanding creativity
In an hour of gentle grilling recently in Buffalo, New York, by Professor Gerard Puccio about my views on creativity, I suspect I had not got further than a modification of  Warren Buffett’s famous laws of finance:
Rickards Rule no 1: There are many ways of understanding creativity
Rickards Rule no 2: never forget Rule no 1.
The age of chaos
The contemporary era has its own particular brand of chaos. If we are to make some temporary sense of it, we need to be constantly reviewing and revising our understanding. The information, though still partial and filtered, (as Plato taught us) is more widely available than ever before. So our individual challenge is to make sense of the ‘maps’ we come across, and from them create our own interpretations.
The workshops at Manchester Business School were designed to provide opportunities for   ‘Learning through doing’ using contemporary cases.  Over the years, I have found this a skill which can be developed with practice.
I believe creativity will become recognized as core to effectiveness in an age of chaos.

Creativity and Leadership Moscow 2017

Guardianistas Anonymous: A recovery plan

November 8, 2017



In escaping from my addiction to the Guardian newspaper, I have today taken the first step. Recovery begins in recognizing the dangers accompanying your condition


My decline into the addiction is easy to trace. For some years, my loyalty was for another British newspaper. It fell on hard times, and in time, reduced its print content, including dispensing with a daily chess column of which I was inordinately fond.

I turned to The Guardian. A. Fatal choice. Admittedly, my new paper lacks a chess column, a grievous weakness. However, I found the content greatly to my liking. I had been a latent Gardianista for many years. I was soon hooked.


What is a Guardianista?

The term is used typically to categorize Guardian readers as being disposed to socially liberal and politically correct views (well, OK, I can live with that), and hypersensitive to politically incorrect actions or language.

A good example of the view from the outside can be found in a discussion thread from mumsnet:

What do mumsnetters mean when they use the phrase “Guardianistas”?

Ok, Dinosaur, I admit I use the term in a derogatory way, and I would not use it to classify all Guardian readers  I started to explain but it turned into a mini-essay, so to cut it short a middle class but not necessarily wealthy person, who is extremely pretentious about “art” and other “bohemian” topics. Feels superior to those on similar incomes who perhaps have less education etc. because they use recycled loo paper. Will stop now.

The critical incident for me in my descent into helplessness was another dependency-inducing product I began overdosing on everyday, and which I found lurking on the back page of the G2 supplement, itself concealed in the Sports Section of the Guardian.

The Quick Crossword

I became hooked very quickly. In time, I became unable to attend to other matters until I had completed the quick crossword. It is particularly seductive as you become increasingly addicted as you appear to be needing only two or three more answers to obtain the gratification of closure. Even sneakier, The Guardian provides a free solution on line, either for a frustrating clue, or for the entire puzzle.

The on-line fix

Then already weakened, I fall more deeply into helpless addiction. I now subscribe to the free daily on-line Guardian, an equally potent drug. Day by day, my resistance is weakened. I now spend increasing time considering the merits of full-on Veganism and everyday cruelties to oppressed minorities.

I reach out to other Guardianistas

I am seeking help from the institution for recovering Guardianistas. I am still at the first of their ten step journey to partial recovery. I am already able to read the headlines off other newspapers. I am starting with the new mini Independent, The i. Later I will be encouraged to look at the headlines of The Mirror. When these challenges become less threatening, I shall move on to confronting the terrifying front pages of The Daily Mail and The Sun.

Further reports on my steps to recovery to follow.

Relationship Leadership

October 31, 2017

Free Seminar: BLCC Seminar Series (INT): Wed 6 December 2017,14:00 – 16:00 

Rm 3X110 Bristol Business School. Title: Do relationships matter in the work place?


Bristol Leadership & Change Centre Research Seminar Series


Do relationships matter in the work place?

Relational leadership – rethinking organisational change through the lens of relationships

Speaker: Elinor Rebeiro, Delta7 Change Ltd


Speaker: Julian Burton, Delta7 Change Ltd




We want to show that the quality of interpersonal relationships is central to the wellbeing, performance and success of every organisation. This is why we believe that leaders can¹t afford not to focus on building relationships as the central theme in leadership development programmes and organisational development work. We would like to use this session to share our perspective on relational leadership and shine a light on some of the unexamined assumptions we believe are maintaining cultures of disconnections and getting in the way of creating more human organisations.

As practitioners we find ourselves enveloped in our client¹s worlds. Their worlds are, without doubt, messy and complicated as they continually strive to achieve something different, something better.  We find many leaders are experiencing more complexity and uncertainty in their role leading change, and it¹s getting harder to resolve the wicked problems facing their organisations with traditional management practices. Many people feeling stuck, overworked and exhausted.

What’s not working?

For example, most organisational cultures we work in don¹t seem to have an emotional climate that nurtures experimenting and innovating new ways of working, yet there are strong intentions to move away from command and control and create more collaborative ways of working. The dominant view of management is that work is done transactionally  by individuals (Hartling, L. & Sparks, E., 2008); yet the collaborative, interactive nature of organising and coordinating mutually interdependent tasks and roles means that effective working relationships are what gets things done (Fletcher 2001).

We care passionately about how theory and practice can inform each other and how to combine the two things together to make them meaningful and productive for our clients. Yet we are noticing that theory still seems pretty far ahead of the reality of practice in organisations. What we are making sense of is how can we connect together theory and practice in a way that helps organisations but doesn’t put them off the possible innovations that can emerge from this praxis.

We will also engage in some experiential exercises to explore the different ways we can relate to each other at work and discuss how that can illuminate the direction that leadership development might need to take in order to more fully support organisations to thrive.

When was the last time you discussed your relationship with another at work?

Campus parking is limited so please book early to request space.

Contact details: UWE Bristol, Frenchay Campus, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol BS16 1QY. Telephone: +44 (0)117 9656261. Email:


Seconds Out by Martin Kohan

October 25, 2017

Book Review

Seconds Out, by the Argentine intellectual and novelist Martin Kohan, is a literary ‘who done it’. Its seventeen chapters each covers a single second of the time when the world heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey was knocked out of the ring in a title fight in New York. He was allowed to recover by a hapless referee, and managed to climb back in, to resume a fight he should have lost by a knockout.

Woven into each of the chapters is a news item of a mysterious death in a hotel room in Argentina, which took place at the same time as the fight. This was followed up many years later by a journalist. His speculation that the two events were connected was dismissed by colleagues as their lives continued.

Eventually, there is a satisfactory resolution to the story, which I will not reveal.

This is an elegantly written book translated from the original Spanish and one which rewards readers with its power to sustain the themes of boxing, and wider existential issues. It happens to have another unexpected turn for me. In 2016, I began writing a story with the provisional title Seconds Out: A Memorial Hall mystery. My own idea is to draw attention to the emerging mind-and-body sport of Chess Boxing in a ‘cosy’ thriller format. Subscribers to Leaders We Deserve will not be surprised to learn it also touches on political and political leadership.

In 2017, as my own book was approaching publication, I came across and purchased a copy of the Martin Kohan novel. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I can only hope that my own tale, which also has a bizarre boxing match in it, will give as much pleasure to readers as Kohan’s gave to me.