'Allan Leighton, former CEO ASDA'

In 2001, I wrote to Allan Leighton, former CEO of Asda, former chief executive of Pandora, and former non-executive chair of the Royal Mail. (He is the current chair of The Co-operative Group.)

I was finding it difficult to frame my proposition to you, so I asked his advice.

Allan said, (talking about you ...)

‘They want to hear something that is unique, fits their strategy or enhances it, or on a personal level gives them some personal edge.’


'Bad strategy is easy to spot'

 Just go to your strategy document and look for the sentence that says, ‘The strategy is …’ (in less than seven words.)

If it is not there, the chances of your success are …bad for you, bad for your business, and bad for the people that work for you.

Sounds gloomy, doesn’t it?

It is.  Let me explain.

I’ve looked at hundreds of strategy documents and can tell you that often the strategy just isn’t there.

Yes, the strategy just isn’t there!

Sad but true.

It often boils down to confusing what and how.


‘No right-thinking CEO can rely on Intuition - can they?'

If you can’t sort out your problem and your mind is exhausted with looping back across the same material - without resolving the issue - then consider the words of Paramahansa Yogananda:

'Your mental powers could not act in cooperation and harmony if there were no invisible master of intuition to guide them'.


No right thinking chief executive can rely on intuition.  Can they?

In your world of reason and numbers surely this suggestion is only fit for your waste bin?


‘Most companies don’t have a strategy’, says Harvard Business School Professor, Michael Porter

You may know Michael Porter as an economist, researcher, author, advisor, speaker and teacher.

Throughout his career at Harvard Business School, he has brought economic theory and strategy concepts to bear on many of the most challenging problems facing society today, including market competition and company strategy. 

So, when he says to you, ‘Most companies don’t have a strategy’, is it worth a moment to consider if you have one?


'Have You Really Got A Strategy?'

The biggest problem you might face implementing your strategy is not widely understood.

Often, even the people who sign off strategy don’t really understand the pitfalls.

And this is a very expensive mistake.

When your senior executives stumble at the starting line, what chance is there of coherent strategic leadership and management?

For the last two decades at least, you will recognise the use of purpose, vision and mission words. 

All the most rigorous strategy documents contain this trilogy or variations of it.


‘The strategy business with the secret weapon’

‘For twenty years I have been a voice crying in the wilderness trying to get my fellow executives to take subjectivity in strategy seriously.  Subjectivity was my first love.  And later, my secret weapon.’

Twenty years ago, I recognised subjectivity as possibly the most sophisticated and precise strategy tool available to business.  Subjectivity in strategy is fast, accurate and value laden.


‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’

With these words, ‘Jesus placed his signature on a unique life’ writes Paramahansa Yogananda in his book The Second Coming Of Christ.

But what have these words got to do with strategy and strategic leadership?

It’s a good question.  And the answer involves the word delusion – ‘the action of imposing on others with false impressions’ according to one definition in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

Although this might not apply to you, let’s take a simple business example to explain how delusion works.


'Strategic Leadership Beyond Psychology'

Leadership is a problem if you are trying to solve it as an action upon someone else.

You may agree that it’s common to see requests for leaders who drive things through to completion: get things done.

In a more subtle form you call for the hero who can persuade in difficult circumstances – a valuable skill!

But it’s a short line to manipulation if your intention is to bend others to your way of looking at things rather than articulating your own position so that they can choose.

'The end justifies the means'


'Mankind's history has proved from one era to another that the true criterion of leadership is spiritual'

Leadership is a spiritual practice. This idea rewrites the rules about strategic leadership and articulates something you probably know to be true – maybe you even act out of it.

Malcolm X frightened me as a young man. His early message from the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, 'The white man is the devil', seemed to threaten my existence - even though we lived in different countries separated by the North Atlantic Ocean.

He expected to die a violent death. The only doubt in his mind was whether Dr Martin Luther King would be killed first,


'Grayson Perry, Masculinity, Strategic Leadership'

Grayson Perry - artist, transvestite, All Man – investigates the underlying symbolism of the City of London in his latest episode, Rational Man.

Monochrome with a large penis could be one description.

That might do a disservice to the financiers who opened their doors but we are grateful to them.  We can’t escape the fact that men rule this world.  And - come to that – most businesses.

Common sense is viewed through the lens of masculinity. 

But where has that got us today?