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Achieving Results – A different approach

Leadership used today

There are a variety of leadership approaches today. They can be loosely linked as being transactional or transformational with transactional being involved in day to day issues and transformational focusing on taking the organisation into the future.

Standard types of leadership approaches include: Command and Control, Visionary, Authoritative, Affiliative, Democratic, Pace Setting, Coaching, Contingency.

The internet and social networking have transformed the way people live and our traditional leadership approaches are struggling because ultimately they focus on power and authority rather than on authority and engagement.

Leadership needed today

The Third Generation leadership – Facilitating Success

Third generation leadership focuses on authority and engagement. Its underlying premise is that the key to success lies in shifting the way we think. It uses the short-hand of “red zone” or “blue zone” to explain its approach.  The “Red Zone” is about suspicion, mistrust, apprehension, a variety of fears (including job security & peer pressure) and a resistance to change. The “Blue Zone” is about willingness to trust, to experiment and to have confidence in both others and oneself.

We provide you with the tools to:


·    facilitate individual accountability by each person for themselves, their immediate team, their work unit and to the organisation


·    facilitate the recognition of underlying negative behaviours (Red Zone) and equip your team to move to underlying positive behaviours (Blue Zone).


·    Embed new behaviours in your organisation

 Set out below is the process used for implementing this new proven concept.

The process:

1.       A high-level executive workshop explaining the concept and getting feedback as to how it can be applied together with getting agreement for a pilot program

2.       Identification of a specific leadership/change/culture issue and pilot area

3.       An in-depth workshop (1-2 days) for the project sponsor and other key players helping them to a greater degree of comfort with the concept and their ability to facilitate its success in the pilot area.

4.       Detailed briefing of key players in the pilot area – what are desired results and what is the process and its likely impact on individuals

5.       Workshop for key executives  determining exact desired results, the timeframe, identification of key issues to be addressed (including culture issues), and determination of strategy for achieving desired results

6.       Workshops for various teams responsible for implementation of strategies and for identifying and dealing with cultural and other issues

7.       Identification of individual issues relating to competence and commitment to process

8.       Workshops developing cognitive coaching competence in leaders

9.       Provision of on-going cognitive coaching and mentoring across all organisational levels to optimise the probability that desired results are achieved.

10.   On-going evaluation of the process and results


1.       In steps 3-6 all information from earlier workshops is used as inputs for all participants

2.       Steps 7-8 are concurrent

Some examples:

1.       A major bank needed to introduce changes in relation to their services to business customers. The culture of the bank resisted anything other than a “traditional” banking approach in which the banker makes clear what is possible and the customer responds. The new model required managers to go and visit business clients and prospective clients, ascertain their needs, and then tailor an approach for the client. Such an approach pushed managers and other staff well outside their comfort zone. After a detailed briefing and nomination of desired results, this approach was used in three pilot areas.

Three months later the bank assessed the result of the pilot. The additional value of new business loans across the 3 was $207,080,000 resulting in new revenue totalling $7,409,000 and their 12 months calculations showed that, in these 3 areas alone, $29,636,000 in new revenues from the implementation of this approach.

2.      A supplier to the construction industry was experiencing increasing costs. They felt that increasing revenues would be difficult because of the nature of their product and the extent of their competition. There was no real commitment to the company from most staff at lower levels because their skills were readily transferable to competitors. Following an initial briefing, it was desired to try a new approach. A series of workshops were held in accord with the steps outlined above and suggestions were collected from all levels and areas as to what could be done. Once initial scepticism had gone, people started making suggestions and people became engaged with what the company was trying to do.

As a result of the shift in work practices, in this low price - high volume business, they were able to obtain an increased margin of $1 per tonne of material sold.

Third Generation Leadership –The concept

This is a concept developed by Douglas Long and first introduced in 2010. The basic concept is explained in Third Generation Leadership and the Locus of Control: knowledge, change and neuroscience (2012, Gower Publications, UK) and its application and process is set out in Delivering High Performance: the third generation organisation (2013, Gower Publications, UK).

The concept argues that First Generation Leadership (command and control) was the dominant (and almost the only) form of leadership found across the world until the late 1950’s.

 is egocentric – it is centred on what I as the leader want and/or need.  As the leader, I am all important (or I should be) to you as the follower and the coercive power available to me will be used to ensure that I, and that which I represent, remain dominant.  Its main approach is “you will …”

With the rise of humanistic psychology it became apparent that some form of person consideration could get better results than did giving orders. Consequently Second Generation Leadership evolved and is the dominant form of leadership found today in western countries. With Second Generation Leadership, leaders needed to learn how to bring about conformance. Here the leader emphasises the importance of responsibility and experience and seeks to obtain and retain people who want to perform. Respect is expected by the leader and the leader reciprocates by demonstrating respect to those who conform to the requisite standards. Its main approach is “will you …”

In both these approaches power is gained and used primarily from our position or rank and from the obtaining and disseminating of information – in many instances giving or withholding of information is used by leaders to reward or “punish” followers.

The development of the internet and the rise of social networking has brought about a significant shift in access to information. Today it is possible for individuals to find out almost anything about anyone or anything without recourse to “the boss” – and some of what they find may even be accurate. Our existing leadership approaches are proving inadequate for dealing with this new situation and there is a tendency for some organisations to attempt revert to command and control approaches with resultant employee disquiet and turnover. The “tried and true” approaches are increasingly being shown to no longer bring about desired results in business (whether for-profit or not-for-profit), government, and society.

Rather than seeking to modify existing leadership approaches we need to utilise a new approach that can enhance employee engagement to the end that desired results have the optimum probability of being achieved. This leadership approach entails leaders creating an environment in which people are consciously set up for success. The leader needs to be seeking answers to the question: “what do you need from me in order for you to be successful?” The leader is no longer “the commander” or “the servant”: rather the leader is the facilitator of success.

 This is where neuroscience helps us.

Our dominant leadership approaches (both First and Second Generation Leadership) have their neuroscience basis in what I term “the red zone” – those areas around the brain stem and central brain that deal with the basic functions of life and which enable us to survive, learn and evolve both as individuals and societies. In this zone we are happy to stay in our comfort zone and will tend to see threat in any exhortation to change thinking and behaviour. We have a predisposition to the approach that sees problems as being capable of solution if appropriate “tweaking” is done to the status quo. We tend to ignore evidence that doesn’t fit into our preferred world view.

Third Generation Leadership operates from “the blue zone” – the area dominated by the neo-frontal cortex – and enables us to deal with increasing amounts of ambiguity and complexity. It seeks new approaches to problems and issues – recognising that the very things that got us to where we are today are the same things (however tweaked) that may lull us into failure tomorrow.

The characteristics of Third Generation Leadership are:

·               leaders engage with others as individuals rather than seeking to obtain obedience or conformance

·               leaders are collaborative and facilitative

·               leaders encourage growth and self-directed learning by everyone

·               leaders respect other people even if they are not receiving respect in return

·               leaders invite questions and genuine discussion

·               leaders ask questions with a view to helping others find their own solutions

·               leaders listen to help others engage with their own or shared solutions

·               leaders are totally non-discriminatory in thought, word and action

Because of these characteristics, Leaders are able to create environments in which people feel:

·               emotionally safe

·               unconditionally respected

·               believed in as individuals

·               listened to

These are the critical conditions for people to be engaged not only with what they do but also with those around them.  And the really good news is that, because these conditions are created by the leader’s behaviour they are not some idealistic way of thinking. They are behaviours, and behaviours can be learned.

The Third Generation Leadership process starts with the organisation – how can it develop the right environment for both organisational and individual success – then moves to the individual – how can we shift our brain’s locus of control to “blue zone” dominance – and continues with cognitive coaching and mentoring to assist people both embed and apply the concepts in their everyday situations.

Most organisations currently use leadership approaches mainly based on Second Generation Leadership concepts and practices. These tend to emphasise various forms of hierarchy and control – sometimes to the end of stifling the creativity and innovation necessary for tomorrow’s organisation. In these leadership approaches when costs rise, out-sourcing and/or re-organisations that introduce new technologies may be required. This may lead to redundancies and is generally opposed by those affected or who are afraid they may be affected. All too often, leaders find that any change achieved is closer to “shifting the chairs on the Titanic” rather than the real strategic and operational change required. The “red zone - blue zone” dichotomy is not addressed and the desired level of employee engagement fails to reach optimum levels.

The Third Generation Leadership approach is not a quick fix. It requires a high level of commitment from the top of the organisation and a willingness to accept long-term involvement. But, as is made clear in Delivering High Performance: the third generation organisation it does achieve long-term, sustainable results.


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Copyright © 2012 Douglas G Long & Associates
Last modified: 10-Nov-2014