Millennials and Leadership [Podcast]

Millennials & LeadershipIn this episode of the Let’s Talk Leadership podcast, I talk about the age demographic described as the Millennials or Gen Y, those born between – roughly – the mid 1980s and early 2000s.

Shel’s Book Dedication and Millennials Chapter

In his new book, Lethal Generosity: Contextual Technology and the Competitive Edge, which I reviewed in a blog post last week, Shel Israel devotes a whole chapter to the Millennials, under the title “Why Millennials Matter”. Shel has also dedicated the book to the Millennials, with the words

To the Millennials: They’re the best hope we have.

And in the Introduction, he writes, “…the fact remains, regardless of what business you are in, Millennials matter to your future.”


Forbes Article

In the podcast I refer also to an article from a couple of years ago, but still very relevant, especially for those of us interested in issues and challenges for leadership.

Forbes: Millennials Will Soon Rule The World: But How Will They Lead? by Josh Bersin

The author writes:

In the last few years there has been a lot of research on Millennials and how they’re different. But a new topic has now come up in many of my conversations with HR and business executives: What is their leadership style and how will they lead? The answer to this question is important. Your ability to attract, develop, and retain young leaders will make or break your company in the coming years.

From a study of Millennials, the following key findings are listed (and explained in the article):

  1. Millennials want leadership and they want it their way
  2. Millennials know they’re not ready for leadership, but want it anyway
  3. Millennials value an open, transparent, inclusive leadership style
  4. Millennials demand career growth and lots of it
  5. Millennials thrive on fairness and performance-based appraisal, not tenure
  6. Millennials are comfortable with less role clarity and less of a manager-led career
  7. Millennials thrive on innovation and change

Leading intergenerational workforces

With Millennials already in leadership positions, there is a whole lot of learning to be done by all of us, in whatever age group, for us to establish and maintain effective leadership.

A key factor in this is that the Millennials are the first truly digital native generation and that affects not just their private lives but the way workplaces work – or don’t.

The mobile device is key. Shel Israel writes:

For business strategists, the important point is that you should consider the mobile devices as an essential, omnipresent part of who the Millennials are – as shoppers or employees. Take a smartphone away from an older individual and it will be inconvenient, but she will work around it; remove it from a Millennial and he will not only feel untethered, but he also may not have any experience solving a problem in any other way.” (Lethal Generosity, p 27)

We have a lot to learn from each other.

I work and socialize with a lot of Millennials and I’m optimistic.


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Leadership Lessons from Politics and Sport: Kris Gale [Podcast]

Kris Gale, chairman, Michael Johnson Associates

My guest on the Let’s Talk Leadership podcast show this week, Kris Gale, has a strong professional interest in government leadership on industry innovation, and as I’m a bit of a political junkie as well as a leadership coach, the latest developments in the national capital, where yet another leadership spill gave us a new Prime Minister, the fourth in just two years, were grist for our podcasting mill.

And with the new Prime Minister arguably the most digitally savvy member of the national parliament, this was in fact an opportune time for a conversation about the kind of leadership needed in the digital age. And in the specifically Australian context, about what confidence we might have that the new Prime Minister’s stated views and intentions on innovation will be reflected in government policy and execution.

We also talked about sport and leadership, with interesting examples from US basketball and Australian Rugby League.

Kris Gale

Kris Gale is Chairman of Michael Johnson Associates or MJA, a company that specialises in helping Australian innovators make the most effective use of Federal Government industry assistance programs, especially via the Government’s R&D Tax Incentive. He is a founding member of the Australian Federal Government’s R&D Tax Incentive National Reference Group.

Kris has lengthy experience in this field of Federal Government support for industry innovation. He joined Michael Johnson Associates in 1987 as a Consultant, became a partner two years later and in 1998 became Managing Partner. In mid 2014 he took up the role of Chairman.

He’s a man of many parts, a music lover, owner of Risky Records and a DJ, a.k.a. The Godfather – his Twitter handle is @GodfatherDJ. He has diverse sporting interests. He’s a basketball player and coach, he has an amazing recall of cricket lore and is President of his local cricket club. He’s a died-in-the-wool supporter and Player Sponsor of the West Tigers Rugby League Club and co-hosts a very entertaining weekly segment on Rugby League on a local radio station, and never ceases to amaze me with his knowledge of US professional basketball and football. And as any of his friends will attest, he’s a fount of information about pop culture.

Managing Partner, Chairman – What Difference?

We talked about Kris’s experience of moving from the Managing Partner role to that of Chairman, with one of his two Partners in the company taking on the Managing Partner role. He shared the company’s strategic reasons for doing this, including:

  • demonstrating to the market that the company was more than “Kris and others”, that there was deep and wide expertise
  • showing staff that there was scope for them to envision a future for themselves and to aspire to fill more senior roles

The varied reactions to the move are fascinating and demonstrate the importance of explaining changes of this kind and getting feedback from stakeholders.

Changes in Government Leadership and Stated Focus on Innovation

We discussed the recent turnover in national leadership with the new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declaring that his government will be agile and innovative and the new Prime Minister’s declaration that “If we want to remain a prosperous, first-world economy [with] generous social welfare safety net, we must be more competitive, we must be more productive, above all we must be more innovative.”

Points covered included:

  • the rationale for Government support for private sector industry innovation, in Australia and some sixty other jurisdictions worldwide
  • the value for business in having a positive Government focus on supporting innovation, seeing it now as an investment, rather than, from a more narrowly conservative position, as a cost

Sport and Lessons in Leadership

Kris has “butted heads” with people teaching business and corporate transformation on what can be learned about leadership from sport. Nothing, some of them say.

As a sportsman, coach and keen observer of various sports, Kris thinks decidedly otherwise and shared stories and insights to illustrate, including the achievements of legendary NBL basketball coach Phil Jackson. On a more local level we talked about another legend, Wayne Bennett, currently coach of the Brisbane Broncos in the National Rugby League. With both stories, Kris shared his thoughts on organisational culture and collaborative leadership vs command-and-control.

What Keeps Australian Business Leaders Awake at Night?

Kris’s observations on this question, which I have asked every guest on the show so far, surprised me. It may surprise you. Either way, his response opened for me a whole new area of discussion about leadership, which we will now have to pursue at another time.

A Valuable Tip

Don’t miss Kris’s tip, near the end of this episode, on how to know whether you are doing a good job as a leader.

How to Find Out More about Michael Johnson Associates and Kris Gale

For more about Michael Johnson Associates and the services they provide to the innovation community, check out the website at

Kris Gale’s LinkedIn profile is at  Follow him on Twitter at@GodfatherDJ

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Lethal Generosity and Why Millennials Matter to Your Business: Review

Lethal Generosity book by Shel Israel

Power Shift

Every now and again a book about technology innovation and business comes along that I’m eager to recommend to my coaching clients and business associates. But after a couple of such recommendations in recent years that fell flat, I’m more selective now.

So  I’m pleased to say that Shel Israel’s latest book Lethal Generosity: Contextual Technology and the Competitive Edge definitely makes the cut.

One of the main reasons for that is Shel Israel’s storytelling skill.

He provides just enough technical information for non-technical people like me to get the drift, then moves quickly and fluently to illustrate, with many examples, the impact of the technology on people and businesses.

Lethal Generosity is the sequel to Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy, which Shel co-authored with Robert Scoble and published in 2014.

Age of Context described ways in which the “five forces of context” – mobile, data, sensors and location – are “changing your experience as a shopper, a customer, a patient, a viewer or an online traveller”.

Age of Context was a real eye-opener for me and in a blog post at the time I wrote:

(Age of Context) gave pattern and direction, with real life examples and stories, to what I think of as the future we are in right now – exciting for some, scary for others, and a bit of both for everyone in between.

Lethal Generosity has been for me not so much an eye-opener as an ideas-opener and a set of important alerts about business challenges and opportunities.

It has also provided me with an up-to-date framework for speaking confidently with business leaders about the broader business dimensions of contextual technologies.

In the Introduction to Lethal Generosity, the author summarizes what the book is about:

Lethal Generosity explains why the interplay of technology and social changes is causing companies to lose control of their brands just as their customers gain control of them. It argues that this power shift will be good for the businesses that adapt to it faster than their competitors.

More than an update

In Lethal Generosity Shel provides fresh examples of contextual technology at work. But this book is much more than an update of Age of Context, especially in that it provides a fresh, contemporary and forward-looking framework for businesses wanting to invigorate or refresh their strategies to meet the new digital realities.

My paraphrase (using freely some of the author’s phrasing):

  • Social change and technology innovation have created or enabled a power shift, from sellers and brand efforts, to buyers who use social media to influence each other
  • By being kind to your customers at every touch point  you prevent competitor attempts to hijack them through traditional marketing (thus lethal, to your competition, generosity)
  • The key group is Millennials (Gen Y), the first generation of digital natives, who value a culture of sharing and collaboration
  • The mobile device (smartphones etc) is “an essential, omnipresent part of who Millennials are – as shoppers or employees”
  • Technology enables “pinpoint marketing”, customer-centric, highly personalized and at the same time highly scalable

Millennials and Why They Matter

The most significant chapter for me in this book, in relation to my professional priorities of executive coaching and helping business leaders navigate digital disruption, was Why Millennials Matter.

The Millennials, or the Millennial Generation or Gen Y, refers to the generation following Gen X. Millennials birth dates range from the mid 1970s to the late 1980s, or if you believe Wikipedia from the early 1980s to the early 2000s.

In brief, Millennials matter (for business) because:

  • There are a lot of them – it’s estimated that in 2015 there will be more Millennials than Boomers
  • Most Millennials make decisions based on peer influence, not brand messages
  • As digital natives, they have an unusually close relationship with contextual technologies
  • They have a more collaborative attitude to business.

This is not a flash in the pan. As the author says:

If you are a business decision maker, then Millennials are likely to be the dominant portion of your customers, employees, and competitors for a long time to come…

A workforce with strong Millennial representation? How would that work?

For employers of an older generation who are interested in the possibilities and challenges of deliberately recruiting Millennials, a couple of interesting examples are provided. Incidentally, I couldn’t help wondering how such a decision might be implemented in some jurisdictions which prohibit age discrimination in employment: a nice challenge for the HR department, no doubt.

And More

There are also the fascinating chapters, with illustrative stories, on the sharing economy (“Uberize Some Things”), location-based technologies (“Location, Location” – “Wherever you go, someone or something knows where you are.”), sensors and location technologies in retail (“Beaconing Customers”), mobile devices and the changing face of transactions (“The Contactless Marketplace”).

And being always interested in having a heads up on “next new things” in business-related technology, I enjoyed the chapter “Beyond the Lighthouse”, about “soon-to-be-offered technologies” which hold out a promise to accelerate the shift of marketplace power towards the customer.

Then in “The Road to Pinpoint” there is an explanation of the fork in the road businesses are now facing (whether or not they realize it), and interesting stories of a process of redefining public relations (PR).

Privacy, What Privacy?

Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of PrivacyNo doubt like many others, when I finished reading Age of Context I wondered seriously whether we might be on a downward slope in the loss of any real privacy. Indeed, the authors, under the heading Privacy is Subjective, observed there that “In the Age of Context we seem to be unnecessarily performing risky tasks without a safety net.” (p 168).

In Lethal Generosity, we are informed that for the Millennials, that key group of customers and employees for the new age, privacy seems to be, relatively speaking, a non-issue. Commenting that “there seems to be a paucity of commentary related to privacy issues” the author observes that “Millennials often consider this issue something to be filed under so what?”

What I Missed

Because I work a lot with professional services companies, I would like to have found some examples of initiatives in that sector.

The key arguments of the book clearly apply to professional services companies, for example about being generous at every touch point with customers and employees, and about acknowledging and working with a “Millennial viewpoint”. But when I think of speaking about technology-enabled lethal generosity with firms of lawyers, say, or financial services companies, or engineering or management consultants, I would love to have some related industry-specific stories of success (or failure-with-learning) I could share with them.

Maybe there are no examples. Maybe such firms are still working on old paradigms. But I suspect there could be some firms doing interesting things in terms of contextual technologies. I’m keen to know more.

Summing Up

As I said at the outset of this post, I will be recommending Lethal Generosity to clients and other business owners.


  • It’s an absorbing, informative and – in a good way – challenging read
  • The author is a long term commentator on the technology sector and how it affects business, and an accomplished story teller
  • The overarching narrative, of the shift of power from companies and brands to employees and consumers, is clearly delineated and expertly illustrated with real world stories
  • Without preaching or in any way condescending, the author makes a convincing case for every business leader to take time to assess how ready his or her business is to meet the present and impending challenges of the changes documented here
  • If for nothing else, it’s worth reading for the insights and examples about Millennials and their relationship to technology, and what that means for those who want to build relationships with them as consumers or employees, or both.
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Democratizing Thought Leadership: Mitchell Levy [Podcast]

The Thought Leader Architect

Mitchell Levy Thought Leader ArchitectThe terms “thought leader” and “thought leadership” get thrown around so much these days that it was a goal of mine when launching this Let’s Talk Leadership show to have at least one of the first ten sessions devoted to the topic.

And who better as a guest for that purpose than Thought Leader Architect, Mitchell Levy?

Mitchell Levy is the thought leader who creates new thought leaders and makes existing thought leaders better known.

He is the Chief Aha Instigator at the Aha Amplifier and the CEO and Thought Leader Architect at THiNKaha. Mitchell is an Amazon bestselling author with forty five business books, contributor at Entrepreneur Magazine, has provided strategic consulting to over one hundred companies, has advised over five hundred CEOs on critical business issues through the CEO networking groups he’s run, and has been chairman of the board of a NASDAQ-listed company.

Besides which, and importantly for me, he is a good friend of many years and was the publisher for the book Happy About LinkedIn for Recruiting, which I successfully co-authored with Bill Vick, in the days when LinkedIn, compared to now, was just getting underway (as in, 20 million members then, compared to 380 million now).

What makes someone a thought leader?

For a definition of “thought leader”, Mitchell referred me to a page on one of his websites, where he answers this frequently asked question, with words and a neat graphic:

(A thought leader) is an expert in a particular area and is recognized as the expert (the go-to person) in a specific vertical or set of verticals.

As compared someone who is unknown, an evangelist, or an expert.

Mitchell takes seriously his aim to democratize the world of thought leadership. For him, every organization is full of people who are experts in their field. He wants to see companies and individuals benefiting by allowing employees to be thought leaders, allowing them to share content, both inside and outside the company.

“People are paid to do their job, then when they want to talk about it they’re told they can’t. What’s wrong with that?”

So you want to be a thought leader?

We should think of a thought leader as “a recognized expert in their space”, which “space” can be geographical and/or by context.

Thus the key question to ask of someone who aspires to be thought leader is:

“What is it you want to be known for and where is it you want to be known?”

You document that and then you start.

Mitchell provides a 3 step plan of action:

Step 1: Define what you want to achieve as a thought leader and where you want that.

Step 2: Find who plays in that space (i.e. you find your peers in the space and “start doing favors for them.”

Step 3: Allocate time for yourself to do it every day.

Give yourself 6-12 months at this and “then reflect”.

No instant gratification there!

Can Millennials be thought leaders?

We might think thought leaders have to be older people.  Not Mitchell. He cites the YouTubers who are well known “because they focused on a certain area and had something we called nerdish”. So yes, Millennials can definitely be thought leaders.

For one thing, they multi-task.

And they don’t have the potential distraction of families and other competing responsibilities.

They are transforming the way work works. For instance, the annual performance review is a serious anachronism for a generation that wants daily feedback!

Other gems

“The best skill set anyone can have today is international project management.”

“Innovation and experimentation are the best antidotes to FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt).”


Mitchell has written social media enabled eBooks he offers for free: “Mitchell Levy on Creating Thought Leaders” and “Meridith Elliott Powell and Mitchell Levy on Instilling Leadership at Every Level” at and respectively, join the conversation about thought leadership best practices on the LinkedIn group, or watch a new thought leader episode each week on

Also on the show we mentioned Mitchell’s new social media course, 5 Minutes of Social Media a Day. And check out his THiNKaha Thought Leadership Services.

You can find Mitchell on LinkedIn at this link.

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Shadow Coaching for Effective Leadership: Donna Karlin [Podcast]

Donna Karlin, Shadow CoachIt’s a privilege and an enduring pleasure to count among my good friends and colleagues in the coaching world Donna Karlin, Master Certified Corporate Coach, International Speaker, Author and Shadow Coach.

So I was delighted when Donna agreed to spend some time last week sharing her perspective and insights on leadership for the digital age, for the benefit of listeners to the Let’s Talk Leadership podcast show.

A pioneer in the coaching industry, Donna has spent 31+ years helping leaders figure out how to bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to be by bringing a dynamic, strengths-focused perspective to executive leadership development.

Donna works with a diverse range of leaders and high potentials from the corporate and business sectors, global political offices and governments, the technology sector, communication design, and science and medicine.

Her work has been written up in Fast Company Magazine, The National Post (Financial Post), The Globe and Mail, The New York Times Business Section, The Boston Globe, and Personal Success Magazine. And her resumé on LinkedIn includes a seriously impressive array of achievements, certifications, qualifications, publications and awards.

She is also an accomplished story teller and teacher, as you will hear in this podcast.


Topics we discussed included

  • Coaching in the public and corporate sectors – similarities and differences
  • Impact of digital disruption on leadership
  • Constraints on people working in the public sector – perceptions and realities
  • Leaders’ attitude to digital technology and how that can affect decision-making
  • A valuable tip for how leaders who drive change can deal with resistance from those who like the status quo
  • Shadow Coaching® – what it is and how it works
  • Strengths-based coaching
  • What keeps leaders up at night and a powerful story about a border guard
  • Coaching, clients’ value systems and meeting challenges at that higher, values level

Shadow Coaching®

In a conversation I found full of insight and wisdom I was particularly interested to hear Donna talking about her Shadow Coaching®, part of the explanation of which, on her website, is as follows:

Shadow Coaching® is a real time learning approach in developing a refined self-awareness and capabilities in the workplace as a result of reflection on practice. It enables people, not only to benefit from the continuous presence of an observing coach over an extended period of time in a typical set of workdays, but also develops their own role as self-observer for the long term. It aids clients in becoming reflective practitioners.


On resistance to change

You’re always going to have those who want to do things the old way, who create roadblocks every step of the way. And until they see a benefit to them, that it has a positive meaning for them, they’re not necessarily going to switch.

About the communication advantages of technology

We are too reliant on face to face.

The technology makes rapid, effective contact possible, regardless of distance.

It’s great! Look, if my client’s in the middle of a bombing overseas, I don’t want to be there: I also want him to have access to me.

On what keeps leaders up at night

Until you look at the context and the content of what somebody is in, that “What’s keeping leaders up at night?” is not going to reveal itself as powerfully as if you ask them “what are you living right now?’

On coaching

Having a coach as a thought partner helps leaders to make responsive, not reactive, decisions.

On strengths based coaching

Listen to the section where Donna talks about her question to clients, “What do you suck at?” (At about the 20-23 minute mark – priceless!)

More about Donna Karlin

You can learn more about Donna, her work and the impressive range of services in Leadership Coaching, Consulting and Training she and her company offer, at her A Better Perspective website. Contact details here.

You can follow Donna on Twitter  – @The_ShadowCoach

Her LinkedIn profile is at:

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Leadership & Transformation: Charlene Li [Podcast]

Speaking with Charlene Li

Charlene Li, CEO & Principal Analyst, Altimeter GroupAs a Charlene Li fan from way back, I was delighted to be able to interview Charlene for the Let’s Talk Leadership show.

Charlene is the Founder, CEO and Principal Analyst of Altimeter Group and the author of The Engaged Leader: A Strategy for Your Digital Transformation. She is also the author of the New York Times bestseller Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead and co-author of the critically acclaimed, bestselling book Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, which was named one of the best business books in 2008.

She is one of the foremost experts on social media and technologies and a consultant and independent thought leader on leadership, strategy, social technologies, interactive media and marketing. Formerly Li was vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, worked in online newspaper publishing, and was a consultant with Monitor Group. She was named one of the 100 most creative people in business by Fast Company in 2010 and one of the most influential women in technology 2009.

Highlight points from the interview and a few quotes

Transformation and the need to focus on Relationships

The taglines of the three books, Groundswell, Open Leadership and The Engaged Leader all speak of transformation. That’s intentional, says Charlene, and transformation is “not a comfortable, easy process”.

There is also a case being made through these books for people to not concentrate on the technology but to focus on relationships.

The appropriate response to the question of what technology to use is to focus on the relationships.  Use whatever technology is appropriate to:

  • connect with people
  • develop relationships

“I’d much rather teach someone who understands relationships how to use technology than to do the reverse, teach someone who uses the technologies but doesn’t understand relationships and doesn’t understand leadership,” Charlene says.

And about any technology being proposed for a company’s use:

“Frankly, if it’s not understandable in the context of relationships, I can guarantee you it’s a technology I think that’s not going to be long for the world.”

Transformation is optional

You as the leader can choose not to do anything, “but people won’t come with you”.

The Executive team and the Board

Key points:

  • There is more and more need for Boards to become digitally savvy, and
  • It’s up to the CEO to do the interpretation.
  • The two have to work in conjunction with each other, as they always have

The Board is not there to come up with a solution. That’s the CEO’s job. It’s the Board’s job to say “this needs to be a priority”.

Finding the time

How business leaders can find time to take the necessary action:

  • Find 15 minutes spread throughout the day to just listen to what your most important customers and most important employees are saying
  • Be very strategic in your engagement – you don’t have to listen to everything.
  • As Dale Carnegie taught many years ago, be genuinely interested in who other people are

What keeps business leaders awake at night?

The need for innovation, at the speed it needs to happen.

Exemplary leadership

  • Scott Cook, Chairman of the Executive Committee at Intuit – “has made sure that Intuit has change built into its DNA”
  • Starbucks – constantly innovating, healthcare and education support for employees
  • Mike Smith, CEO of ANZ Bank (Australia HQ) – took entire executive team to Silicon Valley to learn and committed to learning and applying the “new tricks” himself

More about Charlene Li and Altimeter Group

You can find out more about Charlene and Altimeter Group at the company website. Unlike many companies which guard jealously their ideas, Altimeter Group shares generously: check out the reports available for download at no cost to you, at the Our Ideas link, for example, their recently released report The 2015 State of Social Business: Priorities Shift From Scaling to Integrating.

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