• The 60 Second Leader
  • Seven Secrets of Inspired Leaders
  • The Little Book of Leadership
  • The Leadership Hub for Corporates
  • Learning to Live with Huntington's Disease

Phil's Leadership blog

The 5 things we regret on our deathbeds

Our top five regrets on our deathbeds.

So, we can do something about them now :)

1. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard

2. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends

3. I wish I had let myself be happier

4. I wish I’d had the courage to express my true self

5. I wish I’d lived a life true to my dreams, instead of what others expected of me.

Source: as reported by hospice workers, who look after terminally ill people.

From: Jane McGonigal’s brilliant TEDTalk.

What’s it got to do with leadership?

Warren Bennis, the ‘Dean of Leadership’, according to the FT, says a lot of leaders are forged through adversity – going through something tough in their life that he calls ‘the crucible’.

Jane McGonigal went through her own crucible. Then thought ‘What if you could have the transformation into someone far more capable, living a better life, as a better person, for longer, and healthier, without having the trauma of the crucible?’

And invented a way of doing that. Just watching her video can make you live seven and a half minutes longer. Following her methods, outlined in her talk, can add 10 years to your life.


Innovation: Starting second can end up first

Who beat Amazon?

Which company created on-line bookselling in the 1990s? Amazon.com? Nope. The first on-line bookstore was set up by an Ohio-based bookseller named Charles Stack in 1991. Jeff Bezos didn’t launch Amazon till four years later.

We’re constantly being told that leaders need to foster a culture of innovation, to move into Blue Ocean spaces where no competitors exist, then profit from the customers before our competitors copy us and move into the space we have created.

Henry Ford said ‘come second to market’

Well, not always. Henry Ford used to argue that it made more sense to be second to market – let someone else take the risks of seeing if something new is what customers will buy. Then, when the market is proven, often at great expense, follow in and do it better. That’s the core argument in this book, and the authors lines up plenty of examples to prove their point.

Fast Second: How smart companies bypass radical innovation to enter and dominate new markets

Fast Second: How smart companies bypass radical innovation to enter and dominate new markets

And they do have one. The argument against them is the first mover advantage argument – That markets move so fast nowadays you need to be first to market with something new so you can mop up the customers. That may be true if there’s only room for one dominant supplier, and if your aim is to be that dominant supplier – the Amazon of your marketplace, if you will. But there’s usually plenty of room for smaller niche players who take the main innovation, tweak it a bit and find a space in the market that way. It’s like ‘the long tail’ argument.

But, do markets move too fast today for ‘be second to market’ to work?

Tom Peters argues that markets move so fast that trying to be second to market means you will just be mopping up the leftovers as those who were brave enough to lead and create a new market take all the prizes. Well, sometimes, maybe. But, not always.

The uncomfortable answer is that sometimes being first to market is the winning strategy and sometimes being second or even third, when the pioneers have proved what works and what doesn’t and lost all their money in the process, is the right strategy.

It seems odd to say ‘Take the lead on being second or third’ but leadership doesn’t always mean being first to market. That’s my view, anyway (in synch with the authors of this book).

Balancing the risk: Being closer to customers increases the chances of success

Nobody can tell you which one works in your particular situation (a strategy of being first, second or third to market). But, the closer you are to knowing your customers’ or potential customers’ needs – to instinctively know what they want even before they know it themselves – the more likely your innovation is to be a winner.

And that, though it doesn’t explicitly say so in this book, is why leaders need to be as ‘close to the customer’ (thank you Tom Peters, even if it was 25 years ago he said it) as possible. That means interacting with customers whenever you can, not receiving reports from middle managers about the customer base, but immersing yourself in the customer base, no matter how lofty your role in the organization is.

End of preachy bit. Anyway, interesting book…

Little bit more about it here: Fast Second on Wikipedia

The Second Little Book of Leadership

…just published on Slideshare. Hope you find it useful.


Confidence and leadership: Self-doubt is a good thing

Guess The Leader

“I’m not a naturally confident person.

At school, I bumped along the bottom, being a bit of a class clown.

I wanted to be an architect or lawyer, but my school exam results weren’t good enough.

I did a management degree, then applied to work for a series of high profile, glamorous brands.

I was rejected by all of them.

I applied to join Tesco, a company that seemed on the up.

I failed to get the job.

Then, by chance, they decided the guy who did get the job was so brilliant they wanted him to do something more important.

And they came back to the rejected candidate – me – and said do you want it after all?

I said yes. I stayed with Tesco for 33 years”

Who was it?

Terry Leahy, the CEO who took Tesco from being a mid-ranking UK supermarket chain to being the dominant force in UK retailing and the third largest retailer in the world.

Leadership lessons for us?

1. Confidence and ego: “I’m not naturally confident.” How extraordinary. Sometimes the greatest leaders are the most objective. And that can mean a lack of ego, of a natural assumption that their idea or solution must be the best one.

They don’t assume they have the right answers. And as a result, they work harder and question themselves more. Those who worked with Leahy, tho’, would say he didn’t come across like that.

So, maybe that lack of confidence is best dealt with internally – putting your ideas and thoughts through a series of internal questions and tests in your head, exactly the same as you do with external ideas that come into you.

2. Failure and success:  There’s some small print that appears at the end of investment adverts in the UK. It’s something like “Past success is no guarantee of similar future returns.” The same applies to failure.

I’ve lost count of the number of great leaders who did not ‘look promising’ or who failed or did poorly academically when younger. One to remember when recruiting, maybe.

Don’t just look at past performance. Look for the potential, the untapped talent, that previous bosses have missed in that person. And that even the interviewee themselves may not be aware of. Great leaders bring out the greatness in others.

More on self-doubt and leadership

There’s a great post on ‘self-doubt’ from a blogger I discovered through the Leadership Hub newspaper we just introduced. I’ll try and find it again and put the link here, as ‘self-doubt’ is widely-underrated as an attribute for leaders. In fact, it’s seen as something a leader should never admit to.

Ah, found it…

“f you don’t grapple with self-doubt, you’re dangerous” - The Five Positive Powers of Self-Doubt . It’s on the Leadership Freak blog. Great blog.


Leadership Hub Daily Newspaper

Great quote to encourage ‘acts of leadership’

Love this…

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child.
Listen to the don’ts.
Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.
Listen to the never haves,
Then listen close to me…
Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

– Shel Silverstein

Hat tip: It’s from Audrey & Jim Lanford’s Quote of The Day daily email. You can subscribe here if you like: http://www.famous-quotes-and-quotations.com/

Time to vote for the Top 30 World Leadership Gurus (before end February)

Well, I was 17th last year, largely, I think, for creating The Leadership Hub, and winning some awards around the world for the corporate version, which runs inside the intranet of a large organization and brings their global leadership community together as a development platform. No-one’s done it like that before as far as I know, and I think that’s what brought me to this website’s (below) attention.

Anyway, see the email I just received, below, and do please vote. For me if you think I deserve it, but for someone else if I don’t. I didn’t put myself up for this, I should add.

Phil Dourado

PS If you get ‘failed’ when you try voting using their drop-down list of the Top 30 candidates (hey, why am I in small print in there :) ) , then just write into the field a bit further down that says ‘nominate’ and submit that instead – my name if you like, or someone else’s if not www.leadershipgurus.net

Dear Global Guru Candidates

We are finalizing the ranking for 2012. And your originality, works and impact have qualified you as one of the world’s top 30 Leadership gurus. And as you know, 40% of the ranking is based on peer voting.

So, please get your fans to vote for you at: www.leadershipgurus.net. The final calculations will be completed by March 1st. we will inform you individually when we tabulate the results.

All the best,


PS. As usual, if anyone contacts you and asks for money or donations representing Leadership Gurus or Global Gurus, it is NOT us. We will never request or accept compensation or gratuities for this award”

Why have Vision and Mission Statements? Just give stuff away randomly

I like the story Ricardo Semler tells about how he was teaching leadership to a class of corporate CEOs at Harvard and asked them to all write down on a piece of card their company values and put it on the desk in front of them. When they went out for coffee, he moved all the cards around. When they came back, it took them a while to realize the cards had been moved because, guess what…They were substantially the same.

Using the triptych of Vision, Mission and Values to try and set a distinct course that sets your organization apart has become an industry. And few people seem to notice that the values are interchangeable. Which is why the UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s “It’s our values that make us different” doesn’t actually make sense. Their values aren’t any different from half a dozen other big company values.

A universal set of values doesn’t set you apart

Because, surprise, surprise, when you ask your workforce in a consultation exercise, so that you can distil out the values they will put hand on heart to and try to live each day…you end up with largely the same values as every other company. They are human values, common to all of us.

Yes, they need to be injected into large organizations and lived by. But, don’t think they will make you appear much different from anyone else.  Because everyone’s doing it.

So, the usual question applies: What else you got? That makes you distinctive, different, preferred as an employer, for customers, investors and the rest of us?

Give stuff away unexpectedly

I ordered a floor lamp and inside the packaging was a packet of free biscuits/cookies with a note saying ‘a little gift from us. Hope you like the lamp.’ That made an impression on me in a way that no amount of vision, mission and values statements will.

Similarly, I ordered something small from an Amazon marketplace supplier and in the package was a little pack of candy – funny chewy teeth! No note, just that little extra. And CD Baby and their “Anything else you want? Just ask?” … leading to the now famous video of the customer who asked for a squid and received it (!) (thanks to the brilliant founder, Derek Sivers ) … that’s a largely unremarked trend that creates the difference and the ‘preferredness’ that all the high-faluting consultant-driven Mission, Vision, Values will never really get near.

Give stuff away unexpectedly. Unrelated to your product even. It’s what will get you remembered and preferred. And that’s what it’s all about in an over-crowded market where customers are resistant to all of the corporate jargon and management speak and judge you by your actions.

The Gift Society is making a comeback

We are teetering on a post-capitalist world according to some. I don’t think so. I think capitalism is just evolving. And part of that evolution is incorporating practices from pre-capitalist ‘gift’ societies. See The Gift, a powerful, intense, beautifully-argued book (but so intense I’ve never been able to get through more than half of it) for clues.

Links to look into this more deeply

Here’s a link to Marcel Mauss’s original book The Gift, described on Wikipedia

And here’s a link to the beautifully written book of the same name by Lewis Hyde. Beware, it is so densely packed with Hyde’s poetic but forensic analysis that I occasionally had to stop and come up for air as I felt I was drowning.

And here’s an old post on The Leadership Hub that is still relevant if you want more on Vision, Mission and Values (yawn):

Phil Dourado




Little Bets, How breakthrough ideas come from small discoveries, by Peter Sims


“In this era of ever-accelerating change, being able to create, navigate amid uncertainty, and adapt using an experimental approach will increasingly be a vital advantage.

The way to begin is with little bets.” – Peter Sims

I love this book.

One sentence book summary: You innovate to keep changing and improving by a constant series of ‘little bets’ – affordable experimental changes or mini pilots – taken at all levels of the organization: if you are not trying at least one new thing or new approach at any one time, then you will stay the same; maybe you’re ‘good’ already so play safe most of the time, but since ‘good’ is no longer good enough, you may look like you’re succeeding, but you are actually slowly slipping behind. (Wow, what a long sentence…)

Why this is so important: Fundamental to the little bets approach is knowing that you will get something wrong, learn why and improve it. It’s because it’s new that you don’t know if it will work. And you ‘learn by doing’ – smart business leaders call this ‘failing forwards‘ – It looks like failure but it teaches you something you didn’t know and teaches you how ‘it’ will work, and you then fix it and find you now have something no competitor has. You created it.

One paragraph on why you will think this is wrong compared with the way you are used to working: NONE of us are comfortable with this approach as it ‘ups’ what looks like our failure rate. We all want to be in charge of the unit or department or organization that rarely gets anything ‘wrong’ – the safe pair of hands.

That old-fashioned view of what success looks like just means you will stay in safe territory where you know how to do what you are doing. So, you will not progress fast enough. As Picasso said, he was always trying new things that he didn’t know how to do, in order to learn how to do them. That’s the only way we move forward.

Fundamental to the little bets approach is that you:

1. Experiment: Learn by doing. Fail quickly to learn fast. Develop experiments and prototypes to gather insights, identify problems, and build up to creative ideas, like Beethoven did in order to discover new musical styles and forms.

2. Play: A playful, improvisational, and humorous atmosphere quiets our inhibitions when ideas are incubating or newly hatched, and prevents creative ideas from being snuffed out or prematurely judged.

3. Immerse: Take time to get out into the world to gather fresh ideas and insights, in order to understand deeper human motivations and desires, and absorb how things work from the ground up.

4. Define: Use insights gathered throughout the process to define specific problems and needs before solving them, just as the Google founders did when they realized that their library search algorithm could address a much larger problem.

5. Reorient: Be flexible in pursuit of larger goals and aspirations, making good use of small wins to make necessary pivots and chart the course to completion.

6. Iterate: Repeat, refine, and test frequently armed with better insights, information, and assumptions as time goes on.

Great book. Busts the ‘innovation is only noticeable if it’s big innovation’ thinking and shows how to create a continuously innovating culture that improves – a continuous improvement ‘engine’ if you will.

More on Peter Sims’ website>>>

Peter Sims talks about the book on his website (I’m a link. Click on me).


How to Lead in 2012: Follow Happy Henry’s Recipe

Relax! A Happy Business Story

By Henry Stewart, Cathy Busani and James Moran

You can download a free pdf copy of this book on this link:


60-Second Main Learning Points

In this fictional tale, a highly stressed small business owner discovers a new way to run his company.


What would your organization be like if you completely trusted everybody? What would you have to do to get to that point?

Chapter 1: About Trust and Information

  • Without information, people cannot take responsibility – with information, people cannot avoid taking responsibility.
  • Agree principles that everyone can work within.
  • Train the staff to do the jobs you’re trusting them to do.
  • Trust them to do it.

Chapter 2: Celebrate Mistakes

  • Celebrate your mistakes and learn from them.
  • Imagine what it would be like to work somewhere where you never got blamed for your mistakes… where mistakes were seen as positive things, as outcomes of risk and innovation.
  • You can’t learn from your mistakes if you don’t make any mistakes – go make some.

Weekly Mistake meetings – people talk about the mistakes that they made and how they could do things differently. Admit when you, the boss, make a mistake.

Chapter 3: What to Judge Your People On

  • Look at how your people’s targets fit within the company principles and targets – get your people to see the big picture.
  • Judge your people on the results they achieve, not the number of hours they work.
  • Recognize when people have done good work, give your feedback personally and make it specific.

How are they going to know how much you appreciate them unless you tell them? Recognize when anyone does a good job and make sure they all know that you’re pleased with their work. By showing that you appreciate them you’ll increase their motivation and enthusiasm and consequently improve their morale.

Chapter 4: Listening is Different From Hearing

  • It’s not enough to hear, you have to really listen to people.
  • People say more than they actually “say”.
  • If someone is acting out of character, ask them what is really wrong – and how you can help.
  • Frame conversations to help people listen better.

Chapter 5: Believe the Best

Always believe the best of your staff. Believing the best should form the basis of every communication.

  • Believe the best of people.
  • Give them the benefit of the doubt.
  • Listen without judgement or assumption.
  • Ask how you can help them.

Chapter 6: Hire For Attitude Train for Skill

  • Hire people your existing staff will be happy working with.
  • Skills can be learnt, a good attitude is either there or not there.
  • If somebody is not happy in their current job, see if they can do something else better.
  • Set your staff up to succeed – exploit their strengths, not their weaknesses.

Chapter 8: Job Ownership and Full Involvement from Everyone

  • Create a framework which gives people ownership over their jobs.
  • Get everyone involved in the decisions that affect them.
  • If people are involved in decision, they will be more committed to making those decisions work.

Chapter 9: Work/Life Balance

  • Help people to balance their home lives with their working lives.
  • If people are happier with the balance of their lives, they will be more motivated and produce better work.

Chapter 10: Putting it All Together

  • People work best when they feel good about themselves.
  • How would your organization be different if management focused on making people feel good?
  • Ask your people for ideas – they may know how things work better than you!

Author of this book, Henry Stewart, in these videos, talks about some of the learning from the book:

http://www.thinkers50.com/video/65 ( 5.24)

http://www.thinkers50.com/video/64 (2.28)