5 Mojo Priorities for Leaders in 2021

The second insight from my New Year reflections relates to MOJO, a term we coined to capture a sense of energy, mind space, and confidence. In its positive form, it shows up as vigour, happiness, and bandwidth to focus on being on top of one’s game. At the other end of the valence scale, being under pressure and at risk of burnout.


Over the last ten years, ISL has been monitoring senior leaders’ Mojo to get a sense of their resilience and the extent to which they are ‘fit-to-lead’ in a calm and considered manner and role-model wellness & well-being.


The results have been mixed. Whilst most team members have had a strong Mojo, one or two in many teams report that their batteries are nearly flat. Even more so since Covid-19 has disrupted our world and leadership has become, for many, a remote online series of zoom meetings.


Over the last three years, ISL has also been monitoring the Mojo of senior executive team members along with their levels of engagement, productivity, and team effectiveness. What we have found is that Mojo is a strong lead indicator for all the key performance measures. As a consequence, it is crucial right now for leaders to regularly monitor Mojo (their own and their team members) — not only from a business performance perspective, but most importantly to keep a close eye on employee wellness & wellbeing.


Last year was a very challenging time and nearly everyone was exhausted by the end of the year. The year ahead is showing no respite and I sense that for some employees, uncertainty will erode the energy they gained over the holidays. As mentioned in my last musing, this is a pivotal time for leaders who would be wise to adapt their leadership style from ‘pacemaker’ to ‘supporter’. Be the Kauri — stand strong, resilient, and confident.





  1. Awareness

    Many employees will have people in their close circle whom are struggling with mental health issues right now and this may be weighing heavily on the minds of some of your team members. It is therefore very important that leaders connect with their team members individually to find out ‘how they are really coping. It’s also important to check that their workload and the speed of change is not overwhelming them.

  2. Support

    Be sensitive to the impact of at-home dynamics. Provide a safe harbour, a safety net, a sounding board, and a leaning post during these stormy times. Be present and be there for your people. Ascertain if these at-home factors are having a spillover effect on work engagement.

  3. Positivity

    Balance the need for people to air their concerns about global health and political concerns without overly labouring it. Finish on a positive and optimistic note. Be a beacon of light, unity, and positivity throughout the period that we are going through. Find opportunities for some fun, humour and laughter. Have a ‘stand up’ each day and start with each person sharing what they are grateful for.

  4. Role modelling

    Everyone will be noticing your Mojo and how you are taking care of yourself. Take time out for exercise and revitalising. Perhaps take a different team member out for a brisk walk together rather than a coffee. Put a bowl of fruit in the office and encourage the team to eat healthy.

  5. Mojo monitoring

    Deploy a Mojo Monitor app to give team members the opportunity to record their Mojo anonymously and safely. This will enable you, as leader, to keep your finger on the pulse of team members’ wellbeing. Also encourage your team members to keep an eye out for each other and be supportive.



These five steps will create the context for wellness & wellbeing, headspace and focus, innovation, productivity, and being the best we can be during this extended period of challenges to our humanity.





The third big insight that arose from my New Year reflections relates to work-home boundaries and their impact on team culture, employee resilience, and spillover effects on work engagement.


The concept of boundaries took me quite a few years to get my mind around. Then one day when I was staying down at our historic Stone House Cottage in Arrowtown, the penny finally dropped. I noticed how overseas tourists would often wander in from the footpath and walk around the cottage taking photos and selfies, just as if the cottage was a public museum. So then I decided to install a small historic gate — which to my amazement did the trick. Interestingly, it’s easy to slip around the side of the gate, or even open the gate, but no one does. Just signaling there is a clear boundary is all that is needed.


Looking at the boundary concept through a wider metaphorical lens, the gate separates the public-private domain. The front door separates the private-personal domain. The bedroom door separates the personal-intimate domain. Without these boundaries, we would be complicit in aiding and abetting boundary breaches. Not only do “good fences make good neighbours”, as Robert Frost, the poet, once put it, but “clear boundaries create constructive relationships and compelling team cultures”.

The Unintended Consequences Arising From Covid-19


During the Covid period, everyone around the world was forced to stay at home and work from their lounge, study, or bedroom. Communications at an interpersonal and group level have been achieved through the deployment of video conferencing tools such as Zoom and the likes.


As a consequence employees enjoyed the personal benefits of cutting out lengthy commuting time and not having to get dressed up for work. Some employees have even shifted their homes to small towns out in the countryside and now operate as if they are freelancers. As a consequence, many employers have decided to save on office rental and many CBD buildings are now half-empty (much to the chagrin of property owners, cafes, city retailers, and Uber drivers).


This new way of working works perfectly well for those conducting independent work such as software coding which can be outsourced cost-effectively from the global freelancer talent pool. However, where teamwork is required, working remotely over Zoom ultimately zaps Mojo, interpersonal relationships, team dynamics, and co-creative innovation.


In the short term, the productivity of engaged employees can rise significantly, but over time the risk of burnout is amplified. Those who mask their ambivalence or disengagement can now hide behind their privacy photo and spend much of their time doing private activities. One person I know spends at least fifty percent of their work-paid time project managing their private property development initiatives.

The Impact of Working From Home



  • Leadership  – It has always been relatively easy to manage a group of people and get projects completed, but very challenging to build and lead a high-performing team. Now leading remotely will make it infinitely more complex. That’s because the leader and team members can’t engage with one another on a personal level and read each others’ emotions, intentions, and behaviours.


  • Spillover Effects – Pre-Covid, people put on their make-up, got dressed up for work, and went off to work. Although this involves energy and time, it provided an opportunity to fire-up, get moving, leave behind, and put a clear boundary between home life and work life. For many, a chance to get away from some tough life challenges. Conversely, going home provided a chance to wind-down during the commute and be ‘present’ and ‘available to family’ when arriving home. As the boundaries between work and home have been blurred or completely removed, the spillover effects on work performance, and wellness & wellbeing are likely to be compromised. For those with low mood or depression, it will be all too easy to spend too much time cooped up or under the duvet during the day.


  • Work Experience – Not many young people who spent three or four years at university will cherish the opportunity to work from home, especially if it’s a small crowded shared flat. At least not the extraverted ones. Most young people love being with others and learning with and from each other. Humans are social beings and isolation is the ultimate punishment. We give and get energy from one another and provide support, safety nets, and safe harbours to those in need. Meeting new people face-to-face (employees, suppliers, and customers) can be very engaging and provides an opportunity to see and be seen. A chance for us to establish our professional persona and personal brand.


  • Economic Multiplier Effects – We will all soon learn that living in our own little world will ultimately impact on the public good. Cafe owners and their staff, retailers, and the gig economy will be significantly disrupted with economic and well-being consequences. The unemployment bill will balloon, yet the tax revenue will decline. A sure way for the economy to become dependent on printing money.


  • A Hybrid Model – How the breaking of boundaries and new ways of work will pan out, remains to be seen. I suspect that those who lead the field in innovation and global expansion will take a contrarian view to those dedicated followers of fashion who opt for the virtual approach. Most likely a hybrid approach will evolve. Of course, many organisations around the world have no option at this time. But for those that do, I sense that the smart successful companies will recognise that huddle & scrum is the way to go.


Over time, there will be many lessons learned and insights gained from the ongoing lockdowns. One being the importance of having a Plan B and being prepared for operating virtually at a moment’s notice if or when further lockdown periods arise.

Top 5 Priorities For Leaders In 2021

Over the holidays as I reflected on the leadership lessons that I learned over the years, I jotted down the five big insights I gained and what they mean in the current Covid-19 context. The one I put at the top of my list is ANXIETY.


What I’ve noticed is that human beings are often affected more by anxiety over what might happen, than dealing with what actually happens. Paradoxically, it’s often the small things that, like termites, are the most disruptive to the psyche.


Some people have personality traits that give rise to a greater propensity for anxiety than others. These people are more likely to experience sensations of fear which can distract and debilitate. In more certain times, these employees functioned very well. Now during the current global uncertainty, the risks to self, career, family, and friends may become overwhelming.


As we have another exciting and challenging year ahead of us, this is a pivotal moment for leaders. Over the next week or two, it might be smart to action the following to kick start the new year in a positive and empowering way:


  1. Purpose

    Refresh and re-present the real purpose and meaning of our organisation and team. Why we are here and why it matters? What contribution are we making to our community and our society?

  2. Vision

    Narrate the journey we are going over the year ahead, and what that means for the organisation, team(s), and individuals. Likewise, ask employees to record their own purpose, vision and personal plan in a way that aligns with the organisation and their team

  3. Certainty

    Create a sense of positivity and assurance that “we will survive and thrive no matter what.” Be bold. Be positive. Be assuring.

  4. Trust

    Create a high sense of trust in the CEO, senior leadership and all leaders throughout the organisation. Remove silos and politics. Encourage people to open up, show vulnerability and ask for support.

  5. Safety

    Point out that leadership will create safe harbours, safety nets, and leaning posts. Make it explicit how to go about safely getting help when needed without putting reputation and career at risk.


These five steps will create the context for wellness & wellbeing, headspace and focus, innovation, productivity, and being the best we can be.

Easter Musing during Lockdown

Easter symbolises new light and new life.


This Easter will give new meaning to what has been in the past, for many, little more than a long weekend at the beach.


No one knows what the new way will be but most would agree it will, more than ever, put people before profit, and family before all else. One thing is for sure — we will always remember the importance of the basics of human existence and be grateful for our abundance.


It’s been so interesting to observe the amazing talent, humour, giving and goodness of so many during the global lockdown. Particularly the nurses, doctors, police and all those in the essential services, who serve us so graciously, and that we mostly overlook acknowledging.


The speed of change and agility of leaders and their teams is also beyond comprehension. We have all had to spin-on-a-dime, learn new skills overnight, and fully embrace the digital world in order to communicate with our team members, our customers, and deliver our products and services. It’s incumbent on us all to reinvent our organisations and ourselves, and to redefine our purpose and mission – asking ourselves WHY we do what we do and how it contributes to the wider community.


The real challenge for leaders will be to maintain the high levels of engagement and productivity, ignited by the adrenalin rush during week one of the lockdown. This will require attention to taking the steps necessary to maintain good Team Mojo as the video conferencing and long hours start to take their toll.


Easter will assist in this regard — being a time of peace and quiet all over the world. Our streets will be empty, the skies clear and still, and the whole world will be huddled in their bubbles with those near and dear.


I wish you and yours a blessed Easter — a time for reflection and gratitude. And a great start to what is all new and all good.


Kind wishes to you and your family,



The Impact of COVID-19 on each Personality Type

In business-as-usual (BAU), leaders and followers use their natural, instinctive approach to gather information, make decisions and live in the world. When stressed, however, they start to display characteristics that are at-odds with the person we have become accustomed to.


In crises situations, where stress and anxiety are amplified, both at work and at home, all of us can become a tad ‘weird’. The extraverts can hide in their closets. Introverts will typically go deep into their caves.  Positive upbeat people, whom are usually warm and compassionate can hide under the duvet, catastrophising about all those in the world who are being affected, imagining the worst possible scenarios, and feeling incredible sadness and pain.

With income and family at risk, it’s natural for people to put self and family before all else and queue jump through to the front of the line.

In terms of the 4CHARACTERSTM


It’s the compassionate Yellow and Green characters who will typically be most affected and out-of-sorts. At the extreme, they could present as overly emotional and with an uncharacteristically low mood.

Greens will be seeking structure and a sense of purpose. Particularly the extraverted ones who will go very flat when they can’t get out and about to help others and connect with people in a high touch way.


Yellows may become distraught when they change from their normal big picture intuitive processes to using their underdeveloped analytical functions – looking for facts to validate and justify their doom scenarios.


The Red and Blue Characters will typically overplay their gifts in the early stages of the crises – potentially taking an overly directional approach as they seek to take control of the situation.

The Reds naturally innovate and spin on a dime, so they will be focusing on reinventing the business model and most likely cracking the whip while setting an unrealistic pace. After sustained stress, they may unconsciously slip into the ‘shadow-side’ and become overly emotional and tearful.


The Blues will initially focus on structure, data gathering and adding process and logic in their attempt to bring law and order to the situation. Along with their Green colleagues, they will focus on improving the situation and will be stressed by the fast pivots of their Red and Yellow counterparts. If they unconsciously go ‘shadow-side’ after the sustained stress and anxiety, they too may become overly emotional and show up erratically – the complete opposite to their normal ‘true blue’ characteristics.

The Complexity of ‘Shadow-Side’ Behaviours


Each person will be affected by the pandemic in different ways, depending not only on their ‘character type’, but also on their individual personal and family situations, which may amplify the impact. Someone who is normally kind, compassionate and measured, could become explosive within seconds, surprising their colleagues or family members by their outburst. Most likely the explosion will be ignited, not by what was said, but by what the person in the ‘shadow-side’ thought was said.

How each of the 4CHARACATERS will respond to stress and anxiety in a crisis cannot be reliably determined by their character colour. Shadow-side analysis requires an expanded 8 Shadow types (incorporating Introversion and Extraversion, Jump Start and Pressure Prompted dynamics) – too much complexity to understand unless you are a personality type guru.

To support our alumni and clients through this crises period, we have expanded the Executive Profile (in the Leader Dashboard) and Team Dynamics (in the Team Dashboard) to include a section on ‘What others will notice about you if you go into the shadow-side’

How to get out from Under the Shadow and back into the Bright-Side


Regardless of which character colour leaders and followers are; the CHEERFUL approach is a great start:

C         stay Connected

H         Help those in need

E         Eat healthy 

        Exercise in the sun 

R         Respect yourself and others

         Fun amps up immunity

U         keep it simple and Uncomplicated 

         let Love be your true north


Tools for Applying these Concepts in an Interpersonal and Team Context


ISL’s sister company, SmartLeader Apps TM  has developed a suite of digital tools to support leaders. These have been used effectively by many clients during BAU – and will be even more impactful as we navigate through the COVID-19 crisis.

These tools include:

  1. Team dashboard: 4CHARACTERSTM function – understanding the mix of team personalities; dominant characters and those types which are underrepresented. A drill down function that explains how each team member is Wired-UpTM, each person’s gifts, blind spots and communication preferences. A new “what you will notice about them in the shadow-side”
  2. IOS app: CLICK-WITHTM – an app that enables team members to understand their points of compatibility and potential flash points when working with others in their team.
  3. MY TEAM PULSETM: 4CHARACTERSTM tile – sets out the team composition and provides a DIY FIXIT Toolkit, with resources enabling leaders to understand more about personality and how to interpret dysfunctional behaviours.


For information about accessing these apps and obtaining online ‘one-on-one’ and ‘team coaching’ contact us at info@leadership.ac.nz

What is Strategic Leadership?

Leading Self

Right now there are a number of challenging and significant issues that this generation of leaders need to grapple with — at work, at home, and in the community. They are all interconnected and systemic in nature, each one impacting on the other. Strategic leadership is more important than ever before. Not only to improve the performance of organisations, but also to create empowering, healthy and safe work places.

So what is strategic leadership?  How can leaders prepare themselves to think strategically, as well as building empowering team cultures that put a spring in the step of their people?

Strategic leadership boils down to some timeless qualities that are central to Leading Self, Leading Others, Leading Teams, Leading Strategically, and Leading Organisations (or communities). Over the coming weeks,  I’ll have a go at sharing my views and experience, beginning with a few words around Leading Self, as the first step.

Leading Self is about being authentic. Having good values. Being generous of spirit. Being prudent. Expressing gratitude. Being patient. Persevering. Saying sorry. Delivering on your word and your promise. Doing the right thing. Having the courage to be tough when necessary. Showing compassion to others. Being kind to yourself. Keeping healthy in both mind and body.

In a nutshell: being a good person and staying in good health emotionally as well as physically. Qualities that are derived from working on self, effective mentoring, and some self-discipline (easier said than done, I agree).


Matters to be mindful of:

  1. It takes years to build the respect and trust of others (a leadership brand), and only a few minutes to destroy it. Leaders are being watched and assessed 24/7, even when shopping at the supermarket, having a meal at a cafe, or posting on Twitter.
  2. None of us are perfect. Don’t measure yourself against Selfie Leaders on social media — they will always look and sound better. Be true to yourself. Trust in yourself. Be your best and keep learning and growing. Find a mentor who will give you honest feedback and wise guidance. Know that you are more than good enough.
  3. Leadership is something you should be enjoying. If you haven’t been enjoying your work over a prolonged period, despite best endeavours, do yourself a favour and find another role or place to work. It’s just too unhealthy to battle on, both for you and for those you are leading. Without passion, you can’t engage your team or make things happen. Life is too short to spend 75% of your waking working week doing something that’s not enjoyable or adding value.

In the next volume of this series, I will share my thoughts on Leading Others. In the meantime, I hope this this musing provides you with food for thought and serves to inspire any form of meaningful change.

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” – Nelson Mandela

How to Improve Leadership Performance


There is nothing more powerful than seeing your leadership through the lens of others. It is a scary process for many, but the insight it gives to areas to improve your leadership is worth it.

Over 750 leaders and 6500 of their direct reports, peers and bosses have now used our SmartLeader Apps 063 tool, a 360-degree feedback tool that allows leaders to look in the mirror (a good place to start). After this many, we can begin to gain some insights into the leadership strengths and areas of improvement for New Zealand and Australian leaders.


5 Things Leaders Are Great At


Our analysis shows five things our leaders are great at;

  1. Honesty. New Zealand and Australian leaders take pride. We are considered by those we lead as exhibiting integrity, honesty and fairness, and we apply ethical considerations to guide decisions. This makes sense. As a society, we are quick to come down on those who transgress and we consistently rate as having low levels of corruption.
  2. Passion and Commitment. We are passionate about work, life and the future. We deliver on the commitments we make and go the extra mile.
  3. Role models. We consistently behave in ways that align with team and organisational values, we admit our own mistakes, we demonstrate accountability, we continuously learn and grow.
  4. Emotionally intelligent and resilient. We are self-assured, focussed, show care and compassion and see the positive in most situations.
  5. Influence. We have the respect of others and we represent our teams within our organisations well.



5 Things Leaders Must Get Better At


If one person tells you that you have a tail, you might not be too worried. If two people tell you that you have a tail, you might be curious. If over 750 people tell you that you have a tail, it might be worth taking a look. Here are the 5 things the people we lead are telling us we need to be focused on improving.

  1. Thinking Strategically. Thinking strategically is, on average, the lowest rated skill among leaders. Engaging in an organisation’s external strategic context, creating a compelling shared vision and communicating that vision in an engaging way are key areas to improve. People want to be part of something that is bigger than themselves.
  2. Delivering Strategy. Having a compelling strategy is one thing. Collaboratively crafting and delivering an effective implementation plan is another critical factor feedback suggests we can improve on. The big picture is ultimately delivered ‘on the ground’.
  3. Leading Change. We live in a world of change. The scale and speed of these changes are unprecedented. We need to be better change leaders by engaging people in the need for change, recognise different personality types are more comfortable with change than others and keep everybody well informed to minimise uncertainty.
  4. Innovation. Change is being driven by innovation. Creating a culture of innovation and co-creating innovatively with customers and suppliers to improve products, services and customer engagement is a critical area of improvement. If we don’t, competitors will eat us for lunch.
  5. Motivating and growing people. Many of us can be better at recognising that people have different preferences, styles and needs in order to tailor our leadership and communication style. Providing more regular coaching and feedback, as well as being better at managing conflict will be welcomed.



Improvement of five low rated attributes would increase team engagement and amplify organisation-wide performance. On a personal level, it would enhance your leadership effectiveness and reputation.

ISL offers diagnostics, workshops, and programmes, to develop both individuals and teams to create high-performance organisations through the power of leadership. For more information – read about our programmes, our team workshops, or Contact info@leadership.ac.nz.


Passing a Leadership Legacy of Inspiration


Investment in People – The True Measure of a Strategic Leader

It’s not how many
countries you’ve visited,
mountains you’ve climbed,
bungies you’ve jumped,
or caves you have dived.


When the sunset arrives
it’s the role model you’ve been,
the positive changes you have made,
your generosity of spirit,
that’s what will matter the most.


It’s not how many
university degrees you have gathered,
how far you have gotten,
your status or title,
it’s only your legacy that will survive.


When the sunset arrives
it’s the ways you have supported,
the growth and the confidence,
of the next generation.
that’s what you will find will be valued the most.