Category: Leadership


To be successful leaders in the new world of ever more emerging EXO’s (exponential organisations such as Uber, Airbnb, Google, Amazon etc., it is time to take off our corporate masks and start to speak a different language.

  • To become real.
  • To be human foremost.
  • To come alive.
  • To shift our language from a data, facts and logic driven idiom to an emphatic, emotional driven language that touches people at their core level.
  • A tongue that creates deep felt meaning and connection.
  • Fuels people to levels of performance not thought possible.
  • To give them wings by touching them deep in their being.

The Dilemma we face

Leaders are driven further and further to get more and more out of their people; to drive them to even higher performance and create more shareholder value (money) each quarter. Leaders today are expected to accelerate growth in their organisations on seemingly unhuman levels.

At the same time cost cutting is the reality. Leaving them with less and less room to maneuver and very little resources for growth. It is a pointless rat race that cannot be won. To make it even worse, the shareholders see those other organizations (EXO’s) who accelerated seemingly out of nowhere to great heights and now expect the same performance from their own investments into long standing corporations.

So what is going on here? How can it be that those new emerging EXO’s started with barely anything, out from a garage, and experienced accelerated growth in an exponential manner; becoming the LinkedIns, Facebooks, Airbnb’s etc. we see today? They did not have the resources or money large corporations have.

But somehow, magically they are in existence, against all odds. On the other side, large corporations, even though they have massive resources at their fingertips cannot make the jump to become an EXO.

What is it, those new emerging EXO’s have, that traditional, linear growing organisations do not have? What are those magic ingredients?


Purpose and Meaning

People in EXO’s are deeply driven by the need to create something big.
They have meaning in their lives, or better: their work is not just an 8 to 5 job – it is their life.
These EXO’s have people, who can dream and hold a vision of a very bright future; who work relentlessly to make their dream a reality.

In short, they have an MTP: A Massive Transformative Purpose.

They want to change the world on a grand scale. Their livelihood literally depends on it. They are fueled by their being and the need for self-actualization. These people have passion for what they do and who they are. And when they talk about their work, you can see their whole being light up.

Their eyes shine bright and you feel them to be alive, full of passion – you can sense the love they have for their work. You do not have to tell these people, how to do their work or that they have to do the work. They do it because it has become them. They completely identify themselves with what they do. As it is in line with who they are in their core; aligned with their purpose and vision.

They have grown wings, which lift them over seemingly insurmountable obstacles.


Passion – the language infecting others to collaborate

These people have the capability to connect to others and move them into their spell.

The language they use to create these connections is not: “If you join me you will earn X amount”. They use the language of the heart fueled with their passion. They touch others on their core level.

Like this, they create meaning in the lives of others, they give them direction. Therefore, people want to join and also become a part of something much greater than themselves. They create communities of mutual aid, understanding and openly sharing. Where seemingly random people come together and work in collaboration to make a bigger dream become reality.

What connects the people in the first place, is not facts and data, but a deeply felt, shared purpose; a purpose to make this world  a better place for everyone.

By using a new service, invention or technology which has become attainable for the huge masses, these people want to create something new, that will lift humanity onto a next level.


Shift and start to grow exponentially or die

In this new world of EXO’s, companies/communities which accelerate exponentially there is no room for the old style/ industrial age/ hierarchical master–worker control system leadership method. A method, which only speaks the language of quarterly financial driven results with cold facts and figures.

On the contrary –  this old management model is limiting and will eventually stop growth.

An EXO will inevitably come along over night and wipe out those traditional corporations. Examples: Nokia, Kodak and the like.


The new “Human core, Heart driven” Leader

We need a new type of leader for this new emerging, ever faster growing EXO world we are in now, if we want to succeed and catapult our organisations into the next decade.

We need leaders, who have the ability to connect to others on a meaningful deeply heartfelt level; Leaders, which see their role not in being the “Big Boss”, fueled by their own ego and personal agenda, fear and the need to control others, but who are humble and servant to their teams.

We need leaders, who understand and have empathy towards the core drivers of human beings.

Leaders, who understand that we have entered the post “food and shelter” -/ primarily money-driven stage on Maslow’s hierarchy of need, when dealing with EXO’s. Leaders, who fully embraced the world in which humans seek ever more the ability to direct their own life to fulfill their deepest need to make a difference and be a part of something bigger.  Leaders, who are driven to see their people succeed, over time have them become better than themselves and who accept, that they eventually will become obsolete. These leaders feel proud for each team member, which can walk by itself without any further help.


This new Breed : A truly advanced Being

To be a leader in this new world takes a personality who is truly advanced and knows and acknowledges him-/herself.

It takes someone, who

  • has battled and won over his/her own demons of fear; has tremendous courage in the face of uncertainty and adversity one enters when dealing with EXO’s and the world of innovation
  • possesses a great deal of confidence and trust in his/her and the team’s abilities
  • can hold a vision even if setbacks occur and sees failure as just yet another opportunity to have learned something new.
  • has the ability to fuel others with his/her passion and pull them into the spell of a new and bright future for everyone



It is time to move to a New and Sustainable Economic Model… Where Purpose creates Profits

Insanity is: when we try to solve a problem with the same thinking that we used to create it.

Original quote by Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.

Most of us will agree to the statement that our economy is more than ever fragile. We have seen in the past decade massive blow-ups in the banking and other sectors. But what really happened since then? Well, some regulations have been put in place across industry sectors. But what have organizations such as banks and other institutions done since then? Have they tried to do to re-built trust? Did they get closer to the clients and employees and built back those relationships? No, the opposite is happening. They move further and further away from an employee and client driven model. Almost as if to say: “Do not touch me client… I am afraid of you”. “It is your fault client that we maneuvered ourselves into this state”. “ Instead talk to a machine”. “Machines do not make mistakes, they follow rules and protocols”. “Yes, client as long as we do not have to engage with you on a human level, Eye to Eye, we cannot make mistakes”.

In a nutshell: All that really changed is these companies have implemented strategies avoiding making mistakes and getting fined. But, no real rethinking has taken place to address the core issues, their business models; that led to those huge blow-ups to happen in the first place. Business models entirely centered  around creating profits.

How comes that we are still where we have been? Well, the organizations seem not to be able to change their thinking. They are still led by the same type of people, thinking in the same ways, the exact ones who created the problems in the first place. The baby boomer generation; a generation driven still by the post war dramas of their parents, to a large extent. Obsessed with stability, mainly financial security… ie all that counts is the profit. They define themselves and who they are through external means of positional power, the title they carry and how much assets they have to show for. Without these things they are reduced to nothing.

Oh don’t get me wrong. I am not saying don’t make money. I myself love fast cars, aircrafts and boats. But those things do not define who I am in my core. I enjoy them and they are fun. They add to my pleasure but they do not change who I am and nobody can hold me hostage with money or make me change my purpose and core values for a quick buck. And trust me many tried…and keep on trying.

However, for the majority of the baby boomer generation their main God is Money. And it is completely understandable if you see where they have been coming from. Which role models they had in their lives, modeling their work practices. For them subconsciously, financial security is literally a matter of life or death.

In a world that becomes more and more uncertain, where profits change in matter of instant on the stock market, those profit driven people become become really desperate. Hence we see more and more shady practices popping up all over the place. Requiring more and more regulations. Regulations, leading to fear in engaging on a human level. So hiding behind technology, Internet portals, social media and the like is becoming the norm. I mean lets be honest. We all love technology, and a lot of it is really cool. But at the end of the day humans are wired to be socially engaged with each other. We are craving human interaction, feeling a sense of worth etc. Something machines cannot give us.

So why do we not give the people what they really long for? Having meaning in their life, a purpose that propels them forward.

This requires however a rethinking of our current economic model. Away from profits of organizations being the end to a means… instead profits providing the means to an end. The end being the organizations purpose. Creating a loyal employee base, who in turn create a loyal customer base. This employee/customer centric model retrospectively generates long term and sustainable profits for organizations.

Basically we need to turn the economic models on its head. Whereby the employees’ and clients’ wellbeing becomes the center of all our efforts. It becomes our purpose. Where we measure our success on how fulfilled our employees and clients are. Knowing that a fulfilled and happy employee creates happy and loyal customers. In this scenario profits become a natural by-product.

Yes, you will say I am a dreamer. Especially if you are a baby boomer. It is ok. I know I am not normal, or not the norm. And I am grateful for it. I rather be not normal than insane thinking that the thinking of those people who got us into the economical crisis, will ever get us out of it again.

The article is dedicated to those who are ready to make a change and want to know how it can be done. It is for those who know that their thinking, that maneuvered them into the shit in the first place, won’t get them out of the shit. Those who are ready to take a new approach. A purpose driven approach.

Who want to learn and become a future leader in a new economy. A leader who is led by authentic and servant leadership principles. Who wants to learn how they can add real value to others, creating loyal employees and customers in return for long term profits. Who want to be a part of a world where we measure our success based on how many others we made successful.

Yours sincerely,
Martina Willis

The kickass economic transformer…
Transforming the economy into the next Millennia

A Story: How Companies standing in their own way towards a digital transformation

Throughout my IT career, I cannot count the numerous times, we have come up with the “perfect” technical solution. Allowing companies to digitally transform themselves, propelling them forward into a sustainable future.
Just to hit a dead end, because the current company structure and culture had no room for such transformations.

A little story
A very specific story comes to mind of a Fortune 100 company in Switzerland, whose main vision was and still is to become No 2 in their industry sector, through the means/differentiation of providing outstanding customer service.

In order to assist this company to undergo a needed digital transformation towards a customer-centric model, I put a team together of world-class experts, comprising of industry-and technology experts and consultants specialized in process re-engineering.

Very soon it became clear that their existing IT Systems, grown over the past 20 years in an organic and cumbersome manner, where not up for the job of putting the customer in the center of their companies universe.

The IT environment was comprised of many different applications, not really communicating with each other, requiring lots of manual data entry and duplication, full of custom code, patches and fixes here and there. A nightmare for any customer service person, needing to have to open many different applications to serve a client. No, this IT environment was definitely not customer centric.

But the worst still came. There was no way of making the existing environment customer centric. Due to the organic growth, and no proper implemented development methodology, nobody had an overview what those applications and its add-on really did. Meaning that any change required, ended up being highly risky and had a cycle time of over half a year. Agility and flexibility was out the window.

Nobody right in their mind would drive a car in such a condition. Held together by rubber bands and chewing gums. Such cars would not pass inspection. They would make the decision to scrap the car and get a new one. One that is fit for purpose, meets their current needs and is safe. Where they can predict operating, service and maintenance costs. But no… quiet often, when it comes to IT in organizations they keep on driving with this barely functioning car.

Also this organization, against any common sense, decided to keep on driving with this old car. Yet again they just applied some newer versions of their CRMs (yes you heard me… multiple CRM Systems), patches and quick fixes here and there. And today, 3 years later, they are still where they were 3 years ago… far away from a digital transformation with their customer needs at the core of their business dealings… and their vision to become Number 2 in their sector … well…

I have to add here, this story is just an example of so many companies I have seen over my 20 years career. I learned from the failures of huge corporations. Having had the opportunity to work as a consultant for companies such AIG or Exxon before their big crashes. Today I can predict with pretty good accuracy which company will make it to the top, stay mediocre or even go under based on their IT Systems, their company structure, culture and their leadership philosophy.

What happens with common sense driven approach in such organizations?

  1. Short Term mentality based on quick profit gains versus long term purpose and vision driven organization
    Today most organizations are driven and led by short term profits. Responding only to annual dividends and the quarterly margin gain needs, demanded by the share holders. Executives of such organizations have no room and no time to develop a long term and sustainable company. Indeed, their whole focus constantly goes into urgent and pressing issues. It leaves no room for implementing a long term vision with a fit for purpose organizational structure and supporting IT Systems. Frankly, most of these organizations do not even have a vision. And if they have one, they do not base their actions and decisions on it.
  1. Self preservation versus a value creation driven organizatio
    Executives of such companies know if they do not bring the results here and now, next year they will be history. So they do the only thing they can do. They apply everywhere in the organization quick fixes, like chewing gums to their IT Systems, to keep the ship barely afloat as long as possible. They keep on flogging the dead horse by any means. Well, I do not have to say what this mentality does for the company culture and morale. It surely is not conducive of creating value for customers.
  1. Cost cutting measures versus empowering employees
    Cost cutting is at the core of those organizations. Decision power of financial budgets gets centralized even for the smallest amount. I know organizations where the MD can not even order a pencil. They drive on a reactive approach to meet yesterday’s financial goals instead of an active approach empowering their employees to increase their productivity/output. Even so numerous studies show that an empowered and intrinsically motivated employee produces in the range of 30% more profits or adds to the profits than their unmotivated and disillusioned counter parts. No, those cost cutting, short term driven organizations have no room to make a huge investment in a new IT System that has in average a 1 ½ to 2 years ROI. In many cases the Exec board cannot even make such a budget decision. And if you dig into it nobody can and will.
  1. Hiring and firing mentality versus talent retention and development mentality
    In such organizations it is the norm to see a new CEO and a complete new Exec team in place in intervals of 1 to 2 years. These organizations go in cycles of complete stand still for at least 6 months, nobody making any decision until a new Exec team is in place. Followed by cost cutting measures and firing wave and then maybe after a year the organization has time to take the focus away from themselves towards what really counts… their customer. But by then loyalty based on trust of customers and employees is down the drain, knowledge has been lost etc. It is basically devastating, especially if this cycle keeps repeating it self. Yes, and the IT systems… in year 2 they may start to look at it but until they are finished with the analysis and ready to make a decision, those decision makers are already replaced again.


As I am writing this I am starting to be amazed that such organizations can sustain as long as they do. The only explanation I can think of; is that each single one of these organizations has some very good people, keeping it all afloat, doing their jobs relentlessly. Because they follow their own inner values and beliefs. They are resilient to the craziness at the top and they keep out of politics.

Knowing such individuals personally, what makes them tick, their values and beliefs, maybe they should become leaders of the organizations. They believe in creating value for others by serving using servant leadership principles. They stay true to their beliefs and values, no matter what is going on around them. They are the true authentic leaders in the organization. So maybe all we have to do to turn such organizations around, catapulting them into the digital transformation age is changing the leadership approach, to the one used by the people who keep these organizations silently afloat in the background.

Leadership Ability: The path of “real” courage

Before we dive into the “requirements” of how to be a successful leader, a quick refresher on the differences of management and leadership, as they get thrown often into the same pot. However, they are completely different by definition. Management is a skill set and leadership is an ability. Management skills can be learned and deal manly with the task to execute on processes to support the company’s vision and strategy. Leadership is one step up management and deals mainly with the ability to formulate a clear strategy and vision and to get management successfully execute on one’s vision and strategy.

The Main ingredients of a “Real” Leader
To be a successful leader the so called “soft skills” or rather abilities such as “empathy” become of high importance. The ability to relate to others, to understand what motivates others, what are their self interest to get the best out of the people becomes the main focus of a true leader. However the prerequisite for these relationship competencies rest on a foundation of self-knowledge, self-awareness. Those competencies are directly linked with the success or failure of a CEO’s ability to formulate, articulate and lead a strategic vision for a motivated, energized organization. Self-knowledge builds clarity about objectives; it fine-tunes one’s understanding the perspectives, values, aims and personality traits of others.

The recipe to “Real” leadership
Self-awareness needs a lot of courage and strength. It means to open up to ones vulnerabilities and fears. Being able to look into the mirror and do an honest self-appraisal about ones emotional strengths and weaknesses; values and attitudes, personality traits and unresolved conflicts. To accept one self as a “whole” person with all different shades makes one authentic.

Being an authentic leader means others will follow you. Your behavior, your words and actions match and others can now relate to you on all levels. They know instinctively you are true to who you are and therefore you are strong in your leadership abilities. That nothing will easily make you falter. That you stand to your word and you will do what you said you would do. Providing a framework of trust for others into your abilities to lead them to success.

What Now?
Ready to create your Signature Leadership dish? Visit our Leadership Awareness Weekend and let the World become your Oyster

Read about the Author: Martina Willis


USPs are dead in our “NEW World”

Yesterday I had a brainstorming session and I almost stepped into the trap of the old ways of selling: The product and feature marketing and sales strategy. Somehow the person kept on talking about USPs and I kept on thinking why did I forget this in my strategy… what’s wrong here?

3 hours later it dawned on me. I am not selling products. I am selling values. As a matter of fact I never in my life was a product and feature person. What made and still makes me unique, is my focus on the clients’ needs/wants/desires. We call this today “customer centered” sales strategy, or “complex” solution selling. Complex because we cannot just read off a list of product features anymore, if we want to be successful compared to our competitors.

Why does USP selling not work anymore?
Most of the products and services on the market are in a so-called “mature state” in the product life cycle. Rarely do we have “really new” products and services lately.
I, of course mainly think about the IT industry whilst making this statement. However, due to my consulting engagements in many different industries, I have a good overview of the different industries and their products and services. Racking my brain I cannot come up with anything really new in any industry. Except, for the fact that products and services get put into a new product mix and then revamped under a new name and strategy. But fundamentally the underlying products /services have not really changed.
As a matter of fact, products and services have become very similar as most of them follow a rigorous TQM Process (Total Quality Management).
But please surprise me, and let me know if our organization has really something new on the market. I will immediately invest in it.

So what’s left?
Not much of organizations that keep on selling on USPs in the future.

What now?
If organizations want to survive and be successful a new approach, a value based approach, needs to be implemented. One where the client and the employee is in the heart of the organizational strategy and feels “valued” as a human being. Where client and employee satisfaction is lived and honored on all levels of the organization. So everybody in the organization becomes an ambassador of the organizational values and lives them from the inside out and carries the message in all their thoughts, words and actions to the client, creating a deep trust relationship:

“Dear client, we value you as a human being, who has needs/wants and desires. We are honestly concerned about your well-being dear client. What is it exactly what you need/want and desire to be successful? Lets create a dialog, and maybe we have a product or service that meets your requirements to be successful. And if not, we had at least a chance to learn from each other. Because we dared to engage in a deep conversation, adding to learning and growing as a human being.

Just for today
Walk through our organization and see what people are talking about. USPs of products and services? Or are they talking about the humans’ needs/wants/desires? Where do you stand as a human being in your organization? Do you feel valued? Do you value our client? What are our values? What are the values of our organization? Do they match?

Lets start a dialog together…I am looking forward receiving your thoughts and comments…


Mañana mañana – Andalucian Way of Work

By Martina Willis (Columnist) Olive Press

WHEN I first came to Spain I did what all the ‘nice’ foreigners do. I turned a blind eye to the lack of ‘quality’ work and total disregard for punctuality.

Actually, I was happy if workers turned up at all and simply accepted the ‘Andalucian Way of Work’. Who was I, a newcomer, to try and change the system? However, when I opened The Source Of Wellbeing it became quickly apparent that things needed to function if I wanted to be successful. As foreigners on holidays or a retreat have very little tolerance and patience for the ‘Andalusian Way’, I was faced with a real challenge. What had become ‘good enough’ for me was, for others, way off the scale.

I had to change my way of dealing with staff completely and set expectations and boundaries. Basically I had to apply my project management skills and leadership abilities. At first I was met with blank looks and a ‘what’s wrong with her’ attitude. But then a miracle happened. They changed their ways, almost without exception.

Along the way I realised a couple of things.
There are some people who never learned any different. So there was no way they ever would be able to live up to The Source’s high standards.
Others were just plain lazy and thought they could get away with it. They mostly shaped up or shipped out.
And then another set of people started to enter my life. People who shared my values and attitudes a towards quality and standards.

The moral of the story is the same as always. We can not change others but we can change ourselves. And if we change, the circumstances and people around us will change.

But we need to be very clear to what we want and what our own values and expectations are.
Only then do we become authentic leaders others will follow. Our own behavior, words and actions should reflect this and then others will relate to us on all levels.

What about you? Do you feel stuck with an issue or a person? Do you have clear expectations and values? Or do you say one thing but do another?

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