Menu Content/Inhalt
Leadership? ‘I bet you think this song is about you. Don’t you?’ PDF Print E-mail
Written by David Brunnen   
Friday, 30 May 2014 13:58

Rejecting popular assumptions that leadership is about being stronger, smarter and single-mindedly determined, Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas last week told delegates at the 24th World Congress on Leadership & Quality that “Leadership is about relationships rather than attributes.  It is about service to others, service to customers, service to employees and service to business partners.”

IoD (India) 24th World Congress, Colin Coulson-ThomasSpeaking to India’s business leaders gathered for the Institute of Directors of India's event this year in the state of Kerala, he said that ‘leadership is not really about them - it is about people without whom we might achieve very little. It is about those who look to us for help and supportLeadership can also be about service to a cause. People will go the extra mile when they believe in a cause. Turn your aspirations into a cause. Sharing a compelling vision and a worthwhile purpose can attract followers.’


‘New leadership’ is a supporting role

In recent reports Prof. Coulson-Thomas suggests that greater emphasis be put upon the provision of better support, particularly of those in demanding front-line roles: “The 'new leadership' I advocate is more about helping people and simultaneously delivering multiple benefits for people, organisations and the planet. Confident leaders put much effort into developing and supporting others. Their most lasting legacy can be the high performance organisations and teams they build.”

Coulson-Thomas disputes suggestions from critics of competitive capitalism that business leadership is less commendable than thought leadership, or academic, cultural or moral leadership:  “Competition that leads to new offerings, options and choices can be highly beneficial. Be proud to be a business leader. When properly regulated, there is competition and people have a choice, markets can be intrinsically fair. Confident leaders welcome competition that spurs improvement. In contrast, protectionism, corruption and favouritism are formidable barriers to entry and progress. Business leaders should champion fair play and encourage innovation.”

The context:  post-election India

In relation to India, Prof. Coulson-Thomas asked: “How will India's general election and a new Government with a majority impact upon your company and its customers? How should you respond? What changes or developments would help you to become more competitive? Could you collaborate to help improve infrastructure or transform public services?”

According to Coulson-Thomas: “Leadership is about focus and relevance rather than being clever. Very intelligent people sometimes see so many angles to problems that they procrastinate. Windows of opportunity can be missed as a result of excessive analysis. There are times when decisiveness and courage are required.”

Flexibility is different from being rudderless

According to Coulson-Thomas: “Being an effective custodian of a vision can require re-engagement with stakeholders, a re-assessment of aims and the re-establishment of relevance. Be prepared to question current priorities, corporate practices, prevailing attitudes, cherished beliefs, familiar approaches, shared assumptions and widely held views. Reinvention can be the key to longevity. Good business leaders maximise future chances by listening, challenging and staying close to customers. They keep flames alive and pass them to the next generation.”

Coulson-Thomas believes “Ultimately fulfillment as a leader comes from within, the peace of mind that can result from having few regrets, and the satisfaction that can come from the knowledge that leadership positions have been used to make the world a better place.”



Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas, a member of the business school team at the University of Greenwich, holds a portfolio of board, public and academic appointments. He has helped companies in over 40 countries to improve board and corporate performance. Author of over 40 books and reports he has held professorial appointments in Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, India and China. Colin was educated at the LSE, the London Business School and the Universities of Aston, Chicago and Southern California. A fellow of seven chartered bodies he secured first place prizes in the final examinations of three professions.

Prof. Coulson-Thomas' special address on the challenges and opportunities of leadership was delivered on Friday, 23rd May 2014 at the 24th World Congress on Total Quality and Leadership held at the Hotel Taj Vivanta, Trivandrum, Kerala, India. He also gave a short talk on the role of the board in relation to quality.  Colin can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . His latest publications are available from

Headline acknowledgement:  Carly Simon 'You're So Vain' written and recorded in1972


Last Updated on Friday, 30 May 2014 14:50

Valid CSS!