TTP 20 | Leadership Thinkers

      Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove, the founders of the Thinkers50 Conference, discuss how they search out and honor the top management and leadership thinkers from around the world – and what they have learned from them. At Thinkers50, Stuart and Des’ job is to scan, rank, and share the very best management ideas in the world at work, careers, and lives in the future as they look for the bright and up and coming thinkers. They release ranking of the 50 most important management thinkers in the world every two years and rely on people bringing things to their attention.

      Listen to the Podcast here:

      Finding The Top Leadership Thinkers In The World

      My guests are Stuart Craner and Des Dearlove. They are the founders of Thinkers50. Gentlemen, welcome.

      Hello, Karen.

      Thank you so much for agreeing to be here. I met you just recently in London at your Thinkers50 Conference. I had heard about the conference from several friends and they told me it is just one of the best events they go to. When I looked it up online, I was immediately fascinated and so of course, I did what I always do. I reached out to Des and I said, “I’d love to come,” and you were kind enough to invite me. Thank you for that. It was really a pleasure to be there.

      We were delighted to have you there and we hope you enjoyed your time in London.

      I always enjoy my time in London. I wanted to just start by asking for the people that aren’t familiar with it. What is Thinkers50?

      At Thinkers50, our job is to scan, rank and share the very best management ideas in the world. Scanning, we look out for the ideas that are going to change the world at work and careers and lives in the future as we look for the bright and up and coming thinkers. Ranking, every two years we choose a ranking of the 50 most important management thinkers in the world. Sharing, we publish books, blogs, podcasts and videos to share the very best ideas with as many people as possible.

      Let me just play devil’s advocate. Isn’t it a subjective thing who’s the best management thinker and who’s doing the leading thinking?

      Yeah. If you’re a marketing person, then a marketing thinker is probably going to see more relevant and more useful. We have a methodology whereby we try to control those things together and make sense of it. We’ve been doing this since 2001, and what we identified, and we started off as business journalists. We identified that no one was really providing a filter. No one was really curating this stuff. If you remember back in around about 2000, there were an awful lot of books coming out. None of us could keep up. What we tried to do was to offer that filter and to say, “If you are going to read a couple of books or you are going to read one book a month, these are the books that we think are worthwhile.” People are free to ignore that advice but it seems to have stuck. People seem genuinely interested, and it’s just grown and grown from there.

      How do you identify these books because as you said, so many management books come out every year, not just in the United States, but in the UK and France and Italy, from around the world? You’re looking at books from around the world. How do you determine which are those top management books? You spend an awful lot of time reading.

      It’s not just reading books, it’s listening to lectures. It’s figuring out who have got good ideas. There’s a whole world of thought leadership; people giving speeches, people doing video. Increasingly the content isn’t just print content, it isn’t just written content. We all know about the TED talks. Some of those people will be management thinkers, some less so. In a way, we are a little bit like TED, not as well known, but more focused. We are focused on the management domain, whereas they’ve got a wider ambit. We try to have eyes and ears everywhere. We rely on a lot of people in our network to tell us about people coming through. We’ll be looking to recruit you now that we’ve spoken to you. People who are constantly looking at this field, we can’t possibly cover the whole world. That’s what we try to do. We do rely on people bringing things to our attention. People are free to make nominations through the website as well. It’s not a perfect process, but we do the best we can.

      It’s interesting you talked about thought leadership because as you know, that’s a field that I spend a lot of time in. One of the concerns that I’ve had recently, and I saw a panel on this that at the Thinkers50that I was very impressed by, but one of the concerns that I have about this whole thought leadership area is it’s become “popular.” You have a lot of people trying to use it as a marketing or a branding tag even if they’re not thought leaders. One of the things I not so jokingly say when people call me and go, “I want to be a thought leader,” is first, you have to have some thoughts. You can’t just declare yourself a thought leader. You actually have to do some thinking and the quality of people that you have at the conference are people that have done a lot of very deep reflection and thinking about leadership, about management, about the future of work. I’m curious to hear your and Stuart’s take on this whole movement of thought leadership almost as a marketing and a branding play.

      It’s true that would-be thinkers and people have no ideas at all proclaim themselves thought leaders because it is, as we know, a potentially lucrative market as a speaker or as a consultant. Our job at Thinkers50 is to filter out the bullshit and find people who’ve got original ideas or new takes on old ideas. There is a lot of marketing and hype around it, so our job is to cut through that.

      We like to think we have a decent bullshit detector process. We were business journalists. We’re not cynical by nature but questioning by nature. We do take quite a hard view of what people are doing. We’ve been doing this a long time, so quite often when somebody is maybe borrowing somebody else’s ideas, which happens as you know, we were able to actually identify who the originator was and say, “That’s not actually yours.”

      “You borrowed that.” How did you get the idea for Thinkers50? I know you said you were both business journalists, but was there some moment where you scribbled it on a napkin in a pub or was it a discussion you had?

      It was in a restaurant in London in 2001.We’ve worked with quite a lot of thinkers and what would be thought leaders on book projects and we’ve interviewed them for articles for magazines and so on. We had the keen sense of the market and then we thought, it would actually be useful for people to have some ranking so they have easier access to understand where people are in the marketplace. We tried it out in 2001, launched the website, and we got this huge response. Then each time we’ve done it, it’s got a slightly bigger response and more attention. Then we started doing events around the ranking and then we introduce the Thinkers50 awards for leadership, innovation and strategy and so on. Each time it’s gotten a little bit more momentum.

      The good thing is over there when we started in 2001, it was pretty much all-American, because the Americans dominated the management thinking world at that time. Over the years, it’s become totally globalized. From being our market was the English-speaking world, originally Anglo-Saxon world, now our market is the entire world. There are thinkers coming out of China, so we’ve got to think about how we keep up-to-date with what they’re saying and how is it different, and is it important or trivial? As we have developed, so as the thought leadership market.

      I was going to ask you, what countries you’re seeing there’s a real revolution happening or a change happening or shift happening in management thinking where they’re starting to really evolve? You mentioned China is one of them. I’d love to hear your feedback on what countries do you think that’s happening in?

      China is the obvious one because 30 years ago, there wasn’t really a private enterprise in China. I suppose management and leadership were practiced but badly. What’s most amazing in countries like China is the appetite for the best ideas. We have worked with the Chinese company, Haier. A lot of the thought leaders that are on our ranking have been to visit Haier because they’re invited. They are keen to pick their brains and to learn more about the advanced management thinking. What’s interesting is that you don’t meet many western CEOs with that appetite for new knowledge about strategy or leadership. Actually, the reverse seems to be true. If a CEO of a large American company is caught reading a book about leadership, it’s seen as a sign of weakness rather than a sign of curiosity and trying to improve their work as a leader. China’s the obvious example, but we did an event in Romania and the appetite for knowledge there was incredible. They were very highly educated, curious and ambitious group. I think you encounter that more and more as we travel around the world. Previously, the best management was dominated by Americans and then the Japanese. I think we will see that the Chinese are developing their own management skills and approaches.

      TTP 20 | Leadership Thinkers

      Leadership Thinkers: If a CEO of a large American company is caught reading a book about leadership, it’s seen as a sign of weakness rather than a sign of curiosity.

      I think a few years ago too, we noted the rise of the Indian management thinkers. That’s an interesting process because a lot of the top Indian management thinkers, they moved to American business schools. There’s a whole cut to them including those at Harvard Business School, CK Prahalad, a whole group of these people who we find are actually teaching at a very high level in American Business Schools, but they have an Indian origin. They were disproportionally represented in our ranking at one point. There are a lot of them. I think that was a sign too of the hunger and thirst for knowledge in India. It’s interesting that they packed their bags and headed to the States. I’m not sure the Chinese will do the same. I think they’re more likely to stay in their home market.

      It’s interesting too because why do you think there’s less hunger in America among American executives and CEOs for that learning?

      It’s always dangerous to make generalizations. Our criteria for a good manager is curiosity. It also goes hand-in-hand with being a good thinker. When you meet somebody who thinks they’re very well-known, if they are no longer curious about people and about what’s going on in the world, then you have to question whether they can stay at the top of their game. You’ve witnessed Tom Peters at the conference in London. He is still curious about the world. He feels passionate about everything. That’s one of the defining elements of a great management thinker, but also of a great CEO.CEOs will actually get out and meet the customers and spend time in the field rather than locking themselves away in some corporate bunker. They’re the ones that tend to go the distance and stay the longest.

      I think it’s interesting. I think in smaller and medium-sized companies, you’re more likely to find managers who are reading books, watching TED Talks, trying to get ahead, get that competitive advantage. In big corporations, it’s seen as weakness to some extent. In the C-suite, that curiosity about management ideas is seen as weakness rather than strength.

      Just switching for a moment. One of the things I noticed at the conference that was interesting to me is you had this split. You had people that were academics from Harvard and Rothman. You had then people that were practitioners in the field. To someone who’s a lead management thinker, do they have to be an academic? Do they have to particularly have a strong academic background in your experience?

      No. They come from all kinds of places. Again, using Tom Peters as an archetype. He worked for McKinsey. He’s not an academic, but he’s got a very good mind. He is a regular guy, but then you get someone like Roger Martin who topped our ranking this time on who’s the most influential management thinker in the world. He’s topped it for the first time. He’s a professor at Rothman. He was formerly the Dean of Rothman, but he also did a lot of consulting work. He has done lot of work with Procter & Gamble. He’s the planes of the practical and the academic, a very good thinker, doing some really interesting work at the moment redefining how capitalism should be and will be in the future. He is a good example of somebody who’s got a foot in each camp. In fact, in his acceptance speech, he was alluding to that and how difficult it is to have a foot in each camp.

      One of the things we try and do with the events, I’m glad that you noticed, we do it with the European Business Forum as well, we try to put a thinker on the same platform and on the same stage as a CEO, because the interaction then between them, the theoretical doesn’t go unchallenged and the assumptions of a practitioner also don’t go unchallenged. Both sides challenge each other. We think we get more out of people that way because you’ve got the two worlds coming together. We want ideas that are going to inspire people and change the world, but we want them to have their feet on the ground. We want them to be challenged.

      That’s part of my question is what is the goal of Thinkers50? What’s your hope or your desire or what’s ultimately that it could contribute?

      My belief is that the best management it management ideas can change the world for the better. If we look at somebody like CK Prahalad, he topped our ranking a couple of times. He championed the idea of the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid which changed the way people viewed people who were trapped in poverty. I think a lot of the ideas that people in our ranking are involved with can actually make the world a better place and are actually being used. We like ideas that are put into practice. For instance, last year I was in Malaysia and I saw the National Blue Ocean Strategy Conference, which was led by the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Basically, the conference was demonstrating how the ideas in the book Blue Ocean Strategy by Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne who are number four in our ranking, how the ideas are being put into practice by the Malaysian Government.

      You can argue about whether they’re effective or what the objectives are, but they are actually being put to work. I think that’s the interesting thing, that the ideas we champion are being put to work in organizations and in government, increasingly in governments. It’s interesting that when we first started, it was all about increasing productivity and performance on the factory floor and improving your strategy, that thing. A lot of thinkers are talking about how to change the world. Their own agendas got bigger and the agenda of people in organizations has got more ambitious, I think as well.

      I noticed that at the conference and I’ve certainly noticed that in my own consulting work with corporations and in work with in the business world, I do think there has been a shift away from that. This is all about improving the productivity at the bottom line to creating better work environments that are more holistic, hence making a better world and a more holistic world. That’s interesting. I think that you’re seeing that as well.

      It’s not so long ago that everybody was talking about shareholder value. That was it, victory on your side of the pond. There is a tradition in Europe. It’s more than just making the shareholders wealthier. People like Roger Martin are beginning to look at this increasing inequality we see manifest itself in politics and other areas. People are dissatisfied. People feel that they’re not getting a fair share. I think business has to address that. Business has to be part of the solution. It can’t remain part of the problem. People like Roger are helping to redefine what capitalism is. If it’s going to survive, it’s going to have to learn to be better at sharing. That’s one of the interesting things.

      Building on what Stuart was saying, we also try to offer a counterpoint particularly in Europe, possibly in the States too. Management had a bit of a bad reputation at one point, not these management consultants or these people that came in and told everyone else what to do, but didn’t do any proper work. Management is essential to human affairs. That’s one of our founding beliefs. Better management means the world we’re on is a bit better. It’s a very worthwhile activity. It’s not something to be ashamed. That isn’t the same thing as making money. It isn’t the same thing about as greedy, selfish captains. That’s a different thing. Management is separate to what we saw with the bankers and those things. This is about running the world in a way that it’s better for all of us.

      What are one or two of the ideas that you’ve heard that you were the most excited about for the future? What are some of the ideas that you think potentially could change the world that are coming out of leading management thinking now?

      I think there’s a big thing emerging about trust. Rachel Botsman who is included in our ranking number 46 and she’s in the ranking for the first time, she’s recently released a book about trust. It was an interesting point at our event last week where Nilofer Merchant as the audience, “Do you trust Facebook?”

      I remember that. No one raised their hand.

      No one raised their hand. 40 years ago, if you’d ask an audience of people, “Do you trust IBM?” I guess a fair percentage is going to put their hands up. IBM was one of big corporations at the time.

      How many people were in that room?


      It wasn’t a ringing endorsement for Facebook, it must be said. I think trust is a big issue that’s emerging and how we understand trust. It’s an issue elsewhere in the world as well, because when we visited China recently, trust is an issue there because it’s been rewritten in China and the employees are given a much greater level of trust than they were previously. They’re learning as they go along. I see in the Western World that the notion of trust and our understanding of it is evolving, and it needs to evolve. A company like Facebook has in the end has got to come up with a response to why people don’t trust it if they don’t. I think trust is a big issue.

      I completely agree with you, but it isn’t just in my experience. I’d love your point of view on this. It isn’t just trust between the company and their customers. It’s trust between management and their employees. It’s trust between departments within the same organization. I don’t think it’s just at a micro level, I think it’s at a macro level as well.

      He’s number one, so it makes sense that I keep talking about Roger Martin, but he’s been talking recently about what he calls the socially effective executive, which is a build on Peter Drucker’s famous notion of The Effective Executive. What Roger’s saying is there has to be a social dimension to this now. It’s no longer just about maximizing or minimizing, it’s about optimizing. We’ve got to move away from the notion that you have to kill the competition or is it just doggy-dog. The reason that people don’t trust an organization is that they know in the old days it was a tournament if need be, but this idea that it was every man for himself or every woman for themselves. We are stronger together and when organizations begin to realize that, then maybe that will begin to share a bit more.

      It used to be a little more Game of Thrones-y.

      I think in some organizations, it still is. Perhaps a little less blood but not a lot.

      Let me switch tracks a little bit. Tell me a little bit about, from each of you, your backgrounds. A little bit about what you did and how you got into this, but what you did prior to this and a little bit about your history and background. I’d love to hear just a little bit from each of you.

      We both started off our working lives as business journalist, a news writer for the Times in London. That’s how we know each other. Then we wrote books separately and then we started writing books together and then we started writing stuff together, ghost writing books and getting involved with other book projects. What we realized with the book projects is that it’s about more than the book. There are a lot of good books that never go anywhere. A lot of books with great ideas that never actually take off or people never read. Getting the book right is important, but it’s creating the brand around the idea is also critical. We got into that. How do you develop thought leadership brands? That’s where we work with business schools, organizations, and individuals to maximize their ideas one way or another.

      That’s a very good point, which is how do you become a thought leader. As you said, writing a book is not enough. It’s not a bad start, but it’s not enough. In your experience from all the work you do, how do you become a genuine thought leader? Not just that you’re saying it, but someone who’s really seen that way in the world.

      My starting point as Des alluded to is curiosity. People who topped our ranking, people like Peter Drucker or Clayton Christensen, CK Prahalad, Michael Porter, Roger Martin, are endlessly curious. They didn’t have one idea and then milked it for 30 years. They had a succession of ideas. For instance, our Strategy Award winner this time was Richard D’Aveni. Richard developed the idea of hyper competition in the 1990s but since then he’s tackled other big issues like commoditization and then the last thought was about China and capitalism. He is continually curious, asking questions, and his next book is about additive manufacturing and 3D printing.

      You can’t fake curiosity. I suppose people do try and fake it, but it’s pretty obvious when people do it. He’s endlessly curious and the willingness to do different things. He’s like an artist of a musician. Miles Davis was a great musician because when he was old, he was still doing interesting music and playing with younger musicians and different musicians. I think there’s a danger in this game and you see people who have one idea 30 years ago and it’s still giving speeches on that subject. I know quite a few of those. I think it’s people’s willingness to move and move with the times and ask new questions.

      TTP 20 | Leadership Thinkers

      Leadership Thinkers: You can’t fake curiosity.

      What do you think is the biggest danger right now to management and management thinking and leadership in the world, not just in Britain or the States, but just in the world in general?

      It touches back on the curiosity thing, but it’s not quite the same. When people won’t challenge their assumptions, there are a certain smugness and a certain complacency that you see, like a sense of entitlement that we have the answers. We had a session at the conference talking about ethics. One of the things that came up, it talked about ethics in a post-truth world. One of the panelists said, “The danger is that science over promise us anyway by telling us that these are the truths.” I think management business is guilty of that too. We think we have the answer, so anything that suggests otherwise, we dismiss it instead of just thinking, “There’s always room for improvement. We can always have better answers. There’s always a better way of doing things.”

      I think the danger is that you settle for what’s good enough. I think people do that. That’s one of the reasons you see these very large and very successful organizations that were once great, eventually, they fall off their pedestal because they use that appetite for change. Stuart mentioned Haier company in China that’s now the biggest white goods manufacturer in the world, just bought GE’s business in the States, white goods business in States. Massive company now. They are in a state of continuous revolution, not evolution. Every time they think they’ve got a great business model, the CEO throws it all up in the air again and they go again. We saw a factory they just built and it’s like talk about Industry 4.0. It was real state of the art, but there’s a restlessness. That organization is not content to just accept the way they’re doing things. They’re hugely successful. They could easily rest on their models and I think a lot of western companies are guilty of doing just that.

      What’s next for Thinkers50 and the organization?

      We’d like to be better. I think we’ve been very good at networking and understanding the thought leadership part of the equation. I think we would like to be better known and we can be more useful to the management population as it were, the corporate world. Taking the big ideas and making sense of those ideas and making sense of the landscape and bringing that across to the world of work where real people could really use these ideas in a practical way. I think we’d like to be more effective at doing that. We’d like to be better known in North America. We’re very well-known in Europe. We’ve deliberately stayed with having our event in London because it distinguishes us a little bit. That’s just differentiates us, but I think we would like to be better known in the States. That would be a start, but it’s a big world and there’s a lot of places out there that could use some better management.

      Just explain to me. I know you guys are with Thinkers50 which is one conference you do, but is your whole organization called Thinkers 50 or does it have another name? It seems like you to other conferences and things? I’m a little confused about the brand personally.

      We do an annual event in Denmark in a city called Odense. We’re doing an annual there called the European Business Forum. The last time that had Michael Porter as the lead speaker. The next one will be in September 2018. That’s going to be a big event. It’s a two-day event and we want to establish that as the Davos of management thinking, and the aim is to attract to leading CEOs and leading business thinkers to one event. For instance, last time we had the number one management thinker at that time was Michael Porter. We had the number one world CEO according to Harvard Business Review, who is Lars Sørensen from Novo Nordisk. We had the number one executive coach in the world in Marshall Goldsmith. We do that event every year. We aim to develop events in China and elsewhere over the next couple of years.

      That event is called what?

      The European Business Forum.

      It’s the Thinkers50 European Business Forum but it’s a bit of a mouthful. It tends to get shortened a little bit to The European Business Forum. It’s the Thinkers50 Europe but based in Denmark, which runs that. There’s Thinkers50 China as you might guess in China, in Qingdao. We’d like to have more outposts. We call them Ideas Labs where we can really find out what’s going on in the local region and have an exchange of the ideas from around the world. We’d like to do more of that.

      Does it work the same way that Thinkers50 works minus the gala? Minus the awards? Is it like a day of people presenting different ideas?

      The European Business Forum is two days. What people really enjoy is that when they walk through the room, they spot all these people and they’re like, “I’ve read his book. I know her. He was on TED.” They’re actually in the room. In some conferences, you see these people on the stage. They’ll be like rock stars and then they’re gone. They’re whisked away in a fast car, but at the Thinkers50, they hang out. They will be in the audience. They’re asking questions as well as answering questions. We try to make sure there are a lot of thinkers in the room so that you can really network with them and really get to get to know them. The other thing is to knock them off their normal stump speeches. We don’t want what they told every other conference. It’s Thinkers50, we don’t allow that really. You can’t just come in and do your normal speech. We’ll be putting a context or put on a panel with somebody whereby you’re going to be challenged. We try to get the best out of them that way

      You have Davos, you have TED, all the TEDX things that happen. How do you see that your conference is distinct from some of those other conferences?

      I think it’s got its own personality and it’s where you’ve experienced it. The Financial Times called it the Oscars of Management Thinking, which is quite nice. We get to be Davos during the day time with some real interesting conversations and then we get to be the Oscars in the evening and everybody puts on their best clothes and turns up. Although it’s very, very competitive, it’s also very warm. People are genuinely pleased for each other, even though they are all competing. It’s taken on an interesting light. We get people coming from all over the world to be there. They come back each time. It’s nice that they say things like, “We don’t get the chance to do this anywhere else.” I think it’s got its own special personality. I think where we’re different to TED or a Davos is we are more focused. We’re very clear that it’s about management and therefore, because management is always going to have a practical side to it, that it has to have his feet on the ground. We don’t want highfalutin ideas which aren’t any use to anybody. We want ideas that people can actually use tomorrow at work.

      How many years have you been doing Thinkers50?

      Since 2001.

      Is there anything I didn’t ask you, you want me to ask you?

      Des is also a bestselling children’s author.

      Des, you are?

      I’ve written a trilogy of children’s books called The Archie Greene Trilogy or The Archie Greene books. That’s what I do when I’m not doing this.

      For what age?

      Middle grade; eight-year-olds through to about twelve-year-olds.

      Did you do this for your own children?

      It started off that way, but my children outgrew it before I even got it published. They are nineteen and seventeen. They still take it in jest, but these things take a while to gestate, as they say.

      That’s really interesting because you live in this world of management thinking, which is pretty intellectual and you wrote children’s books.

      It’s good to do something different, isn’t it? You should ask Stuart about his sailing exploits as well.

      I’ve sailed across the Atlantic a few years ago with some friends. I wouldn’t do it by myself.

      You’re talking about curiosity and being a tip for me, I’m a lifelong learner. I’m always learning something. It seems to me that it’s like this idea of curiosity or learning or always having something that you’re engaged in that is challenging in a certain way.

      I think that’s right. It would be a shame if we didn’t practice what we’re preaching little bit. I don’t think we have any great illusions that we’re going to be the next Michael Porter or anything, but I think we’re better at helping to explain ideas and articulating ideas with people. We have our own curiosity, I hope. Let’s hope we don’t lose that.

      For each one of you, what’s your big challenge that you’re willing to say publicly? What’s your big challenge thing you’re learning or thing you’re working on for 2018? Stuart, you?

      I think the big challenge for everybody involved in the organization is to maximize the impact of our energies. We’re a small organization and there’s a limit to how much time and energy we actually have. Our challenge is to make better use of our resources and to maximize the impact of what we do.

      TTP 20 | Leadership Thinkers

      Leadership Thinkers: It would be a shame if we didn’t practice what we’re preaching little bit.

      Anything personal you’re going to learn or do this year? You don’t have to answer that question if you don’t want to. Des, how about you?

      The project that we’re trying to get off the ground in 2018, which we’ve been threatening to do it for a while, we’ve got a name for it and it’s beginning to take shape. It’s a thing called Ideas at Work. The first output from that was a book called Strategy at Work and the challenge there is to take, handpick and cherry pick the best of the thinking and turn it into learning resources, probably digital resources: video, but also print and just PDF, to get it into the hands of managers who can use it and to do that in a more systematic way. I think they’re trying to talk about trying to break all this stuff down into the atoms so that we can reconstruct them into molecules that people can use, if that makes any sense. That’s a challenge. We don’t really know what that’s going to look like. We’ve got a name and an initiative and a lot of goodwill I think from the thinkers. Now, we’ve got to figure out how to make that puzzle come to life so that people can really use this stuff in a way that makes a difference to them.

      Last question. When I was in London last week, I watched a lot of BBC and I frequently listen to the BBC. There’s a little bit of this, but certainly not the degree we’re having it in the States. So much is coming out about sexual harassment at work. We have so much of this sexual harassment stuff that’s coming up in the workplace. I don’t know if you know who Dana Bash is or not. She’s one of the main people at CNN, but she was being interviewed by Jake Tapper and she was with another woman about her age and they’re about ten years older than I am but it’s close enough. She said, “The problem is in my day when this stuff happen, we just dealt with it.” That’s how I felt about it. I was like, “It happened to a lot, but you just dealt with it.” There wasn’t any HR to run to. You just handled it. You just dealt with it. Usually, it was fine.

      There’s this hypersensitivity right now in the US about sexual harassment. Not to say that it isn’t an issue or concern and people don’t have to be concerned, but how can we be even thinking about higher-end thinking of management ideas and trust or whatever if there seems to be so much of this inequality and people feeling harassed going on in the workplace. I’m just wondering what your point of view is about. Obviously, your point of view is it’s not a good thing to harass people in the workplace, but what are your point of views about this spark that’s been pulled and we seem to have a huge amount conversation. My concern is that we’re going to go in the other direction. God forbid, a manager should say to you, “I love that color on you.” “He’s harassing me.”

      That’s the danger. We’re coming at it from obviously being men. You can’t just give somebody a compliment or just say something cheery. I think that’s the danger. I think the big danger in all of this stuff is that we can’t prioritize anymore. If we get to a point where we can’t tell the difference between something that a few years ago people would’ve dealt with, there’s a difference between someone making a comment or something as opposed to the other extreme when you’re talking about physical abuse, obviously the extreme, and the dangers that they will get conflated into one conversation. There are different conversations.

      Back in the day, if you want to survive in the executive world, you have to be able to stand your ground. In the same way, if a man was being bullied by another man, I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying that there are degrees of these things. One of the things we pride ourselves on is giving the up and coming thing becomes an opportunity to speak. They have shortstops to get their message across. One of the better ones I thought and I was very pleased to see it, there was a lady called Megan Ritz and she does speaking truth to power. That’s where the connection, the big idea, which is speaking truth to power.

      Understanding how you create an environment and a culture where people can speak up where it won’t be sought as my power, which is hardly ones the problem. People didn’t say anything because of the power and it happens. It’s not just sexual harassment. It happens in lots and lots of places but lots of what’s required the reasoning power. How do we create organizations? Megan asked the question to the audience and bear in mind, it’s quite a high powered audience. She said, “Do you know how scary you are?” I don’t know if you were in the room when she said that but most of us don’t think of ourselves as being scary. Actually, we probably all are in certain situations, but by understanding that, we can create better cultures so other people can speak up. The problem itself is in silence. These people were silent. That’s what’s so awful.

      It’s the silence. That’s actually perfect. Gentlemen, thank you so much for your time.

      If there’s anything else you need from us, Karen, just give us a call. It’s been a great pleasure talking to you.

      Thank you again for inviting me to the conference. I really enjoyed it. It was a pleasure. Let me know if I can do anything for you and I’ll be in touch.

      Thank you very much, Karen.


      Important Links


      About Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove

      TTP 20 | Leadership ThinkersStuart Crainer and Des Dearlove are the founders of the London based Thinkers50 conference. Dearlove and Crainer look for the bright up and coming thinkers, ranking every two years the 50 most important management thinkers in the world.Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove are the founders of the London based Thinkers50 conference. Dearlove and Crainer look for the bright up and coming thinkers, ranking every two years the 50 most important management thinkers in the world.


      Listen | Download | View

      Hear the episode of the Competitive Advantage Podcast by using the player above OR Click to Download any Episode

      This article is copyrighted by Karen Leland and cannot be reprinted in any form, electronic or otherwise, without the express written permission of Karen Leland.

      Karen Leland is President of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm. She works with individuals, businesses and teams to enhance their business and personal brands. Her clients include LinkedIn, American Express, Apple, Marriott Hotels and others. Her ninth book, The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand, (Entrepreneur Press, 2016) is available online at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and in bookstores now.