Category Archives: Leadership Development

4 Pillars of Leadership

When TWP work with people in the area of leadership, we often center our interventions around 4 foundational “Pillars of Leadership”.

Lets explore these in a rather unorthodox fashion: via some of my own heroes !

Disclaimer: if you do not share my love of the following people, then remember the famous DH Lawrence axiom: “Trust the tale and not the teller” !


“Just Win, baby” and “Commitment to Excellence” – Al Davis, erstwhile owner of the Oakland Raiders NFL franchise.



Commitment is defined as “do whatever it takes to reach the goal”. Human beings are very good at pretending to be committed when, in reality, they are merely wishing, hoping, wanting, or simply trying hard, while giving themselves an “out” – eg “Im committed to get up early and go for a run, unless it is raining !”

Al Davis was committed to the Oakland Raiders, in a way few other owners ever were – he dedicated over 40 years of his life to building the franchise, an incredible testament to his commitment.

Human beings are always committed to something – if you want to know what you are committed to, then look at your results. Al Davis is a good example of this. Between 1965 and 1990, he could point to his results as evidence of his “commitment to excellence”, as he built the “winning-est” team in American professional sports’ history, however, in his later years, 2003-2011, his results would suggest that, like many long-term leaders, he became more committed to being right, than being successful.


“Comedy = Tragedy + Time” – Woody Allen, Film Director


Responsibility is defined as “the ability to respond”, something that all human beings have the capacity to do, in every situation. It is often confused with blame, fault, credit, burden or duty, but it has nothing to do with those imposters in this setting.

Woody Allen’s quotation reminds us that every situation, no matter how awful, stressful, exciting or boring it may appear, is neutral. The experience that we have in any situation is ours and is not inherent in the situation itself. If you would like a more highbrow version of this same idea, then consult Viktor Frankl, and his seminal book on his experiences as a survivor of the Holocaust: Man’s Search For Meaning.


“How does it feel?” and “All I can do is be me, whoever that is” – Bob Dylan, Rock Musician


Authenticity can be defined as the willingness to be real, genuine and honest – emotionally honest as well as intellectually honest. Adults, unlike young children often resist emotional honesty, as they have strong beliefs about “being emotional” and what others will think of them if they show emotion.

Bob Dylan’s recurring exhortation to answer the question: “How does it feel?” in his groundbreaking 1965 single “Like A Rolling Stone”, reminds us that for a human being to claim all of their power, they need to be able to embrace their emotions, and not just their intellect. Bob Dylan has exhibited this willingness to “be me” throughout his career, constantly changing direction, with scant concern for his fans’ wishes (from folk singer to protest singer to rock musician to country singer to gospel singer to blues singer.)

By staying true to himself, for over six decades, Dylan has generated a unique relationship with his fans. Authenticity facilitates deeper connection than being fake, hiding your emotions, or trying to fit in with what you think others want to hear. This is why it is so critical in leadership, which is, in itself, a relationship or connection with the people around you.


“What you give, is what you get” – Paul Weller, Rock Musician


Contribution, in this context, can be defined as the willingness to give for the benefit of someone else. This is what leaders do – they have other people win, and they do that by giving to them. They give for the sake of giving, rather than giving in the hope of receiving something in return.

The quotation from Paul Weller, taken from the 1980 single: “Start” reminds us that a powerful way to approach life and leadership is to work on the assumption that what you put out into the world, you will yourself receive back. Of course, this is not a fact, but imagine how the world would be, if we all lived from that place. As a rather more celebrated leader once said: “Be the change you want to see in the world” (Mahatma Gandhi, in case you were wondering !)

The song in question continues:

“It doesn’t matter if we never meet again,
What we have said will always remain.
If we get through for two minutes only,
It will be a start!”

That is how leaders see the world – ‘I am going to maximise the impact of my interaction with you, because it may be our last one, and even if we only have a short period of time together, if we really connect, then it will set in motion a whole new beginning for us both.’

The lyrics are based on Weller’s reading of George Orwell’s novel: “Homage To Catalonia”, for those of you enjoying the more intellectual references.
Four Leadership Pillars from four of my heroes. What could you learn from your heroes ?

Marcus Marsden