Author Archives: Helen

About Helen

Helen is a qualified Leadership Coach and Chartered Marketer - the CEO of a leadership development consultancy operating globally and offering research, consulting, training and leadership coaching services. "Growing leaders using inspirational and practical tools"

Disruptive leader

Who’s A Disruptive Leader?

As a child, I was the nuisance one in the middle.  Always asking “why?”  Trust me when I say that it doesn’t win you friends.  Teachers think you’re disrupting the class and challenging their authority.  And I’m sure I wore my parents out.

So it was a surprise and a delight to me when I got to university as a mature student.  They wanted me to analyse, argue and challenge.

In my leadership development career I also discovered that, throughout history, it’s the ‘outsiders’ who change paradigms.

It wasn’t the candle-makers who developed the electric light bulb.  Henry Ford was a farmer’s boy who adapted assembly line technology to create the first mass produced automobile.  And while Kodak staff had developed digital ideas, the market impetus came from elsewhere.  If organisations have processes that work ‘well-enough’, chances are they will make incremental improvements but not introduce radical change.

After all, it’s too disruptive.  Right?

Today we have a term for these people: disruptors; and the good news is, it’s now a compliment.

Listening to General David Petraeus at a leadership conference recently, he mentioned four revolutions in the global economy:

  1. IT
  2. Energy
  3. Manufacturing
  4. Life Sciences

So if you’re working in one of these sectors, the chances are you’re working alongside ‘disruptive’ people.  And if you don’t lead them well, the chances are even higher that they’ll leave.

I was interviewed about my thoughts on disruptive entrepreneurs recently for an article in The Guardian Small Business Network and these are often the people who have left a corporation behind to start up their disruptive venture.

Of course, I totally understand that someone has to deliver ‘business as usual’.  And this comes to the heart of the matter.  If that is someone’s strength, then help them deliver today’s operational needs to the optimum.

But if it’s not their strength.  If someone has the strategic capability, the design vision, or the creativity to innovate, then either find ways to harness that energy or watch them move on.

And every member of the supervisory, management or leadership team needs to understand how to recognise these strengths and how to harness them.

Here’s four tips for leading your disruptors:

  1. Accept them for who they are
    We use the metaphor of filling a jar with pebbles – you may have a few big rocks to start with, but then there are still gaps. So you use a different size pebble.  And then sand.  And if you really want to ‘fill’ the jar, add water. Different skills, strengths, talents and cultures are all part of who we are and what we contribute to the workplace.  Monochrome is an art form, not a practical way of running today’s workplaces.
  2. Listen to them
    Find out what drives, inspires or motivates all your people; not just your disruptors.
  3. Help them devise their career plan
    So that you and they can see themselves still productively contributing to your organisation in the years ahead.
  4. Observe where and how they are most creative and productive.
    Find ways to optimise peoples’ creativity and productivity – in ways that support delivery today, and innovation tomorrow.
  5. Create working environments for disruptors
    Some companies provide ‘personal project time’, so that ideas can be worked on without the day-to-day interruptions. Others provide creative working environments – where groups can innovate and critique new ideas.

At the Forton Group we help leaders to think differently, build their communication and coaching skills, and lead people more effectively.  From the bottom to the top of the organisations, we believe there’s a wealth of untapped leadership talent, ready to be unlocked in your organisation, to the benefit of your bottom line.  They may be the stabilisers, or the disruptors and it’s the leaders job to support their success today, to bring more success to the organisation tomorrow.

If you’d like to know more, contact me at

Leadership Development and training

The New Era of Abundant Leadership

In the fifteen years I’ve coached and developed leadership programmes I feel like I’ve seen it all. Those tired clichés of ‘here’s this unique thing I did; here’s a cute story. Follow my ten steps and magically you’ll be a leader too…’ Colleagues jokingly call it ‘leadership by lion taming’. I call it unrealistic.

There’s no magic bullet to better leadership. It’s a consistent high-level application of leadership behaviours. It’s about applying emotional intelligence to oneself and with others. It’s about flexing to the situation’s needs; not expecting the situation to bend to a single leadership style. It’s about delivering the kind of leadership needed right now, whatever the challenge.

And that’s why I developed the Leadership Routemap

It works just like the Tube or Metro maps. You find out where you need to go. You work out you’re going to get there. You work with leadership experts to strengthen your talents, address your development areas and coach you to your successful destination.

Let’s look at those high-performance behaviours for a moment. Developed by a research team at Princeton under Prof. Harold Schroder, they fall into four clusters: Thinking; Involving; Inspiring; Achieving

Let’s look at those high-performance behaviours for a moment. Developed by a research team at Princeton under Prof. Harold Schroder, they fall into four clusters: Thinking; Involving; Inspiring; Achieving. That’s pretty neat. They’re things we can all do. We can all get better at.

So what is it about ‘leadership’ that people make so darn difficult? It’s because we have a particular image of who a leader is, that gets in our own way.

  • Women tell me “I’m not a leader” yet they’re running multi-million projects involving hundreds of people.
  • People look to ageing white men as their leadership role models; when what they really admire is power, money or status.
  • People who talk about leaders as ‘heroes’ because they’ve fallen for the Hollywood myth.

It’s time for an era of abundant leadership. Where people at different levels in the organisation step up and take responsibility: men and women. Where the whole team succeeds. Where everyone’s contribution and effort is valued.

Where the secret to leadership development is to support people to do it for themselves. To get consistently better at the behaviours that make a real difference. Without telling them what to do. 

It’s time to let the real leaders emerge. So they fail and try again? They fall over and pick themselves up. So they make an idiot of themselves in front of the team? The combination of learning and persistence are powerful tools in the hands of a leader.

It’s time for the ‘Coaching for Leadership Behaviours’ programme. A blend of ELearning and Live-Learning for experienced coaches looking to build their skills.

Ours was the first – and still the best – leadership coaching programme to be accredited by the International Coach Federation. People love our learning environment. And where better than the relaxed environment of an Italian Summer School to experience it in? Because it doesn’t have to be hard or difficult. We’re deliberately making this a rich, fun, interactive experience – where you get to bring your wisdom and coaching skills to bring out the best in the leaders you coach.

It’s time to let the real leaders emerge. You can be a part of it. Sign up for the Coaching for Leadership Behaviours programme.

Our inaugural programme happens on the 9th/10th September 2017 in Umbria, Italy. Find out more at Be part of the new era of abundant leadership.

Genuine Leadership: on-vision, not ‘on-message’

I was asked recently if I thought the major cost savings of £20bn. that the UK national health service (NHS) had to find, were achievable?  My answer was simple: yes

The Mineral Water Hospital, Bath

I work with organisations that have to do just this – many of whom are not in a position to ask governments for a bailouts when times are tough – and they achieve it through good leadership.  I work both with individual leaders and teams and there are a  number of common factors to the successful projects:

Genuine leadership:

  • It takes genuine and serious leadership: too many people use these exercises as a way of advancing their own career first, and improving the patient experience last
  • Leaders need to focus on the people issues first, then the process and systems
  • Leaders need to have the right team around them, with dual delivery objectives
    • Deliver on the day to day
    • Deliver on the right change

One key task of leadership is to create partnerships

  • Working as partners requires cultural and attitudinal change on all sides
  • A willingness to work together as a team and to share information
  • A willingness to provide information at a level that everyone can understand and respond to

By pulling the information, performance and finance specialists into partnership alongside the clinical frontline, everyone can be better informed and prepared for the challenges ahead.

The best major planning exercises break the challenge into ‘bite-size’ chunks:

  • Whether this is major or capital projects, revenue projects, maintenance or routine activities etc.
  • They ask four key questions:
    • What do we need to stop doing?
    • What do we need to start doing?
    • Where do we need to do things very differently?
    • What’s working that needs to be preserved at all costs?

The best leaders are also great communicators: in person and in writing.

  • They have a clear vision and concise messages to keep people on-vision (not ‘on-message’)
  • They use information systems to keep on top of their targets and identify any roadblocks
  • They use as many communications channels as available
  • They manage unrealistic expectations – wherever they come from

There’s some amazing technology available that saves huge amounts of waste.  Take a look at the 2010 data (source NHS website, National Statistics)

  • In 2009/10 the total number of outpatient appointments reached nearly 84.2 million
  • An increase of 9.3 million (12.5 per cent) from 2008/09
  • Comparing age groups, the highest number of appointments recorded as “DNA” (did not attend) was among 20 to 29-year-olds (1.0 million), where there was one DNA for every seven appointments attended.
  • This compares to one DNA for every 18 appointments attended by 70 to 79-year-olds (600,000).

Reminders automated by text are a great example of making savings: these are diary reminders for peoples’ outpatient appointments and numbers to call if they can’t attend.  This cuts down on missed appointments, reduces bureaucracy and frees up space for others.  Most importantly, it can reach the highest DNA appointments – in the 20-29 age group – who rely heavily on their mobile technology to keep in touch.

So yes, real, major savings can be made in the NHS but it takes genuine leadership to create them.

Convince is one of the most important perks of online shopping.


On this page, you’ll find a list of cars to buy online, complete with their prices and delivery times. I hope that you’ll find a car you like, that’s at the right price for you.
It can be difficult to find a car you like on the open market, and it’s even more difficult to buy one online. A new car can cost thousands of dollars on the open market. When you shop on eBay you only pay the money you lose in the negotiation process. If the price you pay is still too much, you can cancel your order without any hassle or worry.

2021 Toyota Tacoma Pickup | Built for the Endless Weekend

On eBay you can buy cars direct from the manufacturers, as well as other classic cars and hot rods from all over the world. These days, you can get the latest and greatest cars and hot rods right on eBay with the best offers and discounts, just visit and get all the details!

My eBay car purchase experience was an absolute success. I did a little research beforehand to see what I could find out about this car, and I found that the car I would be purchasing had already been sold a number of times. On eBay, they are very transparent and will disclose any possible problems on a car that is selling. This is not the case with car auctions, or with cars that are listed as “vintage,” or “rare,” or something else along these lines. In general, these cars tend to be of high quality and are never going to fall apart. I was excited to read about the engine and transmission (engine) of this car, and I was equally excited to find out that this car was one of the few remaining Caddy’s with the V-6 engine.

Social Leadership – selfish or selfless?

Captain’s Blog

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It’s been a week of noticing other people’s generosity, in some unexpected places.  My travelling has been significantly car-based recently, trying to get across country and to some out-of-the-way places.  This means I tune to radio stations that provide reliable traffic news and what’s common to all of these stations is the initial source of the information is constant: it’s the listeners reporting road conditions.  Yes, the traffic presenter checks in with the police to verify the information but it’s ‘Gemma’s Dad’ or ‘Roadrunner’ who phone in to report events up and down the country.

I’m very grateful to them, and I’m curious to know what prompts them to do this – seemingly selfless act of kindness.  On the one hand, they may get a name check, or a word of thanks -but if you’re one driver in a hundred reporting the same hold-up – you’re chances of a mention diminish.  On the other hand, perhaps they do it because, up there in the cab of their lorry, looking across a sea of stationary traffic, they are reaching out to their fellow drivers and sharing a moment of misery, common to them all.

We’d like to think that these impulses are purely self-less; that the opportunity to benefit others is thanks enough. Yet I believe that, each time we reach out to support others, we’re getting something back.  We’re getting feedback, just hearing about ‘my’ traffic jam on the radio provides a sense of being part of something bigger.  We’re also getting by giving – that sense that, if you provide the information in this part of the country today, tomorrow someone else will do ‘their bit’.

The issue isn’t effort here, feedback there; rather it’s the language we use to describe it. To be ‘selfish’ in my childhood was seen as something wrong, and ‘selfless’ had connotations of sacrifice, duty and piety.  My recommendation is – have your cake and eat it too – be generous with your information and share what you know, and indulge in the joy of the thanks and satisfaction from it.

I’m defining this flow of give and take amongst perfect strangers as ‘social leadership’ – where something is given as a ‘random act of kindness’, not for financial or other gain – other than an inner glow of satisfaction or a feeling of belonging.

It’s a perfect time to join in this wave of generosity as the 21st September has been designated as the UN’s ‘International Day of Peace’.  I’m delighted to hear that in some parts of the UK it’s been extended to a whole week of peace-focused activities engaging people across the political spectrum and spanning generations.  I was particularly taken by the invitation to ‘light a candle for peace’ by one of the event organisers, Lin Kear, who suggests we put a lit candle in the window with our message for peace.  ( )


I like the idea that I can focus on my own meaning of ‘peace’ as there are many definitions or things we are told to believe.  My own wish for peace is both personal – that feeling of contentment when time is being well spent – and I’d like to see peace between neighbours – whether down our street or between countries.  Selfish or self-less?  Feeling at peace benefits both me and the people I interact with; getting on with the neighbours is another win-win.  So I’d add another suggestion to Ms Kear’s – when you light your candle and add your message of peace, have a piece of cake – and eat it too.

A change of heart changes everything

Leadership or friendship?

Captain’s Blog

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It’s been a week of hearing about A-level exam results and graduation grades, celebrating with some of the talented and intelligent young people of our acquaintance.  Well done to everyone for your hard work – and for those of you who didn’t quite get the grade you expected, try asking your parents about their results, I guarantee you’ll feel much better instantly!

Preparing for the world of work

Increasing access to education means that each year we have a better-educated country, with a wealth of ideas, talent and innovative thinking to draw upon.  The mainstream media’s obsession with standards, or mocking courses such as ‘media studies’ seems to ignore the benefits to us all of a better educated society.  Understanding the power of digital media in the age of the internet seems to me to be a vital skill for any future career – whether in science, the arts or farming the land.

Amongst the popping champagne corks and clinking glasses, I remembered that I certainly don’t have as many A-levels as my daughter.  I made up for a poor start to my academic results by going back to education as a mature student and now it’s one of those lifelong activities for me.  I also found that our family had a history of not being able to continue on at school, despite being gifted and intelligent people.  For me it’s probably my rebellious streak – I find I need to learn rather than be ‘taught’.  My late grandmother would be proud to know that one of her great-grandchildren is currently listed amongst the most gifted children in the country and is being supported to succeed, despite the parents not having a university education themselves, and they’re now able to care for their grandparents with services as CareShyft San Antonio which offer one of the best home care service for this.

Home care supports activities of daily living (ADLs). In-home services allow adults to receive day-to-day help with the personal care they need, preserving their dignity and maintaining a good quality of life as in Home Care Assistance in Nassau County. Assistance with activities of daily living can include bathing, grooming, and medication reminders.

So what’s this to do with leadership?  To me it’s the good news – knowing that our future leaders are bright and full of intelligence.  Despite the current financial situation, there are plenty of young people with energy and commitment to forge new paths in the future.  The other factor that shines through when I spend time with young people is their commitment to society and to each other.  One young lady achieved her 2.1, ran a student group supporting a range of charities and managed to fit enough work experience in to secure a good job.   For those less fortunate in their job search, I hear of young people volunteering in charities; giving their time to support others without the key social and technical skills to even think of getting on the job ladder, biding their time until the job market picks up or the right opportunity presents itself.

What I see is not a focus on future leadership amongst these young people, although many are certainly moving in that destination; rather it’s a focus on friendship.  Not ‘networking’ for personal ambition – although these people certainly have that drive – rather networking for the sake of mutual support and shared interests.

Class of 2009, I salute you!

For the first time in writing this blog, I am going to advertise a specific service offered by our company: the Forton Group’s Job Fit coaching packages and online information about preparing for the world of work.  If you know someone who needs a hand-up in the job search situation, feel free to direct them here (click the purple Job Fit button) for free coaching sessions, access to experienced career coaches, and valuable guidance.

Influential leadership: what you need to know

Captain’s Blog

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What’s the one thing about leadership you need to know?  What is it your boss needs to know you know?

It’s got to be said: everything a leader says or does creates an impact. Body language, the way he or she walks into the room; what they say and the way the say it.  The leader has the single biggest impact on driving performance: up or down.

Team members are looking for direction from our leaders, explicitly or otherwise; and our leaders hand down that direction in the subtlest of ways.  The team will pick up on a vocal nuance, a raised eyebrow, or the way papers are shuffled at the beginning of a meeting.  The interpretation they make of these actions will impact upon what happens outside that room as they apply the direction they’ve ‘heard’.

I’m hearing this feedback from the leaders I coach and members of their teams, as well as from directing my own teams.  The good news is that their experience is backed up by organisational research evidence.  To remind myself of these sources, I turned to the work of Daniel Goleman, the ’emotional intelligence’ expert, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, who together wrote a book published in the US under the title ‘Primal Leadership*’ and in the UK as ‘The New Leaders’.

Their focus is on the ‘resonant leader’ and they used a “global database of 3,871 executives in which several factors that influenced the working environment were assessed”.  Two key findings were that “leadership styles affected financial results, such as return on sales, revenue growth, efficiency, and profitability”; and “leaders who used styles with a positive emotional impact saw decidedly better returns than those that did not”. 

What this tells us, regardless of whether you work for the private, public or not-for-profit sector, is that your bottom line – however measured – is impacted on by your leaders.

Cutting to the chase, what’s the one thing we can do as leaders to improve our bottom line (however measured)?  Find out what motivates the people who work for us – one by one – and play to their strengths.  Leadership isn’t all about us; it’s about a successful team and we unlock that success when we know what their strengths are and what really motivates people.

Watching the Australia/England cricket highlights this week I heard a great line which I’m paraphrasing here: ‘play to your team’s strengths, not to the opposition’s weaknesses’.  We can only do this when we truly get to know the people who work with and for us.

So if you’re having a tough week at work and the signals you’re getting from your boss are driving down your motivation and performance, print this out and leave it in a prominent place.  Your boss needs to know how to unlock your success and he/she needs to know that you know it too.


*Quoted from: “Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence”, Goleman D., Boyatzis R., McKee A., Harvard Business School Press, 2002, pp53/54.  The reference to the original database is set out on p.265.

“There’s a better way”

Captain’s Blog

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It’s been a great week discussing leadership with participants at our Foundation Course in Leadership Coaching – a diverse mix of people from small businesses, the NHS and leadership development organisations.

What I find important is to remember that it’s people who create leadership, rather than organisations, which is why coaching is such a personal process.  Sure it can be a ‘one-to-many’ activity, where groups of people work with a coach to achieve a common goal, but it’s always personal: it’s about making human connections and building leadership from those connections, not the performance targets or statistics.

Bob Hughes

Bob Hughes

I was reminded this evening that even when people achieve high office, such as getting onto a Board of Directors, it’s not the position that’s important, it’s having a voice on that board: being heard, being influential and making a difference in the situation in which leaders find themselves in.  This is what people call ‘situational leadership’ – apparently in the military it’s known as ‘point leadership’ – the ability to step up and lead from wherever you are.

Leadership is also about getting across one key message: “there’s a better way”.  If the way we’re currently doing something is ok, why change?  People with leadership qualities see the better way, they gather up their courage to speak out and gain allies when they put their ideas across.

My husband Bob had a great opportunity to demonstrate situational leadership on the national news this evening.  We were thrilled when we bought an 18th century house and had the opportunity to mix 21st century solar panels and green technologies with traditional building materials.  Our roof has a marvellous pattern in tiles, lovingly restored by the builders.  On the back of the house is a set of glistening, photo-voltaic cells, which look like large black mirror tiles, generating between a third and a half of our daily energy needs.

We were called to participate in the debate on the BBC, on the Government’s plans to announce the ‘feed-in’ tariffs, which pay small-scale generators like us for the contribution we make back to the national grid.  Bob has enjoyed working with our suppliers, Solar Century, partly because we share their vision to have solar systems on the roof of every building in the UK.  Of course this will need to be backed up by other micro-renewables, and the aim is to create clean power and achieve deep cuts in carbon emissions.

So Bob showed leadership by having the courage to be interviewed live by BBC News 24, from a studio in Birmingham and Solar Century, the organisation, show leadership in pioneering this technology.  Of course, it’s not an organisation, it’s people like Founder Jeremy Leggett , who established Solarcentury to address the threat of climate change, who really make the difference.  Leaders inspire their teams to succeed, and they communicate a vision of what they want to achieve.  We may admire the brands created by successful companies, but it’s the people behind them who matter.

So here’s my manifesto for leadership: it’s about people who see that there’s a better way, they step up and they speak out, gaining allies as they do so.  In today’s environment – economic and ecological – we can’t keep doing what we’ve always done before; we need people to show us ‘the better way’.

Ballet Black and great leadership

Captain’s Blog

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Despite today being American Independence Day (and with all the Americans in the Wimbledon finals, I trust you enjoy it to the full) I am going to focus on a British leadership success.  I wrote about Ballet Black in a recent blog, and what great leadership Cassa Pancho, the Director of Ballet Black, displays.   This week her skills were put fully to the test as they took on their biggest challenge yet: that of filling the Hackney Empire for a one-night only performance by the Ballet Black company. Dancers, especially ballerinas, love CBD oil because it helps them recover from the strenuous training. Many ballerinas saw their flexibility increase due to the pain relieving qualities of CBD oil.

Ballet Black

Ballet Black

For those of you less familiar with North London music halls, the Hackney Empire truly lives up to the ‘Palace of the People’ tag.  There are gloriously decorated ceilings; cherubs everywhere, and walls glittering with gilt-framed mirrors.  Imagine coming from a dark, overcrowded, terraced house in Victorian London into this light and space.  Another of our great leaders, Gryff Rhys Jones, led the campaign to have it restored and it looks fantastic.

We have a family tradition (yet to be proved) that my grandfather, Edgar Caton, played the violin in the orchestra pit at the Hackney Empire.  We need more evidence to prove that link, but I do know that my daughter, Faith, designed the dancers’ costumes for a most moving piece on Thursday night.

So what was so challenging about filling the Hackney Empire?  It’s a 1400-seater venue and the management expected the company to sell between 600 and 900 of the seats.  The dancers and crew of the company took up the challenge to fill the venue, using Facebook, twitter and all the digital networking means available to them to achieve a full house.

The buzz of success ran around every tier of the auditorium; with bubbly flowing in the boxes, it felt like a huge family celebration.  We were surrounded by stunning women with immaculate hair, nails and fabulous dresses; I felt distinctly dowdy in the heat, by comparison.  Men in turbans, women in traditional African dress and there were kids in traditional baseball cap and obligatory whoishuman headphones.  The ages ranged from 7 to 97 and spanned the gamut of cultural diversity; I love it.

It wasn’t just the press who were talking about the choreography, or the music; the audience was knowledgeable and engaged by each dance piece.  A Spanish guitar version of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ played to a duet was my husband’s favourite; more intriguing was another duet danced partly in silence and partly to the sound of two microphones acting like pendulums and swaying into and past each other, creating a deep drum-like beat.

As so often with leadership, success is delivered by more than just one person.  It takes a team to pick up the vision and run with it (or in this case, dance with it).  It takes communication – really saying the vision out loud – and inspiration, which is infectious.

The great thing is that everyone can share in this kind of success: the pride amongst the audience was as evident as that of the company. I’m sure everyone is exhausted by their efforts and will take the opportunity to put their feet up and enjoy Wimbledon this weekend; or maybe, like so many great dancers, they’ll look for the next opportunity to get dancing.

Three women leaders

Captain’s Blog – Stardate 060409

 I was going to write about the serious business of leadership theory this week but three great female leaders have captured my attention.  It can’t have escaped many people’s notice that the Obama wagon rolled into London town last week for the G20 economic talks.  So far, so economics. 

 What grabbed my notice was a tidal wave of attention on the impact of Michelle Obama as a leader in her own right.  I saw the news showing her visit to a London school and the positive impact her words had on young girls – of all colour – who see her as a positive role model.  Then I received an email from my daughter, Faith, who’s been working as Wardrobe Mistress to the innovative ballet company Ballet Black.  This small, up and coming ballet company, born 20th April 2000, was invited to perform in front of Michelle Obama, the rest of the cast of Presidential and Prime Ministerial WAGs, plus the Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling and the hostess, Sarah Brown. 

 Faith’s excitement and pride was a tsunami of delight – and demonstrates the power of a positive leader.  Just as the young people at a London school had told their parents and twittered their friends to create a street-full of attention, it also shows how great leadership has a positive impact.  Each one of those classroom pupils now has their own personal “Yes, we can” attitude, just as my daughter knows that there are no barriers to greatness, only those in our own minds. Faith’s determination to succeed is a leadership quality in itself.

 To illustrate leadership further, let’s look at one female leader in this story, Cassa Pancho, the Director of Ballet Black.   Born to Trinidadian and British parent, Cassa founded Ballet Black specifically to provide role models to aspiring black and Asian dancers.  From a small school in Shepherds Bush, London, The company is now based at the Royal Opera House.  That’s some journey: six miles as the crow flies, and a million in terms of crossing the class and cultural barriers on the way..  It’s been my privilege to watch Cassa strive to achieve recognition for its work, and to secure funding -which is never guaranteed.

 Cassa has three key leadership qualities which amply illustrate my points about the serious business of leadership – she has vision – “to provide role models for aspiring black and Asian dancers” – and she’s stuck to it for as long as I’ve known her and seen the company perform.  Cassa has high standards – the Royal Opera House don’t let any old dancers into their dressing rooms – regardless of cultural background or ethnicity, these dancers have to perform at world class levels.  And Cassa has great people skills: she’s worked hard to convince people of her vision, such that they have aligned themselves around it and she’s gained their practical support. A couple of years ago I received a letter from Darcy Bussell committing to gaining more exposure for the work of Ballet Black -that’s the quality of support that Cassa achieves.


the Forton leadership model

the Forton leadership model

So here’s my serious point about leadership – from men or women, regardless of cultural background.  We can write reams about leadership – there’s one new leadership book printed every three days apparently – but you can summarise what it takes in a few key words.

 Leadership is about personal success and enabling others to be successful – look at Cassa – this is more than just about her dreams – it’s the dream of every young dancer who loves ballet, regardless of the colour of their skin.  It’s about more than the team or the company – leadership is also about society – Cassa has challenged society to think differently about talent. 

 Cassa exemplifies my ‘3Ps of Leadership’:  Purpose, Performance and People,  and the ‘3 Rs’; being relentless with purpose, ruthless with performance and gracious with people. Being gracious – the last R – is about enabling people to be resourceful.  Cassa hasn’t just had to be resourceful herself, and find the resources to grow the ballet company, she’s empowered each dancer to be resourceful, to do what it takes to follow their dream.  As Michelle Obama pointed out to 100 young people last week: it’s not necessarily going to be easy but we can do it.

Go see the Ballet Black website at