From Survival to Substance – the critical mindshift all leaders need to make

I’ve been worried about the world lately, in so many ways.

I’ve pretty much stopped watching the news – too depressing.  I’m concerned about the political debacles and resource wastage (time, energy and money) and the example it sets for our (my) children.

I have been heartened by the work that some millennial entrepreneurs are doing…the obvious one being Elon Musk but there are many others. It’s ‘you know like‘ (do I sound like a cool Millennial or Gen Next?), likethey are saying … “you politicians who supposedly lead the world … likejust go play (and fight) over there in your sandpits, while we work on solving the real problems of the world”. Ouch.

I’ve started reading a book that is articulating beautifully what I am experiencing – ‘The War on Normal People’ by Andrew Yang.  Within the opening manifesto and first few chapters he unpacks the evidence that the future for us in the Western Capitalist World is not looking good.

A key focus of his writing is on the impending loss of jobs that normalpeople hold and the social implications of what he calls the Great Displacement.  For example, he points out that over the next 10 – 15 years between 2.1 and 3.2 million truck and car drivers in the USA will lose their jobs to driverless vehicles and most of those will be displaced. Ouch.

He believes that we need to shift to Human Centred Capitalism.  A way of leading and living that shifts from decisions and policies that are focused on supporting the economy, to decisions and policies that are focused on supporting humanity.

My passion, in the work I do, is in the howof this shift.  A shift from what I term a SURVIVAL MINDSET to a SUBSTANCE MINDSET.  If we are going to truly do what is needed to secure exciting and meaningful futures for all people on earth, and for subsequent generations, we need to think and lead very differently.  And of course that starts in our own backyards…our organisations.

SURVIVAL LEADERS focus on profit.  SUBSTANCE LEADERS focus on purpose.

SURVIVAL LEADERS engage in cautious conversations.  SUBSTANCE LEADERS engage in candid conversations.

SURVIVAL LEADERS tolerate acceptance (it will be ok).  SUBSTANCE LEADERS encourage curiosity (let me investigate).


I wonder ….if the banks had invested in developing and rewarding Substance Leadership activity over Survival Leadership activity, would we have seen the recent outcomes of the banking enquiry.  Ouch.

My first job, back in 1983, was with the CBC Bank (Commercial Banking Company of Sydney) who merged in 1984 with the NBA (National Bank of Australia) to become what we now know as the NAB.  (OK, so that really dates me, but I’m wiser now).  I can tell you that our purpose back then was to support the community to winin whatever their work and personal endeavours and goals were – and I didn’t ever hear talk of profits or sales or share prices.

To make this shift, leaders need a new set of tools.  No longer can we solve problems and motivate great performance based on KPI’s and seven step processes – it simply doesn’t work. Instead leaders need to become master communicators, they need to skilfully ‘coach’ people to do a better quality of thinking, enabling a better quality of decision-making, feeding into better quality outcomes, but most importantly they need to truly understand how humans are wired, what motivates and demotivates the human brain, and to work with, not against that.  They need to understand the brains power, its limitations, and its incredible sensitivity to what it perceives as threat.

Now let me be clear, this doesn’t mean going soft.  This doesn’t mean that meeting organisational KPI’s and outcomes aren’t important, but it does mean we need to do it in a different way – when it comes to human beings, the HOW matters – and  we need to be conscious of a different focus on how we spend and distribute the profits of our work.

Survival mindset has led us to a shallow world, we have become surface dwellers, skimming along the surface of our leadership lives, ticking boxes and doing what it takes to make arbitrary and imposed targets, and attain status and prestige.  We need to pause, to stop and go deep, to make time for quality strategic thinking and reflection, to work on self-leadership and how each of us is showing up.

Great leaders…

SHOW UP differently….so that they
LISTEN differently…so they can
ASK and ENGAGE differently…so that they and their team can
THINK differently


Because that is the new edge.  An organisation’s ability to think differently will support its future growth and sustainability.

To think differently about human performance.

To think differently about the plight of the customer.

To engage in risky but meaningful conversations that change things for the better…however small.

For every leader to think and behave strategically about getting the best from themselves and their teams.

This requires mindset shift and skill development.  And that’s the game we are in at Leading Humans – rewiring the way people THINK, BEHAVE and LEAD.

Over the next few months I’ll be sharing thoughts and ideas and strategies around making these leadership and organisational shifts.  If you know of others who are interested in this thinking, please feel free to share our links.

CLICK HERE to read more about the SUBSTANCE LEADERSHIP methodology.

Thanks for listening, and have a truly, wonderful day!


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