Style Dynamics

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Style Dynamics works to connect and promote talented leaders to full potential, at each of individual and institutional levels. Focused on the inter-related areas of Talent & Culture, Brand & Reputation, we work at aligning perception and reality, to secure full, fair and sustainable value. With an outcomes orientation, Style Dynamics brings insights that inflect actions, to embed change. Services.

Welcome to the Blog

The blog reflects on Talent & Culture, Brand & Reputation in corporate and public life. And their dynamic influence on people and performance. The rules of engagement? Common courtesy and fair sparring.

A vision realized

December 6th, 2013

As the world stops for a moment to reflect and be grateful for the remarkable life of Nelson Mandela, it provides again that real test of leadership:  Finding the right words to express what we all feel at the moment of loss.   Kennedy, John Lennon, the Princess of Wales, 9/11.   While there’s less shock in the death of a 95 year old man, paying tribute to such a towering figure of world statesmanship is a humbling challenge.   Not least because he stood head and shoulders above any other political leader of the past 50 years in both his bearing and achievement.   Mandela was the embodiment of nobility in its inborn sense.   He was an understated, active, natural leader with a teachable point of view, and his lesson was forgiveness.   He was an integrator, across the races, and also the generations.   He pulled people together through the affability of his charismatic personality, and so much more.    His essence, his soul was open to us, in his vision of freedom, doggedness, serenity, and most of all through that winning smile.


If you can keep your head..

June 28th, 2012

..when all around are losing theirs and blaming it on you.  Kipling’s verse had a military battle inspiration but may still be apt for Angela Merkel as she draws the heat and enters yet another European summit today.  Lagarde, Soros, Monti, Hollande.  The roll call of urging has drummed a steady beat this past week.  “Restore confidence and growth”.  “Relieve market panic!”  “Protect virtuous reformers”.  “Do something”.  “Do it now!!”  There seems very little poetic or other kind of justice in the expectation that workers in Mrs Merkel’s well managed economy subsidize the tax shy and early retiring of other European project nations.    The Eurozone is a governance mess with no leadership formally and very little otherwise, and with no easy or early fix.   She has to insist on reform.   And it will take a while.  But let’s hope that Mervyn King is wrong on it needing another 5 years.


Havel and his cause

December 20th, 2011

First Gorbachev, then Walesa, then Havel. First a trickle, then a contagious flood of protest, leading finally to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The world has a lot to thank these men for. Havel suffered persecution and imprisonment for his convictions and still found the fire to sustain and mobilize dissent. A writer of clarity, and wry with it, he laid out the systemic trickeries for all to see. A cogent voice. And as the international following grew, he saw how that could help from the outside, to forge change inside his country. Many presidents who are loved abroad, are a little less loved at home, and this applied at times in his case too. But still, and despite some controversies, he remained a quietly powerful, deep-thinking, widely respected leader. He and his Charter 77 and Civic Forum colleagues set the model for a peaceful transition of power from communism to democracy. The Arab spring and Russian autumn may still glean and build from the peaceful Velvet Revolution that he led.

August unrest

August 23rd, 2011

The rioting in English cities has for the moment passed, and the soul-searching begun. Mr Cameron and Mr Blair, the latter still active, if now in defence of his record, batted it out in detailed pieces at the weekend, in conspicuously non-Murdoch newspapers. From afar, there have been several signs that British life is not what it used to be, and suffering from a dilution of standards. Not least, a tolerance for base language. When the BBC deploys ‘ten quid’ in a news report, or The Independent the commonest of obscenities in a review of opera, one wonders who they are trying to relate to. The expenses scandals and Murdoch allegations have brought an open season mentality towards both politicians and police. And quite some pot and kettle accusations between them. The reputational damage from the dramatic images is significant. The underlying causes are probably joint and several, and will not be fixed in the short term with an ‘initiative a day’ approach. But what is, and was already known, is that riots tend to happen in summer months. Which is also presumably the time when police are short handed, and perhaps less agile this time as events unfolded than they might have been ordinarily. This, at least, should be straightforward enough to fix.

Slow news weeks, not

July 13th, 2011

July/ August was in past times the ’silly season’, when improbable stories got through the copy taster and into print. This time, in the UK, the establishment, including past and present governments, the media, the police, the regulators, are all caught up in a story that will run and run. The phone hacking scandal gets worse and worse, having reached a new, deplorable low with allegations relating to the hacking of missing Milly Dowler’s telephone in 2002. The story is now gaining also a global traction with US shareholders mobilizing. At the heart of it, the concentration of power in the UK media in the hands of News Corp., the dubious panderings, promoted by this over many years, and an alleged coverup of criminal activity in hacking telephone messages and paying the police for tipoffs. Reputations are dissolving fast, and what, for a former communication chief himself, was David Cameron thinking when he forged ahead, against many contrarians, in hiring Andy Coulson? As to the heroes of the piece so far? The Guardian for tenacity, Vanity Fair for a June in-depth, pulling the story through, and the New York Times. If journalism and its ethics are in the dock, some beacons of good practice must also be credited with bringing the broader and deeper story to light, disheartening as the detailing of it may turn out to be.

Succession Events

April 2nd, 2011

Again, succession expectations go possibly, the way of all flesh. “Events, ..” as Harold Macmillan noted. This week, at Berkshire Hathaway and Murdoch Corp. Succession plans and their domino effects are hard enough to implement in ‘normal’ firms. In monoliths identified with one great man, the challenges are multiplied. GE being an exception. The deep bench model, which they invented, is easy to advocate. But the leaders and firms who have both the long term cultivation of talent front and center, and who assiduously plan succession and implement accordingly, are still rare. And often serve as talent engines for other institutions. As for stepping into the shoes of a Mr Buffet or Mr Murdoch? Winnable or not, whoever end up in those spots will be in pretty unchartered executive leadership territory. Or better said, entrepreneurial.

Are we there yet?

January 19th, 2011

Having taken a live a little, learn a lot approach to the crisis, time to scan horizons, starting with the upcoming corporate reporting season. Five years. That’s what, in 2008, a sagacious colleague assumed it would take to get the worse behind us. So depending on which ripple defined for you the moment of impending doom, we may only be somewhere around or beyond the halfway mark. (Mine was UBS missing its numbers in August 2007, reinforced dramatically by Lehman being let go in October 2008). But there are certainly reasons to be cheerful: Germany, Asia, emerging markets in and beyond the BRIC group. Equity markets. Apple, as a proxy for discretionary spending. But many counterpoints too. If you’re looking to be encouraged, don’t look to the WEF, at least as they review global system risk and present vulnerability to shocks. Cool heads as they were the last couple of years, no gongs here for that leadership vibe of optimism. Not even cautiously so. Nonetheless, they earn kudos for convening the network that might evolve once the idea of ‘global governance’ to manage such shocks in the future.


March 18th, 2009

If Barack Obama is, in his own words, the blank canvas onto which a global following now projects hopes and expectations – especially that he messiah-like, deliver us from the pain of the economic crisis – then Sir Fred Goodwin has made himself a vessel for the collective frustrations, anxieties, anger, and possibly even guilt of the times, at least in the British environment. Knighted he may be, but it’s hard to see any honor in the greed and his dinner invitations must be as shrunk as his pension inflated. But there are others too, highflyers in banking before the crisis, with reputations diluted or destroyed by the public outrage at what has come to pass. They may reach out and form a kinship group, a ‘laughing all the way to the bank’ group perhaps. Assuming that we still do have banks in the future. While he and others are visible and targetable as significantly accountable for the chaos, there are others who contributed as well. Parties like the rating agencies, executive pay consultants, regulators, and all the people that forwent the IKEA urging to make a house a home, chosing more of a get rich quick approach of make a house a punt.

Crisis management?

January 31st, 2009

Jamie Dimon’s mutterances of impatience at Davos speak for many as we continue to cut a path through the unchartered territority of the first truly global financial crisis. The US could normally be expected to step into the breach and lead the task of coordinating across key players that might begin to address it. For the moment the crisis is still at best in a holding pattern, crying out for the surfacing of a global leadership approach. Mr Sarkosy and Mr Brown have both been proactive, but likely lack the clout beyond the postures, added to which the newsflow at home now begins to menace. Mr Obama has been focusing on first winning then transitioning into the WhiteHouse and while his mandate is clear and his economic team credible, the mess in large part has been ‘made in the US’. So step forward Angela Merkel, who recently impressed with a thought-through program for Germany: Time for some boxing and coxing and to invite Mr Obama back to Berlin for a special session, with, as Mr Dimon pleas, the right people in the room for the task at hand.


December 23rd, 2008

…Judging by the full page call-to-job-hunters in The Economist this week from McKinsey, the pendulum swing is well under way to build defences for the future against the financial market and wider economic mess of the year now closing, with risk management front and center. Missing from the ad’s menu of risks to be managed are reputational risk, governance risk and psychological risk. Assuming that the mistakes that were made are first understood, and secondly, not repeated, reputational risk may be managed and mitigated in due time through fundamentals, though many of the worse impacted banks will likely be in reputation rehab for a long time yet. Governance risk may be harder to manage as the CEOs that decide on significant consulting mandates are at the same time uniquely pivotal to most corporate governance systems. As for psychological risk, old Europe seems often discomfited by what is perceived as the pathological optimism of the US mindset, but in the delusion that domestic property values were a one way bet, many Europeans proved over optimistic as well.. And how to manage for that emotional thing of fear of missing out? In the future we’ll still likely have lemmings chasing bounties. Something even the men and women from McKinsey cannot guard against.

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