Excellent. Reading this demonstrates that you are a leader. Maybe you founded your organisation, or perhaps you were appointed leader when it was quite large or mature. Or you’re a leader within the organisation, of a department or even of an informal team. Wherever you have reached in your development as a leader, you probably feel there is another level you have yet to reach.

This extra level may well have to do with adding a further dimension of meaning to what you do. You want to make a difference by making your colleagues and workers more productive and fulfilled by helping them to release more of their passions and their humanity into their work.

You may find that though you’re incredibly busy, deep down you feel you can, and want to, make more of a difference. You want to leave more of a legacy, or possibly, a more worthwhile legacy.

Your aim, then, will be to make a difference personally, by taking the organisation with you and making it more passionate about achieving the vision you establish for it, giving meaning and fulfilment to the people working there.

Whatever stage you are at personally in your development as a leader, the Make a Difference Mindset will help you move on the next level.

Why it’s important

Most people spend more of their waking hours at work than they do with their families. Consequently, it’s pretty important to get the most enjoyment and satisfaction for you and your colleagues as you can while you’re there.

Essentially, you are responsible not just for your own quality of existence, but for all those who work for you. This is a heavy responsibility, and one you should think about, and see as a significant opportunity.

Organisational effectiveness is without doubt important. Without it, you would be deficient in how you were carrying out your job. But it is not the whole story. The great leaders are tough – they have to be – but they also can see the bigger picture, and give their followers a belief that that picture is worthwhile and inspiring.

You are not alone in feeling alone

Most leaders have moments – or periods – of self-doubt. It goes with the territory. The feeling or “If I’m the leader, how come they’re all laughing?” never quite goes away.

In some people, especially in the early days of leadership, this can be quite acute. It is recognised by psychologists as Imposter Syndrome. Imposter Syndrome is when someone feels they are in a position for which they feel they are not really qualified. They feel vulnerable, and in danger of being found out at any minute. The fact that many people around them may be feeling exactly the same thing does not seem to occur to them.

Two pre-requisites for leadership – as for the Make a Difference Mindset – are courage and self-belief. When doubt and fear begin to seep in, courage is required to see the monsters off. Once you understand that all leaders – even the greatest – are prone to fear and doubt, the knowledge that you are not alone will help you through the difficult patches.

You have a flying start

The good news is that most people are predisposed to put in considerable effort at work, even before your leadership inspires them to higher levels. Many research studies demonstrate this.

A recent Daniel Yankelovich poll in the Unites States asked people which of the following three statements they most agreed with:

1. I have an inner need to do the very best job I can regardless of pay
2. Work is a mere business transaction, I work only as much as I get paid 3. Working for a living is one of life’s necessities. I would not do it if I did’nt have to

The result was surprising, but heartening. 78% agreed with the first view, 7% with the second, and 15% with the third.

In polls conducted, again in the US, by the Gallup Organisation and the National Opinion Research Center, 90% agreed, or agreed strongly, with the statement “I am willing to work harder than I have to in order to help this organisation succeed.”

So your colleagues and workers are pre-disposed to work extremely hard for you and the organisation you lead. Your challenge is to make the work they do inspiring and fulfilling. Work can become drudgery if there is too much emphasis on processes, and mechanistic goals. Mechanistic goals are goals which lack the emotional lift of a vision. Rather than being inspirational, they are restrictive, because they take little account of the bigger picture, or changes in the situation they are operating in.

The Make a Difference Mindset is essentially a leadership mindset. It seeks to see, and communicate, the bigger picture, and to enthuse others to understand it and live it.

It is important to take care that your vision is simple and inspirational. It must not itself become mechanistic by too much over-definition. There is a tendency for organisations to examine their navels too closely. They develop purpose, mission and vision statements, and definitions of the organisation’s values, which can go on for pages. Even the people who write them cannot recall them two weeks later.

In this work sheet you will find the words vision and mission used almost interchangeably. This is because this is how they are used in real life. The experts know that the vision is the “why” we do things (eg to improve society in some way), and the mission the “how” (eg to develop breakthrough technology that replaces fossil fuel). In the workplace there tends to be huge overlap, however, because people not concerned with these niceties on a daily basis can’ t remember the difference.

Most founders of organisations know what they are doing by instinct. They don’t need to write down their purpose, mission or vision in cold prose.

In Collins and Porras’s classic analysis Built to Last (Random House 2000) of what they termed “visionary companies “ they stated, “We did not find an explicit and formal statement of purpose in all of our visionary companies. We sometimes found purpose to be more implicitly or informally stated.”

In the 2006 McKinsey study (Managing your Corporation by the Evidence), which looked at 231 global businesses, identified three distinct but complementary management practices essential to performance, which again pointed up the importance of vision. The three practices were:

  1. Clear roles
  2. An inspiring vision
  3. An open and trusting culture

So a clear vision (which is a way of defining purpose) is crucial, whether it is articulated in a written statement, or felt (or better still, lived).

If you have been already been through the process of defining your personal values and purpose, you will know that it is not only challenging, but it is dynamic. Things change, situations alter. You need to adapt and evolve. Once you know your purpose and values intimately, you feel them in your heart.

Sure, writing them down helps clarify them. It’s part of nailing something which can be elusive. The problem with large organisations is that purpose, mission and values statements are so hard to define that they tend to be top down. A small group of executives sits down and knocks them out, and then they are cascaded down the organisation. By the time they reach the grass roots – if they do – they tend to be disembodied. They are just words.

The only purpose, missions, values statements that count are those that manifest themselves in the behaviour of all your colleagues, all the time.

So as a leader, your job is to simplify and clarify the vision. And then live it, and get others to do the same.

Why it’s now about leadership, more than management

Management is still important, but there has grown up a large industry in leadership development, and it is important to understand why leadership is so important in today’s society.

Social changes – especially in the Western democracies, have seen the growth in affluence drive what has been termed the Rise of the Individual. The Rise of the Individual contains many elements, but the four most important probably are:

1. The Death of Deference. The Death of Deference is the result of a more open society where position or title no longer have the power and impact they did hitherto. Policemen, doctors, teachers, politicians, judges used to be given respect automatically. This is no longer the case. Teachers are probably the most vulnerable to the new egalitarianism. They have to justify respect of the class, before they can control it.

2. Access to information. The Internet, and a wide and probing media mean that there are now few secrets. People can lift the curtain, and find out what is going on. They can find out the provenance of goods, services and individuals. They can find out comparative prices. People are better informed, as well as more assertive.

3. Supply outstrips demand. In the years up to the nineteen eighties and nineties there was, broadly speaking, more demand than supply. You had to place an order for a car, a washing machine, or a mortgage. And then wait. In the twenty first century globalisation means that in most categories there is more supply than demand, which in turn means that in most manufactured goods quality is going up, and prices are coming down. Consumers, not suppliers of goods and services, are now in control.

4. The search for meaning. Partly as a result of the rise in affluence of most developed societies, people are now looking beyond things for the fulfilment of their aspirations. Travel, new experiences and new cultures, are now more exciting than a new car. Justice, fairness, meaning and the satisfaction of a life well lived, are more important than a bigger and bigger wage packet.

All this who are leading or managing them than they were a decade or so ago. They don’t want to be managed – told what to do. They want to be led – having it explained why it’s worth doing it, and how it fits into the bigger picture means that people are looking for different qualities and attributes in those

To oversimplify to make the point, managers and leaders tend to be different in their mindsets and behaviour as follows:


Have goals and deliverables

Use their position to control people

Blame people when it goes wrong

Control people through fear

Stay in role

Feel comfortable with hierarchical structures

Manage change

Have all the answers

Tend to let people have their say

Manage their staff

Tend to operate inside their comfort zones

Tend to operate with their heads, and be reasonable


Have a vision, and crave results

Use their role to support people

Take responsibility when things cock up

Influence people through love and support

Demonstrate passion and enthusiasm

Relish the democracy of flat hierarchies

Create open, trusting cultures where change happens unnoticed

Admit when they don’t know

Tend to hear what people say

Serve their staff

Enjoy the challenge of being on the edge

Tend to operate with their hearts, and be unreasonable

What difference does leadership make?

The answer is a great deal, so by becoming a better leader you will automatically be making a bigger difference. Leadership is about inspiring followers, and building trust and confidence in the direction and performance of the organisation.

A major study by the Industrial Society in the UK concluded that companies where employees have high trust and confidence levels, the shareholder returns are significantly higher. This confirms the McKinsey study quoted earlier, but defines performance more clearly in terms of profit and shareholder return.

The McKinsey study’s three practices that lead to high performance – clear roles, an inspiring vision, and an open and trusting culture- are a pretty good definition of what leadership is about. Their effectiveness is picked up in other studies, including a recent Gallup Study, which clearly identified the four attitudes of staff which contributed to higher profit:

– staff feel they are given the opportunity to do what they do best every day
– they believe their opinions count
– they sense fellow workers are committed to quality
– they’ve made a direct connection between their work and the company’s mission

These are the attitudes of staff who feel genuinely empowered to get on with the job, in pursuit of a clear and worthwhile goal. Empowerment isn’t talking about it, and then kicking people back into their boxes as soon as things get a bit difficult. It is about trusting people to do a go job, and giving them the opportunity to do so.

The Four Elements of Leadership

  1. Sorting the team
  2. Building self esteem
  3. Creating clarity (the vision and the required results)
  4. Recognition

Taking them one at a time:

1Sorting the team. The may involve one of the basics of leadership – toughness. It’s all very well to be visionary, but without the courage and toughness to see it through and make the sometimes painful decisions, it is likely to be ultimately valueless, and lead to nothing.

Jim Collins’s landmark book Good to Great (Random House2001) traces the relatively few companies that make the move from being good to being great (and great means mega success, consistently, over a considerable period of time). Two of the most powerful lessons from his analysis of these companies are that leaders are in most cases not cast in the hero mould, and that to start the move from good to great they sorted their team out.

The most successful long term leaders, in Collins’s analysis, are usually quiet, self- effacing, and not great at gung ho speeches to rally the troops. What they are good at is defining the vision, and the results they want, selecting and organising their team, and building the confidence and trust of their employees.

Sorting the team is defined as getting the right people on the bus; getting them in the right position in the bus; and getting the wrong people off the bus. The first two are self-evident, but the third is more challenging. Getting the wrong people off the bus is often extremely painful, but usually extremely necessary.

In Collins’s case histories, the new leaders who took over and turned their enterprises round, had to grasp some pretty tough nettles. They fired brothers, cousins and a host of other close relatives, many of whom had been with the family company all their lives. Once off the bus, the team was sorted, and the company could move forward.

2Building Self Esteem. This is a crucial role of leadership. You need to make your people feel valuable, and valued. They are important to the success of the organisation, and should be made to feel this.

Human beings, whoever and wherever they are, need to feel valued. If they feel they are not respected and valued by their leaders they will be unmotivated, and, very likely, resentful.

In terms of your personal mindset, it is about you thinking what you can put into your people, and how you can help them, not what you can get out of them. You have to give respect before you get it. So it is your job as a leader, once you have sorted your team, to make them feel that you genuinely value them, and if possible, that you love them.

3Creating clarity (the vision and the results). Both are important. An inspiring vision needs to be coupled with clear and tough goals. This will make people passionate to achieve both the goals once they have bought into the vision.

The vision thing, as it was memorably termed, is what creates meaning for the people you are leading. It is the definition of the purpose or mission of the organisation. It is why you exist. It creates the bigger picture, and it opens up new possibilities. The vision may not be obvious. Great leaders can sometimes see the bullseye when most people can’t even see the target.

As Napoleon said, Leaders are Dealers in Hope. They create an inspiring vision of what is possible and desirable, and energise the abilities and potential of those following them. They become builders of cathedrals, not just stonemasons.

Once you have defined a relevant and engaging vision, you next need to be clear on two things. Firstly, the values of the organisation. You must live the values personally, so people trust you to walk the talk, and know how to behave.

Secondly, you must be clear about the results you require, so your staff can see clearly the stepping stones on the journey towards fulfilling that vision. Accountability for the achievement of those goals should also be made clear. What are the rewards, and what happens in the case of failure? Failure while striving to succeed may be in some circumstances be acceptable, even encouraged and supported, but failure through incompetence or lack of effort needs dealing with – humanely, but positively.

4Recognition. This is part of building self esteem, but is so important it has a crucial role in its own right. Recognising people is finding simple and unembarrassing ways to thank them for their efforts or their achievements.

Recognition should be done personally, frequently, genuinely and as close as possible to the act or performance warranting recognition. Because it’s too easy for a busy leader to forget, or maybe not learn about, the achievements of members of his organisation, it is important to have a series of formal recognitions, as well as spontaneous ones.

This means devising relevant and meaningful awards and ceremonies to celebrate success and achievement on a regular basis. Keep recognising people – don’t stop. Do it informally, as well as formally.

Like communication, however much you do, your staff will think you do too little. So make it a daily as well as a weekly discipline.

What if you already leader an organisation with some or much of this in place? It may need tuning, or it may need rethinking.

Before you start to decide how you will bring your own vision and passion to making a difference as a leader within your organisation, you must make sure you’ve done the preliminary personal work you’ll have found elsewhere on this website. Without this, you may find you’re flying blind, and take decisions you later regret.

Once you have done this, and you’re sure who you are, you will have decided whether you want to be a Difference Deliverer, or Difference Driver. If things are going well, and your role is now just to inspire the great team you have assembled to achieve a vision you are all passionate about delivering, then you may choose to become a Beneficial Presence. Being you, and being inspirational may be enough to make a difference.

If, on the other hand, your vision is a radical one, and there is much work to be done to achieve it, you may choose to be a Difference Driver. If your vision fits into a larger overall one (for example you are running an organisation within a defined sector, and you just need to up the performance level) you may choose to be a very effective Difference Deliverer.

As a leader, you will want to encourage leaders at all levels within your organisation, in order to increase further the level of passion and commitment to your cause. You may therefore choose to encourage the Make a Difference Mindset, and the disciplines that go with it. It is essentially a leadership mindset, as it seeks to see, and communicate, the bigger picture, and enthuse others in turn to understand it and live it.

Your next step will be to complete the Values Map for your organisation. The important thing about this is to be honest in identifying what you believe to be the values that are lived day by day, not what it says in the mission or vision statement. You are analysing the actual culture of the organisation, not how you would like it to be.

Now comes the interesting bit. You superimpose the corporate map onto your personal map and see where the overlaps and alignments are. If there are fewer than you expected, or you would like there to be, you must think why this might be.

More likely (because you are leading the organisation) there will be convergences of interests and values. There will inevitably, however, be shortfalls and anomalies, which need thinking about.


If, as is likely, the purpose of your organisation – as it is defined by its mission statement, or in its daily behaviour – sits happily with your own, that is excellent. You can move onto the next stage, which is identifying your Impetus.

If, on the other hand, there are some gaps that need filling in, you may need to

restate your company or organisation’s purpose. This restatement will be make it more accurate, relevant or inspiring.

Say, for example, you work for a mobile phone company, which currently has a vision such as:

– We aim to be at the cutting edge of technology, beating our competitors in breakthrough research and development

You may find this lacking in motivation for you personally, and probably your staff. Restating the purpose of the company to something like the following, may help:

– We aim to lead in helping people use mobile phone based multi-media to communicate and understand each other better

Such a vision of the organisation’s purpose may be more stimulating and engaging for you, and, very likely, for your staff. Helping human beings relate better to each other is more involving than being good at technology. It has more meaning.

So, if necessary, restate your organisation’s purpose in a way that you and others will find uplifting and worthwhile.


In going through the steps of your Difference Imperative, you will find an Impetus very helpful. This Impetus will help to reinforce the purpose and vision of the organisation. It will help get the juices going, when your energy levels are low, or you seem to be pulling frantically on the levers of power, but there seems to be nothing attached to the levers.

Your impetus may be close at hand, or you may have to conjure up your own mental picture, to ensure you get a strong emotional buzz every time you return to it.

The Impetus helps move your purpose – the meaning you find in your work – from your brain to your heart. Up to 80% of the work you do on Values Mapping, Purpose definition etc will be brain work. The Impetus helps you get it from your head to your heart, so you deliver the concept (the difference) effectively, and with passion.

For some leaders the stimulus is obvious. If you lead a group of hospitals, your Impetus might be the gratitude on the face of a patient, or on the faces of their loved ones. Or the joy of seeing the nursing staff uplifted by their contribution to effective and satisfying health care.

The following examples are aimed at dramatising the elements of the Difference Imperative, to give a clearer insight into how they operate.

Example 1

In this example, we imagine that you have just taken over the leadership of a large financial services company that specialises in wealth management and pension provision. Its current vision/mission is pretty dull, and reflects the transaction-based mindset of the previous Chief Executive, who was a good manager, but hadn’t come to terms with the leadership or vision thing.

The current mission is clear, but unexciting:

We aim to be a pensions leader domestically, and a major player globally within five years.

You therefore spend time with your movers and shakers throughout the organisation until you evolve a vision which you find challenging, radical, and full of meaning at an emotional, as well as an intellectual level.

For a leader, the vision (purpose) must contain much of the emotional content of the Impetus, because the Impetus tends to be individual, and the vision corporate, throughout the organisation. Usually, you only get one chance to engage hearts and minds, and it has to be through the vision.

In going through the basic work of adopting the Make a Difference Mindset, you have decided to become a Difference Driver. You will change thinking – you may even change your industry. You are going to make waves. Your passion and conviction may be uncomfortable for others, but you are going to make the world a better place. You therefore go for a big vision.

The vision you find encapsulates why you and your followers want to come to work each morning is: acting sustainably to help our fellow citizens retire with financial dignity

This is a huge, but exciting challenge. Demographic shifts mean that there will be more and more old people, and poor corporate provision outside the public sector means individual savers will have to save more – and better – in order to avoid having to keep working into advanced old age.

You appreciate that your organisation cannot reverse demography, or conjure money out of thin air for people who haven’t saved enough during their working lives. What you and your people can do, however, is to provide the best advice available and the best investment of funds in the financial market.

The benefit of this vision is that turns what is essentially a transactional process for employees into activity that directly helps their fellow human beings. They can identify with their fellow citizens, and go the extra mile to make sure they have the very best chance available to retire with enough to sustain them in at least modest comfort. And achieve this while acting in an honourable and sustainable manner.

The impetus is more personal, but important nonetheless. Each member of your organisation should be encouraged to have their own personal Impetus, but you share yours with them, to show you are serious about it.

Your impetus

To imagine fear – the gut empathy you have with the terror and vulnerability of your less well off clients retiring into an impoverished and undignified old age

This fear you will vividly imagine every time you need stimulus to ensure your vision sustains you at difficult times.

Example 2

In this example, we imagine you have just taken over as leader of a smallish Non Governmental Organisation. It is a charity specialising in helping street children in Brazil. It has been operating for some time, and is very effective in its on the ground operations, based in Rio de Janeiro.

It has two challenges which you feel are your priorities to address. The first is to sort out its sclerotic Head Office, which is staffed by people who are well meaning, but have been poorly managed over a considerable time. They are now poorly motivated, have low energy levels, and are deeply territorial.

The second challenge is to differentiate your charity from the plethora of charities competing in this area for the compassionate pound and dollar.

In going through the basic work of adopting the Make a Difference Mindset, you have decided to become a Difference Deliverer. Analysing your situation, you realise that you are ploughing a pretty mainstream furrow in helping street children in underdeveloped countries, so you are following an established model, rather than inventing new area of aid to underprivileged or vulnerable humanity.

You feel the more important challenge is to address the problems of the streetchildren. Addressing this with passion and enthusiasm will also energise those of your staff who really believe in the charitiy’s cause, and will give you a valuable insight into who should stay on the bus, or at least, in the important seats.

You appreciate that the challenge you face is intimidating. It is estimated that there are between 200,000 and 8 million street children in Brazil, most of whom are deeply resented by many of the police, and business proprietors (and their security firms). The mass shootings of street children seem to have died out, but there is every indication that murder and abuse of them is still frequent.

The vision (purpose) you develop to encapsulate why you and your followers want to come to work each morning is:

To give more Brazilian street children back their childhood

The impetus is a simple one:

Your Impetus

The terror of children with no home or family being hunted down like vermin

On your first field trip for the charity you saw with your own eyes the fear and severe trauma of children chased, and often brutalised by the authorities, pursuing a policy described as “social cleansing”. The experience left a raw wound on your sensibilities, and you are determined to do something significant to help them.

Example 3

In this example, you imagine you have been leading an organisation funded by the government responsible for increasing participation in sport and increasing the physical fitness of society in general.

You’ve been in the job for three or four years, and feel you’ve caught the lots-of meetings-no-action disease that afflicts some people in public office. You’re beginning to feel comfortable, which is a sure sign you’re managing the situation, rather than leading it.

All the people who work with you in the organisation agree with its goals, and enjoy talking about the challenges. All concur on the benefits of more physical activity by citizens:

  • significantly improved health generally
  • greater life expectancy (and quality thereof)
  • lower obesity levels
  • less mental illness, especially depression
  • greater social inclusion and equality as the less well off and minorities
    become more involved in team sports and fitness activities
  • lower taxes through lower health and social security costs
  • enhanced self esteem (through well being, achievement, discipline etc)

The challenge for you, and your organisation, lies not so much in the vision, which most people agree with, but with making something happen.

This puts significant importance on the Impetus, which needs to put some passion and energy into the fulfilment of the vision.

You plot your own Values map against that of the organisation you lead, and find a reasonable fit. Where you see the Make a Difference Imperative making an important contribution to your approach is in your primary role in the mindset.

You realise you have been a Difference Deliverer in outlook. The only problem has been that you haven’t delivered the Difference. You and your staff have been too comfortable talking about the difference you’re intending to deliver, rather than actually delivering it.

So you determine to become a Difference Driver. This will involve ruffling feathers, and, probably, kicking backsides. You, and your staff, will need to raise your game considerably, get stuck in at grass roots level, and make things happen.

So you get the most passionate and energetic of your team together, and work on the exact statement of your purpose (vision) and Impetus. You come up with the following as a rough draft:

Your Purpose (vision):

To create a healthier society by transforming levels of sport and fitness participation

You discover in discussion with your team that on this issue some are driven by fear, and some are driven by hope. You find you straddle the two approaches, so you offer a choice of either or both of the following Impetuses

Your Impetus (either/or, or both)

The fear of personally becoming overweight and incapacitated by a heart attack because you had not exercised

The inspiration of seeing a mixture of races and ages actively and enjoyably engaged at sessions of your local authority gym/sportshall

You believe personalising the impact of not being engaged in regular active exercise is valuable, because it brings home to everyone involved the profound importance of the mission they are engaged in. Also, being able to visualise some of the positive effects of grassroots involvement in sports and fitness activity will engage you and others emotionally.

Personally witnessing sport’s capacity to significantly enhance individuals’ ability to express and fulfil themselves helps to move the vision from the head to the heart.


The concept for exactly how you will make a difference will depend on the circumstances of your organisation. It may be obvious, or it may need considerable thought. It should be specific to your vision, but it may be many-layered if the vision has complexity within its simplicity. Example 1 is an example of such a situation.

Example 1

Working through the example of the financial services organization specializing in retirement investment, your vision (purpose), remember, is acting sustainably to help

fellow citizens retire with financial dignity. Your impetus is to imagine fear – the gut empathy you have with the terror and vulnerability of your less well off clients retiring into an impoverished and undignified old age.

After much discussion with your shakers and movers, you develop the concept:

Acting sustainably to create sustainable retirements

At his stage, it sounds a bit woolly, but you have a clear idea of what it will entail, which is a holistic view of sustainable wealth creation and distribution. You have worked with a core group of shakers and movers because you know several of your senior colleagues will neither understand, nor buy in, to the concept.

It is time to ask them gently, and humanely, to get off the bus. One way you decide will flush a few issues out with these individuals is to develop your sustainability strategy on all fronts. One of these fronts is to face up to the growing disparity in incomes generally, and in your organisation in particular.

Despite pensions being paid out being disappointing against the expectations of the investors over the past few years, this had not stopped your board rewarding itself handsomely. You, and especially your younger colleagues, feel that the inequalities of income in your organisation had become both embarrassing – and wrong.

You therefore agree a proposal with your key movers and shaker group that because senior salaries are so high in absolute terms, for the foreseeable future all board total remuneration increases would be no higher than 50% of other staff annual percentage increases (ie if the staff get 4%, they get 2%). Reward for promotion, or the taking on of more responsibility would generate merit rises, outside the agreement.

You point out that if, say, staff received a 4% increase, half this –2% – would, because board salaries are so high in absolute terms, create a cash increase of more than the total annual salary of your part time workers. For many of these workers, who are single parents, this is their only source of income. For some board members, 2% would provide a bigger cash increase than the entire income of many full time workers.

As a Difference Driver, you make some waves that cause some in your organisation to feel very disconcerted indeed. To set the wave in motion, you pose the question to all your colleagues (and yourself):

How much value am I giving to the organisation, and how much am I taking?

Many, in answering this question, will begin to find the seating on the bus much less comfortable than hitherto.

You take the idea of value added as a discipline throughout the organisation. Your younger employees are excited by the openness of the thinking, and how it impacts directly on the sustainability of your organisation. It is an challenging, dangerous idea. As it begins to be worked out in practice, it attracts more young, bright people, and it halts the flow of tomorrow’s stars, who had been haemorrhaging out of the organisation.

Example 2

Working through the example of the small charity helping Brazilian street children, your vision (purpose) is to give more Brazilian street children back their childhood. Your Impetus is the terror of children with no home or family being hunted down like vermin.

You are facing the twin challenges of inheriting a charity that has settled into a comfort zone of bureaucratic inactivity, and a cause that struggles to stand out from all the other worthy causes, especially in the kids’ sector.

Your first step is to review all the people you have inherited, and you identify a group you feel will be able to see the bigger picture, and will have the energy to fight for the realisation of the vision. Interestingly, there is a cross section of age, class and ethnicity in the people you choose.

You give everyone a chance to participate by announcing two or three workshops to examine the future direction of the charity. Those attending are in a sense self selecting as leaders, and tend to correlate closely to those you had identified as people you want to retain in the important seats on the bus.

You set out your vision, and are clear that, although you are a Difference Deliverer over the long term, as you are treading a well worn path in child protection, at least initially, you are going to be Difference Driver to establish some differentiation from your charity competitors.

You will ruffle feathers, and get people out of their comfort zones. Your passion will lead the people following you to do things they wouldn’t previously have imagined themselves doing.

After some heated discussion your team commits itself to the following concept:

Your concept:

Kids internationally sleeping rough at staged events to support Brazilian street children

The sleep ins will be staged in school holidays, with parents’ involvement, on city streets, to dramatise the plight of their Brazilian counterparts. Schools will be encouraged to link up with other schools internationally – either on the Internet, or with schools they already have a relationship with.

As much publicity as possible will be generated, both with conventional mass media (press, TV), and with digital networking. There will also be a specially created website, where mobile phone recordings of the sleep ins can be posted, and blogs and other contributions will be encouraged from children around the world.

The city street rough sleep ins will have two aims. The first will be to bring home the plight of Brazilian street kids to the children themselves and their families (and the public in general). The second will be to raise money internationally to fund hostels

and schools for those kids, run by your charity on behalf of supportive children and their families around the world.

The third, unstated aim, will be to put your staff on the spot. Do they support this wave-making activity, and will they give up time to sleep rough on the streets to show commitment to their cause? The ones you anticipated would be positive about the idea are extremely enthusiastic.

Happily, several of the seats you wanted vacating are willingly given up by members of the old guard who can see they would be more comfortable elsewhere. The few remaining who don’t immediately leave can see the new direction of the charity and are helped, mainly willingly, to move on to pastures more sedate and unchallenging.

Example 3

Working through the example of the government organization you lead, your purpose (vision) is to create a healthier society by transforming levels of sport and fitness participation. Your dual Impetus is the fear of personally becoming overweight and incapacitated by a heart attack because you had not exercised, and the inspiration of seeing a mixture of races and ages actively and enjoyably engaged at sessions of your local authority gym/sportshall.

Your remit to encourage exercise and fitness in the population generally covers many areas, which is part of the reason why your organisation spends more time talking than acting. Finding simple wording to describe what you are trying to do is itself a challenge. While sports participations sounds a good description, many people, including many women, hate the idea of being involved in sport of any kind. Sport is team orientated, macho and competitive. Yoga, workouts, or jogging, and many other fitness activities, are not competitive, and don’t involve being in sweaty changing rooms with other people.

So the terminology you settle on for your concept uses the phrase ‘fitness activity’ which is bland and colourless, but at least describes what you are talking about as an organisation. The other challenge to address is the very broad spectrum of fitness activities. Football to palates, or rowing to fell walking, is a pretty broad church.

Because of the diversity and impalpability of the challenge – it’s like herding cats -you decide accountability is one of the key areas to be addressed in the concept you devise for your Make a Difference Imperative. You, and your staff, must be accountable for delivering increased fitness activity at grass roots level, not just talking about it.

So the concept you and your team arrive at, after much debate is:
Every individual member of the team is responsible for improving grass roots participation in a specific fitness activity, both nationally, and locally

Your team is defined as the entirety of senior management, and all other leaders at every level serious about contributing to the organisation and its aims. Individuals will be able to choose the fitness activity whose participation level they are committed to increase. Where people have special expertise or involvement they may be able to co-opt those people into small teams.

The deliverables from the concept are spelt out clearly. The annual percentage improvements are agreed, activity by activity, so the goals are achievable. The local goals are especially important. Your staff members (and yourself) being accountable for local activity – having to get out of comfort zones and get personally stuck in locally to make a difference – will give both insights and impetus for activity on a national scale.

You set the example by rolling your own sleeves up, by getting a long way out of your comfort zone, and taking responsibility for yoga. By getting involved with yoga groups both locally and nationally, and taking up yoga yourself (which initially you find very challenging), you learn more about the issues of participation than you have previously learnt in your entire time with the organisation.


You will have seen elsewhere on this website how important each step is in the mastering of the Make a Difference Mindset. You will also have seen the importance to your Difference Imperative of branding your concept, and the powerful benefits this brings with it.

At first sight branding your concept within your organisation may seem inappropriate. This is not the case. The benefits of branding are still highly relevant. Branding a concept makes it much more likely the concept will have been well conceived and thought through. Attempting to brand a woolly or weak concept will reveal its wooliness and weakness, better than any other probing and testing.

Getting the brand right, and building its trustworthiness over time has three benefits. At first sight, you wouldn’t think it appropriate to brand something as uncommercial as a charity. But take Amnesty International, Red Cross, Greenpeace, Medecins Sans Frontiers, or any major established internationally branded charity, and you will find the brand name has the following benefits:

  1. It is an effective calling card which opens doors (imagine trying to get past some governments to provide help, or lobby for action on human rights, environmental protection without a major brand name behind you) 
  2. It creates a sense of identity for workers within the organisation, and for fundraisers (it provides a shorthand, saving long explanations about what its purpose is) 
  3. It provides reassurance and trust for donors (who can be confident that funds will not be misappropriated, or find their way into the pockets of corrupt middlemen) 

Theses benefits won’t all apply to you and your difference initiative in your organisation’s, but the essentials of clarity, trust, and recognition will.

What branding will give, assuming the concept to be strong, will be a distinctiveness, colour and texture to the concept, and will make it more motivating, and more memorable.

If necessary, it may be helpful to position the brand in the context of its being a project. Project Customer Love, for example, may be a more acceptable approach to communicate a brand whose concept is a new and focused approach to energising productivity.

Example 1

Working through the example of the financial services organization specializing in retirement investment, your vision (purpose), remember, is helping fellow citizens retire with financial dignity. Your impetus is to imagine fear – the gut empathy you have with the terror and vulnerability of your less well off clients retiring into an impoverished and undignified old age.

After much discussion with your shakers and movers, you developed the concept of acting sustainably to create sustainable retirements.

The brand you develop is:

Good citizens helping good citizens

You recognise two things. Firstly, that more work will need to be done to refine the brand, but you look forward to working on this with your (rearranged) colleagues, and outside communication experts.

Secondly, that such a statement opens you up to all sorts of probing, internally and externally, as to whether you are walking the talk. You welcome this. You are a Difference Driver, and determined to personally live the values of integrity and sustainability. You cherish the thought of working out what the implications for sustainability are in your organisation.

One obvious implication is where and how you invest you savers’ money. Whether it’s shares, private equity funds, or other financial instruments, the money has to be invested in a worthwhile and sustainable way.

You also have to be open and honest with the people investing money with you. The high quality of your people combined with their being energised by an inspiring vision will mean that your investment performance will at least match the best in the market. If the inputs of the clients are small, however, so will be the outputs of the financial investments, however talented your people, and however hard they try. Managing expectations by open and honest explanations of payouts will be part of your strategy.

Example 2

Working through the example of the small organisation helping Brazilian street children, your vision (purpose) is to give more Brazilian street children back their childhood. Your Impetus is the terror of children with no home or family being hunted down like vermin.

Your concept is kids internationally sleeping rough at staged events to support Brazilian street children. Through your passion you’ve been successful in transforming the energy levels and excitement in the organisation. Your staff is now slimmer, and much more highly motivated. You develop, with your team, the following brand for your concept and strategy:

Your Brand:

The world’s children helping their brothers and sisters in Brazil

The exciting global reach of the brand fits in well with your vision of addressing the very large numbers of street children in need of help and support. If the passion of you and your team bears fruit, you will make a significant impact in providing help to disadvantaged children. Perhaps more importantly, in bringing the world’s attention to the problem, it can begin to be addressed by the authorities at source, with better social security and educational programmes.

Example 3

Working through the example of the government organization you lead, your purpose (vision) is to create a healthier society by transforming levels of sport and fitness participation. Your Impetus (either/or, or both) is the fear of personally becoming overweight and incapacitated by a heart attack because you had not exercised, and/or the inspiration of seeing a mixture of races and ages actively and enjoyably engaged at sessions of your local authority gym/sportshall.

The concept you and your team devised is every very individual member of the team being responsible for improving grass roots participation in a specific fitness activity, both nationally, and locally. Because of the complexity that people prone to discussion rather than action can bring to the issues, you and your team agree that simplicity is important.

You eventually devise the following brand:

Your brand

Getting active to get people active

This encapsulates what you and your team are all doing. You are getting involved at local and national level in increasing participation. You are energetically getting to meet the key players – the role models, the sport or activity’s governing body, if there is one.

Just as importantly, you are enthusiastically stepping up sponsorship for the activity – especially at grass roots level – amongst current and potential sponsors. More money starts to come in, better facilities are provided, more teachers or coaches are trained, and more people get active. Virtuous, rather than vicious, circles start to be established across fitness activities of all kinds.

Under your example-setting leadership the organization starts to transform into something dynamic, and begins to deliver on its goals.


As with carrying out the Difference Imperative for the personal difference you intend to make to serve more effectively either individuals or society, so with the organisational or corporate Difference Imperative.

Putting a date on making it happen will make it happen. It may not happen by the date you put on it, but it will happen. No date – very unlikely to happen.

The date needs to be agreed with everyone in your team, and when each date arrives, a review needs to take place to evaluate whether the goal has been successfully achieved, or the project is producing the agreed results.

So here are the three fully worked-through examples:

Example 1

Working through the example of the financial services organization specializing in retirement investment.

Mindset: Difference Driver Your vision (purpose)
acting sustainably to help our fellow citizens retire with financial dignity

Your impetus
is to imagine fear – the gut empathy you have with the terror and vulnerability of your less well off clients retiring into an impoverished and undignified old age

Your concept
acting sustainably to create sustainable retirements

Your brand
Good citizens helping good citizens

Your dates

  • 1 month to assemble core cross functional team of Difference Deliverers (leaders at all levels)
  • 2 months to develop programme to communicate the vision throughout the organisation
  • 3 months (simultaneously) to explore the basic implications of what a sustainable company should mean in the 21st century
  • 1 month thereafter to commence roll out of elements of Step One of sustainability programme to clients and staff
  • 3 months to get agreement throughout the organisation to the goals Step One of the Programme, and to start monitoring performance against agreed goals

You will then need to agree a programme to sustain the pressure over time, to ensure the date to achieve action is met (as nearly as possible).

During this programme, you must expect setbacks, and possible unpopularity both inside and outside your organisation. The financial community, until you can prove its bottom line as well as its moral effectiveness, will not be overjoyed. It may take time for people to see the bigger picture.

Example 2

Working through the example of the small organisation helping Brazilian street children:

Mindset: Difference Deliverer Your vision (purpose)

to give more Brazilian street children back their childhood Your impetus

the terror of children with no home or family being hunted down like vermin

Your concept

kids internationally sleeping rough at staged events to support Brazilian street children

Your brand:
the world’s children helping their brothers and sisters in Brazil

Your dates:

6 weeks to evolve the vision and impetus

1 month to develop the concept and communicate it to your organisation

1 month to cope with the organisation fall out, and develop a plan to execute the concept.

3 months to work through the concept and brand with local groups and schools

2 months to finalise plan, timings, and put stage 1 into operation

Example 3

Working through the example of the government organization you lead where you are charged with increasing the physical fitness levels of the nation, your most important decision is to become a Difference Driver, rather than a Difference Deliverer. Over three or four years your leadership had made little impact. Becoming a Difference Driver has meant you, and your organisation, has had to change. You have had to get out of your comfort zone of your office and meetings, and get out and make a difference. You found it embarrassing and difficult at first, but now you love it.

Mindset: Difference Driver Your vision (purpose)

to create a healthier society by transforming levels of sport and fitness participation

Your Impetus (either/or, or both)

is the fear of personally becoming overweight and incapacitated by a heart attack because you had not exercised,

and/or the inspiration of seeing a mixture of races and ages actively and enjoyably engaged at sessions of your local authority gym/sportshall.

Your concept

every very individual member of the team being responsible for improving grass roots participation in a specific fitness activity, both nationally, and locally.

Your brand
Getting active to get people active

Your Dates

1 month devising the impetuses, and evolving concept

2 months to agree who will take each fitness activity throughout your management and organisation, and to agree deliverables (percentage increases locally and nationally; by when)

3 months to start delivering the brand and to begin rolling reviews of activities and results.

1 year before first annual review of progress/achievements, and recognitions throughout the organisation

These, of course, are imaginary situations, and real life is often more complex, and more difficult. The examples do, however, give an insight into the process of the Make a Difference Mindset, and the Make a Difference Imperative to make it happen.

Remember throughout the process that Integrity – the heart of character – is as important in the organisational field as it is in the personal one. Integrity means being answerable – for your attitudes, for your behaviours, and for fulfilling your objectives.

If you don’t succeed first time at making the difference you want to make – don’t give up. The way to success in most fields of human activity is paved with failures. Re-group, and work out how you’ll be successful next time. And put another date on it. Keep going, learning from each setback. Eventually you’ll succeed.

Once you are successful in achieving your initial objectives – well done. Take a bow – pat yourself on the back, and enjoy the feeling of satisfaction and fulfilment. You deserve it.

And now move on to the next level of leadership you are going to achieve in the difference you are going to make ….


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s