Sad, Mad, and Glad

Three recent events which in turn caused sadness, madness, and gladness. SAD to learn of the passing of one the great organisational management thinkers of our time - Professor Warren Bennis.

Warren Bennis






His various works on the subject of leadership are seminal and perpetual.

Leadership presentations fall into three distinct categories.

  • Biographical descriptors - usually sycophantic fawning narratives of some so-called 'great leader' and their 'great decision-making' prowess. Interesting from a chronological context but not really informative - and usually characterised by exhortations of imitation or replication. Leaders are made, not born.
  • Self-promotional adverts - if the above category can be labelled 'how great thou art', this segment can be summarised as 'how great am I". Again, an attempt to get the reader to follow in the magnificent footsteps of the modestly self-appointed awesome author.
  • Qualitative analysis - grounded in an academic framework, and characterised by critical thinking - but with practical application the commercial world. Bennis is the leader in this space and the work he has produced simply must be read by anyone aspiring to leadership. His study of harnessing, stimulating, and leading intellectual creativity is contained in " Organising Genius - The Secrets of Creative Collaboration" and is presented in a series of case studies ranging from Walt Disney's first feature length cartoon to Robert Oppenheimer leading the Manhatten Project. These are fascinating informed narratives which offer key learnings in the field of leadership study, and are a 'must read' for anyone aspiring to a leadership role.

R.I. P Prof Bennis - a huge legacy and source of endless inspiration.

MAD can be defined as the events which unfolded before our eyes in Martin Place, Sydney. I understand that this lunatic was not part of an orchestrated attack such as those perpetrated elsewhere on the planet by the Taliban and Boko Haram. But that this psychotic character should seek to justify his actions via religious extremism leaves decent human beings outraged.

I defend anyone's right to pursue any religious belief they chose within the legal, ethical, and social parameters of the society in which they choose, with approval,  to locate themselves.

I equally reject their right to coerce anyone into aligning with those beliefs. When persuasion escalates to coercion and violence - the cause is forfeit.

Religious extremism, which presents itself to most rational individuals as a form of insanity, has been used to justify unspeakable acts of brutality for centuries. But longevity does not facilitate validity, and it's my fervent wish that these madmen rot forever in whatever hell their particular version of primitive superstition their mystical being, prophet, or redeemer promulgates. 


GLAD to learn that a former colleague from Melbourne days, Brett Clark, has been confirmed as the next CEO of TAL (formerly Tower) Australia. Of all the satisfying moments in the Laird's long(ish) career, seeing brettsomeone like Brett reach the top job is undoubtedly the best. In AIA Australia, Brett was my Chief Actuary before I persuaded him to the ways of the Dark Side of Distribution Management. He took on the initiative enthusiastically, and injected a momentum and energy which has seen AIA grow to one of the market leaders in the Australian risk market. Since leaving AIA, there has been a continual story of unqualified success, culminating in confirmation of his recent appointment to the CEO's role - no doubt in my mind that he will make a great CEO.


He has some fairly big shoes to fill, of course, as Jim Minto well-known to many of us in NZ, steps aside. Jim took Tower Australia from a thinly-spread, over-jimdiversified organisation to a sleek, dynamic leading-edge player in a highly competitive market place and his legacy is simply outstanding. I had the privilege of serving with Jim on the ISI (now FSC) Board and his consummate professionalism was evident.

Many congratulations to both - friends and colleagues.


Finally, thanks to all those who have had the patience and persistence to put up with these raves and rants, and I'd like to wish everyone a happy and safe Festive Season.

Nollaig chridheil agus bliadhna mhath ùr.


The Laird