Inspiring Leadership – you don’t need all the answers

A few months ago, I was witness to an inspiring display of leadership. I was in a room full of high achieving individuals, the key decision makers so to speak, who were tasked with visioning for their organisation’s future when they became paralysed by the complexity of the unknown.

The energy levels fell, and the conversations spiralled downwards and as they had done many times in the past, the senior executives beckoned to their CEO, who was sitting at the back of the room, for insight and direction.

The CEO stood up and very calmly, but truthfully said: this time around I don’t have the answers – I can not predict what the future holds for us as we move into the fourth industrial revolution. He did though acknowledge two certainties. Firstly, that the fusion of technologies will significantly disrupt the way work is done throughout the industry, and secondly, that he needed help from his senior executive to thrive.

The response was invigorating. As the CEO blurred the lines of traditional leadership practice, demonstrating openness and connectivity, his team stepped forward and engaged. Through conversation, connection and collaboration they navigated boundaries, generated creative tension and achieved superior outcomes.

Recently, I was speaking to the same senior executive team and I noticed that the CEO’s actions that day were still the topic of conversation. I was curious, so I asked this top-level executive team, populated by highly-intelligent, capable, passionate and somewhat competitive individuals, why this one event had stood out so much for them. The reply was that the CEO was vulnerable, showed a belief in the possibility of others, and focussed on solutions over problems.

In doing so, the CEO embraced a ‘coaching mindset’, a position we at QUT regard as essential to the future of effective leadership in complex organisations. Our experience has shown us that the leadership skills which many have drawn upon in the past, are no longer proving to be as effective as leaders are facing the messy and complex realities of contemporary organisational settings.

Adopting a leadership coaching approach though, can be challenging for leaders. It commands stepping into uncertainty and letting go of the reassuring feeling that you have the answers. It is about being curious. Embracing listening intently over telling. Asking what is possible? What is exciting? And, who can help me? Then genuinely partnering with others for maximum impact through intentional action. This is the start of great leadership coaching.

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Fran leads a short course Leadership, Coaching and Culture. Find out more here.

Fran was also part of the Leadership Coaching Conference: Crossing Boundaries. The Conference both explored and modeled leadership coaching with highly interactive sessions embracing a range of themes – The mind and neuroscience; technological disruption, organizational systems, cultures and values, women in leadership, global and diverse perspectives and groups and teams, which act as boundaries to shape contributions, and in the spirit of the broader conference theme, we challenge you to cross them!

Read about the conference highlights here.

Contact me if you have any questions: Fran Finn email:

QUTeX short courses and professional development


Fran is passionate about developing exceptional leaders. She has an extensive background in Leadership and Executive Coaching, holding senior leadership positions, including as Director, Leadership Coaching and Executive Programs within the QUT Graduate School of Business and QUTeX Executive Education. Fran is responsible for successfully delivering global Leadership Coaching education as Course Coordinator for the Executive Graduate Certificate in Business (Leadership Coaching) and establishing The Leadership Coaching Practice within QUTeX.

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