Coach. The coach points towards the goal and helps you prepare and direct your efforts to get there successfully. They are there to provide feedback.

We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Skipper.

Jeff Skipper is an international change leadership consultant for organizations in energy, finance, technology, and other industries. For over twenty-five years, beginning with a twelve-year career at IBM, he has guided change projects by focusing on the people side of change. As CEO he grew a transformation services company to seven figures in just five years. He and his family live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. His new book is Dancing with Disruption: Leading Dramatic Change During Global Transformation. Learn more at

Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?

You mean besides the massive Lego city I’m building in the basement?? Honestly, I have the best job. I’m currently working with two clients focused on transforming the way they work with a focus on culture. It’s a challenge, but leaders are discovering that culture change does not have to take years. Employees want a better workplace.

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?

Alan Weiss, author of more than forty books on the topic of consulting, has been an incredible mentor. Edgar Schein has also been a massive influence as a key figure in the shaping of the discipline of organizational psychology.

Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?

I’ve had a few incidents where leaders surprised me with negative reactions to a suggestion that I’d believed they would readily support. It taught me the importance of building strong relationships early and checking in with influencers one-on-one prior to taking a position. Sometimes you need to look them right in the eyes to be confident of their support.

How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?

Leadership is now synonymous with leading change. It’s rare that an industry survives by staying the same these days. Leaders are constantly required to monitor the landscape, shift strategies, and help employees navigate a constant barrage of updates, new technology, and tweaks to stay in line with customer demands. If you aren’t changing, you’re falling behind.

The impact of this reality is that more than ever, leaders are called upon to understand human psychology, the signs of burnout, the levers of motivations, and the challenges and opportunities of promoting diversity. We all react differently to change and team interaction. Great leaders know their players well and help them adapt successfully. This also requires the ability to self-reflect and help one’s self adapt successfully at the same time. Not easy. It’s a new world for leaders.

Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?

I’m extremely fast at coming up with solutions. As a leader, it’s easy to say, “This is the best path, put it in place.” Incorporating psychology, we get better performance when people are bought in. They need to be part of creating the solution, and even if the result is not what I believe is best, I may get a better result because they are personally invested. That’s a secret of leading change as well.

What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?

As basic as it sounds, I’ve been developing my ability to consume data quickly. I read a lot of news and research from the likes of Gartner and McKinsey to capture emerging ideas and trends. AI is helping with that now. This focus enables me to help executives build strategies that will differentiate them from the competition.

What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?

Become part of a mastermind group. These groups are composed of leaders in similar positions who share experiences and learnings, and encourage one another. Peers who are equally determined to improve themselves are in the best position to help one another. I’ve been a member of an international group of entrepreneurs for five years and my success has accelerated very quickly.

Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?

McKinsey data tells us that placing the right people in the right role with the right tasks yields productivity gains of up to 800%. Therefore, be a voraciously curious leader — not just when it comes to the business, but when it comes to people. Knowing who you are leading — their strengths as much as what they don’t like to do — puts you in the best position to connect, influence, motivate, and deploy them exactly where they need to be to bring the biggest benefit of the team and the organization. Demonstrate that you care personally.

Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now?

When I teach leadership I highlight three central roles of the leader.

• Coach. The coach points towards the goal and helps you prepare and direct your efforts to get there successfully. They are there to provide feedback.

• Running partner. We’ve all heard stories of people being hired, given a desk and a computer, and told to get on with it. Leaders recognize that when someone is learning to ride a bike, the parent has to run alongside for a bit to ensure they are getting their balance. Runners do best when a partner helps them with pacing. Great leaders are great partners along the path to success.

• Flagbearer. If you’ve ever watched the Olympics, the opening and closing ceremonies demonstrate national pride as flags and colors from every nation are waved enthusiastically to encourage the competitors. It must be an amazing feeling to look into the audience and see people waving your flag. Great leaders are great flagbearers. They find ways to promote their people — if not with advances, then with accolades. They defend their team such that they know their leader will always go to bat for them, and continuously wave the flag of their team when speaking with other leaders.

American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.

Time is a non-renewable resource. We can’t recover it and we can’t make more of it. I use that mindset to motivate myself to push through the aspects of my work that I don’t enjoy to get to the parts that I love. At the end of the day I pause and look back on the accomplishments to celebrate what I’ve accomplished. This sets up my motivation to charge into the next day expecting great things again.

What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?

I regularly connect with up-and-coming leaders. I’ve had a chance to shape and alter the careers of many individuals for the better. When I can inspire them to improve how they lead change and lead people in some significant way, that’s a legacy worth more than anything.

How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?

Check out my website for more about me and contact information. You will also find lots of free resources. I love to share!

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!