real leadership

Real Research: Devising An Equitable Future For Work

Real Research: Devising An Equitable Future For Work 

by Vivienne Liu

Research & Development Specialist


Enabled by the connectivity of new technologies, the on-demand or gig economy saw tremendous growth in recent years. Predicted to make up 40 or 50 percent of the workforce within the next decade, these “networks of people who make a living working without any formal employment agreement” (Schwartz, Bohdal-Spiegelhoff, Gretczko, & Sloan, 2016, p. 1) have prompted many leaders to rethink their contingent workforce management strategies.


To remain attractive to the best talents in the market, organisations need to work towards creating an equitable workplace for the changing workforce. Below are two key areas for leaders to consider as they embark on the journey to devise an equitable future for work: 


Learning and Development Opportunities

Despite the growing investments in learning and development over the recent years, the privilege to attend these programmes are rarely extended to the contingent workforce. Most on-demand workers are still fully responsible for their own development and growth to stay competitive in the gig market. As organisations continue to demand for the best and latest skills from their contingent workforce, leaders should start considering how they can support and invest in these individuals.


As a start, leaders can ask themselves: 

    • Are any of our current learning programmes relevant to our contingent workforce? How can we engage them in these programmes?
    • How are our contingent workers keeping themselves up-to-date in their fields? What tools (e.g. MOOCs, online community, etc.) are they leveraging on? How might we support them?
    • How might we leverage on the diversity of our workforce to create better learning experiences for everyone? Can we engage peer-to-peer learning across our full-timers and contingent workforce?


Advancement Opportunities

Unlike full-time employees who look forward to promotion opportunities and all the benefits that come with them, contingent workers rarely enjoy the same advancement opportunities. Instead of a task-focused, transactional relationship most organisations have with their contingent workforce, leaders should rethink their compensation increment schemes and career progression opportunities to engage these workers.


Leaders can start by asking themselves:

    • How might we develop a fulfilling, long-term relationship with our contingent workforce? Are we satisfying their need for achievement? How might we do so through advancement opportunities? 
    • Do we have career progression plans for our contingent workforce? How might we better help them plan their career? 
    • How can we ensure that our contingent workers are being valued and compensated fairly? Does our compensation scheme account for the increased value they add as they continue to upgrade their skills? Are we rewarding them accordingly?


While these questions will get leaders started on their journey towards an equitable workplace, it is only the beginning. Ultimately, leaders should take a holistic view at how they can deliver a great contingent workforce experience.


What other trends have you noticed, or are already experiencing yourself? We would love to hear from you at



  • Schwartz, J., Bohdal-Spiegelhoff, U., Gretczko, M., and Sloan, N. (2016). The gig economy: Distraction or disruption? In Deloitte University Press (2016), Global Human Capital Trends 2016. 
  • Institute for the Future. (2016). Voices of workable futures: People transforming work in the platform economy. 
  • Institute for the Future. (2016). 10 strategies for a workable future. 
  • Rigoni, B. and Adkins, A. (2016). What millennials want from a new job. Harvard Business Review.


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The Essentials of Real Leadership: Creating an Inclusive Environment

The Essentials of Real Leadership: Creating An Inclusive Environment 

Written by Dr. Peter Cheng

Co-Founder & Chief of Dialogue


This article is the seventh of a 9-part series by Dr. Peter Cheng that discusses the Who-ness and What-ness of A Real Leader who Shapes Culture and Drives Performance. 


If you have been following the series of Real News, you would remember that in the first article, “The 8 Essentials Of Real Leadership”, I shared on what has caused a crack in the trust in corporate leaders and how the business world has been tainted by countless and infamous corporate frauds over the last few decades, among which were the Enron (November 2001) case and Lehman Brothers case (Sept 2008) that triggered global financial meltdown.


In the light of all these corporate frauds, stakeholders of organisations are demanding and expecting more transparency and able leadership to ensure that organisations and their leaders come clean and above board. Given these happenings. constituents now have a baseline expectation of their leaders. They want to see their leaders as being worthy to be followed, before they commit themselves fully to the leadership.


This seventh article of the Real Leaders series features Creating An Inclusive Environment, another essential of what makes a leader real, to inspire and engage their people. 


There are many studies on how inclusive leadership impacts constituents’ engagement, productivity and loyalty. Carmeli et al., 2010 has shown that when organisations demonstrate inclusive leadership that is manifested by openness, accessibility, and availability of the leader, they engender the presence of employee psychological safety and involvement in creative works at the workplace.


In creating an inclusive environment, real leaders ensure that their constituents feel comfortable being part of the team, department and organisation. They appreciate the uniqueness of individuals that make up the collective team and look at what each individual brings to the mix and harness individual talents for the collective good. Real leaders create space for individuals to have their own stories and to share their experiences, leveraging the synergy of their collective wisdom to derive creative and quality decisions.


The question is, “How do Real Leaders create an environment that is inclusive?” From our experience, observations and interviews with CEOs, these are the following effective behaviours demonstrated by inclusive leaders.

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Seek to understand individual motivations in a team setting

Abraham Maslow advocated that people have 5 levels of needs with physiological needs being at level 1 and self-actualisation at the highest at level 5. It is not surprising to see members of a team having different motivations in a diverse team with diverse backgrounds.  Real leaders care about the different motivational levers that move the individuals. They are observant and sensitive to the differing motivations within the team and expend efforts to find the right “mix”of motivators to engage their people. In my decades of experience leading teams from various organisations and industries, I have seen all the motivational levers at work in different individuals and it was imperative to meet these diverse motivational needs before peak performance could be attained. 

Do you know what motivates your team members? Unless you provide those motivational levers, chances are they would be disengaged with you.


Show respect towards individuals of diverse background

With increasing talents and people mobility across globe, more teams will compromise of people of different nationalities, ethnicity, and personality.  Over the last 18 years,  I have facilitated hundreds of workshops for MNCs and I remember there were many occasions that I had no less than ten nationalities in a single workshop. Imagine the diversity of ideas and creativity these participants brought to the workshop! Real leaders are mindful in dealing with their team of people from diverse backgrounds. They create space for the team members to express their views with much respect for all and the same time, reinforce a culture that respects diversity that includes nationality, ethnicity, qualifications, experience and gender. 

Al Gore once cited“I think that more diversity is a good thing, and fresh points of view articulated by people who are committed to excellence”. This is echoed by Martin Luther King Junior’s “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” Real leaders know the power of a having a diverse workforce. Think of how you might enhance diversity in your team.


Take time to listen to others

The gift of time is one of the most valuable gifts a leader can offer to their people. Real leaders recognise that they do not have answers to all the problems and issues faced in the workplace. They know that they are far from perfect and are subject to making mistakes.  Such leaders realise that the team members have much to offer in solving team challenges and have the collective wisdom to bring their team to a higher level of excellence. They exercise intentional and deliberate efforts to listen to others, garnering ideas and suggestions to rise above organisational challenges. During one of my consulting engagements with my client, I noticed that the Managing Director (MD) of this MNC deliberately took time to listen to people during their monthly “Meet-The-MD-Session”. He would take all sorts of questions, suggestions and feedback from the ground and implement those feasible suggestions to bring their organisation forward. I learnt from my client that the MD is a very well-liked leader in the organisation. People were motivated to engage him freely and felt at ease to share their thoughts on how the organisation might improve. Many studies have shown that when employees are engaged, they will go the extra mile to strive for their teams and organisations. 

George W Bush said “Leadership to me means duty,  honor, country. It means character, and it means listening from time to time”. How often do you take time listen to others in your team? 


Take deliberate actions to develop collaborative work relationships and collectivism

A study by Gundlach, et al,, 2006 on the relationship between individualism–collectivism and team performance has shown that individualistic team members exert a negative influence on team performance. Real leaders are builders of relationships and collectivism. They understand and appreciate that the foundation to effective leadership is having great relationships with the team and among the team members. Dr. Bruce Tuckman has for long time suggested in his team formation model that when teams have clear norms, they will perform what they have set out to achieve. Notably, norming is preceded by relationship building among the team member. Real leaders are adept in facilitating collaborative relationships that engender team thinking and collectivism from which the wisdom of the team can be leveraged to achieve common goals for the organisation. 

How is your team’s relationship at the moment? Are team members as collaborative as they should? What would you do to increase collaborative work relationships and build collectivism?


Establish and maintain an open channel of communication

Real leaders are champions of establishing and maintaining a channel of communication with their team members. They know that to be inclusive, they need to foster open communication with their people and among their people.  In doing so, they ensure that the people have psychological safety to communicate their thoughts authentically for the betterment of the team as a whole. Culminating respect for each other within the team,  the leader ensures their people have access to them to share their feedback, opinions and suggestions. To do this, real leaders take the lead by inviting their people to call upon them to discuss anything that they feel could advance their people and their organisation. 

Stephen Coveyonce cited “Trust is the glue of life. It's the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It's the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” In essence, communication begets trust that holds relationships and real leaders simply know the value of what open communication can do in maintaining a cohesive team. 

Real leaders make it a point to constantly communicate with their constituents. ‘Dialogue’ as the word suggests, involves two or more people within a conversation. This means that communication has to be a two-way street between the leader and the constituent; an exchange of thoughts through thinking together.  

Leaders may have the tendency to take charge of conversations. In doing so, they block out opinions from their constituents, who may offer a different insight and alternative solution pathways. 

Leaders who practise dialogue will find that there is an honest and effective exchange with their constituents resulting them being not be afraid to converse on the same level as them. How is your communication with your team? 


Moderating and Aligning OOPs and IPs to remain in the flow

OOP means “Out of Pattern”; it is not surprising for leaders to experience diverse thinking from an inclusive team of individuals! Although these OOPs are capable of creating tension at work by being an opposing thought, they are also capable of promoting creativity and diversity in the workplace. Real leaders leverage OOPs to generate the best of ideas with skilful integration of diverse points of view. 

IP means ‘In Pattern” and real leaders are mindful that when team members show similar thinking, they could demonstrate groupthink - which leads to idea stagnation and "un-creativity." Hence they would do the necessary to ensure that team members are stretched to think, to facilitate creativity within the team. 

In brevity, real leaders create a platform for all to participate and moderate the OOPs and IPs. They make sure that all OOPs and IPs are moderated towards leading their organisation to excellence. How do you mange the OOPs in your team?


In conclusion, real leaders know the importance of establishing an inclusive environment for all in the team to feel valued and engaged. They harness the team’s wisdom by integrating diversity of the team members’ opinions and contributions. In doing so, they continue to maintain a platform that engages and inspires the team.


I would love to hear from you. Do email me personally at for more thoughts on what it takes to be a Real Leader!


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Real Stories: Developing Leaders For A Better Tomorrow

Real Stories: Developing Leaders For A Better Tomorrow

Written by Dr. Lily Cheng and Elizabeth Tang


We share our collaboration with our learning partner, a well-established ophthalmology product manufacturer with a rich history of 125 years. The leaders were keen on developing the leadership potential of their young leaders, equipping them with the competencies needed to lead the organisation in its internationalisation efforts. PACE was selected to journey with these budding leaders and we designed an OD intervention that was highly customised. 

Selected leaders underwent a 9 month development journey which involved a combination of learning events and executive coaching sessions with PACE master coaches and facilitators. At the conclusion of this intervention, senior leaders saw a positive change in the leadership behaviours of the participants, as well as greater alignment with the organisation’s expectations.

We interviewed participants about their learning experience and this is what they had to say: 


What interested you to attend this learning journey?


“I believed that this learning journey would improve my leadership ability as well as how I work in my day-to-day.”


“I wanted to learn more about the organisational goals and know how I can contribute to these goals. I believed that by taking part in this journey, I would gain clarity in this area.” 


“I joined this journey because I wanted to improve myself and develop my leadership ability. I was interested in PACE’s unique combination of leadership practices from the East and the West and I thought that this approach would suit me since I work in Asia.” 


What is your biggest takeaway from this learning journey?


“I learned many principles and frameworks such as how to coach my team and how to drive them to achieve the organisation’s goals. After learning these principles and frameworks, I have been trying to practice them with my team and it has helped to drive performance.”


“I believe this learning journey allowed me to explore myself and understand my leadership personality. I learned about leading with compassion because as a leader, I have to balance leading with compassion and wisdom. I am now able to use compassion to influence my team to work towards achieving organisational goals.” 


“I saw the organisation’s senior leaders taking part in this journey and I found it very inspirational to see them in action. These leaders have been with the company so long that the way they integrate the core values in their lives and work has inspired me to pursue that too.” 


Can you share some action points you will bring back to your workplace?


“I aim to communicate constantly in all directions. By communicating the organisation’s goals upwards to the senior management, downwards to the ground teams and laterally to my colleagues and the different divisions, it will give me a baseline of where we are. From there, I know how to contribute and steer our organisation closer to our vision.” 


“I will spend more time thinking deeply about how to develop my current employees based on their current potential and performance level. It will take a lot of time to conceptualise but it will increase their productivity; this is my key objective in engaging them and developing plans for my employees.” 


“I discovered that getting people to follow you is not just about accomplishing the task you set for them; you also have to take into account of how they feel. People follow the heart and I learned to be more compassionate.”


What is unique about PACE’s learning events?

“Our facilitator, Dr. Lily Cheng, is an experienced coach and she puts everyone in a comfortable setting. She really leads with her heart and is genuine when teaching the organisation’s values. When she imparts knowledge, she supplements it with real life examples and never hesitates to answer our questions. There is no distance between the coach and participants which makes me feel comfortable to continue practicing what she has taught me.”


“There is a lot of practical role-playing that is customised to the needs of the organisation. The role-playing often simulates a real situation we face at work and this has helped all of us resolve these issues and challenges.” 


“The experiential activities we did relate well to the principles we learned. I felt the learning events were planned to be more dynamic which is a good change from sitting and listening to what is being taught.”


Tangible ROI from this solution have been observed as the impact continues to be cascaded within the organisation. In the meantime, plans for another leadership development journey with our learning partner’s leaders are already underway! 


How would your leadership team benefit from a customised leadership solution? Connect with us at today!


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Real Research: Leadership Challenges of 2017

by Vivienne Liu

Research & Development Specialist

In our last article for Real News, we discussed the impact of technological development and the shift in workforce demographics on the learning and development landscape in 2017. Building on our previous conversation, this issue explores how the changes in technology and the workforce might create challenges for leaders. We focus on three key leadership challenges of 2017 and what leaders can do to overcome these challenges:

1. Retaining Millennials

Millennials bring with them a different set of expectations. Compared to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, they value growth and advancement opportunities significantly more. With compensation ranking sixth on Millennials’ job wish list (Rigoni and Adkins, 2016), the
traditional incentive system of premium compensation might not be enough to keep Millennial talents. Thus, leaders need to rethink the way they engage Millennials by…

  • Redesigning initiatives based on what Millennials want. Leaders can refer to numerous studies published on the topic or conduct their own internal survey to find out what’s important to Millennials.
  • Gathering feedback and continuously improving them. No one gets it right the first time. Leaders should gather feedback on the effectiveness of initiatives and continuously develop them.


2. Engaging Remote Teams

As technology makes collaboration over distance easier than ever, we see a rise in remote teams (Jones, 2015), in which members work from various locations and might not even have the chance to meet each other. While this new way of working allows companies to leverage on talents located in different places, it presents leaders with the challenge of bonding the team and engaging members. To ensure their virtual teams thrive, leaders can start by:

  • Clearly defining goals and individual roles. Leaders should set clear goals for the team and discuss how each member can contribute to achieving those goals.
  • Creating a conducive environment for trust. While trust is important for teams in all settings, it becomes even more critical for virtual teams. Leaders should encourage team members to get to know each other better beyond work, and have open discussions on how they can work with each other.


3. Developing Future Leaders

As many senior managers plan for retirement in the near future, leadership succession has become a challenge. Moving forward, leaders need to take a different perspective on leadership development and succession planning. Leaders can start planning early by…

  • Going the extra mile to identify talents. Instead of limiting themselves to the usual shortlisted top performers, leaders should cast a wider net in their search for potential leaders and include those who meet certain criteria but have not made it to the shortlist. To do so, leaders can leverage on a crowdsourcing method, where employees nominate potential talents based on their observations.
  • Being aware that formal training alone is not sufficient. While still a critical component of leadership development, formal training alone is insufficient to prepare future leaders; other significant aspects include continuous feedback and coaching (Bersin, 2016). Thus, current leaders will need to be prepared to invest more time and resources over the long run to build future leaders.


Bersin, J. (2016). 11 predictions for 2017. 

Deloitte University Press. (2016). Global human capital trend 2016.

Ferrazzi, K. (2014). Getting virtual teams right.

Harvard Business Review. Harrell, E. (2016). Succession planning: What the research says.

Harvard Business Review. Jones, J. M. (2015). In U.S., Telecommuting for Work Climbs to 37%. Retrieved from telecommuting-work-climbs.aspx

Lane, K., Larmaraud, A., and Yueh, E. (2016). Finding hidden leaders.

McKinsey Quarterly. Maier, S. (2016). Leadership's top 3 challenges in 2017. Retrieved from https://

Rigoni, B. and Adkins, A. (2016). What millennials want from a new job. Harvard Business Review.


What other trends have you noticed, or are already experiencing yourself? We would love to hear from you at!


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Ask the OD Doctors: Leadership Gaps in 2017

ASK THE OD DOCTORS: Leadership Gaps In 2017

Reflections and Thoughts by Dr. Lily Cheng

Founder and Chief OD Catalyst


Have a burning question that you always wanted to ask our OD Doctors, Dr. Lily Cheng and Dr. Peter Cheng? Do email us at and we’ll reply you within 5 working days. The featured question in our Ask The OD Doctors section will receive a mystery gift from us!


With the economy not doing very strong globally, it has presented another challenge for leaders around the world. How do we achieve our 2017 targets or how do we remain sustainable in our business directions and purpose? It’s imperative you balance between being inspirational and being practical as a leader in order to lead well in 2017.

The seminal question asked by Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones in their book, is: Why Should Anyone Be Led by YOU?  This leads me to the next important question: What are the critical leadership gaps I must close to lead well in 2017?


The unconscious gap 

This refers to the gap between what you think you know and what you don’t know.  Many times I hear leaders telling me, “What else is there to know? I have been there, done that.”  Sad to say, this leader clearly feels that he/she has known it all. They act as though they’ve been everywhere and have experienced everything. If there’s a problem, they have the solution; if there’s a question, they have the answer. 

Strong opinionated leaders deliver their answers in an obnoxious manner and you probably have never, or ever heard them utter the words, “I don’t know.”  These leaders tend to dominate conversations, dismiss inputs from others and make decisions with a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude.

As leaders, we need to transit regularly from unconscious to conscious learning modes so that we are able to listen and know what we don’t know, to become agile learners who lead well.


the influence gap

With the rise of a multigenerational workforce, leaders are called to balance the need to command and demand versus the need to inspire and enlist.

It sounds cliché, doesn’t it?  Yet if we understand the importance of influence as an enabler to effective leadership, we’ll take time to close this gap. 

Influence is often misconstrued as being manipulative. Manipulation is about exerting devious influence, especially for one’s own advantage.  Influence is the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen.  The difference between the two lies in the intent - is your intent a positive or a negative one?

If you want to close your influence gap, you will need to understand:

  • What the different influencing styles are
  • Identify gaps in your influencing style
  • The range of influencing styles
  • Increasing your adaptability, capability and confidence of using different influencing styles, through deliberate practice


the sense of reality gap

When I was working in a government statutory board, I was told that they used the Current Estimated Potential (CEP) model.  This led to me appreciate the HAIR framework used to assess one’s potential as a civil servant:

Helicopter quality Power of Analysis Imagination Sense of Reality

What impressed me about this framework was how important it is for a leader to be practical.  A person with good helicopter vision is supposed to be capable of comprehending the big picture, but if the leader remains in their ivory tower, they will not see the finer details on the ground.  Hence, it's important that a leader has a strong sense of reality to address ground issues and provide support to people on the ground.

Here's a quick exercise for you to assess your Leadership Gap. Rate yourself as a leader on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 representing the worst in leadership and 10 being the best in leadership. This is a risk-free evaluation, as no one else but you will will see your score. Do this now and write the number down.

Next, ask others to rate you on this scale. Encourage them to be authentic in their assessment of you. After you receive their rating, calculate the difference between your score and how others rate you. This difference is your leadership gap.

Your self-rating - Rating from others = Leadership Gap


Whether the leadership gap is a result of perception or reality, doesn’t really matter.  What’s more important is that you don’t allow your hubris to overshadow your humility. 

The very essence of leadership is about people. It’s about leading well in 2017, about improving the status quo, inspiring positive change and making the workplace a great place to work.


I hope that I’ve inspired you in some way to look at your own leadership journey this year. I’m looking forward to hear your stories as well, and would be glad if you could write back to me at or


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The Essentials of Real Leadership: Credibility

The Essentials of Real Leadership: Credibility

Credible leaders establish psychological contracts with their communities and teams, bound by shared values. These contracts are more concrete than words of any legal and binding document. They build trust, commitment and loyalty to the leader in good and challenging times. Leaders who lack credibility break psychological contracts with their people and will not have loyal followers, let alone inspired ones. 



Real leaders who have conviction with courage embrace a strong belief within ethical and moral parameters and take clear stands without compromising. These leaders engage constituents to pursue ennobling agenda that will positively impact the community.