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20 October 2018
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ThinkFM 2014: Positive influence

Oona King

It is time for FMs to exert their influence and challenge their organisations to make positive changes that could affect our whole environment, says former minister

16 May 2014 

At Tuesday's ThinkFM conference, Oona King shared her thoughts on how FMs can increase their influence and bring about change to enable their organisations to thrive.

Sometimes you have to make people uncomfortable if you want to bring about positive change, so do you value your role enough to take yourself and your organisation out of the comfort zone? King warned: “If you want to change things you need to walk that fine line, which takes you to the very edge.” 

Adaptive leadership 
FM is important because it either creates or restricts inclusive environments, increases or decreases risk to business, and promotes or prevents sustainability, said King. But are FMs fully harnessing their influence in their organisation? 

“When was the last time your department or company clearly articulated your belief that your existence is beneficial to the planet – not just to the shareholders, but to everyone?” she asked.

Quoting from the book The Practice Of Adaptive Leadership, she explained how and why practising adaptive leadership can help organisations adapt to change. This requires a number of elements, not least challenging your boss – something King did when working for former PM Gordon Brown. 

“Most people in a position of authority – even if they’re well-meaning – don’t promote positive change, they just keep the wheels turning. They don’t check if they’re driving in the right direction and they don’t lead people to a different place.” 

All great leaders will start with the “why”, and if you can’t explain to the people you want to lead why something needs to be done you won’t bring them with you and get the change you want, she said. First articulate your belief – then draw up the plan, she counselled, after all, Martin Luther King’s speech wasn’t called “I have a plan”.

The key adaptive leadership tests are:

1.Diversity: What is the make-up of your management team and your board?;

2.Experiment: Does your environment encourage innovation?;

3.Solve the right problems, not the wrong problems;

4.Be conservative & progressive;

5.Have the dream first, then write the plan; 

6.Once you articulate the dream, push yourself and others outside your comfort zone;

7.You don’t have to change that much, but ensure that the change is potent;

8.Do challenge the expectations of the people who hire you;

9.Learn to manage loss for yourselves and others; and

10. Be a little bit crazy. 


  • If you stand up for what you believe in it may come with a price;
  • Have courage to make changes;
  • Book: The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World by Ronald Heifetz   

Register your interest in next year's ThinkFM conference here.