In Practice

Karoo equips people to be influential leaders – for life.

Influential Leadership is exercised by choosing the right tools and then
applying them at each Leadership Moment;
this is ‘the practice‘ part.

We become skilled at iLeadership by doing it over and over and over…
Like all behavioural and action-based competencies
iLP capability is cultivated though life-long practice.

No matter what domain we find ourselves in at any moment – there is our practice ground.
This is what makes iLP a wall-to-wall capability.
It is of little value if we unpack our leadership capability
only at home, or work, or when it suits us.

Those who make the choice to lead become experts through learning and on-going practice.

If you really want to be world class
to be the best you can be –
it comes down to
preparation and practice.

Robin Sharma

Colin Donian - Karoo Influential Leadership
Practice is Imperative.

It is apparent that the mere exposure to a pile of literature on a particular discipline, whether accounting, medicine, plumbing, mountain biking, or iLeadership, does not result in practical expertise and excellence. Only after the interns, apprentices and novices are put through the rigours of real life conditions and practice are competence and excellence honed.

To be a competent iLeader requires constant and ongoing practice. Not only does one have to learn new behaviours, old ones have to be discarded.
Many of us have been culturalised and habituated in the old ways, and so learning new behaviours that militate against the old ways is difficult.

To reiterate, influential Leadership is an acquired skill, with a philosophical basis. Practicing iLP is the fulfilment of the learning process.

Being a successful iLeader may be the most challenging thing any of us does; it has been for me.

We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act,
but a habit.

Will Durant

The following sections illustrate the practice of iLP across a range of prominent social constructs.

Their prominence arises from their latent influential impact or put another way, their leverage power
because of the places and positions they hold in society.

Not all of us have the same scope and depth of inherent or latent leverage because of different social constructs we occupy.

For example:

  • As a ‘Citizen’ we choose to exercise influential Leadership in a diversity of places and times,
    from high-profile active citizenship endeavours, to how we interact with the person at the check-out counter in the retail store.
  • In a narrower context ‘Journalists’ or ‘Writers‘ have enormous leverage to manipulate, coerce, entice, entertain, mislead, and influence.
  • Similarly for ‘Political’ office holders who can use their public platforms for great collective social and economic benefit or enormous harm.

While the social domain list is not in any order of importance, it does follow the iLP principle that leadership starts within the individual,
and then radiates outwards.
Thus we start as ‘Citizens’ – the general coverall social construct, and then fan out from there into family life, work, play and elsewhere.


the country is the way it is, because the citizens are the way they are.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

In the context of Influential Leadership, being ‘a citizen’ implies some form of social association in and with a family, a street, a suburb, a community, a province, a country, a continent and the world; it is more than the conventional idea of country-only citizenship.
The social association of being ‘a citizen’ assumes rights and responsibilities among its members.

When each of us is born we arrive with a collection of ‘natural endowments’ that include things like: parents and family, language, race, gender, country, physical features and mental capacities. These are some of the ‘life-cards’ we are dealt; it is up to us to play them in the smartest way possible. They are the ‘cards’ we start with, but need not be the ‘hand’ we end up with if we make the most of them.

Influential Leaders are by implication active citizens; they create, reach out and take up leadership moments. Influential Leaders are active citizens that get involved, initiate change for the better, and lead such change in each social domain. They do not moan, and groan and complain about how things should be and what others should be doing or aren’t doing – they get up and do!

If your relationship, family, work-place, team, or country is not living up to your expectation, what are you doing about it?

Noam Chomsky has a great description of what is considered ‘active citizenship’.

In […] a functioning democracy, what would be happening is that popular organizations,
unions, political groupings, others would be developing their programs, putting them forth,
insisting that their representatives implement those programs.

Significant-other Relationship

The relationship with your emotional partner is one step away from your relationship with yourself;
it is at the base of being an iLeader.

People who have good relationships at home
are more effective in the marketplace.

Zig Ziglar

Boyfriend, girlfriend, betrothed, fiancée, husband, wife, life-partner…

A ‘significant-other relationship’ refers to a special (romantic) relationship someone has with another person at any one time.
Such relationships are called many things, from dating to engagements, marriages, life-partnerships and so forth. They all, however, involve two consenting people who have an emotional (romantic) bond that translates into certain roles, responsibilities and rights.

These relationships are the building blocks of families, which in turn support all other social domains.

After self-leadership, which is the internal place where leadership arises, our family and significant-other relationships are the next social spaces where we discover, learn and practice iLP.

If I cannot lead myself; if I do not exercise iLeadership
in my personal and family relationships,
can I lead elsewhere?

Adult | Parent | Guardian

An adult accepts they’re responsible for their behaviour, and the example they set.

Don’t worry that children never listen to you;
worry that they are always watching you.

Robert Fulghum

Parent, guardian, mother, father, grandparent… and sometimes a sibling.

An adult, parent or guardian is the person (persons) in a family or home setting who is responsible for those who are not yet able to assume full personal responsibility, in other words, normally a parent over not-yet adults.

In the real world there are many manifestations of those who play adult roles. I would care to suggest that a prominent characteristic of an adult (in the home) is the influence that such a person wields over the rest of the family, especially those who are not yet adults.

Dr Jennifer L. Tanner defines adults in a way that I find agreeable: …an adult is someone who-accepts responsibility, makes independent decisions, and becomes financially independent.

Home adults are the strategic fulcrum around which children’s lives are influenced most in their formative years, for better or worse.

There is perhaps no more responsible decision than to bear a child, and the subsequent role as a parent.


Parenting and family life are the primary influencers of how someone will be for their life. Dr Tanner puts it this way: …the first years of life are critical in terms of preparing you for early childhood, for school, and for the way you will experience adolescence. Similarly, the first years of adulthood, when you become the driver, navigating adult life for the very first time, are the very first steps of adulthood and they make a significant contribution to where you will go and how you will do.

Influential Leadership exercised by a home adult is perhaps the most powerful example of doing the right things.

Children are always watching…

Minor in the Home

Be thoughtful before you create a new life.

Do children have rights?
If so, do they have all the rights that adults have and do they have rights that adults do not have?

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Children, minors, and those who may be adults in age but like children need minding.

Like an adult, a child is an individual who has human rights and no one has owner’s rights over the child, this includes parents or guardians. Human rights apply to everyone, irrespective of age, gender, nationality or other characteristics. Thus, a child has mostly the same rights that adults have.

Children also have responsibilities, like adults do. A child’s rights end where the rights of another begin. Rights have limits and both children and adults must consider the rights of others when exercising their rights.

Rights and responsibilities go hand in hand.

Children can also be Influential Leaders for their Leadership Moments; not only among their peers but also towards parents and adults.

  • “Dad, why did you not stop at the red traffic light?”
  • “Mom, please strap me in before we drive off.”
  • “Granddad, why do you smoke if it says it is bad for you on the box?”
  • “Uncle Dan, my teacher says it is poor command of your language if you curse.”

[Thanks to the Estonian Chancellor of Justice for the above material.]


Start with being a friend to yourself, then you’ll know how to befriend others.

In criticism I will be bold, and as sternly, absolutely just with friend and foe.
From this purpose nothing shall turn me.

Edgar Allan Poe

A friend may be a school buddy, a neighbour, a partner, a husband, a wife, a child, a parent…

In the pre-digital age, friendship was defined by a particular kind of bond, connection,
relationship between two sentient beings.

In the age of instant ‘friendships’, perhaps we require a less classic definition than the one offered by the Roman play-write Plautus (254 – 184 BCE):

Friendship is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.

In social media, a friend is a person (maybe) who also has a SM account, some jazzed up images and a bunch of text taken from another account or secondary source, that also shares ‘information’ about their supposed lives… and who may be a friend of a friend of a friend…

However, I prefer the kinda irreverent take on life found in the Urban Dictionary (UD). The following (edited) post on the UD site is a more modern and fuller take on the notion than Plautus offers.

A friend is someone who not only doesn’t care if you’re ugly or boring
[or dress funny, or are different, or poorer, or richer, or smarter], but doesn’t even think about it;
someone who forgives you no matter what you do, and someone who tries to help you even when they don’t know how.
A friend is someone who tells you if you’re being stupid, but who doesn’t make you feel stupid.

The following five points are my take-outs of what a friend (not the SM kind) and a friendship include:

  • There is reciprocity in a friendship – it is two people who consider themselves as friends,
  • Friends have a sense of closeness, openness, freedom, lack of vulnerability, mutual respect and oneness,
  • Friends feel acceptance, and both take and offer criticism without judgement,
  • Friends believe that life is more meaningful through their friendship, that it is worth fighting for, and that differences and mistakes can be worked through and forgiven, and
  • Friends know that in some way their missing pieces are filled by the other, and they feel whole and more when they share life together.

Great friendships are also a function of effort and work, like any successful relationship or endeavour.

There are Leadership Moments between friends too, and these require unique management because of the special conditions that exist.
Although friends are a special kind of partnership, implying that they walk side by side, it it still necessary to exercise iLeadership when needed.

PS. I reckon humans and ‘non-humans’ can be friends too – they fulfill the criteria set out above.


We should always be learning, because there are always life-exams;
and if we are smart, we start with others’ knowledge.

A youth, a scholar, a student, young and old; everyone has the power to influence.

Hopefully we spend our life learning, but there are times when we are in the formality of learning as scholars, students and adult learners.

As is the case in each social domain, influential Leadership is never a one-way valve where age, or status, or role licenses someone to lead and another to be lead.

History is replete with examples of learners, youths, who faced Leadership Moments with great self-awareness, courage, hope, purpose and thought, and altered the course of history.

Learners, as individuals and as a social collective, have a particular iLP role as they inherit the world left by the previous generations. If they seek a different world, it is up to them to take the lead and make it better for themselves and those that follow.

Real learning is not that which qualifies you for a job,
but equips you for a meaningful and better life.


To teach is power, and that is why it’s more than what I say;
it is how I am.

The greatest teacher is within each of us; it is our example, it is what we do, all the time.

But, there is also the formality of being a teacher, educator, instructor, lecturer, tutor. The role of teacher is probably the next most powerful in formative influence after parenting. Teaching is unlike most other jobs, as suggested by the John Steinbeck quote above, because of the power it has in shaping young minds and behaviours.

John Wooden, a renowned sports coach, makes the point succinctly too:

I think the teaching profession contributes more to the future of our society than any other single profession.

Furthermore, whatever the teacher’s subject or discipline may be, it is perhaps secondary compared to what learners may take on board about mutual respect, human relationships, an appreciation for learning, the ingredients of success, professionalism, listening, fairness, and the exercise of Leadership.

I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists.
Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.

John Steinbeck

At Play

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.


I have tried to steer away from dictionary definitions in the social domain categories, but in this instance I yield to them.

To play is to engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose; to engage in [something] without proper seriousness or understanding; to participate in (a sporting match or contest) or compete against another team or player.

Play environments are loaded with Leadership Moments, and it is here where great leadership is often exercised. One thinks of amateur sports, whether team-based or individuals working together. Often there are leadership moments where life and death, winning or coming second, hinge on the right leadership decisions made under immense time pressure and the expectation of success.

I came across an intriguing article on the so-called seven traits shared by captains of great sports teams, that are insightful for ‘players’ in any play-environment, and also other social domains. (As stated elsewhere, there is no suggestion that captains equal leaders, but there are some behavioural attributes that inform ILP principles.)

  • Be relentless (i.e., persistent, determined, PURPOSEFUL);
  • Play to the limits of the rules (but stay within the rules – PRINCIPLED);
  • Doing the hard graft, the hard yards without glory – AUTHENTIC and COURAGEOUS;
  • Communicate by showing and doing (i.e., by example), and in an inclusive manner – in a DEMOCRATIC fashion;
  • Lead (motivate) by EXAMPLE (rather than through speeches);
  • Stand up for convictions, be PRINCIPLED; and
  • Emotions are kept in check (until later) – THOUGHTFUL.

Even when people at play consider themselves purely recreational (‘I am not competitive – I just do this for fun…’), there are still leadership moments that arise, both internal and social.

We don’t stop playing because we grow old;
we grow old because we stop playing.

George Bernard Shaw


I don’t have a job. I’m an entrepreneur.

According to Schumpeter, innovations are essential to explaining economic growth, and the “entrepreneur” is the central innovator.
As Schumpeter described in The Theory of Economic Development the entrepreneur’s main function is to allocate existing
resources to ‘new uses and new combinations’. One of Schumpeter’s most lasting contributions was his insistence
that entrepreneurship is at once a unique factor of production and the rare social input
that makes economic history evolve.

Karol Śledzik

What is an ‘entrepreneur‘?

An entrepreneur is a person that often sweats and bleeds, is an insomniac, has a thick skin, prefers the not-yet-used track, experiments, knows how to fail, fall and rise… and is only known and fêted once they have ‘made it’.

An entrepreneur is a person who recognises that there may be a smarter way to do (make, build, develop, process, show, market, write) something that has market potential and goes about innovating the solution into a commercially successful outcome (not always at the first attempt, mind you).

An entrepreneur is not necessarily an inventor and they may not start a small business. An entrepreneur is unlikely to be a small- or micro-business start-up (owner) who is forced to be such to fend for themselves out of economic necessity, although they may become entrepreneurial out of such conditions.

In the digital age the millions of poor who exist under the dead-weight of no or irrelevant education and skills are unlikely to be innovators or inventors or entrepreneurs that can evolve their micro-businesses into commercial pace-setters; sadly.

People who are regarded as successful (entrepreneurs), often measured by the wealth they accumulate, have been studied and examined endlessly to distill a possible recipe, but to no avail.

I am unsure whether most entrepreneurs afford themselves that mantle when they set off on their journeys, but it seems easy after the fact to label them as such! However, many of us who do work as self-declared entrepreneurs have a role model, and ideas about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

I rather fancy the way Josh Dunlop states this in thee introduction to his piece, 30 Most Influential Entrepreneurs of All Time.

‘I want to be the next Richard Branson’. We define them as success[ful] and role models for who we want to be… One thing that most of these people have in common is the fact that they all worked really hard... we all have our own opinions on who should be top dog, such as Richard Branson, who inspired me the most to start my business.

It seems to me that the only common item that solicits no argument is working hard. And, this is the one element that is so challenging for most of us; we’re seemingly wired for short-cuts.

There are such strong elements of Influential Leadership in entrepreneurship, both in the types of attributes, but also the outcomes that are achieved – making the world a better place for more people. Entrepreneurs are, at least:

  • Courageous,
  • Hopeful,
  • Purposeful,
  • Questioning, and
  • Thoughtful.


I sell my capability for a fair wage; I work with you, not for you; and you never own me.
I cannot contract to be enslaved, neither in body nor in mind, thus I can have no slave-master.

An employee, a worker by another name, is a person (mind you) who is paid by an employer to contribute to the objectives of the business, enterprise or agency (or government).*

Employees have responsibilities and rights, both general, and specific ones that are related to their particular roles and functions.

By definition, an employee cannot be a slave, even if there is a tendency in some organisations to tolerate dictatorial bosses or nurture an institutional culture of authoritarianism.

Employees must and should be leaders too. Any boss or organisation that does not enable (empower) employees to be leaders is simply being inefficient as they do not effectively use their human resources to the fullest. Employees are more than their mind and muscle.

We are reminded of the NASA janitor who was ‘putting a man on the moon’ as the epitome of worker leadership.

*For the sake of simplicity, those who work for government entities and agencies are also included here as employees or workers, rather than being referred to as civil or public servants.

Where there is a worker, there lies a nation.

Evita Peron

‘Boss’ / Manager

The example of the boss is the behaviour of the workers.

While the term ‘boss’ feels like a relic; a pejorative term signifying authoritarianism, it need not be so. Despite some managers still behaving like 1950’s bosses, it should be seen as a generic name for the ‘person in charge’ – from the supervisor to the CEO and President.

Every effective institution has some hierarchy, however flat or steep, informal or formal. Reporting lines run from workers / employees to supervisors, managers, executives, directors, CEOs, chairmen and presidents. These layers of ‘bosses’ ensure effective work happens, give direction, create and interpret strategic direction, have conversations back down the line, and are individually and collectively accountable for overall organisational performance.

Bosses have enormous positional and institutional power, and are thus uniquely placed to apply Influential Leadership with great impact. Large organisations have immense leverage over the lives of staff, customers, and stakeholders, and for the general economy, society and polity.

While everyone faces leadership moments across all their social domains, their sizes and impacts are not equivalent. For example, the leadership moment faced by a CEO (and their team) to take a large multinational business in a new direction, or keeping it on the same tack, is very different in scale to my at-home moment.

Thus, a person with decision-making powers over the lives and futures of masses of people, and economies and societies, is required to be a highly practiced and skilled Influential Leader.

Bosses and managers, decision-makers at all levels, whether in the private sector, non-governmental organisations, multilateral institutions or the public sector have the greatest potential to make the right decisions in their leadership moments if they are expert Influential Leaders, and for this they need to learn and practice.

People ask the difference between a leader and a boss.
The leader leads, and the boss drives.

Theodore Roosevelt

Journalist / Writer

The keyboard and the internet connect everyone; it is the power of the pen multiplied a billion-fold.

A journalist (and maybe a ‘writer’) is another role that enjoys considerable leverage to influence people. Journalists hold the pen that is more powerful than a sword.

Because of the power of journalism it is recognised as one of the fundamental checks and balances in the functioning of democratic societies; above all other jobs or vocations it has the role of restraining power and the powerful, especially governments and large corporations. Restraint is exercised through public communication of the truth of events and situations and decisions.

The primary stakeholder of journalism is society, not media owners, not shareholders, not governments, and not advertisers.

The people, citizens, are supreme says Helen Thomas:

We don’t go into journalism to be popular. It is our job to seek the truth and put constant pressure on our leaders until we get answers.

In the age of instant global person-to-person communications there can be billions of views on any matter, shared and aggregated and then disaggregated again. Everyone can be a news-carrier (a story-perpetuator) and a writer, and each one has the capacity to influence everyone.

However, there are those who enter a vocation, a trade, a profession – who write for money, who earn a living from their work (even if they have some underlying social motivation). There is an expectation that these economic agents will bring a set of professional principles to their work; they are remunerated for their work and can justifiably be held to a different measure than the frivolous rest, perhaps unjustifiably called ‘citizen journalists’. (How would we think about ‘citizen’ medical doctors, or lawyers or pilots? Their capacity to do harm is limited compared to the unprofessional pen.)

Embodied in the title of journalist, combined with the distribution platforms they service, is enormous influential power. And, like every person or occasion that enjoys great power, there is even greater obligation for responsibility. If they are merely purveyors of fakeness then they stumble.

Thus, in the sphere of Influential Leadership there is a particular role for those who choose to occupy this space.

Journalists should be a key ingredient in keeping civilization safe, and free and moving forwards. Andrew Vachss, an author and lawyer, puts the matter succinctly as follows:

Journalism is what maintains democracy. It is the force for progressive social change.

The principles and attributes of Influential Leadership are invaluable references for each leadership moment that a journalist faces.

I am deeply interested in the progress and elevation of journalism, having spent my
life in that profession, regarding it as a noble profession and one of unequaled
importance for its influence upon the minds
[…] of the people.

Joseph Pulitzer


What does it say about us, that we scoff at the people we elect as our representatives?

It is with neither malice nor disrespect towards the subjects of this social group that I remind us what Aristophanes (Athenian. 448 – 380 BCE) had to say about political representatives three thousand years ago:

Characteristics of a popular politician:
a horrible voice, bad breeding, and a vulgar manner.

I hold up a mirror. There are many modern-day examples, across the globe. Little has changed.

If anyone is to be held responsible that, for over 2,500 years, we’ve been mislead by scoundrels,
it is us – the electorate.

Since the beginning of humanity those who have lorded over us, or that we have elected, have seldom been people of good standing, showing integrity, being honourable and servants of the people.

One of the greatest leadership deficits, listening to citizenry across time and place,
is ‘political leadership‘ of the influential kind.

While I choose not to contemplate the notion of ‘political leaders / ship‘, I understand the sentiments people express. These words are simply incorrectly conjoined.
A politician may exercise iLP behaviours when dealing with Leadership Moments, but he or she cannot be a leader by
dint of their role or position, as is the case with any other domains.

Does it forever more have to be so, that through our apathy, and poor choices we get representatives we don’t want,
don’t like and end up ridiculing? No, surely not.

(As an aside, there are almost always citizens who support these rogues; out of ignorance or fear, or misguided loyalty or as beneficiaries of their larceny.)

Politicians probably have more positional power than any other social group. They face enormous Leadership Moments that cover:

  • Peace or vainglorious War;
  • The fight against ignorance, and indignity or the subjugation of millions to perpetual poverty; and
  • Serving the citizens they represent, especially the most vulnerable, or serving themselves.

I agree with what seems to have been stated by Charles de Gaulle, that, ‘Politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.’ However, this implies that every citizen has a responsibility to involve themselves in the politics of their community and country, from the people who represent them to the decisions they make.

We must expect and insistent that politicians conscientiously exercise Influential leadership at every leadership moment, and when they do not, to make them accountable for any harm they may cause.

If we fail in this, we have not exercised our own Influential Leadership, and we have ourselves to blame.

In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’
All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass
of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.

George Orwell

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