Searching for Blue Leaders: Leadership in the Era of Uncertainty and  Permanent Turbulent Change

Searching for Blue Leaders: Leadership in the Era of Uncertainty and Permanent Turbulent Change

The “Blue Leader” is at least 90 years in the making. The literature and research on leadership has spawn thousands of books and articles, with many prescribing models explaining inadequate and uninspired leadership, yet offering alternative deficient models for leadership effectiveness.

There are many different definitions and perspectives of leadership. Leadership has been described variously by the essential characteristics or traits of leaders, by the processes of leadership behavior, by their task vs relationship focus, by the outcomes or impact of their task achievements, and by their adaptive responses to changing contextual variables. And then some. 

Leadership models are often constructed by pointing to exceptionally talented and knowledgeable leaders who build lasting organisations and highly profitable businesses. Sadly, attempts to emulate such exemplary leaders often fail to yield comparable outcomes for the imitators of such leaders. 

The truth is that a leader does not actually have any special power over others in his sphere of influence. Power is an illusion. A leader’s ability to persuade and command the desired actions by his followers comes from his deep conviction of the goals and mission direction of his vision. The leader develops the necessary commitment for a consensus of willingness and risk acceptance to act. Most leadership skills are in fact learnt. The abilities in the leadership capacity to perform leadership tasks can be found in nearly everyone to a matter of degree. The key lies in a holistic understanding of leadership.   

The “Blue Leader” emerges from the mountain of literature on leadership, strategy, human capital management, social responsibility and business excellence. Sightings of Blue Leaders have been regularly made in the news, in numerous consulting assignments, in clients and people met during networking meetings resulting from knowing the evidence indicative of Blue Leaders. Blue leaders are ubiquitous. You just need to know what to look for to identify them.

Over a series of postings, I will share this discovery of Blue Leadership that is widely and openly manifested around us. Blue leadership is the emergent leadership that is better aligned and aptly conducive to this era of uncertainty and permanent turbulent change. 

4 Passions of Blue Leaders

Unlike most leaders who are reactionary in their response to issues and often based their decision-making on gut-feelings, legacy experience and imitating others, the Blue Leader live and act in accordance with a conscious philosophy or personal ideology dominated by four passions, namely strategy, service, people and performance.  

The 4 passions are characterized by some or most of the values and orientations commonly associated respectively with each passion, as in the following:

Passions and Orientations of The Blue Leader

A passion is a preferential attitude of determination, and may be regarded as an intense, almost obsessive, belief in something, a purpose or cause, which produces a great deal of satisfaction and self-actualising sense of fulfilment in their accomplishments.  The active essence of leadership is found in the mind.  For the Blue Leader, this is located in his 4 passions.  

Blue Leaders’ passions focus his orientations towards the desired impactful outcomes obtained in goal attainment. The 4 passions are integrated by unique personal values, and transcribed into the appropriate behaviors and translated into natural instinctive self-directed social action.  Blue Leadership actions are therefore purposeful, driven by the conscious values of his passionate orientations towards his goals. 

The variable combinations of his passions in decision-making provide the “sense” for his decisions and executive actions.  The Blue Leader is a continuous experiential learner.  The Blue Leader constantly reflects on his worldly experience to construct and re-construct new social realities that maintain alignment with his consummate passions.  For the Blue Leader, what is most important about any event or phenomenon is not what has happened, but what it means. 

The Blue Leader derives meaning by using his passions and their orientations to provide a consistent sense-making worldview to empower conscious reality-learning through “knowing what I think when I see what I say”.

The Way (Tao) of Blue Leadership

The mind of the Blue Leader produces a single-minded discipline akin to that commonly found in professional sportsmen and warriors.  Like them, the Blue Leader navigates his life dedicated to his characteristic “Way” or “The Tao”.   The Blue Way (or Blue Tao) provides a sense of order and direction which informs the application of disciplined actions in a playbook of 9 action pathways.  The 9 Blue Pathways are showed in:

9 Pathways of Blue Leadership

Blue Strategy

Blue Leadership drives Blue Strategy.  Activities and efforts within the 9 Pathways such as strategic management, culture-building, social responsibility, organisational development and human capital management made sense only when understood within the broader context of Blue Leadership.  While leadership at any time is difficult, it has become more challenging in an era where Blue Leaders find themselves in dynamic environments which are fraught with uncertainty and permanent turbulent change.

The Blue Strategy is different from prescribed strategies in the literature.  Blue strategies are one and forever formless, like water.  To paraphrase Sun Tzu, the master strategist: Just as water retains no constant shape, so Blue Strategies also have no constant forms or conditions.  

The Blue Strategy therefore shapes its course like the formlessness and fluidity of water according to the nature of the marketplace terrain over which it encounters other players.  The 9 action pathways in fact provide the channels for strategic moves in the execution of strategy by Blue Leaders.  Blue Strategists compete with no particular competitor in the marketplace which he creates with value-laden alternative products and services.

A 6-Step Blue Strategy Formulation process empowers the Blue Leader to create exceptional marketplace victory without engaging in competitive actions. 

The Blue Leadership difference in organisations today shall determine their success and survival, or failure and oblivion.

Sightings of Blue Leaders

Have you encountered any Blue Leader?  The Blue Leader can be spotted by the following behaviors:

  • He constantly demonstrates all 4 passions in his decisions and actions.
  • He is conscious of the ideology and personal values driving his passions.
  • He is a continuous learner and encourages his people to be one.
  • He is dedicated to decisions and actions across all 9 pathways.
  • He promotes and executes the Blue Strategy to be “Different from the Rest”.
  • He develops everyone to become a Blue Leader.

Please share your comments & Blue Leaders sightings in TIA.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

The Passions of Blue Leaders And their Orientations

The Passions of Blue Leaders And their Orientations

I retired from the corporate world at 29. Here’s why and how I did it

I retired from the corporate world at 29. Here’s why and how I did it