Bookmarked BDFxing, Or Post-Charismatic Distributed Leadership by Venkatesh RaoVenkatesh Rao (

One such pattern I strongly recommend you understand and cultivate in your org if you don’t already is the BDFx, or Benevolent Dictator for x, pattern, where x is a time period between an hour or a year or so. The limits vary by context. In various orgs I’m in, it tends to be days to months.

Source: BDFxing, Or Post-Charismatic Distributed Leadership by Venkatesh Rao

It stands for Benevolent Dictator for _x,_ where _x_ is a time period between an hour (a meeting) to about a year. Happily it could also stand for _eXecution_, since usually it is execution needs that create leadership needs.

Source: Four Modes of BDFxing by Venkatesh Rao

Venkatesh Rao unpacks the idea of BDFx style leadership. For Rao, most leaders are engaged in ‘leadering’, rather than actual leadership.

You see, actual leadership is a thankless job even when you’re motivated by, and being rewarded with, great wealth (stock etc), power, and fame (being US President, a Hollywood producer, etc). As I’ve argued before (in a 2015 post) most leaders motivated by those things don’t actually lead. Instead they indulge in a theatrical grifter activity I call leadering, which delivers the rewards without requiring them to deal with the responsibilities.

Source: BDFxing, Or Post-Charismatic Distributed Leadership by Venkatesh Rao

Continuing with the critique of traditional leadership, Rao explains that the most problematic style is Charismatic leadership.

It’s not that charismatic leadership used to work and has now stopped working. It’s basically never worked, but it was possible to hide the fact near-perfectly in a broadcast world, got harder in a social media age, and is now basically impossible in an AI/decentralization age. The myth-making narrative apparatus that charismatic leadership relied on now produces threadbare plots with cartoon characters only cartoon people can believe in, at best. At worst it falls apart completely, often revealing pits of depravity beneath the myths.

Source: BDFxing, Or Post-Charismatic Distributed Leadership by Venkatesh Rao

He explains how as a model, BDFxing is time-boxed distributed leadership, which helps foster leaders-in-waiting.

BDFxing is a leadership model that is self-consciously time-boxed to be within the limits of human endurance, morality, decency, and fallibility. I previously argued that CEOs don’t steer, but provide high-momentum, orientation-locked dead reckoning in a stable direction. That when a leader turns out to be wrong, the right move is usually not for them to steer and course correct, but to step back and yield to someone else whose sense of direction seems better for the changed circumstances. Which means the culture has to foster lots of leaders-in-waiting at all levels, ready to step up. BDFxing turns this idea into a high-frequency design pattern.

Source: BDFxing, Or Post-Charismatic Distributed Leadership by Venkatesh Rao

In a follow post, Rao unpacks four flavours of BDFxing:

  • Launch Boss – high-stakes, high-energy
  • Lightning Conductor – high-stakes, low-energy
  • Landscaper – low-stakes, low-energy
  • Ringleader – low-stakes, high-energy

He suggestions that everybody should try the different modes and find what is right for them.

Everybody should try their hand at all four kinds of BDFxing, and figure out what they’re best at. And then do it for the things they are involved in to the degree it is fun. If nobody has enough fun doing the BDFxing to supply the leadership of the activity, the activity should probably just be abandoned. A leadership deficit that’s fixed by coercive force and misery poisons the activity and the outcome.

Source: Four Modes of BDFxing by Venkatesh Rao

Bookmarked A Culture of Thinking for Teachers (

It turns out that that we can’t teach people to think after all, but we can enculturate the dispositions which enable thinking. Educators who succeed in developing a culture of thinking value the process of learning over the product of learning; they seek deeper learning rather than just the acquisition of knowledge. Leadership of this pedagogical approach requires patience, and valuing, respecting, and trusting people. Leadership matters immensely and models that this is not “flavour of the month”, it is who we are, and it is what we are about. It requires an invitational approach. An invitation is extraordinarily powerful. Invite people into change instead of telling them what they need to change.

Cameron Paterson shares reflections from his Churchill Trust exploring the leadership of difficult pedagogical change in schools. Some of his findings include listening to those hesitant into clarity, persist beyond the first failure, be curious and make people feel seen and heard.

Discussing the place of visible thinking, Paterson talks about the importance of culture.

Learning happens when students connect with ideas, when they ask questions, and create meaning with our guidance and support. A culture of thinking sends a message to students that thinking is valued and infused in the fabric of the classroom

Classroom culture sends messages about what learning is and how it happens. Understanding this process and how teachers might more directly influence it, as well as having the language to talk about classroom culture, helps to demystifying teaching.

Personally, I wonder what a culture of thinking might look like outside of the classroom? I think I appreciate what this looks like within the classroom and understand how we might foster a culture of thinking and inquiry outside of the classroom, but what does a ‘culture of thinking’ look like when it comes to mandated and mundane professional development? As someone who supports schools with things like timetables and reporting, what does a culture of thinking look like there?

Bookmarked Leading schools in lockdown: Compassion, community and communication by Fiona Longmuir (

Last year, I spoke with eight school leaders in Melbourne during the lengthy lockdown periods in 2020. This research showed how the circumstances of uncertainty and disruption to normal modes of practice influenced their work.

Fiona Longmuir explores the challenges associated with leading during Melbourne’s long lockdown in 2020. After reflecting on the responses, she identified how the crisis strengthened their communities, pretty good decision in time (that might need later adjustment) was better than waiting too long, and the feeling of being heard as important as fixing problems.

It is interesting to read this alongside Alma Harris and Michelle Jones’ discussion of school leadership in disruptive times, as well as Simon Breakspear’s discussion of building back better. I also wonder what the responses would be now? Would it be any different?

Bookmarked The Middle Leader Manifesto: What 160 Leaders Say Matters | notosh by Ewan McIntosh (notosh)

Leading from the Middle is essential for any organisation, particularly in the complex world of education. This is a manifesto that describes the key promises we need to keep.

Ewan McIntosh identifies what it takes to grow a middle leader. This includes making your ideas small, referencing data, support the collective, encourage serendipity, get stuff done, revisiting the scrapheap and communicating in many ways. In some ways, this reminds me of a piece I wrote about being made an ICT Co-ordinator a few years ago.
Bookmarked What Good Leaders Do When Replacing Bad Leaders (

Humans are built to move on and once they feel truly understood they often move on of their own accord. This can’t be rushed, but if you give them a vision of what “could be” most people will gladly leave the past behind. You can’t force people to move on, but you can show them that things will be different by listening and taking their hard-earned lessons to heart.

Andrew Blum provides three strategies for dealing with the transition between leaders:

  1. Acknowledge the contributions of the previous leader
  2. Enable a vision for the future by creating a space for forgiveness
  3. Seek to understand your employees’ experiences
Bookmarked The rise and rise of Australian cricket’s mastermind by Adam Burnett & Louis CameronAdam Burnett & Louis Cameron (

Across three decades in various top coaching jobs, Greg Shipperd has quietly impacted the men’s game in this country as much as just about anyone in the modern era. And he’s not done yet

Adam Burnett and Louis Cameron unpack the life and times of cricket coach, Greg Shipperd. They trace his beginnings with Tasmania, his time with Victoria, before plying his time these days with 20/20 cricket. His success is attributed to his ability to build relationships:

“The reason everyone loved him was because he was empathetic,” he says. “Some coaches treat their players as commodities; he treated them as humans.”

Associated with this, is his meticulous preparation so that players are empowered to be the best that they can:

so the messaging arrives via different mediums, each time reflecting the unique challenges of that match, but always delivered with the same intent: to provide the best preparation for his team.

Beyond the endless files of scenarios he has stored up over time, a glimpse into his preparation is provided:

Hussey and White recall their coach’s habit of preparing three whiteboards before a match, each teeming with accumulated knowledge. The first would have the 11 opposition players listed, with their strengths and weaknesses condensed into a single line next to their name. The second would have Victoria’s 11 players listed, together with their batting and bowling strategies. And a third whiteboard would have the team’s goals for the match, details on how the pitch was playing, the quality of the outfield, a session-by-session breakdown from the match as it unfolded, and so on.

With a foundation of relationships and preparation, Shepperd has shown that he is able to adjust to the particulars of any organisation.

The trick, Shipperd explains, is to tailor one’s approach to the needs of both the playing group and the organisation. In Tasmania through the 1990s, a young squad (and a relatively new addition to the competition) learning to consistently compete demanded a focus on fundamentals and selection. Later, Victoria, Melbourne Stars (with whom, Shipperd muses, things might have been different had he been given “just one more year”) and the Sixers all set their focus on regularly claiming silverware.

This reminded me of the Modern Learning Canvas and had me wondering about what story might be told from looking at Shepperds’ various teams from this perspective.

As side note, often the testament to a successful coach is how many pleayers/assistant coaches follow in the footsteps and become coaches themselves. For Shipperd this list too is continually growing.

Listened 039: Resilience, Integrity & Leadership with Test Cricketer of the Year Pat Cummins from
Although Cricket is a relatively individual sport, I wonder if some benefit more than others under Justin Langer’s tutelage and that marks the difference between success and leadership?

Watched One Plus One: Justin Langer from ABC

Justin Langer took over as the coach of the Australian cricket team after the sandpaper crisis shook the game to its core. The former player tells Barrie Cassidy about the steps he and the team have taken to rebuild the trust, respect, and integrity of the team.

Barrie Cassidy speaks to Justin Langer about leadership in times of adversity. Challenged with bringing the Australian team back from the sandpaper scandal, Langer explains that what matters are the everyday behaviours we set as it is these actions which create and define the culture. Some other interesting points made were:

  • Talk excellence, walk mediocracy, you are a common liar
  • Look to where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go
  • If you just hang in there, you never know what might happen
  • As a coach, you have to care about the players, therefore this is often the first question that must be considered

Some other episodes that I watched included interviews with Dr. Norman Swan, Mark Humphries and Jon Faine.

Listened Justin Langer from LESSONS LEARNT WITH THE GREATS
Former Australian batsman and current Aussie head coach Justin Langer is this week’s guest on Lessons Learnt with the Greats. I was lucky enough to play a few Tests with JL, one of Australia’s toughest, most resilient and focused cricketers ever. In our chat, JL talks on a wide range of topics from mental toughness to meditation, batting techniques to training his body, who has inspired him to his life philosophies. It’s an enlightening conversation and I hope you enjoy his amazing insights.
Episode notes
02:00 – JL starts by telling a terrific story about his breakthrough hundred in the 5th Ashes Test of the 2001 series and how it changed him
11:08 – JL takes us through his mental approach
14:54 – We touch on mediation and how JL discovered it
21:20 – JL’s batting mindset
33:54 – We explore JL’s batting technique and what worked for him
36:55 – JL discusses his fitness regime
49:22 – JL’s mantra when he suffers setbacks
52:23 – JL’s reflects on his coaching career
59:57 – How JL treats the media
1:05:22 – JL talks finance and investment
1:08:28 – The people who have influenced JL
Justin Langer talks about his journeys and some of the lessons learnt along the way, such as learning to let go, meditating and thinking like a CEO.

My three takeaways from this chat were to:

  • Watch the ball, remember to ground yourself on what matters.
  • Great leadership comes with great narrative.
  • Focus on goals not outcomes.

This has me thinking about reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits.

RSVPed Attending DLTV Talks Leadership Session 1 Steve Brophy

In this workshop, Steve Brophy asks important questions then provides an avenue of ideas for a way forward due to the increased workload the pandemic has wrought on leaders. How do we as leaders lead when we ourselves are struggling to deal with the bandwidth overload that is our current existence? In this interactive webinar, learn practices and frameworks that will enable you to build a robust toolkit for thriving in tumultuous times.

  1. Putting on your own oxygen mask first: A personal survival toolkit designed to decode your body and enable optimal performance
  2. Counteracting screentime: Using nature to balance the scales
  3. Making sense when nothing makes sense – Frameworks for navigating complexity

One of the points that really stood out to me was:

Human beings need stress, they just can’t live with perpetual stress.

Liked Educators: Being better together (

Leadership is not a position, but behaviour, action, a way of being. Focusing on the practices of leading is something I explored in my recently-published chapter ‘Being, becoming and questioning the school leader:  An autoethnographic exploration of a woman in the middle’ in the edited book Theorising identity and subjectivity in educational leadership researchI wrote the following.

“A focus on leading over the leader allows the work of leading to be considered beyond the domain of autonomous individuals, focusing instead on ways of leading throughout organisations (Grice, 2018; Wilkinson & Kemmis, 2015). This enables a focus on the doing of leadership rather than on being a leader. … Considering leadership as practice rather than person encompasses the deliberate choices of anyone participating in the act of leading; it opens up leadership theorising beyond the individual or the principal to anyone behaving in leaderly ways.” (Netolicky, 2020, p.105)

Bookmarked Yes! and … How to be effective in the theatre of work (

I recently read the book Impro – Improvisation and the Theatre by Keith Johnstone
I loved the book and as Venkatesh said ‘it is a textbook that teaches you how to see the world differently.’ so consider it recommended.. It’s a delightful book all about improvisational theatre and importantly how to teach improvisational theatre.

The book inspired me to draw many analogies between the improv actor and the consultant.

Inspired by Keith Johnstone’s Impro – Improvisation and the Theatre, Tom Critchlow explores the analogies between the improv actor and the consultant in four five posts:

  1. The Office is a Theatre for Work
  2. Optimism as an Operating System
  3. Generative Strategy
  4. Status Switching
  5. The Contrary Consultant

In the first post, Critchlow discusses the challenges associated with working as a consultant compared to somebody on staff. He suggests that the consultant is akin to an improv actor, forced to find ways to fit in at every opportunity. A part of this is associated with spreading ideas informally through the use of the client’s language, defending ideas not points and focusing on outcomes not debates.

In the second post, Critchlow explores the first challenge, to be a pleasure to work with. This comes in a number of ways, including providing routine solutions, balancing between front and back-stage, and creating a level of optimism.

I love this quote: “a problem is a point between two complex systems”

So, to reframe our initial statement about problems – the key when engaging clients is not to hunt for problems but to hunt for systems. (source)

In the third post, Critchlow talks about the use of the co-creation process to build on top of the ideas of others. This all comes back to capacity building, rather than problem solving.

Problem Solving vs. Capacity Building

A useful strategy is to interrupt routines from within.

the better way to interrupt routines is via a thorough understanding of existing workflows, processes and routines I’m reminded of the phrase amatuers talk strategy, experts talk logistics here. Most new capacities relate to an existing routine either directly or indirectly and the job of the consultant is to map the organization effectively to understand where and how we can interrupt to build new routines.(source)

In the forth post, Critchlow discusses the difference between topology and topography within an organisation. This includes the different forms of localised power, whether it be decision makers, gatekeepers and makers. The consultant exists outside of this.

I like to imagine the consultant as a quantum structure on top of a classical map (the org chart). While the map is fixed and tangible, the quantum structure behaves strangely and has bizarre properties like non-locality. This non-locality of the consultant brings with it an uncertainty with regards to power structures.(source)

Instead a consultant engages in fast status switching.

In the fifth post, Critchlow unpacks the power of the fool. He reflects on how you respond to a clients answers, the fine line of speaking truth to power and engaging in the disruptive act of fitting in.

It needs to be noted, playing the fool is about generative destruction not defensive destruction.

I found this a really useful series in thinking about how I work with different schools, adjusting to each as I go.

Liked Principals plead for better treatment post-pandemic (The Age)

“I’d really like society to understand now more than ever that we are not babysitters. We know education, we know teaching and learning and we need to be valued like other professions that have that degree of knowledge and skill,” she said.

“I wish everyone could see what I see with my staff behind the scenes, I think that would change their minds about how we’re treated and how we treat educators.”

Bookmarked What Should Leadership Development Look Like? by Peter DeWitt (

With increasing demands comes increasing gaps in learning. It is too easy to ignore issues where we do not feel confident. In fact, Bandura found, “When faced with obstacles, setbacks, and failures, those who doubt their capabilities slacken their efforts, give up, or settle for mediocre solutions. Those who have a strong belief in the capabilities redouble their effort to master the challenge.” We need to find a different way to help prepare leaders, those with the degree and those without, for the changing face of education and help support their lack of confidence (self-efficacy) in a way that will turn it from a weakness to a strength.

In the transition from a focus on management to instructional leadership, Peter DeWitt discusses some of the gaps and challenges faced by modern leaders. These include the lack of preparation, challenge of equity and a pathway to leadership via discipline, rather than learning. DeWitt suggests the professional development associated with leadership needs to be a blend of research and practice.
Replied to Decision-making and ambiguity by Doug BelshawDoug Belshaw (

Instead of hierarchy or unspoken assumptions, progress happens by following a path between over-specifying the approach, and allowing chaos to ensue.

In practice, this often happens by one or a small number of people exerting moral authority on the group. This occurs through, for example:

  • Successfully having done this kind of thing before
  • Being very organised and diligent
  • Having the kind of personality that put everyone at ease
Doug, I really liked your point about progress through balance and negotiation. I am not sure if it was written in response to my question, if so, thank you.

As a side note, is the military always ‘hierarchical’?

Hierarchies are a form of organising that can work well in many situations. For example, high-stakes situations, times when execution is more important than thought, and the military.

David Marquet’s Greatness makes the argument that there is nobody on a submarine who is across everything, otherwise it would not work.

I wonder if instead organisations like military run a dual-operating system?

Liked How To Recover from Post-Toxic-Boss Syndrome and Get Your Mojo Back (Medium)

Toxic bosses don’t want leaders working for them. They want servants. Any leadership potential or tendencies were squashed by your former boss because those characteristics were threats to his or her power. So whenever you showed some initiative or tried to take charge of something, you were told you were stupid, or completely wrong, or that you lacked the perspective that people in real positions of power had. All in an attempt to make you subservient, to make you question yourself, to make you stay in your lane and just do what your boss was telling you to do.

Great bosses, on the other hand, want other leaders working for them. They want to help develop our leadership skills, help coach us into bigger responsibilities, help us spread our wings.

Replied to Confidence and Competence (

Confidence feeds competence, which feeds confidence…

I really like your point about competence feeding confidence feeding competence, but I feel like you are missing an aspect to your story. To me, confidence and competence come from having a mentor or model, someone who instills a sense of confidence to stretch your competence. I think this is one of the challenges when we talk about developing educational leaders for tomorrow, it can be hard to build both confidence and competence when venturing into the unknown.