Mary: In this issue of Authoritti5.0, the focus is on your leadership voice, and there is no other person on this planet who can talk about this topic with such conviction and passion better than Rohan Dredge, who is a master of his craft. For the past two decades, Rohan has developed leaders, cultures, and tribes that work at deep levels of connection and strong levels of execution. He specializes in sustainable and high-performing cultures that specifically help technical experts become people leaders. He is an author and co-founder of his very successful podcast “For Leaders” and a sought- after speaker. And today I have the honor of interviewing him.
Mary: I think we met end of last year, when you and Mike Hardie interviewed me on your podcast and I was immediately struck by how present you were, Rohan! You’re all in, your eyes are on the subject matter, and I found that so incredibly delicious. I very rarely see this in professionals like you, especially because we live in a world of instant gratification. I absolutely loved that about you. And I wanted to start this conversation to acknowledge you on that. But before we dive into your genius zone, let’s unpack Rohan first. Tell us your story and why it has led you to do the work that you do today.
Rohan: I remember my younger brother, Chris, reading an assessment report that I did when I was trying to choose my subjects for year 11. This was a long time ago, by the way, and it said that “Rohan is going to be in his ideal place if he’s working in environments where he’s actually developing people.” This will make sense to people who know me and get to know me because I’ve never been backward in coming forward about my opinion. But really the seeds were sown back in the day to actually see people develop, grow, and transform. Now that started my professional life as a high school teacher, and I am still to this day really excited about it. I still am in touch with some of the students I had in year eight and year nine.
In fact, I’m doing some work for some of them, and they’ve gone on to really wonderful levels of leadership in their own lives. I did two decades of work in the not-for-profit faith- based space. And in the early 2000s, I started my own corporate practice. Now what’s connected about all those things is that every single one of them is actually about people getting better as people and as people who were doing a particular role or a particular assignment at that time.
And I have to say, I’m one of those people who’s loved every one of their careers. I never left a career because I didn’t like it or because I was bad at it. Of course, there are occasions where you do hit a wall where you realize that you’ve got some limitations, and you need to navigate through them. But I’ve always been somebody who’s loved that deep, deep passion of seeing other people succeed. Now I will never say that I’m perfect at it. I will never say that I’ve got it down. I never say to people, this is the answer. I really love that idea of people’s mindsets and skillsets improving. And that’s what I spend my time doing now as a leadership consultant, coach, and mentor.
Mary: It’s amazing how, when you connect all the dots, things just make sense. It’s like you’re meant to be doing what you’re doing right now. There’s no other vocation for you, except what it is that you do, which is amazing. So, Rohan, you are pretty devoted to your faith and spirituality. And I love that about you because there’s a huge discipline and power that you acquire when you start to understand and connect with a much higher power than yourself as a physical being, and understand how to use that invisible line. This knowing has served me very well. I know it’s also served you very well, but to truly understand how to design the life, one must understand the meaning of the ego self, the emotional self, the spiritual self. So how do those three aspects of you get you connected to your true self, which clearly has had a huge impact in your success and how you work with clients today?
Rohan: Thank you for bringing that up. I think the idea of inviting a spirituality in whatever sense our listeners experienced is a really important part of it. So for me, I come from the background of the Christian faith. It’s been a personal decision and, shall we say, a pilgrimage on that level as well.
As I’ve matured in my understanding of what it means for me to be a Christian, it’s impacted a couple of different things. It impacts the way I see people. A number of years ago, I worked with a Catholic client who used this beautiful phrase called “the dignity of the human person.” And I think that was a really wonderful way of saying everybody has value.
Everybody has purpose in their life. Irrespective of whether we share the same faith construct or the same view of the world, every single person I come into contact with, lay eyes on, or work with is valuable, is important, is significant, and has purpose, and ought to be seen by me as dignified as possible. My fundamental belief is that people are valuable, they’re worthwhile, they have dignity, and that in caring and leaning into and being present with them, we can actually see their worlds and lives improve.
I also think it’s personal. I actually have a very deep commitment to the idea of purpose, to the idea of what my contribution is to the planet that if I don’t do it, there might be a gap.
There might be something that somebody misses out on because I don’t step up in courage, I don’t step up in humility, I don’t step up in authenticity. So this deep sense of purpose really matters to me. And that sort of drops down to that next level where we talk about the ideas of awareness, authenticity, progress, growth, and transformation. Because when you know that your life’s got a purpose, when you know that what you’re actually doing lines up with who you’re supposed to be and how you’re supposed to help and how you’re supposed to turn up in the world, there’s an inherent energy that comes with it. There’s a sense of commitment and conviction, and you don’t get knocked off the line of direction all that easily. Not everybody wants what I do, or wants me to work with them, but the people who do get all of me, my commitment. I’ll go home exhausted because I want them to win. It’s cradled in my faith perspective. And so that rejuvenates and energizes me.
Mary: Do you incorporate that type of philosophy in your leadership program? Are the clients that you work with starting to open their heart and be vulnerable and explore a much greater version of who they really are versus the job description version of who they are or what the world wants them to be?
Rohan: That’s a wonderful question. And I actually think that particularly with my one-on-one executive clients, where we do essentially leadership and life, and life and leadership, after a while it’s hard to see where those lines blend in and blur, because the truth is, we need to bring our whole selves to work, to the world, to our family, through ourselves. And the more we compartmentalize, the less we actually really get to enjoy a fully integrated life, work, and relationship with our partner and our kids. Jim Rohn famously said, “Wherever you are, be there.”
Just before we had this conversation, I was out back of my house, playing games with my kids that they have constructed and made up.
And it was like its own sort of fairground. My wife and I had to pay about $12 to the kids to go on the games, and we played them because I promised them that I would do that. Then I ran up the stairs, and now we’re having this conversation.
So the answer to your question is absolutely, I see my long- term executive clients open up to a much bigger sense of understanding of an integrated world, and whether that’s classic Christianity or another kind of spirituality, that’s not my decision to make for people. I do notice they become more in touch with their body, soul, and spirit and the integration of those. And I think the more we can do that, the better; I actually think one of the things that’s happened to us over 50 years of work is we think we should be one person at work, one person at home, one person with friends. I think the future of leadership is a much more integrated perspective and to whatever extent that involves faith and spirituality might go well with you, explore it, understand it, and think of yourself as a whole person, not a compartmentalized one.
Mary: You and your business partner, Mike Hardie, run a pretty serious leadership program on a global scale. You talk about the 5 Voices, which is a powerful tool that helps people achieve greater self- awareness, better alignment, clear communication, effective delegation, high-performance, and quicker decision-making. Can you share with us what the 5 Voices actually is? How does it actually help an individual, or does it help a team of people? What is the actual core philosophy of 5 Voices?
Rohan: As I said earlier, I won’t ever say to somebody that this is the answer, but I will say it is an answer. And I do say that to all of our clients. I will also add in 30 years of people development. Mike and I are rolling this out in APAC and globally with our partners at GIANT Worldwide. As consultant with that organiza-tion, we deliver their IP as well as our own. They have a leadership assessment called the 5 Voices. The voices are a metaphor for how we express, how we capture our leadership tendencies, and how other people experience that. It’s like a version of the MBTI. And it’s very, very human. I say to people it’s the most human, most dignifying, and most transformational leadership tool that I’ve come across in 30 years of leadership development.
And that’s because it asks some very serious questions, but then gives you the tools, which is what we roll out to the marketplace to actually change your behavior, change your mindset, change the way you function as a team in a fairly quick, situation-solve application. Most people we work with, Mary, are time-poor. They’re intelligent, they’re motivated, they’re ambitious. They’ve got the money to invest into training and development, but what they are is time-poor. So when people understand the metaphor of voices, they understand a couple of really important things.
First, it answers the question, “What’s it like to be on the other side of you?” So it asks and answers the self-awareness question. And then it says in a big picture sense, “Okay, what do we need to be doing together to be a high-performing team?”
So there are five voices, and they go from what we call the quietest or the least forceful voice through to the loudest or the most forceful voice. And we are a combination of all five voices, although usually the top two are the two drivers. So voice number one is the nurturer, the voice that cares about people and atmosphere. They’re the people who have that intuitive sense of how everyone’s going and how everyone’s feeling. The second voice is the creative. They’re our futurists and our innovators.
They’re the people who can see the opportunities and the obstacles over the horizon. They’re also the people that we need to work really hard with to make sure we understand. The third voice is the guardian, the person who commits to understanding how processes, systems, and efficiencies work.
And still going up in order of volume is the connector. They are the networkers, the socializers, the ones that tell the stories that people listen to. And they always know somebody. And then the fifth voice, the loudest, the most forceful voice, is the pioneer.
They’re the more strategic, more sort of military, of knowing we’re going to take this mountain type. Is everybody okay with that? Yes. Good. When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.
I know I’ve taken a little bit of time to explain that, but it’s really important to understand that what matters is knowing what your voice is and understanding the impact that has on other people and then working together collaboratively to bring everybody’s super power to the surface.
And my top two voices are the pioneer and connector. I am the loudest voice of the driver.
Creative is my third. So I think up ideas. I get annoyed at people who want to slow things down, who want to talk to me about process. I just can’t handle it. It’s no, no, no, no, no. I’m telling you it’s a great idea because it’s my idea, and trust me: This has cost me significantly in the past.
And I’m hoping that things are a little bit different these days, but what Mike and I work hard at doing now with clients is get teams to understand their voice order.
Then we teach them the tools. We’ve got near on 95 tools to help with team development, communication, performance, culture, alignment, and execution. And we roll these out. In time, poor environments marrying these tools are having rapid impacts on how teams respect, understand, and work together. It’s a really wonderful experience.
Mary: I love what you just shared! Rohan, I have two things I want to say, one that we’re not a one-size-fits- all. So you can’t categorize people and say, “Okay, this little blueprint is going to solve all of your problems” because it’s a blueprint. You can’t fit everyone in that blueprint, which is one thing that I’m so passionately against. There are so many gurus selling and pushing their blueprint and making people believe that this is all they need to be successful.
And the second thing is that we all have a voice. It’s how we use that we’ve been given as a real gift, because words are where the power lies. And people forget this. You’ve been given a gift, which is a voice you said in the best way that matches who you are as a whole person, so you can get the message across. We haven’t been taught this. I mean, God forbid that they would teach this in the school system. This is the stuff that we should be learning in the school system. Don’t you agree?
Rohan: This is the stuff I teach my kids. And you’re absolutely right. One of the problems that we talk about is, as my partner says, “Everybody speaks, but not everyone is heard.” And so we use the phrase and we say, “We’ve got to work out what your superpowers are, what your kryptonites are, and how we can work together more effectively.” Because if we don’t, what happens is we leverage people’s superpowers and we weaponize their kryptonite. And that is a recipe for disaster, rather than people taking responsibility for their areas of weakness and recognizing that, and then working together more effectively. So again, voice works as a beautiful metaphor, particularly if you use the framework that I’m talking about. If you are at the quiet end of the voice spectrum, you’ll see that pioneers and connectors are disproportionately in leadership roles, thinking they should be telling everybody what to do, not asking, which is really an important style of leadership right now.
And we miss out on more than half the contributions people make. So we can be unintentionally closing down other people’s voices. We can be unintentionally stopping people from sharing what they think, what they see, what they feel, what they hear. And we’re finding that this framework and other tools that we introduced really help people have that voice, but also show how to share that voice in a way that’s sticky and in a way that it has traction, why it has authority and in a way that’s correct.
Mary: I think that this is why I struggle with that notion of emotional intelligence and how it’s been introduced in especially the corporate landscape as something that you have to learn. I struggle with this, and I challenge people all the time. I use an example of having a leader who is genuinely a psychopath, because that person has got some deep-seated, emotional issues from a past younger life, and figuring out how to actually check the box and say to that leader, “Oh, you have to be empathetic, and you have to be nurturing, and we can teach you how to be like that.” Because to me, emotional intelligence is not something that you can up-skill.
You actually have to dig deep because it lies at a cellular level. You’ve got to deal with that first before you can make decisions on how you want to nurture people. What is your style of emotional intelligence? I feel that we’re bringing in emotional intelligence at a leadership level. This is about understanding feelings and thoughts and belief systems that live at deep in a neuro network and at a cellular level. What is your view on that?
Rohan: I think you’re absolutely right. If we teach things as a skill that need to be fundamental to our formation as people and as men and women in the marketplace, we might be positioning ourselves to be missing the core part of what we’re actually looking to make, which is, “Do we really care about people? Do we really care about this person? Do we really care about their role and their place in AI and our organization?” So I think if we just made it a checkbox, we’re in trouble, because it means we spend the training budget, we get somebody’s game and it doesn’t change anything we do.
Over time, this builds a sense of resistance in our organization because they can’t see the point of what they’re actually doing.
The second thing I’d add to that, though, is that self-awareness is the foundation of self-leadership and self-leadership is the foundation of leadership. And so on that basis, one of the most important things to do is to understand how to use emotional intelligence or empathy. What is it like to be on the other side of Rohan when it comes to emotional intelligence and empathy? Now, I would like to say 60% of the time it’s probably okay; 20% of the time you can give or take in 20% of that. Well, but my tendency as a leader is to take them out and to run the strategy is to make decisions quickly because I’ve got a confident decision-making strategy, and the problem with that is people feel overlooked.
People feel left out. People feel like I don’t care about what they think. So again, let’s stay with the voice metaphor. One of the tools that Mike and I use in our work is this tool called the Rules of Engagement. So whether you have emotional intelligence and empathy or not, the Rules of Engagement says every time you have a discussion and make a decision, you start with the quietest voices first, and you go to the loudest voices last, irrespective of position. We’ve just taught this to a very large national organization, and we’re noticing that they’re beginning to feel the discomfort of the loudest voices not speaking first. And this is where I think it links back to emotional intelligence and empathy. We’re noticing that they are experiencing things that say the nurturer voice or the creative voice knows they want to say, but no one’s given them a chance because the emotional intelligence isn’t in the room, the awareness isn’t in the room, the empathy isn’t in the room, we just don’t care, or they don’t have a tool.
So we say, “Hey, quieter voices, nurturers and creatives. You speak first. Then we’ll go to the guardian. Then the connector, then the pioneer.” And by that time, everybody’s had a chance to speak and share that experience. This lifts the quality and the confidence of emotional intelligence and empathy in a team. So we notice that while people say it’s a priority, it’s really important to have a tool that everybody can do. That’s very empowering and very dignifying.
And we find that helps and the more they do it, the more it becomes part of team culture. That’s incredible.
Mary: That is absolutely incredible and very powerful. And it’s the first time I’ve actually received an answer to my deep conviction around this notion of teaching emotional intelligence as a skill, as a checklist. It’s the most intelligent response I’ve ever received, and I absolutely resonate with it. You’re getting results because you’re coming from the angle of humanizing first, tapping into the heart, the mind, and the spiritual aspect of us as well. I love the notion of starting with a quiet voice first; that is just absolute gold. It’s a game changer.
So the last 18 months have been horrendous for humans across the globe. What has changed in leadership roles the last 18 months that you have personally witnessed?
Rohan: I want to give a shout-out to all the HR professionals who are our primary points of contact in the market because their worlds got radically, totally turned upside down, and the values of engagement and safety and employee engagement stayed the same while everybody worked from home. I had a conversation with a client just before the end of the financial year. She said, “I really want to work with you, but I’ve spent all my budget on computers, because that’s the reality.” They have been doing some amazing work with people. So the first thing I noticed is that everybody’s world was turned upside down, and the people who led well were focused on the needs of their people and the needs of the organization first and addressed those problems straightaway. A number of clients that we’ve worked with have done an excellent job at that. And those people have made a commitment to helping people feel safe and engaged, while understanding the hybrid environment, which I think is a really big deal.
The second thing has probably been 12 months in the making, and that’s the difference in where people sit on the continuum. I call it the COVID continuum because at one end, you’ve got everyone saying they can’t wait to get back to the office. At the other end, you’ve got people who are not missing their two-hour commute, and liking being able to pick up their kids from school or having that flexibility.
World-class leaders and thinkers believe that the hybrid workplace is not going away, and I agree with them. So if that’s your position and it is mine, then the question is, “Okay, what’s important? And how do we get it done?” And we say to all our clients, “Because of the hybrid, we’ve got a program coming up called ‘Work
from Hybrid’ where we’re talking about this idea that it’s not going away and how do we do it well, and I think, that’s one of the important things for a leader. And we simply say this, “Anytime you start a conversation that’s virtual, always ask, ‘How are you doing?’ before you ask, ‘What are you doing?’ ” And if that’s all you did for the next 30 days, you would see an increase in connection and engagement in people leaning into the experience.
Second, I think you’ve just got to make sure you take time to understand that the COVID environment is difficult, especially if you’re in an environment that’s in lockdown. That changes how you feel about your own mental health, about your own energy, about your own sort of sense of productivity. But as long as we can stay empathetic and present to that reality, we can still work together to achieve the outcomes together, to navigate the priorities that we’ve got together. I think we’re going to see some pretty magical things happening in the workplace.
The third thing is, because our work focuses fundamentally on self-awareness, self-leadership, leadership, communication, alignment, relationships, execution, capability development, we’re finding a lot of interest in how to do that in the hybrid environment in a way that even though we might be a distributed team, we might also be time-poor. How do we actually embed these experiences and tools and languages quickly so that we can become a high-performing hybrid team? And we’re actually finding incredibly enjoyable results with clients around that experience as well.
Mary: Amazing. Wow, this is just next- level stuff, you know, and it really is the future of leadership in all capacities, not in the corporate landscape, but also solopreneurs business owners, and entrepreneurs. This is the future, Rohan. I’ve been in that hybrid environment for the last 16 years, so I know what it’s like. Even when I had my corporate life, I did so much traveling. I was in hybrid environments for so many years that I don’t find this the new normal; it’s always been my normal. So what I love is that people are now coming over to my side of the fence and going, “Wow! There’s a whole new world.” I love that you and Mike have an amazing podcast called “For Leaders” that is available across all platforms. And I’ve been fortunate to be interviewed on that. Who should subscribe to your podcast? Who is that podcast for?
Rohan: We want to be really clear about what we’re for or what we’re against. We are for leaders, and what we noticed a year ago when we did some research was that 70% of the organizations we polled didn’t have a clear leadership- development strategy for their organization for the next 12 months. Those 12 months have passed, and now we’re seeing a whole swag of resignations taking place. So there’s an issue here, and as a service provider, I like it when people buy my services and engage us professionally, because that’s what we do, but not to invest in their people. And I probably should’ve said this earlier about the COVID workplace. One downside of the last eight months is a lot of the training budgets have been frozen or redirected.
And I actually think that in a crisis of this magnitude, we should be caring for and training our people, albeit in new ways, on different platforms, and various other approaches. We’re seeing that happen right now. So “For Leaders” is a podcast for leaders because we want to help them grow in communi-cation capability and performance. We interview experts about leadership, and we ask them some key questions. We have a framework, as you know, and we say, “How did you become you? What are the foundations?
What are the lessons? What are the observations? And what are the predictions?” They’re the parts of our conversation.
And we have had some of the most fascinating leaders – people with psychology backgrounds, people with CEO backgrounds, authors – and people like you, which was one of the most enjoyable podcast interviews that we did. So when people listen carefully to another person’s expertise, it’s like they’re getting a 45- to 60-minute master class with a leader, and they don’t even have to pay for the coffee.
We’re seeing a lot of engagement from people because they’re really enjoying listening to the experiences, the lessons, and the wisdom of the people we’re talking to. We interview a lot of authors, and we try to get to the heart of what they’re talking about, so we get the real sense of the intent and the deeper sense of engagement and understanding for them.
Mary: So we’ve come to the final part of our interview and I ask every single person I interview this last question: If you could meet one person who is no longer living, who would it be and what would you ask or what would you want to know?
Rohan: That’s a lot of pressure on somebody who’s got a faith construct. You know, I choose Moses. And then I choose Nelson Mandela, and I choose him for a few reasons. The first is that I spent a year in South Africa as an exchange student after I finished high school. And there is a piece of my heart that loves Africa. One of my best mates lives in Cape Town, and we talk at least monthly. And so I’m reminded of the beauty and the wonder of Africa. Second, I stood in the carpark in Cape Town of the council building where Nelson Mandela was released in 1990; he stood on a balcony, and he saluted to the people that he had been released from prison.
I stood in that carpark three weeks before it happened. And I’ve tracked and followed his commitment to what I would say was very ambitious leadership change and transformation. And so I would choose him because I would really love to talk to him about how he was able to lead transformation on a national and a global scale, and address the issues of bitterness and unforgiveness that could very easily damage your soul after 27 years in prison. I think what causes a leader to be successful or unsuccessful is not our skills. It’s our spirit, it’s our soul, it’s our formation, it’s leadership from the inside out. And there was something about Mandela that was able to navigate that very well, and I would love to have that conversation with him. Thank you for asking.
Mary: My God. That just gave me chills. That was just absolutely awesome, Rohan. I just want to say you are such a high-quality person. You really are very present, very grounded, very focused. And you know, we really do need people like you in this world to also raise the consciousness of what we are capable of as individuals and collectively. We all have a role to play in the world, and you certainly have a huge role to play. Thank you so much for your time. I absolutely appreciate you so much.