Penguin Leadership: Alone in a Crowd

Do you see me?

Do you truly see me or do I simply look like all the rest? I stand alone in a crowd. Waiting for my uniqueness to be seen.

Recently a group of colleagues of mine, some really high caliber thinkers, shared a laugh about the attached penguin picture.  This is a group of individuals I met through Linked In.  Rather than posting in Linked In, we have found that we often turn to our small group.  We challenge each others’ thinking, share insights and observations, and talk about “what if.”  To me, one of the true and real benefits of social networking is having connected with these bright, insightful, and valuable colleagues.

This is a group of really great people who are forging their own paths.  They have small firms which provide unique insights and are trying to make a difference.  They all have a passion for people and have a high level of integrity.  These are individuals who “get it” at multiple levels.  They ask the hard questions.  They offer the less popular solutions.  They provide advice as to what they feel is truly needed, not just lip service.  They want to do the “right” thing rather than the “easy” thing. 

With the significant increase of individual Consultants and small businesses, it’s nice to see some truly qualified individuals out there with their own shingle.  Individuals with a real desire to make a difference.  Who want to help improve people, organizations, processes, and businesses not just in the short term, but in the long term.  Individuals who aren’t selling a “solution” but rather are willing to invest the time and mental energy in understanding and analyzing situations to determine what would be of the most impact or highest value to the individual or business.

It appears that certain types of individuals (often when they cannot find employment) simply hang out a shingle and call themselves a Consultant.  After all Consultants don’t do much or “real work” do they?  They just tell others what to do and make big bucks don’t they?  So the thinking goes.  

With the flood of “Consultants” who have appeared in the marketplace this past year or two, each of us had been feeling a bit like we were being viewed as one of the crowd – when we each were quite different.  We know this.  Not just because of our individual personal beliefs, but because our thinking has been validated by other, deep skilled professionals.  We know that we think and operate differently, but that we are often lost in a crowd. 

We were concerned with the number of individuals who are labeling themselves as “Consultants,” but that we don’t feel really “get it” or are selling bad solutions or the wrong answer.  Their work products, behaviors, and ethics have an impact on the perception of all Consulting professionals.  They do not demonstrate what we are truly capable of accomplishing.  

My concern isn’t that that these new shiny shingled Consultants don’t have content knowledge.  Frequently they are quite deep in one area or industry.  Rather it’s that they do not have critical consulting, strategic, and analytical skills.   It’s about whether they really understand what it means to be a Consultant. 

  • Do they know what a client really needs or are they following a checklist?  
  • Can they truly add long-term value to their clients? 
  • Can they see the connections across and within? 
  • Can they sense what is happening in the “whitespace” of an organization? 
    • Do they even know what that is? 
    • Do they know how to find it?
  • Will they walk away from a client when they know that they aren’t the best solution or even a reasonable one?

Good, genuine, insightful Consulting is hard.  Really, really hard.  Honestly, my head hurts and I am exhausted when I’ve been deeply focused on my clients needs.  When I’m doing some multi-dimensional systems thinking, often nested systems thinking. 

My observation is that often times these deep skilled individuals are not well rewarded.  They have chosen to take the path less traveled and less constrained.  They want to operate with integrity and truth in an environment where many don’t want to hear the truth or take the hard, but right road.  These individuals often work as much for intrinsic motivational reasons as extrinsic ones.  They want to make businesses better and to do the best that they can for clients, without folding to politics and useless rhetoric.

For me, it doesn’t take long to identify who truly “gets it.”  Those that can see in color and think multi-dimensionally as compared to (or contrasted against) those who only see things in black and white but are adept at using the “right” words.  Those that simply following a process, script, or methodology without taking the time to analyze what is truly needed.  

Imagine the penguin picture in black and white.  Would you see the Emperor penguin or would he/she look just like everyone else?  Much of the world views Consultants in black and white.  Apples to apples.  A Change Management professional is a Change Management professional, is a Change Management professional right?  Wrong.  Very wrong.

So here’s my big shout out to some special people – great thinkers and good people. 

YOU ARE UNIQUE and I APPRECIATE YOU.  While we have never met in person, I’d work any day of the week, in any country with you and count myself both lucky and happy to do so.

Gail Severini, CEO at Symphini Change Management Inc   Gail’s Blog

Luc Gallopin, Managing Director at Reply Management Consulting   Luc’s Blog 

Garrett Gitchell, President at Vision to Work   Garrett’s Blog 

Jim Markowsky, President of X-Factor Solutions LLC   Jim’s Blog  

You guys rock!  May our lone penguin not feel so alone.  May we find that Angel who will fund our time so we can stop worrying about the bills and take the time to write that Game Changer book.  If not Us, then Whom.  Both Me and You.

If you are reading this article and you happen to be willing to investment so that this group can pause their work long enough to write, let us know.  We have a new view or two.  In fact I know we do.


  1. Luc Galoppin says:

    Kudos to you Faith!
    And yes: any day of the week, in any country with you all.
    Without any doubt the digital economy enabled us to have great conversations and accelerate bright ideas.
    Warmest regards – from Belgium

  2. Garrett Gitchell says:

    Like I have time to reread a post… but I did… and I think I will read it again.

    I have talked to a few potential clients lately that are specifically looking for a consultant who has been on their own for upwards of 10 years (at 24 days away I am close to that measure).

    To those clients who had not thought this important- be discerning in your choices, more so than say two years ago.

    A personal thanks too. Getting on a “list” is like winning a prize- very rare.

  3. Wow Faith! Thank you so much! When you said you were working on a blog post I knew I would read it and be impressed as usual – I did not expect to be humbled. The great news, really great, is that I feel the same way about this group. Very grateful to have the support and sometimes validation, sometimes nudge. It is a very good thing.

    For anyone who wants to become a consultant, it can be very rewarding work but please prepare yourself also for a lifetime of learning. Best practices advance all the time. Thought leadership pushes these envelopes even further – we owe our clients the very best. If you are fortunate enough that you develop yourself a great network, like these consultants, you will have a “think tank” to further refine and hone your capabilities.

  4. Chris Pierce-Cooke says:

    It’s a compelling article, Faith – the point you make at the end about black and white is right on ! As you say – You guys Rock ! Chris Pierce-Cooke

  5. Courage is actually going from disappointment to fail without dropping enthusiasm

  6. Dayle Rowand says:

    Your articles is very helpful, did u write or publish ?

  7. Faith Fuqua-Purvis says:

    Dayle – I am in fact currently working on 3 books. There will be a new page coming to the web-site soon where you will be able to obtain information about the books as well as be able to sign-up for announcements.

Guiding Principles

- Think Holistically
- Seek the Root Causes
- Respect the Individual
- Demonstrate Accountability
- Collaborate with Clients
- Work with Integrity, Always
- Relate to the Business Strategy
- Ensure Alignment
- Demonstrate Responsibility
- Transfer Skills

Thoughts and Quotes