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CEO Cynthia Stuckey shares her leadership mindset

Rhian Morgan

Cynthia Stuckey, Managing Director of AchieveForum,shares her leadership tips and mindsets - and tells us why a female basketball player is one of her greatest inspirations

Can you tell me about AchieveForum and its business ethos?

AchieveForum is a global organisation, specialising in improving measured performance within organisations through their people.  We deliver leadership development solutions, all built on a breadth of research and development, that offer a specialised end-to-end set of capabilities starting with talent assessments and analytics, learning solutions to build capabilities, and measurement and digital platforms to drive ‘on-the-job’ application and to measure effectiveness. Using our 'Leadership Development by Design’ approach, we work with organisations to identify skills gaps among their leaders and map our leadership-development solutions to train leaders, and enhance their skills and capabilities.  

What is your USP - and what do you think you can offer that is specific to you and your company?

We are one of the very few leadership development organisations that tailor our solutions to drive performance improvement and measurable results at every level of an organisation.  Unlike most leadership solutions providers, we believe that an organisation’s success is down to its people, not the technological solutions, so we use a unique 5A model that aligns the people to an organisation’s strategy and delivers a measured strategy for continuous improvement in leadership effectiveness.   


We define outcomes that determine the success of your organisation. 


We align key stakeholders and the organisation to enhance performance. 


We assess the fit between people's capabilities and business priorities. 


We achieve high performance by increasing skills and knowledge. 


We accelerate mastery of new skills with reinforcement and support.   

What Mindset models do you use for leadership - and why?

AchieveForum has many mindset models that are foundational to our values, beliefs about what makes a great leader, and that underpin many of our learning solutions.  However, there are key mindsets that are required in today’s business environment, including:   

Innovative Mindset

Innovation isn’t hampered by a lack of ideas, but rather a lack of noticing the good ideas already there.  Organisations need to develop leaders’ abilitiesto discover, make connections between what is and could be, and to challenge the status quo - see beyond what the data is telling you based on making links and connections to other experiences and insights.   

Growth Mindset 

In today’s highly competitive, fast-changing business environment a growth mindset is essential where employee’s challenge themselves and strive towards consistent improvement, where they are not afraid to fail, and are willing to try something if it has risks.  It’s a mindset that fosters a culture of working together through collaboration and a belief of leaders that talent should be developed in everyone, which unleashes greater potential and more innovative ideas across organisations.     

Global Mindset

Leaders who embody a global mindset have multiple frames of reference for all situations and interactions based on experience; they have a much higher level of openness and flexibility including the ability to work outside the boundaries. They think differently in how they approach day-to-day tasks, communication, and are highly curious. Their openness and awareness of diversity is based on experience, and thus they can see patterns across countries and apply them to how they engage, lead, support, coach and work with others.   

Inclusive Mindset

This is about supporting your team and making employees feel valued for the unique talents and perspectives they bring to the table—without emphasising their differences so much that they feel alienated. When employees feel included at work, they’re better team players and more likely to go above and beyond, suggesting new ideas and ways of getting work done—which can boost overall organisational performance.    

Do you have any role models or inspirations?

I have had many inspirations throughout the years.  There are so many to share as I travel and meet so many people around the world in very different circumstances and I am amazed at their stories. The trials, the set-acks, what they had to overcome, their drive and focus to achieve, their vision and views of what was/is possible. Many people have deep beliefs, passion and focus and they see well beyond what the formal structures can see which is an inspiration to me. This includes family members such as my mother and sister, as well as, peers I work with and the many meet through work and touch through my day-to-day life.   

One role model is Pat Summitt, who coached women's basketball at the University of Tennessee for 38 years, and who died recently. She was instrumental in shaping lives of the young and those she worked with. Her focus was on developing and serving others and, in today’s work environment, leaders must be able to demonstrate these traits – it’s not about them, it’s about those around them. She broke gender barriers, and had a passion for what she did and thus most days her work was her joy and this showed in the level of focus, effort and constant ability to evolve.  

You must outwork your competitors in day -to-day life and Pat was an example of this - reviewing tapes, talking with others who saw her rivals play, tracking 'big data' and analysing it to prep her team.

Sheknew how to develop new mindsets and change those who came to her program with an underdog or losing mindset. She also had high standards  got the best out of people.  

Pat loved her players and family - this compassion did not prevent her from holding them accountable but it did enable her to have compassion and balance this with the deep love she felt for those she worked with.

Pat was also transparent and honest - a player would have never been surprised if she was disappointed in them or not clear how to improve to meet her standards or to get more playing time.  She embraced the concepts of giving feedback and team development long before it was acceptable in many organisations.         

Another role model was Nelson Mandela. He is one of the most powerful examples of 'being the change you wish to see' and he did this with dignity in horrific situations.  He worked under fire with grace and a level of professionalism that is often lost today internally when there is conflict.

He was respectful, a good listener, and appreciated others' opinions. 

Nelson was an example of living your values - his actions reflected his words and beliefs.  All too often, today’s leaders can communicate great messages but their ability to execute, act and make decisions aligned to their messages and values is extremely weak.  This causes low trust, creditability and employees begin to question the company direction, strategies and reduce their level of engagement and confidence.  

Organisations that grow year over year ensure their leaders model, and personally act and align with the values to avoid the tremendous level of business impact from not living your values. 

He was also compassionate but focused on achievement - he knew how to balance this level of compassion for others and their situation/ with the need to drive achievement and outcomes.      

Did you find it hard, as a woman, to get to the top?

Yes, in certain opportunities and leadership roles I have had over the years I felt there was a clear boys' club. Other leaders, who were peers, were more comfortable interacting and involving those who looked, thought and shared similar interests as themselves. You find you must work much harder to influence, promote and persuade others to see your ideas, points of views and to get recognition.  The challenge often was getting exposure to the more senior leaders, so when opportunities arose that gave me greater visibility to these leaders, I took them. However, women who felt I was a competitive threat (not just men) were as much of a challenge as the men.  In both situations, the lack of data sharing, limited willingness to collaborative, idea generation and even sharing lessons learned was more difficult in some environments as competition to move up was top of all our minds. What I found helpful was to find an internal coach that had worked the system and understood the culture to help guide me.     

What code do you live by?

I have a few:  "Be the change you want to see in others". "Your action must always align to your word if you want to succeed".  And "We all have tremendous wealth in this world that is more than money".      


Cynthia's 5 tips for great leadership:

Develop a global mindset

There is huge competitive advantage if you establish a global mindset including the accelerated sharing of best practices, driving better performance, identifying emerging trends and opportunities before the competition, improving your ability to grow and create value for the business/customer, increased innovation/ideas to improve your technologies, products, solution and the value you create your customers, and finally you will find the co-ordination alignment across borders much easier as your understanding of the complexities and nuances of the global environment and the trade-offs is clear. 

Focus on what is in front of you

Whilst it is important to be strategic, you must also balance this with having your finger on the pulse of your organisation and its operations.  To do this you must spend time with customers, with the staff, with your direct reports, and listen and learn.  The reality of your business is right in front of you if you invest the time to experience, listen and learn and then apply this perspective to your future vision of where your strategy and vision must go.    

Get comfortable in dynamic environments 

In today’s dynamic and uncertain business environment, the most successful leaders can act quickly and decisively in response to change.  Strong self-efficacy, high achievement, autonomy and the ability to take decisive actions in the face of uncertainty and dynamic environments are critical capabilities for an organisation that grows year on year.  Leaders who get comfortable with limited data, unclear boundaries, and chaos around them. They will find they can advance work, remove barriers, reduce stress and improve alignment of their people in a timely manner to respond to the changes. You need to develop skills around agility, ambiguity threshold, and change to improve your comfort.   

Make it a priority to develop your people

People have enormous gifts and talent that are never tapped into.  They need to be nurtured and developed so you can reap the benefits of this talent within your organisation.  Coaching is not about how much time, it’s about consistency, development over time and two-way engagement with your people.  If your people are given the tools, skills and resources, then they can help you succeed with any new strategy or plan.   

Work for someone you believe in, trust, and is aligned with your values

We spend too much time at work so find an organisation, leader and team you trust, holds your values, and that you can grow with. Your own health and day -o-day happiness is worth more than any job can pay you.     


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