Roger Fairhead Certificate JMT Certified

SORTED Magazine Interview

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck!

Last year I was interviewed by SORTED Magazine Deputy Editor Tony Yorke, and here is the article that was published in the Jan/Feb 2022 Magazine.


Roger Fairhead has a dream: he wants all men to understand they have influence; they are all leaders in some shape or form – and need to take their roles and responsibilities seriously.

The 63-year-old is so passionate about the subject, he has devoted the last two decades of his life to the cause. And judging by the glint in his eye, he is preparing to spend even more years reaching out, highlighting why the role of leadership is critical, regardless of whether it is practised in the home (as a father and husband), workplace, large sporting arenas or government departments.

“We all have a role to play in making things happen and securing the right kind of outcomes,” he tells Sorted magazine. “The problem we have is only a small minority of men realise they have influence and they are a leader in some shape or form. While many of us say we don’t really want to be led or claim we don’t have the training or skills needed to understand how to lead effectively.”

The truth is we all have opinions; and most of us have a desire to have our voices heard. Yet a lack of confidence, or maybe a significant lack of engagement, prevent many of us from doing the right thing – and that’s taking our roles of being men seriously.

But not Fairhead. He heads up the UK arm of an organisation called the Global Leadership Network, which sets out to help men of all ages and abilities to get better at leading from the front, rather than hiding away in the shadows.

“If you want to lead people, they must trust you,” he says. “And if you want them to trust you then you have to cultivate your character – and that includes learning to trust yourself.”

Trust is a big word in any language – and it doesn’t happen overnight. But by being disciplined and diligent, and really understanding the importance of being a male leader – and answering two key questions – Fairhead believes all things are possible.

“So, here’s something to think on,” he continues. “What’s the difference you want to make, and what makes you different? You see, once you have an idea of the difference you want to make then you can go on to figure out the outcomes that will make that difference become a reality. But, unless you answer these fundamental questions, nothing is going to change. It will be the ‘same old, same old’.”

Fairhead and his GLN colleagues are givers, not takers. They plough their collective energies into finding the answers to the many conundrums associated with leadership, which changes shape and form continuously. For many, this would be the source of an ongoing migraine. But with Fairhead, a musician who plays violin in the North Staffordshire Symphony Orchestra, it is a challenge he truly relishes.

“One of the most useful lessons I remember as a newly appointed project manager was known as ‘The Duck Test’,” he recalls. “It goes something like this – if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck!”

The recollection draws a chuckle, but only for a moment as Fairhead is now in his element.

“It was shared with me by a more experienced project manager in the context of assessing the output of a project team,” he says. “The same test can also be applied to all sorts of other situations too. One I encountered was a situation that arose some years ago when I was serving on the board of a local organisation, and we had a job vacancy to fill.

“Now, in every farmyard, there is a valid position for ducks; they are an asset to any duckpond. However, if you need an eagle, you need to make sure you don’t accept an application from a duck.

“One of my colleagues on the board had experience of making sure that we complied with all relevant legislation relating to inclusiveness and thereby avoided unconscious bias in the interview process. We had all the candidate application forms circulated with no reference to age, gender, ethnic background or age, and the top candidates were duly selected for interview. We had a set of questions relating to the job we wanted to ask of the clients, and we made sure to ask all of them the same questions and note their answers on a suitable form for collection and filing with the rest of the paperwork.  

“At the end of this process, we were all satisfied that the most appropriate candidate had been selected for the role according to the criteria that had been laid out, and the job offer was made.

“The recruit started to settle into the job when some difficulties emerged and after a very difficult initial few weeks, they resigned. This left us with a challenge. So, somebody was appointed on a short-term contract, and this candidate turned out to be a perfect match.  

“I guess there are many lessons that we learned collectively. One was to take account of the ‘knower’ – the place where you ‘know’ stuff.  It turned out that I was not alone in ‘knowing’ the candidate that we had chosen was not going to fit in with our culture, and probably wouldn’t fit in easily with the chemistry of the existing team. We couldn’t put our finger on the reason, but there was something about the person that just didn’t seem right, despite all the objective evidence to the contrary.  

“The lesson here was that where something that has all the characteristics of a ‘thing’, it probably is ‘that thing’, never mind what it is called or presented as, and despite the objective evidence to the contrary. And, regardless of your position, or job title, you shouldn’t ignore it.”

This kind of thinking and rationale, underpins all GLN and Roger do.

“We challenge the status quo constructively,” explains Fairhead, who, as well as his GLN chief executive role is also a business author of distinction. “Our goal is to help those people affiliated to the organisation reach their potential as leaders, not become preoccupied with the obstacles that stand in the way.

“The US army general, Norman Schwartzkopf, described leadership as ‘a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy’. I agree totally with that sentiment. In fact, I would go as far as saying it is art of making decisions in the dim light of incomplete information and is measured with the brilliant illumination of hindsight.

“In essence, sitting on the fence is rarely an option. Leaders are required to be decisive – but they don’t always have to be right. If they do the right things by the people alongside them, the right kind of culture will exist that allows for ‘honest’ mistakes. Everyone will learn, and the environment people live and work in will be a positive one.”

Having talked for Roger for more than 90 minutes, my time is up. But it has been a fruitful experience: I now look at the subject of leadership in a very different way and recognise the right path to take – and the danger signs linked to going in the wrong directions, particularly where trust is concerned.

The code he advocates makes a lot of sense and really does affect every one of us. So, it’s time to put this knowledge into practice, methinks.

About Roger Fairhead

Roger is a Leadership specialist and uses the PRIZE Winning Leadership model to help leaders improve their effectiveness and that of their teams, through remote and on-site delivery of keynotes, group training events and individual coaching sessions.

He is the author of several books including "PRIZE Winning Leadership" and “Personal Productivity Planner”, a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management and a Director of the Global Leadership Network UK with extensive experience in Project Management and Sales.

“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.

Roger also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.