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Zoë Routh Leadership Podcast

Nov 20, 2023

If you’re looking for a leadership perspective that is not only relatable but also grounded in the reality of our current times, my guest Dr Karuna Ramanathan has some vital insights for you.  

An ex naval warship captain, formerly the Senior Principal Change Consultant in Singapore Government and, prior to that, Deputy Head of the Center for Leadership Development in the Singapore Armed Forces, Karuna is the author of Navigating the Seas of Change, a concise guide to leadership and change management with a maritime metaphor. Karuna compares the unpredictability of change to the sea, emphasising the crucial role of leadership in navigating these tumultuous waters.

Karuna shares his experiences of driving large-scale organisational change, the challenges of positional power, the tension between having a transformative vision and taking incremental steps and the importance of managing different risk appetites. Karuna also reflects on his time in the military and how hierarchy and accountability have a huge impact on team dynamics, pushing through change and, ultimately, getting results. 


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Key Moments 

Planet Human: Carbon Labelling of Food at Hilton Hotels (00:00:29) The implementation of carbon labelling on menus at Hilton hotels and the impact on guests' food choices.

Planet Zoë: Family, friends, connection and celebration in Canada! 

Interview with Karuna Ramanathan (00:03:42)
Meet Karuna Ramanathan, a former naval warship captain and leadership trainer, and an expert on large-scale organisational change and its practical implementation.

The importance of personal insights (00:10:21)

Taking time for personal reflection and converting observations into personal insights for learning and growth.

The challenges of large-scale organisational change (00:11:24)

The importance of treating people with dignity and respect during the transformation process.

Different contextual states for change (00:17:45)

Exploring hierarchical organisations like the military, government organisations, and corporate organisations, highlighting the differences in risk appetite and approaches to change.

The challenges of positional power (00:20:16)

The problems that arise when senior executives overuse their positional power and the need for them to be more flexible and relatable.

Fixing systemic issues in leadership (00:20:58)

Instead of focusing on fixing mental health, organisations should address the systemic issues in leadership that contribute to employees' dissatisfaction and well-being.

Identifying influence points in organisations (00:25:04)

How change consultants approach this task.

Navigating the seas of change (00:30:42)

Lessons learned from leadership in the navy and the challenges of leading in extreme and unpredictable environments.

Conceiving the alternative vision state (00:32:30)

Exploring the process of imagining a transformational end point in organisations and the methodology behind it.

The messy nature of adaptive leadership (00:37:51)

Highlights the non-linear and uncertain nature of adaptive leadership and the challenges it poses for individuals and organisations.

The shift in attitudes towards remote meetings (00:42:59)

Exploring the shift in attitudes towards remote meetings and the use of technology like Zoom, highlighting the impact of the pandemic on changing perspectives.

Sense Making and Expanding Perspective (00:52:09)

Expanding our sense of time and complexity to make sense of the bigger picture and draw interactions within organisations.