River Currents

Gavin Fenn-Smith

Gavin Fenn-Smith is Managing Director, International and a Partner at The River Group. He has twenty years experience as a advisor to CEOs and senior executives, and as an expert in leadership and organizational development.
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Recent Posts

How the Most Successful Sports Team of All Time Uses Shared Leadership

Posted by Gavin Fenn-Smith on Nov 10, 2016 12:14:48 PM

Are the All Blacks the most successful sports team in the history of sports? Any team, any sport, anywhere in the world? Some say so. The All Blacks (The New Zealand men's rugby team) are the best side to have ever played that sport; three times world champions, with a 77% win record stretching back 100 years. They have not lost on home soil since 2009.

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Topics: Developing Leadership Teams, Growing Leaders

How to Become a Leader? Do Leadership Work.

Posted by Gavin Fenn-Smith on Aug 30, 2016 10:56:35 AM
This is a review of "Act Like A Leader, Think Like A Leader," by Herminia Ibarra, published by HBR Press.

Contrary to much received wisdom about how to develop your leadership skills; this book exhorts you to spend less time on introspection and self-analysis, and much more time learning to do the work that leaders do. Starting with introspection has the danger of rooting you in your current self-perception, rather than in your potential. And you won’t know your potential until you start doing the work of a leader. Start doing the work of a leader, then reflect on it and on how you handle it, later. 

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Topics: Growing Leaders

High Energy in the Right Moments Can Inspire

Posted by Gavin Fenn-Smith on Aug 2, 2016 11:28:50 AM

For leaders, energy can be in short supply. Meetings all day. Team members who are energy-sapping. Events that drag on for longer than anticipated. Those leaders who can manage themselves, to maximize their moments of high-energy, will be at a great advantage. 

People seem to be attracted to vivacious people. Those with vigor, vim, zest. People who are enthusiastic, who have a certain dynamism. It’s as if they transmit their energy into you. 

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Topics: Advising CEOs

5 Steps to Boost Your Leadership Bench

Posted by Gavin Fenn-Smith on Apr 27, 2016 1:48:57 PM

As temporary stewards of the organization, senior executives have a duty to investors, staff, and other stakeholders.

They are obliged to safeguard the long-term health of the organization by ensuring it is stocked with future generations of leaders.

How do you do that if you are a senior executive? One of the best ways is by actively and personally committing time, energy, and focus to developing those future stewards.

Following these 5 steps can help each senior leader develop his or her leadership pipeline:

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Topics: Growing Leaders

Modern Leadership Skills in India’s Family Owned Businesses

Posted by Gavin Fenn-Smith on Apr 12, 2016 11:29:57 AM

We conducted a study to capture current leadership development and succession trends involved in passing the baton from the current generation of India's Family Owned Business (FOB) leaders to the next. 

Here is what the research revealed.

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Topics: Growing Leaders

A Sports Coach and His Trusted Advisor

Posted by Gavin Fenn-Smith on Mar 17, 2016 12:04:56 PM

Pep Guardiola talks about his own trusted advisor, Manel Estiarte.

Extracted from "Pep Confidential," by Marti Perarnau, published in 2014 by Arena Sport. The book recounts Guardiola’s first season as head coach at Bayern Munich, after a wildly successful few years as coach of Barcelona.

Pep told me how important Estiarte is to him: Coaching a football team is a lonely job and that’s why I value loyalty above all else. When you hit the inevitable rough patch, you need to know who you can trust. 

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Topics: Advising CEOs

Catching up on Algebra: How Young CEOs Accelerate Their Learning

Posted by Gavin Fenn-Smith on Feb 4, 2016 5:30:00 AM

"I just feel like I have missed a bunch of stuff. It is as if I am coming to the end of high school, but have missed 8th and 9th grade pre-algebra. I am supposed to know what algebra is, but there are holes in my understanding. I am CEO, but there is so much I don’t know about being the CEO."

So we were told by a 33-year-old CEO of a DC-based nonprofit. From just three people at the start some years ago, to nearly 100 staff now, surely he was doing something right? Yet, he felt ill prepared. He just didn't know what he didn't know about how to be a CEO. 

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Topics: Advising CEOs

The Nature of Leadership in the UAE

Posted by Gavin Fenn-Smith on Nov 17, 2015 10:25:18 AM

The UAE is fast being recognized as an important regional economy, and influential global participant. The local airlines are global powerhouses. Tourists know it as a must-see destination. Real estate and manufacturing continue to attract local and global investors. 

Abu Dhabi 2030 and Dubai Expo 2020 are evidence of the far-sighted ambition of the UAE. But to realize that ambition, the UAE need many more leaders. Nation-building is tough work, and it is leaders who take on the challenge. 

There is a need to improve leadership expertise in the UAE, but its development must conform to local cultural norms.


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Topics: Growing Leaders

The Rise of Conversational Leadership

Posted by Gavin Fenn-Smith on Nov 2, 2015 9:18:46 AM

Conversational Leadership is a more open and personal style of leadership. Leaders enact it themselves and try to institutionalize it throughout the organization so that they create a more collaborative and inclusive culture. 

It is a style of leadership with dialogue as its defining feature. In a modern, networked world, leaders recognize that it is an essential ingredient for sound decision-making, innovation, and powerful employee engagement. Employees entering the workforce expect to be heard. Social media is everywhere. And everyone has a voice. 

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Topics: Growing Leaders