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Cloud Realities: The role of leadership

Dave Chapman
8 Feb 2023

Welcome to the second season of our Cloud Realities series, in which we explore the practical and exciting alternate realities that can be unleashed through cloud driven transformation.

In one of our early episodes, we caught up with Alastair Kidd, a systemic leadership sherpa, to talk about how leadership styles and intentional leadership choices are critical to driving new value from the cloud.
As part of our discussion, we touched on the real role of leadership and the current perception of a leader as someone to bring into the fold when things are going wrong; an expert that will have all the answers, be able to untie the project knots, and be the ultimate savior. In essence, leaders are bought in to provide clarity to chaos.
But, as a leader you not only have to be asking whether the task is too big, whether there’s enough time, and if there’s enough budget, but also whether you feel empowered to fulfill the opportunity. This is equally a personal development journey for any individual taking on the role.
For this discussion we talk a lot about the cynefin framework – a model to distinguish ways of making decisions, approaching a situation, and navigating through complexity – once outlined by David Snowden. Let’s dive in.

Life outside the Matrix

We see that a lot of organizations struggle with cloud transformation, more so, a lot of agile projects that aren’t in fact agile at all. There are a lot of restrictions in these situations that companies are finding particularly challenging and a sense that agile cloud transformation is the answer to complexity.

But in an effort to find simplicity, leaders and teams will run into greater struggles if they stick with the same, traditional approach – focusing on the tools and tick boxes.

Operating with the cynefin framework can at first feel like Neo coming out of the Matrix – recognizing that you’re functioning in one reality but actually the situation requires a wholly different framing and understanding of what’s going on. Once you have this as a framing mechanism you can see very quickly why things are working or not and that there are alternative, more effective ways of reaching the goal.

Fight or flight?

When thinking about the world in which these transformations are existing now it’s only layering complexity on complexity.

But navigating these situations requires creativity and patience. They demand a clear and logical approach in order to move forwards. However, when we’re right in the middle of complexity it activates our fight or flight response – the opposite reaction needed when trying to find a solution or logical response when things go wrong.

For Alistair, his advice here is to: “slow down, and breathe”. An essential step for leaders on this journey is getting to know their own minds, noticing what’s happening, slowing down their automatic responses, and navigating their emotions so that they can be genuinely present in complexity and less susceptible to fight or flight reactions. 

In allowing themselves to do this, leaders can change their mindset from “I either succeed or fail in the complicated world, to I will experiment and learn”. 

So, let’s take a step back, come out of the Matrix and re-frame our reality before making our next decision.

Can’t wait until the next blog and want to hear more? Listen to the full episodes, featuring our own Dave Chapman, Sjoukje Zaal, and Rob Kernahan.


Dave Chapman

VP Cloud Evangelist at Capgemini
Dave has nearly 30 years of global experience in strategic development, transformation, program delivery and operations. In his role as Chief Cloud Evangelist at Capgemini, he helps clients anticipate and tackle the challenges and opportunities presented by the largest and most complex cloud transformations. He has advised and coached IT leaders in all sectors and worked with them in solving leadership, strategic transformation, and execution/value realization challenges. Additionally, Dave was part of the senior leadership team at Cloudreach, he established and led the Digital Foundations program at BP, and has worked as CxO in public sector and enterprise FMCG. Dave was also the co-creator and co-host of well-known industry podcast, ‘Cloudbusting’. He is told he spends far too much on hi-fi and vinyl.

Sjoukje Zaal

Chief Technology Officer and AI Lead at Capgemini
Sjoukje Zaal is head of the Microsoft Cloud Center of Excellence at Capgemini, Microsoft Regional Director and Microsoft AI & Azure MVP with over 20 years of experience providing architecture, development, consultancy, and design expertise. She is the regional head of the architecture community in the Netherlands. She loves to share her knowledge and is active in the Microsoft community as a co-founder of She is director of the Global AI Community and organizer of Azure Lowlands. Sjoukje is an international speaker and involved in organizing many events. She wrote several books and writes blogs.

Rob Kernahan

UK Chief Architect for Cloud and a Global SME on Cloud Technology, Data and IT Operating Models
Rob is a member of the Capgemini CTO group as UK Chief Architect for Cloud and a Global SME on Cloud Technology, Data and IT Operating Models. Rob has over 20 years’ experience in Architecture and Delivery across a variety of sectors. Over the years he has led large transformational initiatives and has combined technology and people to create powerful outcomes.