No Cape Required

empowering abundant leadership

It’s time to deal with the leadership deficit. It’s time to help people and teams reach their potential; to stop the loss of good people leaving bad managers.

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  • If recruitment costs are high, or you’re having challenges retaining or rewarding people, the number one issue is poor leadership.
  • If your organisation isn’t reaching it’s potential, costing you time, money or effort, the solution is better, more abundant leadership.
  • It’s not enough to say ‘Lean In’ or expect individuals to grow their leadership skills; it needs a systematic shift within organisations too.

No Cape Required sets out a vision for a new approach to leadership. It emphasizes the need to develop both the individual and the organizational environment within which they are expected to lead and succeed. When we see, appreciate and unlock the power of everyone, we can all be heroes – and not all heroes wear capes.

“Our strength is in a system, not heroes. A heroic, high-minded system.”
—Eric Garland

Published by Business Expert Press

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What’s “No Cape Required” About?


It's about you

manager at desk

This book illumines the path toward taking leadership development into your own hands and influencing the organization around you to be better prepared for the abundant leadership revolution.



It's about your organisation

taking book off library shelf

Discover how costly the dominant hero-leader paradigm.
Explore why it’s vital, in today’s “VUCA World” of Volatility, Uncertainty,
Complexity, and Ambiguity,
to develop a new and more relevant approach to leadership and leadership development.


It's about managers

If you are a manager yourself, this book offers insight into the behaviours and skills you need to deliver and the engaging styles you can use to build more successful teams and experience better relationships with colleagues.


It's about leadership


This book addresses equality through its message of abundant leadership; not emphasizing one group over another, but pointing out the need to unlock the talents and potential of everyone in the organization.

What Are Readers Saying?

Peter Cheese

Peter Cheese

Chief Executive, CIPD, The professional body for HR and people development

“Leadership today has never been more challenging or challenged.
Rich in insights, evidence and practical guidance, NO CAPE REQUIRED pushes us all towards more open, inclusive, and engaging leadership, and the idea of abundance to transform together.” 

“Organisations face growing pressures to perform, in an evermore challenging and uncertain world. This book demonstrates how this can be addressed, in inclusive, coaching and respectful ways. NO CAPE REQUIRED is an important contribution at a pivotal time for our country.” 

David MacLeod OBE

Co-author, with Nita Clarke OBE, of Engaging For Success (the MacLeod Report, BIS 2009)

Nita Clarke OBE

Nita Clarke OBE

Director, Involvement and Participation Association (IPA): raising performance through workforce engagement, and co-chair, Engage for Success

“This is a long-overdue book, proposing more inclusive leadership, that will deliver results in today’s world of work. The authors address more than gender equality; diversity and inclusion are vital for organisational success, and for individual wellbeing too. NO CAPE REQUIRED puts the issues on the table and demonstrates the value to organisations of developing more abundant leadership.”

“We’re living in a VUCA World already and I’m pleased to see that NO CAPE REQUIRED focuses on the kind of leaders we need in this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment. Readers can take away thought provoking ideas for developing better individual leadership and creating a positive climate for thriving organisations in our VUCA World.”

Stephen Dando

Operating Partner, Bain Capital

David Burkus

David Burkus

Associate Professor of Leadership and Innovation at Oral Roberts University. Author of Friend of A Friend and Under New Management

“NO CAPE REQUIRED makes a powerful case that we don’t need to find the right leader for everyone . . . rather we need everyone to start being a leader.
More than that, this book shows you where to start.” 

“NO CAPE REQUIRED is a liberating read for HR professionals, OD practitioners and managers generally, as it demonstrates something that we inherently know: leadership is not about position in a hierarchy.
The authors offer important insights into starting or accelerating your journey and the journey of those around you. This is an important and worthwhile read for all of us.”

Geoff Lloyd

CHRO, Meggitt PLC

Here’s what people are saying about #NoCapeRequired on LinkedIn

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About the Authors



Helen Caton-Hughes

Helen is an international author, speaker, leadership coach, researcher and learning and development program design consultant.
Co-founder of the Forton Group, Helen works with leaders to create and deliver engaging leadership development programs that apply the practical tools relevant to 21st century leadership.

Helen’s expertise is based on a corporate background including financial services, facilities management and marketing organizations.

Her research interests include workplace wellbeing, employee engagement, volunteering and learning design.

Bob Hughes

Bob Hughes is a leadership consultant, co-founder of the UKbased Forton Group, which designs and delivers leadership development globally.  Bob coaches board members and senior leaders, including using the my360plus leadership assessment tool.

Co-creator of the internationally-accredited ‘Leadership Coaching Model’, Bob’s expertise is built on 30 years working in major corporates at a senior level.

Bob is also a non-executive director for Engage for Success, which promotes employee engagement to benefit individuals, teams, and organisations.

+44 (0) 345 077 2980 option #1

College Farm, Main Street, Willoughby, Warwickshire, CV23 8BH, UK

About the Forton Group

Leadership Development

Assessment, development & coaching services

Find out more:

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Coaching Qualifications

Leadership/In-house Coach, Manager as Coach

Find out more:

Forton coaching qualifications


Online 360 degree tool

Find out more:

my360plus online 360 tool

What’s inside NO CAPE REQUIRED?

How This Book Is Structured

We’ve divided the book into four key sections, based on the FortonD4 leadership development model, created by the Forton Group. And we’ve provided stimulus questions for you at the end of each chapter, so you can reflect on, and deliver, the kind of leadership you need.

The FortonD4 Leadership Development Model:

  • Define your leadership needs
  • Discover and retain the talent(s) you already have
  • Develop people and create a learning environment
  • Deploy: support leaders to apply their skills

The D4 method is a systematic process, for optimum success. It works both at the individual and at the organizational levels. It works for people developing others and for those developing themselves.

DEFINE: Chapter 1

Leadership Development: A Solution Looking for a Problem?

In Chapter 1, we look at the solo leader hero myth and the need for more balanced, more inclusive, leadership. We explore barriers to developing a high-performing leadership culture.

In this zone of discovery, we encourage questions about what kind of leadership the organization needs to be successful and where to start—because that may not be leadership development!

Chapter 2: Leadership: Problems or Puzzles?

In Chapter 2, we explore different ways of defining the leadership development challenge: as a puzzle or a problem. We focus on the new paradigm of leadership development to meet the challenges of “VUCA World.” VUCA World is the place created by the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity faced by leaders.

VUCA world requires a different approach to situations and a new approach to leader development.

Chapter 3: No Cape Required

We all know it’s a myth that one, cape-clad hero will save the day. But we still cling to it.

It’s time to throw off the cape, and the underpinning beliefs, assumptions, and unconscious bias tucked under it.

Chapter 3 explores these dominant paradigms and the benefits, for organizations, teams, and individuals, of making change.

DISCOVER: Chapter 4

Brokering Peace in the War for Talent

In Chapter 4, we challenge the “war for talent” metaphor and argue instead for a more collaborative approach to recruitment and retention.

We look at the benefits of in-house talent nurturing versus the costs (in time, not just in money) of hiring from outside.

Chapter 5: Mining for Gold

In Chapter 5, we address the myth of shiny suited outsider, or the knight in shining armor, and invite you to dig a little deeper into your talent pool.

It’s easy enough to see why people fall for these enticing myths. We explore the allure, and the risks, of the hero myth.

Chapter 6: Filling the Vase

In Chapter 6, we explore approaches that value every member of the team for their diverse contributions, rather than the “zero-sum game” of winners and losers.

We explore the need to bring reward systems closer to real contribution, to avoid getting “gamed” by people looking to beat the system.

DEVELOP: Chapter 7

Soft Skills Are Tougher Than They Look

In Chapter 8, we challenge the labelling of empathy, compassion, and collaborative skills as “soft.”

In today’s world of work, relationships and communications between people are vital. Developing these skills is at the heart of success in VUCA World.

Chapter 8: Leadership by Lion Taming

Part of the challenge of the hero myth is that leadership development programs support that myth; it’s a symbiotic relationship that exists only to support the development of heroic leaders.

Chapter 8 goes more deeply into the specifics of leadership behaviors and their adaptability.

Chapter 9: Nobody's Perfect

It’s time, in Chapter 9, to look at the shadow side of leadership. We can all practise, and sometimes we fail to be a good leader.  

It’s vital that we address attitudes towards failure, and the fear of failure.

DEPLOY: Chapter 10

Leaders: A Higher Life Form?
In Chapter 10, we support the view that the leadership skillset needs developed as early as possible in their career.

We explore the notion of leaders as “better than,” in some indefinable way, managers or team members, when what we need in today’s world of work are resourceful enablers who motivate and inspire each other, and—working together—get the job done.

Chapter 11: Are Interviews Just Rose-Tinted Views?

In Chapter 11, we question whether interviews are just an expensive method for looking at people through rose-tinted spectacles.

It’s time to acknowledge how we’re seduced by beauty parades and get past our unconscious biases, so that we truly get the best people for the role.

Chapter 12: Wanted: Sharp People and Well-Rounded Teams

Chapter 12 explores the notion of “well-rounded people” and the desire to iron out their wrinkles, rather than accept sharp individuals who, working together, are willing to make up a well-rounded team.

Read extracts from the introduction

sticky note image: "go, lead, succeed"

“It’s Time for the Era of Abundant Leadership

Let’s be clear; this is not news. It’s just that abundant leadership and better leadership behaviors are urgently needed in this “VUCA World” of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

Back in 1989, Professor Harold Schroder[i] told us that the hero leader myth had been debunked. Earlier researchers had already shown that “heroic leadership will decrease effectiveness of organisations.”[ii]

Yet the myths persist. And behaviors need to change.

The authors covered some of the arguments for change in our contribution to the book Breaking the Zero-Sum Game,[iii] listing the very real performance and financial benefits to organizations of more inclusive and diverse leadership.

The time is long overdue for transformation—away from solitary hero leaders to a more abundant, inclusive world of leadership. But this new world of leadership needs support and encouragement. It’s time for those responsible for their own, and others’, leadership development to empower abundant leadership.

It’s time to celebrate the emergence of abundant leadership.”


[i] H.M. Schroder. 1989. Managerial Competence (Iowa, IL: Kendall Hunt).

[ii] D.L. Bradford and A.R. Cohen. 1984. Managing for Excellence: The Guide to Developing High Performance in Contemporary Organizations (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley), quoted p.32, Managerial Competence, (ibid.)

[iii] R.N. Hughes, and H.R. Caton-Hughes. 2017. Ch.14 “The Inclusive Leader at the Centre of an Interconnected World.” In Breaking the Zero-Sum Game: Transforming Societies through Inclusive Leadership, ed. A. Boitano, R. Lagomarsino, and H.E. Schockman. Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing.

The courage to transform

“We need the courage to transform: transform our own leadership, support, and empower others. We need the determination to enable a higher performing leadership culture in our organizations. Courage is usually seen as the epitome of the hero leader. But we’re asking you not to be a lone hero. We’re asking you to find allies so that you make change, and move forward, together.

So here’s the deal-breaker question: Are you ready for the leadership gamechanger?

This isn’t just about you as an individual leader; it’s also about organizational culture having the collective courage to achieve transformational leadership. So often managers leave leadership training courses nurtured with lofty ideals and leadership aspirations, only to return to a nest of vipers.

One of our students told us this story:

“I used to help my Dad clean out the fish tank. He’d carefully, take out each of his precious fish collection, quickly dipping them in a small clear water tank.

With my help, he’d rigorously clean out the display tank and gently return the fish.

We’d literally see them in a new light: the iridescent colors of the little neon fish were my favorites.”

Why would you invest in training up leaders only to return them to the dirty water? Especially when what you thought was a fish tank turns out to be a shark tank.

What’s needed is a whole-system approach to better leadership, and this book helps you consider the whole “heroic system,” rather than focusing solely on individuals, such that when we’ve invested time, effort, and money in their development, the environment they return to is ready for them too.”

It’s time to make qualifications in leadership skills a requirement

Leadership and management is vital to organizational success. And it’s a skillset; yet despite the global market in MBAs, the topic of “leadership” itself, and the skills that support better leadership, are not embedded in MBA curricula.

Some might argue that it doesn’t need to be limited solely to business management—that it’s a core skill set for all organizations, at all levels.

The Chartered Management Institute,[i] in its February 2018 report, gave its number one recommendation for “Developing 21st-Century Leaders” as “Give all learners management and leadership skills to improve employability. Opportunities to develop management, enterprise and leadership skills should be made accessible to students in any discipline, as well as those on business and management courses.”

Using the Forton leadership model, professionals responsible for developing and coaching lea Save & Exit ders have a simple, yet transformational, way to support leadership success in any part of the organization. And leaders and managers can invest their time and effort in working toward meaningful qualifications that cross organizational and cultural boundaries.

It means a focus on what works in leadership development, based on managers’ and leaders’ real-world experience, as well as peer-reviewed academic research.

This means that, from the first 360 exploration of leaders’ behaviors, through to one-to-one coaching and peer action learning, employers can be confident that a qualified manager has the knowledge and skills to be a successful leader for that most precious of resources—their people.”

[i] Chartered Management Institute. February 2018. 21st Century Leaders: Building Employability through Higher Education (London, UK: Chartered Management Institute).

We’d love to hear your stories about what’s working in creating more abundant leadership.  Or if you have a story to share of the challenge for achieving more diversity in leadership, we’d love to hear that too. 

Contact us: through social media, email, or the form here.

+44 (0) 345 077 2980 option #1

College Farm, Main Street, Willoughby, Rugby, CV23 8BH, UK

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