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About us

Maxime Fern and Michael Johnstone are at the forefront of taking Adaptive Leadership out of academia and into boardrooms and learning spaces around the world. We are educators, coaches, facilitators, thought leaders, authors and advisors. 


We have advised and trained hundreds of senior executives across sectors around the world, and have coached and mentored many prominent leadership development practitioners. Our recent book takes adaptive leadership work one step further by outlining the art and practice of provocative action.


A brief history

We are working and life partners who originally trained as psychologists and systems family therapists before establishing our leadership consulting practice. We partnered with Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government for 15 years, pioneering the use of its innovative adaptive methodology – Case in Point. 

How we work

We use a unique combination of challenging ideas and actions, practical applicable methods, and a deep care for people.

When people are stuck, we recognise that they’re doing the best they know how. It’s our job to constructively collaborate on productive ways of thinking and acting. 

We ask hard questions and challenge unproductive ways. We care, support and nurture, but will always ensure that people and organisations have a realistic view of themselves and their challenges. We are expert provocateurs, askers of intriguing questions and stimulators of deep thinking.

Our focus

Our focus is on helping leaders, top teams, consultants and whole organisations gain perspective, think and act adaptively to challenge the status quo, and make progress on their most pressing problems. Our work can only be done well with expertise, care and compassion.

Experience and reputation

We understand how people and systems work, what holds them back, and what moves them forward. We use real world insights and proven methods, gained from 30 years acting as leadership advisors.

20+ years

Teaching and consulting on Adaptive Leadership


15 years at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government

In Australia

BHP, Opal, Sydney University, the ANU, Australian Treasury, and more


Google, Microsoft, Abbott Laboratories, Bank Intesa San Paolo, the Scottish Government and more

Image by Headway
Why people work with us, a case study

Following the calamity of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008-2009, we were invited by the executive team of an essential public sector agency to assist them respond to cultural and staffing problems emerging in their business. The six senior leaders were shocked by the results of a staff survey which suggested they were not leading and could only find excuses beyond their own behaviour. The case study discusses our approach.

Provocation as Leadership:
A blue print for people who want to ignite change 

“While we know our world’s most wicked challenges lack easy answers, this book will surely sharpen the mind, steady the hands, and embolden the heart of any intrepid changemaker who seeks to tackle them." 

Laura Berlind, ED Adaptive Leadership Network, Washington DC

News and opinions

Provocation as Leadership

A Roadmap for Adaption and Change

Our new book is a blueprint for people who want to ignite change and help their organisations, group, or community break through to a better future – people who know instinctively that provocation is required.

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