Featuring Mary L. Kole

Silver Fox Advisors is proud of our members and would like for you to get to know them better.

Mary Kole is the founder of ML Kole, LLC, a consulting practice focused on assisting leaders of public and private companies with the development and implementation of strategies to achieve company or organization objectives. Mary is a professional Business Leadership Mentor, former Chairman, President, and Vice President of Silver Fox Advisors.

According to Silver Fox Advisors founder, Monte Pendleton, “Mary is the most capable person I have mentored in 30 years. She can do anything and do it well”.

If you would like to learn more about Ms. Kole or joining Silver Fox Advisors, visit our website.

March Newsletter

March is a busy month here at Silver Fox Advisors.

Education Series

We are launching our 2021 Education Series on March 16. The Education Series is a program featuring various advisors and associates of the organization, bringing you topics and information to help you as a business owner/leader.

The first session for 2021 will be titled “The Science of Selling in a COVID World”. Two of our members, Rich Hall and Mark Miller will be presenting. For more on this informative session, read the link below.

There is no fee for this series, but you must pre-register. We will begin at 10:00.

Lunch & Learn

Then, on March 25 at Noon, join us for our monthly Lunch & Learn event. This month, Mr. Brian Greene, President and CEO of the Houston Food Bank will be speaking on “Understanding How Nonprofit Organizations Are Different So You Can Be More Helpful to Them”

This is a virtual webinar. There is no fee to attend, but you must preregister.

Blog Articles

Please feel free to browse our library of articles, studies, and messages written by our members. Visit SilverFox.org

Need an Advisor?

Is your business running exactly as you hoped it would? Are you struggling with turning the corner or getting to the next level of success?

Think about contacting an advisor. We here at Silver Fox Advisors are proven business leaders with decades of practical experience, ready to come alongside you and your business. Contact us today or read more at SilverFox.org.

March 25th Lunch & Learn

On March 25th, the Silver Fox Advisors will be holding our monthly Lunch & Learn program. This month we are honored to have Mr. Brian Greene, President & CEO of the Houston Food Bank. Mr. Greene will be speaking about “Understanding How Nonprofit Organizations Are Different So You Can Be More Helpful to Them.”

Thursday, March 25th, 12:00PM CST – Seats will be limited.

Rapid Chaotic Change Requires Leadership Agility

Understanding Change

It is undeniable that change is accelerating and becoming more chaotic.  Leaders need to understand this change.  What is driving the change?  What are the implications on your leadership?

Technology is driving the change. I have put together a model to help you understand this change and high-level implications on your leadership. After exploring the model, we will highlight key thoughts on leadership agility to deal with this rapid and chaotic change in today’s business world.

Industrial Revolution

We are all familiar with the industrial revolution starting back in the mid-1700s.  New technology in the form of machines changed the manufacturing process of goods.  Machines substituted for human labor.

It brought about new forms of business enterprise because this change was mass production.  Organizations had to evolve to deal with the larger volume of transactions.

It was a new world.

Management by Exception

Back in the 1960s when I was taking organizational behavior courses the buzz word was “management by exception.”  You probably heard of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The assembly line was key to production.  You had to keep it going.

Change was not rampant.

Therefore, the focus was on control.

To lead these massive organizations with their hierarchies, the management style was traditionally autocratic.

Information Revolution

The technology of automation from the Industrial Revolution paved the wave for a transformation change in information processes with the advent of computers.  Software programs did the work of repetitive clerical type roles and more.

I joined Shell Oil in 1970 as one of those programmers to create this new software.

The new buzz word was “Change is the Constant.”

The rigidity of large bureaucratic organizations was being significantly impacted by the delayering and restructuring brought on by this information processing revolution.

More decisions had to be made to cope with the constant change.

Knowledge became more important with these constantly changing dynamics.

It made sense to have others participate in the decision-making process. 

Thus, the management style shifted more toward Participative.

Companies needed to keep up and not get lost in the change from their competitors.

The focus turned to adaption.

Second Wave of the Information Revolution

By 1965, an M.I.T. scientist developed a way of sending information from one computer to another that he called “packet switching.”

This has continued to evolve into today’s multi-faceted internet world.

It is not just social media.

You can type anything into your browser and get a voluminous amount of information in seconds.

This has been a big driver of the acceleration of change which creates instability.

Molecular Revolution

The hybrid DNA-RNA was created around 1960 as part of the early beginnings of the Biotechnology Revolution.

At the turn of the century, the world had advanced to the sequencing of the human genome.

On a similar front, the theory of manipulating atoms was around 1960.

Some twenty years later, the scanning tunneling microscope was developed that could see individual atoms.

Nanotechnology is real.

Together this has all led to the manipulation of cells and atoms.

Chaotic Change

Today, this Molecular Revolution has come to the forefront.

It is transforming the very fundamentals of living systems and materials.

In short, the molecular revolution is another key driver underpinning the chaos.

Fundamental Reprogramming

The ability to fundamentally reprogram things is opening people’s minds not constrained by traditional boundaries.

Management styles are shifting to visionaries.

Instead of being whipsawed by accelerating and chaotic change, visionaries are creating the future.

Ramifications on your Leadership Style

There are practical ramifications of today’s changing dynamics for every leader.

Those in fast cycle industries have been in this chaos for some time.

Slow cycle industries have sped up.

Life spans for companies have shortened.

Technology and imaginative minds are driving more technology and transformations that lead to even faster change and more chaos.

Leaders must be more agile and flexible to cope and prosper, but how do you do that?

What competencies and skills are needed to be an agile leader?

There has been some very thoughtful research on this question.  In this blog, I can only give you highlights and direct you to some of the better resources (in my opinion).

Leadership Agility

In 2007, Bill Joiner & Stephen Josephs wrote the book LEADERSHIP AGILITY Five Levels of Mastery For Anticipating and Initiating Change.

It is a rather sophisticated approach based on their notion of a Leadership Agility Compass outlining four competencies: Context Setting Agility, Stakeholder Agility, Creative Agility, and Self Leadership Agility. 

Using the compass, they then take you through their five levels of agility development: Expert, Achiever, Catalyst, Co-creator, and Synergist.

It has a lot of content. If you are really trying to enhance your leadership agility, it is worth a read.

Learning Agility

Korn Ferry has also done a lot of research on leadership agility outlined in their paper on The Organizational X Factor: Learning Agility.

They describe learning agility as made up of five factors: Self Awareness, Mental Agility, People Agility, Change Agility, and Results Agility. 

You can see some similar ideas to Joiner and Josephs’ Leadership Compass.

I like their addition of Results Agility described as delivering results in first time situations.

The authors, Mary Knight and Natalie Wong, contend that Learning Agility is a top predictor of high potential people. Companies with highly agile executives have 25% higher profit margins than their peers.

Core, Edge and Agility

Agility competencies are important.

It is also important to have a perspective in thinking about the context of this change in your day-to-day world. 

What is central to how the world should work for you to what are the dramatic implications of changing technologies?

In this respect, Lee, Hecht, and Harrison, a global leader in talent development, wrote an interesting paper on Core, Edge, and Agility.

My Silver Fox Advisor colleague, Doug Thorpe, has condensed their ideas and his own in an article on his website in 2018 entitled Leaders: There’s a New Way to Understand Change | Business Advisor, Mentor and Executive Coach | Doug Thorpe

It is certainly worth your read with the idea that agility helps manage the forces of what’s core and what is on the edge.

Set Direction Not Destination

Agility has certainly become a popular topic for organizational consultants in this 21st century.

 One concept I like from McKinsey’s March 2018 article of Leading with inner agility is “set direction not destination.”

This brings us back to my model introduced at the beginning of this blog on understanding change.

You not only have to have agility competencies, and a framework of thinking about agility as we have just discussed.

You also need to be the visionary highlighted in the model.

Ultimately, the management style of significance in this world of accelerating and chaotic change is a visionary leader.

Set directions with the agility to adjust destinations.

To paraphrase Jack Welch, control your own destiny or someone else will.

Contributed by Lane Sloan, former Shell CFO and Silver Fox Advisor.

personal profile

Your Leadership Personal Profile

Your Leadership Personal Profile

4 Inner Ps of Leadership

There are plenty of articles and books on leadership.  The reason being leadership is clearly critical for an organization’s success.  Many emphasize a particular angle or perspective in how you should lead. Instead, this blog provides a comprehensive straight forward approach to know your leadership self.  As Socrates said,  “know thyself.” And with this full picture, it is much easier to identify areas for improvement that will make a difference.

 In coaching mentees on how to improve their leadership. I use my 4 Inner Ps of Leadership framework: Purpose, Persuasions, Personality, and Proficiencies. The framework was introduced in my blog of October 29, 2020 on the Silver Fox Advisors website (See here).   This blog takes that 4 Inner Ps framework and provides a step-by-step approach to develop your Leadership Personal Profile.

Personal Purpose Section

We discussed Personal Purpose in my blog of October 13, 2020 where I briefly outlined a self-development approach.  In the profile exhibit below, that is the methodology taken.

Step 1

The first step is to rank the five characteristics of your Career Development from 1 to 5.  Likewise, in the Personal Development rank the three characteristics from 1 to 3. Finally, rank the three characteristics from Social Development from 1 to 3. 

For example, you might have Financial, Type of Role, Work Environment, Type of Career, and Type of Industry ranked in that order.  You do that for the other three categories.

You should now have a good sense of your priorities in the three main development areas.  Next, we need to determine your priorities across the developmental areas.

Step 2

Then compare the top ranked item from each development area against one another and choose the highest priority in your life. For example, if your top items from the three developmental areas are Financial, Mental, and Family. Then decide on which of these three is most important.  It may be Family.

From the development area chosen, move up the next highest ranked and compare that again against the other highest-ranking development areas.  In our example, you would compare your next social developmental area which might be Friends against Mental and Family to choose the highest of those three.

 You do that five times and place the results in the allotted space in rank order.

Now, you have a fairly good idea of what are the most important priorities in your life.

Step 3

 Then, think about your passions, what excites you, what you are living for, what makes you happy, what you are always talking about.  Couple that with the five priorities above and envision your personal future. 

Write that down as your Personal Vision Statement.  This is what you would like to see your life become in the future. A personal coach can help you think through this personal vision.

Persuasions Section

As you might recall from my earlier blog on the 4 Inner Ps of Leadership, Persuasions are deep rooted beliefs, feelings, needs, perceptions, values, and morals that influence how you behave and act in the “outer” world. They persuade you in acting a certain way and create a filter or bias in dealing with the “outer” world bringing judgment in how to behave. 

The profile exhibit below captures those key elements to illuminate underlying influences on your leadership behavior.

Step 1

Start by listing your top 3 core values such as honesty, tradition, integrity, diversity, positiveness, etc.

This is not intended to be a rigorous psychological assessment.  Instead, what really gets you really angry when someone behaves in a certain manner? What are you always thinking about in making personal decisions? What do you think of most when judging people’s character?

Step 2

Next, think through your key beliefs in people.  An example from Douglas Mc Gregor would be “people are self-motivated to work” or “people only work for the paycheck.”  Another might be “most people tell the truth.”  “People are only out for themselves,” and so forth.  You can get some insight from some personality and leadership assessment tests. Write your top two or three key beliefs about people in the box on beliefs.

Step 3

Similarly, think through your current driving needs.  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs may give you some ideas.  On ego, “I need to be recognized for my talent.”  At the social level, “I need a group of close friends.”  Another need might involve “I need more money to buy a house for my expanding family.” What is driving you? Only list your top 3.

Step 4

The broad perspective on life can be more challenging.  What is your overall outlook that biases you in looking at the world in a particular way? This can be spiritual. Or it might be something like the world is full of opportunities.  We are all just passing through life in a moment in time.  The world is a treacherous place.  I am along for the ride and want to have the most fun.  Again, whatever it is that shapes your broad perspective in approaching life.  It is helpful in talking this through with others.

I have a very forward-looking perspective with an open mind on what opportunities or challenges will come forward in the future.  It is important for me to recognize that others are focused on the past and the issues they faced.

This does not need to be complicated.  Write a simple statement of your perspective in the box provided.

Step 5

In the 4 Inner Ps of Leadership blog, we discussed the concept of a Johari window.  There was a window described as Façade where there are things known only to yourself.

It can be helpful in sharing some of these with others to increase your authenticity.

You might say I act very self-confident but underneath I am quite insecure. Or I put on the aura of being in control of a situation when I am unsure of what to do. I tell people that I am happy when I am terribly sad.  I shake people’s hand warmly, even when I do not like them.

Identify a couple to start opening more of yourself to others. List those in the Façade box.

Step 6

My coaching suggestion is to develop Guiding Principles that give people a deeper understanding of how they can expect you to behave.  These principles often emanate from your values, beliefs, and perspectives.

They should be shared with your people.

Here are two of mine to give you an idea.  “Treat people as you would like to be treated.”  Another is “I will believe you until proven wrong.”

Once you feel comfortable with your Guiding Principles, write the top two in the box provided.

Step 7

This all leads to a Character Statement.  The key is what is your moral compass?  How will you respond in challenging circumstances when your behavior matters most?

An example might be, “I am a trustworthy person that people can count on me doing what I say.”  You can get much more elaborate. 

If you put it down in writing, the Character Statement becomes something for you to live up to. This is vital in improving your leadership qualities.

Personality Section

We are getting on firm ground with personality.  Most people have a reasonable idea.  It can be expanded by personality tests, and other people’s feedback. The point is to get a high-level view that accurately describes you.

Step 1

It is best in the characteristics box to simply list words as opposed to phrases that represent you.  Various personality tests are available on-line from the internet.

 If you have taken the Myers Briggs test, then the choices would be from their four categories: extraversion or introversion, sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling, judging or perceiving.

 In the Big 5 Personality test it is degrees of extraversion, agreeableness, emotional stability, and openness to experience from low to high.

 In DISC, the four quadrants are Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness.  And so forth. 

You can see some of the overlap among these tests.

 Also include specific feedback from family, friends, and work colleagues that can be quite revealing.

Write these personality words in the Characteristics box.

Step 2

The Leadership Style component is an area of significant interest in coaching you.

 Leadership style can have an incredibly significant impact on the performance of your followers.  This was discussed in my blog of December 3, 2020 on The People Side of Leadership.

Hogan Assessment

 The Hogan Assessment, although somewhat costly for a small business owner/CEO, is a very comprehensive and powerful tool addressing many areas that influence your workplace behaviors and leadership style.  In my opinion, it is the most comprehensive and best assessment on an overall leadership profile covering in a different format Persuasions, Personality, and Proficiencies.

Their personality test focuses on seven areas: Adjustment; Ambition; Sociability; Interpersonal Sensitivity; Prudence; Inquisitive and Learning Approach.  If you take their assessment, this would-be key input into the Characteristics box.

The Hogan Assessment also has a test on Motives, Values, Preference Inventory that focuses on the Persuasions section. Taking their test would provide significant input into that section.

Hogan also has a cognitive ability section which looks at judgment and reasoning.  The judgment can identify the “dark” side of your personality that in my 4 inner Ps Leadership blog can represent fatal flaws. 

This test also provides significant input on leadership strengths and weakness that is key input into the Proficiencies section coming up.

Hogan does provide detailed analysis of your leadership style.

Broader Frameworks

 As a coach, I also like some of the broader frameworks.  Our aim is to get a personal profile not a detailed personality analysis as provided in Hogan or Birkman tests.  However, their key findings are useful input.

In the Managerial Grid, you assess your concern for People and your concern for Performance from low to high.

Likert’s model outlined in my previous blog on the 4 Inner Ps of Leadership is extremely useful. His four styles are Exploitive Authoritarian, Benevolent Authoritarian, Consultative, and Participative Group.

Other leadership approaches such as Servant Leadership, Authentic Leader and so forth are good for you to understand your inner leadership self.

I also highly recommend taking an Emotional IQ test.  Include your assessment in this Leadership Style segment.

It is also critical to get others views of your style by asking people: how you get things done? how you work with people?  Feedback from work colleagues, family, friends, and your coach provide a different and important perspective.

A personal coach can be extremely helpful in providing an assessment of your leadership style.

Take all this input and summarize in several key words and statements.

Step 3

Besides knowing more about yourself, you will have opportunities for improvement. 

For example, you may want to take on the bigger strategy of restructuring your leadership style.  You will need real passion to do so.  This can be a challenging undertaking.

Also, recognize your leadership style matures over time.

In my opinion, Situational Leadership is the strongest style once you have reached a high level of leadership competency.  Here you adjust to reflect the environmental conditions you face based on the deeper understanding of various leadership approaches.

 Tactically, you may find something like you tend to be less sensitive to people’s feelings.  In this case, you would want to listen more carefully.  How are they expressing themselves?  What is driving their behavior?  

There may be fatal flaws you have to correct to be an effective leader. A fatal flaw can be as simple as you constantly snickering when people are talking.  And so forth.

There is no perfect leadership style.  Build primarily on improving yourself, not becoming someone else.

Write down what you want to do now in the last segment.  Update this segment In your profile as you progress.

Proficiencies Section

In my coaching sessions, we spend a good deal of time on Proficiencies.

 As you can see in the exhibit that follows, these proficiencies are broken down into the following:

1) Traits (using Northouse model from his eighth edition book on Leadership Northouse Theory and Practice)

2)  Knowledge of Business (in general),

3)  Industry Knowledge

4) Technical Knowledge

5)   Leadership Strengths with a focus on Strengths Based Leadership.

6.)  Leadership Brand on how you want to be known.

Step 1

In the Leadership Traits box, this is a self-assessment not a test taking exercise.


 You have a fairly good idea on your cognitive ability.  Simply assess from low to high.

 On the other hand, you may have remembered your IQ score.

If you are around 100, then medium would be the choice.

My view is above 115 could be considered high for this purpose.

Other traits

Similarly, how do you view your self-confidence, determination, integrity, and sociability?  This is your view and how others perceive you.

 Low is not typical for intelligence and integrity. The rest varies by individual. Be honest in your assessment. You will only be deceiving yourself as Traits are generally stable.

Step 2

Business knowledge not surprisingly relates to what is taught in business schools.  These are the underpinning functions in running a business. 

This self-assessment should reflect your knowledge of the current state of the art.  What is being taught today. And what are current discussion topics in business circles. 

For example, I have a business major in marketing and a master’s degree with a lot of IT.  In my career, I started as a computer programmer and was once the head of Shell Oil’s IT organization.  But today, both marketing and IT world would rank only medium in my mind.

Rank yourself from low to high on the business categories in the business knowledge box.

Step 3

Industry knowledge relates to experience as well as expertise.

What are the key drivers to success in this industry? This would include your knowledge of the competition’s offerings and value propositions.  The industry dynamics such as ease of entrance, competitiveness, progressiveness, cycle time, and so forth.

Industry knowledge is not the centerpiece of leadership; yet without sufficient knowledge it can become difficult to gain followers.

Write a couple of key statements in the Industry Knowledge box.

Step 4

Technical knowledge starts with understanding in sufficient detail your product or service. That is, how it works and what might be unique.

More broadly, technical knowledge includes science-based backgrounds such as engineering, physics, etc.  If the product or service depends on a science-based background that should be highlighted.

Similarly, specialized knowledge such as being a CPA, a lawyer, a technician, computer programmer, etc. 

To what degree do you keep up with technology trends? 

This is not a dissertation, but headliners.

Capture a few headliners in the Technical Knowledge segment.

Step 5

The next box on Leadership Strengths is key.

 As mentioned in my blog describing the 4 Inner Ps of Leadership, my approach is to start with Rath and Conchie’s Strength Finders 2.0 Strength Based Leadership test.

 It is not an expensive book and has an internet test that provides your top 5 strengths in the categories of Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking.

Any additional insights from your personality tests, Hogan assessment, other’s feedback should be included. 

Again, make these headliners to keep it simple.

Put them in the Leadership Strengths box.

Step 6

I have found it is extremely helpful for the leader to develop a desired brand statement.

Just like companies have a brand that influences their reputation, leaders do to whether they recognize it or not. 

Managing your leadership brand starts with developing your brand statement.  Your leadership strengths will be a key determinant.

For example, my leadership brand is “a strategic visionary who gets things done.”

 That rests on 3 of my strengths from StrengthFinders falling under Strategic Thinking. The other two fall under Execution.  Plus, all my feedback including LinkedIn point towards my strategic skills.

Think about this carefully. You may want others to review as well as your coach.

 Then formulate your Brand Statement and put in the designated box.

Step 7

Improving your leadership really comes to the forefront under Proficiencies. 

You will find some key areas that you want to improve. 

If there are clear deficiencies, identify what steps need to be taken.

Most often, it is building synergies around your strengths.

These lead into your brand.


The beauty of putting your Leadership Personal Profile together is you will know yourself better.

Knowing yourself better provides clarity on what you can work on to improve your leadership.

While there many components in the overall profile, my goal has been to make this practical and straight forward. It is not a rigorous academic model nor a complicated personality test.

 I have designed it so that you can sketch out your profile on your own.  Treat it as an evergreen document as you progress.

If you are a small business owner or CEO, this tool can be incredibly useful as your company moves through the 4 growth stages described in my blog of October 8, 2020.  In that model, leadership becomes more and more important as you move up the growth stages. 

A Silver Fox Advisor can help you on this journey.


Contributed by Lane Sloan, former Shell CFO and Silver Fox Advisor.

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