Beyond Legal – The LEADS Analysis


The biggest and most important part of the job for any leader is to make decisions.

Decisions are made in big businesses every day by CEOs and their leadership teams, anyone of which could be a tipping point between success and failure, even disaster – for the corporations, their brands, shareholders, employees, customers and for the leaders themselves.

 LEADS is an analysis tool I developed to help leadership teams to make decisions to avoid an issue becoming a crisis.



Putting aside Shakespeare’s tempting advice that the first thing to do is to kill all the lawyers, the first question which comes to mind for most decision-making leaders faced with a choice of action is simply to ask “is it legal?”

Most corporate board rooms are not short of lawyers eager to offer an opinion, or more often, many conflicting opinions on any given subject.

Lawyers are important to business leaders, because if things really get hot they hope they will keep them out of jail personally, and save their business from financial penalties and regulatory restrictions. What matters in the court of law is obviously of paramount importance. However it is not the only consideration, and this is where the E, A, D, and S come into the picture.

In any scenario let’s take it as read, although it is of course not always the case, that the options before us are all legal, or at least our learned advice is that they are probably legal or not.

Our job as a communications practitioner is often to take our employer/client beyond that point – to look not only at the test of the court of law, but of the court of public opinion. The communications role starts when we’ve already answered the “Do I go to jail?” question.

The question asked here is – Do our legal advisers counsel that each option is legal by local, national and international law (and relevant regulation) ?


Resisting a lame joke like saying, the only way is ethics, let me ask you – how’s your moral compass?

Because this question is all about you.

Moses may or may not have brought the Ten Commandments down to us in tablets of stone, depending on your beliefs, and in any case these were arguably laws laid down by a higher authority and not statements of personal ethics, but what is certain is that there is no manual of ethics we can reference to determine if something is ethical or not.

This is a question about what we as individuals and the organisations we represent or serve deem to be ethical.

So even if an option before us is legal, the next question is – do we think it is ethical judged by our own ethical codes. These codes are sometimes enacted in organisations through corporate codes of practice.

Members of professions and trades will almost certainly have ethical codes of practice. And we as individuals will hold to pour own unique personal codes of ethics based on our beliefs, vision, values and our world-view.

One persons’ view of “Doing the right thing” may differ wildly from that of another. Apart from these corporate and professional considerations, what is deemed to be good or bad ethically will be subject to societal thinking including our cultural differences and religious beliefs.

The question asked here is – Do you judge each option to be ethical, by your own standards.


The ongoing global debates on tax issues are probably the best example of the dilemma which organisations and individuals can face when they obey the letter of the law, comply with their own ethical codes, but then run into public outrage because other people, who are not governments, lawyers or corporate moral guardians deem behaviour to be unacceptable.

The question here is even if it’s legal and you consider it ethical, will stakeholders, especially those you do or should care most about, be outraged in the case of each option before us?


Not all stakeholders are created equal. Some stakeholders are more equal – or at least more important to us – than others.

It may be that any of the options before us will offend some stakeholders, but please others.

The anti-Uber protests are a good example of this. Traditionally licensed taxi drivers are generally outraged over Uber because they see it as price under-cutting competition.

However customers may welcome greater convenience and more flexible pricing from an app driven service. This is a particularly good example for consideration of ‘defensibility’ because the different groups of stakeholders from politicians and legislators down to the taxi using public have many and varied, often contradictory views.

The keys to defensibility are the arguments to be marshalled and crucially the identification and analysis of stakeholders and their relative importance to us.

The question here – is the option something we could defend in the court of public opinion to the satisfaction of most stakeholders, particularly those who matter most to us, even though it provokes outrage in some stakeholders?


The last letter – “S” should probably be a “B”, but LEADB doesn’t work as well as LEADS, so S here stands for Business Sense – The question is – even if the options fail all or any of the other LEAD tests it could still make good business sense.

Although I think we would all counsel against plumping for illegal actions if the “L” test is failed. That said the legal advice received by decision-makers more often than not will be a probability of legality rather than an absolute, so even with “L” there may be doubt enough to proceed.

The point here is that when decisions are being made, consideration could be given to acknowledging that an option means unethical, unacceptable, and even indefensible behaviour, if the business rewards to be legally gained, outweigh them.

In that case, the best advice might be to “keep calm” and take the consequences.


The questions here are one part of a five part process which I use to take clients through the decision-making process when faced with multiple options for corporate policy and action.

These are the “meat” of a one-day workshop session run for C-suite decision-makers.

The workshop has never been run without the client changing their minds as a consequence of the exercise. For more information don’t hesitate to contact me at

And here a great reference to LEADS as part of the presentation from global risk expert, and my wonderful mentoree:  @leesasoulodre 





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