Sunday, June 03, 2007

Leadership Seeking Direction

So you want to be a leader. What is stopping you?. What is it about leadership that attracts you. Are you influenced by the public profiles of those who grace the world stage, in the fields of politics, economics, religion? Are you more attracted by those who prove their physical prowess? Famous athletes, of one kind or another? Runners, boxers, basket-ball champions, baseball heroes, tennis champions, auto racing drivers? Are they leaders?
Often, it seems the title is loosely attached to individuals who are identified as the best in their particular field. Sometimes, those individuals are not capable of offering leadership to others. They are "loners", consumed in the pursuit of their own ambition. Sometimes picked and selected to posts requiring demonstrable leadership skills, experience and qualifications solely on the basis that they possess public profiles as being on top of their particular league. Delving deeper into their attributes and one may find a dearth of the necessary ingredients that enable and encourage others to follow.
So what is it that makes a difference? What is it that makes a leader? Are leaders born? Can they be shaped, crafted, formed and honed? Does this formation need to be external? Can one make oneself a leader or develop the necessary skills to allow one to grow into leadership. Is the drive to become a leader influenced by intrinsically good values, service of others, community, nation or is it driven by the desire or need to dominate, control, coerce?
Can we learn from the profiles and characteristics of world leaders? To what extent is the profile we see and hear on TV and radio, a managed, artificial product, occasionally fractured with glimpses of the human being behind the public face? World leaders include Ghandi, Hitler, Tito, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Clinton, Lincoln, Putin, Bush, Senator Mitchell, Jesus Christ, and a disparate selection of people who are described as either terrorist or hero and patriot, depending on what side of the value system one is viewing from.
So where is the compass that guides your journey to becoming a leader? Reflecting on the question adds its own value to the question. What guides us as individuals essentially are the values that we hold most precious in our lives. They vary from person to person and from community to community and are absorbed at various levels, as we progress on our development from children to adulthood. Some of those values are held in highest esteem when we are young, immature and have not sufficient understanding and maturity to take personal ownership of them. Others become more internalised as we grow through life and the choices we make assist in enshrining certain values deep into our personas. Whether that is due to conditioning or conscious selection is dependant on the opportunities we met or were deprived of along the way to develop a personal critical capacity that enables a distancing from our subjective judgements.
Opportunity and choice are part of the equasion that need to be factored in, coupled with the inate sense of importance one attaches to our value system. Do we wish to share it or coerce others to absorbe it? Is leadership imposed on us or do we subconsciously need to be lead? If we desire to be leaders, is that pushed by choice or obligation to others? Is it service or is it power?
Additional Resources

Thursday, March 29, 2007

CEO Succession

In 2006, Hay Group surveyed executives at more than 150 companies around the world about CEO succession. To avoid a succession crisis in case of an unplanned CEO or other top executive situation, boards of companies in the most admired group:
  • Are more likely than their peers to plan long term for CEO succession.
  • Have a stronger preference for internal candidates.
  • Are more likely to receive regular updates on potential candidates for potential top leadership positions.
  • Are more frequently given information and metrics related to human capital management.

(Source: Business Week, Eur ed., March 26, 2007, no. 5)

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Friday, September 09, 2005

CEO Counseling

If you are a management consultant or if you are currently working with one, the article from David A. Nadler in this month´s Harvard Business Review is a brilliant read. It is not very often that you see this kind of best practices being shared in the open.

But then Mr. Nadler is Chairman and CEO of Mercer Delta Consulting, and has over 25 years of high-level management consultancy experience, so he has plenty to share. And that is showing. His article is truly packed with gold nuggets.

Nadler differentiates between 6 dilemma's in 2 groups that makes CEO counseling so hard, but also so interesting to do:
A. Organizational and Political:
  1. The Loyalty Dilemma. Is the advisor ultimately responsible to the CEO who hired him or to the company that pays the fees?
  2. The Communication Dilemma. How much and what kind of information should the management consultant convey between employees and the CEO?
  3. The Assessment Dilemma. Should the CEO counselor share his opinions about individual employees?

B. Relationships and Emotional Maturity of the Advisor:

  1. The Overidentification Dilemma. The advisor must ensure he immerses himself in the view of his client, without making it his own.
  2. The Ego Dilemma. An advisor should avoid to be known or perceived as the man behind the curtain, although this may be tempting sometimes.
  3. The Friendship Dilemma. Can and should a management consultant become friends with her client?

One example of a nugget that keeps going through my mind is the remark: "My job is helping my client see the entire puzzle, not rushing upstairs every time I discover a stray piece".

I found it interesting the author refers to all of these complexities as "Dilemma's". I believe actually "Paradoxes" would be the better terminology. If you face a dilemma, you have to choose out of two opposite options. When you are dealing with a paradox, you must try to reconcile two seemingly contradicting options.

Anyway, I highly recommend to read the entire article to any management consultant, whether you are advising CEO's or haven't quite made it (yet) to this level ;-).

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Are you a Manager or a Leader? Seven ways of leading

I guess most of us would agree that being a good manager or being a good leader are two different things (although you see the terms mixed up in many books and articles).
In the Harvard Business Review of April, consultant David Rooke and professor William Torbert distinguish a spectrum of no less then seven ways of leading / managing, ranging from not the not very effective opportunist style to the superb "alchemist" style of leading:
  1. Opportunist - Wins any way possible: Good in managing emergencies and sales.
  2. Diplomat - Avoids overt conflict: Good in bringing people together.
  3. Expert - Rules by logic and expertise: Good as individual contributor.
  4. Achiever - Meets strategic goals: Good in managerial roles, action and goal oriented.
  5. Individualist - Interweaves competing personal and company actions logics: Good in venture and consulting roles.
  6. Strategist - Generates organizational and personal transformations: Good transformational leaders.
  7. Alchemist - Generates social transformations: Good at leading society-wide transformations.

Your type of leading is determined according to Rooke and Torbert by your action logic (=ways in which you interpret your surroundings and react when your power or safety is challenged).

Most interestingly, it is possible to change from one type / stage of leading in the spectrum to the next stage. External events (promotion, organizational change) can cause a transformation from one stage to another, but it can also be done actively by recognizing the style you currently are exhibiting and actively wanting to change it.

For example moving from expert to achiever can be done by following an MBA program, which are apt to encourage the development of the more pragmatic Achievers by frustrating the perfectionist Experts. The heavy workloads, use of multidisciplinary and ambiguous case studies, and teamwork requirements all promote the development of Achievers. By contrast, MSc programs, in particular disciplines such as finance or marketing research, tend to reinforce the Expert perspective.

The article in the HBR contains more information about how you can go from one specific stage to the next. There exists also a book by the authors called: Action Inquiry: The secret of Timely and transforming Leadership (Berret-Koehler, 2004). If you have read the book, it would be nice if you add a review in the Comments.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

No more heroes?

A Dutch newspaper writes that the times of the almighty and heroic CEOs are over. After the many accounting scandals and failed acquisitions much more attention is being given to the optimal length a CEO must stay 'in charge'.
One experience that's clearly evolved in the mean time is that the longer a CEO rules, the bigger the chance becomes he makes mistakes.
What are typical warning signs that the Chief Executive Officer is loosing it? Here's the top-10 list.
  1. Attends society events too often
  2. Talks a lot in public about higher purposes in life
  3. Is not happy with his rewards and keeps complaining about it
  4. Continuously replaces senior executives
  5. Accepts many side responsibilities
  6. Changes his wife for a younger girlfriend
  7. Is longing for a grand finale, such as a major acquisition
  8. Refuses to make succession plans
  9. Continuously wants to be in the spotlights
  10. Surrounds himself with mediocre yes-men.

Multiple and combined occurrences of these 10 are particularly worrisome and you are well advised to sell your stocks as soon as possible.

What do you think, is this a typical Dutch story (never like people who stand out anyway) or is the heroic CEO coming to a global end? Drop a comment!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Three Factors of Leadership Motivation

Here is an article published by Brent Filson. He is the author of more than 20 business and leadership books and the founder of The Filson Leadership Group. Enjoy the reading...

Leaders do nothing more important than get results. But you can't get results by yourself. You need others to help you do it. And the best way to have other people get results is not by ordering them but motivating them. Yet many leaders fail to motivate people to achieve results because those leaders misconstrue the concept and applications of motivation. To understand motivation and apply it daily, let's understand its three critical factors. Know these factors and put them into action to greatly enhance your abilities to lead for results.

1. Motivation is physical action.
"Motivation" has common roots with "motor," "momentum," "motion," "mobile," etc. .. all words that denote movement, physical action. An essential feature of motivation is physical action. Motivation isn't about what people think or feel but what they physically do. When motivating people to get results, challenge them to take those actions that will realize those results.
I counsel leaders who must motivate individuals and teams to get results not to deliver presentations but "leadership talks." Presentations communicate information.. But when you want to motivate people, you must do more than simply communicate information. You must have them believe in you and take action to follow you. A key outcome of every leadership talk must be physical action, physical action that leads to results.

For instance, I worked with the newly-appointed director of a large marketing department who wanted the department to achieve sizable increases in the results. However, the employees were a demoralized bunch who had been clocking tons of overtime under her predecessor and were feeling angry that their efforts were not being recognized by senior management.

She could have tried to order them to get the increased results. Many leaders do that. But order-leadership founders in today's highly competitive, rapidly changing markets. Organizations are far more competitive when their employees instead of being ordered to go from point A to point B want to go from point A to point B. So I suggested that she take a first step in getting the employees to increase results by motivating those employees to want to increase results. They would "want to" when they began to believe in her leadership. And the first step in enlisting that belief was for her to give a number of leadership talks to the employees.

One of her first talks that she planned was to the department employees in the company's auditorium. She told me, "I want them to know that I appreciate the work they are doing and that I believe that they can get the results I'm asking of them. I want them to feel good about themselves."

"Believing is not enough," I said. "Feeling good is not enough. Motivation must take place. Physical action must take place. Don't give the talk until you know what precise action you are going to have happen."

She got the idea of having the CEO come into the room after the talk, shake each employee's hand, and tell each how much he appreciated their hard work — physical action. She didn't stop there. After the CEO left, she challenged each employee to write down on a piece of paper three specific things that they needed from her to help them get the increases in results and then hand those pieces of paper to her personally — physical action.

Mind you, that leadership talk wasn't magic dust sprinkled on the employees to instantly motivate them. (To turn the department around so that it began achieving sizable increases in results, she had to give many leadership talks in the weeks and months ahead.) But it was a beginning. Most importantly, it was the right beginning.

2. Motivation is driven by emotion.
Emotion and motion come from the same Latin root meaning "to move". When you want to move people to take action, engage their emotions. An act of motivation is an act of emotion. In any strategic management endeavor, you must make sure that the people have a strong emotional commitment to realizing it.

When I explained this to the chief marketing officer of a worldwide services company, he said, "Now I know why we're not growing! We senior leaders developed our marketing strategy in a bunker! He showed me his "strategy" document. It was some 40 pages long, single-spaced. The points it made were logical, consistent, and comprehensive. It made perfect sense. That was the trouble. It made perfect, intellectual sense to the senior leaders. But it did not make experiential sense to middle management who had to carry it out. They had about as much in-put into the strategy as the window washers at corporate headquarters. So they sabotaged it in many innovative ways. Only when the middle managers were motivated — were emotionally committed to carrying out the strategy — did that strategy have a real chance to succeed.

3. Motivation is not what we do to others.
It is what others do to themselves. The English language does not accurately depict the psychological truth of motivation. The truth is that we cannot motivate anybody to do anything. The people we want to motivate can only motivate themselves. The motivator and the motivatee are always the same person. We as leaders communicate, they motivate. So our "motivating" others to get results really entails our creating an environment in which they motivate themselves to get those results.

For example: a commercial division leader almost faced a mutiny on his staff when in a planning session, he put next year's goals, numbers much higher than the previous year's, on the overhead. The staff all but had to be scrapped off the ceiling after they went ballistic. "We busted our tails to get these numbers last year. Now you want us to get much higher numbers? No way!" He told me. "We can hit those numbers. I just have to get people motivated!"

I gave him my "motivator-and-motivatee-are-the-same-person!" pitch. I suggested that he create an environment in which they could motivate themselves. So he had them assess what activities got results and what didn't. They discovered that they spent more than 60 percent of their time on work that had nothing to do with getting results. He then had them develop a plan to eliminate the unnecessary work. Put in charge of their own destiny, they got motivated! They developed a great plan and started to get great results.

Over the long run, your career success does not depend on what schools you went to and what degrees you have. That success depends instead on your ability to motivate individuals and teams to get results. Motivation is like a hig voltage cable lying at your feet. Use it the wrong way, and you'll get a serious shock. But apply motivation the right way by understanding and using the three factors, plug the cable in, as it were, and it will serve you well in many powerful ways throughout your career.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Should Wolfowitz become leader of World Bank?

The United States has nominated Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to be the next president of the World Bank.
The current president, James Wolfensohn, is due to leave the development body on 1 June, as his second five-year term comes to an end.
The bank traditionally has had a US chief while its sister body, the International Monetary Fund, is usually headed by a European.
But Mr Wolfowitz is a controversial choice, with a reputation as a leading hawk and a leading architect of US policy in Iraq.

Some of the most intesting comments on Wolfowitz' nomination are:
  • Perhaps now the World Bank will be controlled to direct aid towards the vested interests of Bush & Co. Will we see large amounts of WB aid for the development of Iraq (i.e. the US multinationals profiting from the war and paying kickbacks to Bush)?
    Vivek, Corvallis, US
  • Coupled with Under-Secretary of State John Bolton's recent appointment as UN Ambassador, the nomination of Paul Wolfowitz as the next president of the World Bank represents the latest assault by the Bush administration on the efficacy of the core institutions of the international system. As an American citizen I am appalled by the Bush administration's blatant contempt for international law and disregard for the sanctity of human life.
    Emile Durette, Oakland, CA, USA
  • At the World Bank, it makes no difference whether Jesus or Mahatma Gandhi were the president for nothing would change. I think President's Bush selection of Paul Wolfowitz is the worst we could have hoped for. It is most infertile and repugnant as it can ever be.
    John Sagala, Flagstaff, AZ, USA
  • A horrible choice, but typical. I hope the Europeans can block this bit of stupidity.
    JC, USA
  • The right man, the right time, at the right job. God bless this man.
    Donald Boone, Ahoskie, USA
  • The nomination of Paul Wolfowitz to a position which has global power and influence seems to be another attempt of the United States to extend its power to rubber stamp any move it makes.
    Hans Lukiman, Melbourne
  • He will lead it for the USA's interest as they all do.
    Al, Essex
  • Please, Europeans, stop the Bush machine and veto this misguided choice. We need to turn the tide on the hawks in power in the US, who are spreading their tunnel vision to the rest of the world.
    Ellen, Mill Valley, USA
  • Wolfowitz is a bad choice. The World Bank needs the obvious - a respected international banker - not a narrow minded ideologue who will manipulate the World Bank's capital to promote a neo-con political agenda. He will bring to the World Bank the same sort of myopic world vision that has created the Iraq war disaster.
    Jim A, Phoenix, USA

More comments on Wolfowitz nomination.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Changing Course not a bad Sign of Leadership?

In a list of possible breakthrough ideas for 2005 in the Harvard Business Review, the number 1 spot is taken by "Flipping without Flopping".
In the 2004 US presedential campaign "flip-flop" was a dirty word. Particularly in times of crisis or opportunity, we expect our leaders to take swift, sure action and then remain steadfast.
According to Professor Kramer, great leaders understand that changing course is sometimes the best thing to do. And changing one's mind does not signal an inability to lead, but rather an ability to learn.
I would argue though that knowing and showing the right direction for the organization is one of the elements that distinguish a true leader from managers. Any human is allowed to make an erroneous judgement now and then, but being wrong about the strategy or course the organization should take is a mistake a true leader will never make.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Criteria to become CEO

An article worth reading if you're almost there in becoming CEO is the one by Dan Ciampia (advisor on leadership transitions) in the HBR of Jan 05. In the article, Ciampa shares some of his rich experience and knowledge about how you can distinguished good CEO candidates from the ones that actually make it.

According to Ciampa the three most important criteria to become CEO are:

  1. Management savvy (a. avoid jumping in personally to solve problems others can handle, b. make the right judgments about what to expend energy on, c. maintain control of the key decisions and a full pipeline of talented people, d. make people feel appreciated and stay loyal)
  2. Political intelligence (a. don't be labeled "political", b. recognize how relationships are likely to affect early success, c. get peers and subordinates to go out of their way to help, d. don't seem self-serving)
  3. Personal style (a. make success look effortless, b. allow others' performance to be recognized too, c. manage energy to stay on the 'rested edge' and to avoid the 'ragged edge', d. enable peers to improve their performance, e. stay grounded and make sure basic needs are met while mastering new concepts)

On top of that, Dan Ciampa recommends to make sure you 1. understand your boss's point of view [whether he is worth it or not :)], 2. know your limitations [don't dive in the deep too early], and you 3. manage the shadow organization [grasp the alliances and political realities that come with the top-level job].

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Peter Drucker on leading large corporations

The grandfather of management gurus has spoken one more time: be sure you don't miss the interview with the now 95 year old (!) Peter Drucker in Forbes on leading large corporations. Good stuff to help you think about your coming targets for 2005. It's a bit speaking in commonplaces, but hey: this is Drucker...
In the article, Drucker says successful leaders:

  1. Make sure that things that make a difference get done, whether by themselves or by somebody else;
  2. Check their performance against previously defined goals;
  3. Are mission / purpose driven and say no to things that don't contribute;
  4. Know early when to stop trying doing something that can't be done;
  5. Organize their travel, leveraging new technology where possible;
  6. Have a maximum of two organizational goals at the same time;
  7. Make sure the people around them understand their priorities;
  8. Build on their strengths and find strong people to do the other necessary tasks.

Read the rest of the article here.