There is a sizable difference between accepting positional leadership when a company is at the bottom and there is no place to go but up and taking over when its at its height—even more so when what was the growth engine and source of extraordinary profits disappears from the economic landscape.
It is one thing to maximize what you have, wringing out every last possible dollar, and investing in innovation for sustainable growth in the future.
It is one thing to create a culture where public shame and the likelihood of termination for missing your numbers rules and changing that to a culture that encourages appropriate risk-taking and never kills the messenger when the risk doesn’t pan out; a culture that understands not every innovation will be a home run, but encourages and applauds the effort anyway.
These are the differences between Jack Welch
But Welch had taken over when the company was in the bottom of an economic cycle. He took over GE in a recession, not the height of a bubble. Immelt got the job right after the end of the high-flying 1990s, an era which crowned CEOs with mythical, God-like crowns, and Welch was bestowed the biggest of them all.
and Jeff Immelt.
Immelt had known before the meltdown the company needed to ween off the leveraged risk from finance that was begun under Welch. … He admitted mistakes, as any good leader must do, and GE more quietly if not humbly went about its business in making the company a 21st century sustainable and reliable profit engine.
Don’t just study Branson; study those around him, such as Stephen Murphy, Virgin CEO since 2006.
Studying both allows you to see how Branson differs from so many of his counterparts.
According to Murphy, “He [Branson] is a listener. He will say ‘I hired you to listen to you. I am not hiring you to tell you what to do’.”
Branson is known as Doctor Yes while Murphy is nicknamed Mr. No; together they make Virgin far stronger than either could separately.
Murphy balances Branson’s “screw it, let’s do it” attitude, but recognizes Branson’s positive mindset, “When there are nine good reasons not to do something, Richard is always the person who focuses on the one reason to do it.”
Study Branson to learn the value of controlling your ego or, better yet, being confident enough to let your people shine, knowing that giving them the spotlight doesn’t reduce your own place in the sun.
Typically heroes are leaders; not because they hold a high level position or are well compensated, but because they take initiative, often to extremes.
But even “extreme initiative” pales to insignificance as a description of 63 year old Dr. Hawa Abdi, better known as Mama Hawa.
For 20 years Mama Hawa has run a hospital and in May faced down Somalia’s most fearsome militant Islamist group.
Hundreds of women from a sprawling refugee camp on her property to protest, adding to a flood of condemnation from Somalis abroad that forced the militants to back down.
Hundreds of women from the sprawling refugee camp on Dr. Abdi’s property dared to protest, adding to a flood of condemnation from Somalis abroad that forced the militants to back down. Dr. Abdi even insisted that the gunmen apologize — in writing — which they grudgingly agreed to do.
What unique combination of genes, MAP and circumstances produces a Mama Hawa? Why has she flourished, while others flamed out?
What can you learn from her regarding initiative, drive, determination, leadership, inspiration and communication?
Take the time to read her profile and analyze it for the multiple lessons it contains.
Then start applying them to your own life one by one.
“The most fundamental job of a leader is to recruit, mobilize, inspire, focus, direct, and regularly refuel the energy of those they lead.”
I do with one glaring exception—the words “leader” and “lead.”
That sentence is just as valid if you substitute ‘manager’ for ‘leader’ and ‘manage’ for ‘lead’.
The quote is from a Harvard Business Review post called The CEO Is the Chief Energy Officer and although it’s a cute play on ‘CEO’ the lessons it imparts apply to every manager at every level in every company—even if that manager is the only person in the company.
If you are in a position where you manage anyone and you skip any of the actions mentioned above then you are doing a major disservice to your people and yourself.
Even more so if you are your own manager, which, in the end, we all are.
This is a great time to institute change—not with great fanfare, but through sustainable actions.
So every day get out there and “recruit, mobilize, inspire, focus, direct, and regularly refuel the energy.”
Because initiative and leadership are synonymous, leadership needs to be pushed out of the corner office and spread throughout the organization; doing so will encourage growth, creativity and innovation.
If leadership is the fertilizer then culture is the water, without which nothing will grow, and people are the seeds from which ideas come.
By spreading leadership evenly through out your company garden and watering regularly, leaving no unfertilized or dry patches in which a seed will be stunted or die, you assure yourself a bountiful harvest that will be the envy of your competitors. (Two follow-up posts have more on this topic here and here.)
This isn’t a new idea, just a new way of phrasing it; Lao Tzu said it best 4000 years ago, “To lead the people walk behind them.”
The one thing that remains constant in all these discussions is that you always have a choice—this time it’s between leadership and leadershIt.
But then there are the introverted CEOs—calm, eremitic, and observant—who prefer flying below the radar. You’ve never heard of them because they don’t like the spotlight.
Ask any leader, CEO or not, about the power of stories and they will tell you that stories are critical to any effort at engagement. And how better to learn the fine art of storytelling than through improv, which is available to all?
Improvisation (or improv, as it’s commonly called) is becoming increasingly accepted as a method to teach business skills; in fact, many of the country’s top business schools are including lessons on improvisation and its use in the world of business…
After all that reading you would probably appreciate a good video and what better subject than watching these experts Talk about the biggest mistakes a leader makes? Bill George, Professor, Harvard Business School and former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Medtronic Evan Wittenberg, Head of Global Leadership Development, Google, Inc. Dr. Ellen Langer, Professor, Harvard University Andrew Pettigrew, Professor, Sïad Business School, University of Oxford Gianpiero Petriglieri, Affiliate Professor of Organizational Behavior, INSEAD Carl Sloane, Professor Emeritus, Harvard Business School Jonathan Doochin, Leadership Institute at Harvard College Scott Snook, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School and retired Colonel, US Army Corps of Engineers Daisy Wademan Dowling, Executive Director, Leadership Development at Morgan Stanley
It’s something we all know, although we tend to forget, leadership and positional leadership are not the same thing. Because anyone/everyone can lead, within the framework of their own lives, much of the information available about and for positional leaders can be absorbed and used by all.
Not that all positional leaders should be tarred by the same brush; there is still a lot for everyman to learn from leadership teaching from sources such as these.
Over the past six years, starting as a project focused on women that now includes men, McKinsey has developed a vision they call “centered leadership” that includes five specific dimensions. You may find it useful in putting more meaning and balance in your own life. (Free registration required.)
This concept has five dimensions: meaning, or finding your strengths and putting them to work in the service of a purpose that inspires you; positive framing, or adopting a more constructive way to view your world and convert even difficult situations into opportunities; connecting, or building a stronger sense of community and belonging; engaging, or pursuing opportunities disguised by risk; and energizing, or practicing ways to sustain your energy on a long leadership journey.
Do (did) you love or hate Shakespeare? Besides being one of humanity’s most accomplished writers, Shakespeare, like Lao Tzu, offers brilliant insights for all those who want to excel. Check out how Carol and Ken Adelman, founders of Movers & Shakespeares, use Henry V to teach leadership and let Shakespeare’s ideas guide you.
Henry V’s leadership skills and his ability to innovate in ways that would turn significant disadvantages into game-winning advantages.
What can you learn about leading a ‘culture of innovation’ on your iPod? And learn it not from a podcast, but through music from a guy who has constantly reinvented himself and his music to stay relevant in the current world.
Even if there is “darkness on the edge of town” today, when it comes to leading your company’s growth efforts with innovation expertise, there is no reason for your organization to be a casualty when you could instead “walk in the sun” (Born to Run).
And that’s not the only musical source from which you can draw lessons in leading, innovation, extending, inventing and reinventing yourself.
From business to fashion, Lady Gaga is an innovator, and she also makes a strong case as a leader.
I get really tired of the L word (leadership), but I can’t seem to avoid it. It’s used whether applicable or not—more often because the people described are positional leaders than because they actually embody real leadership
The Washington Post’ leadership section has a new blog that looks like it is worth reading, especially if you are interested in analysis of the exploits of leaders ripped from the headlines.
“PostLeadership” is a new by Jena McGregor that will examine real time leadership lessons as they unfold in the news — explaining what works, what doesn’t and who is getting it right.”
Now for a couple of guys who actually deserve the L word.
22 years ago he was a dairy farmer who started a co-op with a few neighbors. Today he is CEO of a 550-employee company with $530 million in sales last year, but it isn’t your typical corporation.
George Siemon isn’t just in the business of organic milk. As the CEO of Organic Valley, he has shepherded the company to its own organic brand of leadership and corporate culture.
Are you a Mark Twain fan? If so, get ready to have your world rocked.
Twain spent the last four years of his life dictating his no holds barred, half million word autobiography, but said that it should not be published until the world was ready to deal with his unvarnished views. 100 years after his death his decedents have decided it’s time. The first volume (of three) will be out in November.
Ron Powers, the author of “Mark Twain: A Life,” said in a phone interview. “He’s been scrubbed and sanitized, and his passion has been kind of forgotten in all these long decades. But here he is talking to us, without any filtering at all, and what comes through that we have lost is precisely this fierce, unceasing passion.”
That the things I read influence what I write as is obvious from today’s post and yesterday’s companion piece.
It started with summaries of, and links to, five major leadership research articles in The Washington Post, one of which concluded that “increasing team cohesiveness” was a far more important leadership act than the traditional one of “driving results.”
Other of the studies focused on the need for leaders throughout the organization, not just in the C suite, and the growing need for decision-making that considers more than the bottom line.
But I have a question that I believe goes to the heart of any effort to define leadership.
Does your definition of leadership require the leader to agree with you?
Let’s look at Mike’s definition, since it is one with which most people would be comfortable.
“Leadership is the professed desire and commitment to serve others by subordinating personal interests to the needs of those being led through effectively demonstrating the experience, wisdom and discernment necessary to leverage trust & influence to cause the right things, to happen for the right reasons, at the right times.”
Would you consider the person a good leader if the right things happened at the right time, but for reasons with which you didn’t agree, i.e., their ideology was different from yours?
This distinction is most obvious in political and religious areas, but is present in business, too.
For example, if someone provided a solution to the oil slick who espoused an ideology the opposite of yours would you welcome the solution or would the differing belief/philosophy cause you to respond negatively?
This last post is one I wrote last year about empowering leaders in organizations. “Empowering Leaders: Hand Over Your Keys” focuses on the importance of developing leaders by letting go of control in order to help people develop competence.
And please join me Monday for a look at the latest and greatest from the Leadership Development Carnival.