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If The Shoe Fits: Quantitative Data and Self-Deception

Friday, June 16th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mThe following post is reprinted in full with Wally’s blessings. I e-met Wally when we both blogged for b5 Media — I think. It’s so long ago I’m not sure, but over the years I’ve read and appreciated Wally for both his insights and independence from accepted leadership-speak. I highly recommend adding his blog to your reading list.

Quantitative Data and Self-Deception

If you need someone to blame this on, it might as well be Rene Descartes. The 23-year-old Descartes was serving in the army when was visited in a dream by the Spirit of Truth who told him that “Conquest of nature is to come through number and measure.”

Numbers were power. That effect was amplified during the Industrial Revolution. That’s when the engineers took charge, measuring and calculating. Soon, Frederick Taylor and the efficiency experts showed up with their stopwatches and clipboards. Now we’re in the Digital Age, where computers spit out numbers by the mountain load.

Today, companies trumpet the claim that they’re “data-driven.” The Economist proclaims that “data is the new oil.” If there is a golden calf to worship today, it’s probably digitized.

We love numbers so much that we don’t think about where they come from or how we’re using them. We can summon them from our vast databases, manipulate them, and turn them into equations that give us “answers. It makes us feel like we’re in control. We’re not, really. We’re only in control of the data.

The map is not the territory and data is not reality

Data is not reality. At best, data can only represent reality. Reality is complex and messy and we can use data to simplify parts of it so we can understand it better. To do that we must leave out part of reality, assign numbers to things that aren’t inherently quantifiable, and approximate relationships with equations.

If, after all that, we treat data like reality we commit what Alfred North Whitehead called “the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.” We get lost in the wonder of our calculations and think we’re describing the elephant, when we’ve only got hold of one leg.

It’s a good idea to apply George Box’s observation about models to our data. All are flawed, but some are useful.

Quantitative data is not objective

No matter what you or your boss thinks, quantitative data is no more objective than qualitative data. Someone, somewhere, sometime decided what would be counted and tracked and what would not. Someone, somewhere, sometime decided how and how often data would be gathered and how it would be presented.

That’s obvious when you talk about qualitative data. We usually get qualitative data in the form of a story. This happened when we observed it this way. With quantitative data, the questions, assumptions, and decisions that lie behind the data are usually behind the curtain and invisible to the people who receive and use the data.

Dig into the history of things to find out why you use certain measures and not others, how the raw data is gathered and manipulated, and why it is presented in the way that it is.

Quantitative data is not enough

Quantitative data is important, it’s just not enough for a successful business or a satisfying life. The most important things in life and business can’t be counted or calculated. Relationships drive much that happens in business. More than half a century ago, Mason Haire demonstrated that emotions influence buying decisions of all kinds. Knowledge workers trade in conversations and tacit knowledge.

There’s one more thing about quantitative data. It’s easy for us to manipulate and “understand” quickly, so we’re likely to pay attention to what we can count and ignore what we can’t. That’s part of the reason why the long term is often sacrificed to the short term and why numerical accounting data gets more attention than “soft” human stuff. As one friend of mine said years ago, “When the pressure’s on to make the numbers, people almost always take a hit.”

Bottom Line

Quantitative data is important. You can’t run a successful operation today without paying attention to it. Remember that quantitative data is always a flawed representation of reality. Look behind the curtain to discover the whys and hows behind the data. Remember that human choices drive quantitative data as much as qualitative data. And, please, remember that the most important things in life and business cannot be force-fit into a dataset.

Copyright © 2017 Wally Bock, All rights reserved.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Ducks in a Row: How Good Is Your Face-To-Face?

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/44412176@N05/4197328040/

Why is it that the most difficult part of management, i.e., people management, constantly moves backwards?

Managers from the Greatest Generation tried to manage by memo.

That lasted until the 1970s when Boomer and Gen X managers took a giant step backwards and started trying to manage by email.

Millennials have taken an even larger step in that direction by trying to manage by text and have swept many of the previous contingents along with them.

Granted, people at all levels often look for and find ways, frequently turning to available technology, to avoid, or at least minimize, the most frustrating and difficult parts of their jobs.

However, that doesn’t work when the frustrating part is 90% of the job.

Every time this comes up I find myself quoting something Terry Dial said to me decades ago.

“People are 90% of our costs as well as the key to customer service and satisfaction. The only thing that should take priority over hiring a new employee is keeping a current one.”

Wally Bock puts it this way (and offers excellent advice on how to do it.)

In the Marines, I learned that when you’re responsible for a group, you have two jobs. One of them is to accomplish the mission. The other is to take care of the people.

I personally guarantee that you won’t accomplish the former if you ignore the latter.

You cannot “care for your people” by email or text — it requires face time.

It requires one-on-one conversations — wherever they take place — and not just about performance.

Conversations need to be human, that means family, hobbies, food, sports, etc.

Face-to-face humanizing contact is critical for teams, too, whether they are in a different office around the block or around the globe.

As Valerie Berset-Price, founder of Professional Passport says,

“Building trust is a multisensory experience,” she says. “Only when people are physically present together can they use all of their senses” to establish that needed trust. Without a bond, conflict or disengagement can more easily arise and is more difficult to resolve.

So whether you consider yourself a manager, a leader, a boss, or just a plain working stiff honing your in-person communication skills will not only improve your career opportunities, but also all parts of your life.

PS I just saw this article on IBM’s move to have teams in-person face-to-face.

Image credit: gorfor

December Leadership Development Carnival

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

leadership-carnival-5-300x134Can you believe it? Blink three times and the year disappears. Hopefully, you’ve learned a lot this year and grown in many ways. Now choose the posts from this month’s carnival that will add an edge to what you’ve already learned.

Verity Creedy writes I Believe I Can Fly: Leadership that Inspires Innovation
Learn the three conditions that we as leaders should be setting for our teams to create and execute innovative change.
Follow Verity on Twitter: @VerityDDI

Julie Winkle Giulioni shares “Not My Decision”: Constructive Responses to Workplace Decisions You Wouldn’t Have Made
Last week, many Americans had a profound experience of what employees encounter routinely on the job: responding to a decision they don’t support but must still live with. In organizations worldwide, strategies are set, markets are selected, tactics are identified…and not everyone agrees with the direction. When confronted with these situations, it’s easy for employees to feel powerless and out of control. Yet no matter the issue or the organizational level (of those deciding or those following in the wake of the decision), what remains well within each individual’s control is how he or she responds.
Follow Julie on Twitter: @julie_wg

Julie Baron wrote How to Prevent Leadership Derailment
You made it to the leadership position you have been striving for, but what must you do to avoid derailment? Learn the derailment behaviors and traits witnessed by business leaders in corporate catering, industrial distribution, construction, web design, HR technology, gift giving, marketing, and structural engineering.
Follow Julie on Twitter: @commwrks

Dana Theus shares What to Do If You’re Worried About Getting Laid Off
Dealing with the dread of being laid off can be a gift in disguise. Use the possibility of a layoff to get proactive about your career and personal brand.
Follow Dana on Twitter: @DanaTheus

JesseLyn Stoner writes How to Talk about Politics at Work
How do you talk about politics with people whose views are different than your own? It’s not a good idea to assume that everyone agrees with your views. One thing the U.S. elections showed was that what people say and what they actually believe are not always the same. And it also showed that we need to reach across the divide and try to understand what’s really driving each other. Here are six guidelines that will help your conversations be more informative and productive.
Follow Jesse Lyn on Twitter: @JesseLynStoner

Randy Conley shares 6 Strategies for Leading When People Won’t Follow
Leadership is tough enough when things are going well, much less when people are resisting your leadership. In this post, Randy Conley shares six practical strategies leaders can use to help them deal with team members who won’t follow their lead.
Follow Randy on Twitter: @RandyConley

Mary Jo Asmus wrote Your Discomfort is Whispering to You
The discomfort you feel is normal and the tendency to avoid difficult conversations is common. Listen to your gut – it’s telling you that it’s time for you to step into that uneasiness and be a leader. This post provides practical advice on where to begin.
Follow Mary Jo on Twitter: @mjasmus

David M. Dye shares Why Do So Many Leaders Suck?
Perhaps the most common question David is asked after he shares Winning Well leadership tools is: “If this works, why are there so many lousy leaders?” In this article, David shares ten reasons leaders run into problems and how you can avoid falling into the same traps.
Follow David on Twitter: @davidmdye

Tanveer Naseer writes 3 Important Lessons Leaders Can Learn From Success
Three important lessons leaders can learn from success that will help them inspire and motivate employees to bring their best efforts over the long run.
Follow Tanveer on Twitter: @TanveerNaseer

Jon Mertz shares The Coming Day After
Regardless of your feelings about our most recent election cycle, we must all work together to end the divisiveness, stalemate, and finger-pointing. No matter our segment, our status, or our role, we must dig deeper, resolve challenges, and renew our greater purpose.
Follow Jon on Twitter: @ThinDifference

Anne Perschel wrote Your Leadership Megaphone Instruction Manual
Your leadership megaphone comes with the role, and it’s always on. People use it to broadcast what they THINK you said, and the results are not always what you intended. This instruction manual will help you use your megaphone wisely.
Follow Anne on Twitter: @bizshrink

Michael Stallard shares What Mayo Clinic Discovered About Burnout
Could something as simple as having a meal with colleagues to discuss work experience-related issues help reduce burnout? Michael Stallard explains what Mayo Clinic researchers found.
Follow Michael on Twitter: @michaelstallard

Wally Bock writes about Leadership Theology
Our discussions of leadership have begun to sound like theological debates.
Follow Wally on Twitter: @wallybock

Karin Hurt shares 7 Reasons to be a Little More Grateful at Work
Karin Hurt takes time to reflect on the things to be truly grateful for at work, and encourages us to do the same.
Follow Karin on Twitter: @letsgrowleaders

Chris Edmonds writes Culture Leadership Charge: The Weakest Link
Chris Edmonds continues his Culture Leadership Charge series with this discussion of the cost of tolerating selfish, competitive players in your culture.
Follow Chris on Twitter: @scedmonds

Shelley Row wrote Give the Gift of Attention: Three Steps You Can Take Today
Shelley gives us practical tips for sharing one of our greatest gifts with others—our attention.
Follow Shelley on Twitter: @shelleyrow

Jon Verbeck shares But I’m Not an Accountant! Why Every Business Owner Still Needs to Understand Basic Financial Statements
Jon Verbeck shares a down-to-earth explanation of the three most vital financial statements with which EVERY business owner should be familiar.
Follow Jon on Twitter: @jonverbeck1

Beth Beutler wrote A Project Management Lesson from a 6-Year-Old
Beth shares some project management tips that were inspired by a 6-year-old tackling what could have been an overwhelming project of his own.
Follow Beth on Twitter: @bethbeutler

Joel Garfinkle covers How to Get Your Ideas Heard at Work
People have difficulty getting attention, let alone getting their ideas accepted and implemented. Here are three things that you could do right now to get your ideas heard at work.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @JoelGarfinkle

Susan Mazza shares How to Overcome the Tyranny of Your To Do List
To-do lists can easily transform from a useful tool to stay focused and productive to becoming an ever present reminder of all that you are not getting done. Even though you know not everything on that list is a “must do,” it is easy to get lost in the abundance of the “should do’s” that so easily pile up over time!
Follow Susan on Twitter: @SusanMazza

Neal Burgis writes Employees to Bring Ideas to the Table
Leaders need to rely and trust employees to use their creative thinking skills to generate ideas and produce results. Allowing room for your employee’s ideas helps leaders reduce supervisory control over the solutions to problems, challenges, and difficulties. The ideas employees put out generates various alternative solutions instead of one solution to what leaders want for their clients.
Follow Neal on Twitter: @exec_solutions

Mary Ila Ward shares HR Santa Clauses focus on the Employee Experience
This holiday season, HR and Talent Management leaders may need to consider a different approach on employee engagement. Mary Ila compares her real life experience of Christmas shopping for her children to how HR Santa Clauses focus on employee engagement. After all, maybe experience is what drives the engagement.
Follow Mary Ila on Twitter: @MaryIlaWard

John Hunter writes Add Constraints to Processes Carefully
Product and service design impacts the user experience. When the product is needlessly complicated and includes needless constraints it is the opposite of mistake-proofing, it is mistake-promoting.
Follow John on Twitter: @curiouscat_com

David Grossman covers The Top Reason People Resist Change and How to Best Address It
People resist being forced to change without their involvement. They don’t like change forced down their throats. People naturally resist being controlled and being uninvolved in decisions that affect them.
Hat tip to DDI World for hosting the December Carnival.

Ducks in a Row: Wally Bock Reviews “Winning Well”

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/44412176@N05/4197328040/A couple of years ago, in a post citing Robert Sutton’s comments on scaling, I said,

A company isn’t an entity at all. It’s a group of people all moving in the same direction, united in a shared vision and their efforts to reach a common goal. (…)Yes, it’s the people. It has always been the people all the way back to our hunter ancestors.

And it will always be the people.

Years before that I wrote about creating a Good Culture in a Toxic Environment.

My e-buddy Wally Bock says bosses need to have a duel focus to be truly successful.

One is to accomplish the mission, make your numbers in business. The other is to care for your people, keep them safe and help them grow.

To that end, I thought I’d share Wally’s review of a book offering guidance on carrying them out.

Winning-WellBook Review: Winning Well

Several years ago at a party, I was approached by a young man who had just assumed his first management job. His name was Carl and he had a simple question: “Is there any company I can go to where I don’t have to choose between getting good results and treating people right?”

I answered Carl’s question with one of my own: “Why not stay where you are and do the job right?” I told him what I learned in the Marines, that you really have two jobs. One is to accomplish the mission, make your numbers in business. The other is to care for your people, keep them safe and help them grow.

It can be done. There are managers all over the world doing it every day. Carl and I talked some more. I tried to give him the basics of doing it right. If we were having that conversation today, I’d suggest that Carl read Winning Well.

An Overview of Winning Well

The promise of the book is in the full title: Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results–Without Losing Your Soul. Karin Hurt and David Dye have written a book that goes way beyond my discussion with Carl. Here’s the premise of the book, taken from chapter one.

“Winning Well means that you sustain excellent performance over time, because you refuse to succumb to harsh, stress-inducing shortcuts that temporarily scare people into ‘performing.’ You need energized, motivated people all working together. Your strategy is only as strong as the ability of your people to execute at the front line, and if they’re too scared or tired to think, they won’t. You can have all the great plans, six sigma quality programs, and brilliant competitive positioning in the universe, but if the human beings doing the real work lack the competence, confidence, and creativity to pull it off, you’re finished.”

The book is divided into four sections. The first covers the basics of Winning Well. Section two is about accomplishing the mission, getting the job done. Section three is about caring for the people, covering how you “Motivate, Energize, and Inspire Your Team.” The fourth and final section is practical advice for getting started, even if your boss doesn’t care about your soul or your team doesn’t care about the work or each other.

Who Should Not Read Winning Well

There are people who believe that all of this caring for the people stuff is nonsense. If that’s you, don’t even bother to pick up Winning Well. Wait until you think there might be something to the caring part of being a manager, then, when you’re looking for the “how to do it” part, buy the book and read it.

Who Should Read Winning Well

You should read Winning Well if you want practical advice for the real problems of getting results without losing your soul. Here are three kinds of people who can benefit from this book.

If you’re a working manager

If you’re a working manager and you want to learn the how’s of Winning Well, you can use this book in two ways. Read it straight through, making notes as you go. Then create an action plan for becoming the manager you want to be. There’s plenty of help in the book and online.

You can also read individual chapters to help you with a thorny issue at work. Dip into the book, get some just-in-time learning, and meet the specific challenge you’re facing today.

If you are a leader of managers

You’ll get a lot from this book and it’s also a great book to share with your managers. Winning Well is about rich, long term success. This would be a great book to stimulate discussion at team meetings or for a book club.

If you think you might want to be a manager

If you’re considering becoming a manager, Winning Well can help you in two ways. You’ll learn how you can be the kind of boss who gets results and builds relationships. As a bonus, the many stories and examples will give you insight into what a manager’s job is all about.

Bottom Line

If you’re a manager who wants to get great results and still have a good relationship with your people, or if you want to become that kind of manager, Winning Well will give you the insight, information, and inspiration to achieve those goals.

You can find out more about this book and how it got written by reading The Story of Winning Well on my writing site.

Post and image credit: Wally Bock; Duck image credit: gorfor

12 Steps to Being a Better Boss

Monday, August 10th, 2015

minims

As I said in June, Wally Bock is my hero.

The stuff he writes is loaded with common sense and practicality.

Best of all, his advice to bosses can be implemented at any level in an organization by individual bosses.

He’s also one heck of a writer, which, in my mind, moves him from gold to platinum.

I’ve added this post from last week to my collection of all-time favorites.

Minims for Bosses

Merriam Webster defines a “maxim” as “a well-known phrase that expresses a general truth about life or a rule about behavior.” Minims are different.

Minims aren’t well known. They don’t express a general rule about life. They’re not big important truths, just little things that will help you do a better job as a boss. Each minim is a one or two sentence distillation of a tip in my forthcoming ebook, Become a Better Boss One Tip at a Time. Here are a dozen.

  • The best way to “empower” competent and willing team members is to get out of their way.
  • Power isn’t something you bestow. It’s something you unleash.
  • Mistakes are the price you pay for better performance in the future.
  • Most performance issues are not self-healing. If you leave them alone, they will usually go from bad to worse.
  • Sugar-coating legitimate criticism robs it of nutritional value.
  • Creativity lives in those cracks in your schedule.
  • The example you set determines the behavior you get.
  • When you’re silent, you can listen and when you listen you can learn.
  • Distrust the abstract.
  • Most of your team members, most of the time, only need suggestions and informal direction.
  • If you mess up, fess up and fix it.
  • Great ideas are everywhere and the best way to find out if they work is to try them out.

As I said, clear, pithy, doable advice and, if you take a step back, solid common sense.

Of course, it only works if you’re willing to check your ego at the door and sit on your dignity.

Wally Bock (My Hero) on Leadership

Monday, June 1st, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/familymwr/5146608442/Wally Bock is one of the smartest guys I know on the subject of being a boss. I find his approaches on everything to be based in the kind of common sense that is easily recognized as being bang-on.

If I knew Wally better, and he didn’t live on the other coast, I would have kissed him for his post last Friday.

But,  since that isn’t possible, I’m reposting it here — in total gratitude.

Leadership “wisdom” that makes me crazy

May 28, 2015 03:00 pm | Wally Bock

Did you know that there are almost 300 books that Amazon thinks contain “leadership secrets?” Do a Google search for the phrase and you’ll get more than nine million results in about half a second. That makes me crazy.

We’ve studied leaders and leadership for millennia. Is it really possible that there’s a secret out there that we haven’t uncovered? This sounds to me like those “medical breakthroughs” that are announced in infomercials.

Those thoughts started me thinking about other “leadership” things that make me crazy. Here they are in no particular order.

Anyone can lead

Really? In theory maybe, but in real life there are people who don’t want the accountability. Others are pathologically afraid of confrontation. And there are others who won’t make decisions. Anyone can have influence, but not everyone is willing to lead.

Don’t bring me a problem unless you bring a solution.

Oh right! If I see a problem and can’t find a solution you don’t want to know about it? Do you really think it’s better to go on in blissful ignorance until the problem blows up all over you? Besides, problems are often where progress starts.

That stupid bus!

Getting the right people on the bus and then deciding where to go sounds good, until you think about it. First off, most managers don’t get that luxury. They have to achieve the goals they’re given with the people they’ve got. But more fundamentally, how can you know the characteristics of “the right people” until you know where you’re going?

For the record, this might make sense for some start-ups. It did for Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard.

Leaders versus Managers

Argh! I don’t care what Warren Bennis said. It’s not about people. It’s about different kinds of work. If you’re responsible for the performance of a group you have to lead and you have to manage and you have to supervise. You don’t get a choice.

For the record, Peter Drucker never talked about leaders and managers as separate kinds of people, but he did discuss leadership and management.

Flickr image credit: US Army

Steve Ballmer’s Lack of Content

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kamikura/192323509/When Microsoft announced its much ballyhooed new strategy and resulting management changes I commented that you can’t change culture, especially an intentionally siloed culture, by edict.

I didn’t go into what seemed to me a strategy with a serious lack of solid content; these days we all know that not only is content king, but the it’s source of authenticity.

I assumed that it was my unwillingness (boredom) to read the analysis offered by media, let alone Steve Ballmer’s actual long-winded statement to the Microsofties, that made me miss it.

As has been said over and over by experts, “culture eats strategy for lunch” (breakfast, in come cases), and while clear communications is as great a focus for me as culture, I just couldn’t make myself read it.

Fortunately, Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership has more patience and he offered some great analysis and comments, which are reposted below with his kind permission.

Microsoft and the Strategy of Everything

On July 13, 2013, Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer sent a lumbering, poorly edited, 2600 word email to Microsoft employees, announcing the company’s new strategy. As awful as the memo was, the strategy is worse.

When I read some of the news accounts, I felt like I was experiencing an updated version of Akira Kurosawa’s classic, Rashomon. In that film, people who participate in the same event each describe it differently. In this case, news organizations that got the same information each describe Microsoft’s new strategy differently.

The New York Times wrote about how “Microsoft Overhauls, the Apple Way.” The Wall Street Journal looked at the same announcement and said that “Microsoft Shake-Up Aims to Speed Products.” And the Mercury News told us that “Microsoft unveils major overhaul in effort to focus on mobile.”

Those very different reports sent me to the Microsoft site and the text of Steve Ballmer’s email. There, he tells us that “We are rallying behind a single strategy as one company.” Sounds good. And what might that single strategy be? Here goes.

“Going forward, our strategy will focus on creating a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses that empower people around the globe at home, at work and on the go, for the activities they value most.”

Try reading that without taking a breath or tripping over tangled syntax. Doesn’t exactly have the ring of “A PC on every desk and in every home” does it?

As I interpret it, Microsoft will make products and provide services which they will sell to individuals and businesses in the US and other countries. Egad! Is there anything Microsoft has chosen not to do?

There’s no focus at all. Being everything to everyone is usually a pretty sure way not to be much of anything to anybody.

And there’s nothing to fire up the passions that drive engagement. Would you really leap out of bed in the morning all charged up to “focus on creating a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses?”

This is not a strategy to build long term, sustainable competitive advantage. It is a strategy for rotting slowly from the inside out.

Thanks, Wally.

Flickr image credit: Masaru Kamikura

Ducks in a Row: The End of Management

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

ducks_in_a_rowSaturday an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal entitled The End of Management and I planned a commentary on it today.

Corporations, whose leaders portray themselves as champions of the free market, were in fact created to circumvent that market.

Corporations are bureaucracies and managers are bureaucrats. Their fundamental tendency is toward self-perpetuation. They are, almost by definition, resistant to change. They were designed and tasked, not with reinforcing market forces, but with supplanting and even resisting the market.

But when a blogger I respect writes an excellent post poking the same holes I would have poked, then it seems a waste of effort to reinvent that particular wheel.

So first read The End of Management and then click over and read Wally Bock’s comments.

Time well spent—I guarantee it.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zedbee/103147140/

Leadership’s Future: Ethics in the Modern World

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Wally Bock has an excellent post regarding his rethinking of the value of the MBA Oath and its possible effect on future ethics. Wally quotes from a post by Scott Eblin entitled “Why we need an MBA oath.”

“What doesn’t get said, doesn’t get heard. If the MBA Oath causes even a few leaders to stand up and say out loud how they intend to conduct themselves then it was worth the effort of writing and promoting it.”

That idea dovetails perfectly with a tongue-in-cheek op-ed column by Edward E. Sanders, an adjunct lecturer at New York City College, textbook author and entrepreneur.

Sculpture: Deadly Sins #1, Pure Products USA, by Nova Ligovano aSanders suggests that today’s leaders got their ethics lessons watching JR and Gordon Gekko and many followed in their footsteps, so perhaps Hollywood could produce a new batch of TV shows and movies that focus on CEOs making tough choices and doing the right thing.

Perhaps Tom Hanks (as a John Wayne character) could play the role of a competent and honest CEO — a person respected and trusted, and who inspires others to do the right thing when confronted with compromising choices.

Sanders may be on to something. How about a group of forensic accountants fighting financial crimes a la CSI.

Most kids need ethical examples beyond their parents and they do look for them in their various entertainment forms.

The problem, of course, is money.  All entertainment mediums build their offerings around what sells and what sells is from the dark side.Pride

It doesn’t matter that JR and Gekko get their comeuppance at the end, viewers’ well-developed “but me” tool reassures them that their outcome will be different.

But like the MBA Oath, it can’t hurt and it might help.

Image credit: Flickr

Leadership’s Future: Figuring Out Leadership

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Eleven thousand business books are published every year. Amazon currently lists more than 60 thousand books on leadership alone. There are also magazines, web sites, e-books, audiobooks, podcasts, and blogs. They all offer ideas on what to do. (Thanks to Wally Bock for the great stats.)

Much of what is written is anecdotal.

Much of what is written is more for self-aggrandizement as pointed out in this post by Jim Stroup.

And too much is garbage, pure and simple.

What it all has in common is the idea that if you do what the author did, or says to do, then you will become a leader whatever the situation, circumstances or your experience.

Obviously, this is poppycock. Nobody would even think of suggesting this kind of ‘do it my way and succeed’ approach to an athlete or entertainer, so why think that leadership, or managing, for the matter, is any different?

Little of what’s out there involves the rigorous kind of research that forms the basis of most subjects.

HBSThat lack is starting to be addressed by Harvard Business School.

According to professor Rakesh Khurana “If we look at the leading research universities and at the business schools within them, the topic of leadership has been actually given fairly short shrift. … What we tried to incorporate in the Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice is how each different perspective illuminates key elements such as similarities and differences in leadership across task, culture, and identity.

Khurana also says that “Leadership just wasn’t tractable by large databases.” No surprise there, much of what involves human MAP isn’t.

But it was this comment that resonated loudest with me.

“There is no single “best” style of leadership nor one set of attributes in all situations.”

In conjunction with the effort to increase serious research, HBR is running a blog for just six weeks called Imagining the Future of Leadership. The articles are, in general, excellent and the comments interesting. Check it out and add your own thoughts.

I don’t believe that Harvard is the last word, but it is encouraging that a serious and respected institution agrees that the subject is complex, doesn’t fit neatly into a specific field and sees the need for much more than is currently available.

Flickr photo credit to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patriciadrury/3237604522/

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