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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ten Commitments of Leadership--Kouzes & Posner

Kouzes and Posner write in their classic leadership book, The Challenge of Leadership, Jossey Bass (copyrights 1995), that through their research of over 60,000 leaders across continents, they've uncovered 5 practices and 10 commitments of excellent leaders:

Practice Number One: Leaders Challenge the Process
  • Commitment #1: Leaders search out challenging opportunities to change, grow, and improve.
  • Commitment #2: Leaders experiment, take risks, and learn from the accompanying mistakes.
Practice Number Two: Leaders Inspire a Shared Vision
  • Commitment #3: Leaders envision an uplifting and ennobling future.
  • Commitment #4: Leaders enlist others in a common vision by appealing to their values, interests, hopes, and dreams.
Practice Number Three: Leaders Enable Others to Act.
  • Commitment #5: Leaders foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust.
  • Commitment #6: Leaders strengthen people by giving power away, providing choice, developing competence, assigning critical tasks, and offering visible support.
Practice Number Four: Leaders Model the Way.
  • Commitment #7: Leaders set the example by behaving in ways that are consistent with shared values.
  • Commitment #8: Leaders achieve small wins that promote consistent progress and build commitment.
Practice Number Five: Leaders Encourage the Heart.
  • Commitment #9: Leaders recognize individual contributions to the success of every project.
  • Commitment #10: Leaders celebrate team accomplishments regularly.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fortune: Top Companies for Leadership and Why.

After an study of over 550 companies around the world, Fortune, in collaboration with Hewitt Associates and RBL Group ranked the best companies in the world and why they were so good for leaders. Here’s the list of the top ten and reasons why:

  1. General Electric: Take leadership on the road. Training takes place not only at their famous Crotonville training facility but also online around the world.
  2. Proctor and Gamble: Hire for emotional intelligence: P&G looks for people with the social skills to understand customer needs.
  3. Nokia: Create a mentoring mentality: Top execs at Nokia are evaluated on how their subordinates rate the ability to lead, teach and inspire.
  4. Hindustan Unelever: Place the right leaders in the right jobs. They rank leaders by color (green-highest, amber, and red) and provide leadership development based on rankings.
  5. Capital One Financial: Coach your managers: More than half their managers get a coach for a year to help hone their leadership skills.
  6. General Mills: Prepare to solve problems. They assemble diverse teams to compete on solving real world simulations.
  7. McKinsey: Groom global talent. With business in 45 countries, McKinsey insists on global cross pollination through assignments in different countries. PS…they have no “headquarters.”
  8. IBM: Learn through integration. IBM has acquired 69 companies in the last 7 years and has a massive corporate integration initiative underway to make it more effective and efficient.
  9. BBVA: Apply peer pressure. Spain’s second-largest bank, uses peer reviews as a way to ensure they promote leaders who are participatory and not coercive.
  10. Infosys Technologies: Empower your employees. This Indian IT corporate leader actively solicits the ideas from their 20-somethings by creating a group of them called, Voices of Youth and gives them a seat at the company’s management council.

(Source “The Top Companies for Leaders,” Doris Burke, et al, Fortune, October 1, 2007, Vol. 156, NO.7, pp 109-114)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fortune’s Extensive Leadership Study

The October 2007 issue of Fortune contains the results of one of the most extensive leadership surveys I've seen in years. The purpose was to identify world-class, leadership-focused companies and best practices. To evaluate the methodology see page 116 of the issue. I was impressed with the rigor.

Before listing some of the results, you might ask, "Why is leadership development so important?"

Robert Gandossy, global practice leader for Hewitt (world’s largest HR consulting firm), puts it best in this article: " ' Organizations need talented people a lot more than talented people need organization.' "

Clearly the economy is becoming talent-based and trying to recruit and retain the best requires appealing to their motivators. Every survey I've ever seen indicates development and leadership development heads the list of what people want. As cited in the article, at CapitalOne (rated among the top companies in the world for leadership development) they cited that new employees list " ' job flexibility, development and community involvement' " as critical elements that keep them at the company. To be an employer of choice--the one talented people will work for over another--companies must address leadership development head on or risk becoming underpowered and worse, irrelevant.

Here's what they found in a nutshell, though I suggest you read the entire article:

Nine best practices of world-class leadership development companies:

  1. Invest time and money. Leadership development isn't fast or cheap. Just tacking on some program to the side of an existing HR program won't work long term. Also, the CEO and the senior execs have to embrace the concept or it won't work. CEO's of leadership-focused companies spend large chucks of time on this issue. For example, Medtronic's CEO Bill Hawkins devotes 50% of his time on people issues alone. And when other leaders see that the CEO takes leadership serious, I think you can predict what happens to their schedules!
  2. Identify promising leaders early. The leading companies work at starting to identify promising young leaders on day one. Traditionally, leadership training comes years down the road and follows a triangular model that narrows as you go up the ladder. More leadership-focused companies keep the pipeline much more open and broader based--to give more people the leadership experience and discover their strengths. This effort provides them with a huge competitive advantage.
  3. Choose assignments competitively. Providing different critical assignments for developing leaders helps the company and the individual. According to the CEO at Lilly, John Lechleiter, a good leadership development model gets formed as follows: Two-thirds of such development comes from job experience, one-third from mentoring and coaching, and a dash from classroom training. Moving people out of their comfort zones and into critical skills areas is vital but not easy.
  4. Develop leaders within their current jobs. The single opposition to moving people around (as suggested above) is it that company divisions have a tough time adjusting from the loss as leaders move on. To counter this, successful leadership-focused companies are keeping people in their leadership assignments while having them take on new responsibilities outside of their comfort zones.
  5. Be passionate about feedback and support. The best employees are the most engaged ones. To stay engaged, people have to learn. Learning involves feedback, honest and regular, and follow-up mentoring. The most successful companies have people who get both feedback and mentoring, whether formal or not.
  6. Develop teams, not just individuals. It takes a village to raise a good leader. Well run teams outperform individuals in almost every circumstance. Don't ignore this when developing leaders. One company leader I know thinks of all his employees as leaders—a pretty smart way of thinking.
  7. Exert leadership through inspiration. People don’t like an autocratic boss—no surprise here. The old command and control, top down model of leadership, doesn’t work now—in fact, never did. But with the talent shortage—exacerbated by the large number of baby boomers leaving the workforce every day (some estimates are as high as 11,000 a day are leaving!), there will be a huge talent war to attract and retain the best. And if people aren’t inspired, they’ll walk away. And the best leave first, because they can.
  8. Encourage leaders to be active in the community. The fastest way to get the exact kind of leadership experience you need is to locate a nonprofit who needs help—which describes just about every nonprofit I’ve ever known. Getting involved on boards of non-profits, for example, can teach an emerging young leader what it means to get involved in corporate governance—something very important to learn, but likely never going to happen for many without getting it from a nonprofit experience.
  9. Make leadership part of the culture. Culture is the air you breathe in an organization. It’s like the water fish swim in…it’s so much a part of their world that they almost don’t know it’s there. Great leadership—expects things like community involvement, direct feedback, job enhancement, mentoring and coaching and all the things mentioned in this article. If great leadership is to thrive, it must be an expectation of everyone in the company. It must be pumped into the corporate oxygen!
(Source “Leader Machines," Geoff Colvin, Fortune, October 1, 2007, Vol. 156, NO.7, pp 98-106.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Leading Organizational Change

John Kotter, now professor emeritus of Harvard's Business School, is considered the father of change. Author of numerous publications, his research and ideas about how change takes place in organizations have been widely applied in business. At the forefront of his thinking is that change is slow (can take years, not months) and change takes a dynamic leader to implement it in a company. Here are his eight steps to transform an organization.
  1. Establish a sense of urgency.
    • People respond better to crises than business as usual with a slight new twist. Somehow leaders have to examine the marketplace and show how their company faces a major problem
  2. Form a powerful guiding coalition.
    • Leaders need help overcoming inertia. Convincing other leaders in the company to form a team and lead the change is essential.
  3. Create a vision.
    • Leaders must be able to succinctly and vividly create the picture of a vision and develop strategies for the team to reach that vision.
  4. Communicate the vision.
    • Use every means available in the company--speeches, newsletters, memos, e-mails, and most of all leadership by example of the guiding coalition team.
  5. Empower others to act on the vision.
    • Remove obstacles to making change.
  6. Plan for creating short-term wins.
    • Gather the low-hanging fruit of change and improvements and reward people in public to create the buzz about the importance of change and to overcome inertia.
  7. Consolidate improvements to produces even more change.
    • Change systems and structures based on increasing credibility and momentum and hire new people and develop others to implement change.
  8. Institute new approaches.
    • Connect new behaviors and corporate success and plan leadership succession.
Source: Harvard Business Review on Leading Change, "Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail" by John P. Kotter (HRS Publishing, 2006). Article originally published in March-April 1995 in Harvard Business Review.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Generational Leadership--New Important Research

Generational Leadership—

Excellent Research from the Center for Creative Leadership

Jennifer Deal, researcher for the renowned Center for Creative Leadership, has written a very important book for leaders who want to understand generational leadership at a transformational level. Drawn from a database of 3,200 people surveyed from 2000 to 2005, this book, Retiring the Generation Gap: How Employees Young & Old Can Find Common Ground (Jossey-Bass, 2007) challenges many of the assumptive differences between generations that she identifies (Silents (born 1925-1945; Early Boomers (born 1946-1954); Late Boomers (born 1955-1963); Early Xers (1964-1976) and Late Xers (1977-1986).

Here is an overview of the top 10 findings. I strongly suggest reading this book for detail behind these results:

  1. All generations have similar values.
    1. (Top values for every generation are Family, Integrity, and Love).
  2. Everyone wants respect, they just define it differently.
    1. (Older generations want respect for their experience and younger generations want respect for their new ideas and suggestions.)
  3. Trust matters a lot.
    1. (The less people trust their leaders and or organizations, the more likely they are to leave.)
  4. People want leaders who they can believe in.
    1. (All generations want leaders who are credible, trustworthy, dependable, farsighted, encouraging and good listeners)
  5. People don’t like organizational politics.
    1. (People higher in the organization think that politics is less important than people lower in that same organization.)
  6. No one likes change.
    1. (Young or old don’t like change largely because they fear more loss than gain by the change.)
  7. Loyalty depends on context not age.
    1. (All groups have about the same level of loyalty. Younger people tend to job hop more than older generations did.)
  8. Retaining younger and older people is easy if you do the right things.
    1. (Retention keys: Good compensation, learning and development, opportunities for advancement, respect and recognition, and quality of life outside of work.)
  9. Everyone wants to learn—more than anything else—97% or respondent said this!
    1. (Top 10 things they want to learn: Leadership, skills in their field, team building, problem solving, strategic planning, change management, computer skills, vision, communications, and conflict management.)
  10. Almost everyone wants a coach.
    1. (Coaching by outsiders, managers, and colleagues is effective because it’s so targeted to the individuals that people at every level of the organization want to receive it.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


The race for talent (I call it TalentRace) will become substantial in the next two years and is not going away for many yeas to come. According to the Bureau of National Labor Statistics the crunch will start to hit hard by 2010 (now only two years away)--as baby boomers start reaching retirement age and as the number of workers ages 25-34 begin to decrease.

The deficit in available workers should be in the vicinity of 10 million. That translates into a race for talent. Building a culture focused on retention becomes critical. Retaining the boomers as long as possible and attracting younger workers will be the key differentiator for employers of choice--those people will leave other companies for. According a Price Waterhouse Coopers expert in the field, employees, look for two basic conditions by asking these questions to themselves:
1. Does my supervisor value my work?
2. Am I and my colleagues treated with respect?

This a culture of retention starts with two simple words--value and respect.

Source: Retaining Your Best People, Harvard Business School Publishing Corp, 2006, ("Why Retention Should Become a Core Strategy Now" by Paul Michelman) pp.21-33.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Leadership Challenge/ Kouzes and Posner

The classic book, The Leadership Challenge (1997), by Jame Kouzes and Barry Posner reflects the their research of over 60,000 people on four continents (America, Asia, Europe, and Australia). K and P asked people to select ideal qualities that they "most look for and admire in a leader, someone whose direction they would willingly follow."

Drum roll...and the results are as follows:
  • Honest
  • Forward-looking
  • Inspiring
  • Competent
These are not shocking, rather consistent with all the literature in leadership.
So why is it so damned hard to find these folks?

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