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The New SuperLeadership

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The truly effective leader today must be one who leads others to lead themselves. The rapid pace of change demands fast and flexible responses throughout the organization-there's no time to wait for directives from the top. And the highly-skilled workers so vital to organizational success also demand a high degree of independence. Old-fashioned command-and-control leadership is just too slow and stifling.
Charles Manz and Henry Sims, Jr. pioneered the concept self-leadership in their bestselling book SuperLeadership. In The New SuperLeadership, the authors present new content and examples designed to help leaders develop the kind of autonomous, quick-reacting workforce necessary to thrive in these turbulent times. This enriched and expanded edition takes the concepts in the first edition to another level by emphasizing a pragmatic, how-to approach for developing leaders at every level of the organization.
Drawing on contemporary examples and profiles, many from the high-tech and information sectors, Manz and Sims shatter the myth of the traditional, aggrandized versions of "heroic" leadership. They show that a leader truly becomes successful by turning followers into extraordinary self-leaders-pillars of strength that will support the organization at every level. They detail a series of action-oriented steps through which the SuperLeader provides an opportunity for followers to express and develop their own leadership skills-and in the process become highly motivated, dynamic contributors.
The New SuperLeadership critically reviews traditional leadership styles, vividly illustrating the drawbacks of each: the "Strong Man" whose reliance on fear-based compliance smothers initiative; the "Transactor" who promotes a narrow "what's in it for me?" mentality; and the "Visionary Hero" whose powerful personality inspires commitment but inadvertently discourages independent thinking. By bringing out the leader in every employee, SuperLeadership enables leaders to avoid these pitfalls and develop an enthusiastic, innovative and energized workforce.
The New SuperLeadership is a radically new way of looking at leadership, offering a leadership paradigm ideally suited to the realities of the modern workplace. It reveals that the only way to succeed today is to tap into the innate leadership potential that lies within every employee.

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1 Leadership in the 21st Century


A leader is best
When people barely know he exists,
Not so good when people obey and acclaim him,
Worse when they despise him.
But of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will say:
We did it ourselves.
—Lao Tzu

HOW DOES THIS PERSPECTIVE FIT with your own ideas about leadership? Do you feel comfortable with the idea that a leader should not be obeyed or acclaimed, and in fact should barely be recognized? When you are called upon to lead do you prefer to take charge or to help others find their own way? These timeless words of Lao Tzu were written well over 2,000 years ago, yet they send an important message worth considering as we enter a new age. The recent end of the millennium seems particularly symbolic. We are living on the cusp of one of those rare technological turning points in history. Over the past two decades the information revolution emphasized computers and software. But this was only prologue to the main event—the Internet. Mankind is becoming truly “connected” and life will never be the same.


Dennis Bakke of AES Corporation


Ken A. Smith

Dennis Bakke, cofounder and CEO of AES Corporation, is widely considered to be among today’s most successful corporate leaders. Together with Roger Sant, Bakke founded AES as an international independent power company in 1981 with the mission to serve the world’s need for electricity by offering clean, safe, and reliable power in a socially responsible way.

While the operating and financial performance of AES has been remarkable, Bakke would argue that his greater success lies in the people of AES. Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Business Week, and others have called Bakke one of the most “enlightened” corporate leaders of the modern era, a role model for those who are committed to developing and empowering others. We call him a “SuperLeader.”

Bakke is a SuperLeader whose leadership is rooted in two primary beliefs that predate the founding of AES. First, he believes that businesses do not exist primarily to make money; they exist to serve. Says Bakke, “The purpose of business and the purpose of AES [is] stewarding resources in order to meet a need in society. You start with that premise. If you don’t start with that premise, none of this stuff makes sense.”1


2 The Strongman, Transactor, Visionary Hero, and SuperLeader


GENERAL DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER had a high opinion of the potential of the common man.1 In 1967 he wrote: “In our Army, it was thought that every private had at least a second lieutenant’s gold bars somewhere in him and he was helped and encouraged to earn them…. I am inclined by nature to be optimistic about the capacity of a person to rise higher than he or she has thought possible, once interest and ambition are


Since he thought well of others, he intuitively understood the advantage of sharing information with subordinates. For example, he wrote that “The Army … as far back as the days of von Steuben, learned that Americans either will not or cannot fight at maximum efficiency unless they understand the why and wherefore of their orders.”3

Baron Friedrich von Steuben, a Prussian-born American general during the Revolutionary War, found that American soldiers required something special to fight at maximum efficiency. In other words, these soldiers required leadership that matched their personal goals to reach the targets of the army. To that end, von Steuben modified his own European-based command practices, trying to understand the individual American soldier’s role and motivation.


Chainsaw Al— SuperLeader Not!


Abhishek Srivastava

In 30 years of corporate life, Albert J. Dunlap acquired nicknames such as “Chainsaw Al,” “Rambo in Pinstripes,” and “The Shredder,” which aptly characterized his leadership as CEO of several companies. He would storm a company that was in distress, slash a significant proportion of its manpower, sell big chunks of its businesses, use this money to reduce debt, improve the stock price, set the company for sale, and move on to other companies—usually becoming richer in the process.

After graduating from West Point and serving three years in the military, Dunlap began his business career as a junior executive at Kimberly-Clark Corporation, a leading manufacturer of paper products. But he soon took advantage of an opportunity to run a company, even though he had not yet reached the age of 30. The owner of Sterling Pulp and Paper Company, Ely Meyer, was encountering considerable debt and severe problems of production. Meyer offered the young, ambitious Dunlap the opportunity to run Sterling, thus providing him the opportunity for his first lessons in turning around a poorly performing business.


3 SuperLeadership 101: The Basics for Unleashing Self-Leadership


I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND this new generation! I don’t think I expect too much from my people. I just want them to be good followers. It seems like no one is interested in being a good follower anymore,” Brent concluded with a tone of despair.

“I agree that followership is important, Bill, but maybe you are too concerned about members of your department following rather than leading,” Mary responded calmly.

“Don’t get me wrong Mary. I do believe in empowerment but I am the manager here, and I believe that I need to be the one that provides the leadership, the vision and direction for our efforts. I feel I do a pretty good job of that but I still find that my employees try to head off in directions I never asked them to. It makes things seem kind of chaotic and I don’t like it. And frankly I don’t understand what you mean about the need to be concerned about leading as opposed to following. I’m the leader here! Is there anybody that doesn’t understand that?”

“Brent—the way I look at it, the world has become too complex and changable for there to be only one leader in any organizational unit anymore. Everyone needs to be fully contributing from their unique experiences and expertise, and to me that means that everyone needs to be doing some leading, especially of themselves.”


Percy Barnevik of ABB


In 1987, few would have predicted the remarkable success that followed the merger of two sleepy European engineering firms.1 Percy Barnevik, until recently CEO of ABB (Asea Brown Boveri, originally of Sweden), was the architect of the merger that formed the giant worldwide engineering and power organization.

Barnevik’s leadership has been widely recognized as something special. From our viewpoint, we see him as a combination of Visionary Hero and SuperLeader—Visionary Hero because of the astonishing growth that has resulted in more than 100 acquisitions and the addition of 100,000 employees to the payroll, and SuperLeader because of his championing of a new form of decentralization that places significant responsibility in the hands of local managers. The concept is called multidomesticity: “Think global, act local.”

Barnevik has espoused an extremely flattened form of organization, with no more than five people between the CEO and the lowest level. According to Barnevik, “The fundamental organizational design … is known for its extreme decentralization. This… has been a theme throughout my whole career…. What I have tried to do is recreate small-company dynamism and creativity by building 5000 profit centers and 1300 legal entities. I have made an effort to reduce the layers.” According to Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries, “Barnevik [has] created organizational structures where people have a sense of control and a feeling of ownership over what they do.”


4 Self-Leadership in Action


YOUARE DEEPLY SETTLED into the conference room chair as you listen to Bart, the new division general manager (and your boss). This is the first meeting between Bart and his staff, and he is outlining some of his philosophy and ideas about how he expects the division to be managed. You are new yourself, having assumed the position of department manager only two weeks ago.

Both you and Bart have been brought into the division as part of an attempt to salvage an organization that has been in the red for the last three years. You haven’t worked for Bart before, but you hear through the grapevine that he has a record as a top-notch performer.

“One of the most important attributes by which I judge managers,“ says Bart,” is how good they are at self-leadership. Are they able to lead themselves?”

As you sit, you wonder what he really means by “self-leadership.”

How about you? Do you believe the most important leadership you exercise is over the person staring back at you when you look in the mirror? Are you an effective self-leader? What is self-leadership?


Carly Fiorina of Hewlett-Packard


Seokhwa Yun and Henry P. Sims, Jr.

Carly Fiorina was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Hewlett-Packard (HP) in July 1999. This appointment makes HP the largest public corporation ever to be run by a woman. Fiorina comes to HP with an exceptional track record of accelerating growth in large technology businesses. She has distinguished herself in tough, competitive environments, including AT&T, Lucent Technologies, and now HP. She has been named by Fortune magazine as the most powerful woman in American business.

As we enter the 21st century, HP is one of those companies at the cusp of the digital revolution. Fiorina has charged HP to “keep the best, invent the rest.”1 She is challenging HP to transform its culture, speed up product development, and, most of all, to increase the company’s Internet-related business. The main direction is moving from a product-oriented company to one focused on e-service solutions. She intends to return HP to its vaunted reputation for innovation, but by concentrating on integrated customer solutions as opposed to pieces of hardware. Through her appointment, the HP board unanimously agreed that she was quite simply the ideal candidate to leverage HP’s core strengths into the rapidly changing information-systems industry and to lead this great company into the new millennium.


5 Self-Leadership Through Natural Rewards


“YOU SURE SEEM TO WORK HARD at your new job, Bill. Yo u must have really received a big pay increase when you took the position.”

“Oh, a little one, Frank, but actually I don’t make much more than I did in my old position. It’s really a lateral move.”

“Really? That seems hard to believe. You seem to be more interested and engaged in your work. Why did you take the job?”

“It’s kind of hard to explain. It’s just that I really like the kind of work I’m doing. When I stopped to think about it, I realized I didn’t really need more money to make the decision. I guess I’m getting a kick out of the work itself. I feel effective in what I’m doing and I have more freedom to do the work the way I want. When something gets done I know I’ve really made a contribution. I’m just plain motivated to do the work for its own value. Don’t tell anybody, Frank,” Bill said, with a playful smile on his face. “But I probably would do this job even if they paid me less than my old job. One thing is clear, I know my level of performance has really improved with this new job.”


6 Self-Leadership of the Mind


“NOT AGAIN!” Deborah moaned in an exasperated tone. “Every time I try to make progress on my work I run into some kind of obstacle that blocks my progress. Sometimes I feel like just giving up! This time we have received information from our latest survey indicating that people don’t particularly like our customer service program, and the VP has indicated he would like us to make some changes. We’ve used that program for years and never really had any major problems with it. Why does this have to come up now, right when we are getting ready to launch our new Internet product line!?”

“Actually, Deborah, I have felt that our customer service policies are dated. I’ve been hoping that we would make some changes for some time now,” responded Sarah. “You may recall that I brought this up in a couple of our department meetings but wasn’t able to get much support from the rest of the group because we always had too many other irons in the fire. Now maybe this will finally receive some priority. Our new products have been pretty innovative but we have been hindering ourselves with poor customer service. This survey data provides a real opportunity to bring our customer service up to the level of our innovative e-product line.”


SuperLeadership in the Information Age—Leading By Creating Knowledge Self-Leaders


Vikas Anand and Don Harrison

As organizations enter the bold new world of the 21st century they are faced with multiple challenges. Foremost among these challenges is the need to better manage knowledge and information. Indeed, Peter Drucker has pointed out that firms that fail to effectively harness their knowledge are doomed to mediocrity or even failure. In this context, we believe that SuperLeadship provides a novel and effective approach to managing knowledge. While leadership is typically associated with individuals, the knowledge management approach defined below is an example of leadership expressed at the level of the organization, where an entire firm, through its systems, practices, and procedures, acts as a SuperLeader.

As an organization prepares to face the 21st century, it is confronted with a major challenge. One of its key resources—knowledge—is held in the minds of its various employees and scattered all over the organization. Collectively the organization may know a great deal; yet often, employees find that they personally possess inadequate or inappropriate knowledge. The knowledge they need may be known by someone thousands of miles away; obtaining such knowledge in quick time poses a significant challenge. As Dick Loehr, director of Ernst & Young’s Center for Business Knowledge points out, such problems can be addressed by implementing a knowledge management system that allows people to “interact, communicate, collaborate, and share information, no matter where they [are].”


7 Leading Others to Lead Themselves


THE BOY WATCHEDTHE MAN CAREFULLY as he walked out of the village. The man was his mother’s brother and had watched over the boy since his father had been killed in the raid of the Hill People. More than anything else, the ten-year-old boy wanted to be like the man—to be the best hunter in the village.

Suddenly the man stopped and gazed for a long moment at the boy. Without saying a word he motioned, and the boy knew he meant, “Come with me.” With tremendous excitement, the boy followed the man out of the village. They hunted all that day and were very successful.

This day established a pattern for the next few years. On the days that the man would hunt, the boy would follow. At first the boy would only watch. The man spoke very little. Even when the boy asked a question, the man seldom answered, so after a while the boy asked fewer and fewer questions. They just hunted together in silence, with the boy watching carefully.

But the man was an excellent teacher. He knew that the boy was very bright and very quick. Before long, the boy was imitating the man and contributing to the hunt.


MacGregor—Insisting On Self-Leadership


Elliott Carlisle

This classic profile was included in our original version of SuperLeadership and was, in many ways, ahead of its time. MacGregor provides a striking example of leadership that not only promotes and expects self-leadership from followers but insists on it.

My encounter with MacGregor came about during the course of a study of the extent to which operating managers actually use participative management techniques in their dealings with subordinates.

MacGregor, who at the time was manager of one of the largest refineries in the country, was the last of more than 100 managers I interviewed in the course of the study.

The switchboard operator answered with the name of the refinery. When I asked for MacGregor’s office, a male voice almost instantly said “Hello.” I then asked for MacGregor, whereupon the voice responded, “This is he.” I should have recognized at once that this was no ordinary manager; he answered his own phone instantly, as though he had been waiting for it to ring. To my question about when it would be convenient for me to come see him, he replied, ‘Any time.’ I said, “Would today be all right?” His response was, “Today, tomorrow, or Wednesday would be OK; or you could come Thursday, except don’t come between 10:00 A.M. and noon; or you could come Friday or next week any time.”


8 Leading Individuals to Become Self-Leaders


HOW DID GENERAL DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER become such an admired leader? In the years prior to World War II, we can trace the development of Eisenhower’s leadership style. As he absorbed the military environment he learned to be delegated to and, in turn, to delegate authority. Ike learned leadership through exposure to models that strongly facilitated his own self-leadership skills.1

One of the greatest influences and most important models in Eisenhower’s life and career was General George C. Marshall. Their relationship has been described variously as being like that of father and son, leader and protégé, and partners. Undoubtedly, Eisenhower learned much from Marshall.

From the very start, Marshall let it be known that he wanted no yes-men in his camp. On Eisenhower’s first day at the War Plans Department at the beginning of World War II, Marshall called him into his office and asked Ike what the United States’ Philippine strategy should be. Eisenhower spent the day at his desk, then returned with an analysis of the Philippine situation and a recommended strategy. Marshall was pleased with Ike’s response to the task: “Eisenhower, the Department is filled with able men who analyze their problems well but feel compelled always to bring them to me for final solution. I must have assistants who will solve their own problems and tell me later what they have done.”2 Ike understood the significance of autonomy, of “owning” a job and doing it well in his own style.


Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines


Narda Quigley

Herb Kelleher, chairman, president, and CEO of Southwest Airlines, personifies many qualities of SuperLeadership. Kelleher, through his unique blend of wit, energy, and vision, has led Southwest from a humble preflight beginning in 1968 to an established, well-respected company with a unique culture and reputation. But the airline has enjoyed far more than personality and charm. Southwest has had astounding financial success over the last three decades, due in large part to Kelleher’s leadership in creating an empowering corporate culture.

 In 2000, Southwest was named in Fortune
 magazine as the most admired airline.

Today, Southwest is America’s fourth largest major carrier (in terms of passengers carried) with over 300 jets, 50 million passengers a year, and service to 56 cities across the nation. Profits have exploded by 838 percent in the last decade and the number of passengers carried, airplanes, and employees have all tripled.1 The company has reported annual profits for an astounding 27 consecutive years, even during the industry-wide downturn of the early 1990s. With its low-cost, high-customer-satisfaction strategy, Southwest has become “the nation’s premier shorthaul, point-to-point, low-fare carrier.”2 In addition, Southwest routinely captures customer service awards such as the coveted Triple Crown award (best on-time record, baggage handling, and fewest customer complaints). Southwest is clearly widely respected both in business circles and among savvy, cost-conscious travelers.


9 Leading Teams to Self-Leadership


“BILL! CONTACT CHADSMITH LTD. about the chip order that they have not filled yet and let them know that they either need to get on this or we will drop them as a supplier.Then check back with me for further instructions. Frankly, I think your team has been too lax with them and I want to get things moving,” Ann Faber, the newly hired team leader curtly directed Bill, one of the Blue Team members. “And we need it now, so I want you to drop everything and get on this!” Uncharacteristically, Bill didn’t say a word, even though he knew the order had been shipped by FedEx that morning. He simply quietly walked away with an irritated look on his face.

“Take it easy,” a quiet voice suggested to Ann after Bill had left.Ann turned to see Blake Reed, another team leader, standing near her with a friendly smile on his face.“You’re pressing too hard,Ann.The Blue Team is very good and they can handle this themselves. I think you’re over-managing a bit.”

“Pardon me?” Ann looked genuinely surprised.“I’m just trying to clear up a problem before it gets out of control.The order is already a week late and I thought it was my job to make sure things don’t happen like this in my work teams.”


Joe Paterno and Phil Jackson— SuperLeadership in Sports


One of the more interesting arenas for studying leadership is found in sports teams. In this profile we focus on two of the most fascinating and effective team coaches in history—Joe Paterno and Phil Jackson. Not only have these two leaders enjoyed remarkable success but they have demonstrated a complex blend of different types of leadership that distinguish them from the typical athletic coach.

By any standard, Joseph Vincent Paterno has reached the pinnacle of success in American college football. As head coach at Penn State, Paterno is one of football’s all-time winningest coaches. But Paterno is respected for his philosophy and opinions as well as for his coaching achievements. Sometimes he seems prouder of the percentage of Penn State athletes who graduate than of his own winning percentage.

Many leaders struggle with the challenge of leading the way they think they should versus their own natural style. Paterno is no exception. In a personal interview,1 we found Coach Paterno to have a special ability to be introspective about this dilemma of over-control and under-control. “It’s difficult,” he candidly admits, “for me to handle people in the way I think they want to be handled… because I have a tendency to want complete control.… In the early part of my career… I would plot every offensive and defensive move we would use in a ball game, and try to devise the game plan by myself.… I felt that I had to have input on everything that went on, every minute of the day and every day of the week.”2


10 Leading Organizational Cultures to Self-Leadership


THURSDAY EVENING, 7:30 P.M. In his office on the seventh floor, Michael G. Smith, new CEO of Avant-Garde Computer, Inc. (AGC), examines the last sales report.The message is depressing: sales have leveled off in the past year.AGC is a small, innovative young company located in Silicon Valley. Founded eight years ago, AGC specializes in engineering graphics design software.The founder, an engineer himself, had successfully marketed two highly specialized software packages for mechanical and electronic design.

The founder (now retired) depended heavily on the two chief engineers who now head the two main divisions of the company. Each is considered to be a brilliant technician. Both engineers are deeply experienced and firmly committed to the present strategy of mechanical and electronic design graphics. Further, both of them are known as “autocrats” who keep a firm hand on the younger engineers within their divisions.They don’t believe in delegating decisions. For the last three years, turnover among the younger engineers has been increasing. Michael Smith knows from transcripts of exit interviews that most of them are leaving because of the chief engineers’ detailed control over their activities.


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