Real Leadership: Helping People and Organizations Face Their Toughest Challenges

Views: 982
Ratings: (0)

Too many organizations today play follow the leader: the commander articulates a "vision" and people uncritically go along with it. But this style of leadership is ultimately ineffective and even dangerous. It hampers people's ability to anticipate and react to changing circumstances. And if the leader's vision is flawed, the entire organization will suffer. In Real Leadership, Dean Williams argues that the true task of the leader is to get people to face the reality of any situation themselves and develop strategies to deal with problems or take advantage of opportunities. Leaders who are responsible with their power and authority don't dictate; they help people determine what shifts in their values, habits, practices and priorities will be needed to accommodate changing conditions and new demands. Williams details how to apply this new approach to six different challenges that every organization faces. Throughout, he uses examples from his own experiences--working with organizations as diverse as the government of Singapore, Aetna Life and Casualty, and the nomadic Penan tribe in Borneo--as well as historical examples and the insights gleaned from his many interviews with presidents, prime ministers, and business leaders to demonstrate the practical application of real leadership in the real world. At a time when so many "visionary" leaders have led their organizations to disaster, Real Leadership offers a needed, proven alternative.

List price: $31.95

Your Price: $20.77

You Save: 35%

 

10 Slices

Format Buy Remix

CHAPTER 1: Odin, Enron, and the Apes

ePub

I sat with the prime minister of East Timor to discuss his options. Five days earlier, a mob of angry protestors burned his home down and wreaked havoc by destroying government buildings, businesses, and houses. They were angry because change wasn’t happening fast enough. During the melee, poorly trained police fired on the protestors, killing one young man and wounding others. The prime minister had been in his job for less than a year. Furthermore, he was East Timor’s first local leader, as the country had been under colonial rule for the previous four hundred years, by Portugal and then Indonesia. Under the Indonesians, a tenth of the population was killed. The prime minister had a seemingly impossible task: to create an honest and effective government and to build a nation from the ashes (not to mention his own home, which itself was also in ashes). The country was a powder keg, ready to explode. He knew he had to be exceptionally astute and responsible in how he used his power in this demanding and precarious predicament. All eyes were on him to see what he would do.

 

CHAPTER 2: Diagnostic Work

ePub

Even the wise god Odin knew the importance of diagnostic work. From his throne in the holy city of Asgard, Odin every morning sent his two special ravens, Huginn and Muninn, out to look upon the world that he made and see how his children were faring and whether they needed his providential care. They would fly over the kingdom and return in the evening bringing Odin news of many things. Odin would often follow up on this intelligence by wandering in disguise among the people to see for himself what was happening. He was constantly asking himself, “What challenge do the people face?” Without valid and reliable data, it would be impossible for him to know the people’s problems, recognize threats in the environment, and provide appropriate leadership that could attend to the well-being of the community.

“What challenge do the people face?” is an important question all leaders must ask and take the time to pursue. A leader might feel overwhelmed by the process of diagnosis as he or she could easily be beleaguered with information and data about the people’s condition and the threats in the environment. But diagnostic work is too critical to ignore or conduct in a slipshod manner. Certainly any group or organization faces many serious problems demanding attention. But the leader must learn how, like Odin’s ravens, to take a bird’s-eye view of the terrain and generate a more complete picture of the bits and pieces that are presented by the individuals and various factions. Every faction has a piece of the problem and the solution, and they express it in their own way according to their values and aspirations. The leader’s diagnostic work is to put the pieces together, like a jigsaw puzzle. Ultimately, the leader needs to ascertain what really is unresolved in the group that if allowed to remain unresolved could destroy the group or impede progress. Or, said in another way, “What challenge do the people face?”32

 

CHAPTER 3: The Activist Challenge

ePub

The first challenge of leadership is to get people to wake up to the fact there is a problem—that the group is avoiding some aspect of reality, ignoring a threat, or missing a great opportunity. The leader in such a predicament faces a development challenge. Groups often avoid facing some aspect of reality, either because that piece of reality is too threatening to their current existence, or because they are so focused on what they regard as their main concerns that they cannot take the time to consider any other issues. To get the people to wake up and face the problem is an activist challenge. Often the problem is embedded in people’s values and behavior. The people might espouse one view but act in ways that are not consistent with that view. The leadership task in an activist challenge is to call attention to the contradiction in values and intervene to disrupt the thinking and patterns of behavior that allow the people to persist in avoiding the reality of their condition. The following scenario illustrates a corporate activist challenge.

 

CHAPTER 4: The Development Challenge

ePub

There are times when the people’s advancement is dependent on their capacity to develop their latent capabilities and take advantage of new opportunities. The development of those capabilities will allow the people, or their organization, to flourish and prosper at a higher level than they would be able to otherwise. The leadership task when faced with a development challenge is to orchestrate a learning process through designed experimentation that cultivates the group’s latent capabilities. To illustrate this challenge, consider the following scenario.

Imagine you are the CEO of a large financial services organization. The firm has been profitable for years, but, due to deregulation, it has many more competitors now. The rapid change in market conditions has caught the company by surprise—and without a revised strategic plan.

You determine that the new business challenge is to retain customers and leverage the entire organization to provide more services and products to the customer. Your strategy will necessitate what is called in business “cross selling.” The company currently sells on average two of its products to each customer. You determine that if the divisions of the company could really work together, share sales and customer data, and give up the notion of a single division “owning” the customer, you could sell up to six products per customer and substantially increase the profitability of the business.90

 

CHAPTER 5: The Transition Challenge

ePub

There are times when some of the values and mind-sets of a people are no longer useful in addressing the challenges that beset the group or organization. This could be due to a shift in the dynamics of the larger environment or the emergence of a new threat or opportunity. To ensure the group is able to adapt and thrive in a changed environment, deal with the threat, or take advantage of the opportunity, the leadership work is to transition the group to a new state of operating and refashion the values, loyalties, and mind-sets of the people. The following scenario illustrates that challenge.

Suppose you are the production manager for a popular sports car manufacturer. For many years, your company has prided itself in producing handmade cars for connoisseurs. However, both the marketplace and production technology have moved on while your firm has stood still. Customers no longer view handmade as necessarily better. Precision robotics produce quality that is often indistinguishable from hand assembly at a cost that is so much lower that many customers see no point in paying extra for hand craftsmanship. In addition, your critics point out that the workers at the automated plants of your competitors make almost twice the annual wage of your workers.

 

CHAPTER 6: The Maintenance Challenge

ePub

Not all leadership work is about change. Sometimes the challenge is to hold things together—to protect essential resources, maintain core values, and keep the enterprise from falling apart. This is the objective of leadership for a maintenance challenge. To illustrate a maintenance challenge, consider the following scenario.

Imagine you are CEO of one of the world’s leading makers of semiconductors. Your company is based in San Francisco to take advantage of the abundant talent in the area and to be close to suppliers. The company has 2,650 employees and annual revenues of more than $1 billion. The year is 2001, and the change in the economic conditions of the information technology industry has led to a severe downturn in the market that has jeopardized the survival of your company. Your quarterly revenues have plunged 50 percent in six months. The same is also happening for your competitors, and you watch in disbelief as many of them perish under these conditions.

Through your leadership, you have developed a corporate culture that has strong core values pertaining to the respect and empowerment of employees, with an uncompromising focus on quality and results. But you now face a tough and complicated challenge to exercise leadership to keep your company from sinking.

 

CHAPTER 7: The Creative Challenge

ePub

Sometimes, a group hits a wall. It can go no further or be more productive while persisting in its current practices. To break through the wall, transcend the current paradigm, and advance to the next level of performance, the people must create. Consider the following scenario.

Imagine that you are a senior manager in a large insurance company who oversees the claims-processing activity for the business. The previous four years has seen a significant slump in performance and productivity. You are getting signals from the market that your processes are not as efficient as your key competitors. “We have to change!” you tell people. “As far as I’m concerned, it is change or die.” But nobody knows what to do.

You think the solution lies in inventing a completely new type of working environment that would empower people to be creative, resourceful, and accountable. “We treat people like back in the dark ages,” you say. “It’s disgraceful. No wonder we have these problems.” You don’t know exactly what kind of work environment you need to create, but you feel it must be team oriented with minimal direct supervision, even totally self-directed.

 

CHAPTER 8: The Crisis Challenge

ePub

Acrisis challenge is a perilous predicament in which the group is under attack from forces within or without. It is a sudden, unpredictable event that jeopardizes the accrued value and resources of the group or enterprise. In such a context, wise and responsible leadership is critical if the people are to overcome the immediate danger and return to a state of normalcy. Consider the following scenario.

Imagine for a moment that you have just been appointed the CEO of one of Italy’s largest state-owned companies, Eni. The company supplies much of the nation’s energy resources and also does business throughout Europe. It has 135,000 employees who make up the 335 consolidated Eni companies.

The company is a national icon in Italy. It is a symbol of Italy’s postwar reconstruction and modernization. Everyone knows of it, and everyone is proud of it. In your words, “Eni sends a message to the world that Italy is independent and strong, and that no country can ever control us.” You are thrilled with your appointment to be at the helm, as you see a tremendous opportunity to revitalize the company and make it a more efficient and competitive operation. In its current state, it is a bureaucratic and political mess, and most observers agree it needs a major overhaul.

 

CHAPTER 9: Leading in Multiple Challenges

ePub

As the supreme god, Odin possessed multiple attributes that allowed him to play the appropriate role in many different situations. He could be a sage, an inspirational poet, a savage and vengeful warrior, or simply a mysterious pilgrim who sits for a while by the fire and offers a few words of uncanny wisdom and moves on. The demands of the situation dictated the divine aspect that he would reveal to his people, but his words and actions would always be framed by a larger purpose—to add to his store of wisdom and understanding while helping his people deal realistically and responsibly with their problems.

Few mere mortals have the transformative capacity to repeatedly exercise successful leadership in the face of multiple challenges. It is extremely difficult to modulate one’s leadership style from one challenge to the next, shifting one’s behavior and strategies to address a group’s diverse problems or the sharply differing aspects of its single, overarching challenge. Leaders tend to get into trouble when they apply the same tactics that succeeded in one context to address another. They are inclined to believe that leadership is the consistent application of the same behaviors and strategies, irregardless of the situation. When the terrain the problem is embedded in changes, they do not know how to shift gears on the fly and modify their tactics and role to meet the new and different need.

 

CHAPTER 10: Odin, the Samurai, and You

ePub

The great Odin, even with all his wisdom, would occasionally allow his personal issues and natural tendencies to impede good judgment, acting out of greed, anger, the need to dominate, or the desire for revenge. In other words, even with the best intentions, at times he would lose it. Given his recognition of his foibles, Odin sought out the spirit of the sacred well of Mimir for advice on what he must do to increase in insight and understanding. The spirit told Odin that to gain such insight he would need to pluck out an eye and throw it into the well. Upon considering the consequences of permanent disfigurement and the loss of such a valuable asset, Odin did as the spirit suggested and plucked out his left eye and cast it into the water.1 In doing so, he gained the knowledge that he needed.

But for those of us unwilling to part with an eye, Mimir might well give this advice: “You want insight? Begin by looking hard at yourself as an instrument of power. You are used to looking at other people. Yes, that is important, but you must now look at yourself and how you interact with other people to help them solve their problems. Your knowledge of yourself will come from what you see reflected back in the eyes, attitudes, and actions of others. But be careful, as that reflection is often distorted. To ensure that you are not deceived, turn one eye so that it gazes inward—so that you can observe how your deepest instincts and desires drive the choices you make with and for your people as they wrestle with their problematic realities. This will be hard, even painful—as painful as plucking out your own eye—but it is necessary if you are to succeed as a leader.”

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Slices

Format name
ePub (DRM)
Encrypted
true
Sku
9781609943776
Isbn
9781609943776
File size
0 Bytes
Printing
10 times
Copying
Disabled
Read aloud
Yes
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata