Thursday, July 24, 2014

Are Today’s Business Heroes Challenging Our Ideas About Leadership?

Summing Up

Is There Really a Formula for Great Leadership? The overall sense of responses to our question for the month is that the leadership stars of today—Jobs, Bezos, Gates, etc.,—should not cause us to change our time-honored ideas about great leadership. Among the notions advanced were that they: (1) are special, (2) are entrepreneurs first and leaders second, (3) or represent a kind of leadership important for only one phase of the longer-term development of a business. Comments did suggest, however, that some ideas about leadership can benefit from a reexamination.
Tema Frank addressed a couple of these points when she said, "The fact that we can name so few leaders as readily as the ones cited in the article is because they are exceptions. There is no question that brilliant, strongly mission-driven founders can inspire people to follow them, despite personality flaws." Once the excitement fades, a different type of leadership is essential. Bill Eickhoff would compare Jobs, Bezos, etc. to Ford, Edison, etc. "No one ever raves about their so-called 'leadership' style. These men were outliers. Their style is not duplicable."
Kim Forbes set forth an interesting hypothesis in commenting that "We will always be able to identify examples of leaders that 'buck' the now orthodox definition of the balanced, emotionally intelligent, people-focused leader… the likes of Gates and Jobs may have highly effective leaders below them and they are the true heroes of these large successful corporations, in spite of their dysfunctional 'leadership'."
Today's leadership heroes, however, stimulated debate about just what constitutes leadership. It is an important discussion, as several pointed out. Paul Stavrand put it this way: "We need to be concerned about the outcomes of business practices and products on our global society, and evaluate leaders accordingly." Yadeed Lobo commented that "the mark of a great leader is the impression they leave on any employee." G. P. Rao added that the lack of humility and leadership appear to be inconsistent, if not contradictory. "In the ultimate analysis, however everything boils down to perception of the team members or subordinates or followers of the leader concerned."
The importance of maintaining an open mind on the subject of leadership was stressed by several. Ronnie Kavuma commented that, "I think that there is a place for both kinds of leaders and/or their schools of thought in the modern high tech and versatile business environment." David Wittenberg said that an "effective leader must be true to himself. Personalities differ, so leadership styles differ. It is a common fallacy that there is only one style that leads to leadership success." Pradip Shroff added: "The simple fact is that leadership is an art and science of blending various styles based on the situation." Yan Song summed up this point by commenting that, "Stereotyping leadership might be the greater danger here. Evolution neither begins nor ends with current crops of leaders. In all practical situations, one needs a mixture of different leadership styles to induce human energy … " Jerry Houser advised us to consider that "understanding leadership means understanding the emotions of leaders and followers. Brain science is making me question much of the literature I've read on leadership."
These comments call for the question: Is there really a formula for great leadership? What do you think?

Original Article

Just as I began to conclude that I understood leadership pretty well, I've begun to wonder. Let's start with the leadership associated with large organizations with relatively long histories.
In recent years, we have been educated by concepts such as MBWA (management by walking around, introduced by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman), Level 5 Leadership (described by Jim Collins as centered around personal humility and professional will), servant leadership (defined by Robert Greenleaf in terms of service to others as a leader's most important role), and authentic leadership (characterized by Bill George as comprising leaders who understand their purpose, are true to a set of solid values, lead with their heart, establish connected relationships, and demonstrate self-discipline), among others. These philosophies, based on a lot of anecdotal evidence, describe the kind of people we'd want to work for. They are associated with large, well-established organizations that I studied and admired in graduate school, the kind that Collins and Jerry Porras wrote about as being "built to last."
Then I read biographies of today's business heroes. They portray people who are not short on vision. But are these people who meet the standards for great leadership described above? For example, both Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos are said to have challenged people to do their best work, but in somewhat demeaning ways. They, along with Bill Gates, threw public tantrums. Whether it is a consequence or not, there appears to be a trail of former executives of Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft. (I specifically referred to heroes in my question, because potential heroines like Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer have just recently risen to high levels in the high-tech world.)
Maybe venture capitalists have the answer. They have followed a long-standing practice of cashing out founders and entrepreneurs at the time of a first or second round of outside funding. The idea is (or was?) that at that stage of development, an organization needs professional leadership of the kind that Peters, Waterman, Collins, Greenleaf, George, and others describe.
Maybe Jobs, Bezos, Gates, and others are the exceptions that didn't get cashed out. They survived the venture capitalist's "purge" by growing their companies in ways that allowed them to retain ownership and control. Or they made their genius indispensable to the success of their companies (in the eyes of funders). When asked the standard "cash out" question by venture capitalists, "Would you rather be rich or be king?," they must have answered, "Both," and made it work.
Should we attribute a few examples of the Jobs-Bezos school of leadership to the diversity within any small group of leaders, or to the world of high-tech startups? Regardless, they cast long shadows in that they appear to be the inspiration for a new generation of entrepreneurs who are founders of companies getting very big very fast with neither formal leadership training nor thought of cashing out.
Are founders and entrepreneurs a separate breed? Should they be excused from a discussion of great leadership? Or are the most successful among their ranks a harbinger of the future of management in a fast-moving, high tech competitive world that increasingly rewards innovation, transient competitive advantage, and the kinds of leadership that produce them? Are today's business heroes challenging our ideas about leadership? What do you think?

Monday, July 7, 2014

6 Leadership Styles, And When You Should Use Them

6 Leadership Styles, And When You Should Use Them


(Reposted from Fast Company -

Taking a team from ordinary to extraordinary means understanding and embracing the difference between management and leadership. According to writer and consultant Peter Drucker, "Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things."
Manager and leader are two completely different roles, although we often use the terms interchangeably. Managers are facilitators of their team members’ success. They ensure that their people have everything they need to be productive and successful; that they’re well trained, happy and have minimal roadblocks in their path; that they’re being groomed for the next level; that they are recognized for great performance and coached through their challenges.
Conversely, a leader can be anyone on the team who has a particular talent, who is creatively thinking out of the box and has a great idea, who has experience in a certain aspect of the business or project that can prove useful to the manager and the team. A leader leads based on strengths, not titles.
The best managers consistently allow different leaders to emerge and inspire their teammates (and themselves!) to the next level.
When you’re dealing with ongoing challenges and changes, and you’re in uncharted territory with no means of knowing what comes next, no one can be expected to have all the answers or rule the team with an iron fist based solely on the title on their business card. It just doesn’t work for day-to-day operations. Sometimes a project is a long series of obstacles and opportunities coming at you at high speed, and you need every ounce of your collective hearts and minds and skill sets to get through it.
This is why the military style of top-down leadership is never effective in the fast-paced world of adventure racing or, for that matter, our daily lives (which is really one big, long adventure, hopefully!). I truly believe in Tom Peters’s observation that the best leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders. When we share leadership, we’re all a heck of a lot smarter, more nimble and more capable in the long run, especially when that long run is fraught with unknown and unforeseen challenges.
Change leadership styles
Not only do the greatest teammates allow different leaders to consistently emerge based on their strengths, but also they realize that leadership can and should be situational, depending on the needs of the team. Sometimes a teammate needs a warm hug. Sometimes the team needs a visionary, a new style of coaching, someone to lead the way or even, on occasion, a kick in the bike shorts. For that reason, great leaders choose their leadership style like a golfer chooses his or her club, with a calculated analysis of the matter at hand, the end goal and the best tool for the job.
My favorite study on the subject of kinetic leadership is Daniel Goleman’s Leadership That Gets Results, a landmark 2000 Harvard Business Review study. Goleman and his team completed a three-year study with over 3,000 middle-level managers. Their goal was to uncover specific leadership behaviors and determine their effect on the corporate climate and each leadership style’s effect on bottom-line profitability.
The research discovered that a manager’s leadership style was responsible for 30% of the company’s bottom-line profitability! That’s far too much to ignore. Imagine how much money and effort a company spends on new processes, efficiencies, and cost-cutting methods in an effort to add even one percent to bottom-line profitability, and compare that to simply inspiring managers to be more kinetic with their leadership styles. It’s a no-brainer.
Here are the six leadership styles Goleman uncovered among the managers he studied, as well as a brief analysis of the effects of each style on the corporate climate:
  1. The pacesetting leader expects and models excellence and self-direction. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Do as I do, now.” The pacesetting style works best when the team is already motivated and skilled, and the leader needs quick results. Used extensively, however, this style can overwhelm team members and squelch innovation.
  2. The authoritative leader mobilizes the team toward a common vision and focuses on end goals, leaving the means up to each individual. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Come with me.” The authoritative style works best when the team needs a new vision because circumstances have changed, or when explicit guidance is not required. Authoritative leaders inspire an entrepreneurial spirit and vibrant enthusiasm for the mission. It is not the best fit when the leader is working with a team of experts who know more than him or her.
  3. The affiliative leader works to create emotional bonds that bring a feeling of bonding and belonging to the organization. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “People come first.” The affiliative style works best in times of stress, when teammates need to heal from a trauma, or when the team needs to rebuild trust. This style should not be used exclusively, because a sole reliance on praise and nurturing can foster mediocre performance and a lack of direction.
  4. The coaching leader develops people for the future. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Try this.” The coaching style works best when the leader wants to help teammates build lasting personal strengths that make them more successful overall. It is least effective when teammates are defiant and unwilling to change or learn, or if the leader lacks proficiency.
  5. The coercive leader demands immediate compliance. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Do what I tell you.” The coercive style is most effective in times of crisis, such as in a company turnaround or a takeover attempt, or during an actual emergency like a tornado or a fire. This style can also help control a problem teammate when everything else has failed. However, it should be avoided in almost every other case because it can alienate people and stifle flexibility and inventiveness.
  6. The democratic leader builds consensus through participation. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “What do you think?” The democratic style is most effective when the leader needs the team to buy into or have ownership of a decision, plan, or goal, or if he or she is uncertain and needs fresh ideas from qualified teammates. It is not the best choice in an emergency situation, when time is of the essence for another reason or when teammates are not informed enough to offer sufficient guidance to the leader.
Bottom line? If you take two cups of authoritative leadership, one cup of democratic, coaching, and affiliative leadership, and a dash of pacesetting and coercive leadership “to taste,” and you lead based on need in a way that elevates and inspires your team, you’ve got an excellent recipe for long-term leadership success with every team in your life.
Robyn Benincasa is a two-time Adventure Racing World Champion, two-time Guinness World Record distance kayaker, a full-time firefighter, and author of the new book, HOW WINNING WORKS: 8 Essential Leadership Lessons from the Toughest Teams on Earth, from which this article is excerpted. (Harlequin Nonfiction, June 2012)
[Image: Flickr user Bas Kers]