Hidden Lessons in Leadership #21

An interview with Gregory B. Maffei, president and chief executive of Liberty Media , revealed an essential capability for leaders interested in enhancing their organization’s adaptability and in turn improving its viability.  In a word such leaders need to be facilitators.  That is to say leaders must facilitate learning by encouraging critical and creative thinking among the people in the organization. Continue reading

Hidden Lessons in Leadership #15

Anne Berkowitch, the co-founder and CEO of SelectMinds, shares her view of keys to effective leadership in an interview with Adam Bryant of the New York Times.  Anne states “it’s really about being able to bring together a group of people, get the best out of them and get them wanting to work as a unit toward some goal post.” For Anne this is not about providing the right incentives or using ones’ position of authority to get others to do as you wish.  Listening to people is Anne’s lever.

While Anne says listening to people helps her to “understand what motivates them” toward getting them “to push themselves beyond their comfort zones”, listening does much more than this.  Listening communicates.  It communicates to others that you actually care about them.  In so doing you also communicate that you have trust in them, which in turn contributes to the development of trust throughout the organization.  Building a culture of trust is not something that can be legislated, it must be demonstrated, and it begins with the trustworthiness of those in authority.

Why is trust so essential?  Because without out it you won’t have a workplace wherein people feel safe and secure enough to fully exercise their capabilities; to step out of their comfort zone in order to realize their potential.  If, as the leader, you want your organization to remain viable, then it has to be a place where people’s ideas continue to emerge.  People are less likely to engage in the work of the organization if you don’t engage with them.

Anne’s approach to her leader-follower relationships is one of partnership. When speaking of how she recruits and hires people Anne said “I need partners in this business.”  Listening to your partners, engaging with partners leads to a productive relationship.

Engaging with them doesn’t mean getting out in front of them—showing you are the one in-charge—but rather getting behind them. Anne explains, “if you think about how you steer a boat, it’s always from the back, and I’ve moved toward the back of the boat.”  While Anne remains the one in-charge, she uses her positional authority to support the efforts of those in the organization.  Anne enables people to paddle their own boat—providing them the opportunity to have a sense of ownership—explaining, “I wanted people to be mini-C.E.O.’s of their area.”  This sense of ownership is the engagement that we often call motivation.

Though Anne seeks people who are smart, honest with him/her self, curious, and who want to be a part of a group to build something.  What Anne does watch out for and avoids are people “looking for a title”, those who are climbers.

So many feel that they have to continue to establish their position as the one in-charge—leading by fear—and in so doing they actually lose their ability to be a positive and productive influence.  Anne tells of her experience of trying to lead by imposing herself on others, “it just took a lot of false starts to learn that being smart isn’t the same thing as being a leader. We were going down the runway but the plane wasn’t taking off.”  There is a huge difference between people being moved and people being motivated; fear moves people but it doesn’t motivate greatness, it actually inhibits it.

Anne’s approach to leadership reminds me of an orchestra conductor.  Enabling those with talent and potential to make music, the kind of music they could never make alone.

Hidden Lessons in Leadership #14

The chairman and chief executive of Cardinal Health, George Barrett, shared his experiences and perspective on leadership in a recent interview with Adam Bryant of the New York Times.   Throughout the interview, in speaking about his experiences and the leadership lessons he learned, George Barrett framed leadership not as a position or skills but as qualities of a person—mainly trustworthiness. Continue reading

Hidden Lessons in Leadership #12

A New York Times interview with Aaron Levie, co-founder and C.E.O of Box.net, reveals the importance of fostering a sense-of-mission to maintaining a viable enterprise and of leading by developing partnerships with employees.

In regard to the first point Aaron said, “everyone has a start-up mentality…so everyone feels really a part of what we’re doing…everyone is encouraged to be entrepreneurial and people tend to be extremely passionate.” Continue reading

Hidden Lessons in Leadership #10

In saying, “I believe that it is not about me…it’s very much about the team”, Linda Heasley, President and CEO of The Limited, concisely expresses her philosophy of leadership.  Underlying this position on leadership is the fact that leadership involves We and not Me. Continue reading

Hidden Lessons in Leadership #9

In a New York Times interview, Michael Mathieu of YuMe describes the means and meaning of success and the associated role of management/leadership.   Michael said, “the key to success is to wake up every day and do the best you can do.”   If this is the key to success then leadership, at base, should enable people to do exactly this. Continue reading

Leadership…Who Cares

Given the prevalence of a results oriented focus, leadership development is very often means leadership skill development for results.  The premise is that an individual could get results—the measure of effective leadership—if he/she just acquired the right skills. This operative paradigm casts a leader as a skillful mechanic of the business machine, that if equipped with the tools and techniques he/she can keep it running—just like a well-oiled machine.  Why else is it so common to hear MBA programs and leadership development workshops promote how they provide their participants with the skills and tools they need to be effective? Continue reading

Hidden Lessons in Leadership #6

In a May 7, 2010 New York Times Corner Office interview with Sharon Napier, CEO Partners + Napier, Sharon explains how athletics, specifically basketball, is her source for principles to manage/lead by.   A key principle for Sharon is that every person on the team has a role to play.  While most would agree with this, at the same time most also likely focus on ‘the stars’ or those with ‘potential star power’, while investing little in the rest.  Who does the company send to training programs, everyone or just the one’s with promise?  In most organizations, experience will show that ‘it’s the brightest and the best’ who are chosen.  Sharon contends that it is not about the starting five rather it is about the strength of the entire bench—every person has a role.  Sharon adds, “…we don’t have the starting team and the not-starting team.  We have a bench, and everybody has to be strong.”

What’s the hidden lesson here? Continue reading