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Leadership Traits – to be Developed and Maintained – @ April 2012 Leadership Development Carnival, hosted by Shri Tanmay Vora

We have had a detailed look at several interesting fares on the offer at the April 2012 Edition of Leadership Development Carnival, hosted by ShrI Tanmay Vora. We looked at the The Boss,  , Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea’ and CHANGE at length in the words of the writers of the original articles.

We now conclude our visit to the Carnival by taking a similar detailed look at a major group of articles, bound by a common thread of Traits and Qualities, required to be acquired and maintained by the persons who are destined to play role of effective leaders in their respective organizations.

We begin our present tour with an evergreen subject of leadership versus Management. Bret Simmons in his post “The Difference Between Management And Leadership” spells out in clear terms why the distinction is accurate; however, focusing on it is dangerous. We might think that Warren Bennis’s axiomatic statement  “managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing.” seems to ratify the distinction as if these are two parallel lines, who never meet each other. In the new chapter to the paperback edition of his book, Good Boss, Bad Boss, Bob Sutton states that bosses tend to consider “generating big and vague ideas as the important part of their jobs – and to treat implementation, or pesky details of any kind, as mere “management work” best done by “the little people.” Even if left unsaid, this distinction reflects how too many bosses think and act. They use it to avoid learning about people they lead, technologies their companies use, customers they serve, and numerous other crucial little things.” (p. 264).” Bret Simmons adds that “the best leaders continually pursue skills that enhance their mastery of management efficiencies. The best managers always realize that effectiveness is the real goal, and efficiency is necessary but not sufficient for sustaining a healthy organization. The best organizational citizens understand how their roles are interdependent with every other role in the organizational leadership process.”

At our next stop, Tim Milburn considers ‘Developing Lifelong Leaders’ tagline of his website his life’s mission. In an effort to more clearly define what he means by lifelong leader, he has spelt out “Three Traits Of A Lifelong Leader”to identify this type of person: First he is a Life Long Learner [“If a person is motivated to learn, that person has the potential to lead.”]. Secondly, he takes Responsibility [If a person has a track record of taking responsibility, that person is a promising candidate for leadership”.] And thirdly, he empowers and walks the people through Change. [“If a person can empower the change-resistant to become change-receptive, that person has incredible possibilities for leadership”.]

Thus, lifelong leadership would also mean:  “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” ~Albert Einstein. As Jane Perdue explains, in her article “7 Ways to Maintain Momentum”, that failure has to be seen as ‘dealing with hitting one of life’s unexpected speed bumps.’  And the solution lies in seeing ‘what happened to you as a “teachable moment” for exploring, growing and learning instead of allowing yourself to withdraw.’ She has a bouquet of 7 Tips to help maintain the momentum. Each tip has an excellent quote. For the purpose of this visit where we intend to take home our learning, we will store these quotes:

“1] “Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” ~Bernice Johnson Reagon

2] “The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” ~Carlos Castaneda

3] “Most of the shadows of life are caused by standing in our own sunshine.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

4] “There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” ~Aldous Huxley

5] “He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.” ~Abraham Lincoln

6] “The difference between can and cannot is only three letters. Three letters that can shape your life’s direction.” ~Remez Sasson

7] “Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” ~Brian Tracy

The next time you’re cruising down the highway and see the road sign that reads “keep moving, change lanes later” – smile and follow the good advice.”

Till now we have seen ways and means to ‘maintain’ what is ‘acquired’ to be an effective leader. But in real life, it is never a good strategy to aim to remain where you have reached. The moment, you decide to focus on staying where you are, the decline has started. That is why Utpal Vaishnav, in his article, “Want to Make a Difference? Be Unreasonable”   invites to stop living normal life. He goes on state:

“Consider for a moment what actually happens when you fantasize about something?

You visualize something which is impossible or improbable in reality.

You hit the bull right. Even the Oxford dictionary confirms: Fantasy means an idea with no basis in reality.

Stop living so called ‘normal’ life is the first step to be able to create something incredible that you wouldn’t be able to, otherwise.

Being able to be unreasonable is the key.

One great source of learning to be unreasonable is the children around us. In Indian mythology it is considered that a child below five years is a divine form of God. I often explore and find that saying to be profound.

A child doesn’t care about what’s normal or what’s right and what’s not. The child would speak something that’s not appropriate, the child would break something which shouldn’t be broken, the child would write something weird on drawing room wall or the child would play basketball in the kitchen.

Many a times, the same child would create something which nobody else had ever created. May it be so little or of no value in the physical world, but a creation is a creation.

Act matters.

Often, reasons are self-imposed, or based on others’ experiences which we have heard and based our reasoning – sense of what’s right and what’s wrong – onto that.

In other words, reasons are sources of limitations. Actually, there’s nothing wrong in being reasonable, except the fact that being reasonable is a not so powerful tool to create the future you want.

Being reasonable offers you a sense of predictability and safety.

Predictability is the enemy of creativity. It would be interesting to reflect on what Bernard Shaw said:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adopt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

If you’re trying to create something that will make a difference, choose to be unreasonable.”

And of course, let us come back to the fact that when all is said and done, person in the leadership role has the, at least, moral responsibility to attain what is “good” for the  Purpose of the Organization over longer term of the Organization’s life span. Mark Bennet  ,in his post, Sustainable Means More Than Recycling, brings out the issue in a new light:

“Think in terms that go beyond simply making your organization “a great place to work”, or “an environmentally friendly company”, or “good for society”, or “making the best product or service” – those can be just as narrow as “best risk/return record in the industry” if viewed as siloed, separate things.

Think instead about how all the pieces do fit together – how customers value your products/services is affected by your impact on the earth’s resources and environment, what your employees think about what their work means affects delivering a superior return to your investors across all that they value. These factors all interact in the outside world, as more people are beginning to understand, so your organization must also determine how it fits into that web of interaction.

An excellent book that focuses on the “how” with well-researched examples, is “Management Reset” by Ed Lawler and Chris Worley. It describes what the authors refer to as “Sustainably Managed Organizations”, in contrast to the long-standing “Command and Control Organizations” and the more recent “High Involvement Organization.”

Sustainably Managed Organizations (SMOs) weave together all the aspects of the organizations relationships with economic, social, and environmental stakeholders (not just “shareholders.”) They break out their approach to how SMOs operate into the major components that every organization must attend to if it really wants to achieve any meaningful change: Strategy, Structure, Talent, and Culture.

Leadership is needed in all four of these components if the change effort is to have a chance of success. Most of all, leadership can have the largest positive impact through talent – the way people are treated, and culture – how behavior is guided…if it would only put the needed focus there.

Think about it – the places where organizations have gone off the rails and landed in the headlines on topics such as corruption, environmental disaster, and financial collapse of outrageous origin have been due in large part to culture and how certain behaviors were encouraged, tolerated, or rationalized.

Now think about how those negative outcomes affected the broader set of investors and their future decisions regarding those organizations.

We’re way past getting by with “Our people are our most important asset.” Organizations must now be able to explain how they manage their talent to generate value and create superior business performance – most of all to their people. Executives must be the primary talent managers, understanding how the workforce capabilities enable/constrain strategic options and impact execution.

Think what can happen when leadership is focused on how they manage talent and shape behaviors to the same extent it is focused on strategy and structure.”

We end our this tour of the carnival with the definitive listing of 10 key qualities of effective staff officers (equally applies to great leaders)by Michael Wade [of]

The effective staff officer exhibits the following:

  1. Honesty. Important information is not hidden, filtered or distorted. It is surfaced in a manner that will gain the necessary attention and the analysis is not weighted with a bias against other viewpoints.
  2. Initiative. Matters that require attention are promptly addressed. Deference is given to the proper procedures and areas of responsibility but subjects are not allowed to languish. Problems and questions are anticipated and addressed early on.
  3. Discretion. Words and behavior that cast doubt on the professionalism and integrity of the work unit are strictly off-limits.
  4. Openness. Rank is not unduly invoked. Concerns and objections are carefully considered. Options are not manipulated to produce a rigged result.
  5. Knowledge. The procedures, substance, and needs of the job are known. That knowledge is never static.
  6. Judgment. Excellent decision making skills are combined with wisdom and good old common sense.
  7. Urgency. Making things move is not enough. They must move in the right direction. Continually restoring the status quo is not acceptable.
  8. Intuition. Spotting problems and sensing when something is not quite right is vital. Attention is paid to both the tangible and the intangible.
  9. Coordination. Proper roles are respected and the deft coordination of those roles is standard.
  10. Humility. There is a keen appreciation of when to speak up, when to back off, and when to be silent.

We carry the message of legendary Pele – “Everything is Practice” – as a memento of   comprehensive tour of the Carnival.