Leadership Emerging

Russ Volckmann

This section of Integral Leadership Review is provided to inform readers about current publications about leadership.— Russ Volckmann

In this issue we take a look at a new book by Porras et al. and some recent articles in Harvard Business Review.

Jerry Porras, Steward Emery and Mark Thompson,

Success Built to Last: Creating a Life That Matters.

Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publishing (Pearson Education, Inc.), 2007.

built to last coverSUCCESS built to last! Think about it. Why do you read a book about success? Well, you want it if you don’t have it. Or you may be curious about other folks who have it to see if they got it the same way you did. Or you have it and are afraid you might loose it…

What ever your reasons you won’t be disappointed by the work of this trio that includes a world famous business academic, an inspiring human potential guru and a venture capitalist of some success in his own right. First, note that this is much like other classic business books in the Tom Peters tradition in that it tells lots of stories to illustrate its points. These stories are about successful leaders of many different sorts. Community organizing, politics (the Foreword is by John McCain) and business executives—and they are not just Americans. Predicably there is a short piece about Gandhi, Muhammad Yunus in Bangladesh, Nelson Mandela, Richard Branson and still others you may not know. Business successes dominate the list, but it is really a very diverse group of people who have experienced success in their work and sustained it.

Second, the authors very clearly admonish us not to look at these people as role models. Rather, there are patterns we might see or reflections we might have on our own behaviors and life choices that would ratchet up our own potentials for success.

Third, they note that success “ain’t always what it’s cracked up to be” given the growing clinical depression among those who have achieved it. The implication seems to be that as the political and economic systems increase the disparities between the haves and have-nots that the haves just don’t have it as good as the have-nots think they do. So if the haves want to keep having they had better read this book that offers key findings from interviewing many, many successful people over a decade or more. Here are some examples:

  • Have a commitment to making important things happen, things that make a difference and have lasting value.
  • Define success in terms of personal fulfillment, not wealth or status (“Do what you love”).
  • Be self-reliant. In the words of Wayne Dyer, “Do not be dependent upon the good opinion of others.”
  • …but it also requires establishing lasting relationships with others.
  • Turn your wounds into wisdom. Learn from your failures and don’t make the same mistake twice.

There are more, but I would encourage you to get the book to check them out. And, yes, I did both enjoy reading it and appreciated the insights. For example, with regard to education: “Mothers and fathers instinctively know that the arts are the basis of good mental health and good intellectual development…the mothers and fathers have them [the children] doing rhyming, they have them doing clapping…singing…[etc.] My theory is that we need the arts as a part of our mental health,” stated Frank Ross, CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation. If this interests you further, read the interview with Sir Ken Robinson in this issue of Integral Leadership Review.

There is a very strong recognition of the integral principles related to occasions. It isn’t just about your beliefs and intentions or even what you do. It is also about the context, the culture and systems within which you are being and doing. “It is everything working together.” Further, “The basic model for success that lasts is built on knowing what behaviors you want from yourself, from your team, and in your organization, and aligning all the signals and incentives you’re sending through the system, including to yourself.” Success occurs with the alignment of these factors.

And finally, a message to those of us interested in development and developmental models. “You can debate ‘is it genes or is it the environment,’ but why would you? You can’t do anything about the former and you can do a great deal about the latter.” Ultimately, it is about alignment and this “takes tremendous commitment, discipline, and sometimes great courage to continuously engage in the practice of alignment.” I like that. It is an important reminder to us that it isn’t about getting somewhere. It is about how we engage the path we are on and the paths that we create.

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Leadership and the Harvard Business Review

hbr imageThere are times that an issue of HBR comes out that does not have at least one article on leadership, but those times are rare. In the last three issues there have been at least one article per issue for a total of four articles. Here is a brief review of this material, but before I get into it, there is a terminology question that needs to be addressed. That is the continuous equating of management and leadership, manager and leader, executive and leader.

For years I have been campaigning for clearer distinctions in the study of leadership. One of these is the distinction between manager and leader. Joseph Rost argued for this in 1991 and others have continued making the case since in the literature and on the International Leadership Association listserve. Arguments opposing such distinctions are around and there even folks out there (e.g., Gary Yukl) arguing for the importance of seeing and developing managers as leaders, thus equating these in organizations.

Rather than continuing to make the case for the distinction (most often argued as leaders attract collaborators to achieve what Rost called “real change,” while managers are mostly about maintaining the status quo or more gradual, incremental change; or that there are different talents and skills required by each role, each function—forgive any oversimplification), I am going to argue for recognizing that different writers—be they theorists or journalists—use the term leader and leadership in different ways. I know of no way out of this dilemma, since trying to forge agreement among these folks is even harder than herding cats. Each perspective has its supporters, its schools, some have their own journals…

So, I would suggest that we, as readers, need to follow studies, models and arguments about leading and leadership by clarifying for our selves what these terms mean to the authors. Here is a case in point.

Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones have drawn on interviews with leaders and managers over several years to identify what is required for “Leading Clever People,” HBR, March 2007, 85, 3, pp. 72-79). The lead question to the article is “How do you manage people who don’t want to be led and may be smarter than you?” It continues to be clear in the article that there is no apparent distinction between the use of the words “lead” and “manage.” The equating of leadership and management in organizations continues unabated from the years of leadership literature that Joseph Rost reviewed at the end of the 1980s.

I have come to the conclusion that it is highly unlikely in the lifetimes for me or my children that this will change. Some authors, researchers, theorists, etc. are going to continue not distinguishing between these roles or skill sets in any significant way. In their minds, these are locked together in an embrace to the death. However, since such equation persists, it is important to understand the implications. For example, the equation of leading and managing is a way of justifying hierarchical approaches to organizations. I am not suggesting that hierarchical approaches are not valuable or useful, but that they are only one approach, as the organizational literature bears out. The hierarchy serves functions like clarity of command and control. It also obfuscates nuance like the mirage of command and control. Also, the equation perpetuates the myth of the heroic, a myth that obscures the complexity of cause and effect on the one hand, but also serves a useful function in motivating individuals to be effective.

So what are we to do? I see no path other than to recognize that the treatment of leadership is a representation of worldviews. A worldview that fails to distinguish between leading and managing is one that is grounded in a paradigm of leadership that holds the individual at the center of the leadership occasion. See the account by Joanne Rubin in this issue of Integral Leadership Review.

The Gareth and Jones article lays out how the leading/managing of creative types (development, marketing, finance, etc.) is different. These types

  1. Need to know their worth,
  2. Are organizationally savvy,
  3. Ignore the corporate hierarchy,
  4. Expect instant access,
  5. Are well connected,
  6. Have a low boredom threshold, and
  7. Won’t thank you!

In response, leader/managers need to reduce the complexity of organizational policies and rules, create support and freedom of the creatives to do their thing a la Google and its 20% freedom policy, establishing one’s own credibility in a function useful to the creatives, e.g., finance, and foster the use of failure as a learning opportunity. Not particularly new stuff, but a useful take on engaging as a leader/manager with organizational dynamics that do not lend themselves to strictly hierarchical methods to creating solutions.

Keeping with the tradition of not defining leadership and blurring the distinction between leadership and position power, Deborah Ancona, Thomas W. Malone, Wanda J. Orlinkowski and Peter M. Senge write “In Praise of the Incomplete Leader” (HBR, February 2007, 85, 2, pp. 92-100). The article starts right off by saying that we expect a lot from our leaders—top executives—but it is time to end the myth of the complete leader. Leaders need to see themselves as incomplete, as lacking in one or more essential skill areas, and rely on others to fill the gaps. The implications are a recognition that collective leadership is essential and that leadership can show up just about anywhere in the organization.

They lay out a set of critical leadership skills under the rubrics of two enabling capabilities and two creative, action-oriented capabilities:

  1. Sensemaking with corresponding capabilities of laying out the maps essential to their business and its future and thinking out of the box.
  2. Building effective relationships with those who are operating from diverse worldviews through processes that are like making sense of others.
  3. Vision creation through a focus on what is important to you (inspires you, that you love) and engage in the development of shared vision with others (e.g., making sense of what is important to them for the future and communicating what is important to you so that others can make sense of that).
  4. Cultivate inventiveness, creative responses, not unlike what Gareth and Jones were talking about, in which the leader is innovative, also.

Furthermore, they offer a quick self-assessment of one’s skills and strengths in each of these areas. They point out that there is interdependence among these skill sets and that team or collaborative approaches are the answer to the anxieties field by executives who, no matter how hard they try, just can’t do it all.

To do that may require that folks be authentic. This is the topic of Bil George, Peter Sims, Andrew N. McLean and Diana Mayer, “Discovering Your Authentic Leadership,” HBR, February 2007, 85, 2, pp. 129-138. I love this quote:

During the past 50 years, leadership scholars have conducted more than 1,000 [is that all?—Russ] studies in an attempt to determine the definitive styles, characteristics, or personality traits of great leaders. None of these studies has produced a clear profile of the ideal leader. Thank goodness. If scholars had produced a cookie-cutter leadership style, individuals would be forever trying to imitate it. They would make themselves into personae, not people, and others would see through them immediately.

One would think that with insight like that there would be a call for a more complete, a more integral model of leadership. But the thrust of this article is that to be a good leader you will focus on self-development. One does this by understand the story of one’s own life and the lessons about oneself to be learned from it, working hard at being aware, getting feedback and applying all of that to grounding oneself. Thus, leadership emerges from your life story: who you are and how you handle your life and work experiences.

In their research they have come up with several practices that help people become authentic leaders:

  1. Take responsibility for developing self-awareness,
  2. Take the necessary risks of practicing one’s values and principles,
  3. Keep a strong support team that assures one lives an integrated, grounded life.

The bulk of the article is telling the stories of corporate executives who have pursued authenticity.

Finally, Dov Frohman tells it like it is from the trenches. This is a highly personalized story of the former General Manager of Intel Israel. He recounts his experience with Intel and focuses on events in the first Gulf War when missiles were falling around him and his family. During this time he kept the Intel facilities open and a 75-80% of the employees continued to work, despite the strong inclinations and desires to stay with their families in this time of crisis.

His story is one of leadership in a crisis. And here are his learnings:

  1. Focus on long-term survival. In his case, keeping Intel Israel open communicated that Israel continued to be a safe place to invest.
  2. Go against the current. Do what others don’t expect. In his case, corporate Intel thought he should close down during the days of the missile attacks.
  3. Trust your instincts. Good instincts are more important than good planning. One cannot anticipate what is going to happen in chaotic situations. “…embrace the chaos, and then deal with the consequences as they emerge.”

As I read his story, this palpably real series of events under chaotic conditions, I knew I was reading the report of a man who had not only to manage in the face of crisis, but to lead. His own authenticity and integrity were put to the test and he was able to draw on the relationships with employees who accepted and trusted him as a leader to move forward. There are qualities of the heroic here. And there are also elements of the culture of the society in which they all worked.

Reading all of these reports requires that we respect the work of professionals and students of leadership. It also means that if we are to understand their work we cannot throw out the integral baby with the heroic bath water. In addition to appreciating the quality of insight and perspective offered through these recent pages of HBR I cannot but help long for our work to start showing up so that we can comprehend leadership and present our learning in a more integrated fashion. This more integrated fashion would draw on integral mapping, developmental hierarchies and transdisciplinary constellations of methodologies to help us see more clearly, not to imitate what has gone before, but to engage with what is present and unfolding.