A New Leadership Style?
From a notice for an organization: “we are seeking a person who can lead from behind.”
What is this?
Leaders lead from the front….that’s what leadership is all about.
Now this group has declining numbers and resources. It can’t meet its current budget. For someone in this shape, I would think they would want someone to lead them out of this mess.
From my experience, these folks will probably find someone who is willing/or wants to lead from behind.
And so for this organization, the downward spiral will continue.
Average isn’t good enough!
Over the past few weeks I have attended gatherings of some groups in which I have had some familiarity. Several of these folks have been in existence for over ten yeras. I have seen them evolve into something different from their original purpose. And I have also seen them erode into mediocrity.
It’s not that people don’t belong to these groups and there has been growth. Yet, its seems that they reach a certain acceptance and performance level and they are stuck . Whereas they were charting new territory in the past….they are now content with being average. It seems to me that the leaders are stuck also. They are comfortable with things as they are. They have not changed.
Being average isn’t good enough, businesses/organizations have to become better everyday.
Is this the way to manage?
The article in my hometown paper caught my attention. The story was about an administrator at the local community college.
Some descriptions of this person:
- “admitted that came across as standoffish”
- “reputation for being a no-nonsense, demanding boss”
- “angry at lights off for a surprise party”
- “still had scowl on face when lights came on”
- “nicknamed ‘Attila the Hun’ “
This person has been an administrator at the college for over 40 years. Probably the reason for the surprise party. And more than likely accomplished the duties of the office. Yet….is this the way to lead an organization or department? Perhaps in the 60’s that method was accepted.
I don’t believe we lead our businesses or organizations that way today. Great leaders have strong interpersonal skills….that rely on a cooperative effort to accomplish the tasks. It’s the intangibles of business that make the difference.
Well to reward that style, the college board increased the salary from $102,000 to $105,000. Sadly, the article was written to portray 40 years of service and as an interim president for a few months. However, it seemed to me to speak about an outdated leadership model that needs to be put to rest.
No Mission Statement!
To forge strong/innovative businesses and organizations, the focus has been to develop a clear and meaningful vision, mission, and values. These are important….yet, as I have written before they are often words with little meaning or execution. I have seen folks that have absolutely no comprehension of what these mean and continue to do what they have done in the past….which doesn’t work.
Oren Harari wrote in his last post about no more mission statements….rather clarify purpose:
What I have seen is that folks don’t spend time with setting the foundation (building blocks) in place for their business or organization. I will admit that I have learned this over the years….and it’s very easy to spend all the time on operating the business. In fact, at the MBA level back in the old days….most of the courses were on how to run a business….to make it tick even better.
I would restate what Oren wrote this way:
- Know the Customer
- Create an Uniqueness
- Do it Better
- Create a Legacy
- Execute Together
- Develop a Positive Outcome
Irreplaceable and/or Remarkable
A post by Steve Yastrow….spoke about being Irreplaceable. Being so great in providing a product or service….that it would be almost irreplaceable. The story continues that instead of being thought of as just a consultant….folks would think of so and so first as being an irreplaceable consultant. I like that….however is it really possible that any one business/person/service is irreplaceable?
The fine wine industry likes to think that cork is the irreplaceable material to use in wine making. Cork has been use for ages and every fine (expensive) wine has a cork stopper. And yes….fine wine makers are a little snobbish and believe cork is the only material to use. However, that’s not the case….synthetic corks are used today and even metal twist off tops. Real cork in some cases can taint a wine and make an expensive wine undrinkable.
While, being irreplaceable is certainly desirable, that always may not be the case.
I believe being remarkable is the better alternative. Like real cork….there are alternatives.
Why is SWA different?
Several years ago, Jackie and kevin Freiberg wrote a book about Southwest Airlines….
NUTS! Southwest Airlines Crazy Recipe for Business And Personal Success
An excellent book and a close look at what made SWA a solid and profitable airline. SWA had:
- an innovative business strategy (although I just read that it was modeled after Pacific Southwest Airlines)
- a team centered culture
- a clear purpose
- persisitent employee and customer focus
- and a dynamic leader, Herb Kellehar.
SWA continues to top the charts in customer satisfaction.
For many years, Midwest Airlines was a great airline. It really did offer “The Best Care in the Air”. It was a pleasure to fly between North Carolina and Michigan….good connections and a change in Milwaukee (a sensible airport). Midwest had a good business model….excellent service….good connections….nice people.
So what has happened to Midwest? Well for one….no longer do they fly to Milwaukee (and Michigan) from North Carolina. They have reduced greatly their feeder, Midwest Connect….they are losing a lot of money….and no longer play a prominent role in their home town, Milwaukee.
Certainly, high fuel prices of the past were a factor in their downfall….and of course the economy. Airlines are a risky business, along with airplanes and fuel and people….there are intangible factors that play a significant role in business/organization success.
SWA has refined the intangibles….that is why it is different.
The Power of Vision
Vision is one of those business words that often has little meaning. Vision statements are words that get printed to fill in a blank. Yet Vision ought to be a fundamental management/leadership principle.
There are a few folks that I pay close attention to in their thinking on Vision. Warren Bemis is one, James Kouzes and Barry Posner are two others.
Kouzes and Posner in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review (Jan. 2009) wrote:
To Lead, Create a Shared Vision
Here’s how I see Vision:
Vision is a place where the organization wants to be.
An organization that wants to be the only ones doing what they do.
When people share this Vision, than they can look to the future with the energy and willingness to do the remarkable to realize that Vision. A clear Vision makes it easier to shape the decisions to reach the future.
The Power of Vision drives great companies/organizations.