Posts Tagged ‘leader qualities’

Team-building-prototype / hikingartist / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A friend and I were having a conversation about leadership while talking about how a new, grassroots organization would survive and thrive. We were specifically discussing whether this organization needs a charismatic leader to instill enthusiasm and energy within current members, as well as increase membership of community activists.

Our conversation broadened to discuss whether charisma is the secret ingredient in the leadership recipe. Is there a formula or algorithm to determine the amount of charisma needed to be a leader? Maybe eye of newt, wing of bat, and a tablespoon of charisma.

We inherently react positively to someone who has charm or personal magnetism – who smiles and has a positive attitude and energy, or a twinkle in the eyes. But charisma is more than charm. Charisma is a relationship skill (Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Why You Need Charisma, HBR Blog Network, September 11, 2012).

There is no one type of charisma [Got Charisma?], like effective leadership, charisma is situational. In this organization, it seems that the organization needs charisma (relationship building) so that “all feel that they are special and will have their particular needs met, yet also feeling that they are all in it together, drawing strength from association.” [Kanter]

Rather than searching for the one charismatic leader, I think that the organization should focus on the desired outcome as quoted from Kanter above. Charisma is the eye of the beholder, it is what one attributes to another. A charismatic leader for one organization may not be effective for another organization. Ask a Republican if Clinton has charisma, or a Democrat if George W. Bush has charisma.

There is an opportunity for the organization to use the strengths of its members. Perhaps there’s a relationship builder among the members who can step up to that role to raise and maintain enthusiasm and energy.

While enthusiasm and energy are key ingredients in the formation of an organization, as well as during its maintenance to a lesser extent, in order for the organization to be sustainable, its members need to internalize the vision, have a commitment to the mission, and feel as a significant, integral part of the team.

In addition to motivating members, the organization needs other leadership functions. One way to look at the organization’s leadership needs is from the view of eight leadership archetypes presented by Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries in The Eight Archetypes of Leadership in the HBR Blog Network, December 18, 2013.

  1. Strategist – provides vision, strategic direction and outside-the-box thinking to create new organization forms and generate future growth.
  2. Change-catalyst – re-engineers and creates new organizational “blueprints.”
  3. Transactor – identifies and tackles new opportunities, thrives on negotiations.
  4. Builder – creates something new and has the talent and determination to make it come true.
  5. Innovator – focuses on the new and solves extremely difficult problems.
  6. Processor – sets up structures and systems needed to support an organization’s objectives.
  7. Coach – gets the best out of people, creates high performance cultures.
  8. Communicator – great influencer, has considerable impact on the surroundings.

While working on its programs, the organization could work on leadership development of its members using their strengths to meet the various leadership and management needs of the organization.

“Working out which types of leaders you have on your team can work wonders for the effectiveness as a group. It helps you to recognize how you and your colleagues can individually make their best contributions. This will in turn create a culture of mutual support and trust, reduce team stress and conflict, and make for more creative problem solving. It also informs your search for new additions to the team: what kinds of personality and skills are you missing?”


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toolKitPeter Bregman (“Why So Many Leadership Programs Ultimately Fail,” Forbes, 7/11/2013) wrote, “I have never seen a leader fail because he or she didn’t know enough about leadership. … What makes leadership hard isn’t the theoretical, it’s the practical. … There is a massive difference between what we know about leadership and what we do as leaders.

The goal of any leadership development program is to change behavior. After a successful program, participants should show up differently, saying and doing things in new ways that produce better results.

What Peter Bregman wrote about the goal of leadership development applies to all training and development, and it’s the major weakness of non-technical training and development programs. That is, how does an organization ensure that the training and development is applied and whether it makes a difference in the organization? Not merely whether the participant has gained the skill or knowledge, has the participant applied it and is the skill or knowledge appropriate for the organization? The lack of post-training and -development  assessment particularly irks me because the typical response to program failures is – they need more training. But, I digress.

A couple of blog posts ago, I wrote that there is no such thing as a generic leadership development program or plan since each person brings unique experience, skills, and knowledge to the position. In addition, each leadership position, within core competencies, has unique requirements. For example, the organization’s structure, culture, and current situation may contribute to making certain developmental priorities over others.

A first step in creating an individual leadership development plan is an assessment of the leader based on core competencies. [I provided a composite of leadership core competencies in my prior blog post.] It’s important to begin with a 360° assessment: feedback from self-assessment, subordinates, peers, and higher management. Which competencies produce positive results, which are weak, which result in negative effects? It’s important that the assessment address each vector; for example, communication with subordinates and higher management may be weak while communication with peers is not.

An individual leadership development plan would be prepared based on the results of the 360° competency evaluation. Developmental activities to improve a competency may be based on factors such as preferred learning styles, availability, cost, and priority.

In addition, it may be worth considering complementary developmental activities for subordinates, peers, and higher level management. For example, if the the leader needs further development in planning and organizing, it might be beneficial to address complementary planning and coordination development for all levels of the organization.

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My last blog post included a table of leadership competencies (Leadership Development Models) from Zenger Folkman; 2013 Executive Coaching Survey; Departments of the Army, Air Force, and Navy; and federal Senior Executive Service. It was my attempt to determine the commonality in competencies. There is nothing immutable with this arrangement of competencies; these were my choices on that day. Looking at it today, I might rearrange some of the competencies.

The table indicates considerable agreement on leadership competencies and I have spent the last several days working to integrate these leadership competencies.

I first decided to eliminate some competencies.  The first quick three eliminations are:

  • Integrity and honesty – This is a character trait rather than a competency. It doesn’t mean that I don’t expect a leader to have integrity and be honest; of course, I do. I expect a leader to do everything with integrity and honesty.
  • Conflict management/resolution – This is a skill that may be needed in building and maintaining relationships, or in collaboration and teamwork. I think it’s more important to focus on the positive outcome; that is, building and maintaining relationships.
  • Self development, preparing self, assesses self, continual learning – While I expect a leader to be a continual learner, I think that it is not compelling enough to be included among the core competencies of a successful leader. Can a “lack of competence” in self development or continual learning adversely impact a leader?

I then took a look at grouping competencies into clusters. I decided on the four core competency clusters:

  1. Working with others
  2. Delivering results
  3. Organization stewardship
  4. Technical expertise

Within each cluster, I’ve selected core competencies and provide example behaviors.

Working with others

1.  Communicates persuasively and confidently

  • Speaks and writes clearly
  • Articulate spokesperson for the organization
  • Negotiates effectively

2.  Builds and manages relationships

  • Develops professional relationships
  • Fosters and environment of trust, integrity, honesty, and respect
  • Resolves conflicts

3.  Develops others and teams

  • Coaches and mentors
  • Facilitates collaboration
  • Promotes teamwork
  • Promotes training and education

Delivering results

4.  Problem solving

  • Uses appropriate analytical tools
  • Uses appropriate problem solving techniques
  • Encourages creativity and innovation
  • Makes sound decisions
  • Monitors problem resolution

5.  Planning and organizing

  • Aligns policies and operational plans with strategic plan
  • Aligns organization resources with plans and policies

6.  Inspires and motivates others to high performance

  • Encourages and supports high individual performance
  • Encourages and supports high team performance

Organization stewardship

7.  Strategic thinking

  • Translates organization’s vision and mission into strategic initiatives
  • Aligns goals and objectives with strategic plan

8.  Builds coalitions

  • Promotes the organization
  • Acts as credible and convincing spokesperson
  • Develops and manages partnerships

9.  Manages resources

  • Manages financial resources
  • Manages human resources
  • Monitors resource allocation and usage

10.  Manages organizational performance

  • Ensures execution of strategic plan
  • Ensures delivery of organization’s mission
  • Champions continuous improvement

Technical expertise

Technical competencies are unique to the leadership position. For example, an executive director of a very small nonprofit may need to knowledge of fund development, budgeting, accounting, and the nonprofit’s operational area. An executive director of a nationwide nonprofit may need a broad operational knowledge.


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MC900065030Is a leader who shows emotion a poor leader?  Many seem to think so.  A common belief is that a leader needs to be able to make logical decisions and not be blinded by emotion.

In my experience, one of the mistakes that organizations make in selecting people for supervisory positions is that they tend to select people with greatest technical skills.  However, the critical duties of supervision require working with people.  These skills require the supervisor to address subordinates’ emotions as well as his/her own.

[Y]ou need to motivate your people to getthings done. Do you have that kind of bond? Or have you been taught to manage by objectives and metrics to monitor performance, and that bonding with your team members will be seen as a distraction at best or weakness at worst? Many have. Perhaps that’s why a recent survey found that more workers would trust a total stranger more than their own boss[.] (Eisenberger and Kohlrieser)

Naomi Eisenberger and George Kohlrieser in their HBR Network Blog article,  Lead with Your Heart, Not Just Your Head on November 16, 2012, cite reasons that impersonal leadership fails.

Eisenberger, a neuroscientist, has found that a lack of feeling connected with others creates pain.  “In the workplace, leaders who show concern and interest in their employees’ lives and a predictable set of rules, create a healthy attachment that empowers others to embrace the risk of pursuing success.”

Naomi’s research shows another positive side to developing secure attachments at work. Having support figures present during experiences of stress helps us stay more relaxed and reduces threat responses; strong bonds can help teams survive and thrive in crisis situations.

Scott Edinger in Three Ways Leaders Make Emotional Connections on HBR Network Blog, October 2, 2012 provides suggestions on how to forge emotional connections with subordinates.

1.  Give people your undivided attention

2.  Be aware that emotions are contagious

3.  Develop your sense of extraversion

Understanding that communication is an emotional interaction, Charalmbos Vlachoutsicos explains How Smart Managers Build Bridges on the HBR Network Blog, November 2, 2012.

What do you do when the other person simply won’t budge from an entrenched position in which they have a great deal of personal and professional commitment? How do you bridge the gap between your position and his? Most people try to win the other person over to their point of view by argument.

The key to avoiding this dynamic is to stop trying to get the person to change and instead get them to open up. The information you get may well encourage you to moderate your own position and thus open the way for a mutually advantageous cooperation.

In addition, Eisenberger and Kohlreiser point out that,

When it comes to employees making change, they don’t resist change itself. They resist the pain of change and fear of the unknown that comes with it. This leads many employees to think more defensively, to hold back, and resist pursuing success and playing to win. In the workplace, leaders who show concern and interest in their employees’ lives and a predictable set of rules, create a healthy attachment that empowers others to embrace the risk of pursuing success.

Vlachoutsicos points out that differences in positions may be in values or cultures.  Connecting with the other person and understanding the other person helps you to further understand the situation and another point of view. It may help you to reframe your reasons for the change or to reframe your position.

The bottom line is a supervisor, manager, or leader must be comfortable with his/her own emotions as well as dealing with the emotions of his/her followers.

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I started this article in July, but never finished it.  With the latest news about General Petraeus,  Lance Armstrong, and Wall Street executives, among others, it’s time to talk about leadership and hubris. We’ve all dealt with them, people in power positions who act as if previously agreed upon rules do not apply to them. What perhaps has been different for some of us today is that we didn’t expect flag officers (generals and admirals) to fall from grace.  We’ve thought that the military ethos keeps everyone in uniform, regardless of rank, behaviorally in line.

On July 4, 2012, the HBR Blog Network had an article, Narcissism:  The Difference Between High Achievers and Leaders, written by Justin Menkes. Menkes describes the traits that help a high performer become a high achiever.

How do you know when someone can make the leap from high performer to CEO? There is one driving factor that determines the answer: narcissism.

However, when narcissists assume leadership positions, the trait that helped them achieve that position does not serve them well in being a leader.

While elevated narcissism and self-promotion has been shown to result in quicker promotion early in one’s career, its negative impacts are revealed in positions of higher authority. In these positions, blind ambition becomes its own worst enemy.

Because narcissists are continuously seeking recognition from others to reinforce their own self-worth, they tend to form new relationships where they can see a positive reflection of themselves in the other person’s eye….In leadership positions, this leaves colleagues feeling like collective efforts are being used to increase a single narcissist leader’s ego, rather than a team’s shared goals.

The narcissistic leader no longer sees him/herself as part of the team. Likewise, subordinates do not feel like the leader is working for the team’s common goal. Rather, the subordinates feel like they are working for the narcissistic leader’s personal goals.

Jeffrey Pfeffer’s, Petraeus and the Rise of Narcissistic Leaders, on the HBR Blog Network on November 12, 2012, addresses the long list of men who’ve fallen and the seemingly larger number of narcissistic leaders.

They are more action-oriented, pursue their own goals, and exhibit disinhibited behavior in part because they believe that rules don’t apply to them; they are special and invulnerable.

[N]arcissistic leaders, as research by Stanford colleague Charles O’Reilly and colleagues notes, are characterized by the traits of dominance, self-confidence, a sense of entitlement, grandiosity, and low empathy.

Evidence from surveys of college students shows that the level of narcissism has been rising over time — a possible answer for why leaders today are getting into more trouble than in the past. And examinations of the structure of narcissism and how narcissistic behavior differs between men and women helps explain the gender imbalance: “Past research suggests that exploitive tendencies and open displays of feelings of entitlement will be less integral to narcissism for females than for males” simply because women face more social constraints and social sanctions for grandiosity and self-aggrandizement than do men.

NPR News, on November 12, 2012, includes an article, For The Military, A Possible Fall From Grace, by Alan Greenblatt.

There’s been a decline in respect for other institutions — sometimes, although not always, due to sex scandals, as in the case of the Catholic Church, college football and numerous members of Congress and other politicians.

The military, by contrast, has been seen as highly competent through a long decade of war. The reputation of its leadership — distinct from the errors of some troops in the field — has been solid, insulated to a large extent from outside questioning and accountability.

The broadening scandal involving Petraeus, who left the Army last year to head the CIA, may lead to a recalibration of the terms in which the military is discussed, monitored and regulated by civilian authorities, although there’s no guarantee of that.

recent book highlights the problem of incompetent generals not being taken to task for failed performance. “No institution — particularly one financed by the taxpayers — should be immune from thoughtful criticism,” Aaron B. O’Connell, a historian at the U.S. Naval Academy, wrote recently in The New York Times.

Petraeus had been the most exalted military leader of his generation. Because of that fact — and because his affair was both salacious and threatens to implicate other officials — it’s possible that its revelations could lead to a broader discussion of the military’s proper role within society.

“We have a guilt complex about such a small percentage of the population fighting,” Korb says. “This hopefully will put them back into their proper place. No institution is perfect, and we have to look at them realistically.”

Bodine says that would be better, in the long run, for the military itself. It’s dangerous for any institution to view itself as separate from — and superior to — the rest of society. For the military, a long period of lionization has bred an “arrogance reinforced by insularity,” she says.

“I personally think that we were much healthier as a democracy when we really did have a citizens’ army and they were more a part of everyday society, both for their good and ours,” Bodine says.

We used to hold professional sports figures as heros, church leaders as beyond reproach, and politicians in esteem – somewhat different from us individually. Today, it’s not only the military that is seen as “separate,”  this is also true for law enforcement and fire fighters. When a group of people believes that they are held as separate, it is easier for them to believe that the same rules don’t apply to them – “arrogance by singularity.”

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Women in leadership positions has been a frequent topic lately.

On October 25th, the European Parliament rejected the nomination of a male banker to the board of directors of the European Central Bank because he’s a man.  The ECB’s governing body has 23 members, all of whom are men.  In addition, a proposal for EU legislation establishing a 40% quota for women on company boards throughout Europe also failed to pass.

And then there’s Romney’s remark on October 16, “And – and so we – we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.”

As I have shared in a prior blog post, Where are the women in leadership positions?, the presence of women in leadership positions is lacking in the United States.  This is also true for boardrooms throughout the world.

We continue to experience the dichotomy of women in leadership positions.  One the one hand, a report by the European Commission claims that it would take 40 years to achieve a 40% representation rate of women on European corporate boards at the current rate that companies are including women.  On the other hand, recent articles and studies suggest that emotion and empathy are an integral part of leadership and two authors in articles issued on October 30 indicate that women bring a more complete set of skills to leadership, the linear and non-linear.  This blog post summarizes some of the EU news and the two aforementioned articles.

The nations with the highest rates of membership of women on corporate boards are (1):

  • Norway *           40.1%
  • Sweden              27.3%
  • Finland              24.5%
  • USA                    16.1%
  • South Africa     15.8%
  • Israel                  15.0%
  • UK                      15.0%

Examining women as board chairs worldwide provides some very different results (see same source).

*Norway enacted legislation in 2003 to ensure that 40 percent of directors in public companies are women.

The European Commission report, Women in economic decision-making in the EU: Progress report issued in 2012 provides an accounting of the progress of women in corporate leadership.  In 2010, the European Commission adopted a Strategy for Equality between Women and Men (2010-2015).  This was followed in March 2011 by a call for action, “Women on the Board Pledge for Europe,” for publicly listed European companies to voluntarily commit to increase the number of women on their boards.  The European Parliament supported this call by adopting a resolution in July 2011 “calling inter alia for legislation at the European level if companies do not make sufficient progress through self-regulation.”  During 2011, France, the Netherlands, Italy, and Belgium enacted legislation to improve gender balance on company boards.

The report indicates that progress has been slow in the EU, with the representation of women in the largest companies in Europe having increased from 11.8% in 2010 to 13.7% in January 2012.  However, in the same time period the number of female chairpersons declined from 3.4% to 3.2%.  Further only 24 companies have signed onto the call for action, “Women on the Board Pledge for Europe.”  The report concludes that at the present rate, it would take 40 years to achieve the goal of 40% female representation on corporate boards.

A global study of the representation of women on corporate boards as well as national quotas and initiatives of selected nations can be found in Women in the boardroom: A global perspective published by the Deloitte Center for Corporate Governance in November 2011 (2nd edition).

Steven M. Davidoff writes in the New York Times on September 11, 2012, Seeking Critical Mass of Gender Equality in the Boardroom

 But there is also an economic argument that is sometimes made to support the role of women on boards. The claim is that boards with women become better decision makers, increase companies’ profits and lead them to be more humanely run.

These assertions are based on research that in general makes the unsurprising conclusion that men and women are different, … studies have found that women in the boardroom have different values, make decisions differently and engender a more cooperative atmosphere.

While these studies are promising for advocates of women on boards, the bottom line is that the effect of women directors has yet to be established. Whether they add value just by their presence is undetermined because the number of women on boards remains low. The true test will be when there are a number of companies with boards comprising 50 percent or more women that can be compared against those with less. We’re not there yet.

In addition to the recent activity in Europe, two articles on women and leadership were issued on October 30, 2012.

Tony Schwartz acknowledges in What Women Know About Leadership that Men Don’t on the HBR Network Blog that learning to take better care of the people he leads has been his single greatest challenge.  He asserts that, “An effective modern leader requires a blend of intellectual qualities — the ability to think analytically, strategically and creatively — and emotional ones, including self-awareness, empathy, and humility. In short, great leadership begins with being a whole human being.”

He questions why women are vastly underrepresented at the highest levels of large companies.

[In] a study of 7300 leaders who got rated by their peers, supervisors and direct reports. Women scored higher in 12 of 16 key skills — not just developing others, building relationships, collaborating, and practicing self development, but also taking initiative, driving for results and solving problems and analyzing issues.

[In] a study of 2250 adults conducted by the PEW center, women were rated higher on a range of leadership quality including honesty, intelligence, diligence, compassion and creativity.

Saad Al Barrak claims in the Perils of Ignoring the Softer Side of Management, published in FastCompany.com on October 30, 2012 that “An overemphasis on the ‘hard’ side of management, a carryover from the industrial age, can at best achieve a linear increase in performance. But a focus on the soft, non-linear side can lead to exponential growth.”

Al Barrak’s article dovetails well with a recent article, Secrets of the Flux Leader, which I addressed in a blog post, The Higgs Boson of Leadership, on October 26.  Barrak writes,

In managing human beings, you manage emotions and passions. Indeed, optimize their passionate state in order that they deliver their best. That is totally non-linear: The mistake that 90 percent of managers and business leaders make is that they try and linearize the behavioral side by proceduralizing it.

Reality, especially in today’s world, is dynamic: Even if the structure suits the time it is created, by the time it has been put into practice that reality has already shifted.

If we agree that corporate boards should represent their constituency, that is include women as well as minorities, what is the role of public policy in achieving this goal?

(1) Women on Boards, Catalyst, August 2012

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Secrets of the Flux Leader The November edition of the FastCompany.com magazine’s article on flux leaders addresses “the characteristics that breed success for individuals in an era of constant change.”

GenFlux is an attitude, not a demographic.  It embraces paradox and diversity.  It sees opportunity in today’s chaos.  It rejects nostalgia and few of change.

The article refers to Margaret Wheatley’s book Leadership and the New Science.  Our view of the cause-and-effect Newtonian world led us to hierarchic, one-size-fits-all business models for efficiency based on beliefs of certain rules of commerce and economics. However, these business models are not effective in today’s quantum environment where chaos seems to rule.

In today’s post-Newtonian world, we have to understand that light is both a wave and a particle, that Schrodinger’s cat is both alive and dead at the same time. “Business today is nothing if not as paradoxical. We require efficiency and openness, thrift and mind-blowing ambition, nimbleness and a workplace that fosters creativity.”

Even today, hierarchy is an effective tool for streamlining decision making, disseminating information, and making sure stuff gets done….Where hierarchy clearly fails the modern organization is in fostering and encouraging the creative ideas needed to stay agile in today’s networked world.”

Just as matter is composed of different particles and forces that interact together, organizations need people with different skills, or as Harvard professor Howard Gardner proposes, different intelligences. “Leaders want the best ideas, but they want to ensure that everyone across the organization understands its goals and strategies.  How else can you ensure that your people will act as you would like, even when you are not there?”

And therefore, like physicists seeking the theory of everything that can unify seemingly disparate theories, we seek a theory of leadership that can provide both structure and flexibility. The question is, how do we build an organization and how do we lead to allow for the simultaneous existence of structure and flexibility?  Is there a Higgs Boson of leadership that is the essence of everything?

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