Friday, October 29, 2010

The Seven Deadly Sins of Leadership, by Michael McKinney

The Seven Deadly Sins of Leadership

Drucker on Leadership
Peter Drucker never wrote a book about leadership, but his thoughts about it are sprinkled throughout his 40 books and hundreds of articles. Bill Cohen has extracted these ideas and presented them in Drucker on Leadership.

To Drucker, leadership was a calling and he set very high ethical standards for those that chose to lead. Character traps like losing sight of why you are leading, selfishness and the abuse of power often derails leaders. Drucker hoped, writes Cohen, “that by making these traps explicit he could help leaders avoid falling into them.” Cohen gathered Drucker’s thoughts about these shortcomings together and categorized them as the seven deadly sins of leadership:

The Leadership Sin of Pride. “The sin of pride is usually considered the most serious of the seven deadly sins.” Being proud of one’s accomplishments is one thing. “The problem comes when leaders believe themselves so special that ordinary rules no longer apply. Generalized pride—as opposed to being proud of specific things—is the most serious leadership sin because it can easily lead to the other six.”

The Leadership Sin of Lust. “There is unfortunately a feeling among some leaders that they have ‘arrived’ and are ‘entitled’; sex is seen as some sort of fringe leadership benefit….In any workplace, it creates jealousies, feelings of favoritism, and lack of trust, damaging people and relationships and more….Drucker thought that leaders did not pay enough attention to avoiding this particular deadly sin, and thought that leaders could do a better job of avoiding problems that affected their ability to lead.”

The Leadership Sin of Greed. “The sin of greed is a sin of excess. It frequently starts with power. Leaders have power, and unfortunately having power has a tendency to lead to corruption if the leader isn’t careful. This may start with the acceptance of small favors and grow into accumulating vacations, bribes, or worse.”

The Leadership Sin of Sloth. “For the leader, the sin of sloth is associated with an unwillingness to act. More often, it is an unwillingness to do work the leader considers beneath the dignity of the office.”

The Leadership Sin of Wrath. “This sin has to do with uncontrolled anger. There is a time for anger in leadership when it serves a definite and useful purpose….Drucker taught leaders to analyse their environment and to determine what actions that had already occurred, meant for the future before taking action. Using anger as a single response to all leadership challenges precludes doing this analysis.”

The Leadership Sin of Envy. “With the sin of envy, the leader is envious of what is enjoyed by someone else.” This may cause a leader to “attempt to destroy another’s reputation, or in other ways attempt to feel better by lowering the status of another.”

The Leadership Sin of Gluttony. Of all the deadly sins, gluttony is the one that most frustrated Drucker. We typically associate gluttony with food, but it applies to excessive consumption of any kind. “Drucker did not win many friends among high executives with his injunction about too high salaries….It’s easy to rationalize—and a status issue. However, there was no question in Drucker’s mind but that executive hypercompensation was an accurate example of the sin of gluttony and was to be avoided for good leadership.”

The Lonely Hickories, by Gene Logsdon

The Lonely Hickories

In Gene Logsdon Blog on October 27, 2010 at 8:52 am

Along the one lane country roads in our county, the traveler encounters an occasional roadside tree, all by itself at the edge of the endless fields of corn and soybeans. The casual passerby may see nothing unusual about the trees but those of us who have lived here almost as long as these trees have, think of them as quite remarkable. They stand as monuments commemorating the passing agrarian life we cherish.
These trees are hickories, already bearing when I was born seventy some years ago. To understand why they are precious, visualize this landscape when these trees first sprouted at least a hundred years ago. Much of this land was originally forested, and was still in the process of being cleared. All through the 20th century, more trees vanished every year. By the time I worked in the fields, there were still a few sentinels of the old forest dotting the grain fields and pastures. They were left there mostly for shade. In those days farmers spent a lot of time in the blazing sun, not in tractor cabs, and all of you who have felt the July sun bearing mercilessly down on you know what a pleasure it is to be able to rest a bit in the shade. Worth losing a little bit of corn for. A few trees in the pastures were spared for the same reason— shade for the livestock.
One by one, these silent sentinels from the past were cut down or died. It was not much of a bother to dodge a field tree with two-row equipment, but when corn planters grew to the 12-row, 20-row and 30-row size, dodging a tree could mean that many crooked rows or double- planted rows, two things no corn farmer can abide.
Finally, today, only the lonely hickories at the edges of the fields along the roads remain (see photo). They are bothersome to farmers too, and to understand why they remain, one must know a bit about hickories. Rarely do you find two of them exactly alike in the woods. They do not come true to seed. Two next to each other can have quite different nuts in size, shape, thickness of shell, and ease of nutmeat extraction. Only a few specimens have really good nuts for fast and easy cracking. So when the forests were cleared away, farmers deliberately left the best hickories, since the nutmeats were highly prized for table use back when people could not or would not buy nuts in stores. Invariably, the old trees that still stand along the roads have been spared for a hundred years because they bear the choicest nuts.
Farmers steeped in the old culture know this. Even though they may not themselves gather the nuts anymore, they remember how Momma and Grandmother treasured them. They cannot quite bring themselves to cut the trees down. They continue to honor their ancestors and the culture that bore them.
Every year nut-lovers who know the secret of these trees stop along the road to gather the nuts. They are always older people. They mostly live in town now, retired, but they remember the rural life of their youth. For them, for all us who love the taste of hickory nuts, gathering them has become a kind of ritual. We spend fall evenings cracking and picking out the nutmeats for baked goods that we give for Christmas presents to younger generations too busy to know the pleasure of a hickory nut pie.
I have planted nuts from the lonely hickories on my land in the hope of keeping them going until another human generation comes along that might appreciate them again. Some of these young trees have started to bear now— it generally takes about twelve years from sprouting. Since they don’t come true from seed, mine produce nice nuts but not quite as choice as those from the parent trees. At least so far. But many of mine have not come into bearing yet.
As the lonely hickories slowly die off, few mourn their passage because the mourners are also dying off. But I have hope. Our neighbor, right across the road, has an ancient hickory in his yard along the road that produces excellent nuts. One of my young trees comes from a nut from his tree. As I passed his house last week, I saw a wonderful sight. A group of young people were gathering the nuts. Perhaps I do not need to mourn. Perhaps a hundred years from now, people will still be gathering hickory nuts— in what was once my yard.

The Next Two Year, by David Brooks

President Obama is likely to suffer a pummeling defeat on Tuesday. But the road map for his recovery is pretty straightforward.
Josh Haner/The New York Times
David Brooks
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The Conversation

David Brooks and Gail Collins talk between columns.

Readers' Comments

First, the president is going to have to win back independents. Liberals are now criticizing him for being too timid. But the fact is that Obama will win 99.9 percent of the liberal vote in 2012, and in a presidential year, liberal turnout will surely be high. On the other hand, he cannot survive the defection of the independents. In 2008, independent voters preferred Democrats by 8 percentage points. Now they prefer Republicans by 20 points, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Unless Obama wins back these moderate, suburban indies, there will be a Republican president in 2013.
Second, Obama needs to redefine his identity. Bill Clinton gave himself a New Democrat label. Obama has never categorized himself so clearly. This ambiguity was useful in 2008 when people could project whatever they wanted onto him. But it has been harmful since. Obama came to be defined by his emergency responses to the fiscal crisis — by the things he had to do, not by the things he wanted to do. Then he got defined as an orthodox, big government liberal who lacks deep roots in American culture.
Over the next two years, Obama will have to show that he is a traditionalist on social matters and a center-left pragmatist on political ones. Culturally, he will have to demonstrate that even though he comes from an unusual background, he is a fervent believer in the old-fashioned bourgeois virtues: order, self-discipline, punctuality and personal responsibility. Politically, he will have to demonstrate that he is data-driven — that even though he has more faith in government than most Americans, he will relentlessly oppose programs when the evidence shows they don’t work.
Third, Obama will need to respond to the nation’s fear of decline. The current sour mood is not just caused by high unemployment. It emerges from the fear that America’s best days are behind it. The public’s real anxiety is about values, not economics: the gnawing sense that Americans have become debt-addicted and self-indulgent; the sense that government undermines individual responsibility; the observation that people who work hard get shafted while people who play influence games get the gravy. Obama will have to propose policies that re-establish the link between effort and reward.
Fourth, Obama has to build an institutional structure to support a more moderate approach. Presidents come into office thinking that they will be able to go ahead and enact policies. Then they realize that they can only succeed if there is a vast phalanx of institutions laboring alongside them.
Liberals already have institutions. To be a center-left leader, Obama will have to mobilize independent institutions as well. These don’t exist in Washington, but they do around the nation. Civic organizations, local business groups and municipal leagues run from Orlando to Kansas City to Seattle. These groups are filled with local leaders who lobby for balanced budgets, infrastructure plans and other worthy causes. If Obama can mobilize these groups, he would not only build coalitions, but he would help heal the venomous rift between the White House and business, which is a cancer on his presidency.
Over the next few months, the Republicans will have their time in the sun. On Tuesday, I’ll offer some thoughts on how they can seize the moment. But if Obama is to rebound, he is going to have to suppress his natural competitive instincts. If he gets caught up in the Beltway fight club, the Republicans will emerge as the party of limited government and he’ll emerge as the spokesman for big government — surely a losing proposition.
Instead, he will have to go out and do his own thing. That means every day reinforcing the following narrative: the Republicans are only half right. They want to cut things; I want to cut but also replace things. They want to slash government; I want to restructure it. They want destruction; I want renovation.
Companies like Ford cut wasteful spending while doubling down on productive investment. That’s exactly what the nation has to do over all. There have to be cuts, the president could say, in unaffordable pension commitments, in biofuel subsidies and useless tax breaks. But there also have to be investments in things that will produce a vibrant economy for our children: a simpler tax system with lower rates on investment; more scientific research; a giant effort to improve Hispanic graduation rates; medical courts to rationalize the malpractice system and so on. Instead of being disjointed, as he has been, the president will have to reinforce this turnaround story day after day.
The problem is not that America lacks resources. The problem is that they are misallocated. If Obama can establish credibility as someone who can cut and replace, Election Day 2012 will be rosier for him than Election Day 2010.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Motivation Twitter-style, by Dan Pink

Motivation Twitter-style

So . . . how’s your week going?
For me, and perhaps for you, this week is like any other — a tangle of deadlines, meetings, phone calls, email, and dreams deferred.
But in the hallowed halls of Twitter, something else is going on. It’s “Hack Week.” For seven days, Twitter employees will “all be building things that are separate from our normal work and not part of our day-to-day jobs.”
It’s another example of the growing trend of companies tapping the power of autonomy to deliver results. And it joins similarly inspired efforts like Atlassian’s brilliant FedEx Days — a concept that is spreading like benevolent kudzu at companies and even schools across North America — and the 20 percent timeinitiatives at Google and elsewhere.
On its Engineering blog, Twitter offers a few more details:
There aren’t many rules – basically we’ll work in small teams and share our projects with the company at the end of the week. What will happen with each project will be determined once it’s complete. Some may ship immediately, others may be added to the roadmap and built out in the future, and the remainder may serve as creative inspiration.
As I’ve repeated and repeated and repeated (and repeated? – Ed.) over the last several months, “management” does not lead to engagement. It’s a technology designed to get compliance. (For a related view, check out Gary Hamel’s outstanding book, The Future of Management). The only way people truly engage is through self-direction. Which is why Hack Weeks, 20 percent time, and FedEx Days are so urgent – and why, in many ways, they’re the future of business.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

People Pleasers, by Dan Rockwell

People pleasers

By Dan Rockwell
Wanting another’s approval is healthy. Needing it is sick.
You can’t please all the people even some of the time.
“The disease to please,” as psychologist Harriet Braiker likes to call it, is a form of addiction. Just as a drug addict seeks drugs, a people pleaser seeks approval.
Are you a people pleaser?
Say yes too much and no too little.
Find it difficult to express your true feelings.
Feel devastated when others don’t like you.
Don’t speak up when you think others will disagree.
Fear rejection.
Take criticism personally.
Leading through the need to please
Accept that others won’t always like you.
Embrace disagreement and learn from it.
Press through resistance.
Preserve relationships even when you say no.
Overcoming addiction to people pleasing
Don’t swing from people pleasing to people offending.
Begin expressing your personal feelings and priorities with friends. Slowly branch out to others.
Satisfy your need to please by intentionally helping others with short projects that don’t distract for fundamental responsibilities and priorities.
Believe the people who count will accept you for who you are not for what you do.
Delay saying yes. If you can’t say no, say, “Let me get back to you.” Or, “I need to check my schedule.” Don’t let delay become avoidance. Let it be your opportunity to learn how to say no.
Don’t make long excuses when you say no. “I’d love to help but I can’t this time,” says enough.
Practice saying no with friends.
Here’s a Tuesday leadership focus. Identify one unhealthy people pleasing behavior and replace it with gentle assertiveness.

5 Leadership Lessons: Learning to Avoid the Contribution Syndrome, by MIchael McKinney

Much of real management wisdom could be summed up in the sentence: “Slow down, and use your head.” In The Management Mythbuster, David Axson writes, “Perhaps the one good thing to emerge from these tumultuous times is that questioning the effectiveness of long-established management practices has gone from being interesting to imperative.” Many of the management practices are outdated says Axson. They are rigid, calendar-based and excessively financial in focus. They can’t keep up the speed of today’s world. We need management practices that function in real time. 

He takes to task six traditional management practices that he believes are no longer suited to today’s business world. He argues: Strategic plans are of little use in times of great uncertainty and volatility; Operating plans and budgetsprovide a false sense of security; Management reporting is driven by an obsolete view of the world; Incentive compensation rewards poor performance and penalizes outstanding performance; Investments in staff education have been inadequate and misdirected; and Technology has failed to improve and in many cases has reduced the effectiveness of management. 

In one section he asks, “What makes a successful leader?” From his experience he concludes that the most successful ones share one characteristic—they ask great questions. He observes: 

1  Great questions are not complex questions; in fact, the best seem blindingly obvious. Unfortunately, a relatively small proportion of people in leadership positions have the courage, confidence, or even the basic common sense to ask the right questions. 

2  Contribution Syndrome: No matter what the situation, it is the compulsion to contribute; to show how smart you are at every possible opportunity. Our whole merit system is based upon getting the answer “right.” As we move into the business world, contribution syndrome infects our every pore. We must be seen to be contributing in every meeting or on every project. For some, this manifests itself in a complete inability to sit quietly and listen. It seems part of their DNA to feel that if they are not talking, then they are not working. 

3  As you move up the corporate ladder, a subtle change stats to take place. The best stop talking. They sit quietly, taking in the contributions of everyone else, and limiting their own contribution to asking a few pertinent questions that lead the discussion in a constructive manner. 

4  The most potent question anyone can ever ask is the simple three-letter inquiry, “Why?” In the world of commerce it is best used in serial repetition. Ask the “why” question at least five times in response to earnest arguments for a particular scheme or plan. 

5  The key is to keep asking dumb but great questions. This demonstrates a level of humility that is essential for effective leadership. Complexity has become synonymous with sophistication. How do we get better at asking great questions: practice.

Friday, October 22, 2010

What Motivates Us To Do Great Work? by Jocelyn K. Glei

What Motivates Us To Do Great Work?

by Jocelyn K. Glei
What motivates us to do great work? It’s an age-old question. But the age-old answers – rewards, recognition, money, stability – no longer seem to suffice. As we’ve shifted to a knowledge-based economy, it turns out that what drives us has shifted, too.
Recent research reveals that when creative thinking is part and parcel of your job description, external motivation just doesn’t work. The year-end bonus, the promotion, the basic dangled carrot approach – these things don’t inspire better performance.

What really gets creatives fired up is, well, ourselves. That is, intrinsic motivation. If we can imagine an achievement, see ourselves progressing toward that goal, and understand that we are gaining new skills and knowledge, we will be driven to do great work.
In a recent post, science writer Jonah Lehrer cites an interesting study about “self-talk” – the running commentary we always have going on in our heads. Fifty-three undergraduate students were divided into two groups and then challenged to solve anagrams:

“The first group was told to prepare for an anagram-solving task by thinking, for one minute, about whether they would work on anagrams. This is the ‘Will I?’ condition, which the scientists refer to as the ‘interrogative form of self-talk’. The second group, in contrast, was told to spend one minute thinking that they would work on anagrams. This is the ‘I Will’ condition, or the ‘declarative form of self-talk’. Both groups were then given ten minutes to solve as many anagrams as possible.”

Contrary to what you might expect, the “Will I?” group solved significantly more puzzles. The uncertainty created by the question, allowed the students to decide to challenge themselves, and then excel. Lehrer sums it up:

“Subsequent experiments by the scientists suggested that the power of the ‘Will I?’ condition resides in its ability to elicit intrinsic motivation. (We are intrinsically motivated when we are doing an activity for ourselves, because we enjoy it. In contrast, extrinsic motivation occurs when we're doing something for a paycheck or any ‘extrinsic’ reward.) By interrogating ourselves, we set up a well-defined challenge that we can master. And it is this desire for personal fulfillment - being able to tell ourselves that we solved the anagrams - that actually motivates us to keep on trying.”

In his latest book, Drive, author Daniel Pink debunks the power of external motivators, and expands on the intrinsic motivators that inspire us to do great work. Using research from a study out of MIT, Pink argues that traditional rewards – external motivators like a year-end bonus – only elicit better performance from people doing rote tasks. But once the barest amount of brainpower is required, higher financial rewards fail to produce better work. In fact, they actually inspire worse performance.

For creative thinkers, Pink identifies three key motivators: autonomy (self-directed work), mastery (getting better at stuff), and purpose (serving a greater vision). All three are intrinsic motivators. Even a purpose, which can seem like an external motivator, will be internalized if you truly believe in it.

A recent Harvard study further reinforces the power of intrinsic motivation. After tracking 1200 knowledge workers, Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer found that the # 1 motivator for the employees was progress – the feeling that they were moving forward and achieving a greater goal. They write:

“On days when workers have the sense they’re making headway in their jobs, or when they receive support that helps them overcome obstacles, their emotions are most positive and their drive to succeed is at its peak. On days when they feel they are spinning their wheels or encountering roadblocks to meaningful accomplishment, their moods and motivation are lowest.”

As creative thinkers, we want to make progress, and we want to move big ideas forward. So, it's no surprise that the best motivator is being empowered to take action.

When it comes to recommendations for creative leaders, Amabile and Kramer don’t mince words: “Scrupulously avoid impeding progress by changing goals autocratically, being indecisive, or holding up resources.” In short, give your team members what they need to thrive, and then get out of the way.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Public Opinion Snapshot: The Public's Lack of Enthusiasm for Cutting Government, by Ruy Teixeira

Public Opinion Snapshot: The Public’s Lack of Enthusiasm for Cutting Government

If you listened to conservatives and some media accounts you’d think there was an enormous public groundswell to reduce the size of government as rapidly as possible. But that does not appear to be the case. Widespread dissatisfaction with government performance has not translated into strong support for cutting government. Consider these results from a just-released survey on Americans’ attitudes toward government conducted by The Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University.
The public was asked if they supported more, less, about the same, or no federal government involvement in dealing with a variety of issues. On five domestic policy issues majorities ranging from 67 to 84 percent wanted to see either the same or more federal government involvement in the issue. (In fact, on four of these issues outright majorities actually wanted to see more federal involvement.) Those wanting to see less or no involvement ranged from only 32 down to 16 percent.
Doesn’t sound like cutting government mania has taken hold in these areas. Then consider this result from a general question about whether you’d rather have the federal government provide more services even if it cost more in taxes or have the federal government cost less in taxes but provide fewer services.
A slight plurality (49 percent) preferred the first government-expanding option over the second government-cutting option (47 percent). Even more interestingly, these sentiments are notably less hostile to government’s role than has been the case at a number of points in the past. In 1994 only 28 percent selected the government-expanding option, while 57 percent preferred the government-cutting option.
Finally, what does the public say they want their representative in Congress to do—fight for more spending to create jobs in their district or fight to cut government spending even if that means fewer jobs in the district?
It turns out that, by 57-39, they want their representative to fight for more spending to create jobs. Again, there is no evidence here of an overriding commitment to cut government. And again we see a less hostile attitude toward government’s role than was seen back in 1994 when, by 53-42, the public came down on the cutting spending side of the choice.
So does the public want to see government performance improved? Yes, and in a big way. But don’t believe the conservative hype about a public thirsty to cut government. It’s just not happening.
Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis go to the Media and Progressive Values page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.