One of the central principles of 20th Century Organizational Leadership was the ability of humans to manage highly complicated organizations. This was done by looking at the goal of the organization as an endpoint or an output and predicting all of the many small steps and actions needed to achieve success, and then doing them. Dependencies were considered, alternative scenarios were analyzed, and contingency plans made. Budgeting and forecasting became an art and by the end of the 20th century began to be supported by massive amounts of computerized data. The goal was to break each action, each contingency, each scenario into small, simple, easily recognized and understood actions, which if adhered to reliably created a desired result. This led to ever more efficient operationalization. Workers in carefully defined narrow specialties became highly efficient in executing that specialty. Managers led their workers by controlling the responsibility of each worker and commanding them on how to accomplish their contribution to the organization’s endeavors. Thus cars, airplanes and power plants could be manufactured in progressively efficient ways making them cheaper to produce. Relying on the same principle of breaking complicated matters onto small efficient parts, wars were waged faster and with less loss of American life as the Century progressed and closed.
Category Archives: Leadership
In a prior posting my business partner, Debra Bowles, expressed the courage it took to speak her small “t” truth in front of her executive peers in response to a CEO’s inquiry. I am often struck by the use of the word courage in business today and curious if the word is used in a way that encourages leadership in a positive manner or whether it is so loaded with mis-meaning that the actual experience of courage is impaired.
One reason that courage may not convey a felt sense is the dictionary’s definition reflects idealized social attributes or affected social attributes instead of human ones. Words such as pluck, nerve, valor, daring, and guts… are nice ideals, but all of us know from experience, that when courage is called for it is much more impactful and transcendent than the dictionary definitions.
So what gives? When is leadership courageous and when is it not? read more
I was raised to respect authority, almost to a fault, and my Dad spoke most of the Truth in our family. I was a senior executive in a large organization for 14 years and there was much Truth spoken with great belief and force. I am intentionally using a capital T because to me it designates an opinion or belief that is spoken with strong conviction, yet is rarely open for other opinions, input or honest dialogue. Capital “T” Truth can stifle innovation and collaboration with a single sentence.
In the Four-Fold Way, Angeles Arrien developed four principles to provide clarity for thriving in today’s complex world of constant change.1 Her third principle is: read more
70% of American workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” (Gallup, 2013). That figure represents a failure of leadership. Leadership is the ability to impact and engage people in important work that causes positive disruption. That clearly isn’t happening. Whether you tell someone to follow you or ask them, there are only three possible responses that person can give you: Yes, No, or Maybe. So at the end of the day leadership is about getting someone to engage and (voluntarily and repeatedly) say “yes.”
How do we get people to respond, “yes?” read more
In Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future, Peter Senge and his co-authors write:
“We’ve come to believe that the core capacity needed for accessing the field of the future is presence. We first thought of presence as being fully conscious and aware in the present moment. Then we began to appreciate presence as deep listening, of being open beyond one’s preconceptions and historical ways of making sense. We came to see the importance of letting go of old identities and the need to control and, as Salk said, making choices to serve the evolution of life. Ultimately, we came to see all these aspects of presence as leading to a state of “letting come,” of consciously participating in a larger field for change. When this happens, the field shifts, and the forces shaping a situation can shift from re-creating the past to manifesting or realizing an emerging future.” (2004) read more
There’s a phrase that many in business have been using for some time now. Typically it’s a manager in a leadership role telling someone else that they need to “move the needle.” That is, they need to cause some change, they need to increase revenue and/or reduce the cost associated with increasing said revenue. There is a call to action, “Let’s get something done.”
I understand the manager’s motivation. We get evaluated on whether or not we move the needle. But that’s not all there is to it. read more
Larry Spears, CEO of the Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership identifies ten characteristics of servant-leaders: Listening, Empathy, Healing, Awareness, Persuasion, Conceptualization, Foresight, Stewardship, Commitment to the growth of people, and Building community. Of these, I believe that awareness is the keystone of being an authentic leader.
Robert Greenleaf observed, “Awareness is not a giver of solace – it is just the opposite. It is a disturber and awakener. Able leaders are usually sharply awake and reasonably disturbed. They are not seekers of solace. They have their own inner security.” Able leaders are engaged in honest self-reflection and self-affirmation. Self-reflection brings about self-awareness or consciousness. Consciousness is the first C of authentic leadership. read more
This past weekend I was in Tempe, Arizona to attend the dedication of Neil G. Giuliano Park, named in honor of my brother Neil who served ten years as mayor of Tempe. Neil was first elected mayor 20 years ago this week. During his tenure as mayor, Tempe underwent a revitalization of its downtown, a tremendous amount of development commenced and the city experienced an influx of investment. The dedication is a testament to what he’s done. read more