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LEADERSHIP IS A PROCESS OF SOCIAL INFLUENCE, WHICH MAXIMISES THE EFFORTS OF OTHERS TOWARDS THE ACHIEVEMENT OF A SHARED GOAL.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
'This is a busy time of year in the Obama household. Like so many parents all across this country, I watch with a mixture of pride and anxiety as my daughters stuff their backpacks, kiss me goodbye, and move ahead in another school year without so much as a backwards glance.
My girls are now making new friends, tackling challenging new subjects, and moving closer to becoming the strong, confident women I know they can be. But when I see them come home, bursting with excitement about something they have learned or someone they have met, I can't help but think that some of the most influential people in my daughters' lives won't be the ones they socialize with on the playground or read about in the pages of a book—they will be the people who stand up every day in front of their classrooms.
We all remember the impact a special teacher had on us—a teacher who refused to let us fall through the cracks; who pushed us and believed in us when we doubted ourselves; who sparked in us a lifelong curiosity and passion for learning. Decades later, we remember the way they made us feel and the things they inspired us to do—how they challenged us and changed our lives. So it's not surprising that studies show that the single most important factor affecting students' achievement is the caliber of their teachers. And when we think about the qualities that make an outstanding teacher—boundless energy and endless patience; vision and a sense of purpose; the creativity to help us see the world in a different way; commitment to helping us discover and fulfill our potential—we realize: These are also the qualities of a great leader.
Today, more than ever before, we need precisely this kind of leadership in our classrooms. As the president has frequently said, in a 21st-century global economy where jobs can be shipped to any place with an Internet connection and children here in America will be competing with children around the world for the same jobs, a good education is no longer just one road to opportunity—it is the only road. And good teachers aren't just critical for the success of our students. They are the key to the success of our economy.
But the reality is that with each passing year, we are losing more and more of our most experienced teachers. More than half of our nation's teachers and principals are baby boomers. And in the next four years, as many as one third of America's 3.2 million teachers could retire. The U.S. Department of Education projects that by 2014, just five short years from now, our nation's schools will hire as many as 1 million new teachers. And the challenge to our schools is not just an overall teacher shortage but a shortage of good teachers in the schools where they are most essential: high-need schools that face some of the most daunting obstacles but have students with so much potential. We also have a shortage of teachers in subjects like math and science that we know will be critical to our children's future.
Today, we need a new generation of leaders to take their place in our nation's schools. We need passionate, talented, committed men and women to step up and devote themselves to preparing our students to succeed in this new century.
We need universities to double down on their efforts to prepare teachers and to improve and expand effective alternative routes to certify teachers. We need to encourage more experienced professionals to consider teaching as the next chapter in their careers. And we need to treat teachers like the professionals they are by providing good salaries and high-quality professional development opportunities. We need parents to do their part as well to match that leadership in the classroom with leadership at home. We need to set limits and turn off the TV. We need to put away those video games and make sure that homework gets done. We need to reinforce the example that's being set and the lessons being taught at school and make sure that learning continues at home.
And we need government to support significant efforts to recruit and retain teachers and to reward high-performing teachers. Along those lines, President Obama is already investing more than $3 billion to turn around struggling schools. And he has proposed a nationwide Teacher Recruitment Program to attract more people to the profession, especially in high-need schools. I look forward to being involved with this program and encouraging people across America to put their leadership skills to work in our nation's schools.
Much work lies ahead, and it won't be easy. But I am confident that with a new generation of outstanding leaders in our classrooms, we can make a lasting difference in the lives of our young people and a lasting impact on the life of this nation.'
1. Lead by Example
Inspiring leaders are invariably in a positive mood with lots of energy. They galvanise others into action through their energy. Typically they keep themselves fit and energised by doing exercise (riding or walking to work, regular gym). They look after themselves so they are in the best state to lead by example. Leaders need to keep mentally and physically healthy. That might mean getting a coach for yourself, or even having someone external to the business who helps you stay on track!
2. Project Your Passion
When you see a leader fully committed it makes others commit. Often being courageous, taking risks, taking time to talk to all the staff on a regular basis - these are the things that show passion. These people constantly seek opportunities to challenge themselves and others around them. You can see passion in the sense of fun they have, in their body language, in the way they take time to thank people. It's an ability to project excitement out to people they may not even know. Passion can be expressed in a range of ways - not just the formal large group speeches. It may be in the letters and emails, the phone calls, even the relationships and meetings. When people see and feel it they become passionate.
3. Drive Your Decisions
Good leaders are clear about the decisions, and they make decisions where others often hang back, paralysed by indecision. They know the key outcomes and what is best for their business, their staff and the future... and they make those decisions with strength and clarity. They may not always be popular decisions, but over time they are usually seen to have been the best decision/s at the time. It's having the courage to assess a risk and decide with what research is available that this is the best course of action. And then to have that ability to hold ground when others might attack a decision. Or to be able to know when a decision may have been the wrong one, and to make the necessary changes quickly and effectively. It's not always an individual decision by the leader. They know when and how to involve others in decisions, and can facilitate a brainstorming and then do the follow through to take. Mostly it's about having the courage to make it happen and manage any fallout.
4. Empower your champions
Great leaders enjoy giving people new challenges... encouraging people to rise to new levels. They are positive and inclusive. It's a pleasure seeing leaders who nurture their staff and give them the opportunities to grow. They see the potential in others often well before those people know it themselves. They believe in them and describe how they might develop in the future. They tell them what they believe they can achieve and then enjoy seeing them develop and build new skills. They find those enthusiastic staff, and they know not only how to nurture them but how to keep them challenged and motivated.
5. Reach your goals
Inspirational leaders set goals and provide a clear strategy that everyone can understand and follow. They are not afraid to ask for help or seek advice. They involve others and provide support and resources. They clear roadblocks and solve problems... and have enormous energy to stick it out and achieve their goals. And they're not afraid to have people hold them accountable. They are results driven, but they will care about their people along the way... so its not just results at the expense of others.
6. Give time and respect to your people
It's great to see leaders, who despite the pressures of work, plan for and make the time to spend it getting to know their people. They get involved in their teams and what's going on. They make sure that things are working properly and communication is going right. It's the simplest walk in every morning and saying a special "hello" to everyone. They know who's who and what's happening and what's going on around the business. Some even seem to create a "family" feeling. They are open and approachable - not just with lip service to the phrase "open door" policy. They make people feel important and give them credit for ideas and suggestions. They show respect consistently.
So test yourself. Do you:
1. Lead by example?
2. Project your passion?
3. Drive your decisions?
4. Reach your goals?
5. Empower your champions?
6. Give time and respect to your people?
Cisco's Action Learning Forum (ALF) is a rigorous 16-week program that gives 60 high-potential leaders the chance to strengthen their skills in leadership, strategic management and team development while working on real, high-profile business problems and start-up projects that are strategic to Cisco's operations. The participants, selected from the company's top performers in every function, generation and geography, work in teams guided by Cisco executives and faculty from MIT and Stanford.
Although the program costs approximately $10,000 per employee, since its launch in 2007 ALF teams have generated billions of dollars of what Cisco calls "new value creation." One idea — Smart Grid — revamps energy grids to make them faster and more cost-effective; it is projected to bring in $10 billion of revenue over the next five years.
Equally impressive are the gains in talent acceleration and engagement. Some 20 percent of the 360 participants have been promoted. And Cisco has lost only 2 percent of ALF alumni, reflecting the loyalty generated when high-performers are offered developmental opportunities.
Smart organisations can turn the recession into a talent incubator for little or no extra cost. Don't lose this opportunity to make a foolproof investment.
When an employee (or a peer, or anyone) comes to you with good news, how do you respond? Do they walk away feeling satisfied, inspired, and motivated? As leaders, that’s what we strive for, right? Or do they walk away feeling de-motivated?
You may be surprised to discover you may be wasting an opportunity – even worse, harming the relationship – and not even realising it.
For example, how do you think your employees would describe your typical responses to their good news?
'My manager usually reacts to my good news enthusiastically – sometimes even more excited than I initially was. I’m often encouraged to “relive the moment” and he/she takes the time to listen and ask questions.'
'My manager doesn’t make a big deal out of it, but I’m pretty sure is happy for me.'
'My manager often finds a problem with my good news – the glass is always only half full.'
'Sometimes I get the impression my manager isn’t paying attention or just doesn’t care much.'
As a leader, every interaction with your employees is an opportunity to inspire and motivate. We tend to spend a lot of time teaching managers how to deliver bad news, deal with conflict, deliver constructive feedback, and solve employee concerns.
How about if we discipline ourselves to respond in a positive way to good news? It sounds so easy but it's not. Try it out, and see what happens. What have you got to lose?
But the recession will soon be over and unless women work hard to develop their leadership skills, their route up the corporate ladder will be as difficult as it used to be before the recession. Women need to respond to some specific challenges and questions. In particular, the topic of authenticity. Do women have an authenticity problem?
There is a misperception among women that they need to be like men in order to be successful. Often, they try to emulate a male model and the result would be toning down their feminine style, for example by smiling less, by suppressing an inclination to be ‘warm and nice’, or by dropping the pitch of their voice. Indeed, agentic male behaviours such as projecting self-confidence, ambition, power or being in control, are associated with effective leadership. But doing only what men do is not enough. When women are perceived only as agentic, they violate the gender stereotype, which prescribes communal female values such as being helpful, friendly, caring and gentle. The result is a perception of lack of authenticity. Interestingly, uppity women are subjected to more sexual harassment as a form of punishment for being ‘deceitful’.
In order to be successful, women need to be perceived not only as agentic, but also as communal. Take Indra Nooyi, the Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, for example. On the one hand, she is very agentic and projects confidence and control in negotiations, but on the other – she is a very caring, warm and maternal boss, who feels happy to give employees advice on how to dress correctly. Neglecting the communal aspect of behaviour could lead to perceptions of being unauthentic with all the negative consequences for female leaders.
Crises can serve as opportunities. This current downturn is an opportunity that women can ill afford to waste. Re-examining authenticity is a good starting point.
1. Whenever an idea comes to mind, assign it to someone else immediately. Don't be concerned about whether it should be done. You can always abandon it later.
2. Never put things in writing. Someone else can keep track of important things for you.
3. Always assign the same task to multiple people. This will help you leverage the risk of missed deadlines.
4. Don't inform staff of your calendar. Your staff will come to love that sense of the unexpected and will be happy to see you when you do drop by.
5. Change your mind often. Particularly on major projects. This demonstrates flexibility.
6. Don't hesitate to switch up people's responsibilies - and don't worry about remembering to let appropriate staff know about such decisions. Remember: They're smart and will figure it out.
7. Don't have agendas for meetings. After all, staff should just enjoy being together, and an agenda would probably constrain innovative thinking.
8. Whenever staff are handling a particularly difficult situation, call them every five minutes or so to offer assistance and to provide feedback on the actions they're taking. They'll be grateful for your input.
9. As you meet competent people during networking events, instantly retain them as subcontractors for...something. Your direct reports are sure to appreciate the extra help.
Top executives say that impact is the most important metric for evaluating leadership development?
Defined as "our programmes are driving our top 5 business measures in the organisation," top executives ranked impact as the No. 1 metric by which to evaluate leadership development, according to a recent study conducted by the ROI Institute.
Even so, only 8 percent of executives surveyed said that their organisations currently measure impact, and 96 percent thought that their organisations should measure it in the future.
After impact, the measures of leadership development valued by executives were, in order of importance:
- Application of skills
- Inputs (how many people, etc.)
- Reaction from employees.
Rank : Name : 2007 Rank : Country : Day Job
1 C.K. Prahalad 1 India/U.S. University of Michigan Academic
2 Malcolm Gladwell 18 Canada New Yorker Columnist
3 Paul Krugman - U.S. Princeton Academic
4 Steve Jobs 29 U.S. CEO of Apple
5 W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne 6 Korea/U.S. Insead Academics
6 Muhammad Yunus - Bangladesh Founder of Grameen Bank, Economist
7 Bill Gates 2 U.S. Founder of Microsoft, Philanthropist
8 Richard Branson 9 U.K. Founder of Virgin, Entrepreneur
9 Philip Kotler 11 U.S. Northwestern University Academic
10 Gary Hamel 5 U.S. Co-founder Mlab, Consultant
11 Michael Porter 4 U.S. Harvard Academic
12 Ratan Tata - India Chairman of Tata
13 Ram Charan 22 India Executive Coach
14 Marshall Goldsmith 34 U.S. Executive Coach
15 S.Kris Gopalakrishnan - India Co-founder and CEO of Infosys
16 Howard Gardner 39 U.S. Harvard Academic
17 Jim Collins 10 U.S. Consultant
18 Lynda Gratton 19 U.K. London Business School Academic
19 Tom Peters 7 U.S. Consultant
20 Jack Welch 8 U.S. Retired Executive
21 Eric Schmidt - U.S. CEO of Google
22 Joseph Stiglitz - U.S. Columbia Academic
23 Kjell Nordstrom & Jonas Ridderstrale 13 Sweden Speakers and Academics
24 Vijay Govindarajan 23 India/U.S. Academic in Residence for GE
25 Marcus Buckingham 38 U.K. Speaker
26 Richard D'Aveni 46 U.S. Dartmouth Academic
27 Rosabeth Moss Kanter 28 U.S. Harvard Academic
28 Clayton Christensen 25 U.S. Harvard Academic
29 Stephen Covey 15 U.S. Speaker and Author
30 Thomas Friedman 26 U.S. New York Times Columnist
31 David Ulrich 42 U.S. University of Michigan Academic
32 Roger Martin - Canada Dean of University of Toronto Rotman School
33 Henry Mintzberg 16 Canada McGill Academic
34 Daniel Goleman 37 U.S. Author and Consultant
35 Chris Anderson - U.S. Wired Editor-in-chief
36 Warren Bennis 24 U.S. University of Southern California Academic
37 Robert Kaplan & David Norton 12 U.S. Consultants
38 Jeff Immelt 31 U.S. CEO of General Electric
39 Don Tapscott - Canada Consultant
40 Nassim Taleb - Lebanon Academic
41 John Kotter 30 U.S. Harvard Academic
42 Niall Ferguson - U.K. Harvard and Oxford Academic
43 Charles Handy 14 Ireland Author
44 Rakesh Khurana 45 India/U.S. Harvard Academic
45 Manfred Kets De Vries - Holland Insead Academic
46 Tammy Erickson - U.S. Author and Consultant
47 Costas Markides 44 Cyprus London Business School Academic
48 Barbara Kellerman - U.S. Harvard Academic
49 Rob Goffee & Gareth Jones 32 U.K. Academics
50 Jimmy Wales - U.S. Co-founder of Wikipedia
'Q. Do you remember the first time you were somebody’s boss?
A. I became a sales manager at Digital Equipment, promoted from within the sales team. My peers were less than excited that I had gotten the job, especially one of my male peers who said he just wasn’t going to work for a woman. I said, “Well, where are you going to work?” That was the first time I realized I’d better have some guts here.
Q. Then what happened?
A. Well, he got in line, and then we were fine. I guess he thought he could just bully his way in there. Times were a little different in the ’70s. I think he was shocked that a female got the job.
Q. Did you have ideas on how you would manage?
A. I guess, having been managed, you say: “This is how I think I’d manage. I wouldn’t do this; I wouldn’t do that.” Much easier, by the way, in theory than it is in reality. Managing is a tough job. When you’re young, you just think it’s a natural progression — I’m good at this so I’m going to be good at that, and it’s not that way at all.
Q. What are the most important leadership lessons you’ve learned?
A. I grew up in the Midwest. My mom died when I was 8, so my grandmother raised my brother and me. She had a great sense of humor, and she never really let things get to her.
My favorite story is when we were on a farm in Wisconsin; I would have probably been 13. There was a snake up in the rafter of the machine shed. And we ran and said, “Grandma, there’s a snake.” And she came out and she knocked it down with a shovel, chopped its head off and said, “You could have done that.” And, you know, that’s the tone she set. Just get it done. Just do it. Pick yourself up. Move on. Laugh.
Q. What about leading others?
A. A lot of it is just picking the right team and just picking people so much better than you are, and involving them in a decision. Everybody on my team — I couldn’t do their jobs. I could not. I really mean that. So I figured out early on that the way you’re successful is you hire really successful people.
Q. What else have you learned to do?
A. I have a bad habit — you get half your question out and I think I know the whole question, so I want to answer it. And so I actually had to be trained to take a breath. I really want to listen. I want to engage, but I have to shut up. You can see I’m a talker.
I also ask simple questions, like “How am I doing? What should I do differently?” At first, people are shocked when you ask them that. They won’t answer right away because they actually don’t think you’re genuine about it, so you have to kind of keep probing and make it safe. They eventually will come around and say, “Well, just this.”
Q. And how do you give feedback?
A. I have the puppy theory. When the puppy pees on the carpet, you say something right then because you don’t say six months later, “Remember that day, January 12th, when you peed on the carpet?” That doesn’t make any sense. “This is what’s on my mind. This is quick feedback.” And then I’m on to the next thing.
If I had my way I wouldn’t do annual reviews, if I felt that everybody would be more honest about positive and negative feedback along the way. I think the annual review process is so antiquated. I almost would rather ask each employee to tell us if they’ve had a meaningful conversation with their manager this quarter. Yes or no. And if they say no, they ought to have one. I don’t even need to know what it is. But if you viewed it as meaningful, then that’s all that counts.
Q. How would you say your leadership style has changed over time?
A. I’m calmer. I think that just comes with confidence. I would hate to describe the C.E.O. I was in ’92. I think I was pretty pathetic, actually.
A. Well, I thought it was such a big responsibility. I had public shareholders and I had a board and this is one step you take that’s a pretty big step. There’s a progression in management. The first step you take is when you’re a people manager, and then the next step is when you’re a manager of managers. And then there’s that step when you are on top. And who are you going to complain to now? Because everybody likes to complain to their boss, or their peers.
I think the biggest steps in that progression of a manager are the first and the last. The last because if it’s a public company, you say: “Wait a minute. I have shareholders. I have a board. I have press. I have all these things to juggle and I’m supposed to run this company. And how do I set my time and how perfect do I have to be?” You get that weight of the world on your shoulders and so I think you overreach. I thought I had to know answers that I didn’t have to know. I thought I had to be the biggest cheerleader, and so it just saps a lot of energy out of you because you’re the person that has to be up and on. It’s just a big responsibility.
And then you settle in over time. So I made some people mistakes — like I tried too hard with some people who should have gone earlier. You just make a lot of mistakes that you probably know in your gut are mistakes, but you’re not sure how to twist the organization around. You’re just not as confident. It’s that simple. So I actually wouldn’t have liked working for myself back then.
Q. You came out of retirement to run Yahoo.
A. I was so bored when I retired that I lost that whole section of my life. I mean I could keep reading, but I missed that whole people interaction. I’m somebody who loves politics — I mean politics in the company, as in, how do you help and enable people to get along? It’s not a dirty word. It’s how you organize. People say, “Oh, we don’t have politics.” Everybody has politics. And so be an expert at it. Figure out how to influence people to get things done, as opposed to running and ratting on them.
Q. What’s your best career advice?
A. You need to build your career not as a ladder, but as a pyramid. You need to have a base of experience because it’s a much more stable structure. And so that involves taking lateral moves. And it involves getting out of your comfort zone.
Q. How do you hire?
A. I’m assuming that the people that get to me know their business. But what kind of person are you? Can I stand to have dinner with you? How did you tackle your problems? How does the person think? How do they act? Will they take a little humor? I’m looking for a personality fit. I use humor in my management. I can’t take a person who gets offended by every little thing I say. I always have dinner with them because I want to find out if I’m thinking, after that first glass of wine, how can I get out of here? I have to be able to make it through a dinner.
Q. So what are the red flags?
A. Boring. Too buttoned up. It’s like you’re saying, “O.K., who is under there? How long is it going to take me to find out who you are?” I’m a good listener. I’m good at asking questions.
Q. What should business schools teach more of, or less of?
A. I think there ought to be some classes for people to get more philosophical about who they are and what motivates them, and therefore why they act like they act.
Some of the most fantastic training I’ve had over the years is the tests and the feedback I’ve gotten on what drives me as a person, and to sort of face up to it. What’s important to me and therefore why would I make certain decisions? For instance, I grew up dirt poor. I am constantly in fear of being poor. I’m so far from being poor, it’s crazy, but I’m constantly in fear of being poor. And I know that drives a lot.
Now you could say the dark side of that is maybe that would drive me to make risky decisions that I shouldn’t make. It actually drives me the other way. It drives me to be more conservative, so I’ve had to teach myself to get out of that conservative zone.
It also turns out that I’m an introvert. You would not believe that, would you? And I know I am because introverts have to refuel by being alone. Extroverts — Bill Clinton’s a famous extrovert — have to go to a party. At the end of the day, he comes home tired, and he wants to party. I come home. I suck my thumb and don’t talk to me. I learned how to get down time. Even an hour by myself feeds me.
What motivates you? What are you scared of? Knowing that will help inform how you lead, how you make choices, how you face the day. And I don’t think we do enough of that.
Q. What else?
A. I also think people should understand that they will learn more from a bad manager than a good manager. They tend to get into a cycle where they’re so frustrated that they aren’t paying attention actually to what’s happening to them. When you have a good manager things go so well that you don’t even know why it’s going well because it just feels fine.
When you have a bad manager you have to look at what’s irritating you and say: “Would I do that? Would I make those choices? Would I talk to me that way? How would I do this?”
When people come to me and say, “I can’t work for so-and-so anymore,” I say, “Well, what have you learned from so-and-so?” People want to take a bad situation and say, “Oh, it’s bad.” No, no. You have to deal with what you’re dealt. Otherwise you’re going to run from something and not to something. And you should never run from something. '
60% of student achievement can be attributed to principal and teacher quality, our schools not only need principal training and hiring to be highly selective, but also need school systems, states, and the federal government to redefine the principalship to focus on teachers and students," said Ben Fenton Co-Founder and Chief Strategy and Knowledge Officer at New Leaders for New Schools.
For more, see - http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS197537+15-Oct-2009+PRN20091015
For more, see - http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS197537+15-Oct-2009+PRN20091015
With 2,246 wins (through the end of the 2009 season), he presently ranks 5th in all-time Major League Baseball all-time managerial wins. While the LA Dodgers lost in the National League Championship Series this year, it is revealing to see what Mark Loretta, one of his current players thinks of Torre's leadership style:
"His reputation is something that younger managers I've played for couldn't have," Loretta said. "They don't have the experience he has. His demeanor, his presence, that's another thing that makes him different. He's very even-keel, upbeat, positive. He doesn't say a lot of things, but when he does, people really listen. It has impact.
"You know he's in charge, too. I've played for guys whose leadership skills left something to be desired. He doesn't panic. His mood doesn't impact the team like some managers do. Some guys get disappointed, their lips drag, they get mad at the team and get gruff. That rubs off on a team. You don't see that with Joe."
leadership is a choice made daily.
Captain Sullenberger's new book is entitled, Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters.
Captain Sullenberger's new book is entitled, Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters.
The very act of establishing the award criteria might have at least one positive benefit. It could help drive toward a consensus on the definition of leadership. As it stands now, well-intentioned people often talk past each other when using the term. To some, leadership is equivalent to a position of power and authority, while to others it signifies an influence process. For a start we might consider James MacGregor Burns' notion of "transforming leadership," which he described in his groundbreaking 1978 book, Leadership.
Burns saw transformational leadership as more than brute application of power or mere charisma. Transforming leadership takes place when leaders engage in such a way that both leaders and followers are moved to high levels of motivation and morality. In that process followers are converted into leaders, and leaders can become moral agents.
We might also consider the late Joseph Rost's definition from his 1991 book, Leadership for the 21st Century, in which he argued that leadership is an influence relationship between leaders and followers who aim for change reflects their mutual purposes. In both definitions leaders are those who motivate others, who harness human capacity for change.
It is possible to have mixed feelings about the prospect of a leadership award because there is always a suspicion that the winners might be chosen more due to their notoriety rather than their true leadership excellence. By exalting great singular public figures we ordinary people tend to distance ourselves from the practice of leadership. That is unfortunate when the potential for leadership rests in every person.
Some of our favourite leaders will never appear on the front page, nor will books be written about them. They have names that would only be recognised by those they inspired, but they were magnificent examples nonetheless.
Most of the popular approaches to leadership emphasize one person--the leader--and pay scant attention to myriad others who work in relative obscurity to accomplish great things. One person can make a difference, but they rarely do so alone. At its best leadership is a willing partnership.
It is often said that if you lead and "they" don't follow then it really isn't leadership. If we accept this principle then the Nobel Prize for Leadership could not be awarded to one person. Leadership is a team effort and should be recognised as such.
In both examples, the leaders could be making a mistake. Too often a leadership style is only seen as being about the leaders and not the employee. Employees are seen as needing to be "broken," like a horse, to a particular style. When people don't change in the desired way, a lot of time is spent on trying to fix them.
Instead you may find it more effective to ask yourself whether your leadership techniques are getting you the results that you want. If ruling with an iron fist isn't working then try a few more pats on the back. And vice versa. Keep in mind that this process is not about you but rather it's about generating a positive outcome. As a leader it can be very easy to lose sight of this and instead take staff performance personally. That kind of thinking can create a very antagonistic situation and can isolate you from your team.
College football coaches change their leadership styles all the time. They can't be as demanding of a freshman heavy squad as they would if their team is full of experienced seniors. But in both cases, the ultimate goal is winning the game and getting the most out of the team.
In a perfect world, leaders would be able to install a staff that perfectly fits their style. But most of the time, you inherit employees and you become a part of their existing work culture. In the past, those who didn't fit your style would eventually leave the organisation for a better environment. It's a different story in today's economy, where downsizing and cutbacks have people staying in their current jobs because they don't have anywhere else to go.
Isn't it better to focus on maximising the talents of the team you have in place? Adjusting your style to fit their needs will not only boost productivity but save you from the hassle and expense of hiring and training someone new.
Partners and other leaders in a firm responsible for managing staff need to be highly skilled at getting the best performance from people. But many such professionals will admit that this is not a natural strength. Therefore, good people management and leadership skills appropriate for a modern and successful firm need to be developed.
Obtaining honest and effective feedback from others is an essential stage in learning skills. It is estimated that up to 80% of under-performance in the workplace arises from lack of effective feedback. To develop their people management and leadership skills, those responsible for managing staff need to be made aware of what they are already doing well – so that they can build on those strengths – and also what they could do better.
Perhaps only the truly bold would grasp the nettle in this way, but the good news is that partners and others responsible for managing staff do not have to leave it to their juniors to take the initiative. Many forward-looking firms and other professional organisations are increasingly starting to implement appraisal processes that involve obtaining 360-degree feedback. The ‘360’ means getting feedback not only from partners and others on their juniors, as in traditional appraisal systems, but also from someone’s peers and staff who report to them, giving an all-round, or 360-degree, perspective of performance. Client feedback can also be included, sometimes known as 450-degree feedback, because it includes an extra dimension.
Feedback provided in this way tends to be much more constructive, better received and effective for enhancing performance or behaviour than downward feedback alone. After all, who better to give feedback on a person’s people management skills than the people being managed?
For those on the receiving end, 360-degree feedback can help to reinforce what is already being done well. Receiving this feedback, provided the process is well managed, is usually a very positive experience and helps to build confidence. In our experience, the great majority of 360-degree feedback is constructive and has a positive effect.
Building 360-degree feedback into an appraisal system will also highlight changes that could easily be made that are likely to have a positive impact on the performance of others. Partners and others performing leadership roles are often blissfully unaware of the negative impact some of their behaviours are having on others.
It is natural for some leaders to feel apprehensive about seeking feedback from their staff. But, once involved in the process, most will soon come to appreciate that this is a positive process that can be immensely beneficial, both for them as individuals and for their firm.
One of the most important issues on which leaders need to be consulted is to help clarify the criteria by which they themeselves are to be assessed, by defining what is meant by ‘high performance’, thereby recognising that partners in a professional service firm will contribute to the overall well-being of the firm in different ways. Clearly defining what is expected of partners will also help to provide greater transparency for those seeking to become partners in future.
Partners should also be closely involved in tailoring the feedback and performance management process. There is no single best way to do this – the best way is one that suits your firm and to which partners willingly commit.
By having an independent external facilitator administer the 360-degree feedback process, respondents can be assured of anonymity, which is essential in getting full and frank feedback. An experienced third-party can also assist the process by reviewing all feedback to help ensure that it is constructive. While edits should be kept to a minimum, comments that might damage confidence or be otherwise destructive should be avoided (or at least amended).
Feedback is provided by face-to-face meetings, confidential questionnaires specially tailored for the firm, telephone interviews, or a combination of all of these. We often recommend obtaining ‘upward feedback’ through use of confidential questionnaires, whereas feedback from fellow partners and, if required, clients, is often best achieved by telephone or face-to-face meetings.
The feedback is best when it combines comments as well as quantitative and qualitative feedback. Indeed, the comments are often the most illuminating. The success of a 360-degree appraisal process hinges in particular on having a positive and motivational debrief meeting with each of the partners and others being appraised. We find that many recipients of 360-degree feedback will naturally focus on the negative aspects of the feedback. However, they need to be actively encouraged to see less-positive comments in their proper context if they are to get a balanced view – not as criticisms but as constructive comments designed to help to improve performance, or to change behaviour. Even where 360-degree feedback has highlighted significant points for improvement, partners should leave the meeting having found the process constructive and feeling motivated.
Some firms will prefer to carry out debrief meetings internally, by one or more partners (perhaps a managing partner, plus one other). Where this is the case, we recommend providing training to those who will be carrying out the debrief to help them appreciate how best to conduct these meetings. Like any powerful tool, if used wrongly 360-degree feedback can be damaging. It needs to be handled with care – as a tool and not as a weapon with which to beat people.
Providing leaders with feedback is, of course, only part of the process of improving performance. As well as making them aware of what they are doing well and how they could improve, they should be provided with training and support to help them. Often, we find that clients value objective input in debriefing and coaching partners to respond positively to the feedback they receive, and helping to ensure that an actionable development plan emerges for each partner.
When used correctly, 360-degree feedback can be immensely beneficial for a firm, for the individuals receiving the feedback, and for the people who work with them.