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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

America's Inspirational President

President Obama's recent achievement on healthcare has not just rebutted critics, it has slain doubts. His election campaign promised the triumph of imagination and optimism over weary resignation. His slogan "Yes we can!" was meant to answer an implicit question over the ability of politics ever to be a vehicle for meaningful change.

President Obama revisited that theme in a brilliant speech on the eve of the healthcare vote. He asked veteran parliamentarians to recall what inspired them to get involved in politics in the first place. He invited them to fan the embers of their idealism back into flames of conviction. He used the power of pure oratory to change the boundaries of what his audience considered possible in politics. It is hard to imagine any of the current generation of British politicians mobilising anyone that way.

We may have watched much of the US debate on healthcare with bafflement. But we can also witness with envy the manner in which the argument was won by the president and feel inspired.


Confidence in Leadership

The Korn/Ferry Institute's Confidence in Leadership Index shows that support for CEOs worldwide has inched up over the past year, and that optimism about the direction of leadership is again on the rise. 

The survey of executives from 13 nations also found that those working in the developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China are the most positive about the direction of corporate leadership. Those in United States and the United Kingdom remain the least optimistic.

The study focuses on opinions of global executives about the leadership within their organisations. The analysis revealed interesting trends over the past year. Of six "layers" of corporate leadership (from self-assessed rankings of one's own leadership ability to credibility of the C-suite and board of directors), only CEOs showed quarter-over-quarter improvement. The mean score for CEOs has gained four points, from 67 in Q2 2009, to 71 in Q1 2010.

In addition, data shows wide differences in how executives around the globe feel about the direction of corporate leadership. On a scale from -100 (getting worse) to +100 (getting better), China, India, Brazil and Russia expressed the strongest view that their corporate leadership is improving, posting marks of 53, 52, 44 and 26 respectively against a global mean of 22. The mean scores of Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. were slightly negative: -1, -4 and -5 respectively, representing the bottom three positions.

Globally, the Direction of Leadership index climbed by 3.7 points to 26.3 in Q1 — the high for the last 12 months.

Significant findings from the full-year analysis include:

  • India's executives rank the credibility of its CEOs (81) and the credibility of corporate leadership in general (78) highest among 13 countries in the global sample. The global mean for CEO credibility was 69 and for corporate leadership in general it was 70.
  • Canada (83), Australia (81) and the U.S. (78) are the most trusting of their corporate leaders to adhere to ethical business practices. Japan (59) and Italy (57) fell well below the global average of 70.
  • The ability to deal with business strategy was the factor the surveyed executives found most important.
Significant findings from Q1 2010 include:

  • North American executives continue to rank that region's overall corporate leadership highest for credibility, with a score of 75 on a 100-point scale. Europeans' ranking of their leadership declined by two points, back to its Q1 2009 low of 63. The global average is 70.
  • Every category in the Leadership Trust Index slipped in Q1 2010, and the overall Leadership Trust Index declined by three points to 69.
  • The optimism gap narrowed. North America jumped 10.2 points last quarter on a scale from -100 to +100, but remained the least optimistic region.  Central/South America dropped 5.6 points but remained the most optimistic region.
The Confidence in Leadership Index asks executives in 13 countries questions that produce metrics for: 1) credibility of leadership; 2) trust of leadership; 3) leadership characteristics ("factors"); and 4) direction of leadership. The study has been fielded quarterly since Q2 2009. The Q1 survey was fielded by Braun Research, Inc. Feb. 19-26, 2010.


Visualising Leadership

For the past decade, Chris Maxwell, associate director of the Wharton School’s Undergraduate Leadership Programme, and Anne M. Greenhalgh, the Programme’s director, have begun their foundation course for Wharton undergraduates with a simple question – “How would you describe the essence of leadership?”   

They ask each student to find or create an image that captures the essence of leadership and to explain why in a short essay.  Over time, Maxwell and Greenhalgh have used these essays to search the most frequently used words in order to construct the overarching story the students tell, and they have used the student’s images and essays to create in-class exercises and to foster classroom discussion.  

Here are the most often used words:

The Wordle image makes clear that the primary subject of the students’ leadership story is an individual leader in the context of people, team, group, and other.   The primary qualities that describe leadership are moral; in students’ eyes, the leader is good, great, ableand true.  In addition, the Wordle highlights that the students most frequently refer to the subject of leadership as his. Finally, taken as a whole, overtly transformational actions such as make, show, inspire, help, and believe are twice as prevalent as the transactional actions take and order.    


Team Spirit

Team Spirit is a value of Positive Leadership.

‘An eagerness to sacrifice personal interests or glory for the welfare of all. The team comes first.’ John Wooden

Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.' Michael Jordan

Here are some reference materials which speak to this value: