March 12, 2012

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direction confusionWhen someone asks you what leadership style or approach is most effective, the only legitimate answer is, “It depends.” But the next question has to be “Depends on what?”

And that question has probably driven more research and PhD dissertations than any other issue in the field of management.

So I’m going to attempt to answer it here in less than 750 words, based on both my personal experience and a landmark study conducted almost 50 years ago by Ken Blanchard (yes, that Ken Blanchard) and Paul Hersey.

Their research, and the “Situational Leadership” model they developed was first published in 1977 in a book called Management of Organizational Behavior (now in its 9th edition, with Dewey Johnson as a third author).

I believe the Hersey-Blanchard model of leadership remains incredibly powerful and relevant today, but I haven’t seen many references to it recently, so I want to refresh your understanding of it (and mine too, for that matter). [click to continue…]

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leadership

It’s been said that leadership is the most studied and least understood of all subjects in the business world. There are thousands of books about leadership, and just about as many keynote speakers, workshop facilitators, and pundits who claim to have “the” formula for leadership success.

But in spite of all that there is absolutely no easy pathway to being an effective leader. Part of the trouble is that leadership is an all-encompassing activity, required in so many different situations, that there is no single “right way.”

It may be true for all time that one plus one equals two, and that iron is heavier than water, but if you are seeking that kind of certainty about how to lead, I guarantee your search will never end. [click to continue…]

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Group of Diverse Multiethnic People in a MeetingIn case you haven’t noticed, the world has changed just a bit over the last twenty years. The nature of work itself has changed too. Yet too many managers still believe their employees just came from the farm to the city and need to be told what to do as they take their place on the assembly line.

We’re using 19th century industrial-age management practices in a 21st-century age of networked knowledge.

As a result, millions of people are unhappy at work, organizations are operating well below their potential, leaders are frustrated, and almost everyone feels stressed out. In spite of the moderate uptick in the economy no one I know believes things are working they way they should be.

At one level the problem is simple: the world has changed in several fundamental ways, but the way most organizations operate has not. There is a terrible misalignment between the work and the workforce, on the one hand, and our leadership principles and practices, on the other.

As a case in point, in North America alone there are over 11 million corporate meetings held every day – every day! – but I have yet to find anyone who is just dying for their next meeting to start. [click to continue…]

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Source: Library of Congress

Source: Library of Congress

Here in the United States we’ve just completed our annual celebration of the signing of The Declaration of Independence – on July 4th, 1776, the day our founders declared themselves an independent country. We then fought a long, bloody, and bitter war to separate ourselves from Great Britain.

Yet today, the United Kingdom and the United States are mutually supportive allies with many close personal and institutional connections.

In spite of that awful war the two countries obviously have common cultural traditions, common ancestors, common values, and strikingly similar – though not identical – laws and governance structures. Our leaders today understand that we also have common interests, and that, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

In short, the United States may have declared its independence from Great Britain in 1776, but in reality the two countries remain deeply interdependent. And the same is true for our relationships with many other countries.

In fact, I think it’s fair to say that every relationship, at every level, includes strains of both independence and interdependence. [click to continue…]

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huffpo

My latest article on collaborative leadership, “Strength in Numbers: Growing Power by Sharing It,” was just published by The Huffington Post. It has received very positive reviews from a number of people whose judgment I deeply respect.

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Talking About Tomorrow

June 29, 2015

This is an invitation to join an ongoing conversation about the future of work.

direction confusionDo you often wonder where the future of work is headed? Do you have trouble keeping up with all the things impacting the workplace – factors like workforce demographics, new technologies, changing patterns of work, new physical workplace designs, changing social values, and so on, and so on?

We live in a dangerous and unpredictable world, and it often seems impossible to stay on top of everything that matters. I know I find it both frustrating and energizing to live in a world that’s changing as rapidly as ours is today.

The only way I know to stay sane in these conditions is to share both my confusion and my fascination with the future with friends and colleagues, and to learn together as we exchange experiences and insights. [click to continue…]

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strength in numbers

Image: redbubble.com

Forgive me for this: I can’t resist.

I’m writing this note in the midst of San Francisco Bay Area’s giddy euphoria over the Golden State Warriors winning the National Basketball Association Championship for the first time in 40 years (Moses had nothing on us).

Yes, it’s a moment to gloat and rejoice. But it’s also an experience filled with lessons for business leaders. If there is one common theme running through all the newspaper columns and the speeches about the Warriors’ victory, it is how selfless the team members – and the coaching staff – have been all season long.

Yes, Stephen Curry was the league’s Most Valuable Player for the season. And he won the All-Star three-point shooting contest. He’s a genuine superstar – and he is certainly the team’s day-in-day-out leader on and off the court. But he is also genuinely humble. [click to continue…]

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Image of several employees discussing new ideas at meeting

I’ve noted many times that corporate conversations are at the heart of 21st century work. After all, that’s the way most of us communicate with our colleagues, explore issues and opportunities, and make sense out of our experiences.

And I have also reported that there are something like 11 million meetings a day convened in the United States alone. Yet I have difficulty finding anyone who just can’t wait for their next meeting.

Given how much time we spend in meetings and other kinds of conversations, isn’t it worth figuring out which ones are worth holding? [click to continue…]

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Cornell_logo2-1s7ocw0I’ve just returned from a Cornell University class reunion that reminded me of several very important principles that have guided most of my work and my life since I was an undergraduate there fifty years ago.

Today I want to share one of many important insights that emerged out of three days of lectures, conversations, meals, and other on-campus experiences that are better left unmentioned. I have a deep and renewed appreciation that I am who I am today because of my seven years as a Cornell undergraduate and graduate student.

Cornell University is an unusual – and remarkably diverse – institution.

Cornell was founded in 1865 (shortly after the end of the Civil War) when Ezra Cornell created the campus by donating his farmland on the hills above Ithaca, New York, and bringing to life his vision of “an institution where any person could find instruction in any study.” [click to continue…]

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