Three leadership books ‘favorited’ by executive business students in Miami

July 23, 2014

Miami July 2014 003

A group of executive MBA students in Miami selected three books as having influenced their personal leadership thinking and actions

The books add to results in a data base of books nominated by executive students around the world in upwards of 200 workshops conducted each year.

Long walk to freedom by Nelson Mandela

This classic has been frequently nominated for our data base. It was chosen by the student team for its insights into ‘a moral and unique leader…..the book has inspired me by encompassing all aspects of moral leadership

The servant by James Hunter

This is a book on servant leadership. ‘The essence of leadership is serving the needs of others’. Leadership is characterized as authority through intention plus action. The book was chosen ‘because it worked for me..

Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull

The third selection was Creativity Inc, by Ed Catmull, head of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation. It is the account of leadership in Pixar, one of the world’s creative organizations and pioneer of screen animation with Disney. The nomination was for its suggestions for ‘leadership encouraging the best from others’


Dilemmas of leadership: Test your judgement on creative leadership

June 5, 2014

Dilemmas of Leadership 2nd EdnTest your judgement on this five minute quiz on creative leadership. The questions are based on the chapter on creative leadership in the textbook Dilemmas of Leadership.

The challenge

A sample of students helped ‘test the test’ and scored around 60% (3-10 range).

Click this link to find the quiz


Maya Angelou: She did not remain mute

May 30, 2014

I know why the caged bird sings

Words, voice, intellect, vision combine to give us Maya Angelou’s moving story

Maya Angelou [Marguerite Annie Johnson, 1928-1014] died peacefully this week at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S. Her Words, voice, intellect, vision combine to give us Maya Angelou’s moving story.

US President Barack Obama has led the tributes to Maya Angelou, describing the poet, author and activist as “one of the brightest lights of our time”. He hailed Angelou, who has died aged 86, as “a brilliant writer, a fierce friend and a truly phenomenal woman”.

Mr Obama gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian award, in 2011. He said: “Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things – an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer.

“But above all, she was a storyteller – and her greatest stories were true.

A very public figure

Maya Angelou became a very public figure. Her achievements defy simple enumeration or ranking. Maya speaks of it most eloquently in her six major autobiographical works, including I know why the caged bird sings.

The words influenced a political movement, and inspired a generation of Americans as she gave witness to the possibility of personal triumph over the most severe and cruel circumstances of her early life.

Her words resonate with emotional power and yet without a trace of sentimentality or self-pity. They are neither humble nor hindered by any intruding egoism:

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.

Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.

Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

Maya Angelou, RIP


AstraZeneca takeover by Pfizer. Where do you stand?

May 12, 2014

LWD subscriber Professor Gordon Pearson has set up a petition to the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, demanding they refer Pfizer’s takeover of AstraZeneca to the Competition and Markets Authority for clearance. You are invited to the debate

The petition

The takeover of AstraZeneca would be destructive of competition, lead to further abuse of the NHS and of public health, result in massive tax avoidance in UK and the US as well as damaging the national interest in terms of high quality jobs, research and science. The mechanisms for preventing such a damaging takeover are in place but are being ignored. The Competition and Markets Authority was set up by this government with the prime duty “to promote competition, both within and outside the UK, for the benefit of consumers.” Referring the deal to the CMA should be the very first step for the government to take.

If you agree with this analysis, you can sign the petition though this link.

The debate is already raging in the UK. The leaders of Pfizer and of AstraZeneca, and Vince Cable are due to appear before a parliamentary committee as this post is being prepared.

A Guardian article suggests questions that should be asked by the committee members.

Questions for Ian Read, chief executive of Pfizer

1 How can you guarantee this takeover will not jeopardise Britain’s position in scientific research and development?
2 Are you doing this primarily to avoid a multimillion dollar tax bill in the US?
3 On what grounds would you go hostile?
The proposed £63bn takeover is in the “friendly” stage. AstraZeneca has turned down three approaches and under British takeover rules Pfizer must put in a formal offer by 26 May.

Questions for Pascal Soriot, chief executive of AstraZeneca

1 What reassurances can you give that British R&D will continue to prosper under a stand-alone AstraZeneca?
2 If you survive this bid, what assurances can you give us that you won’t fall prey to another takeover in the future?
3 You have repeatedly rejected Pfizer’s offers and said you want to remain an independent company, yet you have asked the government not to intervene to protect you. Why?

Questions for Vince Cable, business secretary

1 How are you going to ensure this does not become another Cadbury-Kraft fiasco?
2 Is the coalition split on how to react to the deal?
3 Does the government have the legal right to intervene?

Your comments and views (whether you agree or disagree) will be welcomed by other subscribers to Leaders we deserve.


Ford gets its succession planning right with Alan Mulally and now Mark Fields

May 2, 2014

Ford seems to have managed the transition from dynastic leadership well, beginning with the appointments of Alan Mulally and now Mark Fields. The appointment even succeeded in exorcising the ghost of the anti-Semitism of its founder, a Century earlier

My inclination is to test leadership stories for their hidden side. So this feel-good story of leadership success appeared to require rigorous testing. After all, I reasoned, The Ford PR department would want to project a good-news story. I was pleasantly surprised. For once they had little need for any great display of the dark arts of their profession.

A balanced scorecard

I first came across the story in The Detroit News, which is a bit like going to the Vatican for a balanced scorecard on the Pope’s leadership achievements. The News [May 1st 2014] tells how close the mighty Ford Empire was to extinction in 2006. The last throw was for the dynasty to euthanize itself and appoint Alan Mulally, a well-chosen Ford insider, but not a scion of the Ford family:

”We’ve had very few, maybe ever, a planned and smooth transition, all the way back to my great-grandfather,” William Ford Jr. said from the [Corporate headquarters, Thursday April 30th]. Mulally, 68, came to Ford from Boeing Co. in September 2006 to engineer one of the greatest business turnarounds in American history. When he retires July 1, and Fields, 53, assumes the CEO position for which he was passed over eight years ago, it will truly be the final act of Mulally’s historic reign in Dearborn.

Leadership chops

Other articles recounted a similar tale of two great leadership appointments. The headline in the Autonews article suggested that Fields has ‘the leadership chops’ which roughly translated is leadership presence and ability’ to silence critics

Critics?

Criticism of Fields has been mild, and Mostly about him being an MBA and a Harvard MBA. And a hint that he has been known to square-up physically in meetings when things go wrong.

The exorcism

There were a few mentions of the fact that Ford had put to rest the anti-Semitism that haunted the company since the days of its founder Henry Ford. My source, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency has the same reputation for balanced reporting as the as the mythical Vatican agency with its gleeful headline “Take that, Henry Ford! Car company goes from anti-Semitic founder to new Jewish COO” on Fields’ promotion in 2012.

The succession plan

Bill Ford’s comments showed more than a hint of satisfaction at the succession planning that went so well.

“From the first day we discussed Ford’s transformation eight years ago, Alan and I agreed that developing the next generation of leaders and ensuring an orderly CEO succession were among our highest priorities,” Ford said. “Mark has transformed several of our operations around the world into much stronger businesses during his 25 years at Ford. Now, Mark is ready to lead our company into the future as CEO.”

Behind the headlines

Behind the headlines there are interesting issues to be considered. Is the story just great leadership from the time the last Ford in the dynasty,saw it was time to introduce an outsider? Then great leadership by Mulally in turning around the behemoth organization, and now the prospect of a third great leader, Mark Fields at the top? If so, we have a traditional account in the spirit of natural born leaders. Or again, we might wish to examine the story as an example of distributed leadership, which is more likely to defuse power struggles and encourage corporate morale.

For Fordists everywhere

Those wishing to, can purchase from the Detroit News a framed photo of Alan Mulally shaking hands with Mark Fields, with a beaming Bill Ford looking on.

To be continued


Child whisperers and big bucks boot camps

April 22, 2014

Wilderness therapy is attracting interest in the USA. We ask what is behind the approach, and whether it justifies the expense

This week, [April 22nd 2014] BBC drew attention to Eddie Curry, whose wilderness therapy sessions are operated in the desolate hills of Southern Utah, and are reported as lasting two months. The story focuses on one practitioner, so that generalizations come with an assumption alert:

The 45-year-old father knows how out-of-control teenagers tick – he used to be one. More than six feet tall aged 15, there was always plenty of opportunity for trouble. By 17, he was drinking a lot and getting in regular fistfights with his estranged father.

Parents at their wits end find Curry through internet searches, the wilderness programmes he works with or just by word of mouth. And they hire him for all sorts of reasons – drug and alcohol problems, violence and trouble with the police are among them. Often, more conventional treatment like therapy has failed or been refused.

“If you have me there, it’s gotten to the point where talking is done. There is no conversation happening or very little. And the little bit the parents are getting is usually yelling and screaming.”
Many families take out loans and re-mortgage houses to get their child help – a British parent will pay up to $6,000 (£3,500) to get Curry to come to the UK.
Almost every child says: “You’re not going to make me go. I’m not going.” Many children get hysterical, many cry. Some go berserk. To Curry, these kinds of reaction are only natural.

“I always put myself in these kids’ shoes. If I had some guy come into my room at five o’clock in the morning and break this news to me, I’d be annoyed.”

That’s not to say that he believes a word they say though.

“Most of the kids I pick up are just liars trying to get out of going. They’ll look you straight in the eye and lie. But I listen to their stories. I show them compassion. These are kids, not criminals. They might be doing some illegal stuff but they’re just kids that are screwing up, making bad decisions and hanging out with the wrong people. They’re not bad kids. I just wear them down. I’m not going to lose. I tell them that not going is not an option.”

Wilderness therapy has existed across the US for decades, and supporters say it results in better communication between the child and parents, increased self-confidence, and even better academic results.

“The key thing is that it disrupts negative patterns of behaviour and allows us to help them learn and establish some new healthy behaviours and ways of interacting with others,” says Steve Demille of RedCliff Ascent, one of the companies operating in Utah.

But Nicki Bush, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, warns that camps are not the silver bullet parents are hoping for and pay a “ludicrous” amount of money for it.
And though Curry only takes children who agree to go, he says, Prof Bush says many children find being escorted to camps a traumatic experience, and often perceive it as an abduction.

Tough love?

The BBC headline of child whisperers suggests that the approach is comparable to the work of horse whisperers. If that is the case, the method is based on tough love, and favouring the non-violent over violent methods of influence. As with horse whispering, it attracts publicity and cynicism particularly about claims for its effectiveness. In that respect, I was reminded of the story I came across [July 2013] of a therapy involving walking on hot coals.


Dating site wins battle with Mozzila over gay rights stance of CEO Eich

April 4, 2014

The dating site OkCupid launched an on-line attack on the web-browser Mozilla for the perceived anti-gay stance of Mozilla’s new CEO Brendan Eich. Within days, Eich and other board members of Mozilla resigned

I noted this story as I am a user of Mozilla’s Firefox browser. I am also interested in the dilemmas behind leadership decisions, as these offer excellent starting points for making sense of leadership stories. Is this a moral stance or a publicity-seeking piece of PR, I wondered.

A dilemma

Here’s my personal dilemma. I approve of the overall philosophy behind the ‘open-source’ policy of Firefox. The browser serves my purposes reasonably well, with one distinct advantage over rivals who seem increasingly activating business models blatantly putting their commercial interests over the needs of their users. So there are ethical and pragmatic reasons for me to continue to support Mozzila’s Firefox.

It’s April Fool’s day

I came across the when scanning for April Fool’s day stories, and was suspicious of its authenticity at first. If it is a prank, it had been widely reported.

An ethical dilemma

So the ethical issue for me is an example of what Susan Sucher of Harvard calls the right versus right dilemma.

A tipping point?

I hesitate to use the term tipping point, but that’s how the story developed. A few days later, [April 3rd, 2014] pressure from its own Firefox users was followed by the resignation of the CEO and other members of the board. Here’s how the BBC’s Dave Lee reported it:

Brendan Eich was appointed just last month but came in for heavy criticism for his views on same-sex marriage. Mozilla’s executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker announced the decision in a blog post. Mr Eich, who co-founded Mozilla and was also the creator of the JavaScript scripting language, made a $1,000 (£600) donation in 2008 in support of Californian anti-gay marriage law Proposition 8. When the announcement of Mr Eich’s appointment was made [24 March, 2014] angry users voiced their opinions on social media. Several high-profile Mozilla employees also weighed in.

Three board members resigned in the weekend following Mr Eich’s appointment – but Mozilla said the events were not linked. But the most damaging act of protest came via dating website OkCupid. Users who went to the site using Mozilla’s Firefox browser were greeted with a message that read: “Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience. Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla.

I didn’t see that coming.


The Co-operative Group: A noble business failure?

March 12, 2014

The Co-operative Group has its place in the social and political history of modern Britain. Yet it is in deep crisis as its departing leader Euan Sutherland declares it ‘ungovernable’

On March 11th 2014 the following statement appeared on the website of The Co-operative Group

The Co-operative Group announces that Euan Sutherland has resigned as Group Chief Executive with immediate effect. Richard Pennycook, Chief Financial Officer, has been appointed as Interim Group Chief Executive.

The statement then quoted its former CEO’s damning indictment of its professionalism and governance:

“It is with great sadness that I have resigned as Chief Executive. I have given my all to the business and had hoped to be able to lead its revival. However, I now feel that until the Group adopts professional and commercial governance it will be impossible to implement what my team and I believe are the necessary changes and reforms to renew the Group and give it a relevant and sustainable future.

“Saving The Co-operative Bank and with it The Co-operative Group from administration was a huge task, but the changes required do not stop there, with fundamental modernisation needed to safeguard the future for our 90,000 colleagues and millions of members.

“The Group must reduce its significant debt and drive major efficiencies and growth in all of its businesses, but to do so also urgently needs fundamental governance reform and a revitalised membership.

“I will not accept the retention payments and long term incentive payments previously agreed for the delivery and protection of value in the Group and the Bank, even though this was successfully delivered. “I would like to thank all of the Co-op’s hard working colleagues for the support they have given me during my time. I wish them all well. The Co-operative has some wonderful people who deserve a great future.”

Concealing more than it says

Even without further background knowledge by the reader, the news item is of interest to any student of leadership. [Hint to tutors. Try redacting the name of the company and offer the resignation statement for class discussion.]

The resignation statement may be read as a farewell message, concealing more than it says. Why did the CEO fail to achieve the ‘fundamental modernisation’ he believed necessary? What does a revitalised membership imply? How do we interpret the statement that ‘The Co-operative has some wonderful people who deserve a great future.’

A missing story

As editor of LWD I am disappointed that after 1000 posts I have not reported one that dealt directly with the important history and current financial problems of the Co-operative Society. Even a juicy scandal earlier this year did not warrant a mention, although it led to the departure of Euan Sutherland’s predecessor. The story is one which includes one of the most powerful forces towards an alternative capitalism merging socialist ideals with self-help and corporate effectiveness.

What do you think?

I will offer more of the story as an addition to this post. In the meanwhile, I would be particularly interested in receiving the views of LWD subscribers who are unfamiliar with the history of the group, and their assessment of the situation as indicated in Euan Sutherland’s resignation statement.


Three Keys to Culture Transformation

January 30, 2014

Diana Rivenburgh

by Diana Rivenburgh

[Guest Blog Post]

What causes cultures to run amok? Why do people do things they never thought they would? Perhaps the most important question is “what can we do to create ethical, high-performance, engaged cultures?”

Simply scan the daily headlines to find evidence of dysfunctional cultures:

“Pfizer caught running global bribery network,”

“JP Morgan Chase Will Pay $13 Billion in Record Settlement,”

“Cheating Probe Roils Philadelphia Schools.”

What causes cultures to run amok? Why do people do things they never thought they would? Perhaps the most important question is “what can we do to create ethical, high-performance, engaged cultures?”

Toxic Cultures

While there’s no lack of examples of toxic cultures, there are many organizations where people love their work, go above and beyond, strive for innovation and collaborate for greater results. Culture does more than create a great place to work.

Research over several decades from Denison Consulting and others clearly shows the correlation between culture and every financial and productivity measure you can think of.

Three keys for culture transformation

Whether you seek to create the culture for your new firm or change an existing one, focus your efforts on three keys for culture transformation – lead, engage and align.

Lead: Toxic leaders create toxic cultures. Vibrant leaders create vibrant cultures. Culture begins to form from the very beginning based on the founder’s vision, values and style, and continues to evolve as new leaders join.

Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz held faithfully to the company’s values even when, in 2008, the company’s stock price dropped 52% and its fourth quarter earnings were down 97%. Shultz firmly believes that making money and raising stock prices are shallow goals unless they are linked to creating value for society and people. This commitment paid off as the company’s stock percolated up to record earnings.

Engage: Engaged employees bring their best to work every day, go above and beyond, invest extra time and effort, and find ways to continuously improve and innovate. Organizations with highly engaged workforces identify individual strengths, place people in roles that fit these strengths, develop strong leaders and managers and create the right work environment for success.

Novo Nordisk, the world’s leading provider of insulin, recognizes the value of culture and employee engagement to its business success. This Danish-based pharmaceutical company audits employee engagement every year and requires all its managers to have engagement plans in place. Managers work with employees to identify strengths and set them up for success by placing them in roles where they can tap into these assets.

Align: Every organization operates with management systems comprised of processes, policies and practices for hiring, training, performance management, communication, compensation and governance. All of these as well as its organizational structure and workspace design must align to achieve the desired culture.

A client of ours was dealing with chaos and frustration after going through multiple acquisitions. Identifying and changing many of their systems, practices and structures to align to their strategy and desired culture resulted in stronger collaboration, higher engagement, improved client satisfaction and greater profitability.

Take a look at your organization to determine the ways you can lead better, engage your people, and align your management practices to achieve the high performance culture needed to realize your company’s vision and achieve its strategic goals.

The author

Diana Rivenburgh @sustainableorgs is a consultant, speaker, recovering corporate executive, and author of The New Corporate Facts of Life and is a Top 100 Thought Leader for Trustworthy Business 2014.


Lord McAlpine, (1942-2014) colourful politician and author of books including The New Machiavelli

January 18, 2014

Lord McAlpine was a successful businessman turned conservative Politician and political author of fiction and non-fiction including a book on The New Machiavelli. He attracted controversy for a somewhat individualistic lifestyle and successfully defended himself in 2012 against allegations in the media.

You can read more in an earlier post
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