Developing global leaders

October 25, 2013

Leaders We Deserve subscribers are invited to view and use a presentation on Developing Global Leaders, which is trending at the moment on slideshare

The presentation by LWD founder and editor Tudor Rickards suggests that Global Leadership is increasingly concerned with dealing creatively with complex business dilemmas. The presentation was produced to accompany the textbook Dilemmas of Leadership.


Lessons for Leaders from the People Who Matter (Followers)

February 20, 2012

Tracy Killen John Lewis PartnershipAn international report, Lessons for Leaders from the People Who Matter, finds two thirds of employees found their line managers ineffective, and a half were rated as lacking empathy. In contrast, Tracey Killen of the John Lewis Partnership (pictured above) suggests a way of improving matters.

The survey for DDI [Development Dimensions International] by Harris International pollsters was reported in HR Magazine :

Simon Mitchell, director at DDI UK and one of the report authors, said: “We wanted to hear how the customers of leaders themselves saw their managers and bosses. These findings should be of enormous concern to any business. They show that leaders are failing in their obligation to employees and, therefore, their organisation. The consequences of managers and bosses with poor leadership skills are enormous, and the impact good leaders have in terms of employee motivation and productivity are significant.”

The report found one in three respondents (34%) only sometimes or never consider their leader to be effective, and over a third (37%) are only sometimes or never motivated to give their best by their leader.
The survey also found nearly half (45%) of respondents think they could be more effective than their manager, but only 46% would actually want to. Respondents cited the additional stress, responsibility and pressure as reasons for staying where they were. This has implications for the future supply of leaders.

Mitchell continues, “Workers report that managers fail to ask for their ideas and input, are poor at work related conversations and do not provide sufficient feedback on their performance, so it’s no wonder employee engagement levels are low. Leaders remain stubbornly poor at these fundamental basics of good leadership that have little to do with the current challenging business climate. It’s important that organisations equip the people managing their workforce with these basic leadership essentials, and that managers are aware of their own blind spots in these areas. The good news for businesses and employees alike is that many of these leadership skills can be learnt.”

The Good News

The good news expressed in the news story supports the views held by those who believe in leadership development. It leaves open the vital questions of the nature of those ‘fundamental basics of good leadership’,how to ‘equip the people managing their workforce with these basic leadership essentials’,how to ‘raise [managers’ awareness] of their own blind spots in these areas’,and how ‘many of these leadership skills can be learnt’.

The Dilemmas

The dilemmas for business are clear. Many leaders today are appointed after some form of appraisal. DDI, authors of the report, are themselves advocates of the battery of assessment methods available to identify leaders (and, as its corporate name suggests, to develop their potential). One of the oldest leadership dilemmas is whether leaders are born or made. The report suggests they can be identified (‘born’) and developed ‘made’. The evidence suggests also that for the most-part that leaders are too often failing to show either natural or developed leadership capabilities.

To go more deeply

Of interest is the approach followed by John Lewis partnership through which HR is placed more centrally with corporate operations in this highly successful and unusually democratic organization. The image above is of Tracy Killen, HR director of John Lewis Partnership. The link outlines the way in which John Lewis integrates HR with the planning and operations of the company.

See also Training Industry’s list of top 20 leadership training companies (which includes DDI).


Business consultancy appoints classical ballet dancer

August 15, 2008

A former ballet dancer has been appointed to apply his leadership skills to help individuals and teams survive and thrive in corporate environments. Lee Fisher joins the ranks of horse whisperers, therapists, actors, poets, magicians, entrepreneurs, explorers, firewalkers and voice coaches who have appeared in support of leadership development courses

Our eagle-eyed technology correspondent sent us the story of Lee Fisher, the latest addition to the ranks of personal development consultants. No, I don’t know whether there is a technology link, or whether he just likes ballet.

According to the publicity release, Lee has joined Lane4 which was co-founded by Olympic gold medalist Adrian Moorhouse, and Sport Psychologist Graham Jones. Lee is artistic director of Freefall Dance Company, a company for young dancers with severe learning disabilities.

Lee trained at the Royal Ballet School and enjoyed 17 years as a soloist with the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Since retiring from full time performing in 2005, Lee has made guest appearances in London, Shanghai, Birmingham and Oxford.

He was the Dance Fellow 2005/06 on the Core Leadership Programme – an initiative that identifies and develops leaders in the cultural sector. The programme included leadership training, mentoring and placements at the Eden Project and BBC2.

Ruth Cavender, head of human resources at Lane4 commented: “We’re always on the look out for talented individuals. We’re not necessarily looking for qualified trainers … we’re seeking candidates from diverse backgrounds who don’t necessarily [have formal qualifications but] have a ‘degree in excellence.’ From our experience, candidates from the worlds of psychology, organisational development, performance and elite sport make great [Lane4] performance consultants.”

Ballet and rugby training

The story took me back many years to a failing rugby team in Wales. Shock tactics were called for. After one defeat too many for the exasperated coach, players turned up for evening training, to find they were to be taken through their paces by a frail-looking waif who turned out to be borrowed from a school of ballet down by Cardiff.

The puzzled and grizzled forwards were told that their line-out leaps work was in need of improvement. They would, after the right training, leap like salmon. Their new coach explained that they would first have to learn some new exercises he was going to show them.

An hour later they dragged their sorry limbs off the pitch. Ballet training did have something to teach the local rugby heroes. It taught them they were not as fit as they thought they were.

I’d like to say the team went on to win the Welsh league, and that it was all down to ballet training. But they didn’t. Even in the interests of a good story, I must confess that the training never went much further than a short sharp shock, and a news story in the Western Mail, that weekend.

Leadership Development and Ballet

Why not? As I mulled over this news item I recalled the more recent story of Tai Chi and ‘cow whispering’ as the secret weapon for a rugby team. After which, the application of ballet principles for leadership development did not seem quite so bizarre.

I started listing other leadership development approaches I have come across. Sporting celeberities are taken for granted as possible leadership role models. So are military heroes. But what about horse whisperers, actors, fire-walkers, poets, magicians, entrepreneurs, explorers, and now ballet dancers?

Which says a lot for the belief in the leadership development fraternity in the transfer of learning from one field to another. Or maybe I should say, from one stage to another.

Acknowledgements

To Jeff Butler, Editor R&D Management, for sending in the story, which can also be traced to a personnel review item.

To San Francisco Sentinel for the Ballet image


Leadership Development: Try Harder, Want it More

July 22, 2008

Leadership courses are full of life-enhancing bits of advice. Do they work in theory? More to the point, do the courses work in practice?

The other week I came across a news article about leadership. It took a very cynical view of leadership development experiences. It was also very funny. I showed it to someone. After she stopped laughing, she went off to the photocopier with the newspaper to share a little humour with her friends. That’s how word of mouth marketing used to work.

Now, so help me, I am doing the same, assisting the virus to spread electronically.

Later

The article appeared in The Independent, [May 6th 2008] and was written by commentator Gary Mckeone. Gary had sought refuge as a journalist, after escaping from the Arts Council. As you do.

He writes from a deeply wounding personal development experience. His words make compelling reading:

…. take the leadership training course, there to make us all masters of the public sector universe. We’re gathered in a field at 8.30 one morning, with bamboo canes, a rubber band, a pencil, some string and a hard-boiled egg. Our mission – to construct a device that will propel said egg as far as possible across the field. Genius. From just such challenges are leaders forged. In the distance cud-chewing cows stare across a hedge at us. They’re laughing.

The jargon is, of course, endemic; the elephant in the room, to helicopter (apparently something to do with seeing the bigger picture) and the endless diagrams, all circles and arrows, the little yellow post-its we stick on the wall with our individual, life-changing “promise” indicating how we will be better managers: “I will talk more strategically to my staff”, “I will value the opinions of others”, “I will trust others to trust me to trust them”, “I will throw myself out of a helicopter”, “I want to be a cow”.
Enforced light relief only increases the horror. This usually happens on the last night, when a glimmer of escape fuels the frivolity. At breakfast we’re given the instruction in that “let’s-all-have-some-fun-in-a-strategic-kind-of-way” voice. We’re going to form teams, rehearse a performance piece based on what we’ve learned on our course and, after supper, we’ll perform the pieces for each other in the Rest & Reflect Room. Dear God.

Think of a never-ending nursery-school play minus the innocence. Here come five senior managers pretending to be helicopters, blades whirring, all chug-chug noises and formation flying, eyes ablaze with earnestness; they’ve gone over to the other side leaving behind any semblance of the real world; they are now leaders, their faces shining with the ardour of the convert. Their piece is a dramatization of a policy document called “Diversity and Inclusion: A Paradigm for Progress.” All irony is suspended.
We applaud vigorously; we cheer; we have to. The only way through this agony is to subscribe to the illusion. We’re all in this together. I won’t tell if you won’t. Sure wasn’t it fun? Damn the expense, we’re worth it.

Calling all leadership development trainers/gurus

There are some of us who believe that leadership develpment courses do make a difference.

Are we going to let Gary get away with this sort of stuff? One way forward is to borrow his story for your courses, on the technical grounds of prolepsis (anticipating someone’s argument to turn it to your advantage). ‘This not one of those unreflective and cringe-making courses’, you might say.

Out of the mouths of babes ..

In some contrast to the cathartic writing of Gary Mckeone, take a look at the work of someone identified only as Syd (aged 13) His inspired image seemed so apt. I couldn’t find such a nice picture involving five managers playing at being a helicopter squadron).

I stumbled upon Syd on the girlshorseclub site while browsing for images for an earlier post about intelligent horsemanship.

As young Syd (aged 13) put it:

Change is hard. Change is good. But it’s time for me and all you other riders experiencing the same thing to wake up and smell the coffee. It’s time for us to buck up and try harder.

Well done, Syd lad. At the tender age of thirteen, you have already acquired leadership wisdom, and you write clearly.

You share this month’s water-cooler moment award with Gary. Would you like to become a journalist?

Or perhaps a leadership development guru?

Or maybe put your name down for an action research PhD in business studies? There’s a nice one which is the brainchild of Laurie Taylor, Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, University of Poppleton, laurie.taylor@poppleton.ac.uk. For more information contact Dr Mary Taylor OBE, Centre for Academic Development, University of Poppleton, mary.taylor@poppleton.ac.uk.


The Reinvention of Apprenticeship: Alan Sugar’s Variation

April 25, 2008


Apprenticeship has ancient origins, and has reinvented itself as time goes by. Alan Sugar’s celebrity version for the BBC is a recent modification. Its viability as a leadership development approach is examined

I have expressed reservations about The Apprentice in earlier posts. It seems unlikely that many more series will be commissioned.
Nevertheless, it has had enough social impact to warrant some critical attention not as entertainment, but as a possible template for leadership development.

I decided to dig a little deeper into the history of apprenticeship, and compare its dynamics with other approaches for identifying and developing potential leaders.

A short history of the apprenticeship model

Historical studies sometimes only hint at the justified reputation that apprenticeship was often exploitative and one of the targets of social revolutionaries.

Since time immemorial, people have been transferring skills from one generation to another in some form of apprenticeship. Four thousand years ago, the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi provided that artisans teach their crafts to youth. The records of Egypt, Greece, and Rome from earliest times reveal that skills were still being passed on in this fashion. When youth in olden days achieved the status of craft workers, they became important members of society. Their prestige in England [sic] centuries ago is reflected in a dialog from the Red Book of Hergest, a 14th-century Welsh [sic] Bardic manuscript:

“Open the door! “I will not open it. “Wherefore not? “The knife is in the meat, and the drink is in the horn, and there is revelry in Arthur’s Hall; and none may enter therein but the son of a King of a privileged country, or a craftsman bringing his craft.”

An excellent historical review from the 1920s traces the origins in England to the 11th –century. It cites Ricart’s Kalendar (I like that) from the 14th century thus:

It is said that any man having an apprentice may sell or devise his said apprentice in the same manner as his chattel

The article further notes that

Subsequent legal cases tested the principle which eventually became accepted as the right more precisely to dispose of the office or apprenticeship not the apprentice as a chattel.

Phew. That’s a relief.

Sitting with Nellie

Wasn’t that a bit like the 20th century approach fondly remembered as Sitting with Nellie?

Turns out the origins of the term still defeat blog surfers. I remember it in the context of apprentice training in Northern engineering and textiles organizations. Steve Holden reports that the widely-used phrase can also be found in the USA, where he links the term to the apprenticeship model, but also suggests its value for 21st Century work requirements the open-source world.

Another insightful summary comes from the Institute of Physics

Organisational knowledge creation takes place when knowledge acquisition is managed to form a continuous cycle. This happens particularly effectively in self-organised teams, where members share tacit knowledge and talking brings it to the surface. They exchange thoughts and experiment with new methods and ideas; they initiate problem-solving routines and manage and repair the social context within which they work. Concepts are refined and redefined and then shared with other staff, developing and emerging in more concrete, explicit form through an iterative process of trial and error.
Knowledge can then be transmitted by a process of internalising, of learning-by-doing so that tacit knowledge spreads within the company. The distinction between tacit and explicit knowledge helps to explain why, up to a point, “sitting by Nellie” (now an unfashionable concept) can work where “translating learning to the workplace” from training often does not.

The Apprenticeship Model Revisited

The Apprenticeship model is not without merit. We might agree with the Knowledge Management argument that it is a version of Sitting with Nellie which works ‘where “translating learning to the workplace” from training often does not’.

The self-referential frenzy whipped up by the BBC during The Apprentice run involves increasing number of interviews with ‘losers’ and even panels voting on ‘Was Sir Alan right to fire ….?’ thus keeping the story going from day to day.

These exercises are a bit too voyeuristic for me, and arre anyway open to a more detailed cultural analysis than I have time to make. (Anyone out there interested?).

My impression is of a number of captivated cult-members who make sense of a deeply meaningful experience in terms of a close encounter with a charismatic cult leader.

The robust feedback meted out by the all-powerful Sir Alan is accommodated by his devoted acolytes. If you belief in the virtues of a swift sharp shock as a trigger to learning, the process arguably ‘works’, and a reflective and introspective process of self-learning occurs. It appears to be, at least in the short-term, a developmental experience.

We might reasonably consider if there are longer-term impacts of such experiences on the self-image and social identity of participants. Cary Cooper carried out one of numerous subsequent studies of the impact of such social shock doctrines in his PhD, many years ago. I can’t remember the detailed results, but in general Cooper found, as have workers since, that the impact of developmental leadership programmes on individuals is difficult to assess for longer-term consequences (See Rickards & Clark, 2005).

It’s only a game, isn’t it?

Yes, The Apprentice is obviously entertainment, and hardly intended to offer a leadership role model. However, if the antics of Sir Alan make him the best known among Britain’s business leaders, and if he also is involved in a business development institution, there is at least justification in examining the consequences for public perceptions of business.

Beyond the Apprenticeship Model

But what other models of leadership development offer something aspired to as conversion of tacit knowledge into personal development? Labels abound: Action Learning; Group Relations Training; 360 degree feedback; Communities of learning; Experiential learning; Mentorship; Appreciative Enquiry; The Manchester Method.

What they share is a pedagogically justifiable rationale. Providing individuals with some direct feedback is part of it. (Remember the gentle irony of Bob Newhart’s driving instructor, a wondrous take on the teacher who ducks out of providing honest advice). No one can accuse Sir Alan of failing to give direct feedback.

Sir Alan’s shock-treatment may yet be treated as a wake-up call to those advocating alternative approaches … So let me be direct. Sir Alan, it’s become too tacky, you’ve been captured by the process of becoming a celebrity. I can’t fire you, and there may still be time to get out of the pantomime before someone else does. Walk out of the house. Or am I mixing up my celebrity reality metaphors?

Notes:

In preparing the post I was reminded of the work of Graeme Salaman.
and studies by his Open University colleague John Story for concerns about unreflective exercise of organizational power


Is leadership training up the pole?

October 4, 2007



stairway to heaven

Originally uploaded by t.rickards

A recent visit to a leadership training camp prompted the question ‘what’s the point of all this pole climbing?’.

The very reasonable question was posed by a colleague who had not been part of the experience. Where to start?

Faraday was asked ‘what’s the point of electricity?’ Being a bright spark himself, he was able to reply ‘What’s the point of a baby?’

Experiential learning has to be experienced

It is perhaps a dilemma of leadership. No amount of conceptualizing seems to help answer such a question. The fundamental divide may be between those who learn from experience, and those whose reluctance to engage with experience prevents them from ever finding out for themselves.

Case for the prosecution

It is very difficult to demonstrate the direct link between experiential learning and subsequent real-life behaviors. Therefore, the cost-effectiveness of such programs are also difficult to demonstrate.

Individuals will have very different capabilities to cope with the physical and emotional challenges they are confronted with.

Organizations are increasingly aware of the corporate duty of care, and where the ultimate legal responsibilities and sanctions fall.

Case for the defense

It is very difficult to demonstrate the link between almost any form of business education and subsequent real-life behaviors. There are various technical reasons. These can be found (among other sources) in the Chapter in Dilemmas of Leadership as well as in texts on evaluative inquiry for learning in organizations.

The entire Business School curriculum is increasingly under pressure to accept its limitations, and change to cope with the challenges of the 21st century. The rankings of Business Schools are widely regarded as based on dubious mathematical manipulations and rely on indirect measures of assessing educational value (proportion of faculty with higher degrees; average salary gains among its graduates; ratings in scholarly publications …). Nor is there much agreement about the relative merits of various ranking systems.

Students generally rate experiential projects highly. The exit assessments for the cohort of the Business School described here were overwhelmingly in favour of the projects as a valued part of the course.

A better way?

Here’s a challenge. There must be better ways of assessing the impact of experiential learning as part of a business education.


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