How and why leadership is about the growth and positive change that almost anyone can bring about while working with others
All organizations need effective leadership at all levels and in all areas of their operations. Few organizations have sufficient leadership and therein lies a huge problem and an even greater opportunity. Harry M. Jansen Kraemer, Jr. correctly asserts that “there’s no greater benefit of becoming a values-based leader than setting the standard for the rest of the organization so that it, too, focuses on what matters most.” Of course, Kraemer is referring to C-level executives but he would be among the first to insist that the power of values-based leadership must never be limited to them. He identifies and then rigorously examines what he characterizes as “the four principles of values-based leadership.” They are:
o True self-confidence
o Genuine humility
None is a head-snapping revelation, nor does Kraemer make any such claim. There could just as easily be seven or ten and each could be described with different terms. Whatever the number of attributes, however they are identified, the fact remains that the greatest leaders throughout history (with rare exception) are exemplars of the same core values. Kraemer devotes a separate chapter to each principle in Part I, then shifts his attention to what he calls “the essential elements of a vales-based organization” in Part II (one chapter per each element) before explain in Part III how a great leader summons the moral courage and social responsibility to lead her or his organizations (whatever its nature) “from success to significance.” For example, that is precisely what Elizabeth I did after the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
After a brisk but thorough coverage of the “what” of values-based, values-driven leadership in Part I, Kraemer devotes the rest of the book to explain its “how” and “why.” He comes across (to me, at least) as a pragmatic idealist, one who has an insatiable curiosity to understand what works, what doesn’t, and why so that he can then share what he has learned with as many others (especially aspiring leaders) as he can.
Kraemer introduces a process by which almost anyone, over time, can become an effective leader whose affirmations and (more importantly) whose behavior are guided and informed by the four principles. Those highly-developed leadership competencies can be applied to establishing and then nourishing the essential elements of a values-based organization, one that can indeed then complete a transition “from success to significance.” Such a leader demonstrates the values of what Robert Greenleaf once characterized as “the servant leader” in an essay published in 1970.
In a second essay, The Institution as Servant, Greenleaf observes: “This is my thesis: caring for persons, the more able and the less able serving each other, is the rock upon which a good society is built. Whereas, until recently, caring was largely person to person, now most of it is mediated through institutions – often large, complex, powerful, impersonal; not always competent; sometimes corrupt. If a better society is to be built, one that is more just and more loving, one that provides greater creative opportunity for its people, then the most open course is to raise both the capacity to serve and the very performance as servant of existing major institutions by new regenerative forces operating within them.”
I highly recommend this book to C-level executives and others who have supervisory responsibilities as well as to direct reports who aspire to become leaders. I also presume to suggest checking out the wealth of information now available at the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. Finally, here are some other sources that may also be of interest and value: Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller’s The Secret, Miller’s The Secret of Teams, Michael Ray’s The Highest Goal, James O’Toole’s The Executive’s Compass, and David Whyte’s The Heart Aroused.
The power and privilege of leadership as service to those entrusted to one’s care
In this second edition of a book first published in 2004, Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller make skillful use of the business narrative when offering what they have learned about what “great leaders know and do.” However, in fact, their focus is on an aspiring, struggling executive, Debbie Brewster, who confides, “I’m holding on for dear life and might lose my job.” Her motivations remind us of Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy needs”: first survival, then security, and eventually, perhaps, self-actualization. To date, her performance as a team leader has been poor. She knows she needs help and finds in a relationship with a mentor within her company, its president, Jeff Brown. Thus begins what becomes a journey of discovery of the “secret” to which the book’s title refers, for both Debbie and the book’s reader. The details are best revealed in context, within the narrative, as Debbie’s performance as a team leader gradually – and predictably — improves.
Does she become a great leader? No, at least not by the book’s conclusion, but that is not Blanchard and Miller’s ultimate objective. Rather, their purpose (in my opinion) is to examine a process by which almost any executive can become a more effective supervisor. More specifically, they focus on specific skills that include situation analysis, setting priorities, making decisions, getting associates engaged and in alignment, avoiding or removing barriers, and meanwhile demonstrating the values of what Robert Greenleaf once characterized as “the servant leader” in an essay published in 1970.
In a second essay, “The Institution as Servant,” Greenleaf observes: “This is my thesis: caring for persons, the more able and the less able serving each other, is the rock upon which a good society is built. Whereas, until recently, caring was largely person to person, now most of it is mediated through institutions – often large, complex, powerful, impersonal; not always competent; sometimes corrupt. If a better society is to be built, one that is more just and more loving, one that provides greater creative opportunity for its people, then the most open course is to raise both the capacity to serve and the very performance as servant of existing major institutions by new regenerative forces operating within them.”
I highly recommend this book to C-level executives and others who have supervisory responsibilities as well as to direct reports who aspire to become leaders. I also presume to suggest checking out the wealth of information now available at the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. Finally, here are some other sources that may be of interest and value: Michael Ray’s The Highest Goal, James O’Toole’s The Executive’s Compass, and David Whyte’s The Heart Aroused.
Randy Mayeux has already shared his choices and all are eminently worthy, to which I presume to add a few others.
Please keep in mind that this list is (as are Randy and I) a work in progress.
The Right Values
True North by Bill George and Peter Sims
The Executive’s Compass by James O’Toole
The Highest Goal by Michael Ray
The Heart Aroused by David Whyte
The Right Strategy
The Opposable Mind by Roger L. Martin
Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
Unstoppable by Chris Zook
Enterprise Architecture as Strategy by Jeanne Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson
Fierce Leadership by Susan Scott
Encouraging the Heart by James Kouzes and Barry Posner
Maestro by Roger Nierenberg
True North by Bill George and Peter Sims
Words that Work by Frank Luntz
Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Influence by Robert Cialdini
The Back of the Napkin and Unfolding the Napkin by Dan Roam
Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
Functional & Effective Teamwork
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Organizing Genius by Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman
Collaboration by Morten Hansen
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Cultivating Creativity and Innovation
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson
Freedom, Inc. by Brian M. Carney and Isaac Getz
The Idea of Innovation and The Ten Faces of Innovation by Thomas Kelley
Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono
Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind by Guy Claxton
Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
Reality Check by Guy Kawasaki
The Other Side of Innovation by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble
Open Innovation and Open Business Models by Henry Chesbrough
Plus two additional categories:
Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice co-edited by Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana
The Talent Masters by Bill Conaty and Ram Charan
The Center for Creative Leadership Handbook of Leadership Development co-edited by Ellen Van Velsor, Cynthia D. McCauley, and Marian N. Ruderman
Extraordinary Leadership co-edited by Kerry Bunker, Douglas T. Hall, and Kathy E. Kram
Employee Engagement & Talent Management
A Sense of Urgency and Buy-In by John Kotter
The Art of Engagement by Jim Haudan
Engaging the Hearts and Minds of All Your Employees by Lee J. Colan
Growing Great Employees by Erika Andersen
I recently re-read two books written by Tom Kelley with Jonathan Littman, this one and The Art of Innovation. In both, Kelley provides a wealth of information and counsel which can help any decision-maker to “drive creativity” through her or his organization but only if initiatives are (a) a collaboration which receives the support and encouragement of senior management (especially of the CEO) and (b) sufficient time is allowed for those initiatives to have a measurable impact. There is a distressing tendency throughout most organizations to rip out “seedlings” to see how well they are “growing.” Six Sigma programs offer a compelling example. Most are abandoned within a month or two. Why? Unrealistic expectations, cultural barriers (what Jim O’Toole characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom”), internal politics, and especially impatience are among the usual suspects. That said, I agree with countless others (notably Teresa Amabile, Clayton Christensen, Guy Claxton, Edward de Bono, Peter Drucker, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, Michael Michalko, Michael Ray, and Roger von Oech) that innovation is now the single most decisive competitive advantage. How to establish and then sustain that advantage?
In an earlier work, The Art of Innovation, Kelley shares IDEO’s five-step methodology: Understand the market, the client, the technology, and the perceived constraints on the given problem; observe real people in real-life situations; literally visualize new-to-the-world concepts AND the customers who will use them; evaluate and refine the prototypes in a series of quick iterations; and finally, implement the new concept for commercialization. With regard to the last “step”, as Warren Bennis Patricia and Ward Biederman explain in Organizing Genius, Apple executives immediately recognized the commercial opportunities for PARC’s technology. Larry Tesler (who later left PARC for Apple) noted that Jobs and colleagues (especially Wozniak) “wanted to get it out to the world.” But first, obviously, the challenge was to create that “it” which they then did.
In this volume, as Kelley explains, his book is “about innovation with a human face. [Actually, at least ten...hence its title.] It’s about the individuals and teams that fuel innovation inside great organizations. Because all great movements are human-powered.” He goes on to suggest that all good working definitions of innovation pair ideas with action, “the spark with fire. Innovators don’t just have their heads in the clouds. They also have their feet on the ground.” Kelley cites and then examines several exemplary (“great”) organizations that include Google, W.L. Gore & Associates, the Gillette Company, and German retailer Tchibo. I especially appreciate the fact that Kelley focuses on the almost unlimited potential for creativity of individuals and the roles which they can play, “the hats they can put on, the personas they can adopt…[albeit] unsung heroes who work on the front lines of entrepreneurship in action, the countless people and teams who make innovation happen day in and day out.”
Because organizations need individuals who are savvy about the counterintuitive process of how to move ideas forward, Kelley recommends three “Organizing Personas”: The Hurdler, The Collaborator, and The Director.
Because organizations also need individuals and teams who apply insights from the learning roles and channel the empowerment from the organizing roles to make innovation happen, Kelley recommends four “Building personas”: The Experience Architect, The Set Designer, The Caregiver, and The Storyteller. Note both the sequence, interrelatedness and, indeed, the interdependence of these ten “personas.”
What Kelley achieves in this volume is to develop in much greater depth than do von Oech and de Bono what are essentially ten different perspectives. He does so, brilliantly, by focussing the bulk of his attention of those who, for example, seek and explore new opportunities to reveal breakthrough insights…and while doing so wear (at least metaphorically) one of de Bono’s hats (probably the green one). Kelley devotes a separate chapter to each of the ten “personas,” including real-world examples of various “unsung heroes who work on the front lines of entrepreneurship in action, the countless people and teams who make innovation happen day in and day out.”
The first John G. McCoy-Banc One Corporation Professor of Creativity and Innovation and of Marketing (Emeritus) at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, Ray is a specialist in new paradigm business, creativity, innovation, and marketing communications. He has produced more than 100 publications including ten books such as Creativity in Business with Rochelle Myers, The Path of the Everyday Hero with Lorna Catford-Tarcher, The Creative Spirit with Daniel Goleman and Paul Kaufman (the companion book to the PBS series of the same name, inspired by his Stanford course “Personal Creativity in Business”), and most recently, The Highest Goal.
Morris: When did you begin teaching the “Personal Creativity in Business” course at Stanford and to what extent have your perspectives on creativity since changed over the years?
Ray: I began teaching the course with Rochelle Myers in the 1979-80 academic year. But I really started my work in creativity with research during my undergraduate and Ph.D. in social psychology work at Northwestern and in teaching courses there in Advertising, Advertising Management and Advertising and Communication Research. My concepts of creativity changed dramatically from the Northwestern times and my early years at Stanford to our starting to teach the creativity course at the business school. The main change was from seeing creativity as a predecessor of innovation and an issue of getting ideas and solving problems to seeing creativity as personal development and bringing out one’s inner resources. I’ve become convinced that this kind of personal creativity is the key to dealing with a new world that is constantly emerging in business and all walks of life. In fact, I am convinced that we are talking about a paradigm of creativity.
Morris: Many people insist, “I’m not creative.” Your response?
Ray: We assume in our work that everyone is creative, but we are using a different definition of creativity than is implied when people say they are not creative. We believe that people are being creative if they are bringing out their highest inner resources to improve their lives and those around them. Those who are living from their core, and doing what they are destined to do, are being creative, no matter how mundane their work or profession might seem.
Often when claiming that they are not creative, they mean that they are not artists, musicians, writers, athletes, or any other media types demonstrating creativity. Or they know someone who always seems to have a lot of ideas and know that they can’t match that.
We all have a tendency to idolize those who create what we see in the media. I think it’s better to use these people as models rather than idols, especially when these people have aspects of their lives that are similar to us. Then we can take their inspiration as we go on to be creative in our own way in our own lives and companies.
Morris: Although creativity in business is highly desirable, is it not at least as important to think creatively in one’s personal life?
Ray: The more I do this creative work the more I realize that business is about people in groups being creative in their own way. If business creativity does not allow individual development, then it isn’t sustainable. But if business creativity means people bringing out their best and developing that, then amazing things can happen—not only for the business but also more importantly for the individual and the surrounding community.
We encourage people to bring their creativity to bear on six personal challenges—discovering purpose and career, dealing with time and stress issues, developing and maintaining good relationships, achieving personal/professional balance or synergy in life, finding true prosperity, and bringing one’s own creativity into the business and life. Unless people are continually dealing with these challenges, they are not bringing out their best and are not of much use to anyone, particularly themselves and their organizations.
Morris: In your opinion, what must be done to create a workplace environment in which creative thinking is not only encouraged but also indeed nourished and supported?
Ray: When I’m asked that question, one of the first things that comes to mind is that old line about breakfast: “The chicken is involved but the pig is committed.” I believe that you have to have long-term commitment to create creativity in an organization. In all the organizations I know that developed a culture of creativity, someone, often a small group of people, made a commitment to people development in the context of enriching their business. And just like the pig and the bacon, this can be a difficult process at times, that’s why the commitment is necessary.
At the same time, you must set up measurement of results and celebrate small victories as you go along. I have observed that any creativity initiative gets about an eighteen-month grace period. If there aren’t any tangible results in a year and a half, despite the strongest commitment, someone in the organization is going to start questioning the whole program. But that’s not all. In one of my articles in which I define “creativity in business” as individual enlightenment within organizational transformation, I mention six heuristics for developing a creative culture:
1. Work with leaders within the organization.
2. Develop creativity within a vital initiative.
3. Make creativity a long-term commitment with short-term payouts.
4. Develop individual creativity within a relevant working group.
5. Deal with deep personal challenges.
6. Keep an eye on the prize of overall organizational objectives and world effect.
Morris: How does creative thinking differ from innovative thinking?
Ray: Someone once said that innovation is a done idea. I agree. I believe that creativity is the individual development and conceptualization and that innovation in an organizational sense is implementing ideas and intentions that come from that creativity. So in a sense, creativity is more a leadership function and innovation is more a managerial function.
I believe that if one can understand one’s false personality or ego, then they can develop self-awareness and the manifesting of that self-awareness is leadership. Such a leader sets up the mechanisms within which creativity can flourish, and managers turn this into innovations in the marketplace and society.
But you should take all this with a grain of salt, since in real life creativity and innovation are intertwined and so are leaders and managers. It’s never as clear-cut as I’m making it sound. It’s, as you know, much more dynamic, chaotic and fascinating in the way it plays out. That’s why people have to operate more from their inner essence; it’s the other constant that copes with the legendary constant of change.
Morris: In Creativity in Business co-authored with Rochelle Myers, you and she suggest that in order to understand the essence of business as art, it is necessary to “get to know your inner resource.” How?
Ray: That’s a wonderful question, because it inspires rich answers, enough for a book or two. Rochelle Myers and I developed our course to answer that question and wrote that book. There are a few steps to take that will not only help you to know your inner resource but also to bring it out into the world.
The most important thing you can do individually and organizationally is to pay attention to your own creativity. Sports psychologists call this muscle memory or paying attention to your perfect performance. In your own life you can notice when you do something that works right for you and celebrate it. The more you do this, the greater the probability that you will act creatively in future situations.
You can pay attention to your own creativity by doing what we call “live-withs” in our work. A live-with is a heuristic or generalization for learning and discovery such as “Have No Expectations,” “Pay Attention,” “Ask Dumb Questions,” “See with Your Heart,” or “Be Ordinary.” As you can tell, these live-withs can be challenging. But if you live with each of them for any period of time, such as a week, and then reflect upon them in writing or verbally with another person and get feedback, you will notice shifts in your behavior toward a more creative life.
We tie each live-with with each of four tools of creativity (i.e. having faith in your creativity, developing an absence of negative internal judgment, precise observation, and penetrating questions) and six life challenges (i.e. finding your purpose, dealing with time and stress, developing generative relationships, creating synergy and balance in your life, finding true prosperity, and bringing your individual creativity into the world).
Both individually and organizationally, the live-with “Ask Dumb Questions” can propel people into penetrating questions, which in turn can change the way you do business for the better. And “See with Your Heart” can transform difficult relationships into productive ones.
You can discover and manifest your creativity by being conscious of your own creativity through the technique of live-withs, particularly when applied to the four tools and six challenges. Also remember to share this with others and get feedback so that creativity is in the air, especially within your organization.
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
In this series, Bob Morris poses a key question and then responds to it with material from one or more of the business books he has reviewed for Amazon and Borders.
Predictably, opinions vary about the process but all experts agree that there must be a lot of ideas to get a few good ideas and a lot of good ideas to get a few excellent ideas and then (you guessed it) a lot of excellent ideas to get one or (maybe) two “insanely great ideas” as Steve Jobs characterizes them. I’ve just read a book by Gerald Sindell, The Genius Machine: The 11 Steps That Turn Raw Ideas into Brilliance, that may be of interest and value. He shares his insights about thinking “that is directed toward improving an existing idea, thinking through a complete issue, or creating something new.” The eleven “steps” to which the subtitle refers are in a sequence devised by Sindell. He devotes a separate chapter to each. They are: Distinctions, Identity, Implications, Testing, Precedent, Need, Foundation, Completion, Connecting, Impact, and Advocacy. Obviously, the sequence suggests a specific process by which to subject an existing idea to rigorous and relentless pressure, to a “crucible” of scrutiny and evaluation.
So, the best way to generate great ideas is to generate lots of ideas, then lots of good ideas, and then lots of excellent ideas (subjecting each to a process such as the one Sindell advocates) and hope that eventually one or two great ideas survive that process. There are other sources worth checking out, notably Tom Kelley’s two books (The Art of Innovation and The Ten Faces of Innovation) in which he explains the brainstorming process at IDEO, a design and innovation firm based in Palo Alto that he and his brother David founded in 1991. With regard to generation of ideas, I also recommend Tim Hurson’s Think Better: An Innovator’s Guide to Productive Thinking and Making Innovation Work: How to Manage It, Measure It, and Profit from It co-authored by Tony Davila, Marc J. Epstein, and Robert Shelton.
It is important for everyone involved to remember, including CEOs and other senior managers, is that the process of generating and evaluating ideas, and then (perhaps) producing one or two great ideas inevitably involves lots of failure, is messy and frustrating, takes time, and requires sustained support. Potentially great ideas are like seedlings. They do not respond well to being pulled out of the ground to see how well they’re doing.
Comments, questions, requests, or suggestions? Please share them. They will be most welcome and I thank you for them. Best regards, Bob