Don Thompson is an economist and professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto. He has taught at Harvard Business School and the London School of Economics. He is author of nine books, including The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art, which details his explorations in trying to understand the high end of the contemporary art market. Shark has been published in thirteen languages. His most recent book, Oracles: How Prediction Markets Turn Employees into Visionaries, was published by Harvard Business Review Press (June, 2012).
Here is an excerpt from my interview of him. To read the complete interview, please click here.
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Morris: Before discussing Oracles a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?
Thompson: A dozen brilliant people I encountered in grad school (at Berkeley) and later, in universities, businesses and government. From each I learned new things, but more important, new ways of looking at problems, and how to think outside the box.
Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?
Thompson: My formal education included an MBA, which got me interested in problem solving, and a PhD, which furthered that interest but is also provided an essential entry point to an academic career. So the formal education part has been invaluable for my career path.
Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you when to work full-time for the first time?
Thompson: The importance of the soft skills involved in communication, motivation and managing.
Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles?
Thompson: Citizen Kane. The explanation is in the eyes and mind of the viewer.
Morris: From which non-business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business?
Thompson: I’ll suggest two: Michael Mauboussin’s More Than You Know: Finding Financial Wisdom in Unconventional Places (Columbia Business School Press 2008), and Cass Sunstein’s Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide (Oxford University Press, 2008). The Mauboussin book is about business, but more centrally, about making rational decisions. The Sunstein book is about how wrongheadedness gets worse when people get together in groups. Both are brilliant thinkers, I recommend anything with those names attached.
Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-Tzu’s Tao Te Ching:
“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know.”
Thompson: Right. None of us is as smart as all of us (which is also a Japanese proverb).
Morris: Next, from Voltaire: “Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.”
Thompson: The prediction market equivalent is probably, “If you really are afraid of the answer, don’t ask the question.”
Morris: And then, from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”
Thompson: It never occurred to me that there was another option. Probably too late now.
Morris:Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”
Thompson: That is a great quote. I once was presented with its equivalent, by a Columbia marketing professor named Al Oxenfeldt, with whom I had co-authored a couple of articles and was proposing a new topic, which I had collected a lot of data on. Al said, “If something is not worth doing, it is not worth doing well.” Quite right.
Morris:In Tom Davenport’s latest book, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.” What do you think?
Thompson: That is exactly the philosophy of Jim Lavoie and Joe Marino, co-CEOs of my favorite prediction-market company, Rite-Solutions – which is the subject of the first chapter of Oracles.
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
Don cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
Don’s faculty page, please click here
Amazon’s Oracles page, please click here.
Amazon’s The $12 Million Stuffed Shark page, please click here.
Risk unmanaged is risk exacerbated
I am among those who find a wealth of excellent advice every time I pick up my copy of The Art of War and re-read a passage or two in any of its 13 chapters. (FYI, Samuel B. Griffin translated the edition I prefer, published in a paperbound by Oxford University Press.) As I began to read Surviving and Thriving in Uncertainty, I recalled several insights that perhaps, just perhaps, Frederick Funston and Stephen Wagner may have had in mind while writing their book: every battle is won or lost before it is fought, all warfare is based on deception, and five constant factors govern the art of war, to be assessed when determining the conditions in the field. They are The Moral Law (leaders and followers have values and goals in alignment), Heaven (physical environment: night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons), Earth (distances, strategic positions, terrain), The Commander (virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, strictness), Method and Discipline (readiness, organization of forces and resources, agility and resilience). These are the essential components of what is generally regarded as traditional, indeed “classical” strategic thinking about potential risks and how best to manage them.
I suggest you keep these components in mind as Funston and Wagner first explain why and how risks become “brutal realities,” how to survive and thrive by making correct judgments, why conventional risk management has failed, and why an unconventional approach to risk management is needed, especially “under risky, uncertain, and turbulent conditions.” For Part Two, they devised a very clever format within which to present their material: In each of Chapters 4-13, they juxtapose a “fatal flaw” in risk intelligence thinking (e.g. failing to challenge assumptions, shirt-termism, lack of operational discipline) with a skill needed to avoid or overcome that flaw. To their substantial credit, they focus almost all of their attention on the nature and potential extent of the given flaw and explain how to develop the skills needed to avoid of overcome it.
Funston and Wagner also include dozens of “Voice of Experience” mini-commentaries relevant to the given context. Other reader-friendly devices include checklists of key points (e.g. “Ten Essential Risk Intelligence Skills” and “The Rewards of Risk Intelligence”), Exhibits (e.g. organizational and performing characteristics of “Tightly vs. Loosely Coupled Organizations”), and a “Questions to Ask about [a core concept”]” section at the conclusion of Chapters 4-13.
Risk cannot be managed until it is recognized within its context, its frame-of-reference. Moreover, its implications and possible (if not probable) consequences must also be fully understood, then prepared for with meticulous care. Sun Tzu would urge today’s C-level executives to make certain that their organizations have a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective program in place that addresses contingency planning, risk management, and crisis response…one that fully accommodates factors such as those previously identified. Frederick Funston and Stephen Wagner present and explain such a program in this book.
“The Great Conversation Across the Centuries”
More than 50 years ago, Walter Paepcke founded the Aspen Institute and entrusted to Mortimer Adler the responsibility for devising a program of inquiry that became known as the Executive Seminar. Initially and for several decades to follow, groups of executives would gather together for two weeks under Adler’s leadership to discuss the Great Ideas…what Adler once described as “the great conversation across the centuries.” Along the way, O’Toole became involved and today conducts Leading Change seminars. (You are urged to read his book which bears that title.) In the Foreword to this book, Lodwrick M. Cook explains O’Toole’s use of the central metaphor: “The beauty of the compass is that it provides a framework for the executive to create order out of the growing chaos of cultural diversity and conflict of values. Like a real compass, [O'Toole's `value compass'] helps us to find where we are, where others are, where we want to go, and how to get there. Like the Aspen experience itself, O’Toole’s compass is aimed at developing executive judgment by expanding our understanding of the interrelationships of fundamental values.” Whose values? They range from those of ancient Greece (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Sophocles) through those of the Enlightenment (Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Madison) and then those more contemporary within intellectual history (Emerson, Thoreau, Marx, Mill, Freud, Hayek, Schumpeter, Friedman, Postman, and Berlin). One way or another, directly or indirectly, each of the Great Ideas can help each of us in our own quest for “the good society.” Hence the importance of the compass. I wish it were possible to recreate it graphically in combination with this brief commentary. It has four points (Liberty, Efficiency, Equality, and Community) and the tensions between and among them create what James MacGregor Burns has described as “the deadlock of democracy.”
I can personally attest, the Executive Seminar is an exceptionally rigorous intellectual experience. Groups of approximately 20 persons spend a week together, with group discussions led by two carefully selected co-moderators. As O’Toole explains in the Introduction, his intention when writing this book was to assist executives in five roles they play. “One, as managers engaged in making `purely business’ decisions: by recognizing and properly addressing the broad social implications of such decisions, they can bring out more effective organizational performance. Two, as managers whose internal policies turn out to affect outside constituencies. Three, as managers who are participants and partners in government….Four, as citizens who vote and volunteer in political organizations. Finally, five, as individuals who choose to examine their own lives and their own personal legacies to society.” It would be a serious mistake to view Great Ideas as being impractical or somehow irrelevant to everyday human experience. On the contrary, as O’Toole brilliantly explains, they can (indeed should) invest that experience with meaning, direction, and ultimate value.
To whom specifically do I recommend this book? First, to organizational executives who believe in vales-driven leadership and wish to participate in (and be nourished by) what Adler characterizes as “the great conversation across the centuries” with those who generated or refined Great Ideas throughout the past 2,500 years. Second, to those recently embarked on a business career who need a “values compass” as they encounter what O’Toole has described (in Leading Change) as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” Finally, to those who wish to gain at least a sense of what the nature of discourse would be, were they to participate in one of the Executive Seminars sponsored by the Aspen Institute.
The “father of his country” in so many important ways
In recent years, a great deal of attention has been devoted to one or more of the founding fathers, especially Washington, Jefferson, and Adams. What we have in this volume is McNeilly’s analysis of what business lessons can be learned from George Washington’s leadership as commander-in-chief of the Colonial forces during the War for Independence and then as the new nation’s first president.
In the Introduction, he responds to the question “Why George Washington?” Then, in the first two chapters, he examines “the foundation of Washington’s leadership principles” and how the American Revolution was organized in the first two chapters. During the balance of the book, McNeilly identifies and discusses the aforementioned leadership principles and devotes a separate chapter to each.
McNeilly brilliantly juxtaposes his presentation of historical material with the business lessons he believes can be learned from it. I also appreciate the fact that he cites specific companies when doing so. For example, in Chapter 2, he reviews various competitive disadvantages Washington encountered at the outset of the war. “Could I have foreseen what I have experienced and am likely to experience, no consideration upon earth should have induced me to accept this command.” Yet, despite all the unexpected problems such as the continuous expiration of enlistments that depleted his forces, the 43 year-old general did not quit. “Washington made his share of mistakes: choosing to defend New York when it was in reality indefensible, not protecting his flank on Long Island Heights, and losing Fort Washington and its garrison. Yet after setback he returned to fight again.”
McNeilly then focuses his attention on a relevant example in the modern business world, the situation faced by Jong Yong Yun when he became CEO of Samsung Electronics. Like Washington, he used the severe crisis that then existed to make major changes. The integrity and courage of a leader are essential to the success of any such initiatives. In Washington’s case, he put his organizational skills to work. “At the same time he was fighting the British and their Hessian allies, Washington was implementing measures to improve the fighting ability and logistical system to ensure the army’s survival.”
To me, some of the most interesting and most valuable material is provided in Chapter 8 as McNeilly examines the situation after the victory at Yorktown in 1781. Washington was frustrated to see his officers and men so poorly treated by Congress after they had made so many sacrifices under especially difficult conditions. At one point, a core group of officers decided that taking direct action was necessary and began to plan what amounted to a military coup. Their efforts to enlist support became known as the “Newburgh Conspiracy” because their base camp was in Newburgh, New York, where they met on March 15, 1783.
Washington thoroughly disapproved of the officers’ efforts and met with them, calling their behavior “unmilitary” and “subversive of all order and discipline.” Those gathered were not convinced. “Seeing this, Washington pulled from his pocket a letter from Congressman Joseph Jones. After a fumbling attempt to read it, Washington took out a pair of reading glasses, stating, ‘Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.’ This act and its accompanying words from the heart did what his prepared speech had not done. Washington’s emotional appeal reminded his officers of his own sacrifices and won them back to his side and that of the republic.” As McNeilly makes crystal clear, Washington’s words and gesture could not possibly have been effective had he not possessed — and was perceived to possess — impeccable integrity.
As McNeilly suggests, the same can be said of business executives such as James Burke, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, who immediately demonstrated the right motives and ethical action in 1982 after seven people in the Chicago area died of cyanide poisoning that had been traced to Extra Strength Tylenol capsules. Led by Burke, Johnson & Johnson worked closely with the media to get out as many facts as possible, instituted a nationwide recall of 31 million bottles of Tylenol (then worth an estimated $100-million), and cooperated fully with all law enforcement agencies to solve the mystery. All of this was wholly consistent with the Johnson & Johnson Credo that affirms the company’s first responsibility is to “doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers, and all others who use our products and services.”
None of Washington’s principles of leadership was unique to him. As McNeilly explains, however, few others throughout history possessed all of them and to the extent that George Washington did. At an early age, he developed self-discipline, strong character, courage, intellectual curiosity, and a preference for innovative ideas. When war came, Washington formulated a vision of what the new nation could become, once victorious. He also developed a strategy that accommodated the colonies’ vulnerabilities while maximizing their strengths. Throughout the war, he seized appropriate opportunities while resisting others that involved what he perceived to be excessive risk.
Washington was a quick thinker under pressure and built an effective team of subordinate officers within whom he communicated constantly. He supported an intelligence network to obtain the information he needed to make key decisions. Meanwhile, he cultivated relations with key members of Congress. Later, he played a central role during the Constitutional Convention and then agreed to serve as the new nation’s first president. “In that role his wisdom led him to set high standards that future presidents would look to for guidance and by which their terms would be measured.” He retired after two terms “to allow new people to implement new ideas and have their turn at leading the country.”
Congratulations to Mark McNeilly for providing an abundance of information about George Washington as well as a rigorous and eloquent analysis of his singular greatness. The lessons to be learned from who he was and what he accomplished can guide and inform our own efforts to become, in McNeilly’s words, “a better version of ourselves.”
Note: I recently re-read several books that were published a while ago. For example, here is one that addresses many issues now in hot dispute.
During an interview of Roger Martin, I asked him about the title of this book, co-authored with Mihnea C. Moldoveanu. “We envision a world in which there will be a greater focus in business education on developing the thinking styles and capacities of MBAs rather than filling their heads with analytical tools. We see teaching them to think and act responsibly and responsively in the face of multiple, incommensurable and possibly conflicting models of oneself, the world and others. This in turn requires development of their thinking capacity along three dimensions. First is nimble-mindedness, which we see as the ability to understand apparently conflicting models, walk around them and internalize rather than reject the tensions among them. Second is big-mindedness, which we see as the ability to contain and behold the conflicting models while, in the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, ‘retaining the ability to function.’” Third is tough-mindedness, which we see as the capacity to utilize the tension among the existing models to forge a new model. This in turn requires the rigorous testing and discarding of potential solutions rather than fixating on the first one and hoping it is sound.”
In this volume, Moldoveanu and Martin respond to several critiques of the MBA as a program during discussions of “The Future of the MBA” during a conference co-hosted by the co-authors at the Rotman School of Management in 2006. They assert that many of the critiques do not recognize the selection value of the MBA. For example, the failure to appreciate the value of the selection value of the MBA. That is, “its value as a selection mechanism or filter that picks out individuals with high potential for management positions based on relatively powerful predictors of performance, such as general intelligence and conscientiousness.” They insist that, on the contrary, it does have “a significant, demonstrable, and robust value to prospective employers.” They share their vision of the high-value decision maker of the future whom they call an “integrator,” one who solves a problem through effective action what the narrow specialist can often not solve even in theory. Having shared their profile of the integrator, Moldoveanu and Martin argue that the selection metric of MBA programs be expanded and refined to include “measures of openness in combination with an executive function that allows the integrator to manage his or her affective and cognitive processes.” That is, to develop what the authors refer to as an “opposable” mind that, as Martin suggests in his response to the interview question, is “nimble,” “big,” and “tough.” Especially in today’s business world, executives must be able to function effectively, under control, despite what Moldoveanu and Martin describe as “an inherent and inherently irresolvable state of practical ambiguity.” The tools they require include generative reasoning capacity, assertive inquiry, and causal modeling.
They then pose this rhetorical question: “Can business academia deliver a development program more likely to cultivate the high-value decision maker of the future than is currently the case?” Of course it can. Moldoveanu and Martin suggest that, “although the value of the know-what imparted by business school may be in many cases low, the value of the know-how that business school academics can provide is undervalued and can be significantly increased by recognizing and amplifying powerful trends that have emerged in the field over the past 20 years.” I agree that relevant, valuable know-how can be successfully transferred through discursive interaction and mimetic imprinting; moreover, when redesigning the training experience of the MBA focused on the performative dimension of knowledge, it is highly desirable – as Moldoveanu and Martin recommend – to “bring the [real-world] and ontological dimensions of training together in the same elements of a training program.”
You may wish to check out my second interview of Roger Martin.
Roger Martin is dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. He was appointed to a seven-year term beginning in September 1998 and re-appointed to a further five-year term effective July 2005. He is also a professor of strategic management at the Rotman School. A Canadian from Wallenstein, Ontario, he was formerly a director of Monitor Company, a global strategy consulting firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During his 13 years with Monitor, he founded and chaired Monitor University, the firm’s educational arm, served as co-head of the firm for two years, and founded the Canadian office. His research interests lie in the areas of global competitiveness, integrative thinking, business design and corporate citizenship. His published works include The Responsibility Virus: How Control Freaks, Shrinking Violets And the Rest of Us Can Harness the Power of True Partnership (Basic Books, 2002), The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking (Harvard Business School Press, 2007), The Future of the MBA: Designing the Thinker of the Future, with Mihnea Moldoveanu (Oxford University Press, 2008), and most recently, The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage (Harvard Business Press, 2009).
Morris: A great deal has (and hasn’t) happened in the global business world since our last conversation. In your opinion, what has been the single most significant change and why do you think so?
Martin: To me what is most interesting is that we had a giant stock market meltdown in 2001 and an economic recession following and then made a number of regulatory changes that were designed to make sure such a thing never happened again. Well, it didn’t exactly work out that way! Within seven years we had an even worse stock market blow-out and an even worse recession. Last time it took 70 years between crashes. This time it was only 7 years. It is time to take a more critical look at the theories behind our regulatory fixes that failed so horribly in 2008-9.
Morris: To what extent (if any) have the values, goals, concerns, and issues of your MBA candidates changed in recent years?
Martin: Environmental sustainability has moved from the fringes of the MBA student mind to its very center. Today’s students really care about sustainability and are going to bring that concern into their jobs. I am really encouraged by what I see on that front. These students really want to make a difference on the sustainability front. The other thing that is evident is that more of them are interested in immediate post-MBA careers in the not-for-profit sector. It used to be that many students imagined that they might move to that sector sometime later in his career. But now more are interested in that right away.
Morris: In your opinion, what is the single area in which even the most prestigious business schools are in greatest need of improvement? What specifically do you suggest?
Martin: It is in helping students solve real business problems of the sort they will face in the world into which they will graduate. Business schools still teach them to solve stylized problems that fit nicely into course boxes. I understand why. It is easier to teach this way and there is more robust theory for narrowly-defined problems. But these aren’t the kind of problems that graduates will face when they enter the business world. It would be nice if they would be, but they simply aren’t. Business schools need to teach students to think integratively or they will be seen increasingly as teaching technocrats not managers.
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
Those who have read Lipman-Blumen’s previously published Connective Leadership and/or Hot Groups can correctly assume that she again offers brilliant insights, eloquently expressed, in this later book I recently re-read, curious to know how well her insights have held up. My conclusion is that, if anything, they are more relevant, indeed more valuable now than they were when the book was first published.
She responds to two especially interesting questions: “Why do so many people follow destructive bosses and corrupt politicians?” and “How can we survive them?” In fairness both to her and to those who have not as yet read this book, I will resist the temptation to reveal what her responses are. However, I hope the remarks that follow create sufficient interest in this book because it eminently deserves and richly rewards a careful reading.
The lively and eloquent narrative indicates that Lipman-Blumen possesses all of the highly-developed skills of a world-class cultural anthropologist whose cutting-edge thinking about effective leadership and productive teamwork has earned for her the eminence she now enjoys. In my opinion, she has far greater and much more challenging ambitions in this book than she did in either of the two which preceded it. Consider this brief excerpt from the first chapter: Toxic leaders “first charm but then manipulate, mistreat, undermine, and ultimately leave their followers worse off than when they found them. Yet many of these followers hang on. I do not speak merely of the leader’s immediate entourage — the leader’s close-in staff and advisors. I am speaking also of the larger mass of supporters (employees, constituents, volunteers) who only glimpse their toxic leader through a glass darkly — perchance through a window of the executive suite or on the television screen. More surprisingly perhaps, even those groups charged with keeping leaders under the microscope and on the straight and narrow — the media and boards of directors — fall under they sway.”
Lipman-Blumen is at her best when examining, indeed explaining how and why mankind creates toxic leaders as well as their willing followers. She is much less effective, in my opinion, when offering advice as to how to avoid or respond to the allure of such leaders. For example, is a coup or assassination the only effective solution to a tyrant? In a business context, what if a toxic leader is the owner/CEO of a small company? Realistically, is there any viable choice other than leaving? Lipman-Blumen’s difficulties with the material in Part IV were probably inevitable…and have nothing to do with her intelligence, sensitivity, street smarts, and frame-of-reference. With all due respect to the “lessons” she reviews (please see pages 206-215) and the five strategies she then recommends (please see pages 238-249), I think those difficulties are explained, rather, by flaws in human nature which some have traced back to the Garden of Eden.
Historically, those whom toxic leaders manipulate, mistreat, undermine, betray, and ultimately leave worse off than before are victims. Those who support toxic leaders are willing accomplices. Those who oppose toxic leaders are heroic. Those among them who are destroyed by toxic leaders are martyrs. For me, the most important question Lipman-Blumen poses in this book is hardly original: “Who are you?” For each reader, the answer will not be found in this book. However, a careful reading of it can assist with completing that immensely difficult journey of self-discovery.
In the Preface, Lipman-Blumen and Leavitt observe: “The time is ripe for large, hierarchical, well-ordered organizations to make room for small, egalitarian, disordered hot groups. That is the first thesis of this book….The book’s second and ultimately more important thesis is that hot groups are not good just for organizations. They are also good for people. They offer individuals opportunities to find meaning and ennoblement through their work. In our fast and impermanent new organizational world, those who work in organizations — and that includes most of us — both expect and deserve such opportunities.” I want to stress that a “hot group” should be the logical, indeed inevitable result of a way at looking at organizational renewal. Think of the “hot group” concept as precisely that: a concept that affirms the value of a process by which individual members of any organization (regardless of its size or nature) can effectively collaborate. These members are “task-obsessed and full of passion.” They share a style which is “intense, sharply focused, and full bore.” Moreover, members of a “hot group” feel engaged in “an important, even vital and personally ennobling mission”; their task is “dominates all other considerations”; and although a “hot group” tends to remain intact only for a relatively short period of time, it is “remembered nostalgically and in considerable detail by its members.”
Such groups require effective leadership. In Chapter 6, Lipman-Blumen and Leavitt address this issue, suggesting a number of specific “options” when a “hot group” is assembled and then charged with its mission. For example: “To develop a hot, task-obsessed group, think about people before you begin laying out a flow chart. Bring on the people. Getting the task done is not your solo job. It’s the whole group’s job.” The leader is urged to “recruit wild ducks”, then help the group to bring the right people in, to get the wrong people out, and with unexpected departures. According to the authors, there are two kinds of “wars” and “races.” In wars, the goal is to destroy the enemy; in races, the goal is not to destroy but to out-perform others. Also, “at least as much”, to have members outperform themselves, to exceed their personal best.
In my opinion, this brilliant book makes two immensely important contributions to our understanding of what it takes to achieve superior organizational performance. First, it explains what the members of a “hot group” can themselves accomplish if given the leadership, freedom, and resources needed. Second, it explains what the positive impact of such a group can have on all others within the same organization. Paradoxically, a “hot group” is most effective within an organization that has stability, solid and enlightened management, and sufficient resources to support the group’s efforts. That is certainly true of those associated with Xerox PARC, the Manhattan Project, Lockheed’s “Skunk Works”, and the Disney studios that produced the first full-length animated films.
If an organization is unwilling and/or unable to tolerate a “small, egalitarian, disordered” but NOT disorganized “hot group”, it probably has problems that even the hottest of “hot groups” cannot solve.
I read this book when it was first published and recenty re-read it, curious to know how well Lipman-Blumen’s insights have held up. My conclusion? If anything, they are more relevant and more valuable now than there were more than a decade ago. She is one of the most innovative thinkers now commenting on the contemporary business world. With this book, she makes a substantial and truly significant contribution to our understanding of several separate but interdependent issues: leadership, connectivity, human development, intellectual capital, strategic alliances (both internal and external), and organizational transformation. Yes, yes, I know. There are hundreds of other books already published which discuss several of the same subjects and many of them are first-rate, as Lipman-Blumen would be the first to acknowledge. All of them are listed in her superb “References” section and key ideas from several are woven into her crisp narrative. One of the several reasons why this book is different is the provision and explanation of what she calls “The Connective Leadership Model” which is the focus of Part II. Typical of Lipman-Blumen, she does not suggest that hers is the only model to consider; in fact, she strongly urges her reader to correlate her or his organizations needs and interests with the structure of the model, selecting whatever is most important. However, I presume to offer a caveat: Although by now an overworked buzzword, “integration” of any combination of components is absolutely essential. Whatever the model, its components must be cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective as are those that comprise “The Connective Leadership Model.”
Lipman-Blumen organizes her material within three Parts: The Changing Dynamics of Leadership (a review and examination of “the origins and evolution of the human need for leadership”), The Connective Leadership Model (more about that in a moment), and Bridging to the Stage 3 World (an exploration of the “empirical organizational results and the philosophical implications of the Connective Leadership Model”). The nature of leadership that she advocates is “both provocative and savvy, yet pragmatic and honorable.” I wish it were possible to reproduce in this brief commentary the model she presents in Part Two. Essentially, it consists of three separate but interdependent components: DIRECT (The intrinsic, competitive, and power styles of leadership), RELATIONAL (The collaborative, contributory, and vicarious styles of leadership), and INSTRUMENTAL (The personal, social, and entrusting styles of leadership). She correctly points out that the most effective leaders are those who possess an appropriately balanced combination of all three. As I read Part Two, I thought about the striking differences between the leadership styles of Gandhi and Patton. Relying entirely on active (not passive) strategies and tactics of non-violence, Gandhi helped India to achieve independence. Patton was required to use entirely different strategies and tactics to rescue the American troops at Bastogne. For me, one of this book’s most insightful chapters is Chapter 11, “Women Leaders: An Oxymoron? Or Does Gender Make a Difference?” Lipman-Blumen poses and then addresses a number of gender-specific issues. Once again, as I read this chapter, I thought about leaders such as Joan of Arc, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Elizabeth I, and Catherine the Great…each of whom possessed a combination of direct, relational, and instrumental leadership styles in appropriate balance. That was their “connective edge.”
Within the context of explaining the need for what she calls “connective” leadership, Lipman-Blumen examines the theme of the contradictory pulls of two global tensions, interdependence and diversity. The former demands collaboration and mutuality while often seeming to threaten the independence and individualism required by the latter. “Connective” leadership is needed to integrate or at least coordinate these two sometimes adversarial forces. The leader with a “connective eye” can help groups or parties who must work or live interdependently (through geography, industry, etc.) with those who often have quite different agendas and goals, to focus together on problems that the enlightened leader recognizes they share even when, especially when others don’t “get it.” Lipman-Blumen believes that these two global tensions will be with us for some time to come. Leaders who don’t develop the understanding and skills to deal with them effectively are almost certain to fail. I am reminded of what Edison once said about innovation: It is the ability to make connections. That is as true of the Gaza Strip as it is of an incandescent light.