Posts Tagged ‘leadership qualities’

Stop.  Take a look around you.  Take a look at the people you work with, the people you meet at parties, even the people you just casually pass in the street.

How do they spend their days?

Most of them work.  They do some other activities as well. They sleep, eat, cook, hang out with friends, watch TV, play sport and some might play an instrument.  Nothing, however, comes close to the hours that they dedicate to work.

Now, honestly, how well do they do it?  Well enough to keep the job?  Maybe well enough to get a promotion every couple of years?  But are any of them great at what they do?  Truly world class?  Excellent?

Why?  How can they spend so much time at it, going through school, through university, maybe even an MBA, executive seminars, coaching, mentors, high-flyer programs…  but they are not great at what they do.

Why?  Some people have been working for 30, even 40 years.  After all these thousands of hours most people are no more than mediocre at what they do. This is sad.

Only two routes to get more done

There are two routes to double the output.  One is to work double the hours.  Instead of 4 hours, I give 8 hours.  I may get double the output.  It is unlikely.  The marginal utility reduces for each additional hour as tiredness and loss of focus become stronger.  There is also a physical limit to this approach.  I only have a limited number of hours in a day, in a week…  in a life.  So, I might increase today’s output by 20% or even 30% by adding hours, but this is not a healthy route.

Route two is to double the effectiveness of my hours.  How can I begin a process that continually increases the value of output of the hours that I give to a task or a job or a cause?

People who improve their effectiveness daily have two things in common:  they care about the outcome and they remain humble.

Care about the outcome

There is a Spanish saying that there is no good wind for a boat with no rudder.  Alice, when she reaches Wonderland asks White Rabbit “Which path should I take?”  White Rabbit replies “where are you going?”  Alice: “I don’t know.”  White Rabbit: “Then it doesn’t matter which path you take.”  Posts 1 and 2 in this series talked of Imagination and Ambition – about deciding and committing to a course of action, about clarity in what you seek to achieve.  If you don’t care where you are going, then effective learning is not going to happen.

Arrogance stifles growth, Humility enables growth

Learning requires change.  Change requires humility.  Humility does not come easily to successful people.  It did not come easy to me.

I was having drinks with a group of professors at IESE two weeks ago after playing football.  The conversation came around to “which program do you prefer to teach?”.  An MBA student at the table said “The MBA must be the best program to teach on.  Young, ambitious, successful people.  The senior director programs must be the hardest.  They must be so demanding.”

Alex said “No.  Years ago I preferred the MBA, but now I definitely prefer teaching the executive programs.  MBAs are typically 27, have done well in school, got to a top university, got a great job, done well, got into IESE MBA…  and believe they know everything.  The senior directors of 55 have learnt how little they really know.  They come humble.  They are aware of the value of education.  They come prepared and ready to apply the material into their lives.  The senior director programs are the most rewarding to teach.  MBAs are hard work”.

“Tinkering” and The Need for Deliberate Practice

The motto of the ActiveGarage is “Always tinkering”.  This is a great motto for this post on learning.  What is tinkering?  Playing with something.  Testing.  Changing inputs and looking to see what happens.

In school we do “book learning”.  We learn to memorize facts and to store those facts long enough to recall them during exams.

In life we do experiential learning.  We try, we fail, we reflect and we try again.  Tom Peters says that “the only source of good knowledge is bad experience.”  He is right.  The knowledge that a leader needs is not written in the textbooks.  It is not available from professors.  Textbooks, professors and gurus have there place.  They can help me make sense of my experience. Mentors, peers and coaches can play a crucial role in the process of experiential learning.  The can help me understand their experience.  However, there is no substitute for personal experience, for our own practice.

A science has been developing around the field of developing exceptional performance.  What leads to world class performance?  “Deliberate Practice.”

The 5 ingredients of Deliberate Practice and the 3 models of mastery is explored on The Rhetorical Journey blog.

Most problems we face in life are not solvable through thinking alone.  You have to try a few things and see how they work.  In business, you often have to try in a way that is visible to others.  Some of those others cannot wait to see you mess up and laugh at your attempt.  However you need the real world test in order to be able to reflect and refine your approach.  The person making 1% incremental improvements day after day will always beat the person looking to make a 40% improvement in one big step.  The humility of asking for help and sharing experience magnifies the value of the learning.

What do you think? Are you a “tinkerer?” How do you test and attempt incremental changes?

The next post in the series will combine Imagination, Ambition and Learning and look at what can only come from within a person.

Character and Personality #8: Competency

by Gary Monti on August 24, 2010

Delivering the goods is the final judgment for leaders. This means in addition to charisma there needs to be character strength and competency. Competency means, “to be fit for (Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology).” This can be challenging because of the number of boundaries present, which can be fluid and not always precise. In general, though, the boundaries can be looked at as those between technology and sophistication.

Technology

“Technology” comes from the Greek “techne” and refers to a craft or skill for getting things done such as farming or carpentry. So, technology has to do with the rules for getting things done, for implementing. This is why tools are also called implements. There is no reflection of greater truths. It’s just about what it takes to get something done, e.g., the creation of a circuit board. A competent leader is keenly aware of the need to pay close attention to the technology and its implementation since the devil is in the details. Does the leader need to be technically competent? No. The leader can be surrounded by those possessing technology and a willingness to work together to bring about the product (more on that later). Does this mean that technology is trivial – far from it. The technology can exist outside of the leader.

Sophistication

“Sophistication” comes from the Greek “sophia” and means “wisdom”. A leader needs to be sophisticated which has a great deal of humility associated with it (see blog on humility). In other words, a competent leader is aware of the limits present in a situation, including his or her own.

Wisdom has a depth to it that goes beyond technical competency. A competent leader understands that in a complicated situation there is more than one truth system at play. In fact, there is at least one truth system for every belief system present.

Competent Leadership

A competent leader finds a balance among the technologies and truth systems present. An earlier blog on change management references Henry Kaiser and his ability to lead in bringing Liberty ships to life in World War II. Aristotle referred to this type of person as a good politician, one who finds a way to thread through a situation to reveal a path that, when followed, benefits the common good.

There is a fluidity to a leadership situation. To be competent means to be grounded in the right set of principles with the right priorities and be able to flex with the situation. There are no rules for that. There is no technology.

Maybe you can see why it is so important to be able to answer the question, “Who are you?” discussed in the blog on Panic and Self-Doubt. Unlike technology, sophistication must be within the leader.

The importance of technology then is a reflection of sophistication. A reflection of the balance within and among the leader and stakeholders involved, including the team. Competence pulls all of the above together so that one person can meet another person’s needs, i.e., a connection comprising the humanity of the stakeholders who need and commit to finding a solution that works.