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Business thinking and best practice is in a constant state of flux. In the business world, ideas change the way we do things, and they are constantly being changed themselves. Of course, the practical usefulness of many ideas is questionable and making thing happen is more difficult than the idea may suggest. While there may be nothing so practical as a neat theory, you still have to find the right theory.
This book will not turn a bad business into a good business. Nor will it turn a bad businessperson into an entrepreneurial genius. Life and business life isn't like that. Business, The Universe and Everything is awash with bright ideas. The fascinating collection of interviews gives you first-hand insights from some of the world's most brilliant and compelling business thinkers, offering you a smorgasbord of business ideas. You are free to pick and choose the ideas that resonate most with you, but remember that in the end, ideas are nothing without application.
About the Authors.
Section 1: Leading the Way.
Warren Bennis: Geeks, geezers and beyond.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter: Teaching cowboys Confucius.
Manfred Kets de Vries: The dark side of leadership.
John Kotter: In the field.
Daniel Goleman: Maxed emotions.
Section 2: Selling the Future.
Peter Schwartz: Thinking the unthinkable.
Watts Wacker: Fringe benefits.
John Patrick: The attitude thing.
Charles Handy: Reflections of a reluctant capitalist.
Philip Kotler: Marketing in the digital age.
Section 3: People Power.
Derrick Bell: The ardent protestor.
Jonas Ridderstråle: Emotional capital.
Leif Edvinsson: The context’s the thing.
Tony Buzan: Brain power.
Marshall Goldsmith: Coaching for results.
Kjell Nordström: Tribal gathering.
Tom Stewart: Intellectual capitalist.
Section 4: Strategic Wisdom.
Gary Hamel: The radical fringe.
Costas Markides: Escaping the jungle.
James Champy: What re-engineering did next.
W Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne: Strategic moves.
Henry Mintzberg: Searching for balance.
Sumantra Ghoshal: The rise of the volunteer investor.
People have been debating what makes great leaders for centuries - certainly as far back as Homer and the Ancient Greeks. Theories abound. Great Man theories, popular in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, were based on the notion of the born leader with innate talents that could not be taught. Trait Theory, an alternative approach and still in vogue, identifies the key traits of effective leaders. Behaviourist Theory views leadership in terms of what leaders do rather than their characteristics, identifying the different roles they fulfil. Situational Theory sees leadership as specific to the situation rather than the personality of the leader.
Today, leadership is a hardy perennial of business book publishing. More than 2000 books on leadership are published every year. But, a small rainforest and an ocean of ink later, we are still searching for definitive answers.
Certainly traditional leadership models are buckling under the weight of expectation. The modern leader has multiple roles and constituencies. The job is increasingly fragmented. There is little time to do everything well and so he or she faces a continuing series of trade-offs of time, energy and focus. Increasingly, too, these demands create seemingly contradictory pressures. At present many leaders face an agonizing dilemma. They are under pressure to cut costs. Yet, at the same time, they know that the dot-com bust notwithstanding, the Internet and other digital technologies offer enormous opportunities. Leaders are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. They must create value through performance delivered today, while at the same time sowing the seeds of innovation for tomorrow.
This too is not an either/or situation. Shareholders now expect them to deliver on both fronts simultaneously - and that's a tall order. Connecting the dots has never been more important, or more difficult. Leaders themselves admit that the role is becoming more challenging. They cite pressure from financial institutions to meet performance expectations, increasing complexity and competitiveness of business as a result of globalization, restructuring and managing change, increasingly demanding customers, difficulties in finding good people, and technological change, particularly the use of information technology. The fact is that the job of leaders has never been so hard; or shareholders so unforgiving.
A rising failure rate among CEOs suggests it is time to reinvent leadership for the challenges of the twenty-first century. For the moment, heroic leadership is out of favour with the theorists. (Though it is probably unrealistic to think that the days of heroic leadership are over. After all, Winston Churchill was recently voted the greatest Briton of all time and Abraham Lincoln is still an icon in the US.) Theorists argue that the idea that one person is responsible for the success of an entire nation or a multinational company is absurd.
New models of leadership are emerging. A more holistic view of leadership is being adopted. Take transformational leadership for example, one idea that has steadily gained ground. It connects with other fashionable leadership ideas such as inspirational leadership, visionary leadership and 'emotional intelligence'. It embraces the role of followers and acknowledges the need for all in an organization to embrace leadership. Issues such as spirituality, and certainly ethics, are now more closely identified with business leadership. Perhaps because of this, leadership is increasingly seen in the context of values. The actions of the leader are expected to be driven by clearly articulated values rather than by short-term business imperatives.
Whether the new leadership styles will stand the test of time remains to be seen. On one hand, the new leader is expected to be modest, unpretentious, engaging, flexible, diplomatic, ethical, even humble. Yet that same person is expected to deal confidently with a rapacious media, boldly carry off audacious deals, and fearlessly take on competitors. Truly great leaders, it seems, require a perplexing combination of apparently incompatible characteristics.
WARREN BENNIS: GEEKS, GEEZERS AND BEYOND
Warren Bennis has done more to debunk the heroic leadership myth than just about any other business thinker. Leaders, he argues, are made not born. Usually ordinary - or apparently ordinary - people rather than charismatic or talismanic stereotypes; the heroic view of the leader, he believes, is now outdated and inappropriate. 'The new leader is one who commits people to action, who converts followers into leaders, and who can convert leaders into agents of change', says Bennis.
From his base at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he is founder of the University's Leadership Institute, Bennis has produced a steady stream of books, including the bestselling Leaders and, most recently, Geeks and Geezers which compares leaders under the age of 35 ('geeks') with those over 70 ('geezers').
Now in his late 70s, Bennis' intellectual energy and output remain formidable. He talked in his new office in Harvard Business School where he is spending time as an advisor on leadership.
What motivated you to compare young and old leaders?
I want to understand human development. I think that's the new challenge. In the future we will see chairs in cognitive psychology and human development established in schools of business. Human development will be an integral part of leadership curricula. That's what I would have gone into if I was deciding now. There are two basic things that I'm really excited about and want to understand.
The first is that when I go out and talk to my students, who are 20-year-olds, and young executives, I'm not sure I really understand how they see the world. These people are visual, digital, and virtual. I want to understand what their aspirations are; how they perceive the world; how they define success; what their career goals are. Basically, what provides the meaning in their lives.
The second group, the 70-plus leaders, are all people who manage to keep their minds open and continuously reinvent themselves. I want to know why these people keep growing and why other people get stuck. I've seen people in their 40s who are on a treadmill to oblivion. But these older leaders are still hungry for growth. Why?
Aren't the older leaders - the geezers - inevitably more interesting than the geeks?
I am one of them so I would hate to sound biased or judgemental but they have lived longer and gone through an awful lot. I think what the geeks haven't experienced are the crucibles like World War II and the Depression. They have had formative years of almost uninterrupted prosperity, growth and success. They are often children of affluence. So 9/11 was the first collective shock to the world view they grew up with. It was a jolt to them.
You talk of the geeks being smothered in possibilities.
The world's their oyster and they can choose what they do. I think it does create anxiety. They have so many options and possibilities.
You argue that crucibles are important in people's development. But can you create your own crucible?
That's the big question. I think they are created all the time. Having to fire people, being fired, being shipped to an office you don't like, thinking that you have been demoted when maybe you haven't. My concern is how we use such everyday crucibles which we're not sometimes conscious of. We all experience crucibles but what do we do at the back end of them? Do we learn from them? Do we extract wisdom from them? It isn't a question of how we create them; they happen and happen almost all the time. But do we think of them as a dream so that when we wake up and brush our teeth it vaporizes or do we think about the dream and learn from that?
But you can't be held responsible for the era in which you live.
President Clinton was always slightly envious that he didn't have a war to deal with, to prove himself. Teddy Roosevelt was the same, though he had a few minor skirmishes.
You could look at this generation of geeks and say that their formative period ended at 9/11 but it started in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell, the Cold War ended, and then came the introduction of the World Wide Web. So it's not a generational thing, it is a shorter period.
So leaders have to seek out uncertainty?
In the final analysis, you can't create Mandela's Robyn Island or John McCain's experiences as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. They are extreme.
Your experiences in World War II were obviously a crucible for you, but did you emerge from that thinking of yourself as a leader?
What I learned was discipline and a sense of self-mastery. It shaped me so much and pulled from me things I may never have experienced. I was very shy and felt that I was a boring human being, and then in the course of being in the army I felt that I was more interesting to myself. It was a coming of age.
Do you detect that same level of self-awareness in the young business leaders you talked to?
I think they feel that they have more license to talk about themselves and their inner feelings. Unlike some of the geezers who would never dream about talking about their relationships with their family and so on. There is a real restraint among the geezers, a kind of reserve, while the younger generation are more free with their feelings, aspirations and things like that.
What about the way we develop leaders. A lot of people appear to go on MBA programmes without a bedrock of self-awareness.
You've got to realize that most business school faculty have not actually run anything. They have not done the heavy lifting of actually leading. I am glad now that business schools are taking people who have worked for three or five years. In many instances they have more experience than the faculty.
I am in favour of a national service system. It is badly needed. The youth are all dressed up but have no place to go. This would not be military service - though I wouldn't exclude the military - so they could get experience before going to law school or business school.
There is a required course on ethics at Harvard Business School but not at most business schools. It's a very difficult topic but we need to think about the purpose of education. We have to ask the question at business schools, is there something more important than money? Do corporations exist for something more than money and the bottom line? Of course they do, but we have to explain it better.
Was there a difference between the geeks and the geezers in terms of their attitudes to money?
The geezers were brought up in Maslowian survival mode. Often they grew up in some poverty with limited financial aspirations. They thought that earning $10,000 a year would be enough. Compare that to the geeks, some of whom made a lot of money when they were young. They are operating out of a different context. If they were broke they would be more concerned with making a living than making history.
How can you bridge the gap between the geeks and the geezers?
We must. After all, we are going to have to get used to a lot more geezers like me walking around. I think the geezers may have a more difficult time with changes underway - such as technology. You start to think about mortality in your 60s and there is a certain envy towards youth. In your 60s you are no longer promising.
The dialogue between generations is important. It is the people who are in the middle group between the geeks and the geezers, who are comfortable with the technology but a little wiser and older, who have to be the articulating point. They have the responsibility I think to be the translators, the people who will help each group.
A number of companies, including General Electric, have reverse mentoring where young people mentor older people to acquaint them with the e-world. There is a lot of ageism which I probably wouldn't be sensitive to except for the fact I am in my 70s. These will be profound issues for society in general.
How do you rate President Bush's performance as a leader?
I would give President Bush a good mark for being a manager but a low mark for being a leader because he hasn't called on the nation to do much more than shop a little bit more.
ROSABETH MOSS KANTER: TEACHING COWBOYS CONFUCIUS
The Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter is one of the 100 most important women in America according to one magazine and among the world's 50 most powerful women according to another. There is no doubt that Professor Kanter is intellectually formidable. Her career includes spells at Yale and Harvard Law School. She edited the Harvard Business Review, helped found the consulting firm Goodmeasure, advises the CEOs of major multinationals and is an active Democrat - though her credentials are such that she recently participated in President Bush's gathering of American business minds in Waco, Texas in 2002.
Professor Kanter's work - which includes the bestsellers Change Masters, When Giants Learn to Dance, World Class and Evolve! - combines academic rigour with a degree of idealism not usually found in the bottom-line fixated world of management thinking. Her world view is not confined to the boardroom. Her thesis examined nineteenth century Utopian communities. Rather than leaving her youthful idealism behind, Professor Kanter now brings it to bear on the big business issues. She is a champion of social entrepreneurship as well as a thought leader in change management and globalization.
Most recently, Professor Kanter's ideas have been developed into a Change Toolkit, a Web-based tool that helps people diagnose issues, define projects, and lead change. She explains how it works and her latest thinking on change, leadership and globalization.
Not many leading business thinkers have embraced new technology with your enthusiasm. What's the aim of your Change Toolkit?
I want to create Web-based versions of my work to empower people to make change more effective. I want to give these skills to everyone so that change management - essential to leadership - becomes more widely understood and practiced.
The content consists of 150 interlinked 'tools' - explanations and descriptions, action guides, frameworks, diagnostic tests, etc. - based on my work. It is about putting my theories into action. I believe this is a way to empower people - by giving them the tools to take initiative, to lead and gain confidence in their ability to innovate and then to develop still more leaders.
Excerpted from Business, The Universe & Everything by Stuart Crainer Des Dearlove Excerpted by permission.
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