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Weiss was polite but firm. "I can't do that," he replied. "We'll lose two or three more years while that person is getting his or her act together. That would be catastrophic, because within five years, we've got to either transform this company or find our markets rapidly shrinking. Until now, our leaders have been unwilling tocontemplate anything but gradual change. We've got to find a way to radically reform and reorient our company. We'll have to deal with succession in that context."
Within six months of this meeting, two of the key potential CEO successors had left Ameritech, and four new potential successors from within the organization were leading a massive cultural change effort called Breakthrough Leadership. The company had also created a temporary organization to run parallel with the operating company. This temporary organization was designed to simultaneously screen and develop leaders for Ameritech's future, as well as to develop the vision, values and strategy for the new Ameritech. It involved hundreds of leaders and task forces, and intensive development activities throughout 1992. In 1993, this was expanded to thousands of Ameritech managers.
By May 1994, when Weiss retired, the company had been totally reorganized into new business units, and a new CEO was in place: 47-year-old Dick Notebaert. It had thousands of reenergized and motivated employees. And it was primed to take off in the new telecommunications world. From 1993 through 1996, Ameritech outperformed its peers, providing a 19.0% annual return to investors versus 13.9% for the Standard & Poor's Telephone Index. For 1996, Ameritech posted net income of $2.13 billion, on revenue of $14.9 billion.
Bill Weiss is gone from Ameritech now. When he retired, he even left the board so that Notebaert would have the freedom to run the business on his own. But Weiss gave Ameritech a lasting legacy: In a very short time, he had positioned the company to be a winner by developing a team of leaders who would continue to invest in developing other leaders. In his last three years, he gave a bravura performance of leadership, and he left the company not only in the hands of a strong successor, but also with a keen appreciation for and a culture of leadership.
Weiss himself readily acknowledges that he wasn't always a great leader. He became chairman in 1984, but for the first seven years of his tenure, he just tinkered, "because our performance was solid and life was comfortable." But finally he saw that big things had to change if Ameritech was going to survive, and someone had to make those changes happen. "I have to admit my first efforts were at gradual change, incremental change," he says. "I had to start thinking in terms of radical change; revolution, if you will. I should have done it sooner."
Bill Weiss may have been a slow starter, but Ameritech is on a winning trajectory today because he came to understand a secret about winning organizations and winning people: Winning is about leadership. Winning individuals are leaders, people with ideas and values, and the energy and guts to do what needs to be done. And organizations are winners because they have good leaders, not just at the top, but at all levels. Winning companies value leaders, they have cultures that expect and reward leadership, and they actively put time and resources into developing them. Winning companies win because they have lots of leaders, and they have lots of leaders because they deliberately and systematically produce them. This is what separates the winners from the losers.
Most people in business will tell you that developing leaders is an important activity, and that organizations must carry it out in a thoughtful and systematic manner. The reality, however, is that while there is much talk and much surface activity, very few organizations do a good job of it. They talk a good game, but when the chips are down, they don't follow through very well.
Some companies don't do a good job developing leaders because they don't try very hard. Some have good intentions, but they just don't commit the time and resources necessary to do it. Others, such as General Motors, Digital Equipment and Westinghouse, like to talk about leadership but actively discourage it by punishing people who dare to think independently. And still others, such as AT&T, have committed huge amounts of time and resources to elaborate well-enforced human resources development processes, but they have been largely taught by consultants and academicians who aren't leaders themselves. So what they have tended to produce are very articulate managers who are masters of the latest "business-speak" and the fads and fashions of management gurus. But they end up acting like civil servants and bureaucrats, not leaders....
Why do some companies consistently win in the marketplace while others struggle from crisis to crisis? Drawing on decades of research, practical experience, and colorful examples from leading CEOs, Noel Tichy shows that the answer to this question is the "Leadership Engine" -- a proven system for creating dynamic leaders at every level and an integral factor in a company's sustained success."Too few managers and executives understand the importance of mentoring. In elevating this role to the top of a leader's priorities, the authors offer managers a way of becoming even more influential." --John A. Byrne, BusinessWeek
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Posted May 11, 2002
Noel Tichy¿s ¿The Leadership Engine¿ is a practical and easy to read book on leadership. His research is exhaustive and well documented; there are sixty pages of notes and bibliographic citations. Tichy¿s central theme is that winning companies possess a ¿Leadership Engine¿ that produces dynamic leaders at every level within the organization. He argues forcefully that winning is about leadership and that leadership is the key trait that distinguishes winners from losers. He defines winning as success in adding value, coupled with sustained excellence. For a company or organization to be successful it must have outstanding leaders at every level. In order to have those dynamic leaders at every level, the organization itself must systematically produce them. Tichy insists that learning, teaching, and leading are intertwined and admits he is a proponent of transformational leadership theory. Elements of this theory are clearly evident throughout his book. Tichy is also resolute in his belief that leading IS teaching¿¿they can, they do, they teach¿¿this point is driven home numerous times throughout his book(1). Winning organizations are teaching organizations. Successful organizations have proven leaders who are both teachers and avid learners themselves. The author emphasizes on numerous occasions that leaders must have a teachable point of view and must create teachable moments for the right kind of learning to occur¿the kind that transforms an organization. A leader¿s ¿teachable point of view¿ is a trinitarian view composed of: a) ideas, b) values, and c) emotional energy and edge(2). Ideas are the substance of learning and good ideas are teachable. Tichy uses numerous real life examples from the business world and even the military to highlight his points throughout the book. His liberal use of relevant and true stories to emphasize the point he is making, is in itself, a subtle illustration of a key leadership trait¿being a good story teller. Tichy insists that successful leaders are successful teachers because they use stories and share examples from their own personal life. The author¿s frequent use of stories makes the book interesting, even captivating at times and minimizes the possibility of the reader getting bored. The Leadership Engine is an outstanding, well organized, and very readable book; and not just a book, but a useful handbook as well. Tichy includes a 99-page workbook with practical exercises designed to both help the reader assess his or her own leadership and to help the reader develop a ¿Leadership Engine¿ in his or her own organization. The workbook is what sets this leadership book apart from the thousands of others in this crowded category. Noel Tichy has accomplished what he set out to do¿convince us that winning organizations are teaching organizations. However, for the student of leadership, there is no new ground or profound insights in this book and consequently, I am not convinced that it deserved its Business Week ¿Book of the Year¿ honor. NOTES (1)Taken from the oft repeated jest by George Bernard Shaw that, ¿Those who can, do¿those who can¿t, teach.¿ This quote does not appear in Tichy¿s book. (2)Tichy defines ¿edge¿ as the courage to see reality and act on it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.