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HBR领导力评论:Why Great Leaders Are in Short Supply  

2012-05-22 20:52:14|  分类: 领导力与管理学 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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HBR领导力评论:Why Great Leaders Are in Short Supply

 

9:06 AM Friday March 30, 2012

by James S. Rosebush

 

James S. Rosebush

 

James S. Rosebush spent six years observing and learning leadership skills while Deputy Assistant to US President Ronald Reagan, and now is CEO of GrowthStrategy, Inc. and The Wealth and Family Management Group based in Washington, DC.

 

We're living with something of an irony right now regarding leadership. On the one hand, the topic has never been more studied and written about; my recent Google search for leadership research by academies and institutes returned some 375,000 hits. On the other hand, we are experiencing a dearth of leadership in society. We see fewer prominent leaders who seem genuine and highly capable, and many who have been compromised, deposed, or defeated. Even more seem to have run out of ideas, or simply appear unable to craft the necessary consensus to lead. Perhaps it's really not so ironic that there would be this inverse relationship: the deeper we sink into leadership crisis, the more it shows up on the agendas of think tanks and conferences.

From my own perspective as someone who has had a front-row seat to leadership over a few decades, it isn't so much that today's leaders fall short of the capabilities or character leaders had in the past. It isn't that the visionary, principled, courageous type we would all prefer to follow was once common and is now a rarity. Rather, it's the context of leadership that has changed, so that people with just as great capability as their predecessors find it much harder today to lead. We could probably cite many factors that have contributed to this shift, but three are particularly important. As I see it, leaders in the past had the great advantages of:

Privileged access to information. People naturally look for direction from someone they perceive to be in possession of more information about an evolving situation. It used to be that leaders were in a unique position to gain information, and to dole it out on a need-to-know basis. Now the world is awash in instantly accessible information of all types and on all subjects. Human beings making ground-level observations can communicate them directly to others either around the globe or around the corner, while they walk down the sidewalk of an urban neighborhood or the dirt path of a remote jungle.

Is it any wonder that the Web became the greatest fear factor of every dictator? When even State Department communiques become public knowledge and, in almost any realm, an impassioned nobody can be in greater possession of the facts than a leader in that same realm, information is decoupled from leadership. In fact the flows of information actively undercut leadership—both the practice and the perceived need for it.

The reflected glory of their institutions. Twenty years ago, a citizen might not know the name of a Fortune 500 CEO or NGO director, but they knew the reputation of the institution—and made an assumption that the person chosen to lead it must personify its good qualities. Two things have changed that: it is much easier to see leader and institution separately, and there has been a significant decline in respect for the institutions themselves. Whether we're talking about multinational corporations, churches, or public treasuries, we are constantly reminded by Pew and Gallup that reputations now scrape the bottom. There is an increasing perception of incompetence, greed, and frivolity at the expense of the governed, the taxed, and the managed.

Are institutions truly less noble, or is it that they, as well as their leaders, are subjected to more relentless scrutiny? In my own years in the White House I vividly recall the media's clamoring for details about presidential habits and the daily life of the West Wing—only to find them all too ordinary and boring to report. Today the media churns out every minor indiscretion and then, in a rare act of community, the public blogs on it. Social media platforms give motivated critics, even lone voices, the ability to be heard. YouTube is a bargain-basement media buy for campaigning on any issue.

Whether it is a matter of perception or reality, we can only hope that respect for our institutions will rise again. Institutions are where we join together, worship together, convene, gather, assemble, debate, celebrate, where preachers preach and where leaders convince. When any of them loses respect, society loses a platform for concerted action. Potentially great leaders lose a platform for leadership.

Broadly shared foundational principles. One other foundation of leadership that used to be firmly in place seems shaken today: a common understanding of the age-tested principles, religious or moral, that should guide decisions. Leaders may be yet another victim of the move away from the teaching and practice of moral values and their integration in early family life. Interpersonal relations patterns start early and are almost impossible to change; taking a graduate school class in ethics may be too late for someone who has not had good character modeled for them and required of them from early childhood. Much is said today about the diminution of the "actions have consequences" school of hard knocks that may have built the best leaders.

Meridian International, which offers a gathering place and leadership training for diplomats and internationalists in Washington DC, has studied this problem. Its conclusion: "Trust in public and private sector leaders can only be restored when leaders align value-based decisions, not rhetoric, with basic aspirations such as security and economic opportunity."

* * * * * * * * *

Leadership has never been easy. But I suspect it was simpler in an era when leaders could count on superior information access, reverence for their institutions, and strong moral bearings to assemble greater followership. The conditions of the past help to explain why the WWII military personnel who performed so well in European, Pacific, and North African theatres returned home to become such competent leaders in industry.

Conditions have changed to make leadership harder. Spencer Stuart's Tom Neff, the dean of CEO Executive Search, puts it baldly: "We are experiencing a demand for new types of skills and sacrifices in C-level executives that many are not prepared to bring to the table."

Of course, the corollary is that great leadership capability has never been more valuable. Even as the accessibility of information makes it less necessary for a group to have a leader to inform, organize, and mobilize its action, the sheer glut of information makes it more vital for a leader to show how all the data add up to a meaningful narrative—to interpret and inspire. If institutional reverence cannot be assumed, it is a bigger part of the leader's work to engage hearts and minds. In an era when character is not a given, the leader who consistently displays integrity will have real impact.

 

 

Comments

Timothy English Moderator 03/30/2012 09:33 AM

The institutions themselves have fundamentally changed.  Maybe in part do to the ubiquity of information, any perceived gaff, large or small, has the potential to knock an individual off the track to senior leadership.  This thins the talent pool and encourages vanilla, below-the-radar behavior.  Many of those who are willing to push the boundaries of real change in the institution are attrited, leaving a leadership vacuum to be filled by someone who knows how to remain within the accepted left and right lateral limits.  The result is mediocrity.

 

You've described the historical shift from small-leadership circles and power centres (oligarchy) to a more democratic system where information and so power is widely dispersed. This is a good thing for democracy and for the people who claim it as their form of government but is a decisive challenge for "leadership" as you note.

In my thinking, "conducting" best describes the type of leadership we need now (have always needed? Hmmm). Duke Ellington led a world-class orchestra for decades. Musicians whose musical knowledge could rival Duke's and whose individual performances were second-to-none still understood Duke as their "leader"; not only becaue he signed their paychecks but bc he developed the group, individual members, and had a musical vision that guided all into artistic brilliance that left an indelible mark on history and culture.

Leadership as shared responsibility seems timely now given the delige of information and vehicles for disseminating ideas.

GlobalJackie 
http://www.theglobalroundhouse... 

 
atimoshenko Moderator 03/30/2012 11:00 AM

I'd say there is one more factor – the systems being managed have increased in complexity. How far one sees is always at a trade off with how detailedly one sees. When systems are simple, losing detail does not matter all that much (as there is not that much detail to lose). With simple systems, therefore, leaders add value by providing far-looking direction. When systems are complex, there is a lot of important detail that can be lost. Providing far-looking direction typically produces unforeseen (and unforeseeable from the top) low-level knock-on effects. As a result, frequent top-down directions start to destroy value rather than creating it.

Because of this rise in interconnectedness and complexity, many organisations today would be better off if their leaders just stayed out of the way and did nothing but play golf. The people have not become worse, but the challenges organisations face today are no longer solvable via a single, fixed hierarchy where all the bucks eventually stop at one point.

 
Fer Desouza Moderator 03/30/2012 05:49 PM

The question might be: What really differentiates a leader?

And to me, it may be summarised with one word: Consistency.

It is not necessarily his/her charisma, the message, number of
followers, a certain image or physical appearance; neither his/her self-confidence
or being in top positions. All this may exist or not, be hidden or flourish,
depending on multiple factors. However, the overall scarcity of ‘consistency’ in society
may point out a true leader quite soon. Not much time is required to
identify it. Maybe only a change in circumstances.

An ordinary person is only consistent when he recognises an evident benefit for him
(for his partial interests). A real leader is
consistent when he ‘feels’ the mere possibility for a benefit for all
legitimate interests around him. Barely such possibility is enough to lead him
to explore it [consistently].

That is the reason why it is
not possible to be a leader without being an ‘explorer’; without exploring (on a regular basis)
how to provide a sustainable, favourable and fair position to the people with whom one is interacting. A true leader
is always consistent in this; even when he does not progress in his commitment because
of the lack of suitable responses. He is generous and fully committed just wondering
how to make it easier for others to follow him (his purposes, projects and
visions).

Most
people are reluctant, fearful and, as a result,
‘inconsistent’ outside their constrained comfort zone. Not necessarily because
they have no interest in those issues or approaches presented to them. People tend to leave when they become aware that
they must expose something ‘extra’ without clearly seeing the tangible benefit
for them. We need to feel a strong sense of control and personal accomplishment;
or at least a definitive expectation of achieving them in the short term. So we
dispute, demand and compete, all the time, in order to reach this.

What is extraordinary is to find those with skills to face a big
deal of uncertainty, make sacrifices and take unusual risks to favour the
interests of others along with their own, sole interest. That is, people strongly identified
with other people and concerned for them. And what is difficult is to see this kind of people in top positions. Maybe  it will change with internet.

No leaders?

The past three decades in America have been something akin to the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

Intellectuals were thrown out of the cathedral and left to work in the rice paddies among the peasants.

The true leaders were suppressed in favor of the 30 Year Ruling Junta that installed their own icons and ideology.

Those seeking truth or deciding as individuals that the Science wasn't quite "settled" were relegated to digging ditches, while the obsequious and the fawning took the top rank.

 

I think the notion that leaders in ages past relied more on 'morality' or had a clearer sense of it is naive.  Were Julius Caesar and Napoleon more moral than today's leaders?  Leaders in ages past enjoyed an inpenetrable wall of privacy that effectively divorced their private life and private morality from their public persona.  In today's world, every fart and sex act committed by a person in power is considered fair game for publishing on page 1 (or on the internet).  Leaders have been cut down to the size of ordinary people, and if you ask me, even to a station below ordinary, to the status of someone who is continually dissected personally by the entertainment industry / press.  For better or worse.  A natural consequence of this is that we don't have respect for leaders any more; part of the respect we had previously was due to the myth that was created by their wall of privacy and distance.

On top of all these things, the world is genuinely more participatory than it used to be.  Blogs and reader comments and public reactions and instant communication etc. inject the opinions of all of us into the public sector and give us the sense (probably largely illusory) that we deserve and have more impact on decisions and power than we actually have.  But it also reduces (in our eyes) the importance and apparent power and wisdom of leaders.

 
Frank Hagie Moderator 03/31/2012 02:59 PM

For me, leadership (when in the private or public sectors) in America "is not just about what leaders say and do; it is about what they say and do in the context of their followers’ willingness to identify as a we, who accordingly accept or reject what the leader wants them to do." (Haslam, S, et al. (2011).  "The New Psychology Of Leadership".)  

As such, the obvious lack of leadership today, for me, has little or nothing to do to do with access to private information, stellar institutions, or use of age-tested principles to guide leadership decisions.

Rather, the problem today is that we as a society, and subparts therein, have rejected the "we" idea.  We are so fragmented and balkanized in our public and private views, that talented folks have no opportunities for creating a "we" and then implementing plans to move the group forward.

 

Charles A Baker Moderator 04/01/2012 09:53 AM

Wow!  So many responses to a fascinating subject for observation and one I have been pondering a great deal recently.  I do agree with Mr Rosebush on the conclusions of the major differences between then and now, it could be like trying to compare Jesse Owens with Usain Bolt in terms of the world scene and opportunities.  However, I wonder about the future without institutions taking the lead.  Is it really necessary for them to do so for society to survive and develop?  The waning of people's trust of corporations and religions stems from those organisations oh so obvious flouting of standards that they have set for themselves and which at one time they lived up to.  We gave them chance after chance and they continued to fail.  What happened?

I think that another major difference is shown in the expectations from leaders.  In the past building something to last, which generated growth, modest profits and reinvested in itself was valued highly, and the men (all men pretty much) that lead the organisations had the charisma and characters and self-control to live by a code that they had seen proven to be honorable and result in success.

Today's leaders are expected to produce dramatic profits for shareholders and, whilst lip-service is played to matters like employee development or carbon footprint or CSR, it remains, even post-crisis, profit, profit, profit which drives leadership decision making and example setting.

What kind of crisis will it take for stakeholders to revisit the gross profit expectations that are contributing greatly to the demise of these once admirable platforms for a strong, inclusive and empathetic society?  Youth riots due to mass youth unemployment?  Burgeoning labour costs in the East to put paid to lack of jobs in the West?  Oil prices so high trade becomes prohibited?  Another World War?  I can't imagine that investors will willingly change their demands on leadership, Can you imagine a CEO being measured on personal integrity and company reputation ?  (Would put paid to bankers bonuses though!)

 

It may be useful to examine the effect over time of the Citizens United decision, which looks to have ushered in a new era, of bought positions and officeholders deep in debt to special interests, to a degree hitherto unimaginable. The individuals who will be propped up in power for as long as this ruling stands will be the property of those few who put them there, and hardly the kind of people to ever risk getting a hair out of place by having an idea or taking a chance.

The question is whether the existing corporate culture of self-promoting, self-aggrandizing ambition is transforming into an assembly line of packaged positionkeepers such as has already happened in public office, and whether this condition in politics is actually the ultimate end result of an education system that places credentials above performance and connections above merit every step of the way. Young people destined for careers, public or private alike, where selling oneself is the prime mandate for survival, have no motive to lead at anything, when pushing ahead of and surviving the predations of the pack means more than serving within it.

That leadership is above all service is what makes it so undesirable a role in a civilization based on competition over cooperation, advantage over effort. Leaders must bear responsibility for the actions of others, and impart to their subordinates a sense of worth and mutual accountability by setting examples and listening and adapting to the unexpected and defending the interests of their crew, for the sake of something more than just themselves.

Who wants to do that? There's the secret: the best leaders are the ones who want nothing to do with being in charge, because they have the common sense to know what a pain in the ass it will be. And then they do it anyway. Leaders who vie for position to bask in prestige are not fit to lead a mule to muddy water, given they might get their hands dirty.

True leaders and the decisions they make often polarize. In todays world anyone who makes a decision that is not popular (politically correct) is often vilified for the position they take. This happens in families, society, companies, and politics. Often today you see leadership lining their own personal pockets, just look at business, and politics, follow the money and you will understand the decision making taking place. This behavior destroys the concept of "we" working together for the benefit of all. It promotes selfish behavior, based on ego, and greed. More for me less for you. True leaders lead for all. This type of behavior is rewarded today not vilified.

 

Bonnier Moderator 04/01/2012 04:29 PM

No-one dares to say it and I shouldn`t.....
Therefore I only think it could be possible that the current generation leaders, mostly MBA- branded, have learned some tricks that brought them their career and wealth, but have led us into the wrong direction: financial crisis, a-moral behavior, disengaged workforces.Maybe we shouldn`t blame them, but it could do no harm to check-out the `off the record` lessons taught during MBA studies.- It is not important who you are, but who you know- your CV is a list of tick-off boxes. Just get the relevant experience and move on as quickly as possible- Act busy, always walk around with a document in your hand, but spend at least 50% of your time networking for your career- Focus on hard management skills.- Do not worry about your team, focus on your boss. It is not your team, but your boss who will get you to the next level.It is only a thought.

 

This is
a great discussion on leadership. It's interesting to see the discussion
expanding to include what may seem polar opposite views. However to move the
conversation forward to actionable value may require conversation segmentation.

I see three discrete markets that make up our collective economies and thus our
conversation on leadership in these markets.

1.
Government and all revenues that flow through this economy. Assume the price of
everything there is FREE to the final consumer at the point of service.
Regulation and public budgeting determines market size.

2. Regulated markets include all markets where the costs are REGULATED
directly. This can include the revenues that statute allows an attorney to
charge for disposing of an estate, as an example, or the regulated costs
associated with a utility service. The full market size is subject to how much
you want to include in the definition of regulated. What is important is that
everyone can define markets that fit here.

3. FREE
markets where the price is what the local supply and demand markets bear i.e.
MARKET PRICE.

The
reason I define these three markets is because of the pricing mechanisms [FREE,
REGULATED, MARKET PRICE] allow us to cluster these revenues fairly simply.

If we
look at the definition of leadership it varies tremendously in each discrete
market. For example:

Government-
When you create the definition of value [e.g. currency, licenses, laws] you
should seek leaders who can create defined value in a manner that serves the peoples
will. Most successful government leaders claim to do this, at least as a goal.
The old saying is, "if you think its expensive now, just wait until it’s
FREE". So why not promise a chicken in every pot. On the other hand I do
not want to have to pay a policeman directly for stopping a crime against me.

REGULATED
- Regulated markets seek to minimize the risk associated with public projects.
We would not want rows of competing electrical wires going down our streets, so
we have regulated electric utilities. Leaders here have the ability to reduce
risk and foster further market consolidation. In addition; the leadership
skills that are valued here are mirrored at many of the largest commercial
entities as they move from small business to oligopoly. Eventually they move to
duopoly and internationalism. So the culture of GE, ConEd, Wal-Mart would
reward similar leadership skills. I usually see the growth of MBA culture that
J Bonnier discusses above in these organizations.

MARKET
PRICE- Once you remove the Government and Regulated industries you have what
occurs at the market price. Most of these businesses are hyper local. [e.g.
SoLoMo]. Leadership here focuses on reputation and service delivery while
markets exist. Since markets are constantly regulated in and out of business
and the changes in markets are created by government leadership, the question
of private capital becomes critical. The question of "skin in the game” is
much more relevant for leadership here. All the advances in personal
productivity, time management, goal setting, NLP have kept the market able to
adapt to outside changes that effect the government and regulated markets.

It is
interesting how the conversation above discussed the alternative focus on performance
versus quality in leadership today. This is just one thread that would yield
very different conversations in government, regulated, and market price
environments.

This is what makes it so hard to create managed change for the
leaders in these discrete groups.

I recommend having
further leadership discussions within the discipline that target comments to
each of the three markets individually. I believe that helps create best
practices and actionable short term goals for leadership in each market.

 

It is true that the internet has leveled the playground for many.  Information is more or less available to everyone BUT a large amount of information that is available is crap.  Simply because the information is out there, doesn't mean everyone has the tools to understand, analyze and disseminate it.  People write blogs, and many take these as if they are facts, when it is merely their view of the facts which has been filtered by their life experience, obviously some are more experienced than others in certain areas. The leaders of tomorrow will need to sort through the myriad of information and offer analysis and direction.  They still need the qualities that were needed before, but now they aren't revered as a leader merely because of their position.  There is a new breed of young people, who aren't just looking for money and power and who want to make a difference in the world.  The leaders of tomorrow will have inspire, yet listen, and I think for true success, they will need to learn to be more worldly, less homogeneous, more inclusive to the human race with little care to race, religion, etc...

Perhaps we are feeling a growth spurt...the older generation of leaders will adapt (if they are true leaders) and new leaders will emerge from the younger generation.

As a project manager, I noticed once I had gained respect there was a portion of colleagues that preferred that I made decisions.  Not everyone wants to be the boss or put that extra effort in, they'd rather not think about it.

 

Jean Mallebay-Vacqueur Moderator 04/02/2012 08:55 AM

A leader controls destinies beyond his own. Leadership always happened in societies, sometimes for the greater good, sometimes not, sometimes effective, sometimes not, sometimes as the product of an organized process, sometimes as the random fruit of chaotic events. Leaders frame challenges, provide meaning to change and direct collective actions to affect outcome. It implies personal will, set of values, data sorting for information to feed a decision making process, modes of operations, recognized skills and fertile circumstances. Scope, reach and time horizon scaled up but so did leverage with modern communication tools. Competition for leadership heats up, (may be more for power perks from reward to authority, than for ethical responsibility that should come with it), but chances for achievement expand through the segmentation of the field of opportunities. What remains invariant in leadership is that it litmus tests remain results recognition and process assessment. And then history is written and rewritten to fit the agenda of the day. We observe this emotional phenomenon with the present recasting of the "Ronald Reagan" experience by the GOP, but it is true of any surviving organization from the pop and mom shop to the Catholic Church, from China Communist Party Central Committee to African herders tribes, from the United Way, from the Harvard Scientific community to the Mayan doomsday club. This conversation get us to think of what we expect from our leaders and to our own behaviors since we are all somebodies leader at a point or another and we can strive to improve the breed. We cannot escape responsibility.

 

Rosebush’s conclusion resonates for me.
 
Value-based action and integrity go hand in hand.
 
The leadership crisis we experience is a problem with our popular culture, or as Rosebush says “context”, which has evolved to emphasize individual consumerism (and greed) over contributions; and confuses a connection with a real relationship.  The republic of the United States of America was founded as an expression of a moral society made up of individuals rooted in trustworthy character. A trustworthy character that put faith in the sovereignty of our Creator and respect for individual liberty.
 
The discourse in our society is increasingly polemic - in order to make a point, there must be an attack, put down or destruction of the opposing point of view. The value of individual liberty respecting our right to think for ourselves be dammed. In this paradigm of “group think”, one can only align safely with people if you agree with their point of view; the exchanges of different perspectives which give rise to prosperity are strangled and institutions become corrupt and continue to fail and disappoint.
 
The self-centered, short-term strategies of leaders in positions of privilege - as witnessed in the “too big to fail crisis”, for example, rule the day. People went along to get along and get ahead, as trustworthy character was thrown out the window. The integrity that we seek must first be produced at home - parents raising citizens ready to walk in alignment with our values.
 
When we as a people finally recognize that it is folly to put blind trust in people and institutions with money, rather than honoring the values of a moral society that respects the laws of the land to protect individual liberty, then there will be a cultural platform or context for leadership that sustains and encourages prosperity.
 
The cultural environment today is demanding more and better of us as individuals and as leaders of families, communities, organizations, businesses, and government.

 

Joanna,
I agree that "Value-based action and integrity go hand in hand."  However, I have to respectfully disagree with your declaration that "The republic of the United States of America was founded as an expression of a moral society made up of individuals rooted in trustworthy character. A trustworthy character that put faith in the sovereignty of our Creator and respect for individual liberty."  This country recognized individual liberty, just so long as that individual was a land-owning male, who was probably Western-European, because the Native Americans were considered savages in need of reform at best and elimination at worst and African slaves were considered 3/5 of a person.

And while I agree that our political conversation within the United States has grown despairingly polemic as of late, I am very hesitant to hark back to the establishment of the United States for examples of opportunities to think for myself, particularly as a woman.  This country has recognized women's right to express their opinions through the voting process for less than 100 years.

We do need to raise the next generation with integrity and establish a moral society which sustains and encourages prosperity, but we need to recognize that we'd be doing it for the first time in this country, at least if we are truly desirous of prosperity for all.

Going further in Rosebush's argument, he seems to support a rose-colored view of history, particularly when he poses the question, "Are institutions truly less noble, or is it that they, as well as their leaders, are subjected to more relentless scrutiny?" Wrapped up in this question is the assumption that institutions were once truly noble. Look at history in this country and our systemic (often government instituted) maltreatment (to put it lightly) of Native Americans, African-Americans, Chinese indentured servants, the American citizens of Japanese descent during WWII... That question alone grossly ignores the thousands of potential leaders who were not ever given a chance to lead and instead looks back on "the good old days" with longing.  

Rosebush also references WWII by saying "The conditions of the past help to explain why the WWII military personnel who performed so well in European, Pacific, and North African theatres returned home to become such competent leaders in industry."  But he fails to mention the returning military personnel was given an opportunity to become competent leaders through GI bills, which helped thousands of white service members into higher education and disproportionately redirected African-American servicemen into dead-end trade programs or outright blocked their efforts to pursue higher education.  I don't doubt that the white servicemen worked hard and have tried to lead well, but there are too many voices which have been systemically silenced.

He states, "Leadership has never been easy. But I suspect it was simpler in an era when leaders could count on superior information access, reverence for their institutions, and strong moral bearings to assemble greater followership."  Well, they had superior access often at the exclusion of others' access to education and manipulated institutions, such as the church, to maintain the status quo of disparity which continues to this day.  I'd feel a lot more convicted about the current lack of "moral bearings" if previous generations didn't designate certain areas of the 1935 Minneapolis city planning map for "Negro Slums", the "Golden Coast" and the "Foreign Born."  It was simpler for those leaders because others weren't given the power to protest.  

I'm grateful for the current complexity, because if they had stayed the same, I could not have had a career aside from perhaps a typist, my higher education would be to prepare me to more marriageable material rather than to prepare me to help successfully build business and I would have been considered a tragically old maid at the age of 23.  

That frustration and disillusionment having been expressed with the basis of Rosebush's argument, I do agree with his conclusion.  I agree that "the sheer glut of information makes it more vital for a leader to show how all the data add up to a meaningful narrative—to interpret and inspire...  In an era when character is not a given, the leader who consistently displays integrity will have real impact."  My generation has no tolerance for someone who does not appear genuine, and so I will continue to support and learn from leaders around me who demonstrate that consistent integrity, an integrity which requires them to look long and hard at this country's history so we can truly build a better future for all people.

 

It has been my observation that a perceived challenge is most often a symptom of a greater issue that is systemic. Often the systemic issue(s) go unidentified and unaddressed and the symptoms are mistakenly identified as root cases.
 
In the case of a shortage of leadership you often see articles written about the qualities that make a great leader. While there are definite qualities that make a great leader, there are many leaders who have those qualities and yet they are still not very effective in today’s business environment.
 
I applaud James S. Rosebush for looking outside the normal rhetoric of why leaders are in short supply.
 
In my experience there are two critical systemic components that make strong leadership hard and sometimes impossible in today’s business environment, regardless of whether a leader has the right qualities or not. These two components have become more challenging with time and they both deal with the financial market system. They include:
 
a) The speed at which the financial market system expects results and
b) The metrics used within the financial market system
 
A brief explanation about each…
 
The financial market system has come to expect company’s show results monthly. Over the decades, this expectation went from 3 years to 1 year to 6 months to quarterly and now monthly. Companies must focus most of their energy on the short term in order to make it to the long term. This results in many decisions that are not in the best interest of the company, employees, product direction or customers but are in the short term interest of the bottom line. Many companies feel the pressure to quickly merge with other companies, cut costs that often compromise quality or spend excessive amount of time playing with the numbers as opposed to focusing on the product strategy, quality and direction, all to make the bottom line meet the market’s expectations NOW. This pressure filters down to firms who may not be public but who are suppliers to public firms.
 
 
The second factor involves the metrics used in the financial market place. 95% of the emphasis is on time and money. If stock prices were based on such factors as a) profitability, b) employee satisfaction, c) environmental impact and/or d) community impact, we would influence businesses to not only produce a profit but to do so with the employees, customers, community and environment in mind. A financial market structure with such metrics would not only allow already great leaders to lead with more success but it would promote the building of strong leaders for generations to come.
 
In a nutshell, the financial market structure makes it difficult for those who have all the good makings of great leaders to lead with much success. Given the market structure seems unlikely to change any time soon, great leaders who have the desire to truly lead to greatness may want to consider stepping outside the system and working under the radar to show their true talents.

 

It has been my observation that a perceived challenge is most often a symptom of a greater issue that is systemic. Often the systemic issue(s) go unidentified and unaddressed and the symptoms are mistakenly identified as root cases.
 
In the case of a shortage of leadership you often see articles written about the qualities that make a great leader. While there are definite qualities that make a great leader, there are many leaders who have those qualities and yet they are still not very effective in today’s business environment.
 
I applaud James S. Rosebush for looking outside the normal rhetoric of why leaders are in short supply.
 
In my experience there are two critical systemic components that make strong leadership hard and sometimes impossible in today’s business environment, regardless of whether a leader has the right qualities or not. These two components have become more challenging with time and they both deal with the financial market system. They include:
 
a) The speed at which the financial market system expects results and
b) The metrics used within the financial market system
 
A brief explanation about each…
 
The financial market system has come to expect company’s show results monthly. Over the decades, this expectation went from 3 years to 1 year to 6 months to quarterly and now monthly. Companies must focus most of their energy on the short term in order to make it to the long term. This results in many decisions that are not in the best interest of the company, employees, product direction or customers but are in the short term interest of the bottom line. Many companies feel the pressure to quickly merge with other companies, cut costs that often compromise quality or spend excessive amount of time playing with the numbers as opposed to focusing on the product strategy, quality and direction, all to make the bottom line meet the market’s expectations NOW. This pressure filters down to firms who may not be public but who are suppliers to public firms.
 
 
The second factor involves the metrics used in the financial market place. 95% of the emphasis is on time and money. If stock prices were based on such factors as a) profitability, b) employee satisfaction, c) environmental impact and/or d) community impact, we would influence businesses to not only produce a profit but to do so with the employees, customers, community and environment in mind. A financial market structure with such metrics would not only allow already great leaders to lead with more success but it would promote the building of strong leaders for generations to come.
 
In a nutshell, the financial market structure makes it difficult for those who have all the good makings of great leaders to lead with much success. Given the market structure seems unlikely to change any time soon, great leaders who have the desire to truly lead to greatness may want to consider stepping outside the system and working under the radar to show their true talents.

 

MarquisOfSkepticism Moderator 04/03/2012 01:51 PM

We lack leaders today because:

a) We're promoting on the basis of presentation, not ability.  Walk into most companies and take a look at the executives; you'd be hard-pressed to disprove the notion that they'd been promoted on the basis of height.  They all look and dress spectacularly, they know how to fit in with the other "leaders", but when it comes down to dealing with the unexpected, they flaill (but they look dam good while doing so).

b) We're teaching classes on project administration and calling them "Leadership".  These kids (and the people who hire them) think that being able to create and track a Microsoft Project plan makes them leaders.  They craft exquisite project plans and spreadsheets built from subjective guesses and unfounded assumptions.  When it comes time to execute, they leave real-world problem-solving to others, preferring instead to shoehorn semi-fudged data into the tracking site in order to make thier projects appear to be healthy.

Jim,
A great article!
I found that its harder than ever to do the "right thing".
The competition is so great and the bar is set as "success at any cost".
Power corrupts and so does leadership. And unless there is a clear understanding of the character ethics and integrity needed to be a true leader, people will follow the mood of the moment.
I believe it was Norman Schwartzkoff who said it best "that leadership is having a great strategy and character". If you have to do without one let it be the strategy!
Most people are disillusioned by our political leadership and that translates into not trusting any leadership. Its true that the Internet creates transparency, which means that leaders have to be very careful what they say and do. Now we should demand accountability.
Most schools and organizations don't train for leadership and it shows!
Leadership maybe born and/or developed but corrupt leadership is acquired!
Good habits need to be ingrained while they're open for learning. Once they're in that corner office its way too late!
JME

 

If Lincoln/Ben Franklin/Gandhi were alive today they would still make great leaders. Fundamental qualities expected from a leader hasn't changed with the times nor it will. 

Thank god for the information age otherwise we would see more dictators than leaders running organizations. Information flow is a great profiler filtering the good ones from the rest.
Today's leaders have powerful resources than ever to be the most impact-ful leaders with technology to instantly reach people in far corners of the planet.

Yet, there is a scarcity of leaders because more and more are selfish, thinking only about their own personal gains. They have a vision only for themselves. Then there is the "pride" factor. These two factors lead to politics, mismanagement, mediocrity (smarter people make them look bad), fraud and misuse. 

Yesteryear leaders had greater values such as character, integrity, ability to rise above oneself to name a few. Unfortunately, these qualities are fast becoming old fashioned and so is true leadership.

 

Gary Brumback Moderator 04/03/2012 08:15 PM

Dear Mr. Rosebush, I see that your “front-row seat to leadership over a few decades” included six at the seat of Ronald Reagan. What kind of a leader do you think he was and what were his accomplishments? Iran/Contra? Yes. Meltdown of the Soviet Union? No. Visceration of unions? Yes. Swallowed hook, line and sinker the zany ideas of Milton Friedman and the Iron Lady and sunk America deeply into her fifth Corpocracy? Resounding Yes
 
I’ve been around the block more decades than you, cutting my teeth on organizational and leadership studies in the late 50’s and I haven’t stopped yet. From my own research over that span I have concluded that public and corporate leaders have failed us for decades by corrupting each other and pursuing their own self interests rather than promoting the general welfare, a promise made in the preamble to our Constitution. (e.g., see my 2011 book The Devil’s Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch). The current batch of rotten apples is gradually sliding this country into “ruiNation.” Among industrialized nations America has the worse socioeconomic conditions and is, solely for self-serving purposes, the most militant and warring nation on the globe.
 
Your observation and understanding of leadership is very different from mine, and my answer to the question in the title of your article is as different as it is shorter: The leaders of our government and corporate America have corrupted each other throughout the history of US corporations and US government. End of answer.
 
If there should ever be a game changer of widespread government reforms (see, e.g., www.uschamberofdemocracy.com) corporations may start dropping like flies, no longer propped up by government hand outs and hands off policies and practices. Any corporate leaders reading this ought to listen up and read my book, The Corpocracy and Megaliio’s Turn Up Strategy. Megaliio, related to the Greek word for “great” is a mythical corporation. So are its leaders. The organizational structure of Megaliio, its leadership, and its way of doing business are the antithesis of what you have been experiencing Mr. Rosebush.     
 
 
I see you are CEO of a company called GrowthStrategy, Inc. Are you aware of the “cult of growth” that advocates saddling taxes and unsaddling growth? In this cult are mostly mainstream economists, management gurus, and speculative investors and their brokers. There is even a politically activist organization called the “Club of Growth.” In reality corporate growth is a euphemism for greed and a rationalization for all sorts of actions that may be on the right side of the law most of the time but are on the wrong side of ethics most of the time. I doubt if your company will ever advise your clients to go the way of Megaliio but you should read it for the advice you should be giving them.  

Gary Brumback, PhD

 

Leadership was more of an observation made "after the fact" -- as in when someone accomplished something tangible. These days, people start their business school aiming for leadership and business schools also promise "leadership" as if it could be purchased by the kilogram at your local store without investing in any hard work.

To put it briefly --  a few key things have happened: (1) leadership inflation occurred over time; (2) access of information and tools by common people diminished the need for an information transmitter (leader); and (3) #2 made leadership inflation more easy to spot.

It would be inappropriate to lament the loss of privileged "access to key information" for leaders. Leaders had nothing to do with the generation of "key information" it evolved organically but leaders had the keys to this information the same way dictators have access to information. So, it was fun while access was restricted. People could take their own sweet time to dissect the info and then throw a few nuggets here and there. These days, the analysis is probably done and someone out there is tweeting about it even before C level folks get wind of information.

You said, "We are experiencing a demand for new types of skills and sacrifices in C-level executives that many are not prepared to bring to the table."

The reality could be that, these days, it may not be fair to expect these "new skills" to be present in a single
person. The demands are just too precise and the margin of error is too small for human capabilities to deliver on a day-to-day basis.

I also think the days of "leadership" embodied in a single person may be over. People neither have the attention-span nor the time to follow a single person for too long and emulate them. Instead, it will be "values" that people will be after -- not from a single person but from various individuals.

leadership fatigue is also setting in: http://bit.ly/HZUGDJ

Thanks for reading yet another comment about "leadership." I will go and get some "real" work done now.

 

Your article seems to be more with respect to corporate or political leadership today. However, true leadership qualities cannot be context based. They are universal and eternal. True leaders are the people's leaders (corporate, religious or political are mere categories) who will always be driven by the same ideals and by their highest goal - ie. highest good of the humanity. They will not compromise for anything less. They never worked away from the masses, but from amongst them. 
Today's "so called" leaders on the contrary seem to be totally out of touch/sync with the lives of the common masses despite people's quick and easy access to them and information about them 
(yes the information age). True leaders were/are never a part of any institution to begin with, they were/are an institution in themselves. Therefore, they do not derive respect because of the institution, but institutions are formed and become respectable because of them. Leaders do not need a platform to get nurtured, they create one. Every age and era, like today, has had its own unique problems, but true leaders have also always arisen to respond to the existing problems (which interestingly are universal in nature). True leaders know/knew about the real issues inflicting humanity and they give their lives to eradicate it - be they Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed centuries ago or the newer Gandhi, Mandela, Dalai Lama, or Suu Kyi. You are right - leadership was never easy - but only for the rest - not for the leaders themselves, because the the causes they fought and died for are the causes they lived for .

 
 

以上内容摘自:

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/03/why_great_leaders_are_in_short.html

 

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