On Leadership

Planning is a basic function of management that has fallen victim to an action orientation popularized by Peters and Waterman’s classic business book “In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies.”  Their research identified that excellent companies had a “bias for action,” a mindset that has been readily embraced by the business community.  Popular business axioms further encourage this mindset, such as “Do it. Fix it. Try it.” or “Ready. Fire. Aim.”  And Karl Weick, a leading organizational theorist

“Busy” has become a popular synonym for success, and it needs to stop.  Busy does not equal success.  Checking off every item on an endless ‘to do’ list does not automatically translate into success.  It doesn’t. We need to stop being ruled by the cult of “busy”, unshackle ourselves from our thoughtless “to do” lists, and start thinking about success differently.  Here is a five-step process to get you started on your journey of success.

Step One: think of yourself as

“Do you want power?”  No hands go up.  “Okay, who wants the ability to influence so that they can make a positive difference?”  Everyone’s hand goes up.   These are the two questions I have been asking graduate and undergraduate students and the typical responses I have received.  And I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised about the response to power. Too many people have endured working for a power-hungry narcissist.  Or have been exposed to toxic people seeking and using power

Leadership is a dynamic process that involves leaders, followers, and context.  Generally, when we talk about leadership, we default to inspiring, uplifting, positive, moral, and ethical approaches to leadership.  We hold up as examples good leaders who were part of a dynamic process that generated positive results.  We assume that leadership and all of its complexity is automatically good.  But that is not the only reality.

Sometimes the interaction between the three factors of the leadership produces a negative outcome. 

Leadership is the “perennial issue,” at least that is how Deloitte described it in their 2015 Global Human Capital survey report.  No matter the survey, such as PwC’s annual CEO Survey or Willis Towers Watson’s annual Global Workforce Studies, leadership emerges as both a problem and solution.  Research details how businesses spend billions of dollars on leadership development, only to be disappointed with the results.  Why aren’t these leadership development initiatives producing the expected results?

Stanley McChrystal, a retired four-star