This question has been asked time and again through the centuries. And it has been an enduring staple of managerial and business school education through the twentieth and early twenty first centuries.
So is it a surprise when a simple model, articulately expressed, leads to a 2 million-copy best-seller?
Perhaps not. But what makes James Kouzes’ and Barry Posner’s Leadership Challenge remarkable, is its longevity. In the light of the constant flow of new leadership ideas, a model that sells as well after thirty years, must have something valuable to offer.
James (Jim) Kouzes was born. We know that. But there’s little biographical detail available to the casual researcher. He attended John F Kennedy’s inauguration as part of an Eagle Scout honour guard and was inspired by Kennedy’s ‘ask not what your country can do for you…’ sentiment.
So, following his graduation in 1967, with a BA in Political Science from Michigan State University, Kouzes joined the Peace Corps. He served for two years. On his return, he started a career in training and development, giving seminars for Community Action Agency staff and volunteers.
In 1972, Kouzes founded the Joint Center for Human Services Development at San Jose State University. He served there and at the School of Social Work, University of Texas, until 1980.
In 1981, he became Director of the Executive Development Centre at Santa Clara University, where he met Barry Posner. In 1988, he left, to become a Director at TPG/Learning Systems for 10 years, moving to become CEO and Chairman of the Tom Peters Company from 1998 to 2000.
Barry Posner was born in 1949, and graduated with a BA in Political Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1970. He gained an MA in public Administration in 1972, from Ohio State University, and a PhD in Organisational Behaviour and Administrative Theory from The university of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1976.
From there, Posner joined the faculty of Santa Clara University, where he remains today, as Accolti Endowed Professor of Leadership, at the Leavey School of Business.
The Leadership Challenge
Working together to develop a talk on leadership, Kouzes and Posner developed their first surveys in 1983. These asked leaders what they were doing when they were at their best. In documenting the practices of exemplary leadership, they have to date surveyed over 75,000 respondents.
The burden of their work is the Leadership Challenges model, which articulates five practices. This has been documented in books, articles, and development tools like card-sets and 360-degree feedback surveys.
Model the Way Leaders establish and work to a set of principles for how people should be treated. They create standards for how to do things, and set an example for others to follow. They recognise how bureaucracy can impede action, and so act to reduce unnecessary impediments to meaningful progress. They show people what they expect of them, and create opportunities for success.
Inspire a Shared Vision
Leaders are confident in their capacity to make a difference. They create a vision for the future of their organisation, which they use to inspire their followers. At their best, they influence through charisma, gravitas, and quiet persuasion. But they also are aware of the need for practical efforts and so incite action too.
Challenge the Process
Leaders are never satisfied with the status quo. They look out for new ways to improve their organisation. This means experimentation and risk-taking. And because leaders know the nature of risk-taking, they are tolerant of failures and mistakes, treating them as learning opportunities.
Enable Others to Act
Leaders actively involve others to encourage collaboration and build effective teams. They know that mutual respect is crucial if they are to foster extraordinary efforts. So they build an atmosphere of trust and confidence. They empower and develop their team members, to make each person feel capable and trusted.
Encourage the Heart
The kind of changes extraordinary leaders try to make, are hard to accomplish and often risky. They therefore deploy high levels of emotional intelligence to keep motivation going and maintain resilience and determination. They recognise effort and celebrate achievements.
For the last of our solo*Management Thinkers… and Doers, we turn to a thinker on leadership and a politician supreme. His thinking has influenced 500 years’ of politicians, and has been influencing managers since the term came to have a real meaning in the mid 19th Century.
Niccolò Machiavelli arguably saw far into his future, and his writings hold genuine nuggets of wisdom and debate for today’s generation of managers.
Niccolò Machiavelli was born in Florence, in 1469. At the time, Italy was just a set of small, frequently warring, states. Florence was ruled by the powerful Medici family, so despite his patrician roots, there were few opportunities for a talented young man. However, the regime changed and when, in 1498, Florence became a republic, Machiavelli secured a senior administrative post as Secretary of the second Chancery.
He served Florence for 14 years in roles we may now recognise as collectively politician, civil servant, and diplomat. During this time, he travelled widely around European courts and met with powerful people.
However, in 1512, after another of Italy’s persistent small wars, and with Papal politics underwriting them, the Medici’s regained control of Florence, and Machiavelli’s career in public service came to an abrupt end. But before the tedium of exile came a short interlude (that probably seemed very long) of imprisonment and torture.
After his expulsion, Machiavelli turned to writing and very soon (1513) produced the book for which he is best known, Il Principe, or The Prince. A large number of other political books followed, along with dramatic and historical works. After another 14 years of working his land and writing in the evenings, Machiavelli died, at the age of 58, in 1527.
His name and his work, however, persist 500 years on. I wonder how many of our contemporary thinkers on politics and leadership will achieve that.
Themes from The Prince that Touch on Modern Management
I’m not the first to think of this idea. In an out-of-print book called Management and Machiavelli, Anthony Jay examines just this. Let’s look at three areas where Machiavelli’s writing offers us some food for thought.
I am not, by the way, inclined to think he necessarily offers us the ‘right’ answers. After all, although he did not use the phrase ‘the end justifies the means’, he is very much associated with that level of political pragmatism. And we all know where that can lead in the wrong hands.
And finally, before I kick off onto three themes, I want to emphasise that Machiavelli’s conception of a ‘Prince’ is not one of a royal personage, with hereditary rulership rights. Instead, it is one of a modern ruler who takes their place by election or power; rather like the modern day rulers of our corporations.
Above all, Machiavelli believed that skillful leadership is crucial for any endeavour to thrive. And yes, he does suggest that if you can’t have both, it is better to be feared than loved. But he also plays down the importance of luck and knowledge. He says it is often easy to gain power, but harder to hold onto it, and for that you need to be shrewd. Political acumen is still very much an essential part of managerial leadership.
But he also emphasises the importance of a well organised and well-practised team, so for him a shrewd organiser will trump a charismatic leader or a technocrat any day.
This is not to say that he didn’t see a role for technocrats. He was, after all, one of them himself. In the debate, still very current, between centralisation and decentralisation, he sees a need for skilled bureaucrats to go into the parts, and run them quasi-autonomously, because of the communication challenges the late mediaeval rulers faced.
However, there are limits to this quasi-atonomy. Machiavelli favoured bureaucratic structures where place-men run components of the distant territories, over federal structures of self governing territories. In the latter, he sees too much scope for these small leaders to build a power base and overthrow the overall ruler. In the bureaucratic structure, it is easier for the prince to exert control, and effectively divide and rule.
Two modern day examples illustrate these choices.
Berkshire Hathaway is a highly federal corporation. Each of its many divisions operates almost entirely autonomously. Its CEO and leadership team have total freedom to make the decisions they choose, to optimise their business. They can compete against one another, change direction when they need to, and need only provide the thinnest of reporting to the Berkshire Hathaway executive.
Honeywell also has a small (though nowhere near as small) centre. But its trading divisions are largely shells, served by highly technocratic functions. All the power resides with functional leads at multiple levels. Profit and Loss accountability may sit with general managers and managing directors, but their goods are designed by engineering verticals, their marketing sits with a marketing function, and cross brand sales teams sell their products.Look inside the ‘business’ that represents a go-to-market brand, and there’s little to see.
Of course, both Berkshire Hathaway and Honeywell grew by acquisition, and Italian states grew in much the same way – but with more casualties. Machiavelli points out that subjugating a whole population is not easy. You cannot rule from afar, with the threat of oppression as your local implementation.
Instead, he tells us to swap in some of your most trusted people as key managers to replace those whom you cannot trust. Get them out of the way, and the rest of the population will fall in line, according to how well those managers meet the concerns of the populace.
And of course this leads us to every manager’s favourite quote from Machiavelli (you’ll see my own favourite next week).
‘It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out ,
nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to
initiate a new order of things.’
* We may add a few additional solo representatives to this list, from time to time, but with well over 150, we are starting to find new candidates of genuine quality thin on the ground. So we are going to turn instead to Management Pairs; thinkers and practitioners whose best work was done or is being done in collaboration. Watch out for that series to start in a couple of weeks.
Daniel Goleman is a psychologist and journalist who catalysed a significant shift in the way we see human potential and capabilities – not just at work. It is not as though we did not know about the importance of our emotional response. Nor was the work he described his own. But his combination of timing, accessible writing, and psychological training made his book, Emotional Intelligence, a stand-out best seller that started a revolution in management and leadership training.
Daniel Goleman was born in 1946 and grew up in California. He went to Amherst College, Massachusetts, but spent much of his study time closer to home, at University of California, Berkeley. He majored in Anthropology, and graduated Cum Laude, winning a scholarship to study Clinical Psychology at Harvard.
There, Goleman’s mentor was David McClelland, whom he quotes in his writings. His doctoral dissertation was on meditation as a treatment for stress. He travelled to India to study ancient psychological knowledge and returned after his PhD, where further research resulted in his first book, The Meditative Mind: The Varieties of Meditative Experience, summarising his research on meditation.
After a spell as a visiting lecturer at Harvard, teaching the psychology of consciousness, Goleman was invited to write as a journalist for Psychology Today, and found he liked writing. In 1984, he moved to the New York Times on the science editorial staff, covering psychology. While he was there, he realised that many of the stories and research he was covering came together in his mind and demanded a deeper treatment than his journalism would allow. From that, came his massive 1995 best-seller, Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ.
Pocketblog has already covered Emotional Intelligence in earlier articles. What Goleman has given us, in summary, are a five-fold emotional intelligence framework (in Emotional Intelligence), an inventory of 25 emotional competencies (in Working with Emotional Intelligence), and six leadership styles (in The New Leaders).
Goleman’s thesis in Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence is simple: to succeed in a busier, more complex world, we need to focus our attention. Variously seen as groundbreaking and disappointing, insightful or just pop psychology, there is no doubt that, in Focus, Goleman is really returning to his roots.
As a grad student, he started to ask what ancient wisdom could teach us about human psychology. In Focus, he alights on one valuable lesson: focus. I think it no coincidence that, when asked what the secret is to their great success, both Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have each cited one answer: the ability to focus on one thing at a time.
Whatever you think of the way this book is written, it is, without doubt, a message to hear.
Herminia Ibarra is ranked by Thinkers50 as one of the world’s top-ranked management thinkers- at number 8 in 2015, since you asked. Her interests are professional and leadership development, gender, and how we can adopt a DIY (do it yourself) approach to making a step up in our careers.
Very Short Biography
Herminia Ibarra was born in Cuba*, and moved to the United States as a child. She graduated from the University of Miami with a BA in Psychology. She was a teaching fellow at Yale from 1985-1989 and was awarded her masters in Organizational Behaviour, and then her PhD, in 1989.
From there she joined the faculty of Harvard Business School, where she remained until 2002, when she accepted a chair at INSEAD. She is currently Professor of Organisational Behaviour and The Cora Chaired Professor of Leadership and Learning.
In 2003, she wrote Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career. This is a book of case studies of how people made significant changes in their careers. While working on it, she came to realise that often people stay stuck in a job because they don’t know what to do next. Reflection and analysis fail to help them figure out what next. What makes the difference for many of her case studies is the impact of outside activities or initiatives with which they get involved, outside of the normal run of their work.
Conventional wisdom has it that we should think then act. But in studying career changers, Ibarra started to take an interest in managers who are increasingly expected to act as leaders, but who don’t get promotions or formal job moves that create the opportunity for this transition.
With changed expectations, but the same role, these managers must find their own way – a ‘Do It Yourself’ approach. Ibarra argues that they need to change what they do, who they connect with, and how they think of themselves. And the first step is to do things differently.
Ibarra has coined the term ‘outsight’. In contrast with insight, outsight is the external perspective we get when we take on fresh and new experiences. New and different activities change us, and Ibarra advocates experimentation and experience as the route to change: what I call ‘trial and learning’.
We can get this opportunity to be different and try different things from the side activities we engage in within and outside work. Many of the people she studied for her first book had career changes triggered by these kinds of projects, initiatives, and task force roles. By looking for these, a manager can try out new ways of acting – and then reflect on them.
These experiences provide opportunities for the three shifts Ibarra challenges managers to make:
Redefine your role as being more strategic, as you shift from manager to leader
Broaden your network of contacts, taking on more opportunities to connect across wider spans and with more influential people
Evolve your personal style, trying out more ‘playful’ approaches that may redefine your sense of self (without challenging it)
This ‘act-first’ approach seems to me to be a positive one for making changes, and chimes nicely with Amy Cuddy’s injunction to ‘fake it ’til you become it’.
Ibarra in her own Words
If you are interested in the topic of career progression, try out these Pocketbooks
* I am going to ignore the date of birth given by Wikipedia – her CV says she graduated in 1982 (although this may be the date she started her undergraduate studies). If her Wikipedia birth date is correct, then she graduated at age 12 – or at the latest, 3 years later!
Richard Branson went from academic under-performer to being the first serial entrepreneur to create eight $8 billion businesses (and many other successful ventures too). He is an adventurer, a risk taker, and a visionary. Above all, he is a business person who sees business as a means to an end or, in his case,many ends. But despite the galactic scale performance of his business mind, there are many lessons we can learn from him, that apply equally to the day-to-day business and management practices of Pocketblog readers.
Many acres of newsprint (and Branson’s own autobiographies) have documented the life story of one of the world’s favourite entrepreneurs, so here it is in brief.
Richard Branson was born in 1950 in South London, to a comfortable professional middle-class family, which was able to send him to a privileged private school, Stowe. However, Branson was not academically strong, due to dyslexia, despite being evidently highly intelligent, so he left the education system at 16, only to return for a number of honourary degrees in later life.
His first business, so named because he and his staff felt themselves to be business virgins, was a mail order business selling records below store prices, which he set up in 1970. This allowed him to enter the high street in 1972. In the same year, he created Manor Studios where his first recording artist was Mike Oldfield. The Tubular Bells album became (and continues, 30 years later, to be) a massive seller for the new Virgin Records label.
Branson’s achievements span far more than his business ventures, but we’ll leave it to the glossy magazines to cover his record-breaking, kite-surfing, books, island buying and publicity-seeking activities, and simply list a selection from his business ventures.
1973 – Virgin Records record label
1979 – Buys the gay nightclub Heaven1983
1984 – Virgin Atlantic Airways and Virgin cargo
1985 – Virgin Holidays
1987 – Virgin Records to the United States
1987 – The Virgin Group, along with Granada, Anglia and Pearson, founds BSB (British Satellite Broadcasting)
1987 – Virgin Airship & Balloon Company.
1987 – Mates condoms
1988 – Virgin Broadcasting
1991 – Virgin Publishing (Virgin Books)
1993 – Virgin Radio
1994 – Virgin Vodka and Virgin Cola
1995 – Virgin Direct Personal Financial Services
1995 – Virgin Express (a European low cost Airline)
1996 – Virgin Brides (indeed!)
1997 – Virgin Trains
1997 – Virgin Cosmetics
1999 – Virgin Mobile
2000 – Virgin Energy
2000 – Virgin Cars
2004 – Virgin Galactic
2006 – Virgin Fuel, to produce a clean fuel in the future
2007 – Virgin Media
2008 – Virgin Healthcare
2009 – Virgin Money Giving
2010 – Virgin Racing, a Formula One team
2010 – Virgin Gaming, for people to play competitively on popular Video Games
2012 – Virgin Money buys Northern Rock
2012 – Virgin Galactic announces the development of orbital space launch system LauncherOne.
Five Management and Business Lessons from Richard Branson
Lesson 1: Have Fun
It is easy to look at a multi-billionnaire and say ‘of course he has fun; he is rich and can leave other people to run his businesses’. The fact is though, that Branson remains fully engaged with the strategic aspects of his business, and that he prioritises having fun and spending time with his family. There are plenty of comparably wealthy people who do neither. If he can make these choices, so can you.
Lesson 2: Get Things Done
To make these choices, Branson is ruthlessly efficient at making lists and getting things done. He disparages those who write off To Do lists as a waste of time and is a compulsive note-taker and list maker.
Lesson 3: Persevere and Fight Back
Branson’s ventures have often faced opposition from incumbent market leaders and sometimes political figures. Branson has deployed every form of response he can to fight off this contention and see his ventures succeed. His battles with British Airways (on behalf of Virgin Atlantic) and, more recently, with the UK Department of Transport (supporting Virgin Trains) are notable successes.
Lesson 4: Master Public Relations
Brand and public perception are a vital, and maybe central component of Branson’s business strategy. Very few of his ventures have eschewed the Virgin brand. Branson is a charismatic figure who has been adept at using his own personal brand to gain media attention, which of course has assisted in his public battles on behalf of his corporate brands.
Lesson 5: Be an inspirational leader
The central holding business of Virgin is tiny (much like Berkshire Hathaway’s) and there Branson leads, rather than bosses – recently setting highly innovative and permissive HR policies in place, which truly demonstrate exceptional levels of trust in his staff. When Virgin Atlantic won a legal case against British Airways and both he and the company received significant sums in compensation, he distributed this to the staff as a ‘BA Bonus’.
I first became aware of the ideas of James MacGregor Burns in the late 1990s, and they literally transformed my understanding of Leadership. I am not alone: an earlier generation reading Burns’ 1978 book Leadership was likewise affected. His academic rigour, effortless prose and new approach led directly to the massive growth in leadership courses in business schools, first in the US, and then globally.
James MacGregor Burns was born in 1918, in Melrose, Massachusetts and grew up in Burlington. He graduated from Williams College in 1939 and went to Washington DC as a congressional intern. During America’s Second World War, he served in the pacific campaign, and documented soldiers’ stories. He was also decorated several times.
After the war, he gained his masters degree and PhD in Government from Harvard, before returning to Williams College to teach. He remained there for his whole career.
Burns was a prolific author, first coming to prominence as author of an influential biography of FD Roosevelt, The Lion and the Fox, in 1956. He was to follow this with a second volume in 1970, Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom, which won him a Pulitzer Prize the following year. He also engaged in politics directly, standing as a Democrat candidate for Congress in 1958. This is how he came to know JF Kennedy; a relationship which led to his 1960 biography, John Kennedy: A Political Profile.
Politics interested Burns deeply. His first book, Congress on Trial: The Legislative Process and the Administrative State (1949), was widely praised. However, through that medium, he became interested in the nature of leadership. He argued that it was poorly understood and needed to be studied. More than that, he said, we need to educate ourselves to become better leaders.
It was as an historian and political biographer that he first approached the topic of leadership, but his accomplishment was to develop unifying ideas about leadership that were equally valuable in the social and political arena, and in the business and managerial arena. His 1978 book, Leadership, is regarded as a classic and triggered much subsequent research, thinking, and writing.
This is so much so, that the University of Maryland renamed its Academy of Leadership after him and there is an endowed professorial Chair in his name at Harvard (Barbara Kellerman is currently the James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Public Leadership). Of his subsequent writing on leadership (of which there is much), 2003’s Transforming Leadership: A New Pursuit of Happiness is, perhaps, the most important. My copy has an exceptionally high ‘post-it count’ meaning I have found much in it of value.
Burns continued working into his 90s. His last book, Fire and Light: How the Enlightenment Transformed Our World, was released in 2013, just a year before his death in July 2014.
Burns on Leadership
Without a doubt, Burns’ main contribution to thinking on leadership was to distinguish two patterns of leadership: transactional and transforming. This distinction is an empirical one, based on his observations. By setting it out clearly, he spurred a generation of researchers to develop the concept of what he called transforming leadership, but which has come to be better known as transformational leadership.
This creates a relationship between leaders and their followers, based on reciprocity – the exchange of support or action by the followers for rewards like recognition, praise, ratings, pay, or status. This kind of leadership works when both sides feel they are getting a fair deal from the other. Much business and managerial leadership takes this form. So too does the run-of-the-mill political leadership, where, in democracies, politicians exchange promises for votes, and in more autocratic systems, these promises and favours are exchanged for support of the powerful and acquiescence of the masses.
This relationship is founded on a drive in the leader to create change. Burns identified two primary sources of that drive: a lust for power, or a sense of vision or values. I suggest our perception of this difference often reflects our sympathy for the vision. Burns assesses Hitler as driven by power, but he may have argued it was a vision.
Setting aside factional arguments, transformational leaders establish their leadership by building trust with their followers that means the transactions can be more one sided: followers act or support the leader through loyalty, rather than exchange. To do this, the leader must engage both the rational and emotional concerns of their followers – hearts and minds. This allows them to link up power bases from many sources, to strengthen their cause.
Burns saw transformational leaders as using their leadership to*:
establish their long-term vision
empower their followers and hand over to them a measure of control
coach and develop their followers to transform their capabilities
challenge the prevailing culture, to catalyse change
Commentators often mis-characterise the distinction as being about change: transformational leaders create change, while transactional leaders work within the status quo. This is not how Burns saw things – certainly not by the new century when he wrote Transforming Leadership. The difference is the type of change. Transactional change substitutes parts, whilst transformational change is a wholesale change at a fundamental, structural level. It is also driven by values, rather than by pragmatism.
Perhaps the most astonishing conclusion that Burns drew was that transformational leadership will have a transforming effect on both the leader and the followers. Done properly, each will raise the others to higher levels of motivation and moral (within the compass of the leader’s vision) action.
This leads to The Burns Paradox: “If leadership and followership are so intertwined and fluid, how do we distinguish conceptually between leaders and followers?”**
The resolution that Burns offers is that we need to start to take a more subtle and complex systems view: leadership creates change, but in the right circumstances, the concepts of leader and follower melt away. Forget the current anti-capitalist overtones. This sounds very much like self-governing, collective-responsibility principle of pure anarchism to me. And I like it.
* This list was echoed by Bernard Bass who, more than anyone, developed Burns’ ideas on transformational leadership. He was to articulate some important differences (like the possibility for co-existence of transformational and transactional leadership in one leader). He set out four roles for transformational leadership:
There are many celebrity chefs, and many of them operate successful businesses, so choosing one to feature as one of our management thinkers is tough. But British chef, Jamie Oliver, more than fits the bill. For nearly twenty years, he has maintained the love of the public in the UK, avoiding mis-steps as he took his celebrity career to the US, retains fierce loyalty of people who have worked for and with him, and continues to grow his businesses steadily, whilst contributing significantly to some major philanthropic initiatives, many of which he has led.
Jamie Oliver was born in Essex in the UK, in 1975. He grew up in Cambridge, where his parents ran and continue to run a pub. It was in their kitchen that he first learned the skills of cooking, which developed at catering college and started to take wings when Oliver spent time in France, learning the basics of classical cuisine.
Returning to England, he worked for renowned UK-based Italian chef Antonio Carluccio, where he met long-time friend and cooking mentor, Gennaro Contaldo. From there, he moved to a role as sous chef at Fulham’s River Cafe, where he appeared, unscripted, in a one-off 1997 documentary about the restaurant, and caught the eye of numerous TV producers. After five offers, he signed a deal that led directly to two series of The Naked Chef; a title that reflected his ideas of simplicity in cooking, rather than an alternative to traditional chefs’ whites.
This kicked off a hugely successful TV and recipe book career that continues today, with the addition of massively profitable mobile apps and his own YouTube channels with nearly 2 million subscribers between them. Perhaps his most notable television endeavours are:
The 2002 Jamie’s Kitchen,in which he took fifteen seemingly unemployable young people and trained them to be chefs in a restaurant, Fifteen, that subsequently won awards. The model has been replicated in several places and continues to train new cohorts of apprentices under the aegis of the charitable Jamie Oliver Food Foundation
The 2002 Jamie’s School Dinners which saw him campaigning for better food in Britain’s schools. This has led to other public health campaigns in the UK, US and Australia. In 2013, Oliver was made Honorary fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners in recognition of his food health campaigning
The same year also saw the first of many culinary travelogue programmes – a format that is particularly popular in the UK. This one took him to Italy and a cuisine he seems particularly attached to
Other food campaigns include Atlantic fish stocks, pig farming and poultry
But hey, this is the Management Pocketblog!
Reading about Jamie Oliver’s business nous, it is hard to select a shortlist of admirable management lessons that we can learn from him. These range from the obvious, like seizing opportunities that arise, assessing choices shrewdly, and trading on an endearing personality, to those which are hard for most of us to generalise to our own practice, like keeping a large proportion of your business interests within your family and network of close and trusted friends and colleagues. One might also have added, until recently, maintain a large share of the equity in your business (I believe Oliver owns around 80% in total of his many businesses at time of writing). However, in early June 2015, the press started to report that he is trying to raise significant equity capital to fund a major global expansion of some of his restaurant brands.
So what to focus on?
Jamie Oliver is a public personality, but he has used his charm and charisma shrewdly. He has avoided all manner of scandals that attach to celebrities (including other British celebrity chefs) and seems by all accounts to be a genuinely nice and decent chap, who inspires great loyalty. Many of his close business advisors and staff have been with him from very early on, and many people rush to praise him in the press. On the other hand, there seem to be very few public feuds. This has allowed Oliver to take his personality as the basis for all of his brands, many of which have his name attached to them: most recently, Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube – his primary YouTube Channel.
What are the elements of his personality-based leadership and management approach that can be emulated, if you put the work into them? I think there are five:
Care passionately about what you do, whether it is your core business, your campaigns, or your appearances in public. And don’t be afraid to let your enthusiasm engulf those around you. This is charisma. And care also about the people around you. This attitude of Oliver’s has clearly rubbed off on many of the people who give interviews and quotes about him.
Set out a vision that you truly believe in with a passion and you can engage people to follow you. Choose your fights wisely, but do be prepared to take on a big fight, if it is important enough to commit everything. You may lose, but Oliver shows that dedication and passion can mean that a catering college educated son of publicans, with little academic background can do better than win the ear of Prime Ministers, he can create an environment where senior politicians can barely afford not to take him seriously.
Without a doubt, Oliver works hard. His is not a glitzy celebrity without substance. He puts in the hours and models what he expects his followers to emulate. He doesn’t tell, he shows. He doesn’t enforce standards, he sets them for himself.
At every stage, Oliver has learned from his experience and grown with that learning. This is wisdom: to become more than you were yesterday, to learn from your mistakes, to shift your approach, and to come back again and again. He has made very commercial misjudgements, but when he has done, he has acted decisively, rather than hesitating, and moved on.
It is hardly possible to imagine Jamie Oliver without a smile. Even in the serious portrait shot at the head of this blog, he seems to me to be about to smirk. His sense of fun is a big part of his personality and his brand, but more than that, I suspect it is a major resource for him, in maintaining his resilience.
The Power of Food
Jamie Oliver being serious, passionate, and provocative about the impact of food on health: Teach every child about food.
From the 1970s to the present day, the study of leadership has mushroomed. And one of the foremost academic researchers is Barbara Kellerman, who first became interested in dominance and power at a young age, but discovered a dearth of literature on the subject. Since the mid-1970s, she has been a prolific contributor to that literature.
Barbara Kellerman took her BA at Sarah Lawrence College, graduating in 1969 and moved to Yale for postgraduate studies, first for an MA in Russian and East European studies, and then for an MPhil and PhD in Political Science, which she earned in 1975.
She stayed in the academic, taking up the study of leadership, with posts at Fordham, Tufts, Fairleigh Dickinson, George Washington, Maryland, and Uppsala Universities. In 1998, she was one of the founders of The International Leadership Association, a membership organisation that brings together people with practical and academic interests in leadership.
In 2000, Kellerman founded the Harvard Kennedy School’s Centre for Public Leadership, which she led until 2003, before stepping down to become its Research Director. Since 2006, she has been the James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Public Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and is also a a visiting scholar and professor at several other institutions, including The Tuck School of Business, and New York University.
Barbara Kellerman on Leadership
Kellerman has researched and written extensively on leadership, putting forward many challenging and compelling ideas. Her 2012 book, The End of Leadership, takes on the ‘leadership industry’, challenging it to really critique the results it achieves.
Her eclectic and innovative approach is nicely illustrated by her book Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters. It is an unusual approach to study the characteristics and problems of poor leadership – but instructive. Kellerman is foremost a teacher about leadership, rather than a teacher of leadership.
… and Followership
Another narrative in The End of Leadership picks up from her earlier work and emphasises the role of followership and how the balance of power between leaders and the people they would lead has shifted. Her work on followers is every bit as important as that on leaders, and in many ways far more innovative: compare the volume of literature on each!
These followers blend into the background and fail (or refuse) to engage. They do nothing to support changes and so entrench the status quo.
Like Isolates, Bystanders refuse to participate, but unlike them, they do, at least, maintain an awareness of events. They are often the silent majority who also contribute to maintaining the status quo.
These followers get involved in either supporting or opposing their leaders, and so are important stakeholders to further engage. This is particularly so, because their motivations are led by their own agenda, rather than those of their leader.
These followers do not just get involved; they take a lead in pursuing their agenda. They are often highly motivated and energetic, with strong convictions and a desire to lead for themselves. Where they support a leader, they become powerful allies, able to lead parts of a change autonomously.
The strongest emotions lie with diehards, who are prepared to do whatever it takes to support or overthrow their leader. They are rare, but can be fanatical, giving them a significant importance.
The Leadership Triangle
In The End of Leadership, Kellerman describes leadership as an equilateral triangle, with three equal sides:
The context represents all of the other stakeholders, the culture, the environment, the technological and process resources and constraints and anything else the leader and followers must interact with. Vitally, Kellerman argues that context changes and therefore leadership and followership must necessarily change too, in response. The impact of changes in technology and shifts in world politics are causing ideas of leadership to evolve continuously.
This is what fascinates Kellerman, and her books and writing are always thoughtful. Her latest book, Hard Times, examines the challenging context of today’s United States, looking at how that context is shifting to create new norms and expectations.
By many measures, General Colin Powell is one of the most accomplished military leaders of the twentieth century, holding a slew of ‘first’s and ‘youngest’s. What makes him interesting to the Management Pocketblog is the depth and breadth of his ideas on leadership, that have been widely publicised, most notably by the late Oren Harari, who was a business professor at the University of San Francisco. His credibility as a ‘leadership guru’ is immense, and much of his philosophy of leadership applies well to managers who lead within civilian organisations.
Colin Powell was born in 1937 to Jamaican immigrant parents, and grew up in the Bronx in New York. He attended the City College of New York, earning a BS in geology in 1958. But during his time there, he made his most important choice of all. As an averagely academic student at the time, he found his greatest fulfilment attending the Reserve Officer Training Corps. He was good at it too, so on graduation, he joined the US Army, attended basic training, and was commissioned as a second Lieutenant.
Powell’s early military career was dominated by distinguished tours of duty in Vietnam, rising to Lieutenant Colonel in 1970. He was wounded, and also decorated for bravery. He returned the US and to a series of political roles with the Nixon and Reagan administrations, rising up through the ranks of general staff, until President George HW Bush appointed him the youngest (and first African American) Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1989.
He served in that role until 1993, and then retired from the military. He was courted by both Republican and Democratic parties as a potential Presidential or Vice-Presidential candidate and, after declaring himself a Republican, declined to stand, saying he did not have the fire in the belly he would need for such a role. However, in the 2000 Presidential election, Republican Party candidate George W Bush declared that, if he won, he would appoint Powell as Secretary of State – which he did.
Powell was a good Secretary of State – widely liked and respected by staff and international politicians. He served during the 11 September attacks and presented the US case for invasion of Iraq to the UN, putting forward evidence of weapons of mass destruction. When he later learned that the evidence he had been given by the CIA was bogus, he apologised and it is likely that this, along with long-running disagreements with Vice President Dick Cheney caused him to resign and not serve in Bush’s second term.
However, he continued (and continues) to serve the US in a range of voluntary roles, most notable of which is the America’s Promise Alliance, which he founded with his wife Alma, and which she continues to chair. It sets out to help create the conditions for success for young people, especially those it identifies as being disadvantaged by lack of resources and opportunities.
In 2013, Powell’s Alma Mater, The City College of New York, transformed its Division of Social Science into the Colin L. Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership. It incorporates the Colin Powell Center, which Powell founded in Harlem (where he was born) to build a culture of service and to inspire young people with a sense of public purpose and responsibility.
Rule 1: It Ain’t as Bad as You Think! It Will Look Better in the Morning!
Rule 2: Get Mad Then Get Over It!
Rule 3: Avoid Having Your Ego so Close to your Position that When Your Position Falls, Your Ego Goes With It!
Rule 4: It Can be Done!
Rule 5: Be Careful What You Choose! You May Get It!
Rule 6: Don’t Let Adverse Facts Stand in the Way of a Good Decision.
Rule 7: You Can’t Make Someone Else’s Decisions! You Shouldn’t Let Someone Else Make Yours!
Rule 8: Check Small Things!
Rule 9: Share Credit!
Rule 10: Remain calm! Be kind!
Rule 11: Have a Vision! Be Demanding!
Rule 12: Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers!
Rule 13: Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier!
Three of the Best for Managers
Combining Powell’s own 13 rules, with the 18 lessons that Harari drew from quotations by Powell in his 1996 article, I would like to extract three that I find most relevant and resonant for business managers.
Powell’s Rule 3:
Avoid Having Your Ego so Close to your Position that When Your Position Falls, Your Ego Goes With It!
I like this a lot, because it is about resilience and also about recognising that you can be wrong, you will be wrong and, indeed, this is sometimes part of your job description. Being wrong is a sign of innovating and taking risks and the measure of a leader is not just in how often you are right, but how you make a decision that turns out to be wrong, and how you respond when the facts reveal themselves.
Harari’s Lesson 8: ‘Organization doesn’t really accomplish anything. Plans don’t accomplish anything, either. Theories of management don’t much matter. Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds.’
As someone who likes to plan and is enchanted by theories, all I can say is ‘ouch!’ But I also know from my experience as a manager, leader and active project manager that Powell is spot on – plans, processes and models are nothing more than enablers that create a framework to make life easier for the people – and the best will succeed even in their absence. That is, of course, not an argument for abandoning good practices!
Harari’s Lesson 15:
Part I: ‘Use the formula P=40 to 70, in which P stands for the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information acquired.’
Part II: ‘Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut.’
I hate the way he expresses this, but I love Powell’s sentiment that we need to act on partial knowledge or face being paralysed and acting too late. But on the other hand, acting on too little information is reckless. As in everything, finding the right balance is the key to success.
One more thing…
Harari also quoted Powell (Lesson 11) as saying:
‘Fit no stereotypes.
Don’t chase the latest management fads.
The situation dictates which approach best accomplishes the team’s mission.’
The last year or so of Pocketblog (and the next to come, I hope) has taught me that the best of the latest fads are rooted in deep wisdom, and that there is so much of it around that our job is to integrate it into our thinking so we are equipped with the flexibility to respond to whatever circumstances throw at us.
That kind of adaptability – coupled with a deep sense of public purpose – is what makes Powell an inspirational figure.