Personality and the Fate of Organizations

Hogan, Robert. Personality and the Fate of Organizations. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2007.

…all managerial jobs have one important feature in common: They help accomplish the work of an organization through other people. This means that managers are responsible for the performance of their staffs.

The word leadership has two meanings. On the one hand, leadership refers to a certain kind of position in an organization–a leadership position. On the other hand, leadership refers to a kind of performance–behaving in a leader-like way.

By definition, managers are in positions of leadership; whether they exercise it appropriately is another question.

The published literature on leadership is immense–actually overwhelming–and growing daily.

Effective leaders tend to be resilient and handle stress well, they promote a vision and develop strategies to translate the vision into reality, they solve tactical and strategic problems, they set high goals and work hard to achieve them, they project a sense of self-confidence, they build relationships, they build teams, they follow through on their commitments and treat people fairly, and they plan and organize work. These attributes are no guarantee of success, but they improve the odds of a person being able to build a high-performing team that achieves results.

…bad management is the primary cause of employee dissatisfaction–the best predictor of employee dissatisfaction is poor leadership.

…bad managers create turnover–people do not quit organizations, they quit bad bosses. …


Feedback Can Be Dangerous

Give people clear, frequent, and accurate feedback.

This unusually complex strategy starts with being as quick to tell people what they have done right as you are to tell them what they have done wrong. That does not sound difficult, does it?

What if the order is reversed though?

Be as quick to tell people what they have done wrong as you are to tell them what they have done right.

Now it sounds odd. It seems like I am suggesting that equal attention needs to be given to both what’s right and what’s wrong. There you go. That is exactly the point.

It is not necessary to go into a lot of detail about leaders who only relate to team members in terms of problems and things they have done wrong. They also point fingers and know every problem is someone else’s fault. Their major activity is finding someone, anyone to criticize or blame. You are also well-aware of leaders who appropriately point out problems but seldom point out good work. It is not unusual to see the compliment criticism balance favoring criticism. …


Leadership Comes Last

This episode of the Audio Tidbits Podcast is an eight-minute lesson in leadership. It shows us that leadership comes last, always. Perhaps it might have been better named as the five prerequisites to leadership. Either way, leadership is at the end of the learning curve, not where it starts.


On Mission and Leadership

Hesselbein, Frances and Rob Johnston. On Mission and Leadership: A Leader to Leader Guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002.

Intellectual capital is an organization’s primary asset. Knowledge workers seek meaning and purpose in their work, a climate of trust and optimism, and results.

Technical competence: business literacy and grasp of one’s field

Conceptual skill: a facility for abstract or strategic thinking

Track record: a history of achieving results

People skills: an ability to communicate, motivate, and delegate

Taste: an ability to identify and cultivate talent

Judgment: making difficult decisions in a short time frame with imperfect data

Character: the qualities that define who we are

… constituents seek four things: meaning or direction, trust in and from the leader, a sense of hope and optimism, and results. …


Collaborative Intelligence

Hackman, Richard J. Collaborative Intelligence: Using Teams to Solve Hard Problems. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2011.

A team is akin to an audio amplifier: whatever comes in, be it Mozart or ear-grating static, comes out louder.

To perform well, any team must include members who have the knowledge and skill that the task requires; it must recognize which members have which capabilities; and it must properly weight members’ inputs–avoiding the trap of being more influenced by those who have high status or who are highly vocal than by those who actually know what they are talking about.

The benefits of teamwork come only when capable people work together interdependently to achieve some collective purpose.

Face-to-face teams are indicated when creating a high-quality product requires coordinated contributions in real time from a diversity of members who have complementary expertise, experience, and perspectives.

We have seen that the five common types of teams discussed–surgical, coacting, face-to-face, distributed, and sand dune–are appropriate in some task and organizational circumstances, but not in others.

The social processes the team uses in carrying out the work enhance members’ capability to work together interdependently in the future.

An effective team is a more capable performing unit when it has finished a piece of work than it was when the work began. …


Popular One Year Ago: Adaptive Leadership (013)

This is the final section of the adaptive leadership series. Some may find it somewhat difficult to integrate into their leadership practice if they do not have the benefit of the earlier sections. Nonetheless, this section consolidates the leadership strategies from the earlier sections and incorporates the adaptive leadership philosophy when making decisions and working with the team to assure excellence performance and outcomes. Understanding that philosophy rests on a clear commitment to superior functioning and an unflagging faith in each member of the team.


Please listen and take the adaptive leadership philosophy to heart. It becomes who you are and how you do what you do, no exceptions, no excuses.


True North

George, Bill with Peter Sims. True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007.

True North is the internal compass that guides you successfully through life. It represents who you are as a human being at your deepest level. It is your orienting point–your fixed point in a spinning world–that helps you stay on track as a leader. Your True North is based on what is most important to you, your most cherished values, your passions and motivations, the sources of satisfaction in your life.

There is no such thing as the instant leader. Your journey to authentic leadership will take you through many peaks and valleys as you encounter the world’s trials, rewards, and seductions. Becoming an authentic leader takes dedication to your development and growth, as there will be many temptations to pull you off the course of your True North. Maintaining your authenticity along the way may be the greatest challenge you ever face. …


On Leadership

Gardner, John W. On Leadership. First Free Press Paperback Edition. New York: The Free Press, 1993.

Leadership is the process of persuasion or example by which an individual induces a group to pursue objectives held by the leader or shared by the leader and his or her followers.

In any established group, individuals fill different roles, and one of the roles is that of leader.

Leaders are almost never as much in charge as they are pictured to be, followers almost never as submissive as one might imagine.

The ablest and most effective leaders do not hold to a single style; they may be highly supportive in personal relations when that is needed, yet capable of a quick, authoritative decision when the situation requires it.

Among other things, a leader must recognize the needs of followers or constituents, help them see how those needs can be met, and give them confidence that they can accomplish that result through their own efforts. Sometimes the leader helps to remove constraints or inhibitions that had been impeding the full play of motivation. …


A Failure of Nerve

Friedman, Edwin H. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. New York: Seabury Books, 2007.

The more my perspective broadened, the more confirmed I became in my view that contemporary leadership dilemmas have less to do with the specificity of given problems, the nature of a particular technique, or the makeup of a given group than with the way everyone is framing the issues.

In any type of institution whatsoever, when a self-directed, imaginative, energetic, or creative member is being consistently frustrated and sabotaged rather than encouraged and supported, what will turn out to be true one hundred percent of the time, regardless of whether the disrupters are supervisors, subordinates, or peers, is that the person at the very top of that institution is a peace-monger. By that I mean a highly anxious risk-avoider, someone who is more concerned with good feelings than with progress, someone whose life revolves around the axis of consensus, a “middler,” someone who is so incapable of taking well-defined stands that his “disability” seems to be genetic, someone who functions as if she had been filleted of her backbone, someone who treats conflict or anxiety like ## mustard gas–one whiff, on goes the emotional gas mask, and he flits. Such leaders are often “nice,” if not charming.

What counts is the leader’s presence and being, not technique and know-how. …


Robert K. Greenleaf

Frick, Don M, foreword by Peter M. Senge, & afterword by Larry C. Spears. Robert K. Greenleaf: A Life of Servant Leadership. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2004.

Becoming a human being, and preparing a foundation for leadership, starts with developing the capacity to see what we have not seen before. If this capacity is absent, actions taken in the face of novel circumstances will actually be reactions from our past rather than appropriate for the present. As the capacity to stop becomes developed, our actions start to emerge from a broader field, the field of the future that is seeking to emerge.

…Greenleaf advocated: listening, consensus decision making, persuasion, lifelong learning, participatory research, exposure to ideas from the humanities, shared power, and full accountability.

Greenleaf says a leader is one who “goes out ahead and shows the way… He says, ‘I will go, follow me!’ when he knows that the path is uncertain, even dangerous.”

The leader always knows the goal and “can articulate it for any who are unsure. By clearly stating and restating the goal the leader gives certainty and purpose to others who may have difficulty in achieving it for themselves…. The word goal is used here in the special sense of the overarching purpose, the big dream, the visionary concept, the ultimate consummation which one approaches but never really achieves.”

People follow leaders because they believe leaders “see more clearly where it is best to go.”

The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. …

Audio Tidbit Leadership

Will You Take Your Turn At Success?

If you’re sure that you will take your turn at success, our old friend Simon has a couple of important tips for you. Please listen.


Greater Than Yourself

Farber, Steve, foreword by Patrick Lencioni and Matthew Kelly. Greater Than Yourself: The Ultimate Lesson of True Leadership. New York: Doubleday, 2009

…real leadership is not about calling yourself “leader;” rather, it’s about taking up the cause to change some piece of the world for the better. Real leadership, in other words, is an extreme act rooted in love and motivated by a desire to create a better world–whether it’s the world of your company, team, neighborhood, or family. Simply put, real leadership is Extreme Leadership.

“There are three tenets of Greater Than Yourself,” said Charles, writing upside down on the pad so it was right side up to me. “Expand Yourself, Give Yourself, and Replicate Yourself.”

Your job is to do whatever you can, to act in such a way that you extend and offer yourself to another, with the expressed purpose of elevating that person above yourself.

“Expand Yourself, Give Yourself, and, finally, Replicate Yourself by teaching others to do exactly what you’ve done for them.”

…that, in fact, is the first element of Expand Yourself: Shift your perspective from isolated to connected; from alone to interdependent; from me to us.

GTY is really just a form of very personal, one-on-one philanthropy.

…a culture in which everyone reaches out not just to help, but to help each other excel. …


Let The Pilot Fly The Plane, Please

None but a certifiable power junky would go with his own ideas and skills when someone more competent is readily available. Nonetheless, power junkies are more prevalent than you might think. You can find them mostly in the middle ranks but rarely at the top. Leaders do not get there by ignoring or overlooking expertise in others and especially not in people whose knowledge, skills, and resources can increase their chances for success. Skilled leaders take full advantage of whatever may give them the winning edge.

a proactive leader’s reason for deferring to the expertise of others goes a little farther though. He truly values differing styles and opinions. Each person on the team has know-how, skills, and resources unlike those of anyone else. They all have their special areas of expertise. They also have their individual approaches, ways of thinking, and perspectives. This gives fullness and flavor to the team. Not to take advantage of this richness would be like ignoring the pilot when she suggests that you let her fly the plain this time. …


The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization

Drucker, Peter with Jim Collins. The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization. Third Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008.

Planning is frequently misunderstood as making future decisions, but decisions exist only in the present. You must have overarching goals that add up to a vision for the future, but the immediate question that faces the organization is not what to do tomorrow. The question is, What must we do today to achieve results? Planning is not an event. It is the continuous process of strengthening what works and abandoning what does not, of making risk-taking decisions with the greatest knowledge of their potential effect, of setting objectives, appraising performance and results through systematic feedback, and making ongoing adjustments as conditions change.

Another reason to encourage dissent is that any organization needs its nonconformist. This is not the kind of person who says, “There is a right way and a wrong way– and our way.” Rather, he or she asks, “What is the right way for the future?’ and is ready to change. Finally, open discussion uncovers what the objections are. With genuine participation, a decision doesn’t need to be sold. Suggestions can be incorporated, objections addressed, and the decision itself becomes a commitment to action. …


Leadership Is an Art

De Pree, Max. Leadership Is an Art. New York: Currency, 2004.

One of the particular skills that leaders are required to exemplify in practice is the indispensable knack for building and nurturing relationships.

Authentic leaders see it as part of their calling to guide a group or organization in designing the kind of community they intend to become.

…the art of leadership: liberating people to do what is required of them in the most effective and humane way possible.

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader.

The signs of outstanding leadership appear primarily among the followers. Are the followers reaching their potential? Are they learning? Serving? Do they achieve the required results? Do they change with grace? Manage conflict?

Leadership is much more an art, a belief, a condition of the heart, than a set of things to do.