Mini-me-management: Take the time and lead well

The first thing I see when I receive The Glowan Consulting Group leadership development newsletter is their tagline:

Take Time to Lead™

And lead well. Love it. Some of you may have read my last post on the leadership development workshop I attended with Glowan.

But do CEO’s really matter? That’s the question posed in the recent lengthy but excellent Atlantic article someone Tweeted about this week (I think it was @hoovers).

The article begins by discussing the Steve Jobs saga and the ebbs and flows of shareholder value based on fact, rumor and innuendo of his failing and/or recovering health.

Yes, charismatic CEO’s can and do affect shareholder value (even plain old vanilla solid leadership does this as well), particularly in the cutthroat technology industry, but besides the superhero CEO mythos, there’s some great leadership research presented in this paper, including this telling paragraph:

James March, a management professor at Stanford, goes so far as to say that in any well-run company that’s conscientious about grooming its managers, candidates for the top job are so similar in their education, skills, and psychology as to be virtually interchangeable. All that matters is that someone be in charge.

All that matters is that someone be in charge. Hmmm…I feel there’s more to it than that. It’s got to be someone who knows how to be present, to lead one’s own self, one’s internal teams and the entire organization.

True leadership strength is measured by the team strength and influence throughout the organization.

J. Richard Hackman, a psychologist at Harvard, has done extensive work on leadership within small teams, and he has found that leaders do exert measurable influence on their team’s success or failure...

The team leader’s job is to establish the conditions that enable team members to collaborate competently; the leader needs to spell out exactly where teams should end up, but not dictate the step-by-step process of getting there...

Ideal team size, Hackman says, is about six people; performance problems increase exponentially as team size increases beyond that, and the impact of leadership becomes quickly diffused.

The ideal team size is six people? What the heck do we do with global organizations with thousands and thousands employees? If it’s true that people don’t feel allegiance to their large corporations, no matter who’s at the helm, then what’s executive management to do?

The highly localized nature of loyalty, some scholars argue, means that the real power to influence corporate performance resides not with the CEO but with middle management.

Or as I like to call mini-me-management – managing self and collaborative teams with the organization, the living cells that make up the complete business organism.

However, according to recent Towers Perrin data:

Favorable views about leadership — the top driver of employee engagement — are down in some key areas. Most notably, the percentage of employees agreeing top management provides a clear sense of direction dropped significantly, to 63% from 71% in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Makes sense considering the financial services and automotive meltdowns this country has seen in the past two years. Mark’s recent post on employee engagement (and the comments it received) was pretty clear about the fact that good management leads to employee retention, smart business decisions ethical business practices.

"Good leaders can make a small positive difference; bad leaders can make a huge negative difference - because they drive people out.” That was a quote from Stanford Business School professor and organizational expert Jeffrey Pfeffer (2006).

Good leaders keep teams of employees motivated and engaged. Those teams make up the organization. It’s been well documented that employees leave because of bad leadership, and bad leadership affects the company’s bottom line. Incentives don’t help either, because they mislead and backfire and then your still left with bad leaders.

We can’t forget personal responsibility as well – self-management and a sense of purpose – and this is what good leaders and managers can instill in their employees.

Mercy, even the growing number of private equity plays in our space and beyond understands the need for strong leadership. The short-term play just ain’t paying like it used to.

Lead self and teams well and build that into your corporate culture. Mini-me-management really works.

Post by Kevin Grossman (join me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn)

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