Leadership in the news monthly review March 2015

Review of articles on leadership in the major global newspapers for March 2015


Every month, Leadership Issues reviews highlights/trends from features/articles on the subject of leadership appearing in major global newspapers. Today we are reviewing the month of March.

The top five themes for March (in order) appearing in the nationals included:

1. Leadership development
2. Leadership skills
3. Leadership and the millennial generation
4. Women in Leadership
5. Leadership and Innovation

Reviewing how leadership is reported in national global newspapers throws up some intriguing insights into trends, attitudes, conferences and publications on leadership development happening throughout the world. March delivered some surprises. Women and Leadership is back in the top four reported leadership themes after its sharp demise in February (falling off the leader board having been the top reported issue in January). This is most likely because of the publication of a number of key findings in March such as the IBIS World analysis and some high profile conferences on women in business. Leadership in the future (which was the number one reported leadership theme at the beginning of the new year) decreased significantly in March. Leadership and innovation continues to be commented on as does the much discussed subject of the rise of the millennial generation and the impact they have on leadership and the workplace. The clear runaway top 2 (interrelated) trends/themes reported in the nationals in March were topics relating to leadership skills and development. The reason for this, I surmise, is because leaders tend to turn to issues of individual personal development once the yearly priorities and goals are set and launched. It is also signifies that as we move out of global recession, there is a return of interest in developing leadership skills to retain talent and take the organisation forward.

There were a number of articles that stood out and are worth profiling.

Two articles on the use of data analytics were published in mid-March. The discussion of how data analytics can assist leaders set strategic direction is steadily gaining interest. The Canadian national, The Globe and Mail, in their Leadership Lab series, ran a scholarly article, Why data insight is the crystal ball leaders can’t afford to be without by Dino Trevisan. This article sets out how big data analytics tools “help leaders better allocate resources, develop new revenue streams, personalize services, sustain competitive advantage and manage risk.” The article ends with some good advice about how to set up data analytics in your organisation and cautions that big data analytics is a tool to help leaders make better decisions quoting Professor Florian Zettelmeyer of the Kellogg School of Management: “Big Data Doesn’t Make Decisions, Leaders Do.” The theme of data analytics continues in The Washington Post article from their On Leadership series, When companies know more but say less about their gender gap by Danielle Paquette. This article shows how useful data analytics is in the field of gender equality (assessing and tracking what happens to female employees throughout their careers); but it reports on the reluctance for organisations such as Avon and Google to publically disclose sensitive data.

The Guardian featured a fun article on the decline of charismatic leaders in the UK and Europe, Why our leaders can’t be heroes any more by Jonathan Powell. It charts a global pattern within politics of strong charismatic leaders always being followed by weaker ones suggesting “It is very hard for a new strong leader to grow up in the shadow of an existing strong leader.” But the article does not lament the decline in charismatic leaders; far from it, it celebrates saying that this points to the fact that our modern political leaders are becoming more comfortable about being “ordinary human beings with failings” just like the rest of us. The article explores how great Western leaders of the past (Kennedy, Roosevelt, Churchill), covered up their failings and how such leader cover-ups continue in modern Russia, China and Korea. The article reflects that on the whole it has been a good development that modern leaders do not feel the need to be superhuman – it is their ability to govern that counts.

Two articles that reflect this month’s leading topics, leadership skills and development, are featured in the Huffington Post and The Wall Street Journal. The Huffington Post ran a well researched article on self-awareness – The Most Important Leadership Skill There Is by
Matt Tenney, setting out how self-awareness benefits leaders and how it can be developed. The Wall Street Journal featured a thought-provoking article, Are Your Conversations Strategic? by Chris Entel on developing strategic conversations among the CFO population, setting out when to have them, how they complement strategic habits and three distinct strategic conversation scenarios: building understanding, shaping choices and making decisions. This in-depth article ends with some dos and don’ts when engaging in strategic conversations.

The final highlight from March’s features on leadership from the national global newspapers is my personal favourite. The Washington Post featured an article, What if you could replace performance evaluations with four simple questions? by Jena McGregor exploring a unique approach to performance evaluation from Deloitte, What if you could replace performance evaluations with four simple questions? Rather than the one-off-end-of-year appraisal facilitated by managers and leaders, Deloittes’ new approach is to do away with annual ratings and forced rankings and substitute them for end of project assessments that asks four simple questions to be answered by the key stakeholder or manager:

The first two are answered on a five-point scale, from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree;” the second two have yes or no options:
1. Given what I know of this person’s performance, and if it were my money, I would award this person the highest possible compensation increase and bonus.
2. Given what I know of this person’s performance, I would always want him or her on my team.
3. This person is at risk for low performance.
4. This person is ready for promotion today.

Deloittes’ approach, still in the experimental stage, aims to switch “talking about the ratings to talking about our people.” As we shift toward multiple teams, flexible workplaces, project-based assignments and an increasing generation of Millennial workers (where in Deloitte article If Millennials Ruled the Corporate World printed in The Wall Street Journal , it was revealed that key priorities for this generation include being treated well and for organisations to focus on employee growth and well-being), we may need to rethink the way we measure and evaluate success and performance in the workplace.

Click here for a full list of titles and sources from the March archive and remember to check the leadership in the news section everyday where daily articles on leadership are posted.