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 August.
Uniquely, one runaway leadership theme dominated international news in August: the practice and style of leadership. One can only speculate why so many leadership commentators have suddenly switched from mainstay topics such as leadership engagement, traits and diversity toward the enactment, best practice, style and approach to leadership; maybe in a year that has been full of leadership competences, theories, statistics and organisational development strategies, they felt it was time for good old fashioned leadership-in-action. Who really knows how such trends take off? One thing is for sure, there is a plethora of material this month on approaches and ways to do leadership.
Let’s look at 4 articles that stood out from the crowd.
Tommy Weir writing in The Gulf News neatly defines leadership practice in his article, Practice is never about hours worked. As Weir writes, many believe that on-the-job experience can lead to leadership excellence and expertise; he contends that practice, or “deliberate practice” as he calls it, is the key to leadership excellence (just as musicians and sports men/women practice to improve their performance). His principle message is that leaders “need to practice leading, not just spend time being a leader. Practice isn’t accumulated experience — it’s the hours you spend focusing on getting better at something, which in turn yields your accumulated advantage.”
Lillian Cunningham and Jena McGregor, regular feature writers for Washington Post’s On Leadership series, wrote a thought-provoking piece, Why big business is falling out of love with the annual performance review. The article looks at a current trend in established businesses (currently 10% of Fortune 500 companies) switching from the end of year formal review to ongoing performance conversations. The driver behind this is improved technology and analytics to track worker performance, a growing need/demand for more real-time feedback from employees (particularly the increasingly influential millennial generation), the pace of change in workloads where agreed targets set at the beginning of the year may not be appropriate by the end of the year and a general recognition that one-off conversations and forced rankings just don’t work – they are unfair and plagued with bias. Companies seem to yo-yo around with this issue (end of year appraisal, self-appraisal, 360 degree, forced rankings etc.); the important thing is not to get hung up on the latest fashion but to have a performance process that inspires performance and promotes engagement. Regular performance conversations as opposed to the one-off dreaded end of year appraisals at the very least force a leadership practice of ongoing dialogue, feedback and performance coaching; a word of caution, though, leaders should not see analytics and stats as replacing a leader’s skillful ability to raise performance though good old fashioned coaching and dialogue.
Elizabeth Bernstein, in The Wall Street Journal, wrote a well-researched article, Why Introverts Make Great Entrepreneurs, which explores leadership and personality in practice. In the article, she seeks to debunk the myth that extroverts make naturally good entrepreneurs by exploring four introvert qualities that can give entrepreneurs the edge: solitude (linked to stamina and reflective thinking), self-affirmation (linked to independence), listening skills (linked to seeing the bigger picture) and critical analysis (linked to realistic decision making).
An Finally… A terrific article, In 1975, this Kodak employee invented the digital camera. His bosses made him hide it, appeared in BRW to do with change and innovation. James Estrin tells the story of the invention of the digital camera. It was invented by a young engineer working for Eastman Kodak; but Kodak executives didn’t see a business opportunity because they were locked in the paradigm of film cameras and the Kodak marketing department were not interested in it. Although the patent earned billions for Kodak, Kodak lost market position as a producer of cameras because it failed to take seriously its own invention in digital photography. An ironic endnote – Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy. These historic stories of Kodak, Xerox, IBM, the Swiss watch making industry etc. are timely reminders that with innovation comes the need for companies to flex their attitudes and paradigms outside of their core business model.
Click here for a full list of titles and sources from the August archive and remember to check the leadership in the news section everyday where the latest articles on leadership are posted.