Thursday, 10 January 2013

Leadership is about changing perspectives in logical progression towards changes in organizational surroundings.


"Leadership theory and methods,it is argued,are not panaceas.
There are organizational limits which hinder positive contributions
in innovative leadership.If organizations are seen as complex
evolutionary systems,then our contemporary views of leadership
continually evolve in adaptive fashion.With a changing perspective
there is a logical progression toward embracing alternative ways of
acting and relating to our surroundings.This inevitably results in
different ways of relating to the working environment.In turn,the new
types of relationships and approaches to work will provide new conditions
for the emergence of adaptive organizational forms"...
Dennis Crossen,Professor.

Studies on leadership have tended to create a dichotomy between managers and leaders in the organization.While the former tends to uphold organizational rules and procedures involved in the day to day decision-transactions the leader however involves himself in higher order things such as strategy,visioning,sharing enduring values;taking followers to where they ought to go rather than where they want to go.It is axiomatic that it is in the nature of man to settle into his comfort zone and will not want any thing to disturb or disrupt him.Change is anathema to man's estate.But it is the only constant in the human social organization.Bass(1985) has created a transactional -transformational continuum whereby the transactional manager can transmute into a transformational leader.It is figured that both traits can be imbued in one person;therefore the term manager and leader are used through this note to mean the same thing.

It is suggested that transformational leadership builds on the transactional.For higher order performance which transformational has come to associate with,Goleman(2000) states that such a leader must possess higher emotional intelligence than his sub-ordinates.The presence of EI in the transformational manager distinguishes him from the transactional manager.Such is the criticality of EI as a differentiator in the leadership typology.

Leadership in Practice:
No where is reflective leadership as considered here more relevant than in change management.For instance,Lawson&Price(2003) in their article,"The psychology of management" in the Mckinsey Quarterly,suggest that for leaders to achieve the goals of change management there is the need to change the mindsets of people in the organization towards the change imperatives.Transforming the fortunes of an organization on the cusp of poor financial performance requires persuading employees to see the organization in a new perspective different from what it is to what will be.The authors further argue that for employees to change their behaviour towards the organization there is the need to create the  raison de'tat for change in their minds for the shift to take place.Five conditions need to be present for mind shift to take place,and these are: purpose,reinforcement systems,skills required for change,consistent role models,change management outcomes.
Purpose: people must have or achieve cognition of their existence  and experience in the organization.There must be sync between the goals of the firm and their goals and beliefs or what I call goals-belief convergence.Creating a new purpose therefore entails banishing dissonance created by a poorly led organization.
Reinforcement systems:in practice Skinner's theory of motivation states that positive reinforcement conditions people to embrace a course of action.Change management in redirecting the course of a firm towards greater performance needs to appeal to the emotive strings of people.This is explained by Marslow's pyramid of human needs.At the top is the need for self-actualization,to realize and actualize talents,intellect,values ,physical and emotional needs.At the bottom are the needs for security,safety, love; to be  wanted,esteemed.
Organizational theorists hold the view though motivational systems need to be present in the organization for change management to succeed,it also holds true that measures such as structures,management and operational processes,measurement procedures,performance measurement,reward systems(financial and non-financial) are equally of vital importance to change management.The presence of these drivers in the organization determines the extent to which change management measures will achieve the desired goals.
Change management therefore is atmospheric.Inferentially,it is argued that a leader must be true to his or her inner promptings when dealing with people in an organizational setting.His or her actions and decisions must endure time,be eventful and iconic when judged by history.This is what distinguishes transformational leaders from transactional ones.
Skills required for change :new skills it is suggested must be brought into the organization if the desired behavioral modification will be achieved.Telling a sales or marketing team to be customer friendly for instance must be followed by imparting knowledge of how to achieve it to them before performance becomes meaningful.On a personal note,I was confronted with a similar situation in my company.Customer complaints were hardly attended to prior to my arrival in the firm.As a matter of fact,customers to the staff didn't mean anything  since they were receiving their pay checks at the end of the month.But according to Jack Welch,CEO of GE, it is because of the customer that we are and still remain in business.'He moves his money and the business collapses....the customer is our boss".The customer,therefore must be in the middle of organizational foci.Organizational gaze must be on the customer and his needs at all times.
Arising from my interactions with our customers in one on one as well as group meetings,a customer relations framework was instituted for the front and back room offices.Regular CRM weekly lectures were given to the two teams,reinforced with outside training programmes for sales and marketing staff.Measurable performance framework was was instituted to gauge outcomes.Part of this lay in the number of complaints per day ,number of poor/bad prints per day,turn around recorded,time to resolution of complaints,etc,etc.All these at the  end of the year dovetails into the annual appraisal.Annual appraisals it must be emphasized should not become routinized,rather it should be seen as a change management tool for organizational renewal.
Consistent role models: leadership attributes are consistent with role modelling.As a leader you empathize with the follower ship,showing interest in what affects them,what inhibits their performance,seeking ways to assist in overcoming these inhibitions,getting involved in their career goals ,mentoring and coaching.According to Deepak Chopra,leaders,"are often enmeshed in corporate politics and are insulated by immediate aides' ;this he opines prevents them from paying attention to those things that ordinarily should endear them to the followership.He observes the tendency of leaders to lose their ability to look and listen as they rise in power in the organization.The mark of a true leader in the organization is his ability to stay focused on the central issue of change,know the difference between the needs of people and their wants,be good at giving feedback,not monopolizing truth,welcoming criticism and be open.
Behavioural modification in people in the organization in the face of change can be beneficial where role modelling is confirmed and seen by the followership as deep rooted and deeply influencing.
Change management outcomes:it is counter-intuitive to state that it is not easy to turn around the fortunes of a company through change.It is stated so due to the recognized difficulty experienced by practitioners in behaviour modification in employees during corporate turn-around campaigns.It is likened to turning around a super tanker  back to port in the middle of the Panama Canal.The literature recognizes that the innate desire of human beings to develop and grow energizes them. Employee rationalization of their place in the organization's schema is to the extent of their deeper understanding of how and why their contributions matter to the firm.Therefore,it is the leader's role or place to provide the meaning; thus creating the needed connect between employee aspirations and those of the organization.This inter-mediation as a concept goes beyond metrics;it is more art..

Saturday, 5 January 2013

The Leadership Conundrum and productivity in organizations.

 The search for the definitive answers to the leadership question in organizations has prompted hundreds of studies and countless theories according to Charles Handy.Handy(1982) asks whether leadership traits are bred into one or is innate?He further asks whether leadership is about style or task(or its nature) or the situation? Or perhaps it lies in the characteristics of the leader?
In laying the scope of our inquiry Handy likens the search to the quest for the 'Holy Grail' in organizational theory.However,in reviewing the literature on Leadership one comes to the conclusion that while one theory may be valid for a period in particular,it may not be so for another;hence the need to integrate some or all these to provide a holistic view of the leadership question.

Robbins&Judge(2007) came to this conclusion in their summation of their treatise on traits  and behavioral theories as they relate to organizational effectiveness and the role of  leadership.They hypothesize that conscientiousness(trait) may be linked to structure(behavioral),while a considerate executive(also behavioral) may likely be an extrovert(trait). The corollary is that as abundant as these traits and behavioral attributes
 may be imbued in the leader,they are not likely to determine his effectiveness or otherwise.I argue that the situation a leader finds himself or herself in may either negate effectiveness or bring out the leadership qualities in such person."As important as trait theories and behavioural theories are in determining effective versus ineffective leaders,they do not guarantee a leader's success.The context matters too".Robbins & Judge(2007)
For an expanded review on this issue see:Fiedler Model;Hersey  and Blanchard's situational theory;Leader-Member Exchange theory and Path-Goal theory(Robert House);Leader-Participation Model(Victor Vroom and Phillip Yetton)

Whereas research on leadership over the years has broadly been categorized under traits ,style and behavioural as well as contingency,its typology has been built around the Big Five personality framework of:extra version,agreeableness,consciousness, emotional stability,and openness to experience.

Leadership In Organizations:
We now may ask how do these theories correlate with productivity and organizational effectiveness under a leader?My reading of the literature points to a bi-forcation of the roles of managers and those of leaders in the organization.Prior to this time we have referred to leaders and managers in the leadership question.Under the purview of this discourse both concepts are used interchangeably.Whereas the manager is seeming transactional in behaviour as demanded of his position,being to see to the day to day execution of plans and strategies set forth by the leader.The leader on the other hand,sets the vision,tone and direction of the organization for the manager to ensure conformance .The leader   structures,supports ,guides and emplaces a shared vision of the organization and the rest of the firm to buy into hence his transformational role.
The conundrum in the leadership question lies in Fiedler's contingency theory which states that 'organizations could do more to help the individual leader by either(a)structuring the task(b)improving the formal power vis-a-vi his group or (c) changing the composition of the group in order to give the leader more favorable climate to work in".Implicit in Fiedler's assertion is the fact that leaders can be found at various levels of the organization.What it then would mean is that the organizational environment must conduce to producing leaders.We see therefore the convergence of the traits theories with the contingency theories as well as that of the Big Five.I  argue that the transactional as well as the transformational attributes of leadership can be situated in an individual at various levels.Organizational climate which encourages intra-preneurial and entrepreneurial behaviour and learning  brings about such attributes.
What Bennis,W.G; and Thomas,R.J; in their article "Crucibles of Leadership(2002)" called learning from crucibles... and they take many forms...'some are events,others are more prosaic episodes of self-doubt.......but the important thing is that leaders take away vital lessons from these episodic events and transform themselves into models of exceptional behavior in the organization'.
The authors cite the example of Sidney Hamman,CEO,Hamman Kardon(now Hamman International)who as a transactional manager went through a crucible of event in his organization that changed his world view.He subsequently enthroned a participative management style in the organization.Hamman transmuted into a transformational leader.One posits therefore a transactional-transformational continuum in organizational effectiveness which can take place when the right learning is attained.

Leadership and Intelligence:
Beyond the various theories and research studies on leadership under review,one takes the view that leadership attributes go beyond the availability of traits,styles and situations to shape leadership.For a leader to enhance his performance he must possess characteristics other than those above mentioned. Goleman,D;(1995) argues that leadership goes beyond crunching numbers;but that achieving organizational goals requires having inter-personal skills to be able to function and be productive .While intelligence Quotient has traditionally been used to test an individual's intelligence,being able to function and be productive requires more than this.Goleman coined the term 'Emotional Intelligence' which basically means been able to manage once emotions.And how relevant is this to leadership effectiveness?In Goleman's view the IQ is the brain power,the EQ on the other hand,is the emotional power.A leader must have a combination of the two to make the difference.Good decisions he states,are based on a balancing of rational(IQ) and emotional(EQ) rather than one without the other.It is intuitive to state therefore that managers who have over the years learned to manage their emotions have learnt to manage their behaviour and relationships better than those
that havent.The effective leader under the Goleman construct is one with both IQ and EQ with good social skills or better still social intelligence.

In conclusion,the leadership question will continue to resonate through the ages for as long organizations as social organisms exist to cater to the needs of people and the society.Organizational effectiveness is
predicated on how leaders in the organization function within the context of the various theories earlier elucidated The assumption  being that leaders are effective because they are imbued with traits,are bound to behavior in specific ways,are to respond in a characteristic manner because of the situation they find themselves in and that behavior is contingent on events that shape their view of the world.The totality of all these is that no one theory satisfactorily answers the leadership question .

End Note:Handy,C;(1982),'Understanding Organizations',2nd Edition,Penguin,London
                Robbins,S.P.,& Judge,T.A.;(2007),'Organizational Behavior,12th Edition,Prentice Hall
                 Bennis,W.G,& Thomas,R,J,(2002),'Crucibles of Leadership',Harvard Business Review.
                Golemsn,D,(1995),'Emotional Intelligence',Batam Press,New York.

Surviving under a fierce price war.

Ever since i took over the reins of the management of our company i never could imagine that in so short a time we would be confronted with a price war so fierce in our industry.This has been exacerbated by the entrance of refurbished cheap equipment into the market by those who believed there was a gold mine in the digital imaging business.Alas,i had predicted the slump sometime in 2009,but never in this magnitude.Change management texts often talk about responding to events in the external environment through adaptation and innovation in products and processes.However,nothing prepares us sometime for the magnitude of developments in the market place,something one would liken to a 'tsunami' and yet MBA curricular always try to lay emphasis on 'strategic outlining' of responses to changes in the environment.This strategic blueprints fail to live up to their billings.A case in point is our personal experience within our industry.Based on my prediction we outlined possible responses to the likely variegated scenarios  in the market and aggregated our strategic position visa-a-vis the outcomes.A price war was not anticipated,rather we postulated price upward movement.We were wrong and hugely too;the industry reels under very severe margin erosion.Before now margins were in the region of 25%-30%  before tax.Now it has dropped to less than 9% after tax.

We had considered exiting the market but the cost of doing that outweighs the cost of staying.Two,we also considered staff retrenchment in a harsh economic environment and felt less inclined to doing that.What to do then? Diversification into new categories?Create new line in existing market? Diversify into new geographic markets or region? We chose the later and it paid off in the first year.Sustaining it is the problem.Because no sooner than you settle down to harvesting your investment new threats will surface in the form of rivals entrying the region.Sounds familiar?

Which reminds me of that Harvard classic "What they did not Teach You at Harvard". Nothing prepares you for what to expect in the real world away from the classroom stuff Professors ram down .Its been a useful lesson this past five years;as i have indeed graduated with 'honours' from C.K.Prahalad's school of real life learning.Nothing is more rewarding than this .

End Note: This is has been a five year excursion of turning around the fortunes of a company newly started but badly run.It is said that the average life span of small businesses is three to five years.One needed to operate with that mind set in other not to let our situation become a self-fulfilling prophesy.The company is in its sixth year and growing.