Leading Blog



09.19.14

Are We Too Busy Competing to do Anything New?

Zero to One
Peter Thiel’s Zero to One is a quick and engaging read, but the ideas are not as quick to digest.

Zero to One is based on the idea that progress can take two forms: horizontal or vertical progress. Horizontal progress is doing more of what works—going from zero to n. Vertical progress is doing something new—going from zero to one. Thiel explains it this way:

"Vertical progress is harder to imagine because it requires doing something nobody else has ever done. If you take one typewriter and build 100, you have made horizontal progress. If you have a typewriter and build a word processor, you have made vertical progress."
Zero to One

Most of us are busy making horizontal progress. We are competing—trying to better or make incremental improvements to what already exists. Certainly there is a value in this, but it leads to the creation of commodity businesses. Thiel recommends: avoid competition as much as possible. Instead, be a monopoly.

Monopolies occur when some is doing something no one else is doing. “Monopolies deserve their bad reputation—but only in a world where nothing changes….Creative monopolists give customers more choices by adding entirely new categories of abundance to the world.” To make a finer point, Thiel writes: “Every business is successful exactly to the extent that it does something others cannot. Monopoly is the condition of every successful business.”

Part of the problem is that we have developed a mindset of indefinite optimism or hoping the future will get better with no plan—the future just-sort-of-happens approach. What we need says Theil is a mindset of definite optimism. That is to say, getting on with building the future you envision—working the plan. “Arguing over process has become a way to endlessly defer making concrete plans for a better future.” A definite optimist believes the future will be better if he plans and works to make it better. We need to get back to making a plan for the future.

Successful start-ups and monopolies are built on a secret. “People at a successful startup are fanatically right about something those outside it have missed.” What everyone knows will not give you an edge.

What we need to restore is our sense of adventure—our sense of possibility. Are we too busy competing to do something new?

Quote 
"The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them."

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:09 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Creativity & Innovation

09.04.14

Why Reframing is Important to Great Leadership

Leaders need to be able to look at the situations they face from different perspectives. The need to be able to reframe a situation in order to understand what it really going on and deal with it effectively.

How Great Leaders Think
A leader’s “ability to reframe sets them free” and helps them to “avoid getting trapped in cognitive ruts,” write Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal, authors of How Great Leaders Think. “Leaders can expand how they think by using different mental models to determine what’s going on and what to do in complex situations.”

Bolman and Deal are the authors of Reframing Organizations. They have taken the model they introduced there and applied it specifically to leadership. The model has four frames, scripts, or perspectives. Each has its advantages and shortcomings and we tend to lean towards one more than the others. This idea, of course, is to develop the ability to use the appropriate frame or script to generate a unique approach to handling challenging circumstances instead of relying upon our tried and true default approaches.

Our single approach will only be “right” a small percentage of the time. Too often leaders will approach everything they deal with the last approach and insist they are right as they head right over the cliff. They insist that the world is as they see it. To grow is to recognize your blind spots.

The four frames are:

Structural — Leader’s role as architect. An emphasis on finding the right design for the task at hand. Structural leaders help groups get clear about why they’re there, who is in charge, who is supposed to do what, and how team members can work with on another to achieve the group’s purpose.

Human Resources — Leader’s role as coach. The central theme is improving the fit between the individual and the organization and begins with caring—or in a word, love. Leader who commit themselves to key practices of effective people leadership—developing a philosophy for managing people, hiring the right people, keeping employee investing in their future, empowering them, and promoting diversity—have repeatedly built businesses that thrive on the strength of employee talent, energy, and creativity.

Political — Leader’s role as peacemaker. Organizations and societies are networks as well as hierarchies, and the power of relationships is a crucial complement to the power of position. Misreading the political map and overlooking the power of potential players can lead to catastrophe. That’s why it’s critical to treat the map as a work in progress—a guide to be tested as you move along.

Symbolic — Leader’s role as storyteller. The central theme is the way humans discover and create meaning in an ambiguous and chaotic world. Symbolic leadership begins with the leader’s deeply rooted faith and passion. Symbolic leaders infuse magic into organizations through their artistic focus on history, shared values, heroes, ritual, ceremony, and stories, and serve as icons who embody a group’s values and spirit.

The authors write: “Consciously or not, we all read situations to figure out what scene we’re in and what role we’ve been assigned, so that we can respond in character. But it’s important to ask ourselves whether the drama is the one we want and recognize that we have latitude as to which character to play and how to interpret the script.”

The authors provide practical lessons from examining these frames through the leadership of Jeff Bezos, Howard Schultz, Tony Hsieh, Ursala Burns, Steve Jobs and others.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:51 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Thinking

09.01.14

First Look: Leadership Books for September 2014

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in September.

  The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership by Richard Branson
  The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization by Jacob Morgan
  Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success by Shane Snow
  Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization by Edward D. Hess
  Hard Times: Leadership in America by Barbara Kellerman

The Virgin Way Future of Work Smartcuts Learn or Die Hard Times

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Build your leadership library with these specials on over 100 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.


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“No two persons ever read the same book.”
— Edmund Wilson


Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:19 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books

08.31.14

LeadershipNow 140: August 2014 Compilation

twitter

twitter Here are a selection of tweets from August 2014 that you might have missed:
See more on twitter Twitter.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:57 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | LeadershipNow 140

08.29.14

A Road Map for Young Adults

It all began with an e-mail from his daughter, Avery, with the subject line: "Is this okay to send?"

Avery had gotten her first post-college job as an assistant to the co-executive producer to a new network daytime TV talk show. She wanted to ask her new boss for a later start date so she would have more time to “tie up loose ends.”

The Bigs
It was then her Dad, Ben Carpenter, realized that today’s young people don’t really know what is expected of them in the real world—the “big leagues”. They didn’t know how the working world actually worked.

So Carpenter sat down to write The Bigs. It is advice for recent college graduates and young professionals of course, but really for anyone working in the Bigs about the kinds of issues they will encounter. The book is not just a how-to book of bullet points, but it is filled with stories from Carpenter's own life that give the advice credibility and context. They are well worth reading to help you get your bearings.

Not all of the advice is new but it is the “uncommon sense” we all need to get along and influence the people around us in a positive way. Consider these thoughts:

• It is ironic this issue tripped me up so badly because I believe my normally rigorous adherence to my Golden Rule was a major reason, from early on, I was viewed as a leader at Greenwich Capital. The lesson is … always follow the Golden Rule and never say anything negative about anybody in your company. To do otherwise is unprofessional, unnecessary, and more often than not will come back to haunt you.

• Take responsibility for all mistakes you make and, if you are a competent and valued employee, when you do take responsibility it will be viewed as a sign of strength, not weakness, by your co-workers.

• Understand that how your boss views you will be largely a function of how your peers and subordinates see you.

• Whatever qualities you look for in a spouse, please include “a happy person” at or near the top of your list.

• While you are looking towards the future, and the goals you hope to accomplish, you need to appreciate the blessings you have today. Just like choosing to be happy, you can choose to appreciate what you have. If I could give one gift to those I love the most, it would be for them to always appreciate what they have.

• Leave you baggage at home. The insecurities and resentments from your childhood will just slow you down or, in some cases, sabotage your plans entirely. You are now a full grown man or woman and it is time to sand up, take responsibility, and start building the life you want to live. You may not yet have had a shock dramatic enough to make you drop your childhood baggage. However, you need to appreciate how stunningly different the real world is from your previous life as a student and seize this moment to make a fresh start.

• Choosing a career you can do well, rather than doing what you want, might sound unappealing, but it isn’t. The reason is the satisfaction you get from being good at your job. From my personal experiences, as well as observing family, friends, and co-workers, I know most professionals are most happy doing what they are good at.

• The most important advice I can give you about how to get a great job is to arrange for informational interviews with junior staff at a company before you have a job interview.

• In any good-sized company or department there should be no need to reinvent the wheel. Imitate the actions of the star employees and then use your creativity and talents to perform even better.

Quote 
The Bigs provides samples of letters to people you need to network with, questions to ask and how to find people to add to your network and thank-you letters to anyone you interviewed with along the way once you land your first job. He includes advice on what to do during each year of your college career, advice on internships, how to manage your finances, and what to say during interviews. Recommended for High School juniors and beyond. Start early.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:39 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources



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