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The Navigator
Charting a Path to Leadership Excellence
Volume: # 5July/August 2010
President's Message
Thoughts on Leadership
 Bruce Griffiths  

A recent reference from a colleague prompted me to reflect on an old leadership debate; do leaders need to change to reflect the times? The thesis of the article (written by a distinguished faculty in a well known university) was the need for current leadership to shift from a "command and control" model dominant in American organizations post WWII, to a more participative model designed to accommodate the new, 21st century worker. While I agree that the dominant leadership style in many organizations has been directive (command and control), I do think the BEST leaders, and an associated model of ideal leadership, have been present all along. 

 

I've had the privilege of serving under, and spending time with, exceptional leaders for the last 44 years. I've found the competencies of the very best leaders to be enduring. My experiences range from a remarkable Captain I reported to while assigned to a U.S. Navy ship in Viet Nam in the early 1970's to exemplary sales leaders I interviewed in 2010 for a global Fortune 500 company. All of these extraordinary leaders operated first from a personal power base of high integrity, clear and transparent communications, a passion for mission and role, and a basic curiosity (a willingness to grow and learn). While I do agree that in certain times and certain places these leaders were harder to find, they have always been there and their model endures and can be emulated today and tomorrow across organizations. 

 

Coincidentally this edition's feature article is about the centerpiece competency in leadership; Influence.  As you'll read the skillful use of power, both personal and positional, has enduring and transferable characteristics across time and space.

       
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   Bruce Griffiths
Influence 
The Polaris Big Six
This month, the featured article in The Navigator is the fourth in our series on the Big Six competencies necessary for exceptional performance as a leader. In this edition we're going to focus on Influence. 
 
As a manager, ask yourself honestly: Do your people do what you ask because they respect you, or because they respect the position you hold? Truly engaged employees, your best performers, are more productive when they are motivated to perform out of respect for you as a person and a leader. Your ability to influence or your personal power to persuade is one of two primary competencies that define successful leadership. Influence is the focal competency for understanding how to persuade others and gain commitment. It defines the special set of behaviors and motivations that leaders need to attract others to their agenda and to motivate them to act on their goals.

 

Leadership experts tend to approach the Influence competency from two very different directions. The more widely adopted approach has been situational, in which leaders alternate between a more directive style to a more collaborative style depending on the circumstance. For example, an intern fresh from school would need more guidance and specific instruction - a directive style. As the beginner gains knowledge, skill, and confidence, the leader would shift to a more collaborative, participative style. In special circumstances, a more authoritarian style may be necessary, such as those involving a safety violation in which the consequences are severe. In such instances, leaders need to act swiftly and assertively to confront and correct situations.

 

The second approach to leadership, which I believe is more instructive in defining a true leader, identifies the sources of power that authorize leaders. These power sources can be presented on a continuum arranged from positional (granted by an organization) to personal (a portable form of authority granted by followers to an individual).

 

Since anyone in a supervisory position has been delegated authority to reward or punish their direct reports, the role itself grants an aura of power that allows the supervisor to direct others. At the other end of the power continuum is where true leadership is found. If you think of the best leaders you've encountered, you've probably noticed that they operate out of personal power base. They generate personal power from three sources: expertise, skillful communications, and integrity, and are often sought out for advice. You grant them power by permitting them to influence you because of who they are!

 

In daily life, we often encounter examples of "expert" leadership, or people whom we acknowledge know more about a subject than we do. The power that comes from being a great communicator is a little more complex. To be one, first you must perfect your message or what you intend to communicate. And keep in mind that grooming, dress, gestures and inflection matter.

 

Much of the Influence competency can be learned, but there is an important element that needs to be confirmed before prompting someone into a leadership role. I call this quality "leadership identity", or having the natural inclination and motivation to assume responsibility over others. Because some candidates for leadership roles may be motivated by just ambition, or the dark side of power, organizations need to ensure that candidates will truly resonate leadership roles before promoting them. 

 
Copyright 2010, Organization Systems International, San Diego, California, USA
2010 Survey: Challenges of Leading Global Teams
Esprit Global Learning and Beyond Borders, Inc.
 
OSI's global partner, Esprit Global Learning, and their partner, Beyond Borders Inc., conducted a study on leading global teams. For recommended reading, the results are provided below.
 
In 2010, the joint global leadership development team of Esprit Global Learning and Beyond Bords, Inc. undertook a study entitled Challenges of Leading Globlal Teams Today to identify the most common challenges managers face in leading global virtual teams and how they impact their organizations' business results.

                                                   

The most common challenges identified by the global managers in this study were consistent with the researchers own experiences as global leadership consultants and with other recent studies. According to respondents, the managers and their virtual teams grapple with several fundamental differences that can severely impede the team's overall effectiveness, including differences in communication styles and understanding of spoken English, country cultures, time zones and balancing global needs against local business priorities, practices and policies.

 

What the authors did not anticipate in the survey was the degree to which these differences negatively impact the organization's ability to be efficient, competitive and responsive to customers in the global marketplace. Their findings reveal that the financial and human costs to global managers and their companies can be steep: product delays, wasted expenditures, missed deadlines, stalled initiatives, lost sales and marketing opportunities, inefficiencies and redundancies, decreased customer satisfaction and excessive work hours and stress for the manager.

 

Managers indicated they work to bridge the communication, cultural and geographic divides with their global teams by adapting their communication and work styles and by spending more time with team members on the phone, in virtual meetings, and to less extent in person, to solicit their ideas, listen, and build trust and relationships. While most global managers have access to multiple resources to build their global leadership skills (i.e., online courses, training, coaching, mentoring, books, associations, etc.) they feel strongly that more face-to-face time is needed with their teams to build greater trust, understanding and cooperation. They acknowledged, however, that budget limitations make it difficult to travel to geographically dispersed locations or arrange for short-term international assignments to increase cultural competence. When asked, the respondents said they would welcome receiving formal global leadership skills training or coaching to build their international skills rather than depend on learning through trial and error.

 

For more information on this study, please contact Carolyn Feuille, President of Esprit Global Learning at (530) 264-7008.

 

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President's Message
Influence
Featured Article
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