Perhaps it’s the upcoming presidential election that has everyone focusing on leadership and its challenges. In recent weeks, numerous interesting articles have offered perspective on various aspects of this sometimes-elusive quality.
Two features on the HBR Blog Network cover a broad spectrum of leadership styles. Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, in “Are You Sure You’re Not a Bad Boss?” start at the low end of the performance curve with a self-diagnostic test that may prove telling. Exhibit just a few of these flaws, and you may find it difficult to inspire anyone to do much of anything.
If you follow me on Twitter (@bzhenry), you know that I’ve made content curation in organizational communication a hobby. This blog post highlights the best of what I’ve read in recent weeks.
Julian Birkinshaw takes a similar approach in “The Seven Deadly Sins of Management.” Rather than prescribe what a good leader does, Birkinshaw outlines the behaviors to avoid. He, too, offers a handy diagnostic test to help you self-assess or to provide for input from your team.
If you prefer a more optimistic outlook, “Timeless Success Recipes From Stephen Covey,” by Lisa Nirell, on the Fast Company website, recalls “the timeless gifts” of constructive advice that the late Covey gave the author in an interview many years ago.
Ask for a random sampling of qualities that individuals must possess in order to enjoy the enchantments of the C-suite, (assuming, of course, that you believe it to be filled with leaders) and the term “executive presence” more than likely will arise. Yet very little agreement exists on what constitutes this intangible quality. John Beeson, in “Deconstructing Executive Presence,” ultimately boils it down to “your ability to project mature self-confidence, a sense that you can take control of difficult, unpredictable situations; make tough decisions in a timely way and hold your own with other talented and strong-willed members of the executive team.” Fortunately, he also offers advice on how the quality can be developed.
Another essential element to effective leadership is robust decision making. In “Resilient Cultures Thrive on Feedback, So Start Talking,” on the Fast Company website, author Thomas H. Stanton discusses the recent financial crisis and analyzes why some companies survived (e.g., JPMorgan Chase) while others failed (e.g., Lehman Brothers). He credits leaders of the surviving firms with the ability to listen to many perspectives and remain open-minded in discussing the upsides and downsides of various risks.
While all these articles are worth the time it takes to read them, my favorite – and considering my English-major education, there’s no surprise here – is from John Coleman on the HBR Blog Network: “For Those Who Want to Lead, Read.” Coleman details a long list of benefits to be gained as well as an impressive recounting of great leaders who were also great readers. (As he notes, Winston Churchill won his Nobel prize in Literature, not Peace.)
Two more good reads, both on employee engagement
- “How to Foster Outrageously Awesome Employee Engagement,” by Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden, on the Fast Company website
- “The New Employee … Partner of Purpose?” by Steve Kayser on his blog, Riffs, Tiffs and What Ifs