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Upcoming Inc. Magazine Talk

Sam Bacharach will be talking at Inc. magazine’s Leadership Forum on June 8th. He’ll be giving two talks on the following subjects:

1. When Charisma and Vision Are Not Enough: Moving From Potential to Execution

Charisma may get you in the front door, but unless you have the ability to actually deliver on your promise, you will be remembered more for your personality than your leadership. Do you know how to rally people to your side and build focus and consensus? How to keep them there and nurture their entrepreneurial instincts? How to build a strong, dynamic, loyal team of dedicated, innovative managers and implementers? How to create a “pool” of talented people who will be your company’s leaders of tomorrow? In this groundbreaking session, you’ll learn how to master the skills of political and managerial competence. Recognize the benefits of developing these capabilities in yourself. Foster the leadership potential of others. And create a more dynamic, proactive and energetic organization.

2. Leading Your Team: The Skills of Engagement and Enhancement

In a world of Generation Y, in a world where companies are moving from products to solutions, and in a world where agility is critical, you need to engage your team members and enhance their capacity. Your team will deliver and commit only if you know how to lead it. What are the key things you need to keep in mind in leading a creative, dynamic, aspiring group of people? How do you coach and develop others to meet their potential while executing the business strategy? How do you challenge them so that they are fully engaged and committed? Dynamic organizations and creative agendas succeed because leaders know how to invest in others. In this session, you will learn the critical leadership skills to make sure your team will stay with you and go the distance.

The Inc. Leadership Forum will feature:

The Inc. Leadership Forum brings together the knowledge and experience of industry experts, academics, seasoned entrepreneurs and fellow company leaders to share their methods on how to implement leadership strategies that help businesses flourish.

What’s Included:

– A cocktail reception

– 2 power-networking breakfasts and lunches

– High-profile speakers

– More than 15 hours of education

– Informative break-outs and panel discussions

– Book signings

– A working night out! Join us for a baseball game at the brand-new, state-of-the-art Marlins Park (ticket, transportation and $20 refreshment voucher included with registration

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It goes by many names. Nodder, wobbler, bobbler, bobbing doll, or, more commonly, bobblehead doll. The one name, though, that is rarely applied to these amusing spring-connected collectible toys is “leader”. While popular culture and The Office, specifically, advance the bobblehead industry by creating toys bearing the likeness of organizational leaders, many leaders would resist this association. The representation of a proactive leader with a flimsy and inflated head that nods ad nauseam with mechanical approval is not what most managers want sitting on their desk. Yet, as much as much as the politically competent leader may cringe at this symbol of reflexive apathy, it unfortunately hits too close to home for many pinheaded executives.

Often on this blog, we touch upon this notion of leadership styles and the distinction between facilitative and directive management. As we argue, facilitative leaders adopt an empowering laissez-faire approach that allows coalition partners to autonomously advance a shared agenda. These leaders are not (usually) negligent but instead favor a more hands off approach. Arianna Huffington is likely a facilitative leader as she creates an empire but then empowers writers and contributors to mobilize the organization and advance a common agenda.

Directive leaders are then the foil for their facilitative colleagues. They favor a very hands-on approach and carefully prescribe and choreograph assignments for coalition partners. Just as facilitative leaders are not necessarily lazy, directive leaders are not automatically paranoid or dominating. They simply favor a stricter management scheme and design campaigns that accommodate or necessitate such an approach. Sarah Palin’s current SarahPAC is more directively managed as Palin carefully choreographs her staff actions and maintains strict regulation of her public and private campaign elements.

Both facilitative and directive approaches are valid and effective depending on the organization, agenda, and coalition players.

So back to the bobblehead and the emergence of a third, detrimental leadership approach. The bobblehead leadership approach is a poisonous fusion of facilitative and directive styles. The bobbler leader may dictate specific elements of the agenda or may empower colleagues to define these elements themselves but, in both contexts, this leader quickly succumbs to a yes-(wo)man approach.

The wobbler evades difficult choices by simply offering his weak but dependable approval for all campaign elements. The nodder remains silent in meetings, but she always defaults into consent when an opinion is solicited. Ultimately, the bobbing approach is one of apathy and fear that produces a vacuous, feeble campaign.

So sit at your desk and chuckle as your bobblehead offers its unconditional, detached support for all your ideas. But eventually you need to spring into action and get your head in the game.

Pic Credit: brianjmatis

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Nuts & Bolts of Cults

Leadership Lessons from the Moonies (Picture: A Moonie Mass Wedding)

Leadership scholars can’t resist a good study in cult sociology. Academics construct volumes devoted to charismatic cult leaders ranging from Jim Jones to Charles Manson in an effort to dissect these figure’s infectious management strategies. Each of these books work to perpetuate the notion that the charismatic leader is a deified white knight who intoxicates individuals with his or her transformational agenda. Followers are swiftly brought under the spell of charisma and become devoted disciples of a movement.

At first blush, it appears sociologist Eileen Barker has added to this saturated canon of charisma copy with her research on rise of the Unification Church, or “Moonies” in the 1970s and 80s. In The Making of a Moonie: Brainwashing or Choice?, Barker examines the initiation process into Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s infamous religious sect through an immersive participatory observation study.

The book was a response to the widespread public outcry in the United States and Britain provoked by the Church’s accelerated rise and forceful recruitment process. While readers may want or expect a tale of an academic’s transformation into religious zealot, Barker instead delivers a cogent study in pragmatic, tactical leadership. Rather than mythologizing Reverend Moon as a charismatic guru, she focuses on a micro analysis of the leadership strategies executed at the interpersonal level. The result both demystifies the charismatic mystique surrounding cults while reinforcing the centrality of nuts and bolts leadership skills in organizational behavior.

While we’ll leave you to read the book rather than present an exhaustive list of the Moonie leadership strategies Barker describes, here are a few pearls of Moonie leadership wisdom. And one final qualifier—we do not suggest that this is a patented formula for starting a successful cult. There is no doubt Reverend Moon’s charismatic leadership helped buoy Moonie membership. Nevertheless, in the final analysis, the Unification Church operated like any other organization, executing a recruitment agenda built upon the micro-skills of leadership.

4 Monnie Leadership Lessons From Eileen Barker

1. “The Unification Church was concerned not merely with the numbers of people who were to learn of its existence but also with attracting the attention of people with important or influential positions in society” (61)

Increase legitimacy and ability to mobilize agenda by soliciting influential support.

2. “The active involvement of the guests becomes considerably greater [during recruitment workshops] in a number of ways…the participants will contribute more to the day-to-day running of the community” (116)

Mobilize your constituents with participatory leadership that empowers followers.

3. “There can be little doubt that the Moonies are successful in controlling the environment of their workshop…the near-constant presence of enthusiastic Moonies means also that conversations are kept from becoming too critical or from wandering too far off the point” (174)

Keep active supporters close to encourage reluctant/passive support.

4. “[One Moonie] always insisted that those in her charge should reveal…the kinds of things they believed in…because one could waste a great deal of time with people who were not really interested. It was, she said, better to sort out the sheep from the goats as quickly as possible” (178)

Know who you’re talking to and focus on motivating passionate coalition partners first.

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Charisma Can Die

Once in a while an event occurs that triggers a plethora of articles and an overwhelming amount of thoughts about a topic.  It should come as no surprise that the surgical elimination of Osama bin Laden has suddenly stimulated a rush of articles and op-eds about leadership. Indeed the entire event, when looked upon outside of it’s overblown dramaturgical frame, raises some wonderful points about different types of leadership.

The first issue is whether or not organizations can survive the demise of a charismatic leader. In this particular instance I have non-theoretical bias and hope that the answer is NO! I think we will all be much happier if in this instance if the empirical test fails. But beyond that what can we speculate?

Max Weber spoke about the transformation of charisma: The challenge of transferring charisma from one leader to another. For this transfer to occur there needs to be a development of ritual mythologies and legends that legitimize the continuation of the mission laid out by a charismatic leader. Obviously it’s too early to know if this core of cultural activity will emerge, but if it does it may be so diffused as to be ineffective. For charisma to succeed, to really be transferred, there needs to be a continued organizational structure that can take the mythology and transfer it into concrete organizational mission tactics.

In this particular instance the mythology may continue but it’s unlikely that a loose structure will ever be able build an organization without the continuous presence of a charismatic leader pushing the agenda. This of course means that the free world needs to assert continuous pressure to make sure that the organization’s structure and stability are never allowed to emerge. The way you make sure that the mythological head on the snake does not reattach itself to the body, is by making sure the body remains dismembered.

While the transference of charisma is one of the issues raised by this event, the other is one of our favorite themes: pragmatic leadership. In this instance President Obama’s capacity to keep his focus on the mission, to sustain the goals, to keep his team together, to maintain momentum and not drop the ball is one of the best examples in recent years of the capacity to get people on your side and keep them there. This balance of political competence and managerial competence is clearly what is necessary for execution. In many ways it is the exact opposite of the charismatic approach. It is grounded in the tradition of keeping your mouth shut and keeping your eyes on the ball. In that regard we draw a very simple but important lesson from this: execution is everything, execution demands a leader that can make sure his team can go the distance.

So what have we learned from this event? What are the leadership lessons?

  1. Don’t be overwhelmed by charisma
  2. If you want to get something done keep your mouth shut and focus on execution

photo: Orin Zebest

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Building Coalitions and Developing Personal Credibility

The art of getting things done is all about building coalitions, and the art of building coalitions is all about developing personal credibility and identifying the people you will try to get support from. You might be thinking, “hey I’ve accomplished all these difficult tasks! I’m home free, which way to Easy Street?”  Not so fast.

Now you have to justify to your potential allies the need to take action.  You have to persuade them that there is a need for action.  To do this, you are going to have to prove the timeliness of your ideas.  This is going to be a question of carefully selecting the best scenario to convince your  targets for initial support that the time has come to act. 

In trying to enlist people to join you in your effort, you should consider the four scenarios that you can use in making your case.

Rational Scenario: “Look at the numbers”

 By using a rational scenario, you present a logical justification for change.  Implicit in this argument for action is the assumption that you’ve arrived at the decision to take action through careful analysis, detailed cost and benefit projections, and a well-structured presentation of alternatives. You look at the numbers as they relate to money, time, and resources. Some might refer to you as “up-tight”. You prefer “thorough”.

A rational scenario is calculated. You have to quantify both the costs and the benefits, and then subtract costs from benefits. If the benefits outweigh the costs then you have a good reason for taking action. A rational scenario emphasizes the payoff to the organization, whether it takes the form of additional profits, a lower cost structure, or superior market position. You propose voluntary action based on sound data and logical projection. It is a great way to take raw emotion out of the equation but it also has its drawbacks. There may be a strong contingent of people within your corporation who disagree with the rational scenario. They will challenge your assumptions, no matter the strength or accuracy of your calculations.

Remember the problem of not having the “perfect answer.” There is usually not enough information, resources, or time to gather every last bit of data or conduct all of the analysis necessary to solidify an argument. In most cases, there are actually unquantifiable or subjective costs. Lastly, there’s sometimes a difference between the magnitude of the numbers and the meaning of the numbers. Certain costs may not be significant in dollar terms but are strategically important.

You may be most successful in using a rational scenario—“Look at the numbers”— to call for action in an organization with a strong planning culture or firms where rigorous quantitative analysis is required before any decision is made. It may work less well for you in mission-driven organizations—where qualitative factors often play as important a role as numbers. The rational scenario may falter in highly changeable situations where projections of future costs and benefits are difficult to quantify with any degree of accuracy—such as any initiative that relies on a forecast of the company’s stock price. In highly volatile times, a rational scenario is much less persuasive.

Mimicking Scenario: “Everyone’s doing it”

Where the rational scenario uses hard facts and logic, the mimicking scenario relies on visibility to reduce the perceived risk of the change initiative and to improve its legitimacy—“This has been done in other organizations, so we must do it, too.”  The “everyone’s doing it” argument may seem simplistic, but it is often quite a sensible response, especially in those instances when you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have the time or resources to experiment with an array of alternatives.  Why not hitch your wagon to what appears to be a successful best practice? Would you jump off a bridge if your best friend told you to? You might if your friend had double digit growth over the last 3 quarters.

Sometimes, mimickers will identify processes of key competitors that need to be replicated. Other times, mimickers will choose other organizations that have achieved “best-in-class” status for certain processes. Think about how many service organizations have copied Disney’s customer service processes and training as the gold standard for their own dissimilar industries.

The downside of mimicking is that in the context of uncertainty, it’s not clear what goals, products, technologies, structures, and processes are most appropriate.

As a result, many organizations often end up adopting a change by simply copying it, without any concept of its appropriateness or effectiveness. This goes a long way to explain organizational fads and fashions (e.g., re-engineering, zero-based budgeting, job enrichment, etc.)

The mimicking scenario is an easy target for critics. Some will call the initiative unimaginative. Others may thwart a mimicking scenario by examining the mimicked company’s stock performance. For example, how many organizations pointed to Enron as a bestpractice company for processes from innovation to business reinvention? Or, others who pointed to Xerox’s R&D activity as a best-in-class process. Despite the fact that Xerox may, indeed, have a world-class R&D activity, critics may point to the beating the company’s stock has taken over the last few years and ask, “Why would anyone want to mirror that performance?”

The mimicking scenario—“everyone’s doing it”— may work best for you in larger organizations and in planning-oriented environments. Larger organizations are more likely to feel an affiliation with other large, best-practice companies. Smaller firms rarely compare themselves to large organizations and value originality more. If you are a Traditionalist or a Developer, you may prefer to use mimicking as a justification for adopting a change strategy, as this justification has a visible end-point as a target—making it plannable.

Regulation Scenario: “They made us do it.”

Laws or regulatory changes occasionally require an organization to change its processes and/or the way it operates. Consider how units within a telecommunications provider needed to change when the federal government lifted restrictions on providing local and long-distance service. There are plenty of organizations that use regulation as a reason for change.

With a regulation scenario, there is a strong third-party mandate for change. It is not difficult for you to obtain information about rules and regulations particular to an industry to determine whether the regulations actually require changing operations. Though not always quantifiable, regulations are nearly always accompanied by a body of written documentation that can be easily accessed and cited when necessary.

Regulations are not always clear—and are subject to interpretation. Regulation-driven change frequently is tied to a time frame for compliance. People may say, “We don’t have to comply with that for another four years,” as a way of delaying the change effort.

You may find that using the regulation scenario—“They made us do it”—may often have limits.  Acquiescence to regulation and pressure does not mean that the organization becomes more effective. Rather, submitting to regulation may bring the organization into compliance with external governmental pressures, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that compliance serves the most efficient end of the organization. Many industries may see regulatory changes once every decade, while changes in their business take place annually or every couple of years.

Standards/Expectations Scenario: “People expect it of us”

Sometimes you may want to justify the need to take action on the basis of normative expectation.  What would the community expect of us as an organization?  What would the customers expect of us?  What would our colleagues expect of us?  When justifying action on the basis of the standard/expectations scenario, you are purporting to act in concert with the expectations of the greater community.  While you may recognize that in the short term, this may not be beneficial to the bottom line, you believe that taking action that meets community expectation will have long-term benefits, such as customer loyalty, community trust, etc.

Regulation provides an explicit measure to justify change, while standards or external expectations provide implicit reasons for change. When you use the standards/expectations scenario as a reason for legitimizing your efforts, you are not proposing that the organization has to do something, as much as you are suggesting that if the organization doesn’t do something, the organization will be at a disadvantage. Or, that if the organization does act, good things are likely to happen as a result.

This becomes most obvious in the public sector, when government factions are perpetually trying to justify taking action as a means of addressing the needs of others. In the public sector, officials are seeking the high ground of moral justification, maintaining that their actions are predicated on the very expectations of the public. For example, for a government to eliminate poverty or provide security allows the initiator of the action to say, “I am doing this because it is expected.”

Taking Stock

Mobilizing a coalition is all about your ability to gain legitimacy—within and beyond the organization.  People want to get behind an idea or a person who is going to win or, at the very least, is not going to look like a loser. It’s human nature, people love a winner. This early stage in coalition building is all about establishing your credibility and building the case that will move others to support your effort. Think of it as a foundation on which you are going to build your initiative.  Without a base of support, it is unlikely that you’ll ever develop a strong enough critical mass to push your initiative through.

Choosing the right strategy for gaining potential supporters involves one of three approaches.  You can try to utilize like minds, co-opt specific leaders, or incorporate groups.  To choose the right strategy, you’ll need to carefully consider the people you are seeking support from, their role or position in the organization, or the people they influence. Once you’ve gotten meetings with the people you need to get behind you, you need to make the right pitches.  Are those prospective supporters rational, data-driven people?  Or are they concerned with best practices?  You need to tailor each argument to address the concerns of your prospective supporter.  Your success—especially early on—will depend on choosing the appropriate scenario.

If you’ve done your homework right and executed it well, you should now have initial support or support your coalition and focus on getting the actual buy-in.