4/29/12: Leadership Reading to Start Your Week

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Here are five choice articles from the business schools, the business press and major consulting firms to start off your work week. I'm pointing you to articles about driving out fear, the plight of middle managers and the companies who miss them, management skills for the 21st Century, Big Data and management, and the Steve Jobs Way.

From Blanchard Leaderchat: Managers: Drive out fear—one thing you can do this week
"When people work in isolation—or with incomplete information—their imagination can run away with them (and usually not in a good way.)  Here’s an example.  Has something like this ever happened to you?"

Wally's Comment: This is a superb post for two reasons. First, it presents a situation we've all experienced at some time. Second, David Witt illuminates key issues and the points where things could change, then wraps up with some helpful suggestions.

The fact is that the combination of heavy workloads, working at a distance, and technology can all make it hard to have real conversations. For some additional reading, I suggest Terry St. Marie's excellent post, "The One Leadership Secret That Will Never Involve A Mobile Device (or Any Computer)" and, since wandering around is a good way to have more conversations, read my post, "How to wander effectively."

From the Conference Board: Flattened  
"Middle management is an awful phrase. No child dreams of growing up to be a middle manager. No child has ever dreamed of growing up to be a middle manager."

Wally's Comment: Remember when technology was going t make middle managers irrelevant? We called it "delayering." Companies laid off middle managers, who loaded their personal belongings in a box and were escorted out the door, taking their knowledge and relationships with them. The Conference Board suggests that we ask too much of middle managers. To supplement this article, I suggest "Are We Neglecting Our Middle Managers? " from Forbes and "Why Middle Managers May Be the Most Important People in Your Company" from Ethan Mollick at Wharton.

From the Graziado Business Review: UPDATE: Management Skills for the 21st Century
"Examining current leadership practices of successful organizations, this update addresses the two questions above. It may be of value to not only identify leadership dimensions that support the predictions, but also note the skills that received lesser attention in 1998, yet play out today. Also included are items that were not in the initial 14 dimensions, but have emerged as significant in today’s business community."

Wally's Comment: In this article, Mark Mallinger, a professor of applied behavioral science at the Graziado School of Business looks back at an article he wrote in 1998, then looks around at the world today, and reflects on what's changed and what has stayed the same.

In 2007, Gary Hamel asked a similar question on the HBR site: "What Does the Future of Management Look Like to You ?" The responses to that question are an insightful complement to Dr. Mallinger's article.

From HBS Working Knowledge; How Will the "Age of Big Data" Affect Management?
"Will Access to Big Data Further Enable Fact-Based Decision Making or … Analysis Paralysis? 'To T. S. Elliot's prescient words 'Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?' we might now add, 'Where is the information we have lost in data?'' That's Paul Nicholas' reaction after reading most of the responses to this month's column. It's not a bad "sense of the meeting," in which many contributors offered suggestions to managers wishing to get the most out of so-called big data and avoid paying the price of paralysis in the process."

Wally's Comment: A year or so ago, you didn't hear much about "big data" outside technology circles. Then all of a sudden there was groundswell of articles and comment, enough to inspire Harvard's James Heskett to make it the subject of one of his "What do you think?" columns. This article is the summary of reader comments. You'll find good background in "Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity" from the McKinsey Global Institute and "A Delicate Balance " from Deloitte.

From Strategy + Business: The Steve Jobs Way
"Steve Jobs' business feats were legendary long before he died in October 2011. Apple Inc., considered a niche player for much of its history, is the most valuable company in the world by market capitalization as of this writing. Most business leaders would be thrilled to achieve Jobs' level of market success, but should they aspire to lead like him? Before doing so, they should dig into his management style. Jobs the leader was at once dynamic and controversial, and his success relied heavily on the genius of Jobs the innovator."

Wally's Comment: No, we're not done with the "what you should and shouldn't learn from Steve Jobs" articles. This one is worth reading because it's by Jon Katzenbach, a senior partner in Booz & Company’s organization, change, and leadership practice. He's the perfect author for this piece because he's written for years about the importance of pride as a motivating factor, especially in his book Why Pride Matters More Than Money: The Power of the World's Greatest Motivational Force.

As long as we're on the subject of Jobs and the culture he created, you should check out "Illuminating Apple’s Culture of Secrecy" by David Gebler, writing in Portfolio. There's also my "Steve Jobs: Top Posts about Steve Jobs and His Legacy" posted just after Jobs resigned from the CEO position at Apple for health reasons and "Leadership Reading to Start Your Week" from October 9, 2011 , after Jobs' death which included links to several more articles about the man.

Studying individual leaders is a great way to learn about leadership. That's why my weekly post points you to posts by or about individual leaders. Last week I pointed you to posts by and about Russell Goldsmith, Kees Kruythoff, Moya Greene, Leocadia I. Zak, Michelle Braden, and Jim Bush.

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to check back on Wednesday when I select five excellent posts from the week's independent business blogs. Last week I highlighted posts on corporate culture, leadership and "devices," choosing leadership for the right reasons, changing yourself, and the future of leadership development.

On my Zero Draft blog I profiled Tanveer Naseer's blog.

"Why are we doing this?" and "Where Greatness Lives " were popular posts on my blog last week.

If you want to get a book done, improve your blog posts, or make your web copy more productive, please check out my blog about business writing. My coaching calendar for authors and blog writers currently has time open. Please contact me if you're interested.

If you're a boss, you should check out my Working Supervisor's Support Kit.

Wally's Working Supervisor's Support Kit is a collection of information and tools to help working supervisors do a better job. It's based on what Wally's learned in over twenty years of supervisory skills training. Click here to check it out.



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  • 4/30/2012 10:20 AM PM Hut wrote:
    Hi Wally,

    Don't you find it very curious that everyone is writing books on how great was Steve Jobs as a leader after his death vs how bad he was as a leader before his death.
    Reply to this
    1. 4/30/2012 12:31 PM Wally Bock wrote:
      It seems to me that the mix of articles I saw before Jobs' death matches the mix of books since then. The positives overviews outweigh the negatives by a wide margin. No science there. I haven't studied the matter. Just my gut sense.

      Reply to this
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