Comment from Heinz A. Müller: Great Leaders know instinctively that leadership is not a solitary task and they prefer to work in and for a community. History proves that they are right.
By John Coleman, Harvard Business Review
We often think of leadership as a solitary task. Buying into Thomas Carlyle’s “great man“ theory of history, we speak of leadership in solitary and personal terms. And certainly, history is filled with examples of men and women like Trocmé, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Theresa who took bold individual action. But most real change – even the change driven by those aforementioned leaders – is community-driven and community-focused. Some of the greatest accomplishments in business, politics, and culture have come not from individual initiative alone but from those working in, with and for community.
First, great leadership often starts in community. When facing great odds or forced to deal with unusual or trying circumstances, few of us are fortified enough to act alone, without counsel or support. This is a point often hammered home by Harvard Business School professor and former Medtronic CEO Bill George, who is a vocal advocate for what he calls “True North Groups” (wwwbillgeorge.org/page/true-north-groups). These are gatherings of peers and mentors with whom we can share. They can counsel us as we face difficult problems and hold us accountable for acting in accordance with our values. Others have advocated similar constructs, such as a personal board of directors. And I’ve noted before the measurable benefits of mentorship. In short, no man is an island, and we are better leaders when we are rooted in a community empowered to counsel us, challenge us, and hold us accountable.
Similarly, great leaders often realize they must act not in isolation but with community. André Trocmé could never have shielded Jewish people in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon on his own; it took the collective efforts of the entire town. Few great changes happen until and unless a critical mass of community members collectively decides to own and execute the solution. William Wilberforce is often credited with leading the antislavery movement in the United Kingdom, for example, but would have accomplished far less without the broad-based support of Britain’s Clapham Sect and a number of antislavery organizations. Steve Jobs was a visionary when he started Apple, but his effectiveness suffered early in his career when he failed to mobilize his Board of Directors behind his vision. And any former management consultant can tell you that the easiest way to fail in a project is to come up with the “right“ solution in isolation, without first worrying about getting the input of and ownership by the broader client organization. Ships have captains, but they are only turned when the entire crew works as a community to shift the ship’s direction. One of the easiest ways for a leader to fail is to forget that her power is limited in isolation and nearly endless if amplified throughout the collective intelligence and resources of the community.
Finally, the most inspiring leadership is that done for community. There are certainly moments when we do things purely for ourselves, and that’s not all bad. A distance runner racing to win a marathon is no less admirable if she is racing only to test her own boundaries and achieve an individual victory. But few will follow a leader who is focused solely on his own goals, and many of the most inspiring leadership victories are those done in service of a community.
This is obviously true in the world of non-profits and human rights. Our greatest heroes are those who sacrificed themselves for the good of their communities – people like Clara Barton, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Harriet Tubman. But it’s also true in business. Marketer Simon Sinek has noted that, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” Many of the most motivated employee and customer bases are so motivated because they see an element of community service in the work their companies do. Whole Foods, for example, professes a motto of “Whole Foods, Whole Planet, Whole People,” framing their mission in terms of environmental purity and human wellness. They have engaged the employee base with a dedication to Whole Foods customers, to team members, and to outside charities. TOMS is famously founded on the premise of sharing its success (and the prosperity of its customers) with those in need. Zappos has built its reputation on providing excellent service for their customer community. People don’t like to follow leaders who are dedicated only to their own personal glory, but they will sacrifice everything for leaders and communities who give them a higher calling, a greater purpose. And whether in politics or business, leadership for community is almost always the most powerful.
These are old principles, but they are worth remembering. Lofty achievements like those of the little village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon are only achieved in community, with community, and for community. And the more we keep those principles front of mind, the greater chance we have to lead lives that do our communities a service.
Reposted by Suzie Doscher:
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’
The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.The students laughed..
‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—-your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—-and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.. The sand is everything else—-the small stuff.
‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.
Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.
Take care of the golf balls first—-the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand. One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’ The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.
By Susan Begeman Steiner
Recently I had some tough times. Weeks went by and potential clients were not returning my calls and then a big job came up and someone else got it instead of me. I started to question my abilities, doubting myself and wondering who I was to think I could actually help anyone with my coaching. I was in a slump and not at all happy about it.
Enter Bill McRaven, former Commander of Special Forces for the United States Navy. Here’s a guy who can really talk about getting through tough times, having survived Navy SEAL training. In his 2014 Commencement speech at the University of Texas which has been viewed over 2 million times on YouTube, he tells lessons from SEAL basic training. Spending the 20 minutes to view this video altered my perspective.
One thing he said was, “Know that life is not fair and you will fail often.” This is more profound that it might seem; it is an inoculation for the tough times.
When you have tough times, remember these things:
A. It’s not personal: Life isn’t fair and so the tough times might actually not mean anything about you personally.
B. Strengthen your goal: Failure isn’t even a problem unless you are up to something you care about. Remember what that is.
C. Learn from the experience: You can learn more from failing than from succeeding.
D. Don’t give up: The antidote to failure is to keep going.
Of course, you will feel bad sometimes. I know I do. You may feel sorry for yourself, get discouraged or even think about quitting. However, the important thing is: How long will you be let those feelings keep you from doing the next thing?
I appreciated the “toughen up” message from McRaven, who I consider to be an American hero. If you want to not only get through tough times, but also make a difference in the world, you need to find a way to keep going. The sooner you get over yourself, learn what you need to learn and get back into action, the better.
The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.
-- Nelson Mandela
By Felipe Monteiro, INSEAD Assistant Professor of Strategy
Comment by Heinz Müller: The following article shows that in the business world, the importance of openness and fairness, i.e. the balance of give and take gets recognized -- a fact that also counts in our private life.
When it comes to collaborating on something new, secrecy and tension can ruin a beautiful partnership.
In an era of increasingly complex and expensive technological development and shortened innovation cycles, Procter and Gamble’s Connect + Develop open innovation program is an excellent example of how external knowledge can advance innovation. Since its launch in 2001 the program has formed more than 2,000 partnerships and been responsible for dozens of innovative products and new processes to increase the firm’s productivity.
Openess starts from within
Today more and more companies are looking outside the firm for new ideas and, like P&G, they are adopting principles of open innovation into their business model hoping to enrich their knowledge pool and improve the possibility of finding new and useful combinations of previously disparate ideas. Their efforts (and investments) have met with varying degrees of success.
Which begs the question why are some firms more able to transform knowledge sourced externally into innovation outputs?
Open innovation is not just a matter of getting the right contacts. To get the most out of their open innovation strategy, firms must start by creating the right conditions within their organization. As well as having sufficient resources – both financial and human capital – to implement fresh ideas, companies looking to maximize commercial benefits from collaborative associations, need to enter the partnership with the right mindset, exuding a willingness to share as well as absorb knowledge.
Reciprocity and trust
Studies show that reciprocity and trust are two factors which are consistently important in achieving efficient and equitable outcomes in inter-firm partnerships.
Reciprocity foments the mutual forbearance that lies at the heart of any inter-firm involvement. It’s an expectation that the favor one partner provides to the other will subsequently be returned – and a moral obligation on the other’s part that it will, indeed, uphold this deal. Trust is an expectation that one partner will not exploit the vulnerabilities of the other when faced with the opportunity to do so.
Being perceived as withholding information makes it very hard to create the trust necessary for any successful collaboration. When sharing information with you, your partner needs to know that you are being open with them.
While it’s important that firms protect their intellectual property (IP), if they go about it the wrong way they can create an atmosphere of secrecy and tension likely to hamper collaborative efforts.
In those external knowledge sourcing partnerships, it seems best to protect knowledge using legal mechanisms, such as patents and copyrights. This type of protection is less likely to create tension. The company is being open with its partners by saying “this is what we do and this is how we’re protecting this knowledge.”
When it comes to system and processes however, some knowledge is very difficult to patent. And in industries like the chemical sector, these processes are very important. Often the only way to protect it is through secrecy. Unlike legal protection mechanisms, which force firms to disclose and codify their technological activities making public their capabilities and knowledge, secrecy requires firms to hold tight to what they know and do and only show partners the pieces of their operation that they think they need to see. It may be very hard to fully benefit from open innovation when the mindset requires a high level of secrecy.
In our research, Ready to be Open? Explaining the Firm Level Barriers in Benefiting from Openness to External Knowledge co-authored with Michael Mol, Professor of Strategic Management at Warwick Business School and Julian Birkinshaw, Professor of Strategic and International Management at London Business School, we studied data provided by more than 12,000 companies to the UK’s Community Innovation Survey (CIS) between 2002 and 2006 and looked at how secretive behavior influenced the correlation between external knowledge sourcing and the introduction of new products.
The results showed that using secrecy as a strategic knowledge protection hinders the innovation benefits deriving from external knowledge partnerships. The study showed a distinct trade-off between strategies aimed at accessing external knowledge through collaborations with outside parties and those using a secretive behavioral orientation as a strategic knowledge protection mechanism.
Give and take
Value creation occurs by bringing together ideas and resources in novel ways. It requires participants to give and take freely, for example by sharing their semi-formed ideas in the hope that they will spark off new possibilities with others. This type of creative process is quickly undermined if one party is unwilling to make certain resources available, or if they are too guarded in the ideas they contribute.
In business, as in life, successful partnerships are two-way streets and require openness and trust.
Self-Help Book / Personal Development