Finding our leaders in America
From army captains to bond traders, from fire marshals to police commanders, leaders come in many forms. And along with tragedy, the last three months have shown countless examples of leaders who have rallied a nation with their ability to guide and inspire. This month, we consider the art of leadership, from its conception in the heart to its implementation in the streets.
True Leaders: How Exceptional CEOs and Presidents Make a Difference by Building People and Profits by Bette Price and George Ritcheske begins with an excellent definition of leadership. Leaders, say the authors, demonstrate an inherent love for people and expect results, yet are not consumed by them. They are competitive yet exercise control judiciously and operate from a fundamental belief system that guides them in all decision-making. Far from developing these principles in a sterile classroom setting, Price and Ritcheske actually studied the leadership qualities of CEOs at the biggest and brightest companies in the U.S. Their findings define a new wave in leadership for the next century.
As an example, Malden Mills, the maker of PolarFleece and PolarTech, suffered a devastating plant fire that wiped out operations at its main base in Massachusetts. The CEO kept every employee on the payroll until the plant was rebuilt. Why? Because he valued people and held the fundamental belief that everyone has the right to work. Workers helped to clean up and rebuild the plant, a plan many of Malden's advisors found foolish.
Price and Ritcheske say, however, that this is exactly what great leaders do they ignore popular decisions. Not surprisingly, they found that popularity rarely has much to do with true leadership. Instead, true leaders can "stand firm on difficult decisions that may be unpopular at the time yet, in truth, are best for the organization in the long run." This excellent book looks leadership in the eye and speaks the truth. It offers an excellent look into the future and predicts trends in leadership for the next century. In the future, the most effective leaders will have strong social values, they will understand the role their companies play in our freedom and democracy and they will guide their companies with that understanding. The best American companies will continue to act in the best interest of our country.
A contrarian view
"Sometimes whole societies lose their ability to produce great leaders," says Steven B. Sample, the author of The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership. Sample, the president of the University of Southern California, writes, "As Americans, we tend to believe that the larger society of which we are a part is steadily improving with each passing decade. But the fact is, the twentieth century was far more barbaric than the preceding four centuries, and as such represented a severe backsliding in terms of man's inhumanity to man. . . . Much of it was attributable to our inability to produce leaders who could persuasively articulate a humane moral philosophy in an age dominated by technological change." So begins this fascinating and philosophical look at the making of leaders and the paradoxical beliefs of a man who says great leaders are contrarians by nature.
Early in his career Sample got this piece of advice from a colleague: There are many men who want to be leaders, but there are not many men who want to do what leaders need to do. Sample finds the best leaders have much in common. For instance, they don't form opinions when they don't have to, preferring to keep an open mind. And they don't force others to do their dirty work for them, but face problems and become the public face for adversity. Great leaders always maintain their intellectual independence, and they collect information like scientists.
Sample, a genuine realist, maintains that many men are known as great leaders because they led the country when it needed to be led, not because they set out to be great. He wisely reminds us that history marks those men and women who rose to the occasion when economic or military causes called, not those who sought the limelight to fill personal needs. His book truly defines a new way to think about leadership and to redefine it for CEOs, politicians and ourselves.
The mission of leadership
Quite often CEOs turn to orchestra conductors, football coaches and even nonprofit leaders to scrutinize the creative ways these leaders motivate their diverse and non-traditional teams. The Most Effective Organization in the U.S.: Leadership Secrets of The Salvation Army by Robert A. Watson and Ben Brown is a book that reflects the successful leadership styles of the Salvation Army, a non-traditional organization most people have contact with but very few understand. With 9,500 centers of operation, $2 billion in annual revenue and 32 million clients served by every zip code in America, the Salvation Army is a powerhouse of an organization. But its former National Commander says the Salvation Army is one of the most powerful and effective organizations because it has, at its core, a mission. And that mission creates a team cohesiveness and leadership strategy that few corporate CEOs can match.
Like Contrarian's Guide and True Leaders, Leadership Secrets says doing business with a purpose is the best motivation a leader can give employees.
The Salvation Army is at heart a religiously motivated organization, but its success is bringing people of different religions and faiths together to do good work, to build community and educational facilities in ways that are different and innovative. Every organization can use that new brand of leadership.
Leading for Innovation and Organizing for Results, edited by Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith and Iain Somerville is the continuation of a series by the Drucker Foundation, a national foundation whose goal is to strengthen the social sector by providing intellectual resources to leaders in business, government and society. Based on Peter Drucker's observation that one of the key tasks of an organization is innovation, this book collects the ideas and writings of practitioners and leaders in the innovation field. Each story or collected essay focuses on the important role of purposeful leadership to create innovative solutions for government, social policy or new products for the marketplace. Leading for Innovation touches on many wide-ranging topics, from innovation in police departments to the future of genomics to creating a company culture for innovation. It can truly be considered a primer in leadership techniques for innovation.
The Jack Welch Lexicon of Leadership by Jeffrey A. Krames is a dictionary of former GE CEO Jack Welch's favorite language, programs, strategies and initiatives bound together in an easy-to-read format that brings Welch's key business ideas into a clear and approachable format. The collection brings together Welch's key business ideas in one clear and approachable volume.