Aug 30, 2011

- Steve Jobs Is a Lousy Role Model

Jobs was a technological visionary who created a corporate culture that consistently generates fantastic products.  Even so, he’s a terrible role model for CEOs specifically and managers in general.  Here’s why.

As a manager, Jobs was well-known for being needlessly cruel.  He had a habit of belittling employees, calling them “bozos” and so forth, and generally making people around him thoroughly miserable.
There is, of course, a “theory” of management that says that Jobs’s success, and the success at Apple, was the result of this behavior.  However, that’s confusing correlation with causality.
The truth is that it’s not just possible, but entirely practical, to manage a team or a company, without acting like an ass. Thousands of managers (and hundreds of CEOs) do it all the time.
Belittling behavior, rather than making the manager and team more effective, is a productivity tax.
The employee spends energy (which could otherwise be  spent on productive work) overcoming the resulting anxiety and dread.  And the manager must similarly spend unnecessary energy apologizing and ameliorating the effects of what, in the end, is a lack of both self respect and self control.
The element of his character that made him (and Apple) successful (i.e. his vision) is not easily emulated.  By contrast, any jerk can emulate Jobs’s self-indulgent behavior… and (sad to say) all too many managers do so.
Whenever Jobs is touted as a model CEO, I think of the time he pranked somebody who was mentally ill.
In 1998, when Jobs was searching for a replacement CEO, a consultant who was convinced he was right for the job kept emailing Jobs.  Clearly, the consultant wasn’t playing with a full deck, but rather than just blocking or ignoring the email, Jobs told the guy that he was the new CEO.
Then, after the guy had told everyone of his good fortune and no doubt celebrated his success, Jobs rescinded the “offer.”
I don’t know about you, but in my book making fun of the mentally ill is a dishonorable act, more worthy of a high school bully than a billionaire.
But that kind of insensitivity was pretty much par for the course with Jobs, whose “vision” always seemed to have a blind spot whenever it came to the needs of others or society at large.
For example, when workers at the Foxconn facility that manufactures the iPhone began committing suicide in record numbers, Jobs waxed lyrical about how the facility’s amenities rather than focusing on the real problem, which was that workers were paid a starting salary of $130 a month and were expected to put in 12 hour days, 6 days a week.
Moreover, Apple is virtually the only major high tech firm that’s refused to release specific information about the environmental impact of its supply chain.
Not surprisingly, reports are emerging that Apple’s supply chain is responsible for major pollution and labor abuses in China.  Steve Jobs did little or nothing to change any of this, preferring instead to pour the blood money into Apple’s overstuffed coffers.
Both Jobs (and Apple) could have been as successful — indeed might have been MORE successful — without the tantrums, without belittling people, without polluting the environment, without working people (literally) to death.
There’s a certain poetic justice to the fact that Jobs is leaving because of his health. It’s almost as if his wasted body has become a visible manifestation of his (and Apple’s) secret sins...


Aug 23, 2011

- Breaking the FEAR Barrier

A company's worst enemy is not always the competition. Sometimes it's the fear that lives within its own walls.

So says Breaking the Fear Barrier: How Fear Destroys Companies From the Inside Out and What to Do About It, the latest book from Gallup Press.

In companies, fear can take many forms: fear of not meeting a goal, of not getting a bonus, of losing respect. Fear compels employees and managers to protect themselves by creating impenetrable barriers fortified by rules and practices that benefit one group over others.

These barriers might seem insurmountable, but they're not. They were built internally — they can be destroyed internally.

By learning from the real-world lessons in Breaking the Fear Barrier, leaders, managers, and employees can overcome the barriers that plague their company. 
It takes courageous leadership, and it can be difficult. But the result will be nothing less than transformational.

Aug 22, 2011

- Leadership is DEAD

The book’s structure is fairly straightforward. Chapters one through four provide context and theory, and then chapters five through nine provide practical steps and applications.
Why the title “Leadership is Dead”? This is the question that comes to the minds of many who read the book’s title. The best way of answering this is in the works of the author.
“In my view, leadership as we have known it is dead because far too many leaders have abused their positions and lost their moral bearings.
From the banking industry collapse to corporate greed, these leaders have abandoned all long-term responsibility and discipline in favor of short-term gains.
The runaway greed of Wall Street’s leadership, skyrocketing salaries for corporate executives, and unkept promises from political leaders have left most people feeling betrayed and jilted. Not only do we not trust our leaders, but in many cases, employees are becoming victims of these unresponsive leaders.
Consequently, most leaders are now viewed with cynicism and skepticism, and many have lost the trust of those they are supposed to inspire and motivate.”
It’s not that leadership is dead, it’s the way in that many choose to lead that is dead. Realizing that command and control styles of leadership don’t work anymore, Kubicek sees leadership as influence, “I realized that positive leadership occurs not by ‘leading’ others but rather by influencing them.” The leadership theory presented in the book is based on what Kubicek calls, “The Influence Model”, which describes how leadership is a process of influence, where influence occurs through…
“…a hunger to serve others and the willingness to self-assess and self-motivate through the process to maintain healthy, authentic relationships.”
The book goes on to explore the enemy of influence, self-preservation. Kubicek posits, the instinctual need to protect the self is why leadership is dead. To rise above self-preservation and to be effective, the influence model is supported by seven leadership actions, that are important for leaders seeking to exert influence in the lives of others. These seven actions are as follows:
  1. Give trust to become trustworthy
  2. Become credible, not just smart
  3. Be intentional in your influence
  4. Break through your walls of self-preservation
  5. Pursue relationship before opportunity
  6. Give yourself away
  7. Become significant in your impact.
These seven action lead to influence and to have influence, is to have power. You cannot talk about leadership as influence without touching on the use of power.
“Influence is about power. Before you can become a leader, you need to determine how you will use your power…. Leadership is influence. Influence is power. In wielding that power, a leader can choose to use it in one of two ways: To empower and liberate or To overpower and dominate”
So, the choice by leaders on how they use power is critical. Are you as a leader using power to dominate or to liberate? The best leaders use power to liberate!
The book ends with a challenge, with the chapter titled, “Why You Probably Won’t Do This.” In this chapter, Kubicek makes the following observation.
“Most leaders never reach the levels of significant influence because their instincts for self-preservation are too strong…. True influence comes when you change yourself to change the world.”

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