A list of best practices will not make you a great company

… any more than finding a recipe will make you a great cook.

Bill Bennett reflects on the writings of Alfred North Whitehead on learning. He ends up dismissing the pursuit of “best practices” as secrets to success in favor of a culture of discovery:

  • Design your organization so that it develops new capabilities;
  • Make it your job, as a leader, to help your organization be better at learning;
  • Structure your organization so that your people must engage with important, unsolved problems.
  • Establish routines that allow for failure and reward those who try to discover;
  • Build a culture that values discovering over knowing, becoming over being;
  • Lead by design.

And don’t forget the secret: There is no secret1

Stop mulling over millennials

Millennials want the same things from their employers that Generation X and Baby Boomers do:

  • Challenging, meaningful work;
  • Opportunities for learning, development and advancement;
  • Support to successfully integrate work and personal life;
  • Fair treatment and
  • Competitive compensation.

And all three generations agree on the characteristics of an ideal leader:  a person who

  • Leads by example, is accessible,
  • Acts as a coach and mentor,
  • Helps employees see how their roles contribute to the organization, and
  • Challenges others and holds them accountable.

Full article here.

 

A new project: the People & Management Monthly Links newsletter

When my friend Xavier took an interest in my master’s thesis he started suggesting books and journal articles that he thought might be useful to my research. Soon thereafter I started doing the same whenever I bumped into something I thought might be useful to his doctoral dissertation (and later to his research and classes).
 
I also began doing this to other friends and colleagues. It had been (and still is) a great experience for me and I wanted others to experience the same.
 
This has been going on for decades now. Of course, paper cuttings and photocopies have become emails with links and attachments.
 
I am thinking it is time to broaden the circle. And that is why I am creating the People & Management Monthly Links newsletter.
 
The content of the newsletter will follow my consultancy practice and intellectual pursuits: leadership development and executive coaching, that is, people managing themselves, others, their team, and their organization.
 
My hope is that as a subscriber to the Monthly Links you will also become a contributor of material that might be interesting to other subscribers. Please send your suggestions by replying to the newsletter email you receive – you can subscribe here.
 
Happy reading!

The eight archetypes of leadership

Manfred Kets de Vries in HBR:

  1. The strategist: leadership as a game of chess. These people are good at dealing with developments in the organization’s environment. They provide vision, strategic direction and outside-the-box thinking to create new organizational forms and generate future growth.
  2. The change-catalyst: leadership as a turnaround activity. These executives love messy situations. They are masters at re-engineering and creating new organizational ”blueprints.”
  3. The transactor: leadership as deal making. These executives are great dealmakers. Skilled at identifying and tackling new opportunities, they thrive on negotiations.
  4. The builder: leadership as an entrepreneurial activity. These executives dream of creating something and have the talent and determination to make their dream come true.
  5. The innovator: leadership as creative idea generation. These people are focused on the new. They possess a great capacity to solve extremely difficult problems.
  6. The processor: leadership as an exercise in efficiency. These executives like organizations to be smoothly running, well-oiled machines. They are very effective at setting up the structures and systems needed to support an organization’s objectives.
  7. The coach: leadership as a form of people development. These executives know how to get the best out of people, thus creating high performance cultures.
  8. The communicator: leadership as stage management. These executives are great influencers, and have a considerable impact on their surroundings.

More here

The dissident leader

I found this quote in my notes. And it coincides with my current reading of Tomas Sedlacek‘s Economics of Good and Evil. Sedlacek was an economic advisor to Vaclav Havel. Although I have not finished reading the book, I can already recommend it. More on the book and its thesis in a future post.

[Vaclav] Havel embodied the guidelines of creative defense with wit, wisdom, and the shortcomings of a man. He inspired people with a bold algorithm, a mantra really: living in truth. In an era of cryptic truths, so too was the very notion of “living in truth”. After 1989, he became the first anti-political president of the Czech Republic and the planet; he remains so to this day the bearer of a political legacy not so much shrouded in failure as indifference to power. Yet, he was never powerless, not for a moment.

Who in New York, Baku, or its affiliate, well-to-do cities of East and West dares brave the consequence for something greater than a slogan, or greater than themselves? To be a dissident has reached the point of cliché if only because human rights is all too often the case of a competing elites, alienated from “the people”; to be imprisoned does not necessarily mean you speak for human rights, but it does mean, if only for a moment, that you spoke for yourself.

Yet in many societies, this remains a grave crime. To do so creatively, brilliantly, and in a way in which the humor never fades from the voice, the laughter never subsides, and the constant cackle is one that echoes in the executioner’s chamber as opposed to in society, the inmate’s cell and among those who have struggled to know the difference between the two — this is the gift Havel gave.

via The New Inquiry.

The power of one

Since the 1970s Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island. To date he has singlehandedly planted a forest larger than Central Park in New York City.

 

For the movie buffs, pair this story with the Oscar-winning The man who planted trees (L’homme qui plantait des arbres):

 

Mintzberg: time to think of organizations as communities of cooperation

Our obsession with leadership, of any kind, causes us to build organisations that are utterly dependent on individual initiative. We do not allow them to function as communities. So when they fail, we blame the leader, and seek a better one. Like drug addicts, each time we need a bigger hit.

Consider that ubiquitous organisation chart, with its silly boxes of “top”, and “middle”, and bottom managers. How come we never say “bottom managers”? This is no more than a distorted metaphor. It tells us that we are fixated on who has authority over what and whom. The painting may not be the pipe, but to most of us, the chart has become the organisation.

Isn’t it time to think of our organisations as communities of cooperation, and in so doing put leadership in its place: not gone, but alongside other important social processes.

[O]bsession with leadership is the cause of many of the world’s problems. [L]et us get rid of the cult of leadership, striking at least one blow at our increasing obsession with individuality. Not to create a new cult around distributed leadership, but to recognize that the very use of the word leadership tilts thinking toward the individual and away from the community. We don’t only need better leadership, we also need less leadership.

via FT.com.