Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Leadership in Hard Times

I was reading the latest issue of Harvard Business Review in the train on my way back home. The editorial was giving some advice for leaders during these hard times

Leadership is never easy, but it’s incredibly tough right now.

Some of the advice sounded familiar as I have been blocking about similar topics lately.

Hire the best possible people to work for you, even if they fought you for your job. Surround yourself with a team of people who can challenge your thinking and whose strengths make up for your deficits. Share credit with your closest colleagues, so that they’re fully committed to your mission. Be sure to communicate, often and authentically, with your larger public. And don’t forget to relax. Says Doris Kearns Goodwin in Leadership Lessons from Abraham Lincoln.

I have been blogging about this in my post Right People On The Right Jobs, but maybe should go a bit deeper.

If you’re leading an organization through this downturn, you’re undoubtedly introducing major changes—and inevitably encountering resistance to them. It’s wise to engage with the resisters, learn from them, and alter your course if they suggest smart adjustments to your initiatives. Your biggest critics can be turned into your best advocates if you have the courage to listen carefully. This advice feels all the more important right now, given that an organization’s very survival may depend on making the right changes. Say Jeffrey Ford and Laurie Ford inDecoding Resistance to Change.

I have been blogging about this in my posts Leading Change, Change Resistance and Lessons in Organizational Resistance.

Leadership on tough times is a topic everyone writes about now. Dan McCarthy blogged about it in February "long overdue" as he said. But Lee J. Colan was early, he published a ChangeThis manifesto in December repeating his article from 2001.

His basic message (in the manifesto above) is

1) Change is an opportunity to improve our business
This results in leadership behavior like upgrading the workforce and strategic cost cutting. Greater employee commitment and a strengthened ability to sustain growth are the outcomes.

2) Involve personnel in the change - everybody needs to understand
- Where are we going? (Strategy)
- What are we doing to get there? (Plans)
- How can I contribute? (Roles)
- What’s in it for me? (Rewards)

3) Don't panic, focus and keep doing what you do best

I actually have nothing to add on these articles.


Anonymous said...

Hi Samuli,

"When the towering strengths
of a firm are transformed into towering weaknesses, it’s
a cruel reversal." Extract from an excellent article "When Growth Stalls". If you have not read it yet, I sincerely recommend it. It shared no 1 position of HBR articles in 2008, elected by McKinsey panel (including O-P Kallasvuo this year). If not enough earlier, finally now we should learn from our past mistakes - and do the right things.

On the other hand; what means growth?

Couple of weeks ago I've met an interesting person. He is the head of one research department in Statistics Finland. He has specialized in measuring sustainable growth. After having spoken with him and after reading more MIT Sloan's great articles of sustainable economics (in co-operation with BCG) I have reason to believe that we will face extremely challenging times during the next 10-15 years - for the leaders as well.

I wouldn't be surprised, if the great future leaders (evaluated after 30-40 years) were those who dared to do fundamental and radical decisions, what comes to the both sustainable and profitable growth strategies.

The automobile and aviation industry will play big roles in that "game" - not to forget the politicians.

Actually, based on my discussions with both business people and politicians, I have reason to believe that we should change our political system immediately. Unfortunately we can't wait another 4-6 year periods of politicians to keep their promises - or not. As in the business life, politicians should be evaluated and approved every year by the "voteholders'" meetings. Ok, I don't want to become too political, but seriously, we should be ready to make fundamental changes to our thinking and evaluation of the future growth - for the kids and their...

Have a great weekend!