The Will To Lead

Published in the early 90’s, The Will To Lead – running a business with a network of leaders is an influential book by the founder of McKinsey & Company, Marvin Bower. In this book he shares his own personal journey and motivations. Prior to publications of this book most leadership studies and publications were focused on leadership in politics and government. Now leadership qualities are an essential skill in business and also in everyday life. 

Peter Drucker, one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, also brought the distinction between “management” and “Leadership”. In his book, Bower mentions when an executive achieves outstanding results through the exercise of authority in a hierarchy of superiors and subordinates, it is not “leadership” but “managing”. 

He also agrees with the popular saying “Leadership can’t be taught, but can be learned”. With the popularity of Carol Dweck’s work on mindset, there is general consensus about learning new skills and behaviors. There is also an effort done at Harvard to develop theory and practice around teaching leadership and they have published – Handbook of Leadership to make leadership available to all. 

The qualities and attributes of Leading (from The Will To Lead by Marvin Bower) 

Trustworthiness 

Leaders operate on the foundation of trust. Trustworthiness is integrity in action. Leaders are truthful and honest be it a small thing or a big thing, they are always truthful. 

Fairness 

Leaders do not use their authority carelessly to get the work done. The team members can tolerate “toughness” but not “unfairness. The book quotes “fairness has one or more of the three meanings: equity, reciprocity, and impartiality.”

Unassuming behavior 

Bower mentions “arrogance, haughtiness, and egotism are poisonous to leadership”. Rather than trying to hypocritically humble it is easier to be unassuming in behaviour. He also mentions the importance of “Servant Leadership” qualities for executives. 

Leaders Listen

The book quotes ” Of all the skills of leadership, listening is one of the most valuable – and one of the least understood…”. Bower quotes various examples of leaders and the importance of listening. He also cautions about the cultural difference across the world. For example, the nodding head of Britons means “I understand you,” not “I agree with you.”

A Leader is Open-Minded

Bower shares his frustration of working with senior executives with a closed mind. As a consultant when he presented his findings the executives were not receptive. He mentions “What is the use of hiring a consultant if your mind is closed even to considering their findings and recommendations?”. 

Sensitivity to people and situations 

Leaders can succeed in persuading people than commanding by paying attention. Bower shares ” I had to stop taking them for granted and exercise insights, intuition, perception, empathy – or some combination of these .. “.  He also highlights how diversity helps in increasing the sensitivity among the teams. 

Initiative, Initiative, Initiative. 

The initiative is one of the most important attributes of every leader. It is also easy to learn: Just think a bit, use judgment, and act. 

Broad-minded

Leaders are torrent of varied views and inclined to condone minor departures from conventional behavior. They also have a sense of humor. 

Flexibility and Adaptability 

Flexibility and adaptability go hand in hand with open-minded listening. Leaders learn how to spot the need for change faster, initiate change, and adapt to it. 

The Capacity to Make Sound and Timely Decisions

For leaders higher in the hierarchy, the speed, as well as the quality of their decisions, will set an example for others. 

The capacity to Motivate

Bower highlights the importance of intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic motivations like cash awards. He mentions ” people in a leadership company derive satisfaction from being involved in work which produces products or services that customers buy with increasing satisfaction. “

A Sense of Urgency 

Bower stresses the importance of a sense of urgency “When a sense of urgency has spread throughout a company, it can make a substantial difference in both effectiveness and efficiency…”.

In this book, Bower also highlights four fundamental responsibilities. 

1. Treating Constituents with Respect

2. Developing Constituents Self-Confidence and Self Esteem 

3. Developing Constituents

4. Making Constituents stakeholders

Overall the book The Will To Lead – Running a business with a Network of Leaders by Marvin Bower is an excellent book for all professionals to read, learn and develop. 

References

1. The Will to Lead: Running a Business With a Network of Leaders by Marvin Bower

2. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/40745.Mindset

3. On Becoming a Servant Leader: The Private Writings of Robert K. Greenleaf by Robert K. Greenleaf (Editor), Larry C. Spears https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/714614.On_Becoming_a_Servant_Leader

4. Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practiceby Nitin Nohria (Editor), Rakesh Khurana (Editor)

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Jyoti Bhat, who was my Manager when I was working at Infosys (SET LABS from 2008-2010). She helped to get a copy of this book. Thank you. 

Project to Product. Wait.

In the last few years many companies have adopted the change in terminology “Project” to “Product” rapidly.  This article highlights the key difference between a software and non software product. The understanding of the nature of the software is important while deciding the approach to build and deliver.

Developing software is relatively new compared to manufacturing, shipping, aerospace, automobile, oil or electronics industries (Software engineering is about 50 years old whereas other industries have experience of more than 100 years). The Software Industry (nowadays called as a digital, tech etc) is unique compared to other industries primarily because it is used by other industries as an enabler and there are very few but powerful companies that are built primarily on software that have evolved in the last few decades (starting with Microsoft). 

Software is very unique in many aspects that brings many opportunities as well new challenges in terms of managing the whole development process. Unfortunately, most of the software development methods are influenced by the manufacturing industry (specifically automotive, Ford production line, Toyota Production System).

Across the industry there is a trend to move from projects to products in that context it is important to understand the uniqueness of the software itself.

There are some differences between Software Product (ex. Navigation System) and a Non-Software Product (ex. Car or Toaster). Most products these days have large amounts of software that makes them “smart” products,  like Smart TV, Smart Watch, Smartphone which have a good amount of software embedded in the product (ex. iPhone, Tesla).  To understand the complexity, it is important to look at the distinction between the software products and non-software products

Built or engineered and not manufactured

The software product is built or engineered and there is no manufacturing involved; basically it is designed, developed, and released whereas non software products involve design, development, manufacturing, and release. In addition, they will have after sales support and warranty. The absence of manufacturing time enables the software to be released continuously and implement DevOps. 

Wear and Tear

Theoretically Software Products will not have any wear and tear, whereas non-software products will have natural wear and tear as well as periodic maintenance and repairs.  As the products become older the maintenance and repair cost increase. Ideally throughout the life cycle about 5-10% per annum is spent on maintenance. The maintenance cost increases over a period of time and the product is retired /withdrawn with the release of a newer product.

Due to this difference non software products have a separate after sales and support teams. 

Ideally there should not be any maintenance cost but in reality there is significant cost due to field defects (errors that escaped during the development phase. The ability to modify software even after release made it possible to add new features while fixing existing defects.  This lead to a continuous development and delivery approach to meet business needs. That is the foundation of DevOps where both development teams and operations (maintenance) teams  together handle the product development and delivery cycles. 

Economics, scale and society

Software is becoming a central part of many products and it is also creating new challenges in societal behaviours and sustainability. While advanced manufacturing techniques and automation have given rise to an unprecedented scale in developing hardware. They are also creating new issues around electronic waste, consumerism and so on. 

Per unit cost of a non software product (just the hardware in a smart product) decreases as the volumes increase, whereas for software no such cost reaction exists. The cost of hardware in some scenarios is almost negligible. 

Scaling a software product is a design challenge whereas scaling a hardware component is also a manufacturing challenge. Any mistakes in manufacturing are very costly creating a huge pile of e-waste. 

In order to get more profit the companies are making the hardware obsolete (especially with smartphones) faster and adding few enhanced features and releasing the new product in a short cycle.  It is fueling the consumerism mindset. 

With IoT more and more appliances are getting smart, definitely they add value but at a certain cost to the society. 

Conclusion

Overall it is not just enough to change the titles and nomenclature and even mindset to “from project to products” a broader analysis of the overall impact and good understanding of software and it’s characteristics helps organizations to address the challenges holistically.  

Acknowledgments 

Project to Product: How to Survive and Thrive in the Age of Digital Disruption with the Flow Framework Book by Mik Kersten for ideas and inspiration. 

Software Engineering: A Practitioner’s Approach (IRWIN COMPUTER SCIENCE) Hardcover – 16 Mar. 2014 by Roger S. Press — My favourite textbook during my graduate school and giving me the solid foundation of Software Engineering

Raghavendra (Raghav/Ragz) Mithare

The views/opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own; they do not represent any of the organizations he is associated with.  Author will not take responsibility for any inaccuracies, mistakes in this article. No permission required to share, copy and redistribute. Please share if you have any comments view in the comments below or write to mithare@gmail.com

Don’t start with “Why?”

Don’t start with “Why?”.  Fans of Simon Sinek may not agree with this statement. His famous video “Start with why?” has more than 8 million views and his book with the same title has sold more than a million copies. My assertion of “Don’t start with why?” is based on my own experience, experiments, and learnings from them. 

What I have discovered is  – It is not easy to start with the “Why?” – When you watch Simon Sinek’s Ted talk “Start with why” it makes perfect sense to start with the why. The examples of Apple and Dell clearly illustrate this point. But the point is, not about analyzing Apple vs Dell. It is about you and your life.  You need to look at the responses to the following questions. 

Are you inspired to take action? Are you living every day with joy and happiness? Are you creating the results that impact you and the people around you?. If the response to any of these questions is “No” then you might want to consider an alternate approach. 

Before I explain an alternate approach let’s look at the flaw in the  “Start with why?” approach. All the examples quoted are from the past and there is a strong hindsight bias around them. It is easy to connect the dots looking at the past and very difficult while staring at an uncertain future.

When you read/hear the why of apple it makes perfect sense but we don’t know if it was created in the beginning or it has evolved over time. 

 “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?” 

First of all the above statement is Simon’s interpretation of Apple’s why? and it is not published. Even if it is their internal unpublished memo, it might have evolved over a period of time. It also becomes easy to articulate the why once you are reasonably successful. 

Last year I completed my professional coaching qualifications and I have written a blog on “Becoming – Why I choose to become a coach?”. When you read the blog it makes perfect sense to relate the story of the eagle with my purpose of exploring the potential.  But it was not clear to me about the “Why?” until recently, in hindsight, I can connect the dots and share an inspiring story. Most of the time the real why is hidden deep inside us so no point in spending time to find it. It will come naturally over a period of time. You should not wait to take action till you discover your “Why?”. 

The alternate approach you can consider consists of two parts. The first part is “Just Do It”. Yes, the famous Nike words. The founder of the Wieden+Kennedy agency, Dan Wieden, credits the inspiration for his “Just Do It” Nike slogan to Gary Gilmore’s last words: “Let’s do it.” 

Whatever goals you have in mind, you just start the action. If you want to learn “Guitar” – sign up for a class and start the lessons, if you want to write a book, just start writing.  You just get into action.  There is no time to think about the “Why?” behind.  The one metric you need to measure or observe is the inner intuition of “am I in the right direction?”. As long as you are moving in the right direction it is fine. The second factor is you should enjoy the journey. 

The second part of the process is “Non-finito” – the literal meaning is “not finished”. Give yourself permission to abandon your projects unfinished. If the guitar is no more interesting then stop it and join whatever interests you at that point in time. Here it is important to be in action and not to become lazy. You are in charge and you are in action – that is the most important part. It is okay not to finish your projects, though your projects are unfinished, give them some logical end and complete them from your list. The famous sculptor Michelangelo is famous for many non-finito projects. If you are planning to create a masterpiece, be ready to give up a few average projects. 

Over a period the real “Why?” emerges then you don’t need any external motivation and you start taking action and creating great results. 

This approach has served me well. I’m happy to hear your views and thoughts on this approach.

Happy new year 2022!! have a great year ahead.