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. 

Nudge

Steve is very shy and withdrawn, invariably helpful but with little interest in people or in the world of reality. A meek and tidy soul, he has a need for order and structure, and a passion for detail.

Is Steve more likely to be a librarian or a farmer?

Before you proceed, pause for a moment and make your choice – A for librarian and B for farmer and also make a mental note for your reasoning. The point is not about finding the right answer but to understand your own decision making process.   

This above example is from Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman. This is an interesting example of a heuristic bias. While making the decision we forget to consider the overall population of farmers and librarians. The description “a meek and tidy soul, he has a need for order and structure” flips the decision towards librarian for most people.  If you have chosen A as the answer then it is wrong but the main point is to understand why it is wrong?

When I came across this example few years back for the first time, I was blown away by its simplicity and realised  how and why we (humans) make these types of mistakes and keep repeating them. During the same time I was also revising Don Norman’s classic The Design of Everyday Things, I was working on a Process Architecture to define a lean-agile processes for my assignment with Jaguar.  I could see some common patterns around design as well as bias.

As technical people sometimes we are biased around some basic operations and we tend to forget some of the obvious things. The same things are difficult for non technical people or the end users of the system.  

Finally I came across Richard Thalers work on Nudge and choice architecture. It is a bridge between avoiding errors due to cognitive bias and human centric design approach.

Now coming back to the above example most people will vote for Steve as a librarian (option A), even a group people with good background in statistics.

Now let’s brush some basics — The classical definition of probability theory states that – probability of an event (likelihood of –  occurrence of an event) is the number of outcomes favorable to the event, divided by the total number of possible outcomes, where all outcomes are equally likely.

If you toss a coin, the probability of getting a heads is 0.50  (or 50%).

the number of outcomes favorable to the event  = 1 (getting a heads)

total number of possible outcomes  = 2 ( heads, or tails)

the probability of a getting heads = ½  (50%)

Now coming back to the above example, as per the occupational data, there are more than 20 male farmers for each male librarian in the United States. The ratio of farmers to librarian is 20:1 this translates to a huge difference of 0.95 and 0.05.  (95% and 5%). The likelihood of Steve being a farmer is much higher than he being a librarian.

Same example in visual form, if you have to pick at random in the first case both green and red have equal probability whereas in the second case the probability of picking green is higher.

Nudge-Raghav-13.15-14.00 AS Data-01

This understanding is crucial in the era of Social media and mobile apps, just few incidents are enough to create a strong view against an individual and/or institution.

In the book Kahneman describes about System 1 and System 2 and explains how most human beings make decisions without being aware of the inherent bias.

System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.

System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations.  The normal tendency is to take the path of least resistance.

The reason most people choose Steve as a farmer is it fits the mental model or stereotype of a librarian. For brain (using System 1) it is easy and faster.

In the next part the concept of Nudge and Choice Architecture will be covered.

Note:

Reference (Partial list)

Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow. Penguin Randon House, 2011.

Mithare, Raghavendra. “NUDGE – ROLE OF ECONOMICS IN ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN.” presented at the Agile Tour London 2018 Conference, London, October 19, 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t hire a coach if you need a consultant.

Don’t hire a coach if you need a consultant.

Smith: “Well, you have a good experience of coaching and working with big brands. Will you be interested in coming on board and coaching our team ?”

Anna: “Sure, can you please share some more detail about the role ?”

Smith: “ I’m creating a community of practice for Business Excellence, formed by a team of coaches, You will be training and coaching the people on the floor on best practices, processes and tools. Especially, I want you bring your expertise and solve the efficiency issues raised by the senior leadership. By the way,do you have experience of coaching senior leadership ?”

Anna: “Yes, Thanks for giving the background about the role but I think you need a good consultant not a coach”

…..

These days many companies are busy hiring coaches for various requirements though there is a real requirements for coaches,  many companies are not clear about the role. There is a need to build awareness about coaching and it’s benefits.  

“ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential.”

The focus of Professional coaching is on

  • setting goals
  • creating outcomes and
  • managing personal change

The skills required for coaching have significant overlap with skills required for other personal or organisational support professions like mentoring, therapy and consulting.  

Mentoring

A mentor is an expert who provides wisdom and guidance based on his or her own experience. Mentoring may include advising, counselling and coaching. The coaching process does not include advising or counselling, and focuses instead on individuals or groups setting and reaching their own objectives.

Models like People Capability Maturity Model have given frameworks to implement organisational level mentoring programs.   

Therapy

Therapy deals with healing pain, dysfunction and conflict within an individual or in relationships. The focus is often on resolving difficulties arising from the past that hamper an individual’s emotional functioning in the present, improving overall psychological functioning, and dealing with the present in more emotionally healthy ways.

In contrast to coaching, therapy focuses on the past whereas coaching is focused towards future, based on self initiated change process.    

Consulting

Individuals or organisations retain consultants for their expertise. While consulting approaches vary widely, the assumption is the consultant will diagnose problems and prescribe and, sometimes, implement solutions.

Peter Block mentions in his book Flawless consulting the definition of consultant as

“a consultant is person in a position to have some influence over an individual, a group, or an organisation, but who has no direct power to make changes or implement programs.”

The credit for starting consulting as a profession goes to Marvin Bower, founder of  McKinsey & Company, who is considered as father of Management Consulting. He insisted on impeccable professional standards in substance, ethics, and style; that gave the credibility and an identity to the profession of consulting.

Organisations like International Coach Federation (ICF) are doing their best to make the profession of coaching to maintain it’s credibility and value in the industry through developing and enforcing code of ethics and Standards of Ethical Conduct for the community of professional coaches.

In the HBR research report on coaching, “What Can Coaches Do for You?” by Diane Coutu and Carol Kauffman,

The management guru Ram Charan says

“ The industry badly needs a leader who can define the profession, the way Marvin Bower did for management consulting.”