the blog Synergy

Friday, September 02, 2005

Reading & seizing

From the September issue of FastCompany I find this timely article by Bill Breen on leadership. (Bold is mine for emphasis)

What are the elements of this alloy we call "leadership"? Certainly, they include vision and integrity, perseverance and courage, a hunger for innovation, and a willingness to take risks. But in building their list of the top business leaders of the past century, Harvard Business School professors Anthony J. Mayo and Nitin Nohria have unearthed an immutable attribute that's shared by all of the giants of business: They had an innate ability to read the forces that shaped the times in which they lived -- and to seize on the resulting opportunities.
The article continues to identify three types of leaders: the entreprenuer, the manager, and the charismatic leader. I particular I found the story of C W Post enlightening. I grew up eating some Post cereals. I did not know the connection.

... Post's real genius lay in his ability to sense that a new, national consumer was emerging in America. He saw that as the nation was becoming increasingly industrialized -- as women entered the workforce and families spent more time on the job -- time itself was becoming increasingly valuable. People were willing to pay for convenience.

Post also seized on publications such as Ladies' Home Journal. They were perceived as credible purveyors of information, and Post used them to reach this new national consumer. He started off selling door-to-door, but he used changing demographics and social mores to launch a product that was nationally distributed, nationally advertised, and nationally consumed. He was one of the first to recognize the power of a national brand.

An entrepreneurial leader's genius lies in bringing things together in a combination that no one has ever seen before. Post was one of this country's great business visionaries, but he failed at the managerial act -- which is to build a system in the organization that routinizes the entrepreneur's creation.

Read more about Post here.

With the disaster caused by Katrina, it will be interesting to see leaders develop. If there is one thing a crisis will do, it will make or break a leader. Who will step forward and execute to help the recovery?

Time will tell.

I hope and pray for those displaced that the time it takes is not too long!


  • At 9:23 AM, Blogger Rosa Say said…

    I love this thought Steve, that from the destruction will arise MORE leadership responsive to the needs of our times versus purely individual motive. History has shown us that there is indeed a fourth kind of leader, the social/humanitarian leader. I am very passionate about the capacity of business leaders, however it is this 4th leadership trait we need to be interwoven more consistently with the rest.

  • At 5:37 PM, Blogger Steve Sherlock said…

    Rosa, is it a 4th trait of a leader, or should it be considered part of the traits of a manager?

    Either way, it should be something that is part and parcel of each of us. If we start with respect for the individual, then this social/humanitarian leadership or compassion for others should follow. Without respect for the individual, anything can happen.

  • At 8:14 PM, Blogger Rosa Say said…

    Steve initially I was referring to the FC article's identifying 3 types of leaders: the entrepreneur, the manager, and the charismatic leader, with the humanitarian/social leader as a 4th type we normally do not associate with business enterprise. (However I should note that I haven't seen the FC issue yet.)

    Essentially I think we agree; that for both managers and leaders (and their differences make for an entirely separate discussion) compassion for, and dignity and respect afforded to all individuals must be part of one's character: there is too much responsibility assumed in both management and leadership for it to be otherwise.

    In Katrina's wake I am optimistically searching for emerging leadership, and cheering for any sign of it that is revealed. Unfortunately, what we are witnessing is that position and title does not necessarily equate to the capacity for the brave yet humanitarian leadership we so desperately need.

  • At 1:25 PM, Blogger Phil Gerbyshak said…

    Disaster definitely can bring out the best, and worst, in leaders. Looking for ones who have stepped up in the recent tragedy are many not yet famous faces who, with little or no fanfare, are digging in and are making a difference in the lives of us all. I for one hope the media can get over it's need for politics and show some authentic stories so we can see who these leaders are. I haven't seen a compelling story yet, but I know there are stories to be told. Instead of seeing a clip of Brett Favre talking to his mom, let's see the person who dug in and helped out.


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