the blog Synergy

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Our practice of leadership, right here, right now

At the Practice of Leadership, George Ambler stopped me in my tracks this morning with his post pointing to Catch a Rising Star, an article written by Geoffrey Colvin for Fortune Magazine. I’m regretting that I told my husband he could take my car to work today, for now I want that issue of Fortune --- I want it bad, and where I live, getting a copy would mean a whole day on foot.

Read George’s highlights here:
What’s the State of your Leadership Practice? by George Ambler, author of The Practice of Leadership

Then, high-tail it here for the article George refers to:
Catch a Rising Star by Geoffrey Colvin for Fortune via

It is so important that we, in our power of we, understand this connection on how today’s information-based economy gives us a wealth of leadership opportunity,
“…today’s info-based economy lets businesses create vast shareholder wealth using very little financial capital but loads of human capital.”
Second, I love how Colvin points out why “Labor is abundant [and money is abundant and cheap right now] but management is scarce.”

Click over.

-----Update: It feels so good to get passionate about the stuff I read. Just added these to Talking Story and Managing with Aloha Online:
“Catch a Rising Star”—yours
“Catch a Rising Star”—yours. Part II.


  • At 3:57 PM, Blogger Phil Gerbyshak said…

    This is tough stuff to think about. I especially like George's challenge at the end "If you honestly evaluate your "leadership career", do you have ten years of leadership experience.......or do you have a one year leadership experience repeated ten times?"

    As the article by Colvin very clearly states, there are leadership opportunities that are far more rewarding than being CEO of a publicly traded company. With Sarbannes/Oxley regulating everything you do, is it worth the stress (long-term) to set your goals on this sight? I must admit, I used to dream of making it "to the top" of a large company, to bide my time learning all the necessary things to get there. Now I realize that I love being a front-line manager, where my meetings with my staff do not have to be rescheduled a million times, where I can be authentic and honest enough to say that it's hard being a manager sometimes, and also, I am able to say "I don't know. Let me get back to you" when I don't know the answer. I don't know if you can do this as CEO of a large, publicly traded firm unless you are willing to give up your job for the answer.

    Those are my initial reactions. I'm going to read over this a bit more, and will probably have more thoughts as the weekend progresses.

  • At 7:53 PM, Blogger Rosa Say said…

    Phil I must say, that life at the top is not all it seems to be ... I don't regret my own time there for some of the opportunities it afforded me, however I gladly gave up my beautiful corner office in the executive suite for the very rewarding joy of what I do now!

    Leadership does have its privileges (and leverage- whichever way one might think about it) in the traditional hierarchy where the "leaders" sit at the top of the food chain, the biggest one being that normally you have a decreasing number of others to ask permission of don't ask for permission to succeed as Troy would say! However ultimately, we all have to answer to someone, even if its our own integrity.

    What excites me about what Colvin point out, is that market trends point to a lot of opportunity for those who aspire to be great managers and innovative leaders - in character and their own productivity, regardless of the title they hold.

    Thank you for chiming in on this!

  • At 5:25 AM, Blogger Steve Sherlock said…

    A good topic and not one easily handled in a short comment, but here is a quick two cents. Stay tuned for more.

    I always liked the analogy of business being a three-legged stool. One leg each represented by people, process and technology. The legs all need to be balenced for the stool to carry the load.

    In today's world the techno-geek seems to be emphasizing the technology leg as the be-all and end-all when that is far from the case. Without the proper business processes to support the technology, the old garbage-in, garbage-out adage applies. Some technology just makes bad garbage quicker.

    Six-sigma, lean and other process analysis tools have their day in the sun, and rightly so. If the process is not simple, it won't be followed and hence the additional cost will ultimately kill the company through poor quality, bad service or a host of other obvious and sometimes not so obvious symptoms.

    With a focus on leadership, we may be seeing a natural swing in the pendulum to help address the balance amongst the three legs. I think this has it's roots in the flattening of the world, off-shoring is taking place in more and more industries. It is not just the manufacturing labor that is affected, it is the "knowledge" labor pool that is now being challenged by India, Russia, et al with the China threat looming large.

    So where do we find our value-add? In the person, in the individual who can inspire a team, can share the vision, can lead the charge into the unchartered waters of the business world. And not just any individual, an individual who knows it can not be accomplished alone, who understands the power of "we".

    WE are amongst the lucky. WE recognize this and WE are sharing to help each other do more that each other could accomlish alone. The power of WE.

  • At 4:17 PM, Blogger Rosa Say said…

    Steve, I love your analogy! (love the bird feeder one too in the post after this one :-)

    I think you have summed it up so well with your answer to where we find our value-add in. The blog Synergy is an example of a place of purely voluntary "labor" contributed to a team effort: our pay and our value-currency are in the value of the ideas borne from our passions. We propose ideas fully willing to have them added to, tweaked, and re-shaped into something better than what we started with.

    We are here for no other reason than the fact that we want to be, and that we fully understand how effective the language of we - and good intent of we - can be for positive ideas and dynamic energy to triumph over pessimism - and over complacency and mediocrity. At our core, we believe our world can get better. We have the confidence that in our humble humanity, we have what it takes to effect good, catalytic change.

    As attributed to Margaret Mead:
    "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

    And we are but one possible group to choose from... it goes back to George Ambler's challenge to put oneself in the company of the right leadership - let's add to that the right team committed to the creativity of synergistic effort.

  • At 5:28 PM, Blogger Troy Worman said…

    Rosa! Thanks for the link to George's post. I definitely want to pick up a copy of the current issue of Fortune. I am interested if this perceived glut of leadership is restricted to the United States or if this is a global phenomenon. My guess is the former.

    What does this say about the future of the American Corporation? I think, as you said, there is going to be a lot of opportunity.

    This is a interesting topic. Thanks for the post!

  • At 2:02 AM, Blogger Trevor Gay said…

    Great discussion guys – thanks for the tip off Rosa

    My rambling comments as follows … and let me apologise straight away for the length of this …

    A truly great leader is judged best by followers is my take on leadership.

    That great management Guru 2700 years before Tom Peters Lao Tsu (700 BC) put it this way – a wonderful summary

    Go to the people
    Live with them
    Learn from them
    Love them
    Start with what they know
    Build with what they have

    But with the best leaders
    When the work is done
    The task accomplished
    The people will say
    ”We have done this ourselves.”

    As a senior healthcare manager the best ideas I EVER heard were always from people below me in the pecking order rather than from people above me.

    I recently wrote elsewhere that ‘front liners know all the answers all the time' and that has become a chapter in the new book Felix, Rocky and I have written.

    I have always been inspired more by people at the front line than by those senior to me.

    Like Phil I had aspirations to be a Chief Executive but then I grew up :-)

    In hindsight that aspiration was all about status and the logical progression that one is expected to make in the healthcare management world. I realised about 6 years ago that was a crazy way to go. I realised the most rewarding leadership is best performed at a much lower level in organisations.

    In my 35 year career I met very few Chief Executives who genuinely turned me but I met dozens of front liners who did turn me on with their ideas and creativity.

    Having said that, I am pretty sure Rosa would have been an inspiration to work for as a CEO!!!

    I will respect a leader who has competence; humility; empathy; knowledge; one who works hard; one who does his/her homework; and most of all a leader who has utmost integrity.

    Ironically, the Chief Executive I respected most was the one who told me I would never become a Chief Executive because I did not have a ‘spark’ that is needed. I think he was right about me not ever becoming a CEO but not about the spark – we all have a spark!

    I simply do not believe it follows that you have to be some charismatic, genius to be a Chief Executive.

    I beleive many CEO’s are in that position because of ‘who they know’ rather than what they do. They invariably are ‘a safe bet’ rather than someone who will genuinely ‘rattle the cage’ and ‘shake the tree’

    Luck comes into it as well and definitely having an astute political brain.

    The best thing that ever happened to me was NOT BECOMING a Chief Executive. Since I made the decision to get out of that silly rat race I have felt tons better – my stress levels are less – I no longer have indigestion – I sleep soundly at night. I love my work rather than hate it. I am in control rather than being controlled. I work for someone I know well – myself. I am not assessed by someone who does not know what makes me tick and someone I do not respect. I am my own assessor and supervisor. They guy in the mirror is the one I have to satisfy first and that is always the best accountability.

    Sorry for rambling but leadership is one of my pet subjects. I am happy to share my dissertation ‘Leadership in Practice’ if any of you guys want more reading material to add to your pile of books if you are like me - starting six books and struggling to finish one!


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