Moss Kanter on Leadership

Leadership icon Rosabeth Moss Kanter has released a new book, “Supercorps,” with findings from interviews with 350 organizations around the world. From the examples of those that are thriving, she has reaffirmed five well-known elements of leadership common to the most successful performers: 1. There is no leadership without a noble purpose.The best companies are guided by purpose, values and principles, and recognize their responsibility to the community. 2. Leaders see new needs, problems and find solutions. 3. They partner and collaborate. Don’t just think outside the box – think outside the building. That is, go beyond your own organization. 4. Empower people. This includes engagement of employees, “alumni,” and community members. Convene people in conversations and permit the flow of self-organizing activities. 5. Persist and persevere. Citing what she humorously calls “Kanter’s Law,” she reminds people that “everything can look like a failure in the middle.” “Middles” are difficult because: We can’t accurately forecast the future Unforeseen roadblocks arise that need to be dealt with People lose momentum; and Critics surface once things are under way who try to block change. These characteristics collectively require that leaders be courageous and flexible. They must be able to think big AND small to keep the vision in sight but deal with the details of execution. They must energize their team and shield them from the...

“Leading Through Conflict”

Mark Gerzon, founder and President of the Mediators Foundation, summarizes his view of leadership in his 2006 book Leading Through Conflict (Harvard Business School Press). He maintains that the we should think of the “Mediator” as the new model for leadership that “transforms differences into opportunities.” The Mediator: Strives to act on behalf of the whole, not just a part. Thinks systemically and is committed to ongoing learning. Builds trust by building bridges across the dividing lines. Seeks innovation and opportunity in order to transform conflict. He contrasts the Mediator with the “Demagogue,” who leads through fear, and at worst resorts to violence to dominate others, and the “Manager” works within his or her own boundaries, and limits the view of self-interest to his or her own group. The Mediator needs eight tools to work effectively. Gerzon describes them this way: Integral Vision: committing ourselves to hold all sides of the conflict, in all their complexity, in our minds – and in our hearts. Systems thinking: identifying all (or as many as possible) of the significant elementsrelated to the conflict situation and understanding the relationships between these elements. Presence: applying all our mental, emotional, and spiritual resources to witnessing the conflict of which we are now a part. Inquiry: asking questions that elicit essential information about the conflict that is vital to understanding how to transform it. Conscious conversation: becoming aware of our full range of choices about how we speak and listen. Dialogue: communicating in order to catalyze the human capacity for bridging and innovation. Bridging: building partnerships and alliances that cross the borders that divide an organization...

“The Leadership Challenge”

James Kouzes and Barry Posner have updated their classic book “The Leadership Challenge.” They continue to offer a straightfoward theory of five elements that successful leaders demonstrate, which they offer as guiding actions: Model the way (clarify your own values and lead by example) Inspire a shared vision (have an exciting image of the future and appeal to shared aspirations) Challenge the process (take initiative, seek innovation, generate small victories) Enable others to act (build relationships and advance the abilities of others) Encourage the heart (recognize individuals’ contributions and create a spirit of community) The first 2 chapters of “The Leadership Challenge,” 4th edition, are a concise summary of the ideas presented in the book. In addition to 25 years of research on how leaders act, they also looked at leadership from the constituents’ point of view, and present a summary of the values and behaviors people want from those they admire. The 4th edition is a current version of their ideas since it was updated in 2007 and includes case studies in the internet age as well as updates to their research...

Crowdsourcing and the Public Arena

Systems of democracy were created to allow public decisions to be made with the participation of people who lived in the democratically-governed society. The concepts of participation were always limited, however, by constraints of time and geography, by assumptions about the capacity of elites to govern better than the masses, by social limitations on the roles permitted for women, by exclusion of various “minority” groups, by connection of civic privileges with property ownership, and so forth. In the history of modern democracies, the trends have moved slowly but steadily toward the elimination of official barriers to participation, from allowing women to vote and eliminating poll taxes, to voting rights legislation and lowering of the voting age. (Today, England is considering lowering the voting age to 16.) Now, technology has also expanded participatory options for individuals. A great deal of government information is available online, unfiltered by interpreters. Internet activists can organize across geographic boundaries, provide public opinions to elected officials in real time, and mobilize individuals as issues are battled over. The breadth, speed and wide availability of online communication are opening the possibility of sharing ideas in the public arena the way they have begun to be implemented in business practices through “crowdsourcing.” “Crowdsourcing” is the idea that rather than of assigning a task to individuals or groups selected by the interested organization, instead, the task is thrown out to any audience to work on, usually through an open, online announcement or request. This approach presumes that the ideas, knowledge, imagination, etc. of this virtual, spontaneous group will generate the best solutions and will lead to the work being done by people most suited...

Motivating Behavior Change

One of the lessons embedded in Coro training is that giving people new information is often not sufficient to change their beliefs or behaviors. What other means are available to bring about behavior change? Recent research and applied experiments help illuminate the range of strategies that can touch people and create the changes we may desire. Here are four examples of ways of changing behavior. Make things fun: The website www.TheFunTheory.com is devoted to the concept that “something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better.” Make an emotional impact: See how a hospital motivated doctors to really wash their hands regularly. Go to ABC News to read or view the story. Generate a little competition: See how redesigned energy bills at www.betterbills.org help reduce consumption by showing the customer’s usage compared to others. Engage the senses: New research suggests that clean smells engender more generous behavior. Read or listen to a report of this Northwestern University research...

Crossing Boundaries

Coro exposes its training participants to multiple points of view and gives them skills for managing group processes so that they can be effective in working with diverse – even opposing – stakeholders. In a world that seems to be becoming more polarized, efforts to cross traditional boundaries stand out. Here are a few efforts related to major world issues. Whether they yet have the right answers or not, they may lead the way to finding common ground. — Padraig O’Malley, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, has applied his mediation skills in divided societies. Using not only his experience negotiating in Northern Ireland and South Africa, but also engaging some of the actual mediators from those fractious communities, he is working to bring Kurds and Arabs together in Kirkuk in northern Iraq. He has managed to bring people from opposite sides to the table and to maintain ongoing discussions. He is realistic about the challenges of this type of work, and estimates that any progress will take five years of relationship-building and dialogue. His work was featured on the National Public Radio Program Here and Now on December 14. Also, his website describes his philosophy and activities. — Four former U.S. Senate majority leaders, Howard Baker (R), Tom Daschle (D), Bob Dole (R) and George Mitchell (D), created The Bipartisan Policy Center in 2007, an organization that seeks to find and develop “solutions that can attract public support and political momentum.” Their initiatives include environmental policy, national security, energy, transportation and health care. Their health care proposal seemed to fall on deaf ears in June 2009,...