Archive for February, 2011

When I first came up with this title, it wasn’t meant to be a serious question. As I reflected on it, however, I thought “that actually is a good question.” So I decided to do some research and see if I could figure it out.  What follows is not an academic treatise on the subject, but rather more my opinion based on some key incites.

History has presented us with the stories of many great leaders.  They predominantly include religious, military, and social/political figures.  The leaders’ titles, however, are typically associated with their positions or roles.  Military titles include General, Admiral, and Marshall.  Some of the religious titles are Pope, Minister, Rabbi, Lama, Monk, and Ayatollah. And of course, President, King, Prime Minister, Emperor and Czar are a few political/ruler titles.

While, many great leaders have been identified throughout history, the term leader has been used as a descriptor, not a title.

Key Development: Around 400 BC, that’s 2,400 years or 2.4 millenniums ago, Xenophon writes the first systemic book on leadership, Kyropaidaia, and later, Anabasis. (More about the book later)

Let’s fast forward to the Industrial Revolution where bureaucracy now reigns supreme. With the organization of labor, new positions are required to manage the expanding and more complex organizations. Job titles like gang-boss, supervisor, and manager are created and based on the actions that describe the role of the position, all of which support the concepts of command and control. The title of Foreman may be the exception, but the role is similar.

Later in the in the 1880s and 1890s within the manufacturing industries, Frederick Taylor introduces Scientific Management, or One Best Way, which reinforces the concepts of command and control.

Key Development: In 1949, Rex Warner translates Xenophon’s Anabasis into The Persian Exhibition.

From the Publisher: Xenophon, a young Athenian noble who sought his destiny abroad, provides an enthralling eyewitness account of the attempt by a Greek mercenary army – the Ten Thousand – to help Prince Cyrus overthrow his brother and take the Persian throne. When the Greeks were then betrayed by their Persian employers, they were forced to march home through hundreds of miles of difficult terrain – adrift in a hostile country and under constant attack from the unforgiving Persians and warlike tribes. In this outstanding description of endurance and individual bravery, Xenophon, one of those chosen to lead the retreating army, provides a vivid narrative of the campaign and its aftermath.

Key Development: Peter Ferdinand Drucker, “The Father of Modern Management” reads Kyropaidaia of Xenophon and declares it to be the best book ever written on leadership. Drucker finds that both Kyropaidaia and The Persian Exhibition contain numerous examples of leadership.  In his mind, Xenophon sets the standard for leadership books. He maintains this conviction until his death in 2005.

To be continued…              How Did Leader Become a Job Title? Part 2

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It’s Monday morning, five minutes past nine, the six staff meeting attendees are discussing their weekend activities.  The manager looks down at the agenda, looks at the clock on wall and says in a controlled but somewhat impatient tone “Okay, let’s get this meeting started.”

Actually, the meeting has started, but not in the eyes of the task focused manager.  The employees are reconnecting on a personal level prior to getting into the content of the agenda.  If the manager understood the importance of both relationship and task, he may have asked something like “So, before we continue, what was the most surprising or positive experience someone had this weekend?”  Or, using an approach that also connects the participants to the work, “Now that everyone seems refreshed from the weekend, what work are you most excited about this week?” (Hopefully, there would be answer; if not, there’s other work to do.)

This is “connection before content” in its simplest form.  It’s important enough to be consciously aware of and to plan for.  In longer or larger meetings, it is useful to determine the desired outcomes from both a business (task) and people (relationship) perspective.  This awareness ensures that connection exercises or activities are built into the design.

In early 2008, a colleague and I conducted focus groups to discover what made people feel connected.  The responses fell into three categories: 1) physical/environmental; 2) personal interaction; and 3) organizational practices and processes.  Below is one of the key findings:

A distinct impression that many believe when being asked to be part of a company, is that often means giving up something of one’s self; that being professional means being less human. Connecting on a personal level is critical to feeling connected on a business level.

“Connection before content” is not a new concept.  I have seen it described as a “Peter Block rule of thumb.”  Peter introduced the concept into the organization I was with in the early 2000’s. It is also addressed in his book, Community: The Structure of Belonging (2009) in Chapter 13, p.146, in a broader and deeper societal context.

Before diving into the agenda, citizens need to be connected to one another. Whenever we enter a room, it is with doubt and a vague feeling of isolation. Connecting citizens to each other is not intended to be just an icebreaker, which is fun yet does little to break the isolation or create community. Icebreakers will achieve contact but not connection. Connection occurs when we speak of what matters about this moment. This is done most easily with questions.

While not a new concept, it’s one that’s worth repeating, both for use in the organizations in which we work, and in the communities in which we live.

Incite: As an employee, do you purposefully maintain the connections you have and build new ones? If you manage others, do you understand the importance of personal connections? Do you allot time in your meetings for them to occur?  Do you also ask the right questions to connect people to the work, higher purpose, and future possibilities?

Additional Resources: In addition to Peter Block’s book mentioned above, another book, Fired Up or Burned Out (2009) by Stallard, Dewing-Hommes and Pankau, provides a comprehensive model of the connected organization without calling attention to it in the book’s description.

For the past eleven years, Interbrand has been scoring and ranking the world’s brands to determine the Top 100.  While obvious, it’s worth noting that the rankings can change from year to year.  Visit this link to see the full report including last year’s biggest winners and losers.

These are the Top Ten for 2010.

Interbrand’s Brand Strength Score is comprised of 10 components, all of which play an important and equal role.  Because I believe these components can also be applied to Brand You, I have personalized the wording of each to reflect that application.

COMMITMENT – A measure of your internal commitment to or belief in your brand. Commitment is the extent to which you support your brand in terms of time, effort and investment.

PROTECTION – This component examines how secure your brand is across a number of dimensions – business, social, public, and on-line.

CLARITY – Your brand’s values, positioning and proposition must be clearly articulated and shared.

RESPONSIVENESS – This component looks at your brand’s ability to adapt to changes, challenges and opportunities. You should have a desire and ability to constantly evolve and renew yourself.

AUTHENTICITY – This component is about how soundly your brand is based on your internal beliefs. Authenticity asks if your brand has a defined heritage and a well-grounded value set, as well as if it can deliver against expectations.

RELEVANCE – This component estimates how well your brand fits with existing business and organizational needs.

UNDERSTANDING – Not only must others recognize your brand, but there must also be an in-depth understanding of its distinctive qualities and characteristics.

CONSISTENCY – This measures the degree to which your brand is experienced by others without fail or deviation.

PRESENCE – This measures the degree to which your brand feels omnipresent and how positively others discuss it in both traditional and social media.

DIFFERENTIATION – This is the degree to which others perceive your brand to be distinct from others or your competition.

So given the ten criteria, how do think you measure up?  Are you a Top 100 Brand?

Incite: Is maintaining, protecting, and building your brand a priority?  What are you doing to ensure your “ranking” either remains the same or increases every year?  If you manage others, how can help your direct reports with their personal brands?  What about your department or function’s brand?