Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

An executive announced in a senior team meeting I was attending that he decided to eliminate outdoor smoking accommodations for employees and customers that use the facilities. The first response from a team member was “other companies to it.”  The second response was “we’ll have to arrange for the company to provide cessation products.” Notice that the responses are in support of the new policy without knowing the specific reason for the policy. The implication seems to be about not wanting people to smoke, including helping them quit. Okay, it must be for health reasons, which impacts health care costs (my inference).

In an attempt to better understand the reason, I asked, “How about moist smokeless tobacco (MST), where people have to spit?”  The response was, “No that’s not allowed either.”  Okay, so far it feels like a tobacco ban but not a nicotine ban.  Next question, “How about compressed tobacco pellets like Arriva and Stonewall from Star Scientific (a company that existed at the time) that don’t require spitting?”   No answer.  These are tobacco products that were recently declared by the FDA to not fall under the jurisdiction of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.   “How about electronic cigarettes? They don’t contain any tobacco; they have vapor but no smoke, and no smell. They are, however, regulated by the FDA under the Tobacco Control Act.” Figure that one out.

Snus, strips, sticks?  All the products mentioned have varying levels of exposure, reduced risk, and potentially reduced harm. If you consider that nicotine gum and patches are also used as substitute products, then appropriate guidelines become even more difficult to establish. Is nicotine harmful, or is it something more?

On Saturday, September 17, 2011, the World Anti-Doping Agency, also known as WADA, took the first step toward classifying nicotine as a performance-enhancing drug. WADA can monitor a substance ahead of inclusion on the prohibited list if it meets two out of three criteria for inclusion – enhancing performance, damaging health and breaching the spirit of clean sport.

The effects of nicotine were brought to WADA’s attention after a year-long study by its Lausanne lab which concluded that nicotine increased “vigilance and cognitive function”, and reduced stress and body weight. The laboratory reported that “WADA and sport federations should evaluate the inclusion of nicotine to the Prohibited List or/and Monitoring Program.” The Lausanne lab’s study followed initial research involving players at the 2009 ice hockey world championships played in Switzerland, which showed nearly half were active nicotine users.” Nineteen percent of athletes worldwide use tobacco compared to 25% of the adult population. According to WADA, “It is not our objective to catch athletes who smoke, but those who use nicotine as a means of enhancing their performance.”

It should be noted that nicotine was not included on the list of prohibited substances for 2012, but WADA says that nicotine sanctions are discussed with increasing regularity.

For more details, see http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/more/09/16/Nicotine-banned-substance.ap/index.html

So given the controversy and confusion around exposure levels, regulations, and effects, what’s an organization to do? Perhaps there should be a World Workplace Banned Substances/Behavior Agency that would evaluate substances and lifestyle choices based on established criteria.  If the cost of health care was on the list of criteria, obesity and factors that contribute to it would be at the top of the list with smoking a close second.  Or, organizations could understand that their workforce is a representation of the larger overall workforce, which is the goal of all Diversity initiatives, and focus on the aspects of organizational behavior that improve performance and commitment (with the exception of mandatory nicotine use).

Some people may find this post inciteful from an emotional perspective and could easily argue another point of view, as I could if I chose to.  But why not take a moment to challenge your assumptions and consider a different point of view, a different possibility?

For those in positions to create workplace policies that ban substances, behavior, or attempt to influence life-style choices, I simply propose the following. Let your reasons be directly related to organizational values versus personal; know the topic, the implications, and be clear on what is allowed and what is not allowed, and be able to logically explain the reasons for each.

In other words, know what you’re saying no to.

Disclosure: I do not use tobacco or nicotine products.

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This is not a role model in the typical sense of the word.  That is, it’s not about a person who serves as an example of the values, attitudes, and behaviors associated with an organization.  This is a model that can be used to explain all the various roles within an organization.

Over time, we have realized that a bit of confusion has been created between the concepts of leader and manager. I myself, contributed to this confusion in 2001 when I facilitated a group of thirteen Directors through a process to design a training program for new managers. The final name of the program – Leadership Journey for New Managers!

The following is a simplified model that can be used to understand and differentiate between the responsibilities of any role.

There are three basic components. Each one is performed to a different degree based on the requirements of the job. For example, a self-employed person who has a small business needs to balance all three out of necessity.  The owner, who is too focused on doing the work (technician), may find that managing (operational) and working on the business (strategic) suffer.

In larger organizations, it is easier to differentiate.  The primary responsibility of the individual who does the work is “technician.”  The main responsibility of the person who plans, monitors, and coordinates the work is “manager.” And the responsibility of setting direction with strategic thinking and planning, is the priority of the “leader,” also commonly referred to as Executive .

When you determine the degree of each responsibility for each position, it is easier to determine the training and development needs for both current and future positions.  Remember, every position uses a combination of all three roles to varying degrees.

Role Responsibility Primary Development
Technician Tactical Technical training
Manager Operational Project & people management
Leader Strategic Strategic thinking, planning, and execution

Is the Peter Principle alive and well? This is a tangential topic but one worth discussing here.  Actually I would argue that each person does not rise to their level of incompetency, they are promoted by others to that level – a small but significant difference.  The reason is that most decisions for advancement are backward looking.  The philosophy that a person must do well or exceed in the current position in order to move to higher position is well intentioned but somewhat misguided.

In sports, a great athlete doesn’t necessarily make a great coach. A great coach doesn’t necessarily make a great general manager, and so on.  There are numerous examples of high performing individuals being promoted to the manager level only to falter because what made them great (technician) is no longer as important a skill.  It may even be a derailer.

Missed opportunity? On the flip side, an employee may have a broad conceptual thinking style and excel at strategic thinking.   If they enter the organization in a “technician” role that requires narrow focused attention for tactical execution, chances for success are slim.  In this scenario, both the employee and company lose.

Incite: Are you clear on the responsibilities associated with the various roles within your organization? When considering someone for a position of greater responsibility, let’s change that to a position that requires a different set of skills and even thinking style, do you focus more on past performance or future fit?   The key to successful hiring, placement, and promotion are your selection, development, and advancement systems.

In the last episode, Peter Drucker had just read Kyropaidaia and declared it to be the best book ever written on leadership.  Within a few years Drucker writes his fifth book, The Practice of Management, (1954).  Within the book he writes about Xenophon, his books, and leadership principles (pages 2, 5, 117-118, 121–131)

Incite: I believe this was the beginning of the blurring of the lines between management and leadership.

In his thirteenth book, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, p. 325, (1973), Drucker writes “that in modern society there is no other leadership group but managers. If the managers of our major institutions, and especially of business, do not take responsibility for the common good, no one else can or will.”

Peter Drucker never wrote a book specifically dedicated to leadership, however, a wealth of information about leadership can be found dispersed throughout his 39 books and hundreds of articles.  In fact, there is so much information, in 2010, William A. Cohen wrote “Drucker on Leadership.”  Cohen explains that Drucker was ambivalent about leadership for much of his career, making it clear that leadership was not by itself “good or desirable.” While he struggled with the concept of leadership, he was aware that it had a critical impact on the accomplishment of all projects and human endeavors.

Incite: I believe that Drucker’s ambivalence and struggle with the concept of leadership was why he imbedded the principles within the overarching concept of management.

As new management and leadership “gurus” emerged on the scene, Peter Drucker shifted his attention to the social sector.  In 1990, the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management was founded and he was named the Honorary Chairman. In January 2003, the Drucker Foundation celebrated the great contribution of Peter Drucker and renamed the organization the Leader to Leader Institute! (Exclamation point added).

Okay, so how did leader become a job title? In summary, I believe Peter Drucker was primarily responsible for blurring the boundaries between the concepts of leader, manager, supervisor, etc. The result was that the terms started to be used somewhat synonymously. Somewhere around the late 90’s, early 2000’s, in an attempt to emphasize leadership responsibilities, and help people feel better about their jobs, organizations began adding leader to job titles.

Do a search on a popular job search site like Indeed.com and look for “leader” in job title only – my search came back with over 30,000 jobs. I realize many of those are duplicates, but still, that’s a lot of “leaders.”

Incite: Regardless of the synonymous use of leader and other manager type descriptors, there is a distinct difference between them – more about that later.

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