Followers’ Role in Enabling Bad Leaders

Barbara Kellerman

Barbara Kellerman

Seven types of ineffective and unethical leaders can be enabled by followers, according to Harvard’s Barbara Kellerman, in research that precedes the current U.S. political climate by more than a decade.

She categorized bad leaders as:

Incompetent – Failing to create positive change;
Rigid – Not adaptable to new ideas, conditions;
Intemperate – Lacking self-control;
Callous – Uncaring and unkind, discounting needs and wishes of group members, especially subordinates;
Corrupt – Advancing self-interest ahead of public interest, through “lying, cheating, and stealing”;
Insular – Disregarding health and welfare of outsiders;
Evil – Committing atrocities, use pain as an instrument of power, exert severe physical, psychological harm to men, women, children.

Kellerman’s earlier work focused on Hitler’s leadership, and asserted that his power wouldn’t have existed without followership.
She acknowledged that uninvolved bystanders who do not speak up enable bad leaders to continue their practices.

John Darley

John Darley

This effect was documented in social science research more than forty years ago by NYU’s John Darley and Bibb Latané of Columbia, labeled “Bystander Apathy” or the “Genovese syndrome.”

Bibb Latane

Bibb Latane

Given status differentials between leaders and subordinates, followers can break out of complacent observership only if organizational structures are in place to call attention to ineffective and unethical leadership practices — without negative repercussions.

Kellerman highlighted an intuitively-understood phenomenon, but extend her work by identifying implementable practices for various organizational structures.

-*What “bad leader” roles have you observed in your organization?
-*What seem to be effective ways to interact with a “bad” organizational leader?

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Developing “Big 8” Job Competencies

George Hallenbeck

George Hallenbeck

Better job performance is associated with with eight capabilities known as “The Big 8”, according to Korn-Ferry International’s George Hallenbeck, in his analysis of Leadership Architect® library of competencies:

• Dealing with Ambiguity,
• Creativity,
• Innovation Management,
• Strategic Agility,
• Planning,
• Motivating Others,
• Building Effective Teams,
• Managing Vision & Purpose.

He analyzed more than 1500 ratings on this 360 degree assessment, and found that just 12% of executives possessed four or more of “The Big 8.”
None of these organizational leaders demonstrated more than six of these competencies, though they consistently showed more than individual contributors.
This suggests that although executives demonstrate more of critical leadership capabilities than non-leaders, the vast majority have significant room for professional development.

Daniel GolemanExecutives and individual contributors who had more of “The Big 8” competencies also had more of “Career Staller and Stopper” behaviors.
Bold individuals who demonstrate persistance may effectively execute, but may run afoul of key stakeholders and influencers.

Self-Awareness and Self-Management, identified in Daniel Goleman’s framework for Emotional Intelligence, may be a key to balancing between the Big 8’s performance enhancing impacts while mitigating their potential drawbacks in stalling careers.

-*What have you found the most important job competences among organizational leaders and those preparing for future leadership roles?

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Career “Planning” = Career “Improvisation”

Kathleen Eisenhardt

Planning is most suited to relatively certain circumstances in which processes and decisions are typically linear, argued Stanford’s Kathleen Eisenhardt and Behnam Tabrizi in their analysis of global computer product innovation.

In contrast, frequently-changing or uncertain conditions with many iterative modifications require improvisation coupled with frequent testing.

Behnam Tabrizi

In “VUCA world,” described by the U.S. Army War College as volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous environments, current career “planning” occurs under rapidly-shifting conditions more appropriate for an agile strategy.
As a result, it is increasingly difficult to meaningfully respond to the frequently-asked interview question: “What are your career plans for the next five years?

Iterative exploration, rapid prototyping/experimentation, and testing characteristic of agile development and design thinking are more suited for rapid changes in economic, political, and technology changes that affect known career paths.

Alison Maitland

Alison Maitland

Possible Futures of Work are investigated in three thought-provoking books:

-*When have you found it more useful to “improvise” instead of “plan” your career?
-*What are the benefits and drawbacks of career “improvisation”?

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Developing Executive Self Awareness to Enhance Leadership Impact

Vicki Swisher

Lack of self-awareness among organizational leaders is pervasive and costly, according to Korn Ferry’s Vicky Swisher and Evelyn Orr.
They studied executives using the FYI: For Your Insight assessment tool, based on research from FYI for Insight: 21 Leadership Characteristics for Success and 5 That Will Get You Fired.

Evelyn Orr

Evelyn Orr

Executives’ #1 blind spot tied between:

• Making tough people calls,
• Demonstrating personal flexibility, adapting approaches to new circumstances.

Similarly,  there was a near-tie the #1 leadership problem:
• Not inspiring employees, not building talent,
• “Too narrow”, relying on deep expertise without broadening perspective.

Leaders vastly underestimated their effectiveness in “managing up”, suggesting that they focused more on their next promotion, rather than on developing their employees.

Joe Luft

Joe Luft

Lack of self-awareness can be reduced by using a “Reality Check” including:

o Feedback from others to provide “early warning” of difficulty.
However, this requires that evaluators are willing to provide candid observations, despite widespread discomfort in providing corrective feedback.

o Self-reflection concerning effective and ineffective behaviors, documented in a journal for review.

Harry Ingham

Harry Ingham

Executives learned most to enhance leadership skills and self-reflection from on-the-job experiences, distantly followed by learning from other people.
Structured trainings are most costly and least effective to enhance leadership cognitive, emotional, motivational, self-awareness, and learning agility capabilities.

These leadership development processes reduce individual blind spots, portrayed by San Francisco State University’s Joe Luft and Harry Ingham of National Training Labs in The JoHari Window. johari-window

Korn Ferry’s Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger provided additional executive development recommendations based on research in FYI: For your Improvement, A Development and Coaching Guide (3rd Edition).

-*How do you increase your self-awareness at work and reduce your “blind spots” about yourself and others?

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“Evolved” Leaders in an Era of Self-Interested Leadership

Jim Collins

Jim Collins

As the U.S. anticipates new political leadership and an unprecedented executive style, it’s valuable to reflect on popular wisdom from management literature.

Organizations that are “built to last” are guided by “Level 5 Executives,” argued Jim Collins in Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t.
This style of leadership requires both personal humility and personal will, and may be a combination not favored during the current US political transition.

Collins proposed a developmental leadership hierarchy including:

  • Level 1 Highly Capable Individual, who applies knowledge, skills, abilities, and commitment to achieve team goal,
  • Level 2:   Contributing Team Member, who contributes to team goal achievement through effective collaboration,
  • Level 3Capable Manager, who sets plans and organizes others to achieve goals,
  • Level 4Effective Executive, who inspires others to act toward the shared vision,
  • Level 5:  Level 5 Executive combines personal will to achieve the organizational improvement goal, tempered with personal humility.
    The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potentia
Modesto Maidique

Modesto Maidique

Drawing on developmental psychology theories by Jean Piaget as well as Harvard’s Lawrence Kohlberg, and Robert Kegan, Florida International University’s former President, Modesto A. Maidique proposed a six-level Purpose-Driven Model of Leadership

Jean Piaget

Jean Piaget

Leadership is service to others, organizations, and ideals, he proposed, and levels of leadership may be evaluated by whom leaders serve:

  • Level One: Sociopath, who serves no one and exhibits low empathy and generally destroys value, himself, and others.
    Well-known examples are Muammar Gaddafi, Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein.
Lawrence Kohlberg

Lawrence Kohlberg

  • Level Two: Opportunist, who serves himself or herself, often at the expense of others by focusing on:  “What’s in it for me?” Examples include Bernie Madoff and Jeffrey Skilling.
  • Level Three: Chameleon, who “flip-flop” to cater to many people as possible.
    Examples include Senator John Kerry, former Florida governor Charlie Crist, and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
Robert Kegan

Robert Kegan

  • Level Four: Achiever, who is often “successful” business executives, when measured by achieving business goals through energetic focus on goal achievement.
    Peter Drucker characterized them as “monomaniac with a mission“, driving toward a goal without fully considering the broader mission.
    Examples include former H-P CEO Mark Hurd.Purpose-Driven Model of Leadership
  • Level Five: Builder, who seeks to build an institution, not just to achieve a goal.
    Examples include IBM’s Tom Watson Jr., GM’s Alfred P. Sloan, and Harpo’s Oprah Winfrey.
    These people have a clear vision, energize others, and manage for the long term and not swayed by short-term profit or stock market valuations.
  • Level Six: Transcendent, who transcend their affiliations to focus on broader social benefit. Examples include Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Dalai Lama.

These frameworks provide a structure to evaluate the words and actions of current political and business leaders, and suggest potential stylistic vulnerabilities.

-*What level of leader do you observe in the highest levels of your work organization?
-*What practices are you implementing to develop your next level of leadership skill?

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Performance Excellence linked to Preventing Failures, Corrective Coaching

Atul Gawande

Simple behavior changes, such as following a structured checklist, can avert medical care disasters attributed to poor care, found Harvard’s Atul Gawande.

He noted that people who effectively improved their performance recognized fallibility in organizational processes, and took proactive steps to remedy these shortcomings.

Three elements of better performance can be applied to fields outside of medicine:

  • Diligence – Attending to details can prevent errors and overcome obstacles.
    Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right suggests best ways to structure these memory aids.
  • Doing Right –Ensuring that skill, will, and incentives are aligned to drive excellent performance,
  • IngenuityDeliberate monitoring of potential failures, continuously seeking innovative ways to improve performance and solutions.

All of these elements can be improved with attentive observation and feedback to prevent errors of omission when people don’t:

  • Know enough (ignorance),
  • Make proper use of what they know (ineptitude).

Ignorance occurs less frequently than ineptitude due to wide availability of relevant information, Gawande noted.
He argued that both types of omission errors can be improved by systematic analysis and disciplined use of tools like checklists.

Geoffrey Smart

Checklist-based analysis was also linked to Internal Rate of Return (IRR) in Geoffrey Smart’s study of investments by Venture Capital (VC) firms,

He found a correlation between IRR and leadership effectiveness in new investment ventures.
Since selecting capable leaders is critical to business outcomes, Smart also evaluated VC firms’ typical approach to assessing potential leaders:

  • The Art Critic is the most frequently-used approach in which the VC assesses leadership talent at a glance, intuitively, based on extensive experience,
  • The Sponge conducts extensive due diligence, researching and assimilating information, then decides based on intuition,
  • The Prosecutor interrogates the candidate, tests with challenging questions and hypothetical situations,
  • The Suitor woos the candidate to accept the leadership role instead of analyzing capabilities and fit,
  • The Terminator eliminates the evaluation because the venture is funded for the best ideas, not the originators, who are replaced,
  • The Infiltrator becomes a “participant-observer” in an immersive, time-consuming experientially-based assessment,
  • The Airline Captain uses a formal checklist to prevent past mistakes.
    This approach was linked to the highest average Internal Rate of Return (IRR) for the new ventures.
    In addition, this strategy was significantly less likely to result in later terminating senior managers.

Venture Capitalists said that two of their most significant mistakes were:

  • Investing insufficient time in talent analysis,
  • Being influenced by “halo effect” in evaluating candidates.

Systematic reminders to execute all elements required for expert performance can prevent failure and signal potential failure points.

-*How do you improve performance?
-*What value do you find in expert coaching?

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Developing a SMARTER Mindset for Resilience, Emotional Intelligence – Part 2

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Four Career Trajectories: Linear, Expert, Spiral, Transitory

Kenneth Brousseau

Kenneth Brousseau

Successful careers can follow forms other than “up or out,” according to Decision Dynamics’ Kenneth Brousseau, Michael Driver of USC, with Lund University’s Kristina Eneroth, and Rikard Larsson.

They offered a “pluralistic career concept framework” that classified career “concepts”:

Four Career Concepts

Four Career Concepts

LinearTraditional upward movement, with variable tenure in job roles and motivated by power, achievement and related promotions.
Behavioral competencies include: Leadership, competitiveness, cost-efficiency, logistics management, profit orientation.
This career concept is most seen in tall hierarchies with a narrow span of control.

Michael Driver

Michael Driver

Expert – Little movement and long (sometimes life-long) role tenure due to deepening expertise in a narrow discipline.
Motives include mastery, expertise, and security, and meaningful rewards for this career concept are continued training, benefits, recognition.
Competencies are quality, commitment, reliability, technical competence, stability orientation.
This career concept is most well-matched to flat functional organizations.

Career Motives, Competencies

Career Motives, Competencies

Spiral – Lateral movement to broaden functional exposure, with sever to ten year tenure in role families.
Motivated by personal growth, creativity, and suited to matrix organizations with cross-functional teams.
Rewards include cross-functional lateral assignments and training.
Key competencies include creativity, teamwork, skill diversity, lateral coordination, people development.
This career concept is most often found in loose, temporary team structures.

Transitory – Lateral moves of shorter duration (three to five years) are motivated by desire for variety, independence.
Most often found in temporary team structures, behavioral skills include speed, networking, adaptability, fast learning, project focus.
Meaningful rewards are job rotation, temporary assignments, immediate cash bonuses.

This team’s research was distilled into assessment tools focused on career “fit” with an organization’s structure and objectives.

Timothy Butler

Timothy Butler

A similar emphasis on cultural fit is found in CareerLeader Inventory, based on Timothy Butler and James Waldroop’s research at Harvard Business School.

James Waldroop

James Waldroop

-*Which of the four career trajectories seems most like yours?

-*Which career assessment tools have you found most useful to determine your skills, interests, and best-fit organizational context?

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