June 26, 2010

After examining leadership styles of different personalities, focusing on Obama and Hayward and their leadership roles in the BP case, after describing the resignations of two German politicians and finding out what the difference between a manager and a leader is I will now break it all down to one simple question.

What is the perfect leader?

Actually I Can already start by telling: there is no answer and there is no perfect leader. Experts have been tackling this problem ever since and came up with hundreds of different opinions and theories. Even classical greek philosopher plato has tried to answer the question of perfect leadership. In his study concerning the ideal state he was also asking about the ideal person to lead this state he was of the opinion that only people, that he described as philosopher kings are capable of leading in a positive way. Plato described philosopher kings as “those who love the sight of truth” and stressed the importance of an educational system that produces these “truth-lovers”.

Altough people in history had different opinions about what a leader should be like there are some characteristics that you can find in almost every thesis:

The one that was most obvious to me and I have come across in probably every description of good leader is “self-confidence”. According to Peixe (2009) self-confidence is the: “belief of believing in you; to believe that one is able to accomplish what one sets out to do, to overcome obstacles and challenges. This is really a major capability as a leader has followers that should believe in him, his direction and his ideas. If a leader doesn’t even believe in his or her own vision it is hard to make others believe in it. As a result if people to don’t trust in your ideas they will just not follow you and you won’t be a leader. Self-confidence also means that you have a solid personality that you can deal with criticism and variances.

Next leaders should be a kind of philanthrops. Philanthropy means that you are loving other humans and want to improve their well-being. Again as a leader you are dealing with other people, you are dealing with your followers. If you don’t like people it will be a tough activity to deal with them on a regular basis. A leader has to want the best for his followers, if he only acts for self-interest he clearly fails.

The third variable that you can find in definetely every description of a good leader and that even I have used several times in this article is having a clear vision. When describing leaders you can’t come by this word, it is almost a synonym for leadership. Whitout a vision leaders are just managers, sticking to rules and procedures, walking an already established path. However leading is about thinking out the box, developing change and innovation. A leader must have a vision, a clear picture of the future that he can describe and make his followers enthusiastic about.

To sum up I am also not able to describe the perfect leader, but people will go on trying to describe this miraculous person and sell expensive books with their ideas. However if you want to be a good leader you should know the theories about it and choose those that seem reasonable for you.

So this was my opinion about the perfect leader, taking my knowledge gained at University, but what to people in the blog-world think about this massively discussed topic?

Actually most bloggers – like me – give up to tackle this question before they are asking it. Jonathan Farrington who is CEO of Top Sales Associates, Chairman of the Sales Corporation and Senior partner at the JF Consultancy takes a similar approach to this topic like I did, he first examines history. He reveals that in the 15th century Niccolo Machiavelli thought about cunning and intimidation as an effective approach. Next Mr. Farrington states that in the19th and 20th century people rather thought that leaders are born and not made. Followed by many theories that tried to explain leadership by the behaviour of humans. Finally Jonathan Farrington decided for himself that the situational leadership behaviour theory by Hersey & Blanchard is his favourite approach to successful leadership. What I really liked is that the blogger described in the end that there is a need for leadership as to his opinion there are far too many managers.

So again: No answer, only different opinions. Really boring.


In an article, Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, describes the role of failed leadership and dysfunctional culture as contributors to the BP oil spill:

“BP must also clean up an organizational and cultural mess.
A true leader faces facts, presents a situation fully to all stakeholders, and models accountability. A leader does not attempt to minimize the extent of a problem or promise action faster than can be delivered. A true leader sets appropriate expectations and delivers. He or she does not duck responsibility by shifting the bulk of the blame to someone else.”

As the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill continues to grow, reports suggest that several IT failures may have contributed to the problem. More importantly, the spill represents a deep state of failed leadership inside BP.
The company needs a leader who engenders confidence. CEO Tony Hayward has had over six weeks in the spotlight to demonstrate his leadership capabilities. Yet the situation keeps getting worse: escalating damage in the Gulf and a whopping %35 drop in BP’s stock price.
Why is Hayward still running BP? BP’s finances were in good shape before the explosion. This is an acute, explosive situation with short-term urgency and long-term consequences.

For more information:

manager vs. leader

June 21, 2010

Today’s topic has already been enormously discussed by the business world and I had also to deal with it a couple of times during my time at University. It is the question of the difference between being a manager and being a leader.

If one considers the usual content of books that deal with this topic, one can generally say that managers “do things right” whereas leaders “do the right things”. Another famous saying is that managers only have only employees whereas leaders have true followers. In other words, managers mostly have the capability and knowledge to perform what is expected in a business world. They are experts and know how to plan, schedule and stick to norms. Managers are able to work efficiently and deliver favourable results. In contrary leaders are rather described as humans who have a vision and are almost driven and obsessed by this vision. They have the ability to make people enthusiastic and committed to their idea. It is not about their knowledge from books; it is more about their personality and their influence on people.

Most sources that deal with the manager vs. leaders question are not scarce with words that characterize those two so I will continue this tradition:

Managers are: stable, managing day-to-day work, concerned for short-term goals, planning in detail, rational, controlling, using authority, only interested in results, risk-averse, using existing business approaches, reactive, criticising, tough-minded, powerful because of their position and analytical Leaders are: constantly looking for change, concerned for long-term development of the organization, having a clear vision and can communicate it, strategic thinkers, using their hearts, charismatic, visionary, passionate, shaping an organisations culture, proactive, excited for work, committed, risk-takers, rule-breakers, using conflict for innovation and change, establishing new roads, thinking out of the box, powerful because of their personality.

Uff! Enough word-penetration. However as you can see from this row of words: Managers are highly concerned for structure and sticking to the status quo. They don’t really like change and even try to avoid it. Leadership on the other hand is striving for change, constantly looking for new ideas, innovations and possibilities to drive on new roads.
As shiny and great leadership descriptions and as odd and strict manager descriptions sound, both are vital for a successful organization. In fact it is not a question about having a so-called “manager” or “leader” at the top of your organization it should be a mixture of those two. A pure manager might do great work but will not be successful in a fast changing globalized environment. In contrast a powerful, charismatic leader might be great in motivation people and establishing a great corporate culture, but might lack the knowledge to plan, organize and control professionally. The knowledge of this article is mostly taken from the daft book “new era of management” as well of what professors constantly tried to teach me at HWR Berlin.

In the blog-universe there is a lot of discussion going on about this topic. One really enthusiastic discussion can be found on Sigurd Rinde’s blog who is a ambitious enerpreneur having several projects going on: To sum up Sigurd Rinde is adding to the leader vs manager question a hierarchy vs. not (or a very flat) hierarchy. He argues that only static tall hierarchies have managers, actually they are full with managers. Moreover Sirgurd Rinde is stating that tall hierarchies are even made for managers and their direct and control attitude as there is not much transparency and individual integrity. The comments to Mr. Rinde’s article are interesting and plenty, so I would highly recommend to read them: thingamy.typepad.com/sigs_blog/2005/05/leader_vs_manag.html


June 21, 2010

The most important trait that differentiates leadership from management is the ability to lead. “To lead” encompasses many meanings. Sometimes it means a leader has to speak out ideas that are not favored by the general public. In the past few weeks, many public opinions were favorable to Obama’s response to the oil spill crisis. However, there is always two sides to a coin. The following statement(an article from Forbes Magazine) has shown the author’s disagreement with Obama’s leadership:
 “The blame for failed leadership, particularly in the wake of the disaster, doesn’t belong only to BP. Look to the White House. If ever an American president had a grand-slam opportunity to take the lead on formulating a comprehensive energy policy, this is it. But President Obama has been disappointingly reticent on the matter, even as public revulsion over the spill builds. I’m waiting to hear him declare that this calamity is the result of our excessive dependence on oil and our lack of a strategy that embraces all forms of energy, including nuclear, wind, solar, biomass and more. I want to see him guide the American people to the understanding that such a strategy will ensure our strength and security for decades to come and that following the same old routine will only take us to a dead end.”
 In my opinion, leading is the hardest part of leadership because it requires courage and vision. Moreover, it could go against self interest, for example, political interest. It is far easier to blame a corporate giant like BP than to delve into the problem of overconsumption; it is far easier to drill more oil than reduce the twenty percent of oil consumption in the America.
 BP has decided to pay, but there are many things that can not be resolved by money. The question remains, will this crisis be the turning point of change and do you think Obama will be the one leading the change? 

People have been debating the nature of leadership for as long as records have been kept – certainly as far back as Homer and his peers. The topic continues to fascinate and enthral us today, but the way in which we assess leadership roles is changing.

Much recent work in this area has concentrated on trying to understand why some leaders are more effective than others by looking at their environment and the context in which their acts have been carried out. Situationaltheory views leadership as specific to the situation, for example, rather than to the personality of the leader. It is based on the idea that different situations require a different style of leader.

A leader must realise there is no one best way to influence people.

The Basis of Situational Leadership:

Situational Leadership is a way of describing and analysing leadership styles. It is a combination of directive and supportive behaviours.

Directive behaviour involves telling people what to do, how to do it, where to do it, when to do it and then closely supervising this performance. 

Supportive behaviour involves listening to people, providing support and encouragement for their efforts and then facilitating their involvement in problem solving and decision-making.

There are four leadership styles: Directing, Coaching, Supporting and Delegating.

Each style is appropriate in certain circumstances. They can be shown as follows:

o Delegating i.e. Low Supportive & Low Directive

o Directing i.e. Low Supportive & High Directive

o Supporting i.e. High Supportive & High Directive

o Coaching i.e. High Supportive & Low Directive

In my opinion, leadership is dynamic. A leader should fit into the changing environment and should have different strategies to different situations. That’s why I wanted to write about Dynamic Leadership. You can read the relevant article from here.

In the recent articles I mostly dealt with different personalities and their diverse approaches towards leadership. Of course their leadership styles are mainly influenced by their personality. However as leaders in the same country often share similar leadership styles, it is not only your personality it is also your culture that defines how you will lead people. The following article will – on the basis of the GLOBE study – reveal how people in different countries and cultures lead. The GLOBE study (Global Leadership and Organizational Behaviour Effectiveness) tries to explain the impact of culture on leadership and organizational behaviour. It was conducted by 160 people who have been working together on this project since 1994. They did research in 62 cultures, interviewing 17,000 middle-managers in the industries of banking, food processing and telecommunications.

Generally speaking one can say that similarities can be identified between leaders in Western Europe and the United States as well as in East-Asian countries. The GLOBE study examined 9 vital characteristics to explain leadership style. One important factor is for example how countries value pure performance. It’s not surprising that the U.S.A are leading the list of countries who have a high concern for performance, as it is a very performance orientated country. Moreover the U.S leaders were also characterized as very tough and competitive and it was explained that they are not thinking about others very much. Also countries like Taiwan and Hong Kong put enormous emphasis on performance. Germany is as well a very performance orientated country, but more interesting is that Germany is very poor in Humane Orientation. This means that people are not very helpful and rather take care about their selves instead of other people. Furthermore German leaders, as well as all middle
European countries, emphasize avoiding uncertainty, which means that they like to stick to norms. Another exciting fact stated in the study is how loyal people are to their organizations. It can be seen that almost every Asian culture is highly corporate-loyal in contrast to e.g Scandinavian countries that were ranked least in this category and therefore show an enormous lack of loyalty to their companies.

From my point of view the GLOBE study is a vital source of information in today’s business world as we are not acting on a national basis anymore. However I also think that these differences will diminish as time passes by as in a globalized world every culture is influencing others and being influenced by others. As a result business practices and leadership styles around the world will be more standardized and not as different as today or – more drastically spoken – like a hundred years ago.

The blog of sapumal from Sri Lanka, to whom I unfortunately cannot find additional information, also detected the influence of culture on leadership style. Sapumal wrote his article on the basis of another well-known study by Hofstede. The characteristics to explain leadership styles in different countries used by Hofstede were: power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, long term orientation. Generally the outcomes of Hofstede are similar to the GLOBE study, sapumal also explained them graphically, which I found really interesting:

Unfortunately most blogs that deal with the influence of culture on leadership just paraphrased existing surveys and there are no stories about personal experiences available which could have been especially interesting.

Detailed information about the GLOBE study can be found in Robert J. House’s Culture, Leadership, and Organizations: The Globe Study of 62 Societies

Nitin Nohria and Amanda Pepper of Harvard Business School’s Leadership Initiative collaborated with XPLANE to create this video in order to generate a discussion of the value and importance of leadership to address some of societys most pressing problems.

“It is my desire to inspire people of all ages and social demographics to think about leadership on a broad level, contemplate what it means to them and what individual impact they can have when it comes to leading,” says Nohria.

When researching about BP oil spill, I encountered this interesting article titled “A Framework for Examining Leadership in Extreme Contexts”.  (From “A framework for examining leadership in extreme contexts”, Leadership Quarterly 2009)
Adaptive leadership, as mentioned in the article, is set on three stages: preparation, in situ(during the event) and post event. In general, leaders require mental preparation for the unthinkable situation. As stated in the article, “leadership is critical in preparation for an extreme event to provide foresight, planning, training and other preparedness efforts.”

Tony Hayward, the man right in the middle of the turbulence, was poured with criticisms for his insensible responses. Several headlines have suggested how far Tony has gone in becoming the Number One Enemy in the America.

Louisiana Democrat wants BP CEO fired

Tony Hayward–the most hated CEO in the America

BP’s Toxic Tony: Can’t we cap him?

Tony’s performance for “the preparation and in situ stage” was disappointing so far. We can see a lack of mental preparedness for the extreme contexts. Firstly, at personal level, Tony was unprepared in responding to the disaster. He was unclear about the magnitude of the disaster and the company’s cleanup plan in his first public interview. He simply shoveled the responsibility away by saying that “this is not BP’s accident”, which was provocative. The magnitude of the spill ended up to be five times bigger than his estimate and BP is now facing the criminal charge for releasing unreliable and misleading information.
Secondly at corporate level, there is a lack of disaster management as well. There was no swift and decisive response. Instead, the company waited until the external pressure was too overwhelming to ignore. The accident happened in April while the cleanup plan came as late as May.
“As the magnitude and probability increase, we would expect organizations to overcome some of the inertia and resistance to prepare for extreme events noted earlier (Pauchant & Mitroff, 1992; Pearson & Mitroff, 1993) and expend resources and effort to initiate purposive preparatory actions and be less complacent. Therefore we would expect inherent motivation and a more intense stance with associated shifts in organizational priorities and formations of unique interdependency even before extreme events occur—as well as increased vigilance.”

There is no increased vigilance within the company even though several accidents happened before. We cannot see a very concrete disaster management program as well.
However, it is too early to conclude if this oil spill is Tony’s Waterloo Battlefield. Can he survive this crisis and what kind of leadership legacy will Tony Hayward leave to his company? what is your opinion?

Leading vs Acting

June 7, 2010

The article Enacting the ‘true self’: Towards a theory of embodied authentic leadershipcompares the method of acting by Stanislavski with leadership skills. I’ve made a summary of the comparison. It is interesting since it is related to the topic of “authentic leadership” I have been researching.

Method of acting Leadership skills
“Act authentically”
“Don’t take a part if it isn’t in you -a part has to be real to you before it can be real to an audience
Self exposure (Enacting the “true self”)

“A growing number of
studies point to the importance of leaders expressing their vulnerabilities in order to more fully engage with and establish trust
from followers……”
“Magic if”
“No sane person could actually believe the events on stage were real, they could act ‘as

if’ they were.”
“One critical way that actors use the ‘magic if’ is to be in communion with the other actors on stage.”
“For never-encounter-before situation, you should narrate what is happening for

you and inquire what is happening for others. By narrating her own feelings, our leader stays present in the moment and connected to the context. By inquiring she attempts to deepen the relationship with the colleagues.”
“In essence, this meant that rather than mimicking more senior

managers, they(lower level managers) only relied on behaviours which they recognised as being part of their existing repertoire.”
“Physical action”
“… finding a reason to express your fullest feelings deeply and importantly, saying yes to the possibilities that are within a

relationship.Human beings, fortunately, don’t operate out of reason.Whatmotivates human beings are dreams.…”
“Leader’s choices”
“Leader-like actions are tied to

the motivations and dreams of the group which they lead”

In my opinion, being a leader is sometimes akin to being a professional actor. It is not the same to say that a leader must be an impostor. However, a leader can not always act in whatever ways he likes in a business setting. Like acquiring acting skills, it is a must for the leader to know how to control emotions and manage his subordinates.

resign from leadership

June 7, 2010

Due to recent occurrences in Germany, I will this time focus on how leaders stop to be leaders. The emphasis will be on the resignation of two German politics in leading positions – Roland Koch and Horst Köhler. I will discuss their way to become leaders, their achievements as leaders and why they decided to resign from their leading positions. Next I will state what I think about theses recent events, followed by opinions of other bloggers.

Roland Koch has been climbing up the career-ladder within the CDU (Christian democratic union) since 1979 with an enormous pace. In 1999 he became minister president of the province of Hesse and in 2006 he became vice-president of the CDU, which made him the second most important person within the CDU behind Merkel Mister Koch is known as a conservative hardliner and has been accused of xenophobia in many cases during his political career.
Horst Köhler spent his first 14 years as a refugee, fleeing from communist areas in the east to West Germany with is parents. Köhler is known as an economic speacialist starting is political carreer in 1976 in the Federal Ministry of Economics after having different positions he was announced as the Managing Director of the International Monetary fund 10 years ago. After living 4 years in Washington D.C. he was appointed as the President of Germany in 2004. More details about those two biographies can be found on wikipedia.org.

The similarity between between Köhler and Koch is that they both had a 30-year political career ending in important leading positions for the German state and both have just recently ( may 25th koch/ may 31st köhler) and surprisingly withdrawn from their jobs. I think the question now is were their personalities to weak as they are resigning during one of the biggest crises of modern Germany. Isn’t this exactly what a good leader should be able to do – leading through hard times? During an economic upturn a stable situation and more or less satisfied citizens almost everybody can be a leader as one is not faced by any major issues. So actually this is exactly what charactarizes a good leader: the ability to go through hard times, resist the pressure and struggle hard for one’s employees/citizens. Both – Köhler and Koch – terribly failed this assignment. What is happening at the moment is that the resignation of these politicians is even worsening the current cris
is leading to the fact that people are more insecure about the future than they already are.

Concerning this ongoing resignations infamous journalist Adorján F. Kovác claims that these politicians are leaving the sinking boats like rats. These politicians argue that they are faced by enormous pressure, but he thinks that they are not. In fact is of the opinion that politicians in Germany won’t have to deal with any consequences when they do something terribly wrong, the worst thing that could happen to them is that they “must” transfer to a top position in business life. Moreover also the blogs “quergedacht 2.0” as well “NID” take the metaphor of rats that leave the sinking boat for Germany, critzising german politicians sharply. The voice in Germany’s blog world is pretty identical at the moment. People blame Koch and Köhler for resigning in such hard times, leaving their leadership positions in times when hard work would be needed most. Furthermore in almost every blog one can read the question: which politician will be next. So I am asking as well: Who else is fed up with leading a sinking boat?