Creativity in management and leadership studies

November 28, 2007

sleeping-giant.jpgCreativity is often said to be a vital part of modern management. Yet it remains a fringe-topic within undergraduate business degree courses, and is rarely integrated with components on leadership

Creativity has been described as the sleeping giant of business studies. Yet it can be seen to have relevance for many parts of the business curriculum such as marketing, strategy, innovation and new product development, organization studies, operations and technology management. Its relevance to leadership is becoming increasingly noted.

The following questions provide a starting point for testing subject awareness and for building an introductory lecture.

(1) How would you define creativity?

(2) Can you name a theory which explains creativity?

(3) What proportion of people would you say are creative?

(4) What has madness, mystery, and magic to do with creativity?

(5) Name an industry famed for its creative discoveries for over a century?

(6) Where does creativity fit into Tuckman’s model of team development?

(7) How was Tuckman’s model modified to explain creative teams at work?

(8) Which industries are growing the most rapidly in the 21st century?

(9) Whose work helps explain intrinsic motivation?

(10) Whose work helps explain creative clusters?

Notes:

The presentation on creativity in management which I’ve placed on slideshare

Sternberg and Amabile have made substantial contributions, as have others whose work has been covered here, and will be again in future posts.

Thanks to Alex Hough for the historical video on the Madchester Scene (U tube, 10 minute play), and tribute to iconic figure Tony Wilson.


The Ballad of Northern Rock

November 26, 2007

pirates.jpg

Weap not for me my Darling
my days are not yet numbered
for Good Sir Richard comes for me
while all around him slumbered

Fear not for me my Darling
of any knavish plot.
Soon I shall be his virgin queen,
his court a Camelot

Rejoice with me my Darling
for this I’ll be remembered
I have survived the primal jeers
and shall not be dismembered

Prepare the house my Darling
order the bridal gown
for I shall be his Northern Rock
the jewel in his crown


Leadership Quiz

November 25, 2007

washington-and-bush.jpgThe leadership quiz is offered for students of leadership. Suggestions for answering the questions can be found at the end of the post

1How would you define leadership?
2Where would you expect to find the earliest recorded descriptions of leaders?
3Who wrote about the lives of great engineers?
4What assumption lies behind trait theories of leadership?
5What do we remember as Stogdill’s contribution to leadership?
6What assumption lies behind style theories of leadership?
7Suggest two contrasting leadership styles found in experimental studies
8What is a contingency theory?
9What leadership style is associated with ‘New Leadership’ theories of the 1980s?
10What is distributed leadership?
11What leadership concept was central to Weber’s social theorizing?
12How did the theory re-emerge in later leadership studies?
13What are usually listed as the historical periods of leadership thought?
14What led to the various changes in leadership thought?

Update

The questions were based on materials to be found in Dilemmas of Leadership. Some answers can be found in a slideshare presentation on


The case of Steve McClaren and the rigged jury

November 23, 2007

mcclaren-exits.jpgJudge me after twelve games. That was the plea when Steve McClaren took over as England manager. He was always struggling. When the England football team lost that twelfth game, the jury met to see that justice was done …

Or, in less metaphoric terms, the England Football team failed to reach the European Championships. This was failure on a scale last witnessed over a decade ago.

The jury (sorry, The FA board), called an emergency meeting for 8.30 the following morning, and gathered to report their verdict (sorry, decisions). A news conference was convened and by 10 am, chairman Professor Thompson chair of the FA, and Sir David Richards of the Premier league took the main roles.

They announced that the board has terminated the contracts of Coach Steve McClaren, and deputy coach Terry Venables. Brian Barwick (CEO) is to carry out a root-and-branch study, and report his findings back to the board together with a recommendation to the board for a new appointment. The recruitment process will take as long as it takes.

One minor saving factor for all concerned. There are no competitive internationals for a while, so it is implied that the decision can wait while before the next major campaign.

Journalists quizzed Brian Barwick. Wasn’t he just a weeny-bit responsible for hiring Mr McClaren in the first place?

Intervention from chair. Brian is CEO, but we as a board take shared responsibility for what has happened.

The accused speaks

Later, the lugubrious ex-manager had his say .

“It is a sad day to have been relieved of my duties but I understand the decision of the FA … It’s a huge disappointment for the nation and fans. But I will learn from my failure,”

His failure to qualify for Euro 2008 cost him his job, said FA chief executive Brian Barwick.

“I spoke to Steve this morning – we get on very well with him. I’ve had many grown-up conversations and had another one with him this morning – and I can only wish him well. But in the end, not qualifying for Euro 2008 comes up short” McClaren’s reign was the shortest tenure of any England coach.

Fantasy football in Westminster and beyond

This has been a good week in the UK for stories about bad leadership, in politics, business, and sport. There does seem to be a few patterns common to all. I’m not sure to what degree they capture a cultural rather than a universal theme.

The scuffles in the House of Commons are seeped in ancient rituals, with occasional efforts to find imaginative ways of yah-booing that stay within the letter of the law, if not in the spirit of Bagehot. George Osborne seems to thrive on vituperation. With every battle as shadow Chancellor he grows ever younger, a variation on the Dorian Grey image, and with genetic traces of Norman Tebbitt.

In Business cum politics, this week we have noted, among others, the inevitable demise of the Northern Rockers, pretty much root and branch.

But the real fantasy football this week was played out the FA HQ at Soho Square. I can’t get that image of a bizarre trial scene out of my mind.

The nightmare

Picture the packed court room. The accused stands grim-faced and slightly slumped in the dock. The judge arrives, and then the jury trails in with the verdict.

But wait a minute. This is no ordinary jury. Isn’t that Brian Barwick, and Thompson chair of the FA, and Sir David Richards? And surely that’s one or two former England managers with them, standing next to Alan Green, BBC’s current voice of the fans? And the others seem to be journalists. The foreman is Paul Hayward of The Daily Mail.

The verdict of this jury has been unanimous. The defendent is found guilty as charged. Defendant seems unmoved, as if expecting the verdict. But then (this is a bad dream, isn’t it) the foreman stuns the court into silence.

This is a rigged jury

This is no ordinary jury, he cries. It’s a rigged trial. McClaren is a fall guy for the toytown Napoleons at the FA. They even got themselves on to the jury. They are the real culprits. I have already made a deposition that proves it.

“The blazers, who paid Sven Goran Eriksson £25million to reach three quarter-finals and then arrogantly assumed Luiz Felipe Scolari would accept the England job just as he was about to lead Portugal to a World Cup, remain untouchable, unindicted, beyond the reach of the anger that washed over McClaren and his players.

Why call Sir Dave and the chairman of the FA to account when you can blame Scott Carson? Why should anyone at Soho Square resign when you can boot out Terry Venables, who was hired as a human shield to protect McClaren from the press and then marginalised throughout the campaign?

The more urgent need is to consider not 45 minutes but 40 years of failure and here we trudge back to the realisation that the crudeness and physicality of the game in these islands is not conducive to international success.”

Uproar in court. Cries of shame. Resign. To the tower.

I wake up from the nightmare. Check the newspapers. No, it’s not entirely fantasy football. England did lose to Croatia. And as someone said, hinting at the manager’s golden goodbye: Football? It’s a game of two and half million pounds.


Thomas Enders Parachutes into Airbus Leadership

November 23, 2007

thomas-enders.jpg
Former Paratrooper Thomas Enders has hit the floor running as leader of Airbus. His new boss at EADS, Louis Gallois, may be happy to leave the German in the limelight

In the wake of recent restructuring at EADS, Thomas Enders, former co-CEO, took on an apparently lesser job as operational chief of the major manufacturing operation of Airbus. The other former co-CEO was Louis Gallois, who assumed sole leadership at EADS.

In a speech to workers at Hamburg [Thursday November 22nd 2007] Enders returned to a familiar theme, the vulnerability of the European company to the continued weakness of the American dollar.

The BBC has been presenting the story as Airbus fearing ‘weak-dollar death’

“The dollar’s rapid decline is life-threatening for Airbus [and]has gone beyond the pain barrier”

Airbus is already shedding about 10,000 jobs and selling plants as part of its Power8 restructuring plan after delays to its A380 superjumbo drove the planemaker into a loss last year. The dollar has hit new record lows against the euro this week.

Enders has taking a higher profile since taking over a new role as head of Airbus. The new structure has less of a feeling of realpolitik about it, even if the whole company had suffered for years through the tensions of Franco-German co-ownership, with minor additional support-roles from the Governments of Spain and the United Kingdom.

Background

Two stories have repeatedly surfaced in press reports. The one story examines possible malpractices within the company. The other is the competitive struggles with arch-rival Boeing for global dominance in civilian and military aircraft markets. We have followed the ebb and flow of events in earlier posts.

The situation has been brilliantly updated by the Speigel team of Dinah Deckstein and Armin Mahler in an extended interview with Enders at Airbus Headquarters in Toulouse, France.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Enders, you are the fifth CEO of Airbus in the space of only two years. As a former paratrooper, how does it feel being in the ejection seat?
Enders: When you’re going into a difficult mission as a paratrooper, you know that success is not guaranteed. The same applies in my job. As the former co-CEO of parent company EADS, I don’t exactly see Airbus as unknown terrain. In other words, I knew what to expect.

Pulling no punches, the journalists probe the potential financial irregularities, the company’s restructuring plans and production difficulties, and the possible difficulties of the relationships between Enders and Gallois. Some of the questioning produced the routine company line. The on-going enquiry was brushed aside. But some answers were more revealing. Enders spoke frankly of the political difficulties that had plagued EADS, and Airbus specifically. This was also indicated in the tardy response of production difficulties of the mighty A380. He also confronted the problems of under-investment for innovation in competitive technology, warning that the decline in the dollar plases the company in an increasingly tough situation.

SPIEGEL: The delivery of the first A380 on Monday of this week marks the preliminary end of an almost two-year cliffhanger. To complete the jet on time, employees had to be transferred to the Toulouse assembly plant from all across Europe. How much longer to you plan to produce the jet using this costly individualized approach?
Enders: The first wave of 25 planes, including the five test aircraft, will in fact be produced in what is essentially manual labor. For the second wave, a modern, harmonized IT system will be used which does, in fact, make industrial series production possible.
SPIEGEL: Your other big problem is the A350, the model that’s competing with the 787. It had to be completely revised, in response to pressure from customers. How could this happen?
Enders: It’s very simple: We had underestimated Boeing. We hope that will never happen to us again.
SPIEGEL: … Boeing seems to be playing with a better hand. Many of your plants lack the know-how to produce the new plastic fuselages in sufficient quantities and at the necessary level of quality.
Enders: Nonsense! Our plants in Stade, Nantes and Illescas in Spain have long been in command of this technology and are not in any way inferior to Boeing in this regard. But we cannot come up with the needed investment money to convert all Airbus operations to carbon fiber production. That’s why we plan to sell some of our plants to new owners.

SPIEGEL: Is there growing political pressure to award the contract to the last remaining domestic contender?
Enders: Of course, when you are dealing with national politicians there are preferences for national solutions. This is no different in Germany than in France or Great Britain. But you won’t be seeing a feel-good or cozy compromise designed to satisfy political interests, which could leave us with some big problems in the medium term.

The Gallois Enders game

Reading between the lines, Enders appears as a non-nonsense leader, more likely to demonstrate toughness, where Louis Gallois would instinctively display a more conciliatory style. This makes the German’s activities in Toulouse all the more interesting to follow. Gallois will be as comfortable out of the limelight, as Enders is in it.

SPIEGEL: Do you confront the employees with uncomfortable truths, if need be?
Enders: I happen to be someone who doesn’t beat about the bush. I like to get to the point. You will not see me changing my style now and tiptoeing around. The important issue is that people realize that I am a hands-on manager — not someone who’s interested in politics, but someone who has the company’s interests at heart

The tough and tender combination of Enders and Gallois may yet turn out to be a formidable team at EADS.

To go more deeply

As well as the informative text, Spiegel has some superb graphics.

Our earlier posts can be followed through the Airbus categories. These include The financial investigation called by Nicholas Sarcozy, and also

the corporate restructuring.


Aspects of leadership: An action-learning experiment

November 22, 2007

officer-training.jpg
An action learning experiment was carried out by group of senior officers following the principles of Reg Revans. Four teams were assembled, and examined four recent leadership cases

According to action learning pioneer, Reg Revans, the most powerful learning is profoundly embedded in sharing experiences, which can be achieved within action learning sets or groups.

In an earlier post, this was explained as follows:

The learning context must be a real working/project. Scheduled input of theory knowledge /lectures should be kept to a minimum and more time provided for workshops, meetings and questions. An independent adviser needs to be present to facilitate, help or guide when needed. An atmosphere is of openness to confronting sensitive internal issues and flexibility in terms of scheduling

In this application, the action learning sets were assembled from officers of the British armed services, all of whom were making the transition into non-military careers on a senior executive programme within a international Business School.

The Cases

Case one
O’ Neal (Merrill Lynch)
Issues:
O’Neill credited with firm’s growth and success in past
Recent financial down-turn also placed at his door
‘Tipping point’ action (strategic discussions with Wachovia)
Very lucrative ‘amicable’ parting

Case two
The simple sailor (Admiral West)
Issues:
West is newcomer to high-profile political role
‘Critical incident’ (He seems to reverse a decision unconvincingly)
Realpolitik versus duty?
Story simplifies and discards ‘inconvenient’ evidence of career success

Case three
Charles (Chuck) Prince (Citigroup)
Issues
Was Prince a formerly successful leader who ‘lost it’ (c.f. O’ Neal)?
His removal seems connected with embarrassing write-downs of third quarter (sub-prime losses)
Board emphasizes continuity of strategy, but with a new leader
Leader departs with honor and ceremonial gifts

Case four
Bob Nardelli (Home Depot;Chrysler)
Issues
Nardelli fired from Home Depot partly through leadership style
‘Difficult but not a ‘simple’ former American Footballer
Private equity firm (Cerberus) needs ‘tough-minded leader’ at Chrysler
Is Nardelli the right sort of leader for the job?

Leadership issues

The cases have some commonalities. Three of the four support the common perception that leaders are expected to make a significant difference to their organizations. (Case two did not disprove it, either).

All cases indicate the way in which a leader acts takes on symbolic significance to others. This is an important aspect in the new leadership model since the 1980s.

The symbolic story becomes transmitted through media and other story-makers and purveyors. Each story has its heroes, villains, crises, battles, and acts of individual valour or foolishness.

The cases also add credence to notions of leadership as being highly situational. However, they leave unanswered the question of whether the same leader willl be equally effective in different circumstances.

Leadership questions

The four action-learning sets shared their discussion findings. It would be consistent with action learning principles to treat the learning process as being mainly relevant to those within each group, drawing on their own experiences. However, it also seems consistent to report findings, providing further questions for subsequent study.

The discussions touched on situational leadership raising a point found in Machiavelli’s writings:Can you be a tough leader (and implement job cuts) and then lead the reshaped organization?
[Compare the situation with a military commander who has had to carry through a campaign that accepted major casualties in action.]

Is a ‘poor’ style usually accepted when the going is good?

Where should the buck stop in political affairs?
[Should we take a view of leadership as more distributed than hierarchical?]

Is moral courage a handicap in environments where short-termism is prominent?

The EMR concept

Discussions also resulted in an elegant three-word summary of which can be seen as the start of a simple but powerful framework for examining contemporary leadership cases. The habitual response of an academic is to give an idea a name, and mess about with it so that it looks more like a framework or model.

I will avoid the temptation (for the moment) of drawing double headed arrows, boxes, or Venn diagrams, reporting only the three elements suggested by one action learning set as capturing the main elements which permit an examination of contemporary leadership cases:

Expectations
Media
Results

Footnote

The post was prepared from materials provided in advance of the workshop, and completed following the presentations of the four action-learning teams


The Post Office Saves the Day

November 22, 2007

father-christmas-stamp.jpg

The Post Office offers a Christmas savings scheme to meet the needs of savers damaged in last year’s Farepak crash. This is a financial services innovation which is welcome news to many of the most vulnerable families in the community. It also demonstrates that The Post Office may still be able to develop new strategic options for itself

The Post Office has been under threat for some time. It has hardly won accolades for its leadership, as competition increasingly invades once-protected markets. The Royal Mail group continues to present a beleaguered image. Its current news bulletin begins

We apologise to all of our customers for the inconvenience and disruption caused by the recent industrial action and are pleased to announce that there is no strike action currently taking place.

The announcement concludes in less than convincing style

We are pleased to confirm that the CWU EC has ratified the deal on pay and modernisation and that this acceptance of the proposal means that Royal Mail is now able to go ahead with plans to modernise the business and make it more flexible, efficient and able to compete more effectively. We are making sure that any changes we make will not cause any disruption to our customers and where we have mail for customers, deliveries will be made each day across the country.

The Post Office and Royal Mail

As its website indicates,

Post Office Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Mail Group Ltd and operates under the Post Office® brand. Managing a nationwide network of around 14,300 Post Office® branches, we are the largest Post Office network in Europe and the largest retail branch network in the UK handling more cash than any other business…

Post Office Ltd is one of the three arms that make up the Royal Mail Group, along with Royal Mail and Parcelforce Worldwide. Post Office Ltd’s Chief Executive and non-executive Chairman sit on the Group’s management board.

A leadership opportunity?

When are there leadership opportunities? At times of great threat. Why? Because there the obviousness of the threats will have encouraged considerations of what to do about them? Doing nothing may indeed by good for rather subtle reasons. This amount to ‘doing nothing in a calculative way’ rather than in a helpless way, the latter backed up by denial. Doing something can also be backed up by denial and by false calculation.

In other words, not acting is also a possibility. Acting or non-acting can be strategies. They can be considered strategies. They can be well considered and doubtfully considered. The circumstances surrounding threat at least may increase conscious efforts to do something better and different. Sometimes the strategy has been elevated to a leadership principle of masterful inactivity.

The opportunity in the threat

My unexpected conclusion is that the Post Office has a rare asset that it carries through the financial crisis, and which is one that most other financial institutes do not have. The asset lies in the confidence of customers that any deal offered will be as near as safe as any deal can be.

The implication is that the proposed savings product, although a relatively small one, could be an indicator of futher possibilities based along the same lines of guaranteed safe and regular savings. This was the strength of the home-savings schemes and of the offerings of the door-to-door insurance salesmen epitomized by The Man from the Pru. , The Pearl, The Refuge for a century or more.

The healthy option

If this is the case, it will be a healthy option that has emerged partly as a consequence of a breakdown of trust in the current business image of high street banks and their current accounts (no pun intended). Healthy, because the good old Post Office was hardly a considered option by many ordinary people who considered themselves to have more financial savvy than to follow the untutored practice of saving with the Post Office, or with the friendly societies.

The possibility is healthy because it is not dressed up in dubious marketing promises of foolishly attractive yields. What you are offered is what you will get. Maybe, just maybe, the simple promise can not easily be copied by competitors.

Straws in the wind?

The idea is based on several assumptions. First, that the various beffetings to the international and national financial systems are producing a shift in attitudes among members of the general public. These in effect result in beliefs that banks are no longer safe havens for money. In the UK this week, the missing computer records of thirty-five million members of the public may contribute to such atttitudes for some time to come. The second assumption is that the Post Office is, in contrast, safe. Not safer, but safe.

We will see.


Creativity is a Leader’s not-so-secret Weapon

November 18, 2007

convergence_jackson_pollock.jpgCreativity has always been a powerful attribute of successful leaders. This has become more obviously the case over the last few decades, as leaders are seen to be engaged in creating visions, strategies, products, designs, businesses, and even creative networks. Change involves creative individuals, teams, organizations, and clusters or communities

This post accompanies a presentation on creativity and leadership (fostering creativity)

Creativity has pervaded so many aspects of all our lives. It transcends business life, as it transforms it, and in many of its manifestations it can be linked with leadership.

Definitions, definitions

Like leadership, creativity has acquired a bucket-load of definitions. One explanations of their shared profusion is that both cut across a range of academic and practical domains, so that ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ definitions have not yet successfully been reconciled. (Will they ever be?)

However, in preparing this, I was somewhat encouraged to find myself able to condense down a lot of the definitions into two robust ones that serve to capture much of the variety. Borrowing from various sources, I offer the all-purpose general suggestion that:

‘Creativity is concerned with discovery processes leading to new and unexpectedly valuable ideas’.

The second suggestion is that creativity occurs when somneone is

‘Looking where all have looked, and seeing what no one has seen’.

Looking but not seeing

The looking and seeing definition is an old favourite of mine. It captures the received wisdom that a creative act for someone, a moment of insight, occurs because many others have looked but not seen. I seem to remember a quote from Lord Chesterfield who confided in a letter that ‘from a hayloft, a horse looks like a violin’. The violin/horse in the presentation illustrates the noble Lord’s insight.

More significantly, the history of creative discovery relates of numerous people who were the first to see something that subsequently established as true (or, in an even more philosophically complex description, ‘truly creative’).

From Archimedes to Alexander Fleming; from Newton, to Mme Curie; from the little boy who saw that the Emperor had no clothes, all have been hailed for their significant moments of insight.

Theories of creativity

The insight school of creativity is but one among various sub-sets within cognitive psychology. Humanistic psychologists have contributed self-actualizing and transcendent theories. Information scientists have offered data-processing models. From rather different directions, we have natural scientists taking an evolutionary stance, and creationists offering their own theological interpretations.

Creativity in action

I want move from more refined theory into creativity in action. In doing so, I borrow a neat taxonomy which I learned from the Hungarian scholar Istvan Magyari-Beck. Isvan proposed some years ago that a new discipline of creatology could be developed, which could be structured into levels of the individual, group, organization and culture.

At each level, different issues arise, although there remains an overriding practical concern that requires some theoretical grounding at each level: How might creativity be fostered?

The creative individual

Magyari-Beck indicated that most studies have been at the level of the creative individual. This was true in the 1980s, and is only marginally different today. One difference is acceptance (particularly through the impact of the work of Teresa Amabile) that creativity is essentially a socially-constructed phenomenon.

Another shift parallel one in leadership research. For as long as they had been studied, Leaders were considered exceptional individuals, with special inherent traits. Only around the 1960s did the trait view of the exceptional leader soften into the situational and contextual view. Even today, the leader as ‘somebody very special’ is a widely-held belief.

Likewise, the creative individual was for a long time considered to be inspired and gifted. Around the time leadership was taking on a more egalitarian hue, educationalists and humanistic psychologists were exploring ‘everyday creativity’. Maslow, Carl Rogers, Fromm and others introduced a wide audience to the notion that ‘we are all creative and have the capacity to achieve that potential’.

The creative group

The creative group has become the shock-force for organizational change. More and more non-routine tasks are conducted in projects. Project teams are expected to show creative skills while seeking goals or targets of the wider organization.

Tuckman’s celebrated four-stage model suggested that all teams develop and change, until they achieve the norm of an effective team work. Rickards & Moger and co-workers at Manchester wondered how teams might be able to outperform expected behaviors. Their answer was through creative efforts which broke through behavioural and structural barriers.

The Creative organization

The creative organization was the subject of one of the earliest texts on creativity. However, it took the rise of the so-called Creative Industries to accelerate interest in such institutional forms. Today, the largest players in the world of electronic, communication and entertainment technologies have exploded into economic and social importance.

Nevertheless, we do well to remember that creative organizations can compete successfully in what appears to be rather ill-favored origins. Toyota, and the Chinese multi-national Haier come to mind.

The Creative culture

And so we reach the highest level of complexity in Magyari-Beck’s taxonomy. His own country had been at one time a hotspot of creative culture. Hotspots from ancient cultural clusters in China, Mesopotamia, Athens, Paris moved to modern hotspots including Cambridge (England and New England), Silicon Valley, even, some say, ‘Madchester’.

Peter Kawalek and his team seem to be rescuing the creativity in Manchester from the Madness.

The still-controversial social scientist Richard Florida is mapping the creative hot spots of the world in increasingly in-depth studies.

To go more deeply

This brief voyage around the world of creativity leaves too many ports of call unvisited. I hope to collect the views of several audiences (including blog readers) which will lead to suggestions for other perspectives.


HMS Westminster: A Tale of Two Control Ships

November 15, 2007

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Two years ago, Admiral West was in control of HMS Westminster directing the international fleet review for the bi-centennial celebrations commemorating the battle of Trafalgar. This week, as newly appointed security minister under the command of Gordon Brown, the former Sea-Lord was taking a little time to find his sea legs

‘I’m just a simple sailor’. The quote by Admiral Lord West on Wednesday November 14th 2007 will become part of contemporary British folk-lore.

The news story cropped up during a period of parliamentary struggles. Gordon Brown, having flourished in the first few months as Prime Minister, had found his Government falling behind in the opinion polls in renewed onslaughts from David Cameron’s conservatives.

The political battles increased in intensity after the summer break (almost as time-honoured as the military practice of a pause to get the harvest in). In the United Kingdom, Her majesty’s loyal government writes the speech which the monarch then reads to her representatives gathered at the Palace of Westminster. The speech is then ritually debated by said representatives.

One of the multiplicity of issues under scrutiny is a bid by the Government to increase the time in which suspects may be held in custody without charging. The debate involves deeply held concerns about liberty and the principle of habeas corpus.

Habeas corpus (ad subjiciendum) is Latin for “you may have the body” (subject to examination). It is a writ which requires a person detained by the authorities be brought before a court of law so that the legality of the detention may be examined … Sir William Blackstone, who wrote his famous Commentaries on the Laws of England in the 18th Century, recorded the first use of habeas corpus in 1305. But other writs with the same effect were used in the 12th Century, so it appears to have preceded Magna Carta in 1215 … Michael Zander QC, Emeritus Professor of Law at the London School of Economics, says: “Habeas corpus has a mythical status in the country’s psyche.

Background

The specific circumstances which embroiled Lord West were those accompanying the security measures following the terrorist attacks in London in 2005. The Government under Tony Blair had failed to obtain further legal powers for the police to hold suspects without charge. Gordon Brown, on his appointment in the summer of 2007 attempts to revive and revise the proposals. As part of his idea of a Government of all the talents, Brown appoints Admiral West to a ministerial position, in August, as Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office.

The newly ennobled Lord West has been set a task to review security in public places. This includes the appointments of non-nationals to the Health Service. This brief was a swift response to one of the first challenges faced by the new Prime Minister. A foiled terrorist attack at Glasgow airport revealed involvement from a terrorist cell including medical specialists who had gained entry to the NHS with inadequate security screening.

The Queen’s Speech

This week the debate on the Queen’s speech drew to a close. Lord West was preparing his report, meeting with various committees, and fitting in a round of press interviews. Gordon Brown was facing a testing Prime Minister’s question time, which would include tricky attacks on his intended security legislation.

The BBC played its part in generating and sustaining the basic story line

Lord West told the BBC at 0820 he had yet to be convinced of the need to extend the 28 day limit, a view at odds to most recent ministerial comments. Just over an hour later, after a visit to Downing Street, he told the BBC that he was actually convinced of the case. He later insisted he had not changed his mind, saying as a “simple sailor” he had not chosen his words well.

The blogging community seizes on the story with enthusiasm.

Why the hell have we got a ‘simple sailor‘ in charge of our anti-terrorism strategy? Were all the complicated ones busy?

What’s going on?

This is a rather nice example of the dynamics of a modern political story. At face-value, the reader is left with the impression of bungling incompetence from people who should know better. Stereotypes are reinforced. Brown is a control freak who manipulates others into shows of puppet-like obedience. Lord West is expected to toe the party line at all times, like the other puppets.

Students of leadership are aware that beliefs tend to be grounded in ‘common-sense’ assumptions which can simplify the picture to an extent that we ignore aspects that are uncomfortable, or that do not fit in.

It tends to be worth looking beyond the story for those inconvenient facts. Bloggers are strong at unearthing facts others would prefer to leave buried. However, righteous indignation is often more of an influence than efforts to examine and critique a story. For righteous indigation and balance, you have to go back to respected sources. Even that’s a matter of judgement. The Guardian’s view is not everyone’s idea of a balanced analysis, but it did seem to reach another level of insight here.

During his naval and governmental career, security minister Lord West has repeatedly spoken out against government policy. Before he stood down as head of the navy last year, Lord West, who distinguished himself in the Falklands war when he was the last to leave the sinking HMS Ardent, warned that cuts to the service would leave it unable to protect Britain’s coastline.

The former first Sea Lord has condemned the decision by the Ministry of Defence to allow Royal Navy hostages held by Iran to sell their stories, has harboured serious doubts about the legality of the invasion of Iraq, and consulted lawyers over whether naval personnel could face war crimes charges.
Despite, or possibly because of, his criticism of Tony Blair’s administration, West was appointed parliamentary under-secretary of state for security and counter-terrorism in Gordon Brown’s “government of all the talents”. His remit included conducting a review Britain’s terror laws, which has led him – once again – to put himself at odds with the official government line ….

A case of herding cats?

In an earlier post we reported on an answer to a question on leadership in the House of Lords. It was put to another distinguished naval commander, Admiral Lord Michael Boyce. His reply was instructive:

Question: How does leadership work in The House of Lords?

Answer: The Conservative and labour Peers have a kind of ‘whip’ system [enforcement officers]. But managing cross-benchers … that’s like herding cats!

The additional talents recruited into Gordon Brown’s Government are a new species, with evidence of some of the characteristics of the cross-bench feral felines.

Leadership Lessons?

Where to begin? A cautionary tale, indeed for newly appointed Ministers, and maybe newly appointed Prime Ministers. But are there lessons for a wider range of students of leadership?

Might the case be worth studying by any military officer considering a new career in the political arena for indications of necessary changes in comunications and decision-making styles?

Or might there be lessons for any professional taking up a role a distance away from his or her previous career path?

Above all, what actions and by whom might have resulted in a different and more desirable outcome?


Football Leadership: Who are the Fifth-level masters in the Premiership today?

November 11, 2007

arsene-wenger.jpgmark-hughes.jpgFifth-level leaders have become one of the latest Business School obsessions which can be applied to sporting leadership Unlike the much-publicised charismatic leaders, they are supposed to be rather modest, and like to keep out of the limelight, and they create ‘built to last’ organizations. There are some examples in the English football Premiership today who confirm the theory

The Premiership is a wonderful laboratory for anyone interested in sporting leadership. It has a remarkable collection of leaders, whose style and performance are about as visible as you can get outside those exhibitionists on 24-hour display in Celebrity Big Brother and related TV programmes.

I have been catching on the theory of fifth-level business leaders recently, and began to wonder what (if anything) could be gained from extending my week-day labours to the world of football management.

Fifth-level leadership

Fifth-level leader is a term invented by business guru Jim Collins. His work is regarded as technically sound enough, and has increasingly reached a very wide popular audience.

In a nutshell, Collins claims that he has compared the performances of various kinds of leaders of America’s largest corporations. On a scale of one to five, the most successful (and therefore ‘best’) leaders are given a rating of five (hence, they are fifth-level leaders). They turned their organisations from Good to Great, which was the title of a book he wrote about the subject.

Exceptional companies and fifth-level leaders have been explained as follows:

At the helm of each of these companies stood individuals who[m] Collins describes as “counterintuitive [or] counter cultural,” … Surprisingly, the CEOs of these remarkable companies were not aggressive, not self promoting and not self congratulatory. This relatively unique class of leader possesses the ability, says Collins, to “build enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility plus professional will.”

So the theory suggests that the egoists as a group failed to reach the very heights of leadership performance compared with a group fifth-level leaders with a more modest and publicity-shy leaders.

There’s quite a bit more to go into, and the whole concept is in need of further testing, using different methods and measures. But the basic idea will do quite nicely for our purposes here.

In an earlier post, writing about such leaders, I used the example of Jonathan Warburton, as ‘the greatest thing since sliced bread’ for the bread-makers that had been keeping business in the family for five generations.

Why ego may get in the way of performance

Collins wondered why his results came out the way they did. He suggested that one plausible explanation is that ego can get in the way of performance. A tendency to be constantly in the limelight may be one indicator of a certain kind of ego. Such individuals are (or become) prone to act as if their views were better than those belong to anyone else. Furthermore, what was good for them was good for the organisation (rather than acting as if what was good for the organisation, its workers, and customers, was more important than their own needs).

If we follow the Collins principle, there will be quite a few fourth level managers in the Premiership, and even a few who don’t quite make it even to level four.

Can we find fifth-level leaders in the Football Premiership?

I would say that the style of the fifth-level manager has most obviously been exhibited, over an adequate time period, by Arsene Wenger of Arsenal, who has been rightly admired for creating teams that are built to last. For many years, he has displayed the fifth-level style, which is partly that of an absence not a presence. The absence is of behaviours that appear to be driven by personal ego, sometimes to the detriment of the short-term consequences. As we saw above, fifth-level leaders were not aggressive, not self-promoting and not self-congratulatory.

Among the younger managers, I would nominate Mark Hughes of Blackburn Rovers FC as a fifth-level leader in the making. If I am right, he epitomises the absence of what might be termed ‘aggressiveness in the service of the ego’. As a player, aggressiveness was the hallmark of his style, although he had a far gentler inter-personal style off the pitch.

So there you have it. Fifth-level leadership theory applied to football managers. I would encourage anyone interested in wishing to take the idea further.

What a load of rubbish …

‘What a load of rubbish’. A well-known chant from the terraces, which has survived the demise of the football terrace. Maybe you think that about the idea of fifth-level leadership. If you do, tell me why. I may be a bit of an agent as far as ideas go, but I’m free-lance, and I’m not engaged in a selling mission on behalf of Jim Collins, or anyone else.

But it does help suggest that a charismatic style may not be the only one requred of a successful football coach, and explain why Arsene Wenger has done quite nicely in a more understated way than some of his professional rivals.