What makes a great leader?

July 16, 2014

Nominated for a LWD posting by Dr Dina Williams

In her TED talk, [Oct, 2013] Roselinde Torres of BCG describes 25 years observing truly great leaders at work, and shares the three simple but crucial questions would-be company chiefs need to ask to thrive in the future.

Her three questions are essentially:

Where are you looking to identify change?

How are you managing diversity?

Are you courageous enough to abandon what made you successful?

Rosalinde’s studies show there is a ‘leadership gap’ regardless of efforts to bridge it through leadership development programmes. The video makes an excellent introduction to discussion of 21st century leadership and why it requires different behaviours from those associated with the omniscient leader heroes of the past.


Teresa Amabile talks on Leadership, Employee engagement and The Performance Principle

October 18, 2011


Professor Teresa Amabile summarises fifteen years of research into creative leadership in terms of her concept of the progress principle

Creativity researchers consider Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School as the most distinguished and influential researcher into creativity of her generation. Her recent book with husband Steve Kramer distils this into The Progress Principle. The TED video captures the evidence reported in the book.

How creative leadership makes a difference

In productive organisations it is the everyday actions of managers and co-workers which made the difference. In unproductive organisations there is a risk-aversion and fear of making mistakes. On the contrary in productive organisations, mistakes are lived with ‘as long as we learned from what we did’.

Inner work life

For long-term development, inner work-life is supported and reinforced by everyday interpersonal exchanges. “Support people and support their processes every day” Amabile argues.

The unobserved progress principle

Most managers do not think consciously of the importance of small wins. [I have a recollection of such a point being made within the new leadership literature, but more typically leaders we more influenced by the virtues of setting ‘great hairy goals’ and inspiring visions.]

Challenges

However, an organisational crisis may release great organisational, team and individual creativity. A crisis and positive leadership support can work but “You can’t just turn this on and off”.

What can you do?

“Think what you can do to help co-workers feel good about what they are doing”. [Catch someone doing something good]. A simple and effective principle we can all apply at work.

We are all creative leaders

When I updated Dilemmas of Leadership earlier this year, I introduced one additional chapter. It examined creative leadership. I selected Teresa’s contributions as a core example of a shared ‘Platform of Understanding’ in the field. The Progress Principle was published just a few months too late for inclusion in the chapter. It is just about the first amendment for a future edition. It implicitly supports writings on distributed leadership, and enriches our maps of creativity and engagement in the workplace.