Blog > Category: Leadership

Leadership Kudos and Gaffes: Amazon taking the Kindle to the next level and Kodak's board for ruining a great company

Leadership Kudos this week go to Jeff Bezos of Amazon, introducing his latest product breakthrough, a new tablet called Kindle Fire. Listed at a remarkable price of $199 (Apple charges $499), the Fire will offer users a remarkable array of Amazon products, all stored on Amazon's cloud and rapidly downloaded. Staying true to his convictions, Bezos stayed the course with his on-line retail strategy in 2002 when the stock market collapsed and his stock lost 92% of its value. Then he invested heavily in Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle, revolutionizing the book reading business. This week Amazon's market capitalization topped $100 billion. You have to admire Bezos' courage is taking on Apple frontally, something H-P and others have failed to do.

Leadership Gaffes go this week to the Kodak Board, which has presided over the demise of a once-great corporation. In past twelve years Kodak stock has lost 99% of its value, plunging from $75 to a new low this week of $0.78. (That's not a typo!) Anticipating the digital revolution but unable to develop an internal leader, the board went outside its ranks to recruit George Fisher, then CEO of Motorola, who served as CEO from 1993-2000, but was unable to move the company into the 21st century. Fisher was succeeded by Dan Carp, who drifted from one strategy to the next during his five years as CEO. Then Antonio Perez was recruited from H-P to save the company once again, something he has failed to do. A sad tale, much like H-P, of a board that can't figure out what business it is in.

Leadership Kudos and Gaffes: Two Women Leaders

Leadership Kudos this week go to German Prime Minister Angela Merkel for her courage in keeping the Euro together as Greece's finances unravel. Germany the healthiest economy in Europe, thanks to the strength of its export business and its competitive manufacturing base, and Merkel is willing to take the political heat on the domestic front to help finance Europe's recovery. Germany is an important role model of economic success for the United States and other developed countries to study and even emulate.

Leadership Gaffes go to Carol Bartz, who was terminated by the Yahoo board of directors. Going out with guns blazing, Bartz told Fortune Magazine, that Yahoo's board is "a bunch of dofuses" and "they f---ed me over." Bartz may have inherited a struggling business model, but she presided over a series of strategic missteps.  She overestimated the much-hyped search deal with Microsoft.  She failed to realize the seriousness of the company's restructuring need and foolishly promised "no layoffs," a promise she later reneged.  Her indecisiveness over the Alibaba deal -- back and forth, ultimately to no end -- seems a metaphor for her tenure as CEO.  There are no winners in this mess.  

True North Groups offer approach to developing leaders

Minnesota companies like General Mills, 3M and Cargill have developed national reputations for their leadership development programs. As a result, they have developed many exceptional leaders, which has enabled them to sustain their performance for decades.

As these companies have expanded globally, they also have led the business world in the shift from hierarchical organizations to collaborative, horizontal ones. This is especially important with younger generations because the command-and-control model so prevalent in the 20th century has ceased to be effective. It fails to motivate front-line employees and take advantage of their knowledge and wisdom, especially in global organizations that require collaboration across different cultures.

IBM's CEO Sam Palmisano pioneered the notion of a globally collaborative organization in 2003 as he transformed IBM's hierarchy from functional and geographic silos into an integrated global network. He started with a "values jam" involving 300,000 employees over four days and articulated his ideas in a 2006 Foreign Affairs article, "The Integrated Global Enterprise."

The shift to collaborative organizations with flat structures is causing a reassessment of the ways that organizations develop leaders. Traditionally, organizations have focused on a select group of leaders who can assume the organization's top roles and have invested substantial sums on a few, while leaving others to rely on traditional management skills. Rather than just a few stars, global organizations will need many talented leaders -- hundreds, even thousands -- operating throughout the organization.

For the leaders of today, we are learning that emotional intelligence (or EQ) is more important than IQ. EQ is based more on authenticity and how well-grounded leaders are. In my experience leaders haven't failed for lack of IQ, but rather a lack of emotional intelligence.

In interviews with 125 authentic leaders for True North, we learned that EQ starts with self-awareness about your life story and the crucibles you have experienced. Becoming self-aware is hard to do on your own. People need safe places where they can share their experiences, challenges, frustrations and then get honest feedback. Such a place can be provided by True North Groups -- intimate peer groups where people talk openly in a confidential setting. These groups enable people to gain a deeper understanding of themselves by revealing hidden areas and blind spots.

In a True North Group, people feel comfortable in challenging members when they sense they are losing their bearings or deviating from their values. Members learn to accept others rather than judge them, and celebrate the differences of people with different life experiences. Groups provide support when people face challenges in their work or their lives. Psychologist Daniel Goleman, who wrote "Emotional Intelligence," says, "At a time when we need authentic leaders more than ever, True North Groups ... should be part of every leader's development."

Co-author Doug Baker Sr. and I first formed a True North Group back in 1975. Along with six other men, we have met weekly for the past 36 years. In 1983 we formed a monthly couples group with our spouses and two other couples. These groups have been a godsend in my life, helping me think through my decision to leave Honeywell to join Medtronic and later supporting my wife Penny and me when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

At Harvard Business School, 1,500 MBAs and executives have experienced these groups in our leadership development courses. Their evaluations have been uniformly positive. Many describe the experience as transformative. Unilever is asking its top 500 executives to participate in True North Groups.

Baker, a former executive at American Express Financial Advisors (now Ameriprise), and I have formed the True North Groups Institute to enable other companies to create similar groups. They have minimal cost and no professional leaders are required (although some organizations use facilitators to get them started). Only limited staff is needed to support them, making them scalable for organizations that need to develop large numbers of leaders.

I believe these groups can be instrumental in developing values-centered, collaborative leaders at all levels for large global organizations, and transforming leadership in the process.

 


Originially Posted: Star-Tribune on September 3, 2011

Why We Wrote True North Groups

Since 1975, Doug Baker and I have been actively involved in small, personal groups that have helped us navigate personal challenges with our families, careers, and health. Our group is a place where we have explored the important questions in life, and clarified and reinforced our own True North values. At their best, group members serve as caring coaches and thoughtful mentors.

Over the years we have been asked by friends and acquaintances, "How can I form such a group?" So the idea for True North Groups was born. It describes the important role that small, intimate groups are playing in personal growth and in developing leaders with high levels of self-awareness and emotional intelligence. The latter part of the book provides "how-to" manual for creating a True North Group. Our belief in the value of these groups is what motivated us to write True North Groups and form the True North Groups Institute.

What is a True North Group and what sets it apart from other groups?

  • 6-8 people meet regularly for personal discussions
  • Primary purpose is the journey of self-awareness that develops stronger leaders
  • The members follow a structured curriculum to guide that journey
  • Participants develop their hearts, forming a balanced head-heart combination

True North Groups provide the best vehicle to help people develop as human beings and leaders, providing a powerful path between our personal lives and the organizations we engage every day. They enable us to become fully alive, awakening to the enormous possibilities within each of us.

A True North Group can serve as a nurturer, truth teller, mirror and an inspirer, among other roles. It can be an antidote to social isolation, which is being increasingly recognized as a serious issue in modern society. This sense of isolation helped give rise to the “Facebook phenomenon,” which helps connect millions of people online. But social media is certainly not a substitute for intimate, trusting relationships where people can discuss their most difficult challenges, as they can in True North Groups.   

The book is organized around a familiar sequence – forming, norming, storming, performing, and reforming.  In forming your new group, the most important thing is to gather a strong group of members who are compatible and respectful of each other. Groups of people in similar age range and life stages are usually most effective.  

It is my hope that this book will provide you with a deeper understanding of the important role that a True North Group can play in your life and how you can form one.  I invite you to share your stories of True North Groups on my website and connect with other True North Group members on Twitter with the hashtag #TrueNorthGroups or on Facebook.

True North Groups A Part of Leadership Development

Tomorrow marks the Minneapolis launch of my new book, True North Groups: A Powerful Path to Personal and Leadership Development, written with co-author Doug Baker. We have had 1,500 students at Harvard Business School participate in these groups, which we refer to there at Leadership Development Groups. The comments on True North Groups in the following video come from participants in last February’s first executive education course in Authentic Leadership Development. They give a good cross-section of opinions about the value of small groups for leaders.

Leadership Kudos and Gaffes: Google's Page focused on tomorrow's market and HP's Apotheker scrambling

Kudos to Google CEO Larry Page for his bold move to acquire Motorola Mobility to integrate Android mobile operating system.  Page took over day-to-day operations at Google in April, and since then he's made strategic moves that streamlined and focused Google's growth strategy.  Page is the right leader for Google at this time.  While Schmidt was instrumental in allowing Google to become who they are today, Page's focus on mobile and social is positioning the company as a leader for tomorrow's market. 

Gaffes to Leo Apotheker and HP for confused strategy to dump PCs, Palm, Smartphones and overpay for Autonomy. Does HP know what business it is in?  Apotheker and HP are scrambling, and this type of frenetic M&A activity is in marked contrast to rival IBM's approach to disciplined value creation -- largely through organic growth.  Gerstner and Palmisano, both storied leaders, took the long-term view.  Apotheker is not.  Only 18 months ago HP bought Palm, now they want to dump it along with their core business just as the mobile computing market is growing.   

Leadership Kudos and Gaffes: Schultz leading globally and domestically, Boehner's leadership relying on chaos

Leadership Kudos this week go to Howard Schultz, founder and CEO of Starbucks,for his courageous restoration of Starbucks to a pioneering coffee house, nowexpanding around the world under Schultz's leadership. When Schultz returned as CEOin early 2008, most observers were predicting that the Starbucks mystique was waning and its growth was doomed. Schultz jumped in and addressed the problems head on, even closing all stores for a day to get his employees retrained on customer focus. Since then, Starbucks' revenues have grown in double digits, earnings have tripled, andfrom its low point in the fall of 2008, Starbucks stock has quintupled. Who says founders can't successfully go back home?

Leadership Gaffes go to House Speaker John Boehner for explaining Republicans hard line on the debt ceiling on talk radio, "A lot of them believe enough chaos would make opponents yield." He and his fellow Republicans were certainly successful in causing chaos and contributing to the historic downgrade of the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+. But the deeper issue here is that Boehner sees everything as a win-lose contest between parties and isn't focused on the country's pressing problems: jobs, growth, and deficit reduction. With 25 million Americans unable to find full-time jobs, don't we have enough chaos?

The CEO Playbook for this Crisis

CEOs of multinational corporations are in a stronger position than three years ago.  Balance sheets are strong, and productivity has increased.  This crisis presents an opportunity to go on the offensive for CEOs who are in a position of strength.  Here's the playbook I'd run:

  1. Reassure everyone that your company is in great shape.  CEOs needs to maximize their visibility to ensure employees, supplier, customers, and community that their strategy is intact.  Write an email, go on TV, post a series of Tweets, and show up to let the troops know that the company's strategy makes sense -- particularly in this tumultuous economy.  
  2. Buy your stock back.  Your stock is likely cheaper than it has been all year.  Buying back your stock puts excess cash on the balance sheet to work, it shows the market how you really feel about your growth prospects, and it oftentimes provides a floor for your stock.  
  3. Expand in emerging markets.  There is growth abroad -- and not just in China.  The current financial panic will likely accelerate the rise of new markets.  Every CEO should be doing a quarterly global review of marketshare and growth.  Now is the time to double down on bets that are playing out well in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.  
  4. Initiate cost savings and productivity improvements.  The best CEOs are always looking for efficiency increases alongside revenue growth.  Even if that means trimming up employment in the US, companies must be lean and agile to sail through roiling seas.  Growth isn't coming to the USA anytime soon, so CEOs must have an appropriate cost structure.
  5. Do cash acquisitions.  This is an opportunity to put cash to work.  As competitors' stock prices decline, look for opportunities to acquires businesses or assets in cash.  Inflation seems almost certain in mid-term.  Your cash may be the most valuable in this window that it's ever been.

This is a great time to get out from behind the desk, get into the market -- both telling your story and seeking new opportunities.  Great leaders and great companies find opportunity in times of crisis.  

Leadership Kudos and Gaffes: Automakers lead on upping standards, while politicians distract the public

Leadership Kudos this week go the CEOs of U.S. automakers, Alan Mulally of Ford, Dan Ackerson of GMand Sergio Marchionne for their leadership in enthusiastically agreeing to automobile fuel economy standards that will increase to 54 miles per gallon by 2025. This represents a 50 percent cut in greenhouse gases and a 40 percent reduction in fuel consumption compared with today’s averages. For the next decade or more, using energy efficiently is the best new source of energy.

Leadership Gaffes go to all the politicians who distracted the country with a confidence-shattering debate on raising the debt ceiling – an artificially- egrocreated limit – instead of focusing on the growth and job creation the country so desperately needs. No matter how the politicians spin the agreement, there are no winners here, and a lot of losers, including the faith in our country’s fiscal stability.

Leadership Kudos and Gaffes: Leader of a Model American Company

Leadership Kudos this week go to Caterpillar and its CEO Doug Oberhelman. Caterpillar is rapidly becoming a role model American company, showing how American companies can compete globally. With its Midwest roots and values, heavy manufacturing in the U.S. and steady long-term investments, CAT has become a global leader in its field, with large exports to Asia, Europe and the rest of the world. In its most recent quarter CAT's global revenues were up 37% and its earnings up 44%, as the company has added 6,000 American workers. More companies should follow CAT's lead.

Leadership Gaffes go to Republican Tea Party and Democratic liberal Congressmen for blocking deals negotiated by President Obama and Speaker Boehner to solve the articifically-created debt ceiling crisis. These politicians continue to put the country at risk as they maneuver for selfish political advantage.