Blog > Category: Leadership

Authentic Leadership Revisited

Nine years ago today the New York Times favorably reviewed Authentic Leadership, my first book. At the time "authenticity" in leadership was not a well-established idea. Many people asked, "What is an authentic leader?" although the concept seemed self-evident to me as being genuine, real and true to who you are. In those years authenticity has been popularized by Oprah Winfrey and others, as people search for the real thing.

With repeated leadership failures, many people today are eager to find authentic leaders, and the ideas have gradually become widely accepted, even among academics. More and more students are studying authentic leadership and striving to lead in this way. In spite of several well-publicized leadership failures, the new generation of corporate CEOs, many of whom I know personally, are highly authentic and doing an excellent job of leading, in spite of the economic headwinds. I find these trends very encouraging and feel that they bode well for the future of corporate leadership.

For those of you interested in Authentic Leadership and its successor, True North, here are two excellent blogs summarizing its ideas: http://bit.ly/P71wLS and http://bit.ly/NJ7z8x. If you haven't read either or both, of course www.amazon.com would be happy to send them to you.

As always, your feedback on these ideas is greatly appreciated.

Finding a Cure for "CEO-itis"

By: Joann S. Lublin for The Wall Street Journal

Warning: You could be at risk of contracting "CEO-itis."

An affliction of arrogance that plagues many people picked for powerful posts, its symptoms include a tendency toward isolation, belief that you're smarter than others, preference for loyalists, aversion to changing course even in the face of failure -- and love of royal treatment.

It appears to occur when promising managers reach the corner office or other C-suite spots. Once infected, once-successful executives often underperform and put themselves at great risk of early exits, experts say.

In June, John Figueroa quit after 17 months as chief executive of Omnicare Inc. "He believed he accomplished the goals established by the board,'' the nursing-home pharmacy operator announced.

But Mr. Figueroa also acted imperiously, ignored suggestions from colleagues, and made extensive personal use of the corporate aircraft, according to people familiar with the situation.

In short, the CEO title went to his head, one informed individual says. McKesson Corp., Mr. Figueroa's prior employer, had recommended him as a collaborative team player, another person remembers. Omnicare declined to comment.

Mr. Figueroa says he's "very proud of all the great things we accomplished" during his Omnicare stint, though he concedes he wasn't a warm and fuzzy boss. "I certainly did not make friends with everyone as tough decisions had to be made," he says. "We changed things very quickly, and looking back, I could have been better" at communicating with the board and managers.

Similarly, while Mr. Figueroa denies abusing perks, he confirms that a friend of his daughter flew with him, his wife and daughter on the corporate aircraft during a business trip.

Every top executive once was a rising star, building a base of influence. What changes them along the way?

David Kirchhoff, head of Weight Watchers International Inc., admits that he's had bouts of CEO-itis since assuming command in 2007. "It's almost impossible to avoid completely," he explains. "People treat you differently" when you become chief executive. He says he keeps his ego in check by working closely with people who enjoy teasing him.

Senior managers with an inflated sense of their superiority repeat actions long after they stop working because they overlook "information that has changed," says Carol S. Dweck, a Stanford University psychology professor and author of "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success." The rapid pace of change in most businesses requires more questioning, not less, she notes.

The problem, also called CEO disease, "is beyond epidemic," in part because executives today are so stressed that they fail to open themselves to new ideas and see themselves as "God's gift to the world," says Richard Boyatzis, an organizational behavior, psychology and cognitive science professor at Case Western University. He co-wrote "Primal Leadership,'' a 2002 book that discusses CEO disease.

Still, it is possible to get ahead without getting a swelled head. The remedy, leadership specialists say, involves the often painful process of reattaching an executive's feet to the ground.

Here are suggestions, gathered from ten present and former CEOs, for how to maintain equilibrium after you land a top job:

Surround yourself with highly capable lieutenants. 

"You have to have enough self-confidence to know you'll do well if you have a bunch of smart people doing well," Mr. Kirchhoff observes.

Strong, talented associates "make it easy to acknowledge I don't always – or even often – have the best idea in the room," concurs Scott Wine, CEO of Polaris Industries Inc., a maker of off-road vehicles, motorcycles and snowmobiles. That's why "I cannot be arrogant or expect unwarranted privileges," he adds.

Encourage dissent, discourage sycophants.

Help subordinates overcome their fear of offering frank feedback – but resist their seductive accolades.

"Reward people who challenge you," recommends William George, a former CEO of Medtronic Inc. "I didn't promote people who didn't take me on."

Mr. George says he especially disliked associates who frequently flattered him or showed up uninvited at meetings in order to gain face time with the CEO. For the worst sycophants, "I actually had to move them out," recollects Mr. George, now a management practice professor at Harvard Business School.

Regularly admit and fix your mistakes. 

Taking responsibility for your errors "is a very powerful way to keep yourself humble,'' Mr. Kirchhoff says. He recently took his own advice.

Weight Watchers' first-quarter profit fell more than expected on virtually flat revenue growth. During a May earnings call, Mr. Kirchhoff blamed the disappointing performance on execution issues. "I bear responsibility for those misses," he said.

Treat every employee with respect. 

Carin Stutz, hired to lead Cosi Inc. in January, is trying to revive the struggling fast-casual dining chain. Her predecessor resigned shortly after Nasdaq warned that it might delist the company. 

"There is definitely a lot more attention and visibility in this (CEO) role," says Ms. Stutz, previously a Brinker International Inc. executive. "I feel more responsible than ever to respect and support people."

Ms. Stutz chose a highly visible way to demonstrate respect for Cosi workers. She spent ten hours a day during her initial five weeks as CEO going through store-manager training. Among other things, she baked bread, prepared food and ran the cash register at restaurants in three cities.

Find an objective sounding board outside the office. 

A spouse, executive coach or informal group of advisors can alert you about looming signs of CEO-itis.

Mr. George, for instance, has attended a men's support group every Wednesday morning for nearly 35 years. "You're losing it (humility),'' some members warned while he ran Medtronic.

He says he was being too direct with his employees because he thought he had all the answers. Thanks to such reality checks, Mr. George adds, "you pay attention to your behavior.''

Enhance Your Overseas Experience

This article originally appeared in Harvard Business Review.


As the world becomes increasingly global, the need for true global citizens to lead organizations in business, nonprofits, and government is far greater than in decades past. Global citizens who understand the importance of cultural nuances are able to bring people together across organizational boundaries and are more effective working and collaborating anywhere in the world.

 

Becoming a global citizen requires that aspiring leaders spend time living in different countries early in life, so they can appreciate cultural differences, incorporate what they learn into their work lives, and build networks of global relationships. A key to the success of IBM's Sam Palmisano, for example, was the understanding he gained by living in Japan that enabled him to create IBM's "globally integrated enterprise" in 2006.

Corporations seek leaders who are comfortable in many cultures; they want those who can speak multiple languages and understand the nuances of doing business outside their home regions. In fact, many global companies have formal international rotation programs to build such global leaders. German consumer company Henkel requires its leaders to work in at least two countries to be considered for promotion.

But the benefits aren't just organizational. Living in different countries and cultures can lead to a rounder, more fulfilling life. Take our experiences, for example. Bill had formative experiences living with his family in Belgium in the early 1980s and in Switzerland ten years ago. Leading global businesses since the early 1970s and serving as a board member of two European companies, Bill's travels throughout the world shaped his ideas for developing global leaders. John found working abroad in Europe and the Middle East not only improved his understanding of the importance of cultural and regional differences, but also helped him build a global network of friends and colleagues and lasting memories of the places he visited.

For aspiring leaders who want to become global citizens and increase their global fluency, here are some suggestions to get started:

1. Target at least one fundamentally different culture. While it may be tempting to live in a culture similar to your own — for example, Americans working in Great Britain — the most compelling learning experiences come from living in cultures that are sharply differently from your own. Chinese professionals working in South Africa, for example, will find their existing cultural assumptions challenged as they gain increased humility by learning local languages and coping with different norms.

2. Spend time studying overseas. Studying in different cultures enables young leaders to understand cultural nuances and become actively engaged with global organizations. Harvard Business School now sends all 900 MBAs to work overseas in its Global Immersion Program. Global organizations prefer candidates who have studied abroad because these early experiences will broaden your perspective about seeking fascinating global opportunities throughout your life. Look for opportunities, and if you're already out of school, ask if your organization offers programs to give you experience abroad.

3. Learn the local language. As English becomes the language of business, it is tempting to get by with limited knowledge of local languages. That's a mistake. Learning local languages enables you to appreciate cultural nuances and develop more personal relationships. Being fluent in multiple languages makes it easier to learn new ones and opens up career opportunities.

4. Don't judge cultural differences or local people. When your new environment is sharply different from prior experiences, it's tempting to make snap judgments about your experiences and stay attached to your own culture. Resist that temptation by observing, listening, learning, and understanding rather than judging. Use your insights to improve local ways of operating, but don't rush to criticize.

5. Share international experiences with your family. Living in new countries brings your family much closer together and will be a time for growth, bonding, and learning as a family. Hold parties for your local neighbors, join a local church, and get involved in your children's school. Host regular visits from parents and close friends. Balance breadth and depth in your travels to explore many different areas and countries, and spend time talking with local people. But don't travel so much that you fail to get deeply involved in your new community and explore its richness.

The coming decades will belong to those global citizens who are comfortable operating anywhere in the world and who can collaborate with people of different cultures to develop solutions to the world's most pressing problems. Organizations filled with these global citizens will not only survive but thrive and grow. For you, life will be richer and more fulfilling.

Developing Global Leaders is America's Competitive Advantage

HBR.org published this article on why developing global leaders is America’s competitive advantage. 

By Bill George

As global companies focus their strategies on developed and emerging markets, they require substantial cadres of leaders capable of operating effectively anywhere in the world. American companies and academic institutions possess unique competitive advantages in developing these global leaders. They are remarkably open to talented people from diverse backgrounds, and are highly skilled at giving future leaders the knowledge and experience they need to lead successfully in the global economy. As American leaders work with foreign nationals, they become more open, better informed, and more effective in collaborating with people around the world. The ability to develop global leaders strengthens American companies and the U.S. economy, expands America's global trade, and attracts foreign companies to base operations in the U.S.

Let's examine the reasons why America possesses this important advantage:

1. America's higher education system is a magnet for talented leaders from all over the world. The U.S. has become a Mecca for international scientists, engineers and business students — particularly those undertaking graduate studies. Since the 2008 financial collapse, a new generation of business school deans is placing increased emphasis on developing global leaders. In particular, Harvard, MIT, and Stanford have geared their programs toward global leaders: as a result, 26-38% of their graduate students are foreign nationals.

Here at Harvard Business School, Dean Nitin Nohria has revamped HBS's MBA curriculum to emphasize practical leadership and global experiences. In January all 900 of HBS's first-year students — 34% of whom are international students — worked in developing countries. In 2011, 71% of HBS's new cases were written about foreign companies. HBS welcomes 6,360 foreign nationals (64% of the total) to its executive education courses each year, enriching the experiences for Americans as well. As a consequence, these foreign-born executives become more interested in doing business with American companies and many will eventually work in the U.S.

2. U.S. companies actively promote executive officers with diverse geographic and cultural backgrounds. Coca-Cola has been a pioneer in developing global leaders. It started 30 years ago with the progressive and unusual step (for that time) of shifting from local nationals as country managers to global leaders from other countries. This has enabled the company to develop exceptional global leaders. As a consequence, five of its CEOs have been non-American-born, including today's CEO, Turkish-born Muhtar Kent. In addition, eight of its top nine line executives are from outside the U.S. Many global companies have followed Coke's lead by appointing foreign-born CEOs and executives. For example, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi was born in India, Avon's Andrea Jung is Chinese-Canadian, and Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak grew up in Bangladesh. UK-born George Buckley, CEO of 3M, will be succeeded by Swedish-born Inge Thulin. Half of 3M's executive committee comes from outside America.

In contrast, the CEOs and executives of leading companies in Germany, India, Korea, Japan and China are almost all natives of their home countries. Swiss companies like Nestle, Novartis, and Credit Suisse are notable exceptions, as they have non-Swiss CEOs and a majority of non-Swiss executives.

3. American companies send their most promising leaders abroad for global leadership assignments. Major U.S. companies like Cargill, ExxonMobil, 3M, and IBM insist their line executives have numerous assignments running overseas operations to ensure they understand their global businesses. They also conduct intensive development programs for global leaders through in-house training programs. Two of the best-known programs, GE's Crotonville and Goldman Sachs's Pine Street, are committed to having 50% of participants from overseas entities.

4. The U.S. leverages its pool of top talent to attract research and business units. Many foreign companies are basing research centers and business units in the U.S. to take advantage of America's talented leaders. In 2002 Novartis relocated its research headquarters from Switzerland to Boston and hired Harvard Cardiologist Mark Fishman as its leader. Nestle, Unilever, and Novartis have several business units based in the U.S. French pharmaceutical company Sanofi recently acquired Boston-based Genzyme to tap into America's intellectual capital in biotechnology.

5. America fosters risk-taking and innovation by entrepreneurs who become global leaders.America has repeatedly demonstrated its capacity to develop entrepreneurs who start with revolutionary ideas and create global companies that dominate their markets. Intel, Microsoft, Apple, Genentech, Starbucks, Google, Cisco, Amazon, Medtronic and Facebook are some of the success stories resulting from an American culture that fosters risk-taking, openness, and innovation. Their successes globally have created enormous stakeholder value for their customers, employees, communities, and investors.

In the increasingly competitive global economy, the United States needs to take advantage of its ability to develop global leaders who are capable of addressing the complex challenges facing global institutions. Unfortunately, this unique American capability is often undermined by U.S. government policies, such as limitations on work permits for foreign graduates of American universities that force them to return to their home countries. Visa restrictions also limit U.S. companies from bringing foreign nationals to America for assignments enabling them to become global leaders. American executives, educators, and government officials need to collaborate to strengthen America's leadership of the global economy.

A New Era for Global Leadership Development

Published in Harvard Business Review.

The realities of globalization, with increasing emphasis on emerging markets, present corporate leaders with enormous challenges in developing the leaders required to run global organizations. Too many multinational companies — particularly Japanese, Indian, German, and some American ones — still concentrate vital decisions in the hands of a small group of trusted leaders from their home country. They hire technical specialists, local experts, and country managers from emerging markets but rarely promote them to corporate positions. Instead, they groom future global leaders from the headquarters nation by sending them on overseas appointments.

This approach worked relatively well for companies selling standard products in developed markets, but as multinationals transition into truly global organizations relying on emerging markets for growth, it's far from adequate. In order to adapt to local cultures and market needs, companies must shift to decentralized, collaborative decision-making. That requires developing many leaders capable of working anywhere.

To address these needs, new approaches for developing global leaders are required:

  • The diversity of top leadership should reflect the diversity of the firm's customers.
  • Global leaders must be effective in aligning employees around the company's mission and values, empowering people to lead, and collaborating horizontally rather than managing vertically.
  • Rather than concentrating on the on the top 50 leaders, global companies need to develop hundreds, even thousands, of leaders comfortable operating in a variety of cultures.
  • Developing global leaders with cultural sensitivities and collaborative skills requires greater focus on emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and empowerment than on traditional management skills.

To understand these approaches, let's examine what leading global companies are doing:

Create diversity among senior leadership. To make sound decisions, companies need a diverse set of leaders who have deep understanding of their local customers, especially those in emerging markets. Opportunities at the highest levels, including C-suite and CEO, must be open to people of all national origins. Atlanta-based Coca-Cola is a pioneer in geographic diversity. As early as the 1960s, the company was run by South African Paul Austin. Since that time, Coca-Cola has had Cuban, Australian, and Irish CEOs, leading to today's CEO, Turkish-American Muhtar Kent.

Over the past decade two Swiss companies, Nestle and Novartis, have made dramatic shifts from Swiss-dominated boards and executive leadership to a diverse set of nationalities. Both now have non-Swiss majorities on their boards and several business units based outside Switzerland. Nestle's executive board represents ten different nationalities, while 80% of Novartis executives come from outside Switzerland.

Focus on values, not hierarchy. The characteristics of successful global leaders today are quite different than traditional hierarchical managers. They need high levels of emotional intelligence and self-awareness to unite people of different cultures, many who are new to the enterprise, around the organization's mission and its values and empower them to make decisions without waiting for higher-level directions.

Samuel Palmisano, IBM's chairman and former CEO, recognized that IBM's traditional hierarchical structure would not be effective in the 21st century because it was dominated by product and market silos. In 2003 he reorganized the company into an "integrated global enterprise" based on leading by values and collaboration, and uses special bonuses to empower leaders to extend IBM's culture globally. 

Broaden the reach of leadership development. Collaborative organizations like IBM's require far more leaders than the traditional focus on a select group of top leaders. With flatter organizations and decentralization of power, corporations must develop savvy global leaders capable of operating locally and globally simultaneously. IBM's former chief learning officer recently estimated that IBM will need 50,000 leaders in the future.

Unilever has more than half of its business in Asia, and that percentage will continue to increase. The company has undertaken a major initiative to develop 500 global leaders in intensive leadership development programs to prepare them for expanded roles. According to CEO Paul Polman, "Unilever's Leadership Development Programme prepares our future leaders for an increasingly volatile and uncertain world where the only true differentiation is the quality of leadership."

To be effective in global roles, leaders require experience working and living in multiple countries. Extensive travel overseas is no substitute for living there, gaining fluency in local languages, and deeply immersing in the culture. German chemical maker Henkel, whose executives come from a diverse set of countries, insists they live in at least two different countries before being considered for promotion.

New methods for developing global leaders. Developing global leaders necessitates a shift from focusing on management skills to helping leaders be effective in different cultures by increasing their self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and resilience. Dean Nitin Nohria at Harvard Business School recently sent 900 MBA students overseas to work with companies in countries where they have neither lived nor worked.

It's not enough just to work overseas. To process and learn from their experiences, individuals should utilize introspective practices like journaling, meditation or prayer, and develop support networks of peers like True North Groups. There they can consult confidentially with people they trust about important decisions and have honest conversations about their dilemmas, mistakes, and challenges. These experiences enable leaders to develop the self-mastery and appreciation and acceptance of people from diverse backgrounds required to become effective global leaders.

These methods of developing global leaders for the future are still in their nascent phase, but there is little doubt that they will have a profound impact on developing global leaders in the years ahead.

Five Resolutions for Aspiring Leaders

Originially Posted on Harvard Business Review
December 30, 2011


As the New Year approaches, people will be making resolutions to eat better, exercise more, get that promotion at work, or spend more time with their families. While these are worthwhile goals, we have a more important challenge for young people: Think seriously about your development as a leader.

These are tough times. Many leaders of the baby boomer generation have failed in their responsibilities by placing their self-interest ahead of their organizations. In so doing, they have failed to serve society's best interests. As a result, more young leaders from Gen X and the Millennials are being asked to take on major leadership responsibilities. To be prepared for the challenges you will face, we propose the following resolutions this New Year's:

Find a trustworthy mentor: Mentorship is a critical component of your development as a leader. A 2004 study showed that young leaders with mentors were more likely succeed professionally and experience career satisfaction. The essence of effective mentoring is developing a trusting relationship between the mentor and mentee. Identify someone with whom you have a genuine chemistry and who is committed to your development. Although many mentees do not realize it, a sound relationship is a two-way street that benefits both parties — not just the mentee. We suggest looking for mentors whom you admire for their values and character more than their success.

Form a leadership development group: Most of us have little time to reflect on the values and characteristics we want to define us as leaders, the difficulties we're facing, or the long-term impact we hope to have. Forming a leadership development group can give you the space you need to think deeply about these subjects. Leadership development groups are groups of six to eight people who meet to share their personal challenges and discuss the most important questions in their lives. Find people you can trust, and make a commitment to be one another's confidential counselors. Meet regularly, and share openly your life stories, crucibles, passions and fears, while offering each other honest feedback.

Volunteer in a civic or service organization: Have you served your community this year? In the Facebook era it's easy to lose touch with our real-world neighbors. Long hours often cause us to avoid volunteer opportunities. Participating in local organizations — from religious organizations to civic groups — can give you early leadership experiences, provide real connection to your neighbors, and offer opportunities to serve others. It adds a dimension to your life that work can't, and helps you develop and solidify your character while giving back to the community. You will find your time serving a community organization is highly rewarding while broadening your outlook on people and life.

Work in or travel to one new country: "The world is flat," as Tom Friedman puts it, so it has never been more important to get global experience. In the future cultural sensitivity will be a more important characteristic for leaders than pure intellectual ability. John's survey of more than 500 top MBAs found that on average they had worked in four countries prior to entering graduate school and expect to work in five more in the next ten years. Having a global mindset and the ability to collaborate effectively across cultures are essential qualities for aspiring leaders of global organizations.

Finally, ask more questions than you answer: With the high velocity of change in the world, it is impossible to have answers to all the important questions. Much more important is a deep curiosity about the world and the ability to frame the right questions in profound ways. The world's toughest problems cannot be solved by you or any one organization. Your role will be to bring the right people together to address the challenging issues you raise. Our research demonstrates that the biggest mistakes result from decisions made by people without deep consideration of thoughtful questions.

Young leaders will soon be asked to take on major leadership responsibilities in their organizations and their communities. We believe it is essential that they take steps like these in order to be prepared for the difficult leadership challenges they will face. There's no better time to get started than the coming year.

Americans’ Confidence in Its Leaders Hits New Low

The 2011 National Leadership Index indicates that Americans’ confidence in its leaders has hit new low points: the overall index has fallen from 101.4 in 2005 to 89.4 in this month’s survey, even below the 2008 level in the midst of the financial meltdown. (100 is the normative level of confidence.)

The index is highly reliable as it is based on interviews of 1,065 Americans and conducted by the Center for Public Leadership, headed by Professor David Gergen at Harvard Kennedy School. These results are very worrisome to me, as without trust and confidence in our leaders, America cannot recover the energy and optimism required to restore its domestic economy and global leadership.

The survey indicates that 77% of Americans believe the U.S. has a leadership crisis. Without better leaders, America will decline as a nation, according to 77% of those interviewed.  Seventy-six percent disagree with the proposition that our country’s leaders are effective and do a good job.

Among leadership categories, military and medical leaders continue to top the list, scoring at 112 and 105, respectively. At the very bottom are Congressional and Wall Street leaders, with ratings of 73 and 71, both down sharply from the upper 90’s in 2005. Business leaders fare slightly better at 87, with the White House at 84.5 and media at 84.

The survey’s authors’ observe, “Americans have deeper, more abiding confidence in leaders who can still get something done, and do so with a clear commitment to a greater social good, such as security or health. And they are largely withholding confidence from sectors such as Congress, Wall Street, the media, and the Executive Branch, whose leaders convey the impression that they cannot act effectively for the common good.” Painfully, many leaders in these latter sectors consistently put self-interest ahead of their responsibilities to their institutions and to society as a whole, something I believe it is the greatest failing in this generation of leaders.

The survey concludes on an upbeat note, “For leaders in every sector, and especially those who now inspire very little confidence, these findings are a call to prompt action and substantial changes in behavior. The stakes are high; the nation’s challenges are grave, and the consequences of failed leadership today will be felt

for decades to come.” In the survey’s only hint of optimism, 77% believe the nation’s problems can be solved with better leaders, indicating the extreme importance of effective leadership.

I strongly support these conclusions, and the urgent need for the United States to develop and select new leaders who are committed to put the common good ahead of their own interests.  Then, and only then, can the vitality of the United States be restored to its position of global leadership. Kudos to CPL for its vital role in developing this new generation of leaders. 

StarTribune: Extraordinary collaboration can rebuild Minnesota Miracle

Gov. Mark Dayton's jobs summit last month was a remarkable example of the extraordinary collaboration taking place between business leaders and government officials to rebuild Minnesota's jobs machine.

Historically, Minnesota has benefited from diverse industries including agriculture and food products, financial and professional services, health care, education, and high-technology manufacturing that allowed us to offset economic downturns. But after outpacing the nation for 30 years in job creation, Minnesota has fallen behind since 2003.

The 800 business and civic leaders who jammed into the ballroom at the Crowne Plaza in St. Paul engaged in serious discussions about how to stimulate job growth in Minnesota and re-create the Minnesota Miracle. This convergence of business and government leaders was a welcome contrast to the political gridlock that shut down state government in July.

At the summit the governor wasted no time in making his position clear: "It is the task of private enterprise to create jobs and wealth," he said. "The government's role is to create the environment and rules that make that possible." Dayton put substance behind his pledge, announcing a $100 million fund for small business loans, distributed through 300 Minnesota community banks.

These efforts are none too soon. Alarmed by declining job trends, a group of leading CEOs and civic leaders formed the Itasca Jobs Task Force in 2009. Chaired by Ken Powell of General Mills and Marilyn Carlson Nelson of Carlson Companies, their 2010 report highlighted three strategic initiatives to improve the region's competitiveness:

•Address the cost of doing business.

•Develop a vision, strategy, and approach for regional economic development.

•Enhance entrepreneurship and innovation.

To implement the report's recommendations, Itasca formed a team of 60 participants, chaired by HealthPartners CEO Mary Brainerd. "For us, this is the most important thing we have been part of,'' Brainerd said. "The commitment to a thriving community is really extraordinary."

In addition, the Minnesota Business Partnership, which includes the heads of 150 local companies, formed three task forces of its own under the leadership of Ecolab CEO Doug Baker Jr. The partnership made concrete recommendations to the governor and Legislature regarding fiscal policy, health care, and education.

Also last month, 12 large companies joined with local municipalities to launch Greater MSP, with Baker as its chairman. A $2 million budget was established, with 70 percent from the 12 companies and the remainder from government units. Its mission is to recruit out-of-state and international companies to locate in Minnesota and to encourage local companies to expand locally. Michael Langley was hired as executive director, coming from Pittsburgh, where he led a comparable initiative.

These remarkable efforts are a testament to the quality of Minnesota's leaders. Our state is blessed to be home to 20 Fortune 500 companies led by progressive leaders who understand that Minnesota's quality of life and a well-educated workforce are essential to their success -- and necessary to offset negatives like high taxes, high cost of living and weather.

Historically, Minnesota's strength has been the quality of its workforce. Thanks to efforts put in place 50 years ago, the Twin Cities leads the nation with 93 percent of citizens holding high school diplomas, and is third in bachelor's or graduate degrees with 37 percent. Ecolab's Baker notes, "Ultimately, the education and skills of the workforce are MSP's competitive advantages."

But this advantage appears to be at risk. The Itasca report forecast a gap by 2030 of 322,000 skilled workers that could constrain the region's growth. Bush Foundation President Peter Hutchinson notes that these other efforts will be in vain unless the region has the right workforce. He favors investments in infrastructure, K-12 schools, and higher education.

"It's a painful reality that many of the 215,000 Minnesotans without jobs don't have the education needed for the new economy,'' said Steven Rosenstone, the new chancellor of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU). "By 2018, 78 percent of Minnesota's jobs will require postsecondary education."

Minnesota has its challenges. But given the remarkably committed leaders we have today, I feel confident that these new initiatives will bear fruit and create the second Minnesota Miracle.

 


Originially posted: StarTribune
November 19, 2011

Don't Just Search for a Job: Create Your Own

It’s no secret that Americans are frustrated with the lack of job opportunities available. 

As the unemployment rate held strong in September at 9.1% and 26 million Americans (16.5% of the workforce) were still unable to find full-time jobs, it is becoming increasingly clear that the economy is in “a jobless stagnation.” In reality, the bulk of those 26 million people aren’t going to find regular fulltime jobs for many years.

There are constant news stories profiling young professionals who have college degrees in hand but nowhere to put those years of education into practice. Of the graduates from last June’s college classes who were fortunate to find work, fewer than half of them found jobs requiring a college degree.

The new generation of 20 something’s is taking matters into its own hands.  Facing this situation, more and more people are creating their own jobs as independent contractors and entrepreneurs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that unemployed job creators will account for 40% of all jobs by 2030.

Members of the Millennial generation know how to build their careers – and their lives – by designing their own work, often electronically, from their homes. Inc. magazine released its annual survey of top entrepreneurs under the age of 30 for 2011.  These young business men and women exemplify the young professionals who are choosing to take their careers into their own hands, instead of waiting around in a bleak job environment.  

Take, for example, Drew Houston, who founded his company Dropbox in 2007. Dropbox is a cloud-based file-syncing service that allows users to access their digital files from nearly any computer or mobile device. Houston started writing code for the program when he mistakenly left his USB drive at home and could not access the files he needed.  

Jessica Mah is a serial entrepreneur who founded three start-ups by the age of 19. Mah had been using Mint.com for a few years and became frustrated the site did not provide an applicable function for her small businesses. As a result, inDinero was contrived. inDinero is a business helping other small businesses grow and track their progress through the accounting services that can oftentimes be wildly inconvenient. Mah and her co-founder Andy Su built the prototype for inDinero and launched the company in 2009.

While still a college student at the University of Seattle, Brayden Olson founded Novel, Inc., a creative game company focusing on simulations for corporations to develop and assess people. Olsen lived at home with his parents to save money and accelerated his education to graduate in three years. At age twenty, he decided to focus his full attention on building Novel. He was fortunate to attract $500,000 in venture capital funds to enable him to attract a quality team around him that could develop the complex software required for Novel’s games. His first products will enter test markets early next year.

Young entrepreneurs also have time to experiment with ideas and keep learning.  Zach Clayton started a subscription-based media company while still in college at the University of North Carolina.  That business idea didn’t take off, but it inspired him to start another one, which did.  After graduating from Harvard Business School in 2009, Zach started business#3: Three Ships Media.  The company helps its clients acquire new customers through digital media and social media channels.  Without raising venture capital, he’s profitably grown Three Ships into a multi-million dollar business.  (Note: I have used Zach’s services for Website creation and social media research).

Other former job seekers are creating work as creative strategy consultants, dog walkers for dual career families, home office managers, and personal IT consultants.

This economy requires a new class of technology-enabled businesses. The United States needs innovation, human capital investments, and research and development to build those businesses.  Most importantly, it needs the entrepreneurs to get them started.  The new generation has the potential to create entirely new services that will rebuild a vital economy, but one that looks entirely different from the last ten years.

My advice to job seekers is to stop shooting resumes and emails off to everyone you know in hopes of landing a regular job. The odds are that it wouldn’t use your full abilities, nor stoke your passions. Instead, think hard about what you love to and what you are really good at. Then seize the initiative and create your own job.

The advice of Steve Jobs, who dropped out of college and founded Apple at age 21, should resonate with you: "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.  Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."

Leadership Kudos and Gaffes: President Obama leading this week on foreign policy

Leadership Kudos this week go to President Barack Obama, who had "a very good week." Obama's steady head about foreign policy - tough-minded but cool - and the tireless efforts of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are showing consistent results. The latest was the ultimate success of Obama's policy in Libya that paid off when strongman Colonel Moamar Gaddafi was killed in Thursday's shootout. On Friday the President announced the end of U.S. engagement in Iraq with all troops slated to come home by the end of the year, a peaceful end to nine years of bloodshed. These successes add to his support of the Arab Spring and the liberation of Egypt and mounting signals that he would like to move away from involvement in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the President is being very tough with the Pakistanis and holding off Iran's advances in the Middle East. Finally, he signed at long last three free trade bills with South Korea, Columbia, and Panama that will give a boost to the economy, in spite of opposition from his own party.

Leadership Gaffes go to Abbott Labs and its CEO Miles White for breaking up a great health care company by spinning off Abbott's $18 billion pharmaceutical business in search of "unlocking shareholder value." In his 12 years as Abbott's CEO, White has done a good job in moving the company into medical devices and expanding its revenues in all its businesses. It is hard to see how any sustainable economic value will be created by this bit of financial engineering. Abbott's move seems intended to mask the reality that the company has been unable to fulfill its mission of discovering drugs and is facing the loss of patent protection on its leading drug. To its credit Abbott has followed a broad health care strategy similar to Johnson & Johnson and Novartis, but the latter two firmly believe their breadth and impact on health care are well served by their strategies. After decades of success, why shift to chasing short-term shareholder value?