Tag Archives: management

Forming Other Leaders

under sail

Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote several years ago about leadership. Rings true today as I study and write about balance and successful leadership in organizations in Latam.

Leadership is…

… about forming other leaders.
I have “taken the helm” of a sailboat many times. I don’t remember having to ask for permission. Leadership means forming other leaders and inspiring others to take risks, take action and help to further the shared vision. It’s not about control or power but rather about giving those things to others so that the whole can be larger than the sum of its parts.

“No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.” Peter Drucker

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Managers as Myriad Actors

One of the fundamental questions raised during the Global Peter Drucker Forum in Vienna two years’ ago was what our actions will be, as managers, when facing the Great Transformation; in other words, when facing transformational changes that lie in the future for companies, governments and communities alike, what actions will we take today? Will we be one of what Richard Straub, President of the Drucker Society Europe, calls the “myriad actors” who shape the future and impact others or will we abstain from courageous and decisive action?

Peter Drucker talked about the role of managers as “the central resource, the generic distinctive, the constitutive organ of society…” and that managers’ actions are essentially a “public concern” because our survival as a society is “dependent on the performance, the competence, the earnestness and the values of their managers.” (Drucker: The Ecological Vision)

The conversation in Vienna re-examined management’s responsibility to society and humanity. One of the things that drew me to the work of Drucker over 15 years’ ago was his focus on human-centric organizations. And yet, today, we still see organizations more focused on short term profits for shareholders rather than a balance of long and short term value creation for all stakeholders including employees, community and society in general.

Are we doing enough to keep that balance? Many of the speakers did not think seem to think so. They cited studies showing that only 13% of employees around the world are engaged in their jobs (Gallup’s “State of The Global Workplace” report) and that 63% of 1000 corporate board members and C-suite executives surveyed by Mckinsey claim that pressure to generate strong short –term results has increased over the past five years. Clearly, we have a lot of work to do – to shape the future towards value creation for all stakeholders and unleashing the incredible creative and human potential of the people who work with us.

How might we do this? By being “myriad actors”; by looking for ways to shape the future, “see around corners” (as Forum speaker Nilofer Merchant said) and impact others in positive ways. Some organizations, for example, choose to connect leading edge technology and a commitment to improving the human condition (see HopeLab recipient of the Drucker Award for Non Profit Innovation). Others focus on improving employee engagement levels (see Telus, and Dan Pontefract’s work).

I don’t think management can be taught only in a management program; I think it’s a combination of art and edifice – and perhaps this is what Drucker was referring to when he defined management in The New Realities, as a liberal art: “’liberal’ because it deals with the fundamentals of knowledge, self-knowledge, wisdom, and leadership; ‘art’ because it is practice and application.”

We might not know exactly how the future will turn out or how it will shape our industry or impact our livelihoods but we can certainly act – in a myriad of ways – to ensure that we keep humans at the center of decision making within our organizations.

As Richard Straub states in “The Great Transformation” (EFMD Global Focus 2014), “Management is a real world practice of dealing with people and organizations. Managers can make all the difference in the world with their knowledge, their creativity, their emotions and their values.” Managers are myriad actors.

Esther M Clark

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A version of this blog post was published in 2014; two weeks following the Drucker Forum in Vienna.

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Growth Mindset: Moving Towards Drucker’s Entrepreneurial Society

Entrepreneurship in the Spanish language is most commonly translated as “emprendimiento” coming from the verb “emprender” which means to ignite or start something. For many generations, entrepreneurs in Latin America have started their own businesses for d4e051b46efa7280a957f01bfb5aeecf1.jpgiverse reasons including, as the management thinker Peter Drucker pointed out, a response to a social problem disguised as a business opportunity. A glimpse at the “Rey del Banano” (King of the Banana) rags-to-riches story in Ecuador supports Drucker’s claim; born into poverty, Luis Noboa Naranjo launched the successful Bonita Banana Company after piecing together profits made from sales of newspapers and household items. Noboa later established the Noboa business group; at one time, his business venture was credited for generating 5% of the Ecuador´s Gross Domestic Product.

Nevertheless, an entrepreneurial venture or entrepreneurial economy does not an entrepreneurial society make. It requires something more: not just “igniting” entrepreneurial fires but having the mindset to ensure that the entrepreneurial flame will not die. An entrepreneurial society requires a “growth mindset” – an idea developed over a decade ago by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck to explain achievement and success. Dweck compares and contrasts “fixed mindsets” and “growth mindsets”; she concludes that if we focus on learning and improvement as a consistent goal, environment, and the country we are born in, economic realities, as well as adversity or failure, can become powerful impetuses to ensure we grow and overcome pre-conceived limitations to achieving success.

Harkening to the 2016 Olympics currently underway in Rio de Janeiro, an athlete with a “growth mindset” pushes through in order to grow as an individual, an athlete and a citizen representing a nation. They see their failures as a call to further action and continuous training; in other words as a “not yet” rather than a “not ever.” There are clear parallels in athletic training to Drucker’s own words describing an entrepreneurial society where “innovation and entrepreneurship are normal, steady, and continuous.”

For an entrepreneurial society to prosper, members need growth mindsets to consistently keep the entrepreneurial flame alive and support those willing to push the limits of an “employee” society in order to find solutions to the world’s problems. Peter Drucker saw entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial culture as the lifeblood of society (Innovation and Entrepreneurship: 1985). He heralded a new era that would see a shift from an employee society towards an entrepreneurial society. In Latin America, where I live and work, “emprendedores” are igniting entrepreneurial fires with creativity, innovation and problem solving skills; yet the region – like many other major trading areas in the world – continues to call for a growth mindset from members of society that would lead us through economic and political instability and clear past the “same-old” power dynamics.

Global discussions around “entrepreneurial society” must be inclusive with ideas from developing as well as developed countries, public and private counterparts, local and international companies, thinkers and managers, students and teachers, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, CEOs and investors. If an entrepreneurial society is to flourish, we need a “mindset” of constant learning and growth supported by connections across real and psychological boundaries. In every corner of the globe, adopting a growth mindset together with learnings from larger discussions of entrepreneurship and transformation, will help us move to a society of creators, co-creators and organizations that respond ethically, empathetically and effectively to the societies we serve.

-EMC

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Savvy Saturday August 13th, 2016

“In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.” – Tina Fey

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Visual Business Inspiration

I have always been inspired by Fashion: art present in our daily lives. As I grow with my consulting practice I have learned that management is an art. In fact, Peter Drucker described management as a liberal art…. liberal because it relates to leadership, wisdom, knowledge and knowing oneself…art because it is practical and applied.

Here is this week’s business inspiration courtesy YSL.

Be inspired! – EMC

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Savvy Saturday April 18th, 2015

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
― Peter F. Drucker

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Are we social? Are we human?

Today I am sharing with you a small excerpt from Brian Solis’ blog – a blog that talks about the intersection of technology, culture and business. The reason why I think these words are important for all of us to hear and internalize is because social, as Nilofer Merchant pointed out at a conference I attended last year, is not social media. Social is being human. It’s about interaction and about getting closer to our customers to understand them, listen to them and create amazing products from one human being to another. From one organization to another. Media and social media is the WAY to do this. Not the WHY. Read on for some great thoughts from Brian Solis.

Customers and employees are still underserved and underappreciated.

Some would say, in business, social media lost its way.

Others would argue social media failed to live up to the hype.

There are unfortunately still many examples of businesses not getting it, viewing or outsourcing it as a mere “marketing” function, and operating in siloes where social becomes anti-social by design.

Without purpose and collaboration, social will always be just another thing that businesses use to defer the inevitable…change.

Even though the “cool” kids moved on, there’s a real need for businesses to become social…to become human. Our work is just beginning. Perhaps observing the gap between the expertise we have and the insight we need to make a difference is where we need to begin.

EMC

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2014 Drucker Forum: Have we reached a turning point?

There was so much discussion at the 6th Annual Global Peter Drucker Forum last week that it is difficult to find a place to start. In fact, this could be said also about the theme of this year’s forum: The Great Transformation.

Where do we start in a world that is constantly changing, where markets are in flux and industries can be redefined in a matter of a couple of years? Are companies like Apple, Google, Uber, Zappos, Amazon, the new norm? What about the role of Government and Education?

The answers to these questions cannot be tightly organized into a bullet list or an action plan. The reason being is that leadership in times of transformation is dynamic and there is a need to balance the fact that challenges/competition/disruptions exist while embracing a sense of optimism and belief in what managers (who Drucker called “society’s leadership group”) can help create and deliver.

Who said leadership was easy?

Perhaps one place to start is with Clayton Christensen’s talk. He spoke about growth and the fact that we need to explore new ideas of growth – not the ideas that economists would have us believe or what investment bankers use to measure growth. No, Christensen talked about growth in terms of innovation. At the Forum he described three types of innovations:

  • Market Creating Innovations

These innovations make products or services more affordable or accessible. A computer, for example, has moved from mainframe, PC, to smartphone.

  • Sustaining Innovations

These innovations help margins improve and help make good products even better. They don’t necessarily create growth because they are replacing in nature.

  • Efficiency Innovations

These innovation “do more with less” – sometimes eliminating jobs in order to free up cash flow.

One takeaway from the Forum is that these innovations must be in balance in order for an economy to work well. One action is that free cash should be used in market creating innovations in order to truly create worthwhile value for the organization, stakeholders and communities. This is a challenge because, as Christensen pointed out, our current metrics that we use to base investment decisions (like Internal Rate of Return) will tell us to keep being more efficient.

If we are living in a time of great transformation, efficiencies alone will not help us. Efficiency must be balanced with market creating and sustaining innovations. We need more people to have access to innovations, more people employed to deliver on those innovations and for our economies to grow.

It comes back to the leadership question: how do we build an organization that can change as fast as change itself? How can we embrace change while knowing that we still can do better and that change is continuous? Perhaps it is in balance (economists and nutritionists will tell us this!) or perhaps it is simply shifting our focus towards building a self-renewing organization – one that is always renewing how it connects, engages, and provides purpose to people – rather than building organizations that only deliver value to shareholders.

EMC

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Making Positive Change through Alignment of Values

I was inspired to write this after reading a recent Seth Godin post where he asks the question:

Are you doing this to get people to do what’s good for them or what’s good for you?

I think we all want to think we act altruistically and with our stakeholders best interests at heart; nevertheless, it’s a valuable practice to re-evaluate what we are doing and why we are doing it – and what stakeholders we might be favoring with our actions. This is what a board does – or should do – when it takes decisions.


At the management level, if we make a decision to launch a new product or service into a new market like Colombia, we are probably doing it to provide value to new clients in a new market. The client might be grateful to have another option to choose from or a new service that wasn’t available before in Bogotá or easy to access from his/her vacation home in Cali. This is common sense.

But what happens when you change status quo? When you “throw your weight around” as Seth Godin says. That’s when the importance of real alignment with organization mission (and what your customers value) comes into play. As Godin says are you changing pricing, technology or policies because “it’s good for the organization, because it raises quarterly earnings,” or because it’s good for the customer. Are you making decisions to delight the customer and to bring positive change to your community?

There’s no way of pleasing all people all of the time but if you are making changes in line with your core values and what your followers and clients value about you, this mean you are leading your stakeholders to change for their benefit, not forcing them to change for yours.

EMC

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Living in a VUCA world

VUCA

I’m researching a piece for an article in Spanish on how to survive in the VUCA world. VUCA is a term used in the military – and now in strategic management – to describe a world that is:

Volatile
Uncertain
Complex
Ambiguous

We live in a VUCA world. We do business with people in a VUCA world. The key, I’m finding, is having leadership that understands VUCA and can paint a clear vision in order to “see around corners” as I like to say. It’s important to find solutions to problems immediately because in a VUCA world, it doesn’t take months for challenges and opportunities to mature, they strike, it would seem, without warning.

I will share my piece in Spanish – tailored to my public in Latin America – when my article is published. In the meantime, anyone have any thoughts on VUCA would love to hear them!

EMC

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