Spotlight on Talent
The Leadership Effect part 2
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” –Lao Tzu
There are a host of clichés about leadership: “leaders are born not made,” “the mantle of leadership,” “leadership is doing right when no one is watching,” “management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things,” and so on. The fact is that leadership is an ambiguous concept. There is no recipe for creating a great leader, and while leadership is written about extensively, it is nearly impossible to teach. It is not a vocation or a skill and no MBA confers leadership on the graduate. This is because leadership is a quality of being that resists measurement and defies quantification. But, in its absence strategies fail, customers are disgruntled, and stock prices plummet. The best way to understand and assess a leader is by the impact the leader makes on the entire business ecosystem: the executive team, managers, employees, customers, consumers, and the world at large.
The ROI on leadership is what I intend to follow here by illustrating that impact, whether for good or bad. The intent is to illustrate and trace the qualities that make leaders effective or disastrous to the organizations that depend upon them. My focus is on content-centric businesses as they navigate the epic transformation underway, but the lessons can and will be drawn from all businesses worldwide.
Michael Hiltzik’s, in the LA Times, eloquently describes Kodak’s approaching demise in a way that aptly illustrates my purpose. I could easily substitute any number of content-centric companies and organizations that are now at an identical inflection point.
“It’s not uncommon for great companies to be humbled by what the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter called the forces of “creative destruction. Technology, especially digital technology, has been the most potent whirlwind sweeping away old markets and old strategies for many decades. Changing economics and global competition have reduced behemoths of the past, such as General Motors, into mice of the present.
Then came digital. Far from scorning the new technology, Kodak ramped up research and development to nearly 10% of sales in the mid-1980s and integrated digital features into its product lines, including video systems, scanners and photo enhancement software.
But its executives couldn’t foresee a future in which film had no role in image capture at all, nor come to grips with the lower profit margins or faster competitive pace of high-tech industries. At one meeting with Microsoft’s Bill Gates to discuss integrating Kodak’s photo CDs with Windows, Kodak Chairman Kay Whitmore fell asleep.”