Sunday, April 09, 2006

... in humility, in invisible heroes, in power of persuasions ... and, uhm, brute intimidations?

We probably all make jokes about the "power of persuasions". Well, after all those leadership trainings they've been giving us ... after all those Harvard Business Review articles on secret change agents and level 5 leaderships ... often, our fearless big bosses simply resort to the primitive technique of "persuading" that works in no time, which can be better termed, really ... brute force.

"... Best leaders inspire by example. When that's not an option, brute intimidation works pretty well, too.":

Harvard Business Review, February 2006
The Great Intimidators

"We hear a lot of praise for emotionally intelligent, even humble leaders. But change is scary, and you sometimes need scary leaders to steer you through ... Great intimidators are not averse to causing a ruckus, nor are they above using a few public whippings and ceremonial hangings to get attention. And they're in good company. A list of great intimidators would read a bit like a business leadership hall of fame: Sandy Weill, Rupert Murdoch, Andy Grove, Carly Fiorina, Larry Ellison, and Steve Jobs would be just a few of the names on it ... Beneath their tough exteriors and sharp edges, however, are some genuine, deep insights into human motivation and organization behavior. Indeed, these leaders possess what I call political intelligence. In all our recent enchantment with social intelligence and soft power, we've overlooked the kinds of skills leaders need to bring about transformation in cases of tremendous resistance or inertia ...": Roderick M. Kramer, social psychologist and Professor or Organizational Behavior, Stanford Graduate School of Business

One of the greatest benefits of my frequent moves is the opportunity to watch, learn, and adapt to the many cultures and leadership styles along my way. It's an opportunity to see what works and what does not at the different sets of conditions.

Here in the Ieper facility--the company's best performing site--I have no doubt that it is the invisible leaders that keep the facility running at the highest operational discipline. This being said, I have to add yet another amazing thing that Ieper does: the two-or-three giant leaps that it manages to clear while everybody else still tinkers with how--or sometimes whether--to make the first step.

Change is scary and to tread new tracks usually requires stumbles and falls. And falls, no matter how controlled, suck. Therefore sometimes it takes more than coaching sessions to get people to reach out and make those giant leaps.

But then, I wonder, with the retention of the most talented minds comes at high premium these days, at what cost can you sustain such people treatment?

Great intimidators trample on people's feelings and set impossible standards. Even when others meet those standards, they're given little if any credit ... But despite all the drawbacks, my research shows, great intimidators are often magnets for the best and brightest ... Intimidators instill fear in their employees, but the really great ones instill something else as well--and that's another way in which they are different from your run-of-the-mill organizational bully. As one former aide of legendary tough guy Admiral Hyman Rickover told me, 'Not measuring up in his eyes meant more to me than anything else--even my father's'. In similar vein, a former Pixar employee said of his time working under Steve Jobs, 'You just dreaded letting him down. He believed in you so strongly that the thought of disappointing him just killed you.' ... people like to work for great intimidators because of what can be learned from them and because they inspire great performance. Many people said they did their best work ever when working for a great intimidators ...": Roderick M. Kramer

Sometimes, we just can't deny the effectiveness of that good 'ol baseball bat ... The only problem with this approach is that often the change will not stick ... as soon they no longer see the baseball bat, people will quickly resort to the old habbit. But, I guess sometimes not all changes have to last, and some changes, by nature, are irreversible. In which case, pulling out the sledgehammer is not always a bad thing to do. I guess the trick is knowing when and where to use what ... and be darn sure with what you're doing.