Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Unusually Excellent: Skills Required for Leadership

Tony Zingale, CEO of Jive Software, recently sent me a copy of John Hamm's Unusually Excellent; The Necessary Nine Skills Required for the Practice of Great Leadership.

Hamm breaks the nine skills into three core segments:

  1. Credibility, or a matter of character
    1. Authentic
    2. Trustworthy
    3. Compelling
  2. Competence, or a matter of skill
    1. People
    2. Strategy
    3. Execution
  3. Consequence, or a matter of values
    1. Decision making
    2. Communication
    3. Impact
The book reminds me a great deal of Bill George's work. George is currently an HBS Professor and served as the long-time CEO of Medtronic. George wrote two wonderful books on leadership. You can follow Bill George on Twitter here

George's central argument is that mission-driven, rather than profit-driven companies, generate greater shareholder returns. Moreover, mission-driven companies require leaders with a True North, ie a moral compass/center of gravity that anchors not only the leader, but also the company. Hamm extends that concept and underscores the value of authenticity to leadership.

The moral compass proves its value in times of stress and ambiguity - it is the spirit of the law, not the letter that governs leaders with a True North.  As Hamm's model notes, competence is only 1/3 of the battle. Self-awareness, trust, a compass to navigate challenging decisions, the ability to share and empathize...are all EQ level traits. Pure competence, IQ, is not enough.  Lehman, Enron, AIG....all companies full of high IQ people who lost their way and operated without a compass.

My favorite book that speaks to the power of self-awareness and authenticity is Thich Nhat Hanh's The Art of Power.  Yes, a Buddhist monk wrote a book on business leadership! It is a brilliant read that reminds us not to let fear control us, not to focus on the wealth at the cost of well-being (golden handcuffs), and of the importance of living in the moment rather than in a guilt-addled past or a anxiety-laden imagined future.

The common abstraction of all these books is self-awareness. Who are you? What makes you authentically who you really are? Do you act out of fear? Do you act out of a desire to please others?

Why are you working where you work now? How did you end up here? What compromises have you made about who you really are? Are they worth it? What's stopping you from....?

1 comment:

  1. Nice article and thanks for the recommendation of the book "The Art of Power". One thing our company has done is hire a business coach, Kathleen Ranahan. She skillfully guided me to explore my own paradigms regarding success and helped to identify behaviors both in me and my staff that get in the way of us reaching our goals by really focusing on our strengths! Through teambuilding we were able to see the authenticity in each other and appreciate each one's individuality.