Monday, September 22, 2008

How to Determine a Leader’s Effectiveness?

When we talked before about our different levels, bricklayers, coaches, division heads and league commissioners, the question comes up, how to determine if they are effective?  Many times people study different factors.  In Built to Last, the eight factors one should look at are: strategy, execution, culture, structure talent, leadership, innovation, mergers and partnerships were used to determine if companies were going to last.

In Search for Excellence there were also eight factors: a bias for action, staying close to the customer, autonomy and entrepreneurship, productivity through people, hands on – value driven, stick to the knitting, simple form – lean staff, simultaneous loose-tight properties. [Editor: What do you know about any of these?]

All of these are excellent measure and they tell us something about the business, but they are like a thermometer with different parameters: temperature, barometric pressure, humidity etc.  They give us a lot of insight into the weather or ways to measure a company, however, no amount of studying a thermometer is going to change the weather. Likewise, someone taking the lead in the introduction of a new order of things, is so consumed by the daily details and so effected by the changing environment in which they work, that knowledge of these things doesn't predict effectiveness. 

Being familiar with these things might make someone more effective or it might make them less effective. The major determinant is going to be the influences of the outside environment. Environmental conditions (weather, altitude etc.) will affect brick laying more than strategy, past experience or culture. Whether we call someone a manager or a leader and the degree to which these ideas have an effect at different levels of the organization is an interesting question, but will it determine their effectiveness?

Beyond a certain point, do you think studying the aspects of a thermometer make you a better weatherman?  How much does one need to know about the parameters of leadership to lead?

1 comment:

Josh said...

Interesting questions.

While it's true that being aware of the attributes you describe doesn't make them happen in you, learning about them can be an effective way to build your own personal theoretical framework in which to apply yourself every day.

I think it was Deming or Juran or one of those dudes who pointed out that there needs to be a management theory which you use as a guideline or starting point. The theory doesn't have to be dogmatic, it can change over time. The attributes you cite are good ways of thinking about management philosophies and how they should be modified over time.

Josh Nankivel
The Art of Project Management