Tuesday, July 21, 2009


It's a question that has been tackled by thousands. In fact, there are literally tens of thousands of leadership studies, theories, frameworks, models, and recommended best practices. But where are the clear, simple answers we need for our daily work lives? Are there any?

Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood, and Kate Sweetman set out to answer these questions to crack the code of leadership. Drawing on decades of research experience, the authors conducted extensive interviews with a variety of respected CEOs, academics, experienced executives, and seasoned consultants and heard the same five essentials repeated again and again. These five rules became The Leadership Code.

These five rules the book argues can be effectively used by all leaders, regardless of their context or organization. The five rules/leadership code are:

* Strategist - shape the future.
* Executor - make things happen.
* Talent manager - engage todays talent.
* Human capital developer - build the next generation.
* Personal proficiency - invest in yourself.

This gives you a platform/guidance for developing your leadership capability.

The authors say by following this code and 60% to 70% of the leadership challenge will be met. They accept that the remaining 30% of leadership effectiveness, will depend on how you deal with specific issues that will vary from organization to organization.

I do think that the first four are not really shocking. There are hundreds of books and resources, which describe these rules. The most interesting one is personal proficiency.
Personal proficiency has five sets of resources: physical, social, emotional, intellectual and spirituality.

This personal proficiency is the basis upon which the rest can be developed. If there is a lack, or not enough attention to any of these aspects, the other four rules will suffer. For sure!

The role of a leader puts great demands on the physical condition and stamina of the leader. Most hours are spend sitting down behind a desk, in the car, in meeting rooms. This is not healthy for the body. So, it is crucial to plan at least three times a week time for physical exercises, preferably outdoors. That activity has two benefits. During the physical exercises you can clear and clean your head, your thinking. When you are done, you will have a new and refreshing perspective on the challenges at hand. And you will be less tired from all the meetings and conversations, because you have a good physical state.

It is crucial to have a view and understanding of the world around you. If the leader is only focussed on the business, he or she misses a lot about what is happening in the world. This can be in his own family and community, but also in the wider perspective. One of the most fulfilling activities is to be a volunteer. This is beneficial for yourself and for the organization as well.

For your own physical and mental health, it is crucial to be aware of your own emotions. Are you often angry, impatient or disappointed? Any other emotion? If you hide those emotions for yourself, it will take a while to burst out of its cocoon, but then you are in trouble. So, it is better to be aware and to accept those emotions. Then you can examine what the cause is and address that cause. Even better is to have a personal coach who will be your confidential sparring partner and trustee.

Here we are talking about learning agility. The world moves so fast, that you can no longer rely on your previous experience or know-how. You have to keep up to date with the latest trends and developments. Not only in your area of expertise, but also in general. This can be done through reading, attending seminars, and listening to podcasts. A great way to learn is to meet regularly with people with different backgrounds. They will offer you new insights and perspectives. Everything in the world is so connected to each other that you need to learn to develop a holistic way of seeing. Only then you can see the problems and challenges, as well as the solutions and opportunities.

To keep your own flame burning, you need to make sure that you regularly add some fuel. This can be done through meditation, going to church, reading, or whatever suits you. You have to provide meaning to your own, personal life as well. Your values and beliefs have to be sustained continuously.

Most leaders do not give priority to this personal proficiency. The result is that they really exhaust themselves (and their teams). The current challenges require that you be energetic and enthusiastic and not deplete your own resources. So you have to make sure that you fuel them regularly and continuously!




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