Friday, March 23, 2007

Level 5 leadership

This is becoming very important. Lot of companies now look level 5 leaders and not just level 4 leaders. Before I talk more about this, let me briefly touch upon the leadership levels.

Level 1 is a Highly Capable Individual who "makes productive contributions through talent, knowledge, skills and good work habits.

Level 2 is a Contributing Team Member who "contributes individual capabilities to the achievement of group objectives and works effectively with others in a group setting."

In most professions, companies look for at least a good team players. In the business world, all tasks are done in teams. Its important for every team member to be an effective team player. Level 2 is basic hygiene level. I have seen cases where companies have rejected a person just because he just cannot work in teams, in spite of he being a genius.

Level 3 is the Competent Manager who "organizes people and resources toward the effective and efficient pursuit of predetermined objectives."

Level 4 is an Effective Leader who "catalyzes commitment to and vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision, stimulating higher performance standards."

I believe difference between Level 3 and 4 is that of difference between good manager and leader. Many of you would have heard this story of a jungle which very clearly differentiates a good leader from good manager. Let me quickly mention about even at the cost of repetitive. On a jungle cutting assignment aimed at making a road, a manager is a person who organizes people towards cutting the woods in the most efficient way in the least possible time. He will develop best practices, enforce best practices etc. But a good leader is one who will climb the tree tops to see whether they are heading in the right direction. He will steer the direction of the team. This is level 4 leader. Such people are visionary, they chart out the future course.

Level 5 is the Executive who "builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will." Every one of the good-to-great companies has level 5 leaders in the critical transition phase. These leaders are described as being timid and ferocious, shy and fearless and modest with a fierce, unwavering commitment to high standards. Such people create leaders.

When a level 4 leaders leaves the company can start performing badly in the lack of leadership, but when a level 5 leader leaves, the company keep growing because he has create sufficient leaders in the organization to lead the organization.

Jack Welch is popularly referred to as Level 4 leader, who took GE to different heights. Darwin Smith, CEO at paper-product maker Kimberly-Clark from 1971 to 1999, epitomizes Level 5 leadership. Not many would have heard about him.

There is another interesting thing. L5 in not an incremental version of L4. There is no similarity in the traits of L4 and L5. They are completely different. A L4 leader will mostly remain that. He cannot move to L5 unless he realizes early in his career about this.


"God is dead"

No, I am not an atheist. Don't misunderstand me. This is a quote by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. This is mentioned by Nietzsche in "Thus spoke Zarathustra" The quote was mentioned to arise the will of action in the common masses. This quote also signifies the philosophy opposite to that of destiny, where everything is believed to be pre-destined and a person is just a means to the end. The beginning and end are pre-decided. Man just works towards it. This was against contemporary belief of Christianity which Nietzsche proposed at that time.

The quote is not be meant in literary terms. It's the author's way of saying that God is no longer capable of acting as a source of moral code. Here death of God means the death of old moral codes and theology.

There is lot to it and an interesting read. Wikipedia is a good source to start if interested.

We had a discussion on this subject in our Leadership lessons through World Literature. Some other interesting quotes which stuck me are...

"Only the day after tomorrow belongs to me, some are born posthumously"

"Virtue of meek is important"

" Friends should be enemy"

"Good happens, evil has to happen"

This course's classes give a lot different and interesting perspective. It's hard for person who is not well read to get such perspective. Besides that one doesn't get to know about lot many literatures in such a small time through class settings.

I would certainly share some more of thoughts on this later...

Monday, March 19, 2007

Graduation day changes

Some chaos here at ISB because of sudden change in the graduation day ceremony. Earlier, the convocation was planned for the evening, now it’s been moved to morning session. I have invited my sister, bro-in-law and little niece besides my parents for the event. So my complete family is going to be here. With this change in convocation, I have spend my last two hours to redo all the flight bookings etc.

This was somewhat upsetting because now my sister with her infant baby will have to take a midnight flight to reach here. But had no choice except canceling their visit, which would have been very busy.

I should now get back to some pre-reading of the case. I will just take a glance for about 15 minutes. Can't do more. Its important to do at least that much because without that I wouldn't be able to make out anything in class and will feel extremely bore sitting there.

More later...

About 10X Change..

I just finished reading “Only the paranoid survive" by Andrew S. Grove. The book is an interesting piece of work where he talks about how to exploit the crisis points that can challenge every company and career.

He calls such challenges or adversities as the strategic inflexion points, the stage where old business rules have to give way to new rules. There are different from the changes business see happening normally. These are 10X changes occurring to some of the key driving forces of business. He identifies 6 such forces - Porter's 5 forces + complementers force. One can find enough examples of such instances in almost all industries. Entry of Wal-mart, changed entirely the retail landscape. Wal-mart was a 10X competitive force to existing retail market. In the entertainment industry, the use of sound takes over silent movies. Things changed when The Jazz Singer debuted on October 6, 1927. Some adapted to this change and were successful, most of the others failed. "Garbo speaks!!" reminds us of the instance when Greta Garbo, the queen of silent movies first spoke. Changes in regulations forced AT&T to adapt to a competitive world of consumer marketing from a monopolistic market. These are changes which take the industry to different platforms.

It's easy to talk about these changes in the hindsight, but it’s very difficult to identify such strategic inflexion points. Its difficult to filter out sound from noise. The only way is through process of clarification that comes from broad and intensive debate. Andrew stresses on the role of line managers, sales managers and other people who work on periphery of the business in identifying such changes as they are the people who see the things changing first. They are the people who pass on the information to the senior management. In order for a company to clearly know what's happening, it should provide that culture where people can freely share their ideas, debate with each other and questions senior management.

The process of identifying and then responding to the change involves chaos initially where intensive debate happens. But it needs to lead into a phase where leaders reign chaos. Clarity in direction which includes where to go and where not to go should emerge. This is important to know what strategic actions to take and become action oriented. Its very difficult to take people along on your mission to come out of the strategic inflexion point without knowing where to go. This is the point where lot of intitution, judgment, leadership, courage is required.

This holds true not only in the context of a company but also in life of a individual. A person faces several defining moments in his or her life. These are moments that require special abilities to pass through. One should be vigilant about what's happening around, enjoy the process of metamorphosis, be courageous and ready to face failures.

This is a must read for people who want to work in the area of strategy.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Picking up on my hobbies

I am slowly picking up photography after hiatus of a year. I have hardly spent anytime since I joined ISB.

Feeling bad about that :( . The other day I was discussing with my friend about the same. As is human nature, I was trying to justify my not being able to do photography by saying that life at ISB was very busy. I used to hardly get any time to do this. There was always one thing or the other to do. But the same is going to be true all through the life. I, like everyone else, would always be busy. I will have lots of things to do. So what should I do? Can I really do anything or this is destined to doom? Would some discipline help in this case?

I don't have answers. I don't know how people go about it. Any suggestions are welcome.

I have some time now. I want to spend some time doing it. I currently have 35mm SLR camera (Minolta Dynax 5). The "per film role" transaction cost is high for film cameras, particularly when you are traveling. So I am thinking of buying a digital SLR.

Did some research last week. The two cameras that reached the last round were Canon EOS 400D or Rebel XTi and Nikon D80. There is a huge cost difference between the two. Nikon being around 50% more expensive. I am thinking of going with Nikon. Got some good review about it on dp reviews. There is a comparison of the two as well.

I am trying to find out if I can get it from US for me. It's lot cheaper there.
Let's see when it happens.

The beginning of the end ..

I have been getting mails from some of friends complaining about my irregularity in blogging. I don't think I was irregular. I never wrote anything :) Last time I blogged was 6 month back. This is not ir-regularity, its gross absence :)

I am thinking of starting back. Lots of free time these days that I can utilize in a better way. Its just 20 more days of MBA left. Then there will be lull for couple of months before I join B**.

This time will never come back. College days- stay with friends, etc- are always the most interesting times of one's life. Memories of these days will always bring smile and joy. So it would be good idea to document some of these days.

My attempt in next few days would be to blog about my experiences, the fun I had here etc. I will also try to talk about few books I have been reading these days and disperse some Gyan.

There will some sharing of the gossips going on campus these days as well.

So friends, keep reading.. I am keeping an eye on the readership counter...