Leadership: A Trend that Nevers Grows Old

From time to time, I like to set aside a blog to look at trends in the world of business books, just to see on what topics authors are focusing their time and research. It’s a great way to measure the hot button issues.

Although there are many topics I could focus on, today I want to return to that old standard – Leadership. This subject has risen above the status of a trend, to become a recurring theme necessary for executives to master.

Although what is said about leadership in these books may include some recurring lessons we’ve seen over the past decades, authors are also intertwining these common-sense lessons with a new twist, with perspectives that are being gained as the world continues to change. Leadership is affected by technology, culture, greater diversity, changing perspectives about how companies related to the outside world, and much more.

Here are a few recent and upcoming leadership books that epitomize how our view of leadership is evolving in a changing world.

4D Leadership by Alan Watkins – Watkins introduces a 4th dimension to leadership – the vertical dimension. Vertical development focuses on being able to think more complexly, systemically, and strategically, whereas horizontal development consists of learning new skills and knowledge.

The Heart Led Leader by Tommy Spaulding – Authentic leaders, Spaulding says, live and lead from the heart.  The values and principles that guide our lives and shape our ability to lead others is far more important than our title, or our ability to crunch numbers, or the impressive degrees we display on our walls.

Lead More, Control Less by Marvin Weisbord & Sandra Janoff – Lead More, Control Less describes eight essential skills for establishing a culture of autonomy and self-leadership. Using examples and case studies, Weisbord and Janoff describe how leaders can share responsibility, defuse group conflicts, show everyone the big picture, and more. With this approach, leaders truly gain more control by giving it up.

Unconventional Leadership by Nancy Schlichting – Unconventional Leadership is a style of leadership based on confronting reality and leading headlong through adversity. In this inspiring story, Nancy Schlichting, the CEO of Henry Ford Health System, reveals her unique strategies that drive success: maintaining a focus on people, creating a culture of innovation and reinvention, and embracing diversity as a key strategy for growth.

These are just four of the many leadership titles coming out in the last quarter of 2015, but they should give you a taste of the ongoing challenges to our view of leadership in this changing world.

Is Your Board Creating Value?


When to Take Charge, When
to Partner, and When to Stay Out of the Way

In Boards That Lead, authors Ram Charan, Dennis Carey and Michael Useem argue that boards today have a duty to lead — to take a more active role in making decisions that were once perhaps the sole prerogative of the executive. The reason for the increased active leadership role of boards is the growing complexity and information overload of today’s business environment “across every facet of doing business,” the authors write. They stress, however, that their new model of board leadership is based on a collaborative partnership in which the boards know “when to lead, when to partner, and when to stay out of the way.”

Knowing When to Do What

Perhaps the most important leadership responsibility of the board is to develop the central idea of the company — the practical, guiding core concept of the company that “references why the company exists, whom it serves, how it should be nurtured, why it will flourish, how it will make money and manage risk, and where it must be going if it is to sustain a competitive presence and achieve its broader purpose,” the authors write. “The central idea is the bedrock on which the enterprise is raised and how its resources are spent.”

Boards should also take a leadership role in selecting the CEO; ensuring the board’s competence, architecture and modus operandi; ensuring the ethics and integrity of the company; and defining the company’s compensation.

Boards should partner with the company’s executive on strategy, capital allocation and execution; defining the company’s financial goals; managing risk; allocating resources; developing talent; and developing what the authors call a “culture of decisiveness.”

Finally, according to the authors, boards should stay out of the way for issues of execution and operations as well as non-strategic decisions.

The Apple Example

The productive collaboration between Steve Jobs and the chairman of the Apple Board Edgar S. Woolard, Jr., according to the authors, perfectly exemplifies the meaning of knowing when to lead, partner and stay out of the way. To begin with, it was Woolard who convinced the board to bring Jobs, forced from Apple in 1985, back to the company in 1997 (one of the authors, Ram Charan, was an advisor to Woolard during this period). Jobs agreed on the condition that Woolard replace the entire board, although eventually one other board member was allowed to stay.

With a new board in place and Jobs committed to reviving the fast-declining company, Jobs and Woolard, according to the authors, began a back-and-forth process in which Jobs would come to Woolard with an idea, which Woolard and the board would either approve or disapprove. Jobs, Woolard would say, was always respectful, making a passionate pitch for his ideas but accepting defeat if it came. In many cases, however, Jobs was able to sell Woolard on his ideas. For example, after taking his new leadership position, the authors write, Jobs convinced Woolard to let him stop the Mac clones (an expensive proposition since the clone makers were under contract), fire many of the firm’s engineers, divide the survivors into six teams with whom Jobs would meet once a week, and perhaps most memorably, create an Apple store. Woolard resisted the Apple store, knowing that other computer manufacturers had tried and failed to succeed in retail. He finally acquiesced to only four stores, which the board approved.

Boards That Lead is an owner’s manual, clearly laying out how boards are supposed to operate. The book begins with defining the central idea and recruiting the right board members, then moves to several chapters on managing CEO succession (including identifying failing CEOS and recruiting successful replacements), and finally covers managing risk and avoiding micro-management. All chapters end with a detailed “director’s checklist” to help achieve the responsibilities outlined in the chapter.

In an early chapter, the authors write that board leadership “does not mean wandering into the weeds — micromanagement is decidedly not the point — but laissez-faire is no longer an acceptable posture at many boards either.” This clearly organized and authoritative book will help boards of directors stay as actively involved as they need to be — and no more.

Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All


Everyone Is Creative, Even You

The core argument of Creative Confidence is simple: Everyone can be creative. Those who see themselves as non-creative might bristle at the notion. But David Kelley and Tom Kelley make a compelling case that creativity is innate in human beings – all human beings. The difference is that some of us recognize the creativity inside, and others don’t. The goal of Creative Confidence, therefore, is not to teach readers how to be creative but instead to guide them in bringing out the creativity within them. Everyone is creative, the authors argue, but not everyone has the courage to be creative, or take action when they should, or know how to start on a project. These are the types of constraints that people who mistakenly believe they are not creative have to overcome.

Many people assume they are not creative simply because they don’t dare to be creative, the authors argue. Too many people are afraid of failure, when in truth, it is through failure that one eventually achieves success and breakthrough. You have to give yourself “permission to fail,” the authors write. You have to make the leap and acknowledge that it might not be a success. “Look for ways to grant yourself creative license, or give yourself the equivalent of a get-out-of-jail-free card,” they write. And if unexpected mistakes do happen, then “own” the mistakes and learn their lessons.

Sparking Creativity

Sometimes you are ready to dare to be innovative… but the ideas aren’t coming. The chapter, “Spark: From Blank Page to Insight,” offers eight steps for sparking creativity when facing the “blank page”:

1. Choose creativity. You have to decide to make it happen.

2. Think like a traveler. Don’t just sit in the office and wait for the spark. Expose yourself to new experiences and ideas.

3. Engage relaxed attention. Don’t focus on a specific task; instead relax and allow your mind to make connections between seemingly unrelated ideas.

4. Empathize with your end user. You’ll come up with better ideas if you understand what they want.

5. Do observations in the field. Observe others, and you might “discover new opportunities hidden in plain sight.”

6. Ask questions, starting with “why?” A series of “why” questions can lead you past surface details to core issues.

7. Reframe challenges. The first step toward the solution is sometimes to reframe the question.

8. Build a creative support network. Have a group of people to bounce ideas off.

Taking Action

Coming up with ideas is only a first step. Creative people do not only think but also act. They make the ideas come to life. Some of the “action catalysts” suggested by the authors include:

1. Get help. Hire or recruit someone to share the burden, and see what he or she comes up with.

2. Create peer pressure. Author David Kelley discovered that he needs someone in the room to get started, even if they’re not saying anything!

3. Gather an audience. Get someone to listen; then “talk your ideas through to get the creative juices flowing,” write the authors.

4. Do a bad job. This rather surprising suggestion refers to the perfectionism that can lead to paralysis. Instead, the authors urge creative innovators to just get something out and then make adjustments.

5. Lower the stakes. Nothing can stop you in your tracks like believing that your decision is “so important that everything hinges on it,” write the authors. Make it less important. Come up with options, and see what happens.

These sample to-do lists scratch the surface of the engaging advice and stories offered in Creative Confidence. David Kelley is the founder of IDEO, one of the world’s leading innovation and design firms, and the d.school at Stanford. Both IDEO and the d.school offer numerous examples to support the arguments of the book. Tom Kelley, a partner at IDEO, is the author of the bestsellers The Art of Innovation and The Ten Faces of Innovation, and no doubt this collaboration with his brother will be another well-deserved bestseller.

Straight Talk on Leadership

R. Douglas Williamson, a Canadian businessman and writer, has been very outspoken about the need for Canada to be more aggressive in the global economy. Through his articles and YouTube videos he has called on Canadian government and business to catch up with the rest of the world, and has pointed to the fact that Canada has moved too slowly and is falling behind.

In his latest book, Straight Talk on Leadership, Williamson calls leaders out of complacency. His analysis of the issues and clear solutions are just as applicable for those of us in the U.S. and other countries, and so we’ve invited him to share his solutions at our next Soundview Live webinar, Leading into the Future.

In this Soundview Live webinar Williamson, head of the prestigious consultancy, The Beacon Group, points to complacency, lack of leadership sophistication, and an inward focus as the chief reasons why companies are at risk of falling behind. Issuing an urgent call to action, Williamson helps leaders understand the four principle challenges facing the modern leader and describes the eight essential leadership competencies required to navigate the future. He provides powerful strategies, tools and techniques for how to reframe thinking about leadership and reform leadership strategies.

You will learn:

•             Four principle challenges facing the modern leader.

•             The eight essential leadership competencies required to navigate the future.

•             Powerful strategies, tools and techniques for how to reframe thinking about leadership and reform leadership strategies.

Please join us for this webinar, and bring your questions for Williamson. As always, Soundview subscribers attend for free.

Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants


Who Has the Real Advantage?

Launched by his bestseller, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell is a nonfiction superstar, and with good reason. As his latest book, David and Goliath, proves, Gladwell keeps surprising us with new revelations about how the world really works. In David and Goliath, he destroys an assumption that has been accepted without question for thousands of years: that the David of the Bible – and all the “Davids” that followed in the history of the world – were underdogs. In general terms, David and Goliath forces us to reconsider what we thought we knew about those with advantages and disadvantages.

For example, most people believe that to grow up very poor is a disadvantage for children. But Gladwell argues that to grow up very rich is also a disadvantage. On another topic, the accepted wisdom is that small classroom size is better for children; however, Gladwell argues that if classroom sizes become too small, the children are impeded in their learning as much as they would be in classrooms that have too many students.

It’s easy perhaps to make counterintuitive, against-the-grain pronouncements and perhaps even to find some anecdotal evidence to support these pronouncements. But Gladwell is a teacher, not an opinionated contrarian. In all his books, he uses a wide range of academic studies and other research reinforced with eloquent true stories drawn from history as well as from the lives of contemporary people and events around the world.

What’s So Bad About a Large Classroom?

Gladwell’s discussion of the impact of classroom size on learning exemplifies the depth of his research and insight. Classroom size happens to be one of the most researched topics related to education in the world. A number of global academics and consultants have carefully explored whether and how the size of a classroom impedes or enables learning in countries from Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore to numerous countries in Western and Eastern Europe to the United States. The results are mixed, at best, with smaller class sizes sometimes having a positive effect, sometimes having a negative effect, and sometimes having no effect whatsoever.

As Gladwell digs deeper in the research, he discovers an inverted U relationship to small classroom size. Reducing the number of students in a large class does help increase learning to a certain point. Then the upward curve bends downward as smaller class sizes reduce learning. There are a number of factors. For example, shy or mediocre students don’t get the boost to their self-esteem that comes from hearing others asking the questions with which they are wrestling.

Success In Spite of Struggle

Gladwell plunges with equal depth in a wide variety of other situations in which the advantage or disadvantage is wrongly assigned by our assumptions or the accepted wisdom. For example, dyslexics or people who lose a parent young are often successful because, not in spite, of their struggles.

Whatever the situation or context, Gladwell provides the evidence that bolsters his conclusions – often evidence that was available but ignored. Any historian of ancient times, for example, could tell you that the “artillery” of ancient armies consisted of men with slingshots, who benefited from greater mobility and the ability to strike from a distance than the heavily armored sword fighters. In other words, Goliath was taken out by a better soldier.

Winners of the 2013 Thinkers50 Awards

The Thinkers50 rank was launched in 2001 as the first-ever global ranking of management thinkers. Every two years the list is updated and includes a range of activities that support its mission of identifying and sharing the best management thinking in the world. The Thinkers50 Ranking remains the premier ranking of its kind, and the Thinkers50 Awards (introduced in 2011) are widely regarded as the “Oscars of management thinking”.

That mission is based on three core beliefs:

•Ideas have the power to change the world

•Management is essential to human affairs

•New thinking can create a better future.

Here are the top 15 thinkers for 2013:

Clayton Christensen

W. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne

Roger Martin

Don Tapscott

Vijay Govindarajan

Rita McGrath

Michael Porter

Linda Hill

Herminia Ibarra

Marshall Goldsmith

Pankaj Ghemawat

Jim Collins

Daniel Pink

Lynda Gratton

Amy Edmondson

(See the rest of the list)

As you will see from the links above, Soundview has covered the work of 12 of the top 15 thinkers for 2013. This is not that surprising since one of the greatest ways these top thinkers have wielded their influence is through their books. This aligns with our goal to provide subscribers with the best in business thinking.

Who would you add to the list of the 50 top thinkers for 2013?


The Importance of Relationships

Relationships are key to business success. On a personal level, who we know really does make a difference in our career and personal life. But on the business level relationships are becoming more critical as well. Companies and brands are being built and destroyed through the power of word of mouth, especially via social media. So our relationship to our customers must be nourished just like our personal connections.

In the coming week we will have the privilege of hosting two webinars with experts in the area of personal and business relationships.

Transforming Your Business Contacts into Success with David Nour

David Nour has been a recognized strategist and thought leader on the topic of business relationships for more than 25 years. He delivers over fifty keynotes annually at leading industry associations, universities and Fortune 500 companies, has several top selling books and pioneered the phenomenon that relationships are the greatest off-balance sheet asset any organization possesses. He shares strategies and insight on The Nour Group’s blog, e-mail newsletters and social media assets reaching hundreds of thousands of executives and entrepreneurs across a broad base of industries and geographic markets.

In this Soundview Live webinar David Nour will take you beyond just getting and giving business cards, working a room, or getting the most out of a conference. His focus is how to strategically invest in relationships as your most valuable asset for an extraordinary return. Nour will introduce new concepts in relationship management, including the exchange of Relationship Currency, the accumulation of Reputation Capital, and the building of Professional Net Worth. These are the fundamental measures of business relationship, and once you understand them, you’ll be able to turn your contacts into better executions, performance, and results.

Harnessing the Power of Word of Mouth with Paul Rand

Paul M. Rand is the founder, president and CEO of Zócalo Group — a leading digital, social media and word-of-mouth marketing agency focused on making its client’s brands the most discovered, talked about and recommended in their category.  In addition to his role at Zócalo Group, Paul serves on the national board of directors for the Council of the Better Business Bureau is a past president and board member of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and Vice Chairman of the Dean’s Advisory Board for DePaul University’s Driehaus College of Business and Kellstadt Graduate School of Business.

In this Soundview Live webinar, Paul Rand, the founder of one of today’s most successful digital and social marketing firms, will reveal how customer recommendations in the digital space have radically transformed the way people buy–which means you need to come up with new methods to reach customers and improve your products. Apply the lessons of one of the pioneers of word of mouth marketing to ensure that your brand is Highly Recommended.

Please join us for these two excellent events, and if you can’t make the particular dates, register anyway and you can watch the replay whenever you want. Put the power of recommendations to work in your career and business.

The Age of Video

Video content has reached its pinnacle as a key source of content, in both the consumer and business world. YouTube is now the second most popular search engine behind Google, beating out Bing and Yahoo. Why? Because of the popularity of video as the vehicle of easy consumption.

Soundview began dipping a toe into the pool of video production several years ago with our Executive Insights interviews. These interviews with business people “in the trenches” has become a very popular download on our site as part of the Premium Subscription.

Recently we introduced our Smarttips videos to the marketplace. These short (3-5 minute) videos focus in on one specific skill, and have grown to a library of over 300 titles. This really fits the recent video trend, because who wants to read a whole book on a topic like management, when all you really need to know is how to run a meeting.

With the SmartTips videos, you can watch that short video on running meetings and you’ve got all the information you need, instead of digging through a whole book in hopes of finding the information you need.

This fits with Soundview’s goal over the past 35 years of providing business information condensed down to the key ideas and principles, to save busy business people time. Whether its book summaries, author webinars or SmartTips videos, our aim is to be the business world’s partner in time-saving resources.

How Lady Gaga Turns Followers into Fanatics



Pop stars will always have their die-hard fans, and superstar Lady Gaga (real name Stefani Germanotta) is no different. Lady Gaga calls her fans “little monsters,” and in Monster Loyalty, marketing and social media author and speaker Jackie Huba shows why the singer known for her outrageous costumes and mega-hits can serve as a model for developing sustained customer loyalty. Huba, whose previous books are Creating Customer Evangelists and Citizen Marketers, draws seven key business lessons from Gaga’s career: focus on your one percenters, lead with values, build community, give fans a name, embrace shared symbols, make them feel like rock stars, and generate something to talk about.

Focus On Your One Percenters

In her 2007 book Citizen Marketers, Huba dismissed the argument that 20 percent of customers create 80 percent of a company’s value. In truth, according to Huba, most of the value that customers bring to the company comes from just one percent of the customer base. These one percenters are fully engaged customers who, among other characteristics, believe in the company and feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves.

Gaga and her manager, Troy Carter, clearly understand and embrace the importance of the one percenters, Huba writes. Despite her 33 million followers on Twitter and 55 million likes on Facebook, Gaga and Carter decided that they needed to create a private space for the most die-hard superfans. Gaga and Carter created Littlemonsters.com, a website in which Gaga communicates with her fans. There is, of course, a high level of interaction among the fans, but it is the direct communication between Gaga and the fans that makes this site unique. As one superfan explained, “Lady Gaga seems to go on [the site] on a regular basis. She’s updating all the time. A couple of weeks ago, she tweeted some fan art that she found on the site.”

Lead With Values

Gaga’s engagement goes further than simply interacting on social media. Gaga is passionate about helping young people feel worthy. She does this not just through her songs but also through her Born This Way foundation, “the mission of which,” Huba writes, “is to empower youth by offering mentoring and career development, and focusing on issues like self-confidence, well-being and anti-bullying.” Gaga thus exemplifies another lesson for business: Lead With Values.

With each business lesson, Huba ties Lady Gaga’s examples to one or two business case studies. One of the most interesting juxtapositions is between Gaga and Finnish housewares company Fiskars, which was founded in 1649. As Huba demonstrates, both the outrageous rock star and the centuries-old company understand how to build a community around their “products” by understanding customers’ passions.

Readers will quickly understand that Huba is no pop fan who decided to stretch her love for her favorite singer into a business case; the lessons in Monster Loyalty are insightful and practical. Nor is Lady Gaga just a young singer who happened to hit it big. From her classical music training to her careful study of Andy Warhol’s iconoclastic life to the deliberate decisions she makes in her causes and career choices (even the infamous meat dress achieved its political aim), Gaga is a savvy marketer and shrewd businessperson.

The Business Case for Inclusion and Diversity

Generally, when a business talks about diversity and inclusion, the reason behind the discussion is to avoid discrimination and to provide a diversified workforce. But Mark Kaplan and Mason Donovan argue that the inclusion of a more diversified workforce will actually improve the overall outcomes of the business.

In The Inclusion Dividend they argue that there are special skills and perspectives brought to the table by this diversity of people that will provide new approaches, a broader vision and in the end, better products then would be possible without them.

Mark Kaplan is the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Consulting Officer for The Dagoba Group. He has been consulting since 1986 and has advised organizations in the areas of management development, executive coaching, team building and group dynamics, organizational assessment, and diversity management, assessment and strategy development.

Mason Donovan is Chief Sales Consulting Officer at The Dagoba Group. Mason was Managing Director of Client Solution Sales for Personified, a human capital consulting firm, before becoming a principal for The Dagoba Group. He has held progressively responsible sales and marketing positions for over 15 years. Mason holds a long list of sales achievement awards for direct sales and sales management.

If you are looking for ways to bring more inclusion and diversity to your organization, or are looking for additional ammunition to bring to the discussion with upper management, then you’ll want to join us on July 23rd for our Soundview Live webinar Why Investing in Diversity & Inclusion Pays Off, with both Kaplan and Donovan.

Just a reminder that Soundview subscribers attend for free, and for everyone else the cost is just $49 to fill a conference room with colleagues.