Saturday, January 3, 2015

Book Review - Leadership Sustainability: Seven Disciplines to Achieve the Changes Great Leaders Know They Must Make - Professor M.S.Rao

Acclaim about the Book
"Leaders all over the world will celebrate Dave and Norm’s powerful new gift: the concept of Leadership Sustainability and its seven disciplines." – Frances Hesselbein, President and CEO, The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute

What are the Details of the Book?

If you want to achieve leadership effectiveness, read this book. If you want to acquire tools and techniques to ensure leadership sustainability, read this book. If you want to grow as an effective and everlasting leader, read this book. Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood’s authored book Leadership Sustainability: Seven Disciplines to Achieve the Changes Great Leaders Know They Must Make is divided into nine chapters sharing seven disciplines - simplicity, time, accountability, resources, tracking, melioration, and emotion

What is Inside?

Leadership Sustainability helps you turn good intentions into effective actions by mastering seven critical disciplines as follows: simplicity: focus on the few key behaviors that will have the most impact; time: allocate your time so your calendar matches your intentions; accountability: take personal responsibility for doing what you say you will do; resources: support your leadership with effective, ongoing coaching and HR systems; tracking: develop metrics for measuring your leadership improvement; melioration: learn from your mistakes and demonstrate resilience; and emotion: draw on deep personal values to keep yourself motivated.

The entire book discusses the following aspects in detail: simplicity, time, accountability, resources, tracking, melioration, and emotion. Chapter 1 goes into more depth on the need for leadership sustainability and explores how it complements our journey of leadership insights.  Chapter 2 addresses the importance of focusing on the key behaviors that will make the most difference to the most important issues. The world is increasingly complex as technology makes global events local news.  Chapter 3 focuses on leaders passing the calendar test. It takes up the question of the allocation of days, hours, and moments. The authors often ask leaders we coach to tell us their priorities, which most can do. Then we ask them to review their calendar for the last 30 or 90 days and show us how much time they spent on these priorities-an exercise that often reveals unnerving gaps between intention and reality.  Chapter 4 discusses the clear benefits of accepting responsibility and holding yourself and others accountable for keeping promises. A cycle of cynicism occurs when leaders announce wonderful aspirations (e.g. vision, mission, and strategy statements) but fail to deliver.

Chapter 5 focuses o the specific resources of coaching and HR infrastructure that leaders can enlist to support their desired changes and build an infrastructure of sustainability. A mix of self-coaching, expert coaching, peer coaching, and boss coaching can be woven together to resource sustained change. HR practices can define and create an organization’s culture. Selection, promotion, career development, succession planning, performance review, and communication policies can be aligned with organization design to support leadership change.  Chapter 6 returns to some wise old sayings: You get what you inspect and not what you expect; you do what you are rewarded for (and so does everyone else): and you shouldn’t reward one thing while hoping for something different.

Chapter 7 introduces a new term for actions and attitudes designed to make things better. Leaders meliorate when they improve by learning from mistakes and failures and demonstrate resilience. Change is not linear. We don’t often start at point A and end up in a logical and smooth progression at point.  Chapter 8 addresses the value of emotion, pointing out that leaders who sustain change have a personal passion for the changes they need to make. Sustained change is a matter of the heart as well as the head; it needs a strong emotional agenda and not simply an intellectual agenda, however logical and cogent it may be. Action without passion will not long endure, nor will passion without action. Leaders ensure emotion by drawing on their deeper values and finding meaning in the work they do. Leadership sustainability occurs when leaders not only know but also feel what they should do to improve. This passion increases when leaders see their desired changes as part of their personal identity and purpose, when their changes will shape their relationships with others, and when their changes will shift the culture of their work setting. Chapter 9 introduces an application audit to apply these disciplines to sustain their leadership progress.

The book describes Doris Goodwin Kearns’ studies on the unique leadership style of the renowned American president Abraham Lincoln. He had a knack for gaining emotional support not only from his allies but also from his enemies. She identified eight emotional strengths he possessed:
  • Empathy. He was able to put himself in the place of others so that he could appreciate their point of view.
  • Humor. He told great stories to illustrate his beliefs, and he often used self-deprecating humor to connect with others.
  • Magnanimity. He forgave others and he was not likely to hold grudges.
  • Generosity of spirit. He was willing to publicly take the blame when things went wrong, and he admitted mistakes openly and honestly.
  • Perspective. He put events and activities into context rather than being overwhelmed by an individual event.
  • Self-control. When frustrated, he would write letter to himself and then tear them up. He thought and reflected before he acted.
  • Sense of balance. He was able to take time to relax, entertain friends, and let go of the stresses of his office.
  • Social conscience. He frequently looked for opportunities to serve and work for others.

Leaders who not only recognize their personal emotions but also use their emotions to connect with others are more likely to sustain their desired changes.

In Duke study of C-suite executives, leadership development is the number two challenge facing organizations. In ‘Top Companies for Leadership’ research, authors found that companies that invested in leadership had much higher business performance than those that didn’t. McKinsey partnered with Egon Zehnder to study growth performance of more than 700 companies and found that leadership quality is “critical to growth” and that most companies do not have enough high-quality executives. The Boston Consulting Group also found that improving leadership development was a top priority from a recent survey of 2, 039 business leaders.

In leadership workshops or coaching, the authors often start with three questions: first, on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), how important is leadership for either your personal or organizational success? Most answer 8, 9, or 10; second what specific things do you need to do to be a more effective leader? Most can quickly write down two or three desired behaviors; and third, how long have you known that you should improve these behaviors? Most meekly acknowledge that they have known what to improve for 3, 6, or 12 months-or longer (decades for some).

The authors share irony of leadership training program as follows: a group of turnkeys attend a two-day training program to learn how to fly. They learn the principles of aerodynamics, and they practice flying in the morning, afternoon, and evening. They learn to fly with the wind and against it, over mountains and plains, and together and solo. At the end of the two days, they all walk home.  They share a thought provoking and inspiring story as follows: Early in the astronaut program, people say, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) discovered that ballpoint pens do not work in zero gravity. To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent years and millions of dollars to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass, and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300degree C. The Russians used a pencil.  Although apocryphal, this story illustrates how a poor definition of a problem can lead to a series of complex and expensive actions. “invent a peon to write in zero gravity” turned out to be far costlier than “find something that writes in the conditions of space.” It is impossible to keep things simple without a clear definition of the problem to be solved.

The authors suggest seven principles on how sustainable leaders consciously master time as follows: take a regular calendar test; see yourself as others see you; recognize routines; see triggers; start small, and build to a tipping point; manage signals and symbols; and be consistent. They have identified five coaching archetypes. Each archetype represents an individual a leader can turn to for coaching that sustains change.
·         Self-coaching. Leaders coach themselves by being self-aware of their behaviors and desired performance.
·         Peer coaching (internal). Leaders find allies or friends inside their organizations who can advise and guide them.
·         Peer coaching (external). Leaders join networks of like-minded professionals outside their organizations for mutual help.
·         Boss coaching. A leader’s direct supervisor coaches behavior and guides changes in results.
·         Expert coaching. A leader hires a professional coach who has credentials and experience to inform behavior and improve e results.

Authors share an anecdote where they have had the opportunity to do African safaris connected to work opportunities in Johannesburg. Within a relatively short distance of the city, it’s possible to visit Kruger National Park or even go further to Chobe National Park in Botswana. Safari companies offer multiple options around degree of comfort. Both spent a little extra money and experienced a relatively luxurious version of camping: We stayed in a lodge during the heat of the day when the animals were less active and rode in an open truck with extended seats to see the animals in the early morning and at dusk, when they tended to be out and about.

Henry Mintzberg popularized the research on leader calendar tests in his classic study on the nature of managerial work. Using time logs, he was able to show the fragmentation of managerial behavior with a preference for action, verbal and informal media, and contacts outside the organization. Based on these actions, he identified 10 managerial working roles (interpersonal roles-figurehead, leader, liaison; informational roles-monitor, disseminator, spokesperson; and decisional roles – entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator, and negotiator.

The calendar test is not merely a personal leader mirror. It is also a way to examine how others may perceive you. When we teach workshops, one of the best predictors of whether we have been successful in our teaching is if we are able to see how the material we are teaching is being received by those we are teaching. Good teaching is not just about presenting what we know; it is about ensuring that what we know influences those being taught-that is, less about the ideas and more about the impact of those ideas. The most profound teaching experiences are those where we can see people processing, adapting, and using our ideas to make changes in their lives even as we teach.

Consistency replaces leadership hypocrisy with sincerity and authenticity. Over time, even skeptical employees recognize and accept the leader’s new behavior if it is consistent. To help leaders build consistency, authors use a tool called the four 3s:

Three hours: Authors encourage leaders to identify what they can do immediately – the first three hours – turn an idea into an action that may take only 15 minutes.
Three days: The behavior becomes a little more comfortable and recognizable if they can do it for three days. This means that the leader needs to calendar forward by figuring out who he or she will talk with or meet with, what he or she will say and do, and how he or she will do it on each of the next three days.
Three weeks: Doing the same behavior for three weeks begins to feel like a habit. In the 1960s, Maxwell Maltz brought together cognitive-behavioral therapy and cybernetics research to help people reach their goals. In particular, as a medical doctor, he studied how to help amputees realign their expectations and adjust to their new circumstances. He came up with the rationale for a 21-day commitment. He proposed that in 21 days of consistent repeated use, the brain forms engrams that connect, neurologically.
Three months: To become fully consistent, leaders not only need to change their personal behavior, but they also need to get others to recognize, accept, and expect the behavior. Leaders at this point may publicly talk about the changes they have intended and accomplished. After 90 days, leaders change expectations others have of them, which is a huge source of reinforcement.

By gaining discipline over time and mastering the seven principles authors suggest, leaders ultimately forge a new identity. As their identity becomes accepted and expected, they are more able to sustain new leadership behaviors and deliver the results they desire.

A number of innovations in financial rewards have been adopted that help leaders to meet the recommended criteria:
Spot awards: Leaders in some firms offer on-the-spot bonuses (either cash or stock options or grants) to employees or teams who perform well. These are one-time windfalls for excellent performance.
Skill-based pay. Compensation systems may be based on the extent to which employees master competencies or skills required for their job. These skill-based pay systems are contingent not only on outcomes but also on behaviors.
Long-term incentives. Leaders are finding ways to connect short-term employee behavior with long-term firm interest through stock grants or options or bonuses tied to the preceding two or three years’ performance.
Pay at risk. Increasingly, a higher percentage of overall compensation comes from pay at risk instead of base pay. This practice enables leaders to hold constant or offer incremental increases in base pay (which limits the long-term liability of the firm) and offer bonuses, incentives, or other cash gains based on performance.
Team rewards. When the work requires teamwork and measures of teamwork can be crafted, it is useful to allocate financial rewards to the team and not just the individual. Team-based compensation encourages teamwork and collaboration.
Customized deals. Some companies are moving away from traditional “Hay points,” where employees receive pay based on know-how, problem solving, and accountability, scores built into their job descriptions, and shifting toward customized employee deals tied to competence and performance. The focus is more on equity (pay for performance) than equality (everyone with a given job description gets paid the same).
Benefits. Employee benefits have financial implications. Leaders are finding new sources of benefits, and they are linking the receipt of these benefits to meeting standards – not just giving them to all employees who meet the eligibility criteria.

Experimenting leaders challenge themselves and others to try new and different ways of doing things, to learn from them, and to make them stick. They also run lots of pilot tests with the axioms.
·         Think big. By thinking big, leaders want to get the largest upside possible. What is the potential of what I want to get done?
·         Test small. By testing small, leaders run pilots rather than taking big risks. Where can we test this potential with the smallest risk?
·         Fail fast. By failing fast, leaders learn how the idea, product, or initiative might or might not meet its potential. What are the criteria for success, and how do we encourage success and learn from failure?
·         Learn always. By constantly staying open to learning, leaders have a mind-set of continuous improvement with both successes and failures. What worked and did not work, how can we learn from it?

Leaders who practice self-reflection constantly observe themselves and want to improve how they come across. They ask themselves some of the following questions to help them see how they are doing:
·         What insights have I gained about myself from what just took place (in that meeting, conversation, presentation)?
·         Could I have misinterpreted some insights about myself? Do I need to test my insights?
·         Have I discovered a specific attitude or behavior problem that leads me to be less effective than I want to be?
·         When I try something new succeed, why has my new approach been more effective than my traditional one?
·         Am I consistently able to apply what I’ve learned when similar situations occur?

Through self-reflection, leaders can become aware of themselves and how they come across to others. One of the ways a leader can build the discipline of self-reflection is to write. Best-selling author Julia Cameron encourages “morning pages” every day as a quick way to clear your mind of isolated and random thoughts. She claims that this enables creativity and the ability to focus and get things done.  Sustainable leadership increases through writing. Some writing tips:
·         Find a place that is comfortable to write, and build a discipline to write there at the same time every day. If you are writing to self-reflect, it’s helpful to avoid distractions such as loud music or a TV show in the background. We prefer to write in our home offices but have disciplined ourselves to write during long airplane rides.
·         Start asking yourself questions that you want to have answered. Before we wrote this section on self-reflection, we went through a preparation process. We talked to others about their stories of self-reflection. We did “fingertip research,” suing a search engine to discover what others have written about it. We asked ourselves and each other why we agree or disagree with the experience of others. We formed a hypothesis about self-reflection and what is most meaningful to share.
·         Push yourself to be honest with yourself. Do I really believe what I am saying, or am I saying this because it’s what others have said? When we get excited about an idea, it’s because we find a different way to look at an idea that has impact. There is a gut feeling that there is truth in what we are saying, and we are open to being wrong until we test it. Self-reflection writing is true to who you are.
·         Draft and edit, and then keep editing. The hardest part of writing is the effort to put something into words for the first time. After that, you are refining the idea. The refinement leads to examples and better ways of saying it. But if you don’t write it the first time, the self-insight doesn’t come.
·         Take sustainable action. Johann von Goethe said, “Never by reflection, but only by doing is self-knowledge possible to one.” This seems to contradict our initial point about self-reflection, but it does not. The purpose of any reflections is to improve the ability to do something. Sustainable leaders use self-reflection not only to relax and gain insight but also to frame actions that work.

Self-reflection allows leaders to meliorate. This process also enables them to sustain change because they possess a mind-set of constant learning.

Authors often do an exercise about personal leader brand where they ask people to pick three words of phrases that describe them. To keep it interesting, we often ask people to do this exercise for anther participant they know well. The words Norm uses for Dave are: Learning – commitment to inquiry and new ideas; ideas with impact; and autonomy. The words Dave uses for Norm are: resilience, entrepreneurial and application of ideas with impact.

Challenges for Leaders: Every leader has to ask, “Am I willing to pay the price of leadership?” Authors have talked to leader after leader who has paid the price in its many forms:
Visibility and loss of privacy. As leaders move up their organizations, both their public and private actions become more visible. One leader said that he wanted simply to put on his grubby clothes and wander the streets of his city, but he knew that he had an obligation to his company, and his dingy dress would soon show up in derogatory light in a YouTube video.
Unfair and extreme criticism. Leaders have to make difficult decisions, some of which inevitably harm others. As leaders move up the organizations, their decisions become more and not less controversial. Leaders have to make the 55/45 decisions (the hard choices) and delegate the 80/20 (the easy ones) to others. Sometimes employees and others criticize hard choices without fully appreciating their context. And, by making the 55/45 decisions, leaders will inevitably make wrong choices. Their ability to face and learn from these choices evokes a personal price.
Misunderstanding intentions. As leaders become more successful and visible, their intentions are more likely to be misunderstood. In particular, since salaries are public and leaders have higher disparity gaps between their income and average income, employees may attribute self-interest and greed to leaders when it is not intended.
Isolation and loneliness. A leader who was popular among her peers was delighted with her promotion. Before long, however, she realized that because of her new role, she had to readjust her relationships with her former peers. While they continued to respect and admire her, she ended up being less of a friend and more of a boss. Leadership is often a lonely job because even those who want to be friends may be seen as seeking favors more than offering personal support.
Sense of responsibility and ownership for decisions. In a party game, one of Dave’s friends was asked, “Name your ideal job.” When she said that she wanted to be a tollbooth operator, we cringed, thinking of the tedious aspects of that job. Then she explained, “I see all of your bringing your work home with you. Your 8– or 10-hour workday is really 18 to 20 hours because you even wake up worrying about the things you have to do. As a tollbooth operator, I could leave my work at work and be peaceful at home.” Leadership requires intensity and personal sacrifice.

For each of the seven disciplines that constitute leadership sustainability, authors have identified a metaphor that captures what effective leaders do to sustain their desired change:
·         Taxonomist. Sustainable leaders create simple taxonomies by focusing on the critical items that have the largest impacts.
·         Time logger. Sustainable leaders manage time as their most critical resource, using their calendar to make sure that they really devote their attention to the things that matter to them.
·         Responsible adult. Sustainable leaders take personal and public responsibility for their actions and are accountable for the results they get.
·         Teammate. Sustainable leaders work together to combine unique resources into collective results through coaching and systems.
·         Trackers. Sustainable leaders track their progress to know how they are doing and to see how today’s actions will predict tomorrow’s outcomes.
·         Pioneer. Sustainable leaders constantly learn and grow, being resilient in the face of failure and humble in the face of success.
·         Meaning maker. Sustainable leaders recognize the value and power of their own emotions and build emotion and meaning in others.

To be effective as a leader, you need to pay attention to both the leadership code, or basics of leadership (i.e. Strategy, execution, talent management, human capital development, and personal proficiency), and the leadership brand, or how to behave to be consistent with your organization’s stakeholder expectations.

Leadership Quotes

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci
“What you do speaks so loud I cannot hear what you say.”  - Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely to be the one who dropped it.” – Lou Holtz
“Coaches have to watch for what they don’t want to see and listen to what they don’t want to hear.” – John Madden
“Measure twice, cut once.” – English proverb
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Gandhi
“All the knowledge I possess everyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” – Frank Herbert

Leadership Sustainability Takeaways
  • Leadership sustainability is a concept with parallels in environmental sustainability, which has come to mean shaping an organization’s culture and all its actions to enhance its reputation as a responsible member of its community and custodian of the world’s resources.
  • An estimated $60 to $80 billion is spent annually on only training in the United States alone.  It is estimated that 20 to 30 percent of ideas learned in leadership training turn into practice.
  • Individuals need discipline to turn leadership aspirations to actions.
  • Leadership sustainability has to show up not only in personal intentions but also in observable behavior.
  • We live in a complex world that is growing increasingly more complex.
  • We grew up with type writers and letters and then switched to word processors and e-mail, and now it’s Facebook, Google, blogs, Short Message Service (SMS) messages, and tweets. What’s next?
  • Simplicity leads to sustainability – because without it we chase complexity and never catch up.
  • You can simplify the path forward for yourself and for your organization through three principles of simplicity: focus on what matters most; tell stories; and avoid concept clutter.
  • To help leaders sustain their goals, authors propose three ways to bring strategic assumptions to life by focusing on what matters most: define the problem, prioritize; and filter and frame.
  • We attend many company leadership conferences every year. Before speaking, we’ve found, it is always a good idea to get a sense of the group by arriving early to observe and learn from the interaction. The intent of doing this is to filter what’s important in the dialogue and to build it into our talks.
  • When Starbucks grew rapidly in the 1990s, many employees were overwhelmed by the growth pressures. Leaders instituted institutional habits for baristas called LATTE method: listen, acknowledge, take action, thank the customers, and explain why the problem occurred. This simple framework allowed Starbuck’s employees to sustain their growth agenda.
  • One key to effective framing is to find common patterns to organize diverse ideas. For example, a leader attends a training program and learns lots of concepts, frameworks, ideas, and tools. These options can be transferred from ideas to practice by finding the patterns in the complex ideas.
  • Think of a restaurant menu. If you took the items individually, you might have 70 or 80 choices, but restaurants cluster their offerings into drinks, appetizers, salads, main courses, desserts, and after-dinner drinks. These categories make ordering simpler.
  • Good strategy tells a story that trumps data. Sustainable strategy creates a narrative and puts an individual story into context.
  • Tell stories that make heroes of people who support your agenda: another way that leaders can get people on the same page to ensure a simple, common agenda that is sustainable is to tell stories that make heroes out of your people who take action consistent with what you want to be known for.
  • How you spend your time defines you as leader. Here is how one executive made his own place in the sun. Leaders always have a mirror in which to view themselves, a mirror that will replace hypocrisy with credibility: the calendar. A calendar reflects what we do and not what we say, and it offers an honest look at our priorities, both past and future. Distorting or ignoring the evidence of this mirror inevitably leads to unrealistic expectations and false hopes.
  • Malcolm Gladwell proposed that a key to outstanding success in any given field is 10,000 hours of experience and practice. The typical Olympic hopeful will train for about four hours a day for at least 310 days a year for six years before making the national team.
  • We learn by practicing the same thing over and over so that eventually the pathways in our brains repeat the sequence without our thinking about it.
  • Accountability leads to trust. Trust leads to improved relationships. Improved relationships on the job lead to more referrals and better collaboration. More referrals and better collaboration lead to sustained performance.
  • Leaders build accountability in others and for themselves through four principles of accountability as follows: take personal responsibility; go public; be consistent with your personal values and brand; and hold others accountable.
  • We wear branded clothing not simply to be clothed but also to send a message about who we are. We drive a branded car to communicate our identity, not for basic transportation. Most brands tell a story. The Mont Blanc pen we use is a gift from a friend. When we use the pen, we remember the friend more than the pen. A brand has a personal and public story. 
  • Leaders cannot be personally accountable or hold others accountable to ambiguous objectives. If it is not clear what is expected, we never know how well we are doing. Setting clear objectives leading to accountability involves six elements that we call the ABC’s (actually ABCDEF): Aspiration, Behavior, Customer connectivity, Discipline, Energy (or emotion) and Focus
  • In recent years, most have accepted that leadership improvement comes more from experience than formal training. While authors agree, they are worried that the “lessons from experience” movement focuses more on “experience” than on “lessons.” Just having a new experience does not ensure improvement.
  • When leaders can make their personal behaviors consistent with the organization’s culture, they are likely to be sustained.
  • We all have emotional experiences that linger in our memories. Some memories are deeply etched into both subconscious and conscious thought because they are imbued with emotion.
  • The price of leadership needs to be counterbalanced with the benefits and opportunities of leadership: ability to make a difference on topics and with people you care about; ability to shape an agenda; ability to grow something that endures; ability to gain a sense of self-worth; and ability to influence others.
  • One of the ultimate tests of leadership is what happens after the leader departs. Good leaders leave something behind. Leaders can often take pride in having established something that endures beyond their tenure.
  • Martin Seligman and his adherents have recognized that real happiness has evolved from pleasure (sensual enjoyment) to engagement (being lost in the flow of an activity) to meaning (connecting the activity to deeper values).

What is the Recommendation?

This book contains lots of research findings, examples, illustrations, stories, and case studies. It shares several thought provoking and inspiring corporate stories such as Southwest Airlines and It offers assessments, tests and web resources.  The ideas and insights are well punched.  This is an ideal book to check economic decline and ensure leadership sustainability globally. This book is useful for HR professionals, coaches and leaders. You can gift this book to your friends to inspire them to grow as leaders. Enjoy reading this book!

"Dave and Norm propose a practical approach to solving the problem of leaders turning what they intend into what they do. The seven principles provide a simple and practical way to get things done." – Ram Charan, coauthor of the New York Times bestselling Execution

Leadership Sustainability: Seven Disciplines to Achieve the Changes Great Leaders Know They Must Make by Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood (McGraw-Hill Professional, 1 April 2013)

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Professor M.S.Rao, India
Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants India
Listed in Marquis Who's Who in the World in 2013
Twitter: @professormsrao
21 Success Sutras for Leaders: Top 10 Leadership Books of the Year (San Diego University) Amazon URL:

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