Leading in the land of Oz
We are not in Kansas anymore. Our world has changed because of deep financial crisis, high unemployment, bailout and international unrest. As an article in Harvard Business Review said, “Today, more and more managers must deal with new government regulations, new products, growth, increased competition, technological developments, and a changing workforce” (Kotter and Schlesinger, 2008). As in any crisis, the chance for any new manager or leader to make an impact and truly implement change could not be better. This environment will provide fertile test grounds for what business schools have been professing for the last quarter of a century.
Just as the twister in “The Wizard of Oz” dropped Dorothy's farmhouse into this strange new land, we know the way back home cannot be attained by reversing the path that landed us in today's new world. It is leadership with a forward focus to explore the new landscape that will lead us back to prosperity. In 2008, Dr. Ali Lakhani and I wrote the book "The Leader of Oz: Revealing the 101 Marvelous Secrets for the 21st Century” based on the premise that leadership centered on the human side of the enterprise—with the intent of building a strong organization and business results—holds the key to the Emerald City. Our research pointed out that the use of a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership in every country, culture or situation is fraught with problems. Just as Dorothy had to deal with the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Wizard, her ability to extract the best from her colleagues and from herself was the ticket for her safe return to Kansas.
Since 2004 when he began his research, Dr. Lakhani has identified 10 leadership practices that define great leaders, while creating strong organizations and delivering business results: 1) Communication, 2) Competence, 3) Stewardship, 4) Reinforcement, 5) Confidence, 6) Creativity, 7) Authenticity, 8) Vision, 9) Culture and 10) Empowerment. Recognizing the importance of these practices is only a starting point to becoming a great leader. Just as Dorothy was able to use her warm-hearted Communication to elicit support from the Tin Man, so was she able to show her Confidence to challenge the Cowardly Lion to win his loyalty. Understanding the follower’s needs first and using the appropriate leadership practice(s) provides the opportunity to extract the best results from the individuals. The environment and culture of Oz looked significantly different from that of Kansas. Aligning leadership practices to each of these individual cultures and recognizing again that one size does not fit all, improves opportunities for success.
Moving forward, look for sequential articles as we tackle the 10 leadership practices one at a time to help you analyze your leadership competency and receive recommendations on application of each practice. Additional information on these practices can be found in the Culturally Adapted Leadership for Inspired Business Excellence and Results (CALIBER) report.
Kotter, J., & Schlesinger, L. (2008). Choosing Strategies for Change. Harvard Business Review, 86 (7/8), 130-139.