Leadership on Point

Coming Out of Hibernation: Beware the Bear

April 5, 2012 Richard Levin

Bull Bear Market + Coming Out of Hibernation: Beware the Bear

For five years, we’ve been managing our expectations downward.  It’s become part of our psyche to manage with less, stifle creativity, and look over our shoulders.

Not that we are ready to be doing triple back-flips or anything, but there are signs (dare I say “encouraging” ones?) that we are moving toward a period of renewed growth and hope.  What I’m hearing from the executives I coach – a robust cross-section of American business leaders – is that they expect to do more hiring, plan to modestly introduce new products and services, anticipate keeping salaries relatively flat for a while longer, and worry about volatile gas prices.  That’s why the no-back-flips reference: credit is still tight, energy prices are high, global economies are still unstable, and the overall picture is still shaky.  But business leaders I’m talking to seem encouraged by an increase in U.S. exports, by consumers spending less on overseas goods and services, and by factories gearing up in anticipation of more consumer spending.

It seems safe to start thinking creatively again.

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Let’s Celebrate – Another Female Corporate Executive – CEO!

November 3, 2011 Dr. Johnny Magwood - Guest Author

Women CEOs, Leadership, Women, CEO

Although the pay gap has shrunk, women are virtually absent from executive positions.  Corporations and society, in general, have numerous causes from such misrepresentation; the cuprites most sighted are stereotyping, misperceptions about leadership skills, cultural constraints, and the perceived inability for women to make tough managerial decisions. Moreover, women executives are observed having minimal networking groups and opportunities and are often not accepted in male dominate circles.  But IBM has a different opinion; the October 26, 2011, WSJ revealed that after 30 years of impeccable service, Virginia M. Rometty was given the top position of one of the world’s largest and well know corporation.  Rometty now shares corporate prominence with Hewlett-Packard’s CEO, Meg Whitman – how nice!  In the United Kingdom, executive women are also making a difference; their presences in the board rooms and at higher leadership levels show exceptional performance relative to Total Shareholder Return.  Yet, overall, executive and working women are still exposed to discrimination, stereotyping, the glass ceiling, and an expectation to conform to cultural norms and values.

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Critical Thinking and Deconstruction of Leadership Assumptions (Part I)

October 18, 2011 Dr. Johnny Magwood - Guest Author

Critical Thinking and Deconstruction of Leadership Assumptions + Leadership Development + Executive Coaching + Richard Levin & Associates

As professionals, we embrace creative and critical thinking in a manner to take on exciting initiatives and provide new opportunities for our businesses and personal improvement.  Prior to formal training and exposure to the nuances of critical thinking, we may have found professional socialization and interaction either challenging or cumbersome.  During our professional development, several business situations may have presented small and large problems for us.  These difficulties may have resided in executive leadership’s politics, shadowing role models, and our inability to demonstrate a questioning attitude.  Often, we place ourselves under the assumption that we are effectively exposed to refined relationships and we are properly functioning in our professional world.  Routinely, we may be deceiving ourselves into believing that we are performing well in various business settings.  However, if we truly reflect on our daily professional situations; peer and team dynamics; and our success or failure within our personal interaction; we may discover that our assumptions are actually blind spots.  These blind spots may be a result of our lack of creative and critical thinking.  Ultimately, our goal is to uncover and confront these assumptions and establish corrective measures to deconstruct our leadership suppositions.

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What Happened to Wisdom?

October 12, 2011 Richard Levin

We need leadership; leaders who lead; government; Occupy Wall Street; Obama; Democrat; Republican

Before the last Presidential election, Barrie Greiff and I wrote a Boston Business Journal column about the disappointing lack of wisdom displayed by the candidates for President.  Sadly, not much has changed on the political landscape, and the situation may be trending toward a disturbing disconnect between wisdom and leadership.

Wise leadership is dependent on the vision of a transformative leader.  We don’t have transformative leaders in Washington, in part because they are busier knocking each other down than explaining to us what they stand for and what they would do differently.

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Who Is Harold Leavitt … And Why Should You Care?

October 3, 2011 Meghan Vincent

Harold J. Leavitt's Diamond Model for Analyzing Management Change

The late Harold J. Leavitt was a pioneer in the development of the academic field of organizational behavior, a management expert with degrees from Harvard, Brown and MIT (undergrad, graduate, and doctorate, respectively) and a highly respected college professor (University of Chicago, Carnegie-Mellon University, and Stanford).  And, in 1965, he gave to the world his model for analyzing the impacts organizational change.

Through this model (known as Leavitt’s Diamond), Leavitt demonstrates that each element of an organization’s system – people, goals/tasks, structure and technology/processes – are interdependent.  In other words, changes made to any one of these four elements cannot and will not occur in isolation.  Rather, a change made in any one area of your organization will impact the entire system.

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Crash and Burn: Bad Leader, or Set Up to Fail?

September 26, 2011 Richard Levin

Leaders Set Up To Fail

I was recently asked to advise on a situation in which a senior executive, new to the company, was spiraling downward in his performance.  The executive had been pre-screened by a global search firm and was interviewed by an internal search committee representing numerous corporate functions.  His references were stellar, his executive presence superb. Six weeks into his new job, nearly all of his colleagues and direct reports were in agreement: the hire was a misfire. What went wrong?

The most common response is that the company and its search firm missed something in the executive’s profile, and the executive fell short of expectations.  Our tendency is to focus on what the leader did “wrong”; maybe he failed to engage his team, perhaps he didn’t have great communication skills, possibly he could not articulate his vision or spark people’s (or his own) imagination. In this scenario, the leader’s team is typically presented as competent and well-intentioned, ready to be motivated and inspired by the “right” leader.  The team sees itself as eager and hungry for exceptional leadership, and feels the new leader let them down.  The outcome is a situation in which the leader and the team co-generate an escalating spiral of underperformance, frustration, and anger.

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It’s Not Just The Money: The Motivating Power of Words

July 26, 2011 Anne Etra - Guest Author

Thank you + employee retention + employee satisfaction

I recently ghostwrote an e-book for an entrepreneur with a lucrative fitness club member retention system.    His own 14,000-square-foot fitness facility boasts a whopping 84% customer retention rate.  “Success through Involvement” is a key philosophy of his system, resulting in stellar staff effectiveness and happy members achieving their fitness goals.

It might surprise you that employee retention research consistently rates ‘Recognition’ the #1 motivator for staying with a company.  (‘Opportunities for Further Learning and Advancement’ is #2, with ‘Salary’ a lagging #3.)

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Are You A Fitness Inspiration, Or Just The Boss?

June 27, 2011 Anne Etra - Guest Author

Fitness and Leadership

There’s a guy at the club where I play tennis who’s a bit of a lunatic on the court.  His footwork is nimble, his hitting aggressive and he runs around fiercely, raising his voice and spewing the occasional expletive.

What I admire about him is his attitude to fitness.

As President and CEO of a successful architectural materials firm in New York City, he’s got the pressure of running a competitive, high-end business.   He takes his fitness seriously, rising most weekdays at 5:30am to get in an hour of exercise that includes strength training and cardiovascular work.  His philosophy is that this keeps his body lean and strong, his brain sharp and his movement agile and energetic, which in turn makes him fitter to lead.  He also considers these sessions ‘stress-relievers’ as they provide an hour of uninterrupted quiet before the madness of the day begins.

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Google’s CEO Discusses the Value of a Coach

June 24, 2011 Richard Levin

Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt discusses the importance of hiring an executive coach, noting that having someone to provide perspective and help you to reach your full potential is not an indication that something is wrong.  A coach’s role is, as Schmidt explains, to help the client see him/herself as they appear to others … and to assess if (and how) changes should be made.


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Establishing a Futuristic Organizational Culture

June 22, 2011 Dr. Johnny Magwood - Guest Author

Scholars posit numerous differences between leaders and managers.  Leaders are facilitators of change; relish a proactive approach to launching new programs and initiatives, and reaching for the pinnacle of success.  Conversely, managers are grounded on getting the work completed through organizational structures and directing workers’ activities and duties (Dearstyne, 2003).  However, in the arena of records and information management (RIM) programs, the role and responsibility of leaders is always evolving.  Leaders in this environment are inundated with changes, opportunities, diverse clients and new demands, and limited resources (Dearstyne).  To achieve success in a RIM program setting, leaders must possess several traits: (1) optimal personality that typical workers can appreciate and witness wholesome honesty and integrity; (2) ability to see the big picture, while having the ability to get involved in functional work; (3) through strategic practices, influence and motivate workers to pursue a visionary idea; (4) ability to identify, attract, and retain the best worker talent and place them in the right jobs; (5) ability to recognize worker complacency and poor morale and convert such feelings into and promising sense of necessity; (6) understanding fluid customer demands and their relationship with good symmetrical information; (7) keenness to establish appropriate risk management programs and structures to manage the unanticipated; (8) desire to create shareholder value by growing, leveraging opportunities, and building on previous successes; (9) ability to establish and institutionalize appropriate performance measures and metrics, measuring input as well an output, and create a culture of continuous improvement; and (10) a drive and desire to raise the bar on operational performance (Dearstyne).

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