Thursday, September 08, 2011
The Leadership Rulebook Appendix by Chris Glennie
In today's blog post, I am pleased to feature guest blogger Chris Glennie from the UK. His post, titled "The Leadership Rulebook Appendix," follows this intro.
I met Chris recently via social media. Chris is a creative, energetic and motivational leader with experience in general management, professional services, professional, academic, educational publishing and marketing experience, sound strategic judgment and an ability to join the dots across organisations, effect change and get things done.
He has a bachelor's degree from Oxford University and an MBA from the University of Middlesex, where he specialised in organisational culture. After 20 years in academic and educational publishing, Chris has started thinking and writing on a wide range of leadership and management issues at www.chrisglennie.com.
The Leadership Rulebook Appendix
by Chris Glennie
Don't throw the rulebook out, just add an appendix
The resignation of Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple has filled many column inches on- and offline over the past 3 weeks. Most of these mulled over the 'meaning' of the event for Apple itself and the wider tech industry more generally. But a critical, equally angst-ridden, sub-plot concerned what we can learn about leadership from Jobs and his time at Apple. Because it turned out - whisper it quietly - that he may not have read the HR manual on leadership, and that far from this leading to corporate meltdown, he and Apple did rather well. Cue for hand-wringing.
Well, not so fast. As ever with any complex social phenomenon like 'leadership' there isn't 'one true way' of doing things, so there will, almost by default, be 'exceptions'. But I think it is worth reflecting on this particular 'outlier', so with Terrence's prompting, here are my top 3 starters for the Leadership Rulebook Appendix.
1. Jobs was an entrepreneur. He created Apple. OK, he went and came back, but it was still his baby. I don't mean to suggest that's a carte blanche to behave appallingly, but have you ever been around entrepreneurs? These guys create something from nothing - and if they fail, to nothing they may return. The drive, passion, commitment and committed-ness that comes with that act of creation is very often married to a behaviour set that might not come straight out of the manual. Think: it matters to them in ways that we as 'employees' never rarely experience.
2. He was a visionary. He probably would have been hopeless working his way up a corporate ladder (see under: entrepreneur), but he created the future (well, actually the present, but you know what I mean). Researching this blog, I realised that much of 'leadership' theory focusses on 'process leadership'; by this I mean the kind of leadership that drives more productivity from a team, higher sales, great NPD (or, in a similar vein, the kind of leadership that will get people to leave the trench with you and charge the enemy guns). That's not to be devalued. But to see a crack in the fabric of the daily continuum and drive a business through it, that's something else, and whilst it might leave a blank on the ‘people skills’ section of the job application, it creates awe and, with it, a motivated - and forgiving - followership.
3. He wasn’t about Steve Jobs. I don't know Apple or Jobs, but it seems clear from what I’ve read that his occasional falls from grace were driven by wanting the best products and the best experience for Apple customers. It wasn't about the ego. And so it seems that his attitude was replicated in the creation of a culture wholly focussed on customer experience and executional excellence - which is really what he was about - rather than his behaviour creating a culture where random acts of tyrannical or over-bearing management were acceptable. Notwithstanding that Apple is a secretive organisation, there seems to have been no commentary suggestion that Apple's culture is in any way dysfunctional.
The leadership story of Steve Jobs and Apple is one where a particular set of people and circumstances coincided. My belief is that it worked because he was the founding genius of the business, and that whilst working with him closely every day might have been trying (think Winston Churchill), he could nonetheless reach out to the wider community in an inspiring fashion. He did the 2 key things leaders need to do to be considered great: he created followers, and he was successful. It's amazing how the latter impacts the former - and how different a series of conclusions we would be drawing if he hadn’t been!
Written by Chris Glennie. Posted by Terrence Seamon on Thursday September 8, 2011