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Giuliani and leadership

Over the holidays I read a very impressive book about leadership, whose title is simply Leadership.

Published in 2002, its author was a highly successful mayor of New York. In his book, he takes us through how he approached his job, and as I read it I was not at all surprised by how well he performed.

“Honest and compelling, wise and inspirational,” the back cover extolls.

The man was New York’s mayor from 1994 to 2001, including during the 9/11 tragedy of 2001, and he led New York’s “civic cleanup”, reforming the police department’s administration and policing practices that led to crime rates falling steeply, well ahead of the national average.

After an opening chapter on 9/11, his book is divided into ones that spell out the components of leadership as mayor.

In the first, he tells about the daily morning meetings with his senior colleagues, where they built a high-performance team who aired their issues openly, made fast decisions and followed up on them to ensure implementation.

Then we learn about the importance of preparation; becoming well-informed about key issues in the city; reading and learning; organising around a purpose; being accountable; surrounding yourself with good people; under-promising and over-delivering; standing up to bullies; and dealing with people whom you trust and who share your values.

All good stuff.

Before becoming mayor, he served as the United States Associate Attorney General, and for several years thereafter he was an immensely popular figure who appeared destined for a career at the pinnacle of American business and government.

Then in 2000, he ran against Hillary Clinton for a New York US Senate seat. For his leadership after the September 11 attacks he was called “America’s mayor”; he was named Time magazine’s 2001 Person of the Year, and was awarded an honorary knighthood in 2002 by Queen Elizabeth.

In 2008 he vied for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

You know to whom I am referring: Rudy Giuliani. Now, two decades later, his reputation is in tatters, due to his attachment to Donald Trump and his role in the Ukraine extortion scandal that led to Trump’s impeachment.

Giuliani has appeared unstable and incoherent on cable news, spinning a web of conspiracy theories with Joe Biden at the centre.

He was one of the speakers at the rally preceding the January 6 Capitol attack where he made false claims of voter fraud and called for “trial by combat”, as a result of which his licence to practice law was suspended.

So what happened? Why did he gravitate towards someone like Trump, whose leadership style is in stark contrast to that expounded in Giuliani’s book?

What led to this role model for good leadership becoming a laughing stock and a very lonely man with a drinking problem, who has now been through three troubled marriages, has no relationship with his children and has lost all his friends?

As I looked into the explanation I found that one was similar to what led Trump to degenerate into the dysfunctional character he became.

In a column about Trump a couple of years ago, I wrote that he was the frightened child of a relentlessly critical and bullying father, and now I read that Giuliani’s father was a neighbourhood tough who did time in prison for armed robbery – a possible explanation for the chip Giuliani has carried on his shoulder throughout his career and cramped his self-worth.

A second explanation was his loss in his presidential campaign, where he squandered his image as the statesman-hero and his revenue sources faded.

And yet another came with his third wife, Judith Nathan, a woman with an extravagant taste for luxury.

She introduced him to a jet-set lifestyle and to new people around him, doing everything she could to separate his friends from him and insert hers.

Giuliani described his greatest skill as his ability to surround himself with the right people.

Losing those friends who served as critical guardrails in Giuliani’s life helps explain the situation he finds himself in today.

He developed a lifestyle in search of an income, and there was no shortage of businesses and foreign governments willing to throw money at him.

As for his relationship with Trump, in return, Giuliani wanted to be his Secretary of State, a chance to reclimb to the heights of power.

But Trump thought that Giuliani’s career in law made him a better fit for the job of Attorney General.

Giuliani’s mind was made up though: Secretary of State or nothing. Nothing it was, and now he is more remembered for his embarrassing advocacy on Trump’s behalf.

Competent or confident politician?

Some time ago I wrote an article about Trump as a man whose I’m-OK-You’re-not-OK behaviour, one that required consistent win-lose interactions with others, masked a deeply insecure soul. Yet despite these insecurities, despite this lack of self-esteem, he built up extraordinary self-confidence, and through bullying, cheating and lying he achieved all that he did.

I refer to this as I recently read a provocative article in the London Times about Britain’s immediate former Prime Minister, Liz Truss. The headline said it all: “Truss proves talent-free bluster isn’t just for men”. And the opening paragraph tells us she broke one of the last glass ceilings. Not as the first female PM in her country, for she was not, but as “the first woman to reach the highest office propelled by gargantuan self-belief alone”.

Writer Janice Turner rightly reckons the kind of self-belief she displayed has not been associated with her gender. Indeed, she tells us, feminists have been known to pray “Lord, grant me the confidence of a mediocre man”.

We’ve been reading a lot about women holding back from higher office while younger and less experienced men lobby their way through. Here though, Ms Turner observed “a shameless, narcissistic, talent-free sense of entitlement”. Wow. Lots in common with Trump for sure, and indeed with so many politicians the world over.

I have also written about the competence-confidence matrix, with the competent one who lacks confidence often suffering from the “imposter syndrome”, while the confident one who lacks competence displays a cocky arrogance. The ideal position, as espoused by my heroes such as Ed Schein and Adam Grant, are those who behave with “confident humility”.

So where is Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss’s successor, in all of this? In a much better place. We have been reading about the values with which he was brought up and which it appears he has been able to largely hold on to despite entering the cut and thrust world of win-lose politics: family, honesty, education and hard work. Not a bad quartet.

His competence, certainly in matters financial, is indisputable. And his communication skills are definitely superior to hers. Well, that’s no big deal, as rarely have I come across such a wooden performer as Liz Truss in such a high office. Boy was she in need of coaching…but who knows, maybe her excess of self-esteem over self-awareness made her uncoachable.

How about our politicians here? For sure some are more competent than others, and some are better communicators than others. Many are at their best at high-octane campaign rallies whose objectives are mere entertainment, hype and goodies-distribution, while others know how to switch between such show-business performance and more serious and substantive output.

To be a politician, confidence is everything. As each one puts themselves forward for election, they are certain they will win, however justified or unjustified their optimism. So it was with Truss, so it was with Sunak; and so it was with all our political candidates in August, including those who lost.

Our responsibility as citizens is to study the competence-confidence mix of those who seek our votes, where competence includes adherence to good values and where mere confidence is woefully insufficient.

It was good to see the Mkenya Daima campaign focusing on this requirement for not only selecting good men and women, but then holding those who succeed at the ballot to account. It is why the Mkenya Daima tag line is Nitatenda Wajibu Wangu (I will do my responsibility).

It’s so dispiriting to me to see huge numbers of voters in the developed world casting their support for the Trumps and the Trusses of this world.

It shows the weakness in the civic education provided in so many countries that allows for populist promise-makers to get away with what they clearly should not… including Boris Johnson and his Brexit ones.

We’ve been through our elections just a few months ago. Have we selected enough of the humbly competent? Stay on the ball, fellow Kenyans, as President William Ruto has challenged us to do.

Rishi Sunak promised British citizens a government of “professionalism, integrity and accountability at all levels”. And President Ruto, when he confirmed his new cabinet, also called for integrity and accountability. We must indeed “do our responsibility”.

Managing public service delivery

The roles of Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi have been defined as follows:

Assist the President and the Deputy President in the coordination and supervision of government ministries and State departments.

In liaison with the ministry responsible for Interior and National Administration, oversee the implementation of national government policies, programmes and projects.

Chair and coordinate national government legislative agenda across all ministries and State departments in consultation with and for transmission to the party or coalition leaders in Parliament, facilitate inter-ministerial coordination of cross-functional initiatives and programmes.

And coordinate and supervise the technical monitoring and evaluation of government policies, programmes and projects.

Very good. Coordinating and facilitating, supervising and overseeing. With Mr Mudavadi’s extensive and varied experience, and as someone known to be “the adult in the room”, I don’t doubt that he will add value. The question I ask is what systems will he have available to support him to play his role effectively – and this without duplicating the not dissimilar functions of the Deputy President.

Different institutions and approaches have been introduced in succeeding administrations to carry out the kinds of functions described in the Prime Cabinet Secretary’s job description. I go back to the Kibaki days when the Public Service Reform and Development Secretariat (PSRDS) brought in such goodies as Results Based Management (RBM) and the Rapid Results Initiative (RRI). I was a member of the consultants for Kenya team that supported PSRDS with these excellent initiatives, which were beginning to make a real difference when it was disbanded.

What largely remained was the Performance Contracting Unit, which had been separate, and then as now it, unfortunately, has fallen far short of delivering on its significant potential.

As I have seen in so many government entities whose performance contracts I have studied over the years — at the national and also devolved levels — the performance indicators very rarely extend to assessing the ultimate desired impact of an initiative.

Instead, the participants play safe, with easy-to-measure mere output indicators, like in this common example. Objective: “Train 40 staff on the XYZ system.” Indicator: “40 staff trained.” That’s it. No consideration of what the staff learned or how they applied it and with what consequence.

As I put it in the many workshops I facilitate on such subjects, those involved were too timid and unambitious to keep asking the “So what?” question, till that ultimate desired impact was defined and hence the extent of its achievement, could be assessed.

By the way, it’s why I’ve never been a fan of the term monitoring and evaluation or M&E as it is commonly known. For it too readily describes what happens. Yes, work is monitored, and yes, it is evaluated – both necessary, and yet unless there is a “So what?” of the monitoring and evaluation in terms of driving higher performance as a result of the M and the E, we have not reached the sufficient.

This is what RBM and RRI were all about. And through the World Bank others and I introduced PM4R – Performance Management for Results. Yes, for results.

So, Bwana Mudavadi, please review the performance contracting system, and ensure that the capacity to deliver what it should is developed and applied. Then, do not have fragmentation of the institutions supporting you and whom you will be supporting.

Take the Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat seriously, as it drives its five-year medium-term plans and extends its horizon beyond 2030. And do not have other delivery units at the national level that overlap or compete. Also, consider the re-establishment of the National Economic and Social Council. It will help you, the DP and the President.

So much has been learned about what it takes to have high-performance teams deliver on their mandates with impact. We have seen such teams in action at both the national and county levels, and we know the critical success factors involved. In my work supporting the government over the years, I have helped leadership teams overcome non-technical obstacles to performance. Here the challenge of defining appropriate performance indicators requires even more deep thought, motivating and enabling the route to success.

Do not over-complicate the systems, Sir, and focus on the disproportionately significant. But above all nurture a focus on the aspirational future.

How to agree without giving in

A few weeks ago I was invited to run a workshop on negotiating skills for a group of senior engineers who sell capital goods for a well-known European multinational, and it took me back to the last century when I was an account manager offering large IT solutions using mainframe computers.

It reminded me of my library, where I knew I had some material on the subject. I found more books than I expected, including some which I don’t remember ever reading!

Undoubtedly the best known among them is Getting to Yes – Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, by Roger Fisher, William Ury, together with Bruce Patton of the Harvard Negotiation Project. The second edition, the one I have, was published in 1991, and I strongly recommend this classic.

Here’s the essence of the “principled” negotiating laid out there, which has you neither too soft nor too hard. If you are too soft you end up the exploited loser, while if you are too hard you fail to develop a relationship and are likely to restrict yourself to a one-off transaction, as the other party won’t wish to deal with you again.

(This was the case with Trump, during his time as a wheeler-dealer in the New York real estate business, as we learned in “his” book, The Art of the Deal.)

Principled negotiators are in between: reasonable and fair, aiming at mutual benefit. They build and preserve relationships, assuming the other party is a partner and not an opponent. Put briefly, it’s a win-win approach to interacting, the one I adopted right from when I launched into the capital goods marketing business in the late 1960s.

What kind of attitude makes for an effective negotiator? Here, let me turn to another of the books I pulled down from my shelf, The Negotiator – A Manual for Winners, by Royce Coffin. It was published in 1973, and I inherited it from my father, who in those days was a management consultant as I am now.

Coffin advises us to be self-confident and optimistic, so we can be relaxed, creative and bold. He then suggests not rushing at talks.

Rather, be patient, and take time to understand and to build trusting ties. And do so by being friendly and cheerful, and applying a light touch. If necessary, pause to review and reflect, and consult with others.

From The Negotiating Game – How to Get What You Want, by Chester Karrass (published in 1970, and also inherited from my father), I learned about the “negotiator trait clusters”.

First is task performance, involving planning, problem-solving, initiative, product knowledge, reliability and stamina. Next comes aggression (or, as I would prefer to call it, assertiveness). Here he identifies power exploitation, competitiveness, team leadership, persistence, risk-taking, courage and defensiveness.

To a softer trait now, socialising, meaning personal integrity, being open-minded, tactful, patient, compromising and trustworthy, plus displaying an acceptable appearance.

Being an effective communicator is also key, with verbal clarity and good body language, focusing on listening, generating warm rapport, plus skills in debating, role-playing and coordinating.

A final duo: first self-worth, involving self-control, self-esteem and dignity, enabling one to gain the other party’s respect – and even to risk being disliked; and possessing high ethical standards. Plus gaining the boss’s respect, and being identified with a sufficiently senior organisational rank.

Last but not least, one’s thought processes: general practical intelligence, education, insight, analytical ability, decisiveness, negotiating experience, broad perspective, and clear thinking under stress.

The last publication I’ll refer to is my Summer 2008 edition of the Harvard Business Review, whose theme was Great Deal Making – The Art and Science of Negotiating, and rereading it vividly reminded me of the lessons I learned when I was in the game, ones I now share as a consultant.

I can’t resist ending by saying that I was recently with one of the workshop participants and I asked him if what we covered had made a difference. He confirmed it had with the recent signing of a major order.

The personal drivers to success

I recently facilitated a very interesting workshop that brought together Africa region’s leaders of a long-established multinational. Thanks to Covid, this was the first time they were meeting physically, and this under their recently installed president.

As we were preparing the workshop he told me he wanted to share with his team what he described as his “personal success drivers”, his “rules for himself”.

Having come up with this thought, and looking back on other teams he had led, he regretted not having shared such thoughts with them, as a result of which he realised they weren’t sure what his expectations would be, either of himself or of them.

While fully accepting that it’s not how he always behaves, it is how he knows he should. “I am sharing these thoughts with you so that you get to know me better,” he explained, adding “I know that if I state my intentions publicly you will hold me accountable to do as I say.” All so impressive.

The first of his big three drivers, taken from Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, is getting the right people on the bus, and in the right position. Addressing performance issues decisively is uniquely challenging work, he acknowledged, and tolerating second best has a very negative impact, resulting in unfairness, toxicity and lethargy.

Job number two, he continued, is creating a winning culture where everyone is operating at their best. “Do my manager, my team, my work environment, my business make me feel like I’m all-in?” they need to ask.

Thirdly, he believes it’s the biggest current businesses and the biggest opportunities that must always get most of his attention: the 80:20 rule.

He then listed his remaining seven drivers, all to do with empowering the best talent relative to the biggest priorities. When it matters, he likes understanding business issues and business plans “in data-based depth”, appreciating that questioning assumptions is a great way to learn, as is history.

“If we are not defensive about past mistakes, weaknesses, unmet needs and gaps with others, then each gap becomes an opportunity to grow our business,” he declared.

He wants to talk about the business the way it is, not the way people want it to be. “Face the brutal facts so we can do something about them,” he urged, acknowledging that balancing communication is an art form and separates good leadership from bad.

Trust is key to this, and rating performance on results, analysing what is working and what is not.

He will be transparent, and he does not like filtering information from his team, while trusting that everyone will to do the same. They must all “question, challenge, confront and clarify”. He then admitted to “overcommunicating”, repeating himself so as to ensure the full absorption of his messages.

And he called for “good sense email practice”. His organisation has recently introduced a matrix structure, and this is always a challenging environment within which to communicate and coordinate. But the team must get used to working within the matrix.

Don’t surprise him, he requested, and he won’t surprise them. He is accountable to his people, he readily accepted, for handling interactions with his seniors on “the tough stuff”.

And he cares deeply about how happy they feel working with each other. If something he’s doing is not working for them, he wants them to tell him. He will do the same, but as trust is being built, a go-between may be helpful.

The junior most person who is qualified to lead the way should do so, he continued, challenging such people to present proposed solutions with every challenge. For this to work well they must be empowered.

And asking the right questions will provide the path to such empowerment and hence enable the people to deliver success. “This is always better than telling people what to do,” he concluded, asking the team to help him avoid the “it’s faster if I do it” trap.

Finally, he insisted that “it is not ‘OR’, it’s ‘AND’.”, as lazy choices must be avoided. It is not, for instance, a choice between focusing on financial results or on people, or between short and long-term results. It is both.

The softer side of Kaizen

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the Kaizen Institute recently held their 17th Annual Congress, and I’m writing about it as I was one of the keynote speakers at the event. I have for long been an admirer of Kaizen, which is all about waste reduction and continuous improvement.

It was first largely applied in the manufacturing environment, but it soon spread to other sectors – for who doesn’t want to do away with waste, and shouldn’t we all be focused on continuous improvement?

The reason I was asked to contribute to the congress is because however necessary the technical aspects of Kaizen are, the waste reduction and improvement cannot be actualised unless the non-technical, or human, aspects are also taken care of. This is what takes an organisation from doing the necessary to thinking through to the sufficient.

These non-technical aspects require a significant investment of time and resources, but many technically-focused and task-focused people complain that this just takes away from efficiency, delaying the completion of tasks. Yet what they do not appreciate is the consequence of not investing time in aligning those involved in the tasks with each other.

It is this kind of neglect that sees people confined in their narrow functional or geographical silos; focused on short-term sub-optimisation at the expense of long-term sustainability; witnesses them indulging in conflicts that lead to stalemates and prevent timely or appropriate decision-making.

When attention is not paid to how well people communicate with one another, some will stay silent without contributing their thoughts, some will be too assertive, and poor listeners.

So my presentation urged the participants not be so “efficient” that it prevents them from being “effective”, suggesting they should invest time in building high-trust relationships, that then enable collaboration and consensus building.

They should also invest time in building a coaching mindset in their organisations, so their people develop and where personal goals align with organisational ones.

The return on this investment is that the staff will offer superior contributions, and good people will be attracted and retained, as they learn and they grow.

By taking time to develop both their technical and non-technical skills, and within a high-trust culture, leaders will feel comfortable empowering others and delegating to them, freeing them up for more strategic activity.

Another “inefficient” use of time is holding back from the default position of telling others what to do, but rather taking time to understand before seeking to be understood. For we must accept that we don’t know what we don’t know.

The speaker before me was the Kaizen Institute’s Joint Managing Director Jayanth Murthy, who proposed that we all pray for “Better, More, Faster”, for quality, growth and speed – which is what Kaizen delivers.

He reminded us that most strategies fail because of poor execution, and showed us a cartoon of a pair of exhausted fellows pushing a cart with square wheels… while within the cart are round ones!

He then gave examples of how this is manifested in real life, quoting Charles Darwin’s observation that “it is not the strongest of the species who survive, or the most intelligent, but those who are most adaptable to change”.

After me came another confident optimist, Jas Bedi, the Chairman of KEPROBA, the Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Authority, who talked about the huge potential in Kenya for import substitution and exports, and about the need to have a borderless EAC and for the continent as a whole. We must add value, and consolidate imports as a regional redistribution hub, he also insisted.

The room at Kempinski was filled with Kaizenologists from leading manufacturing companies around Kenya… all taking “inefficient” time away from their tasks back in their gemba (Kaizen terminology for the workplace), so as to learn and to share. Ah yes, the full spirit of Kaizen lived here: the best knowing they can still get better.

Taming the abuse of power

Readers of this column will have seen previous articles of mine in which I have written about Leaders Circles I have facilitated with my colleague Frank Kretzschmar. The last one was about sustainability, and the theme of our most recent one was “How we deal with power: from victim to perpetrator to victim”.

We’ve all heard that “information is power”, and as Frank and I looked up other suitable quotes before our story-telling gathering we came across some useful provocations, including “Power is always dangerous. Power attracts the worst and corrupts the best,” from doomsday merchant Edward Abbe; and, also pessimistically, William Gaddis shared that “Power doesn’t corrupt people, people corrupt power.”

More upliftingly, Lao Tzu told us that “Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” And Alice Walker reminded us that “the most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

How power is wielded lies at the centre of whether things work or don’t work, we briefed our participants as we invited them to the event. Power itself is values-neutral. So at what point does it become good or bad? Where and how does abuse begin?

Who determines that power was indeed abused? How is it even possible that power does get abused? Does it happen when moral concepts are excluded from the exercising of power? When corruption is used to distort rules of the game that had been based on a broad consensus? When individual powerful people lose all sense of self-awareness and proportion?

We are seeing that too many neurotics and egocentrics are key players in the power game. And as a result, we give up on essential issues out of comfort, thoughtlessness or anticipatory obedience. They then take advantage of the resulting vacuum. Are we not to blame for this?

So how do you tame the abuse of power? As leaders, you cannot do without power. How do you empower yourself and others? And how far may or must you go in order to gain (back) power and influence?

How do the exercise of power and ethical action coexist, for there are fewer and fewer fixed reference systems? Exercising power without stepping over the boundaries of individuals is not possible. But is it possible to exercise power while remaining innocent? It is undoubtedly a question of balance.

We were interested to hear where and how those who participated in our event have succeeded in keeping power in the good area, and this we certainly did. We learned about the challenge of leading volunteers, in business and professional organisations, and in service clubs like Rotary and Lions.

And we talked about the need to “decolonise” and spread decision-making from the over-influential Global North towards the Global South, including in how research funds are allocated.

We also heard stories of power abusers – from our own traffic police to Vladimir Putin – and of being the direct victims of more powerful and unconstrained players.

One spoke about the fragility of power, as evidenced in the Arab Spring (and more recently in Sri Lanka, and with Johnson in the UK); while another worried about the constraints faced by the UN Security Council in fulfilling its mission of holding the world together.

I reflected that rather than wanting to feel powerful, my expectation was and is that I can be of influence, and above all in bringing people together – as a mediator, an integrator, a connector.

I enjoy helping others to building their capacity so I can empower them, and hence delegate to them. I see the goodness of power-sharing, which requires openness and trust.

Here I am, deep into my third age, a time of life when most of us no longer expect to wield direct power (except, perhaps, in the political arena). One way in which I hope I am being of influence is through these columns.

A few weeks ago I published by 400th one, and this one marks fifteen years since by first contribution here. My sense has always been that I largely preach to the already converted, but my hope is that my readers will emerge reinforced in their views, and so promote them more boldly. I might even convert a few here and there, and who knows, perhaps enable them to become more powerful.

In closing, I urge you to exercise your power by voting next month for men and women who will wield power responsibly. Or else you will be their victims. But hey, I’m preaching to the converted.

Management roles that shape top performers

Each of us as a manager enjoys aspects of our roles where we feel more comfortable, with others we’d rather have someone else handle. But the more senior and cross-functional we become the more we need to reach adequacy all round.

And yet very few of us ever expand our comfort zones to take us from the necessary to the sufficient. So which are these different aspects?

I was recently exposed to a categorisation of the needed components that I found made a lot of sense. It is based on the work by Ichak Adizes, the founder of the Adizes Institute, and the four roles he identified that management must fulfill are the Provider, whose voice tells us “Just get the job done, nothing else matters”; the Administrator, who wants us to “Follow the rules, pay attention to the details, and heed the process”; the Entrepreneur, who wants to “Make it exciting, creative, provocative”; and the Integrator, who helps us “Create harmony and respect the social norms, while making people happy”.

In every organisation all four must be performed well. And yet, Prof Adizes has observed, none of us can or does reach the highest levels of competence in the complete quartet. Indeed being really strong in one makes it more unlikely that we’ll do so well elsewhere – or even get on well with those who do.

If a person is unable to perform one or more roles the deficit must be filled by others. If they perform all roles to at least a satisfactory level, they’re an OK manager.

If a manager copes brilliantly with integration and at least one more role, and all other roles are performed at a satisfactory level, we can say that the person is not just a manager, but a leader.

And if all the roles are well covered among the management members, then we have a high performing team.

The book I read by Prof Adizes was Leading the Leaders – How to Enrich Your Style of Management and Handle People Whose Style Is Different from Yours”, one of 20 authored by him. I also completed the Adizes Institute’s Management Style Indicator” questionnaire, where the profile of me that emerged came as no surprise.

My top style is that of Integrator, then Entrepreneur, followed by Producer, with Administrator lagging quite far behind. So I am described as a “PaEI”, with capital letters for the styles where I am at ease.

I’m sure that as you have been reading this you will have been reflecting on how you rate on each of Prof Adizes’ four components of management, even without taking the assessment questionnaire. And you will also have been smiling (and groaning) as you have been contemplating your peers, your superiors and your subordinates.

You will have concluded who complements whom; and who clashes with whom, thanks to the incompatibility of their over-focused styles.

You will also have noted which teams cover all four components well, and which find the going tough thanks to too many individualistic entrepreneurs and no integrators, say.

So where are the gaps, at the personal and team levels, and how to fill them? For such gaps are everywhere, and the higher we rise in an organisation the more of a handicap they become. What’s your next career step, and the ones thereafter? What muscles will you need to develop that till now were not so important to enable you to perform well?

Too often it’s the most brilliant techie (a Producer) who’s promoted to becoming the supervisor of other techies (as an Integrator) but lacks the personality, skills, or even interest, to play such a role.

They never developed the non-technical skills needed for management – or for interacting with team-mates, customers etc. – to complement their technical ones. Do they have the potential to transform an “i” into an “I”?

Who does your organisation seek and attract among the P, A, E, I types? Do you look for those with more than one capital letter, so they can develop a career with you, beyond the immediate job for which they are being recruited?

We are always going to feel more at ease with some of the four styles than with others. But be very aware of what each job requires, and either reach adequacy wherever that is needed, or make sure there’s someone else in the team to play that role.

Avoiding family wars that ruin businesses

These days I am being invited more frequently to help align family members within their businesses so they can lead the organisations they own more effectively.

I am encouraged by those who reach out to me for such assistance, as it speaks of being realistic about the importance of cohesiveness among them and of feeling optimistic that they can indeed do better.

In my capacity as an adviser — or, as I often label myself, coach — I first listen to each family member involved, getting a sense of their personalities and styles, and of the roles they play in their enterprise.

In a spirit of “appreciative inquiry” I like to start by having them tell me about the achievements they are proudest of and the strengths that explain them, and then asking them to share the challenges they face — including and not least with other family members.

For this to happen I don’t rush into these topics, but begin by building a relaxed, cheerful and trusting relationship with them, getting them to talk more generally about their lives, while revealing something about mine.

Business school

As I was preparing to write this article I caught sight of a book I’d bought some years ago at the London Business School bookshop but had never got round to reading.

Published in 2008, Family Wars is about some of the biggest family-run companies in the world, showing how in-fighting among family members threatened to bring about their downfall.

It covers families such as Ford, Gucci and the Watsons of IBM, using these as examples of different categories of wars, not least between fathers and sons, among siblings, and as a result of marriages between families.

It also provides advice for anyone involved in a family business, offering suggestions on how to avoid such problems.

The book’s authors are London Business School Prof Nigel Nicholson, whose research interests include the psychology of family business, and Grant Gordon, the director-general of the Institute for Family Business and a fifth-generation member and former senior executive of William Grant & Sons, the distillers of Glenfiddich whisky (my favourite).

Despite relating stories of specific family “wars” they are careful to point out that many with family ownership outperform other kinds of organisations, and that some of the world’s oldest companies are those that have remained owned by their founding families.

I related very closely to what I read about both the kinds of challenges that family businesses commonly face, and how to prevent them and handle them if and when they arise.

Not least about the wisdom of “appointing skilled non-family professionals to fill business leadership roles”; “appointing a neutral ‘ombudsman’ as co-mentor of a sibling team”; and “instituting appraisals and regular feedback on work output and mentoring for family members”.

Not surprisingly, Grant and Nicholson refer to the lack of trust as “the real killer”, where one person sees another as unreliable, inconsistent, devious or duplicitous. And – as I do – they advocate for a spirit of forgiving and seeking forgiveness.

To avoid undue conflict, a culture of equity and fairness must prevail, with no cheating and taking of shortcuts. Worst of all is the hiring of lawyers to sue one another, never mind if the dirty linen starts getting washed in public.

Just as insufficient cohesiveness leads family members to either waste energy in fruitless attempts to win battles at the expense of a relative, or to disengage and scatter, so excessive cohesion, where families retreat into their own exclusive world, are also unhealthy.

Consensus builder

The challenge is to nurture an atmosphere where differences can be aired and consensus built, in a spirit of give and take.

Yes, we want the leadership team in family businesses to be diverse — including these days by including the women. We want representation of a spectrum from elders to millennials, and it’s good for members to have varied exposure to education and to other cultures and countries.

Some will have a greater appetite for risk than others. Some will be more focused on longer-term sustainability and on being fair to all key stakeholders and some will be keener than others on professionalising.

The question is how such diversity can be brought together without generating wars, and by whom.

Who in the family is the consensus builder, the mediator? Or does the business, as so many do, require external help to keep the peace and allow each family member to contribute and thrive in their own way?

What conductors of orchestras teach us on leadership

In a recent edition of BBC’s HARDtalk, Stephen Sackur interviewed the Music Director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, Iván Fischer.

The image we have of orchestral conductors is that they are the ones in charge, the ones directing those with the musical instruments — who in turn are mere recipients of their master’s voice. Not so with Fischer though. He doesn’t believe in this dictatorial know-it-all leadership style.

He enjoys bringing out the creativity in his players, and indeed he wants to hear them play in the full sense of the word so that the child within them comes alive.

He doesn’t conduct to be seen as a person of power, but rather as someone who brings the music, the players and the audience together so that they are all engaged and delighted to be sharing the experience of the concert.

Fischer also spoke of too many orchestras being like dinosaurs, doing what they’ve always done and resisting change, risking extinction.

Contrary to Sackur’s expectations, he explained how he has introduced all kinds of innovations, including selecting a much wider variety of music; placing members of a choir among the audience so they could surprise them when they stood up and burst into song and getting himself Covid vaccinated while conducting a live concert, to encourage those watching to follow suit and also get jabbed.

As I listened to Fischer reflecting on how conductors of orchestras exercise leadership it led me to compare myself to an orchestral conductor. At this stage of my life, as a chairman of boards, a consultant, a facilitator, a mediator, a coach, I no longer “play instruments”.

My job is about helping organisations to align around and live their visions and values, so that great “music” is performed (the products), to the delight of the “audience” (the customers). That is my value addition.

I don’t need to be better at playing individual organisational “instruments” (functional specialties like production, accounting, IT, whatever) to indulge in the kind of “conducting” that occupies my life. As it happens the “instrument” I mostly used to play was the marketing one, but more importantly, I was always a member of an “orchestra”, knowing I had to do better than be a great soloist.

I also tried to be aware of what it was that I did not know, and be ready to admit where my talents and experience did not lie.

In any of the roles I play these days, the instruments are not in my hands. My job, like that of the conductor, involves a great deal of listening and observing, to get a sense of where the music is good and where and how it could be better.

Like all leaders, including conductors, I need to adequately trust and respect the musicians around me, building both their competence and their confidence, and so to empower them and delegate to them.

Fischer clearly enjoyed the HARDtalk interview, displaying a great sense of fun. It was evident that he also enjoys conducting his orchestra, and I very strongly related to that. I expect that I and those around me will enjoy working together, not least because we will be performing well together.

For me, leadership with a light touch should be the default position — and not least in times of crisis. That’s not to say the big stick is never needed, but the delicate conductor’s baton is much to be preferred wherever possible.

So I must thank Sackur for inviting Fischer to be interviewed. And like it got me thinking about my leadership style and contribution, I hope reading this article will help you ponder on yours.

Before concluding I wish to refer to another leadership analogy, as proposed by Sunny Bindra in one of his recent Sunday Nation columns. He was encouraged by the leaders and teams who have understood that collective intelligence is the future.

“A boss who gets it grows and coaches others to develop ideas and make decisions, and does not hoard power,” he wrote. “Instead of coming up with answers, this boss creates the conditions in which others can contribute answers. The boss becomes the gardener, not the biggest tree in the plot that takes up all the sunlight.”

So, are you the gardener or the big tree, the conductor with the big stick or the delicate baton?