Inside 'Leading in Times of Crisis'
Title: Leading in Times of Crisis: Navigating Through Complexity, Diversity, and Uncertainty to Save Your Business
Authors: David L. Dotlich, Peter C. Cairo, Stephen H. Rhinesmith
Publisher: Jossey-Bass, 2009
ISBN-13: 978-0470402306, 240 pages
Review: Leading in Times of Crisis
By Patrick Brigger, getAbstract
Contemporary executives have more to manage than leaders did at any time in the past. They're like plate spinners, juggling to keep all their firms' interests--customers, employees, investors, regulators, suppliers and the environment--from crashing to the ground. David L. Dotlich, Peter C. Cairo and Stephen H. Rhinesmith bring years of leadership expertise--and the results of 20 interviews with senior executives about 21st-century management--to this examination of leading in a "complex, diverse and uncertain" world. The old command-and-control, problem-solving, analytical ways of piloting a firm are out; what's in and crucial is a new leadership model combining the strengths of leaders' "head, heart and guts." While occasionally repetitive and trite, this informative book includes useful end-of-chapter questions, plus helpful graphics about preparing yourself and your team to be "whole leaders." getAbstract recommends this text as a practical addition to the libraries of seasoned executives, middle managers and those climbing the corporate ladder into the future of business. Just be aware that, as one expert in the book cautions, you "can spend decades climbing the ladder--only to realize too late" that you "have placed it against the wrong wall."
"The Perfect Storm"
Unprecedented change and rapidly unfolding events strain the capabilities of modern business leaders in ways unimaginable even just a short while ago. Responding to technological advances, financial crises and commercial ambiguities forces executives to deal with enormous stress as they maneuver through swiftly changing, globalizing markets. While these market transformations bring vast opportunities, moving ahead in such fast-paced environments also carries great risk. Modern "technology, media, regulatory bodies, shareholder activism, politics, people and competition" converge to create a perfect storm of "complexity, diversity and uncertainty," the three issues most corporate leaders see as their biggest obstacles:
1. Complexity is rife in corporate environments. More data, opportunities, challenges, and markets, as well as faster communication and the influence of multiple geographies and jurisdictions, all lead to complex organizational structures, reporting lines and demands. Too much information, paradoxically, may mean not enough answers. Leaders often must make "right-versus-right choices." Growing specialization means they can't possibly be experts in all they need to know. Rapid change forces leaders to make critical decisions before enough input becomes available. Competition from emerging markets is building. The collision of these interrelated elements can paralyze effective action.
2. Diversity is now the norm . Leaders must understand their staff's, customers', markets', and shareholders' values, cultures and behaviors. Diversity is no longer a compliance issue, but a "strategic imperative." Leaders must relate well enough to previously unknown constituencies that they can treat diversity as an "asset," not a "constraint."
3. Uncertainty is the inevitable outcome of these forces. Unpredictability doesn't preclude action, which is often based on shifting or incomplete information. In fact, uncertainty demands quicker decisions. Risk is everywhere; companies, brands and even whole industries can disappear, sometimes overnight. The interconnectedness of world markets can mean that a government's - or a competitor's--decisions or actions can have unexpected repercussions, even affecting apparently unrelated players.
Using Your "Head, Heart and Guts"
Most leaders are ill-equipped to manage in such an environment; the very attributes that elevated them to the executive suite - experience, intellect and the ability to get results--are no longer adequate. Thinking your way out of a problem is not enough. You can't just use your network to find solutions or rely solely on your instincts when you make decisions. You must become a "whole leader," approaching management holistically so that you "use your head for analysis," "demonstrate heart to build a foundation" and "act with guts to get the job done..."
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