A Monthly Publication from Citrin Consulting
July | 2011


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Courageous Leadership

TED Talks

The Health Care Corner

 
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Courageous Leadership

Post-Heroic Leadership

Heroic leaders have always held the most prominent place in our history. If George Washington, standing on the bow of that Durham boat, hadn't made it across the Delaware and inspired his rag-tag army to press forward to defeat the Hessians at Trenton, where would our nation be today? Washington knew that inspiration was just part of the job. Without the courage, hard work, perseverance and smart action, we might be celebrating Prince William and Princess Kate as our monarchs in waiting.

In today's business world, one of the best examples of a heroic leader is Steve Jobs of Apple. Before he partnered up with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne to form Apple, Steve had a full young life. He was adopted in California and attended just one semester of college before dropping out. He happened to audit a class in calligraphy and as he later reported, had he not attended that class, the early Mac computers would not have had the multiple typefaces we take for granted on today's computers. He then traveled to India in search of spiritual enlightenment and returned a Buddhist.

While the history of Apple is still being made, many people see Jobs as a cult hero who brought out the cool in technology. Seeing him in his branded jeans and black turtleneck, standing on the stage at an Apple event, you get the sense of the excitement and passion that is Apple. The sense of Apple being Jobs and Jobs being Apple was confirmed when he went on medical leave last January. The market value of the company lost $20 billion in one day! Talk about a heroic leader. To shareholders it appears to be Jobs or we're out of here.

But looking more closely at how Jobs works you get a different sense of how he leads his company. Listening to one of his interviews, I found him to be a collaborative leader. Focused on the greater good of the organization, he encourages debate, dialogue and disagreements. He uses passion to drive perseverance because he knows that only by sticking to the tasks at hand, will things truly get done. He assigns key tasks to different team members — this person oversees iphones, that person has responsibility for Mac sales, someone else for the iPad. He then lets each person do their job while keeping the dialogue going so everyone stays informed about what everyone else is doing.

Although the public sees Steve Jobs as a heroic leader, his leadership style is actually more post-heroic, or 21st century. Leaders in this new era see the role of leader as a shared responsibility among members of a team. When a Toyota employee pulls the Andon Cord (indicating there is a problem on the line) he or she is taking leadership responsibility. When an employee came up to me while I was on site for a consulting assignment and volunteered some ideas to help the company build a matrix organization, she was demonstrating shared leadership and a commitment to her company. While I credit her for taking on a leadership role, I'm aware she could not have done it without a cultural imperative that supports employees thinking about and sharing ways to make the company better.

Are you a heroic or post-heroic leader. Here are some questions to ponder:

  • Do you feel you have to have all the answers, perhaps even before the questions are posed?
  • Are you able to change directions on a project if you get new information?
  • Can you delegate responsibility and then, having confidence in your people, get a good night's sleep?
  • Do you communicate effectively with everyone so all project participants have access to all the information?
  • Do you say, "I have profit and loss (P&L) responsibility" but then blame your team if you don't hit your numbers?
  • Do you think about the best interests of the company and the best interests of your team?

There is no question that leadership is changing in the 21st century. While the Internet continues to democratize information, today's younger workers are insisting that new models of the workplace create opportunities for shared learning and shared responsibility. While it's important not to give up all the elements of heroic leadership, (such as courage, for example), more sharing of the honor and burden of leadership can lead to greater successes and fuller satisfaction.

 

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TED Talks

While visiting my friend Alan Weiss last week we were looking at the panoply of bird feeders in his yard. We watched as a squirrel, suspending himself from the support wire worked his claws, and managed to pull out enough sunflower seeds for a delicious afternoon snack. Alan commented that he used to get upset when the squirrels came to the feeder and "stole the food intended for the birds" until he realized that if he just began to think of them as "squirrel feeders" as well as bird feeders, he would spare himself a lot of angst, and there would then be food for birds and squirrels.

In this TED video, Derek Sivers shows us how people around the world see the same things differently. After seeing it, you may even go out and buy a squirrel feeder!

 

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The Health Care Corner

I came across an interesting web site this week that addresses my key issue around health care - how we engage, participate and consume healthcare. This can involve how we communicate with our physician, the kinds of questions we ask at the hospital, and whether or not we understand how much money we actually pay for our health care. By becoming better-informed consumers (as we are when we buy a car or shop for groceries) not only will we get the best health care but we'll also get the best value.

The Society for Participatory Medicine is a non-profit organization started in 2009 that supports patients becoming "equipped, enabled, empowered, engaged, equals, emancipated and experts." These leads to what the Society calls E-Patients To that list of "E"s I would also add economists. Check out their web site at (www.participatorymedicine.org)

In reviewing the web site, many of the stories relate to people who found their medical empowerment following a medical diagnosis such as cancer. They realized that to fight for their life meant they must know everything possible about their condition. As they became their own advocate they achieved amazing results once they understood the keys to managing their own healthcare. But the movement towards empowered healthcare is not just about life threatening illnesses. A story was posted on CNN.com about a patient who billed their physician for having to wait 2 hours for an appointment and actually received cash back for their wasted time. Now that is getting some empowerment and economics going! (BTW, check out a letter to the editor I had published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

 

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