#15 A Million and One

by Steven Cerri on October 30, 2006

Have It Your Way

”A Million and One Ways to Lead!”

Good evening!

If you’ve been reading my recent blogs you have probably gotten the seemingly radical message that there are a million and one ways to manage and/or lead. There is the best way to manage or lead in any given situation and the best way … depends.

It depends on the context, the situation.

This is the reason that, if we are to measure a successful leader by the amount of financial reward he or she accrues, we find that in the world, there must be a million and one different ways to lead because there seem to be all sorts of ways to lead and make money.

In fact, I hear people say things like, “Real leaders care about their people”. Not necessarily. Some do and some don’t and whether they do or they don’t doesn’t guarantee success. I’m sure you’ve known leaders who have cared about their people deeply and failed and leaders who have not really cared about their people, in fact abused them (verbally), and still they produced a hugely successful operation.

So we are back to the same answer… success is not tied to how you treat people…only. Success is not tied to how well you understand business. Success is tied to six parameters that all come together to define a context. The successful leader finds the most effective way to pull the strengths from each of the six parameters to make decisions that lead the organization forward successfully.

One of the six parameters in Contextual Leadership© is the expertise of the direct report or the team compared to the expertise of the manager. That means that depending upon the quality of the people you bring on board, that will have a huge influence on the management and leadership choices available to you.

In fact, one of the reasons that Jack Welch, the ex-CEO of General Electric was so successful, was that he wanted to function within a specific set of management and leadership styles and that dictated that he keep certain of the six Contextual parameters relatively constant.

One of those parameters that he needed to keep constant was the quality of the people. That is, the only way to narrow his management choices consistently was to be certain that he had a specific quality of employees reporting directly to him. That is why he spent so much time on his employees and that is why he used the A,B,C evaluation system. Jack’s goal was to provide him with a type of direct and indirect report (one layer below his direct reports) that would allow him to use a specific range of management and leadership styles; those that he preferred.

Had he been less diligent regarding report selection, he would have had to range further in his application of management and leadership styles.

By controlling closely the quality of the employees who report to you, you control one of the important parameters that will dictate how flexible you must be in your application of management and leadership styles in order to be successful.

(Note: I’m not a personal friend of Jack Welch. I have not interviewed Mr. Welch. The conclusions I have drawn here are based on my own understanding of management and leadership, new concepts of management and leadership that I have developed, and the books I have read about Jack, interviews I have seen with Mr. Welch, and speeches I have heard given by Jack Welch.)

Be well

Steven Cerri

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