Friday, July 18, 2008

Believe It or Not: An Original Take on Leadership

Tom Peters posted an article this week entitled “Believe It or Not: An Original Take on Leadership”.

He recommends a book by Dov Frohman, a pioneer in the semiconductor industry. With Rob Howard, Dov has written Leadership the Hard Way: Why Leadership Can't Be Taught—and How You Can Learn It Anyway

Some of his thoughts are unconventional and yet right on. What do you think?

" In a chapter titled "The Soft Skills of Hard Leadership," Frohman astonishes as he insists that the leader-manager must free up no less than 50% of his-her time from routine tasks. To wit:
"Most managers spend a great deal of time thinking about what they plan to do, but relatively little time thinking about what they plan not to do ... As a result, they become so caught up in fighting the fires of the moment that they cannot really attend to the long-term threats and risks facing the organization.

So the first soft skill of leadership the hard way is to cultivate the perspective of Marcus Aurelius: avoid busyness, free up your time, stay focused on what really matters. Let me put it bluntly: every leader should routinely keep a substantial portion of his or her time—I would say as much as 50 percent—unscheduled. Only when you have substantial 'slop' in your schedule—unscheduled time—will you have the space to reflect on what you are doing, learn from experience, and recover from your inevitable mistakes. Leaders without such free time end up tackling issues only when there is an immediate or visible problem.

Managers' typical response to my argument about free time is, 'That's all well and good, but there are things I have to do.” Yet we waste so much time in unproductive activity—it takes an enormous effort on the part of the leader to keep free time for the truly important things."

Yet another surprising idea from the same chapter is "daydreaming":
"The Discipline Of Daydreaming": "Nearly every major decision of my business career was, to some degree, the result of daydreaming. To be sure, in every case I had to collect a lot of data, do detailed analysis, and make a data-based argument to convince superiors, colleagues and business partners. But that all came later. In the beginning, there was the daydream.

By daydreaming, I mean loose, unstructured thinking with no particular goal in mind. In fact, I think daydreaming is a distinctive mode of cognition especially well suited to the complex, 'fuzzy' problems that characterize a more turbulent business environment. Daydreaming is an effective way of coping with complexity. When a problem has a high degree of complexity, the level of detail can be overwhelming. The more one focuses on the details, the more one risks being lost in them. ... Every child knows how to daydream. But many, perhaps most, lose the capacity as they grow up.”

The 50% amount of time to freed up is high based on my experience but the concept is absolutely correct. We must have free time to think and day dream. The most valuable asset of any company are the brains and yet we constrict them constantly. Unleash your brain power and that of your organization.


John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

No comments: