Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Re-Visioning leadership 1 – reconsidering the standard approaches to meshing leadership and business

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on December 30, 2012

I have written repeatedly about management and leadership as a steady and consistent thread running through this blog. But in the course of that flow of discussion, I have raised a number of issues in passing that merit more specific and detailed discussion, in and of themselves. My goal in this series is to at least begin that process.

1. I have noted in regard to startups and early stage businesses, among other contexts, that stage-specific experience can be crucial in effectively leading a business. That principle applies to many stage-specific scenarios and contexts that a business can face, and in that regard and as a second example I note the need for specific skills and experience when leading a solidly established business that is in danger of obsolescence from falling into the mature industry and closing marketplace trap. I will write of the issues of stage-specific fit and of developing the skills to lead where that would add value.
2. I have recently been posting a series on leading a nonprofit (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 267 and following.) And in the course of that, I have focused on leadership issues particular to nonprofits and the nonprofit sector. I note in that context the well-known fact that business sector and industry-specific experience can offer real value; consider leadership transitions as a case in point where this can be a determining factor in who becomes chief executive officer for a business. I will discuss that, and also how new ideas and approaches from outside of a business’ sector and industry can add significant new sources of value to that organization too. So while bringing in new leadership from similar types of organization can facilitate ease of transition in, only considering that approach can lead to loss of opportunity too. And as a foretaste of this part of the larger discussion, it is important to know where and when these two approaches would each offer greater value and how and at what cost.
3. I will also discuss business leadership and strategic planning mentors and mentorship.
4. And I will discuss the sometimes essential but unasked question of who should be responsible for what in a business’ senior management and leadership. That, I add here, has to include designation and allocation of responsibility and authority at the top, and the decision as to whether it might make more sense to split operational and strategic leadership into two positions or keep them in one set of hands. As a foretaste of that I simply note that a division of labor here can be of use as a matter of meshing specific responsibilities to specific abilities. But that there are circumstances where it might make more sense to have, for example, a separate president and chief executive officer even if either of the people who would hold these respective titles and positions could if necessary succeed at either of these positions or both. So this is not just a question of A having great operational skills and B great strategic vision and understanding and they work together very well so let’s give them each their best-fit half of the top leadership role for the company.

If there is a single point that connects all four of these sets of issues together it is that they all challenge the simple, standard model of having:

• One person at the top,
• Drawn from the business background they would lead in, and
• Fully and oriented to that industry’s basic business models and underlying assumptions, and fluent in its industry-specific language
• But usually just that.

I am going to turn in my next series installment to the issues noted above as point 1 of my series topics list. Meanwhile, you find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 2 (and also see Business Strategy and Operations.)

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