Catalyst – The Third C of Leadership

Harry S. Truman once said,

“Men make history and not the other way around.  In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still.  Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” 

These history making leaders have a vision for a better future, rally people around the vision, and work with those people to achieve the vision.  In other words, they act as Catalysts.  Therefore, Catalyst, the third C, refers to the leader’s ability to inspire aligned action toward a compelling vision. 

Kouzes and Posner (2006) state that leaders must “inspire a shared vision” by “envisioning the future” and then “enlist others in that common vision by appealing to shared aspirations” (p. 4).  Organizational change expert John Kotter (1995) declares that every successful transformation effort he has researched involved the leaders developing a clear and inspiring vision for the future.  Kanter (2005) puts it this way, “A raw idea…must be shaped into a theme that makes the idea come alive.  Ideas don’t launch productive changes until they become a theme around which others begin to improvise, a vision that raises aspirations” (p. 4).  And, Senge (1990) emphasizes that, “The practice of shared vision involves the skills of unearthing shared ‘pictures of the future’ that foster genuine commitment and enrollment rather than compliance” (p. 488).  And finally, Gill (2003) writes, “A vision is a desired future state: this is the basis for directing the change effort” (p. 312).

In regard to the transformational and servant leadership theories, vision plays a prominent role in both of them.  To begin, the servant-leader characteristics of “conceptualization” and “foresight” emphasize the importance of vision.  Conceptualization is the ability “to dream great dreams,” and foresight is described as “closely related to conceptualization” because of its focus on future possibilities (Spears, 2002, p. 7).  Next, the inspirational motivation factor of transformational leadership involves leaders creating excitement and enthusiasm around the vision through the use of symbols, emotional appeals, and simple messages (Northouse, 2010).  This link between the vision and motivation is one of the main reasons why it is so important to leadership.

Motivation expert Kenneth W. Thomas (2009) explains, “the purpose and vision, then, provided a target that could align the efforts of different people to solve problems and cooperate….the compelling vision was a strong motivational force that inspired people” (p. 23).  It is important to note, however, that when it comes to creating a vision or purpose statement, research has shown that not all visions are equally effective.

According to Thomas (2009), workers are rarely inspired by purposes that are focused on making a profit or other economic considerations.  Instead, the vision or purpose statement should connect to workers’ need for recognition, responsibility, and the opportunity to fulfill one’s potential.  For example, Chick-fil-A’s mission statement, “Be America’s Best Quick-Service Restaurant” hits on all of these needs.  The focus on being known as the best speaks to one’s need for recognition and fulfilled potential, and it makes the employees responsible to America for their service.  In the end, however, having a vision is not enough.  Leaders need to utilize the rest of the Cs in order to go about achieving the vision.

[As was discussed in a previous blog post, here at Inta-Great, we define leadership as “a service-oriented relationship by which change occurs as a leader influences others toward a common vision.”  In order to be effective at influencing others in the pursuit of that vision, we propose that leaders follow the Inta-Greated Leadership Model which consists of the “Seven Cs of Leadership:” (1) Composition; (2) Character; (3) Catalyst; (4) Compassion; (5) Communication; (6) Courage; and (7) Celebration.  Embodying the Seven Cs is what allows leaders to have an impact at the personal, team, and organizational levels and ultimately results in real transformation and sustainable results.]

Referenced Works:

  • Gill R., (2003). Change management or change leadership. Journal of Change Management 3(4), 307-318.
  • Kanter, R. M. (2005). Leadership for change: Enduring skills for change masters.  Teaching Note, Harvard Business School Publishing, 1-15.
  • Kotter, J.P. (1995). Leading change: Why transformational efforts fail. Harvard Business Review, 73(2), 1-9.
  • Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (2003). Student leadership practices inventory.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Northouse, P. G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and practice (5th ed). Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Senge, P.M. (2003). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. In J. S. Ott. Classic reading in organizational behavior (pp. 484-491). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
  • Spears, L. C. (2002). Tracing the past, present, and future of servant-leadership. In L. C. Spears, & M. Lawrence. (Eds.), Focus on leadership: Servant-leadership for the 21st century. (pp. 1-16). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Thomas, K.W. (2009).  Intrinsic motivation at work: What really drives employee engagement. San Francisco: Barrett-Koehler.

The Three Cs of Decision Making

“…but above all else leaders are made or broken by the quality of their decisions” (Garvin & Roberto, 2001, p.2).  Leaders are faced with many decisions on a daily basis.  Some are made in an individual context, – Should I go to this lunch meeting? Or, how should I respond to this email? – and some are made in a team context – Should we invest in developing this new product?  Should we expand into this new market?  Should we merge with this organization?  However, regardless of the size or context of the decision, what remains the same is that leaders will be judged on the quality and outcomes of their decisions.

Because of this, it is important for leaders to study how to make quality decisions, especially decisions where a group or team is involved.  So, when you are faced with such a situation, remember to implement the “three Cs” of decision making: (1) conflict, (2) consideration, and (3) closure.

Conflict refers to the importance of cultivating conflict by encouraging people to speak their minds even if it means challenging the leader’s opinion or the group’s consensus (Garvin & Roberto, 2001).  There is a difference between negative conflict and constructive conflict.  Negative conflict attacks individuals whereas constructive conflict questions ideas and assumptions.  When a group of people are able to focus on the ideas on the table and not the individuals who presented the ideas, it is possible to identify opportunities and threats that may not have been evident before.  And, creating space for people to speak their mind, even when it contradicts with popular opinion, or your opinion, is also the first step to practicing consideration.

As a leader, the second step to practicing consideration is to make sure people feel as though you have listened to and considered their point of view – even if it is not the solution you ultimately choose.  Research has shown again and again that participants feel validated and more willing to support the outcome of the decision-making process when they feel as though they were given a legitimate opportunity to express their opinion on the matter.  You can give them this opportunity by asking questions, probing for deeper explanations, and making eye contact when others present their positions.

While the discussion generated through conflict and consideration is valuable, at some point, the discussion must come to an end.  For that reason, it is important for you to make a final decision and communicate it to the group, thus indicating closure. When communicating this final decision, you should outline a few reasons why you chose this course of action.  This will not only reinforce the participants’ experience of consideration, it will also cut down on office gossip as it prevents people from guessing your motives.

When taken together, the “three Cs” are meant to facilitate the generation of multiple ideas and alternatives and produce a well-thought-out solution.  The goal of using the three Cs is not to persuade the group to adopt your point of view, but rather, on identifying the best course of action (Garvin & Roberto, 2001).  To this end, the use of the three Cs encourages critical thinking and the challenging of one another’s ideas, but not the attack of one another.  “The implicit assumption is that a consummate solution will emerge from a test of strength among competing ideas rather than dueling positions” (p. 3).

Overall, while embracing this process is a good first step toward making quality decisions, you must also be on guard against practices which threaten to derail the decision-making process.  Such practices are otherwise known as heuristics, and we will discuss them more in a future post.  In the meantime, when working with your leadership teams, remember to focus on the three Cs of decision making: conflict, consideration, and closure. 

Referenced Works:

  • Garvin, D.A. & Roberto, M.A. (2001). What you don’t know about making decisions. Harvard Business Review, 79(8), 108-116.

Motivation–It’s NOT all about the Money

Motivation has become a buzzword in the business community.  It is commonly listed as a required skill on job descriptions, and resumes routinely boast of the individual’s “motivational abilities.”  This emphasis on motivation has led to the popularity of motivational authors and speakers—some good and some bad.  Even the popular television show Saturday Night Live has parodied our culture’s fascination with motivational speakers—living in a van down by the river anyone? 

The question becomes why is motivation receiving so much attention?  To some extent, the increased interest in motivation is parallel to the increased interest in leadership and has resulted in the development of many different motivational theories and processes.  Of these many theories, Herzberg’s motivator-hygiene theory, path-goal theory, and McClelland’s learned needs theory all stand out and can play an important role in organizational leadership.

One of the most common ways leaders try to motivate employees is by implementing various financial rewards.  Leaders often hand out more money as a motivational solution because it is relatively quick and easy.  Unfortunately, it is not usually as effective as the leader would like.  Herzberg’s motivator-hygiene theory explains why this is often the case.

The main premise of the motivator-hygiene theory is that every job has hygiene factors and motivators.  Hygiene factors need to be present for an individual because their absence creates an unsatisfying experience; however, increasing hygiene factors does not increase satisfaction, rather it brings the individual to a neutral state (Steers, Porter, & Bigley, 1996).   According to Herzberg, hygiene factors include one’s salary and other financial incentives; “concerns such as pay…are less capable of energizing workers to higher levels of performance” (Hill, 2008, p. 174).  This is because only motivators can create satisfaction.  Motivators include opportunities for achievement, recognition, the work itself, and growth.

Other authors have since agreed with Herzberg.  For example, Pfeffer and Sutton (2007) state, “so making mistakes in pay can cause people to withhold discretionary effort, ideas, and information…financial incentives have a potent impact on performance, but not necessarily in the positive ways that executives and their advisers anticipate” (p. 5).  So in other words, if an individual feels as though he or she is not being paid fairly, he/she will be demotivated.  However, once the equity threshold is met, paying that individual more money will not increase their motivation.  Kohn (1993) also supports Herzberg’s research by concluding, “Managers often use incentive systems as a substitute for…treating workers well – providing useful feedback, social support, and the room for self-determination….” (p. 6).  One way leaders can provide this useful feedback, support, and independence is by utilizing the path-goal theory of motivation.

According to Northouse (2010), path-goal theory involves leaders who “try to enhance subordinates’ goal attainment by providing information or rewards in the work environment…” (p. 125).  More specifically, the way leaders enhance followers’ goal attainment is by understanding their followers’ unique characteristics and challenges and then responding with the appropriate leadership behaviors.  For example, providing a brand new employee with extra attention and precise direction may be helpful as she learns about her position and the organization; however, those same behaviors can be interpreted as micro-managing by someone who has been with the organization for a longer period of time.  Applying McClelland’s learned needs theory is another way to better understand subordinates’ unique characteristics. 

According to McClelland’s learned needs theory, there are four primary motivations, and individuals acquire certain needs based on their experiences.  Therefore, everyone does not share the same prominent needs or combination of needs.  The four motivations are: (a) need for achievement, (b) need for power, (c) need for affiliation, and (d) need for autonomy (Steers et. al., 1996). 

Those with a need for achievement tend to be competitive and have a high standard of excellence.  Individuals with a need for power have a desire to control their environment and be responsible for the behavior of others.  People with a strong need for affiliation want to develop and maintain strong relationships with others, and they get their validation from those relationships.  Finally, those with a need for autonomy want to control their own work and dislike many rules and regulations.  Therefore, while someone with a high need for affiliation may find the opportunity to work with a team on a project motivating, someone with a high need for autonomy would most likely be demotivated by that same prospect.

Overall, Herzberg’s motivator-hygiene theory, path-goal theory, and McClelland’s learned needs theory work well together and have the potential to turn motivation from a buzzword into a powerful organizational leadership tool.   

Referenced Works:

  • Kohn, A. (1993). Why incentive plans don’t work. Harvard Business Review, 71(5), 54-63.
  • Northouse, P. G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and practice (5th ed). Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Pfeffer, J. & Sutton, R.I. (2007). Do financial incentives drive company performance? Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
  • Steers, R.M., Porter, L.W., Bigley, G.A. (1996). Motivation and leadership at work. (6th ed.) New York: McGraw-Hill.

Animated Leadership Lessons

Here’s a creative article filled with leadership lessons! Who knew there were so many hidden gems in some of our kids’ favorite animated movies?

President’s Day

Quote

In honor of President’s Day, we’ve put together our top ten favorite presidential quotes about leadership:

  1. “A man who has never lost himself in a cause bigger than himself has missed one of life’s mountaintop experiences.  Only in losing himself does he find himself.”               – Richard Nixon
  2. “You ain’t learnin’ nothin’ when you’re talkin’.” – Lyndon B. Johnson
  3. “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” – Theodore Roosevelt
  4. “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” – Abraham Lincoln
  5. “Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your reputation, for ‘tis better to be alone than in bad company.” – George Washington
  6. “Whenever you are to do a thing, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly.”    – Thomas Jefferson
  7. “I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.” – Woodrow Wilson
  8. “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln
  9. “Any man worth his salt will stick up for what he believes right, but it takes a slightly better man to acknowledge instantly and without reservation that he is in error.”        – Andrew Jackson
  10. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

And because we just couldn’t keep it to ten, here’s a Bonus:

11.  “The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the
greatness is already there.” – James Buchanan

What is My Calling?

There is the leader one is and the leader one is meant to be.  According to Richard Leider, the key to having these two leaders meet is asking the difficult question, “What is my calling?”  Asking this question requires courage to look inside oneself, identify one’s strengths and talents, and explore how to offer those strengths and talents to others.  Recognizing one’s own calling is only the first step, however, truly great leaders are able to recognize the potential in those they serve and help them discover the leader they are meant to be as well.

Leider defines calling as “the inner urge to give our gifts away.”  Therefore, when one asks “What is my calling?” he is really asking, “What gifts do I possess, and how can I offer these gifts the world?”  Answering this question requires a lot of introspection and honesty.  It also emphasizes the principle that good leadership starts with the self.

One’s own life must be transformed, one’s own questions answered, before one can hope to successfully lead others.  As the old adage tells us, “One cannot give away what one does not possess.”  It is only after one takes the time to explore his or her own strengths and stewardship of those strengths that one’s full potential can be reached.

After understanding one’s own strengths and talents, true leadership requires the ability to help one’s followers identify their strengths and talents.  Why?  Because a great leader knows and responds to the differences in calling and gifting among the people he or she serves.  This allows the leader to pull together a team whose sum is exponentially greater than all its parts.  Or, as strengths expert Marcus Buckingham puts it, “There are no well-rounded leaders, only well-rounded leadership teams.”

In the end, asking oneself “What is my calling?” is the key to unleashing the vast potential inside oneself, and then, inside others.  It is the key to transforming the leader one currently is into the leader one was designed to be, and the results are sure to be remarkable.

*Richard Leider, “Is Leading Your Calling?” from Leader to Leader, Winter, 2004.