As can be seen in the above sections, the role of the organizational or project leader is key to success when bringing an idea to market. Harlan Cleveland found that for the generalist leader, steepest part of the learning curve is not skills but attitudes. Those who presume to take the lead in an organization, especially ones focused on innovation where nobody is even supposed to be in charge, seem to need an arsenal of eight attitudes indispensable to the management of complexity. These are:
First, a lively intellectual curiosity, and interest in everything (because everything really is related to everything else and therefore to what you’re doing, whatever it is).
Second, a genuine interest in what other people think and why they think that way (which means you have to be at peace with yourself for a start).
Third, a feeling of special responsibility for envisioning a future thats different from a straight line projection of the present (because planning is an improvisation on a general sense of direction, and the leaders prime function is to point the way).
Fourth, a hunch that most risks are there not to be avoided but to be taken.
Fifth, a mindset that crises are normal, tensions can be promising, and complexity is fun.
Sixth, a realization that paranoia and self-pity are reserved for people who don’t want to be leaders.
Seventh, sense of personal responsibility for the general outcome of your efforts.
Eighth, a quality called “unwarranted optimism” (the conviction there must be some more upbeat outcome than would result from adding up all available expert advice).
Since many development projects are aimed at breakthrough innovation, the level of leadership required for such projects and business transformations requires Level 5 Leadership, as characterized by Jim Collins. In short the leaders possess paradoxical nature personal humility and professional will. They are timid and yet ferocious. Shy and fearless. They are rare but unstoppable. As shown in the “Level 5 Hierarchy” figure, the level 5 leader sits on top of a hierarchy of capabilities and is a necessary requirement for delivering a radical new business model project , or transforming an organization from good to great.
Four other layers, each one appropriate in its own right, but none with the power of level 5, lie beneath the top level. Individuals do not need to proceed sequentially through each level of the hierarchy to reach the top, but be a full-fledged level 5 leader requires capabilities of all the lower levels, plus the special characteristics of level 5. This special Yin and Yang of level 5 is a balanced tension between Personal Humility and Professional Will. Specific attributes are:
Demonstrates a compelling modesty, shunning public adulation; never boastful.
- Creates superb results, a clear catalyst in the transition from a good to great organization.
Acts with a quiet calm determination; relies principally on inspired standards, not inspiring charisma, to motivate.
- Demonstrates an unwavering resolve to do whatever must be done to produce the best long-term results no matter how difficult.
Channels ambition into the organization, not the self; sets up successors for even more greatness in the next generation.
- Sets the standard of building and enduring great organization; will settle for nothing less.
Looks in the mirror, not out the window, to apportion responsibility for poor results, never blaming other people, external factors, or bad luck.
- Looks out the window, not in the mirror, to apportion credit for the success of the organization (to other people, external factors, and good luck).Level V leadership is an essential factor for taking breakthrough product idea through to commercialization or an organization from good to great. However it’s not the only one. Jim Collins research multiple factors that were required. These were:
- Great leaders attend to the people first, strategy second. They got the right people on the bus, moved the wrong people off, ushered the right people to the right seats, and then they figured out where to drive it.Great leaders hold two contradictory beliefs: their life couldn’t be worse at the moment, and yet their life would someday be better than ever. Level 5 leaders confront the most brutal facts of the current reality, yet simultaneously maintain absolute faith that they will prevail in the end. And they hold both disciplines, faith and facts, at the same time, all the time.Great transformation projects and organizations do not happen overnight on one big leap. Rather the process resembles relentlessly pushing a giant, heavy flywheel in one direction. At first, pushing it gets a flywheel to turn once. With consistent effort, it goes two turns, then five, then ten, building increasing momentum until bang, the wheel hits of breakthrough point, and the momentum really kicks in.In a famous essay, philosopher and scholar Isaiah Berlin described two approaches to thought and life using a simple parable: the Fox knows a little about many things, but the hedgehog knows only one big thing very well. The fox is complex; the hedgehog simple. In the end the hedgehog wins. Research shows that breakthroughs require a simple, hedgehog like understanding of three intersecting circles: what a project team or organization can be best in the world at, how it’s economics work best, and what best ignites the passions of its people. Breakthroughs happen when you really understand the hedgehog concept and become synergistic and consistent with it, eliminating virtually anything that does not fit in those three circles.Great project teams and great organizations have a paradoxical relationship with technology. On the one hand, they studiously avoid jumping on new technology bandwagons. On the other, they were pioneers in the application of carefully selected technologies, making bold, farsighted investments in those that directly linked to their hedgehog concept.
Great project teams and great organizations also consistently display three forms of discipline: disciplined people, discipline thought, and disciplined action. When you have discipline people, you don’t need hierarchy. When you have discipline thought, you don’t need bureaucracy. When you have disciplined action, you don’t need excessive controls. When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical, alchemy of great performance.
Very few individuals possess all these attributes naturally. However to the extent project leaders and management team members can exhibit and walk the talk of these behaviors their organizations’ will outperform their competition.