The Enlightened Company & Effective Leaders

By Brad Fregger

An unbeatable combination, changing the face of business
throughout the world in the 21st Century

This essay is part of a special series on Being an Effective Leader. The essays were originally published in Beyneynu, an Austin, Texas based newsletter published by Barry Silverberg.

Brad Fregger is the CEO of Groundbreaking Press.

Effective leadership has been a passion of mine for 35 years, ever sense I found myself managing my first retail store. Luckily, I had some characteristics of the effective leader right from the start, the most important of which was the ability to recognize when I was wrong and having the courage to admit it. Being wrong has been my best teacher ... it's sad how many managers never figure that out.

When I started doing full-time training I became obsessed with the concept of effective leadership, leadership that got things done, while increasing the potential, competence, and confidence of the team, as well as the long-term success of the organization. This was when I had my first great disillusionment, I discovered that effective leaders, even though they built great teams and accomplished difficult things (usually much more than their peers) were very often not the "successful" managers in the companies they worked for.

At about this time, Jack Zenger, of Zenger & Miller, showed me an article, I believe was from the Harvard Business Review, where a study had been done that attempted to determine the relationship between "effectiveness," the ability to get things done through others, and "success," the ability to get promoted. This doesn't mean that the "successful" mangers didn't get things done. They did, otherwise they wouldn't have been promoted. It was just that their methods were often counter-productive, didn't develop the potential of the team or result in improved, motivated, employees ready to tackle the next task. In addition, they often were negative to the long-term success of the company. Yet, these were the ones getting promoted. This meant, that by teaching people to be effective I was in danger of limiting their success potential.

Companies promote the wrong people for a couple of reasons: first, most managers tend toward a style of power and control (management) instead of relationships and communication (leadership). Since this is their style, they tend to promote others that work the same. Second, since this is what they believe effective management is, they have no way to determine effective leadership, they don't understand it. All they know was that the job is getting done. In fact, when they see an effective leader with a great team, the executives consider them "lucky" and not as "effective" as those that were able to get the job done with inferior teams. The fact that the great teams were the result of leadership never enters their minds.

I related one of the best examples in my book, Lucky That Way.

Joe Kipper was an old time Sears Store Manager, he'd been around so long as a store manager that he was a member of the Million Dollar Club, that select group of store managers whose stock was worth well over a million dollars. Joe was so good, that the last store he managed before his retirement was the highest profit store in the chain for two years in a row. The rest of the story, I'll quote directly from my book.

Joe Kipper went to the Arden Fair store in Sacramento after leaving the Sears store in Mountain View, California. It was there, as I mentioned earlier, he and his staff had won, "Profit Store of the Year" for two years in a row. When you win that kind of an award, the Sears CEO presents it.

After the award ceremony, Joe rode back to the airport with him in the limo. They were discussing the store and what a fine example it was, when he said to Joe, "You know, that's an impressive team you've got there."

"Thank you," Joe responded.

"You know, Joe ..." he said with a conspiratorial tone, "with a team like that, anyone could have the best profit store in the chain."

After a moment's thought, Joe said, "Yep, I've always been lucky that way."

Even though Joe had been able to inspire and motivate many people, he was never promoted beyond store manager ... his effectiveness was never recognized. I began to realize that the effective leader would never be recognized until our companies became more enlightened, and I doubted whether that would ever happen.

Rate of Change

However, things are taking place in our society today, forces are at play, that are making it more and more difficult for the successful company of the 20th Century to succeed in the 21st. The rate of change is demanding companies that are fast on their feet, and the Internet and the World Wide Web are creating additional changes.

These factors are bringing about a new age of continual and rapid change that our organizations and managers must learn how to handle, adapt to, or fail. In this new age, the winners will be enlightened organizations run by effective leaders. This means that today's organizations will either change, become enlightened, or die, that managers will either change, become effective leaders, or be replaced.

Obstacles to Change

There are obstacles that will make it difficult for organizations and managers to make the needed changes, these obstacles include:

  1. The current budgeting process.
  2. Elitism, in all of its forms.
  3. A lack of understanding regarding the fiscal responsibility of companies to their members, customers, communities, society, and the world.

Catalysts to Change

Likewise, there are catalysts operating that are making the necessity for change inevitable.

  1. The increasing need for companies to become adaptable, able to quickly change as circumstances beyond their control leave them no other choice.
  2. The individual's desire to "make a difference."
  3. The power of "casual professionalism" to strip away the trappings of the elite.
  4. The failure of the legal process here in the United States.

If we were Hindu, we would liken the coming changes to Avatar Kalki charging in on the steed of rapid change, the sword of technology held high above his head, preparing to cleanse the world and bring about a new age of enlightenment.

A new age is upon us; one brought about through technology and the massive changes that is bringing into our lives. Old style companies and old style management cannot survive ... to survive in this new age will take effective leadership and enlightened companies.

Copyright 2003, Brad Fregger. All rights reserved.

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