The Leadership Challenge in E2.0

By Michael Sutton posted 09-01-2010 15:14


I was humbled to receive an invitation to share some of my ERM/ECM/KM experience for the E2.0 blogosphere. I have accumulated quite the long years of experience, beginning in the late 1960s with imaging, aperture cards, microfilm and microfiche, and some of the earlier applications of CD-ROM to libraries and information centres. I rode the IT/IS/RM/Text Search and Retrieval (TSR) wave for the last 40+ years, always trying to be somewhere near the front, or, if an opportunity presented itself, to lead the charge.

During those years I fought very hard as a consultant to get RM/DM/TSR situated properly in organizations, sometimes winning and sometime losing. One of the traits I saw lacking in many of the RM/DM/TSR folks was a lack of the soft skills—competencies that would have situated them well to lead and successfully deploy department and enterprise solutions. The voice of these folks was hardly ever heard in the executive suite, and most of them had the management and people skills of an African Tsetse fly.

Many of these folks understood the technology and were expert at the administrative side of collecting and organizing information; but, alas, they did not respond well to the other emerging information and knowledge workers as our field grew. Those were the early and mid-days of the wave, long before anyone ever heard of Social Networking and E2.0.

Nonetheless, I still see meek and mild mannered ERM/ECM folks who wonder why no one really listens to what they want to contribute to an initiative. In fact, the soft skills are still lacking. The result is an inability to influence the outcome of a major transformative experience in the organization.

Therefore, instead of blogging about applications, functionality, systems, and software, I will spend the next couple of month’s blogging about the soft skills I feel you may need or like to acquire in order to lead a critical E2.0 initiative.

I am going to start by describing a framework I use with many of my MBA learners at Westminster College, in Salt Lake City, UT, where I am an Associate Professor in the Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business. When I first discovered this framework, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that someone had formalized a number of approaches, ideas, and suggestions that I had acquired in an ad hoc manner over the last four decades. I could now speak authoritatively about my background and experience, since someone else had beaten me to the punch in formalizing the concepts and methods using storytelling.

The framework, the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, is outlined and discussed in the easy to read book The Leadership Challenge, (4th ed.), by Kouzes & Posner, (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2007) []. If you would like to keep up with many of my suggested readings of stories, then I would recommend you purchase an inexpensive copy from an on-line book retailer. The research is very interesting and the stories alone contained in the text help the reader to grasp many otherwise difficult leadership concepts.

The leadership framework Kouzes & Posner begins with five practices of exemplary leadership:

  1. Model the Way,
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision,
  3. Challenge the Process,
  4. Enable Others to Act,
  5. Encourage the Heart.

Each practice consists of a number of principles that need to be adopted by the leader in order to be effective.

1. Model the Way

“A leader needs a philosophy, a set of high standards by which to be measured, a set of values and principles. Leaders also need plans — maps to help guide people, yet not so complex that they stifle action.” —Kouzes & Posner

In this practice, two specific principles are promoted in leaders:

1.1 Find Your Voice to Clarify Values: be clear about guiding principles and construct a personal credo.

1.2 Set the Example: align actions with shared values.

2. Inspire a Shared Vision

“The biggest problem with leadership communication is the illusion that has occurred”

—Clark & Crossland, The Leader’s Voice

Next in the framework is the practice of visioning:

2.1 Envision an Uplifting Future: be passionate and construct a clear and exciting image

2.2 Enlist Others in a Common Vision: appeal to their values, interests, hopes, and dreams. Answer the questions: Who am I? Who are we? Where are we going?”

3. Challenge the Process

After the principles described for modeling and visioning, you then look at the organization:

3.1 Search Out Opportunities: to change, grow, innovate, and improve

3.2 Experiment & Take Risks: learn and apply lessons from successes and failures

3.3 Achieve Small “Wins”: promote consistent, incremental progress and build commitment.

4. Enable Others to Act

In this practice, you will be concerned with building followship traits in your teams:

4.1 Foster Collaboration: promote cooperative goals, trust

4.2 Strengthen People: share or give away power, provide choice, develop competence, assign critical tasks, offer visible support.

5. Encourage the Heart

Finally, your emotional intelligence will play a critical role in your leadership approach:

5.1 Recognize Individual Contributions: show appreciation for individual excellence

5.2 Celebrate Team Accomplishments: create a spirit of community and commitment.

During the coming weeks we will look at each practice and principle in detail. I would appreciate hearing feedback from any of the readers about their personal experiences that might be associated with these practices and principles.

#practices #principles #leadership #softskills #followship