Developing others is a sign of a true leader

Have you ever noticed how many managers, despite being good bosses, are not true leaders? Unfortunately, this is a very common situation in the corporate world and considering that most teams need guidance in order to function well and achieve goals, true leadership is not something that could be taken for granted you will be sure about this if you read this importance of leadership essay.

Leading a team is to lead people – employees – so that they can walk with their own legs. Those who exercise leadership should be respected by those who are led, not by using force or imposing power, but by earning and exercising authority. Once a leader accepts and exercises his/her the authority, the team automatically shows respects and performance accordingly. If a leader chooses to act for the power, the team will fear him/her, but not respect. Hence, a true leader must have the wisdom to delegate, but with great responsibility, for whomever delegates should not run away from the responsibility of what is being delegated.

A boss that only tells employees what to do will only take the company so far. In this case, no matter how much the employees attend to the bosses’ commands, it is simply a matter of hierarchy, not because they believe or trust what the boss says. Oftentimes, these situations happen because the manager himself does not feel like a leader. Thus, one can’t blame the people under his command if they do not treat him or her as such.

As the needs of the market and the economy develop, companies are changing the leadership and development perspective of leaders. The old model has been losing space for a training aimed at self-knowledge, continuous development and systemic vision. In addition to discovering the need to invest in people and integrate all areas within the organization, we see a great movement that strengthens the importance of interpersonal relationships, collaboration and teamwork.

The maturity of an innovative leader and his/her capacity for self-criticism and personal transformation influence the development of the people he/she leads. Thus, self-knowledge becomes a very important quality to identify opportunities in a model of leadership, even though it is not something easy to achieve. Alternatively, the way a leader develops his/her own professional skills and attitudes within the workplace has direct results in the development of the team as a whole, not being restricted only to the area in which the leader acts. In other words, before leading the other, the leader must be a leader of him or herself.

Along with his/her own internal development, a leader who wants to develop his team must create a bond of trust and genuine interest in being an example, so to help each employee to look inward and go further than his/her own limitations. A way of exercising this self-knowledge is through sincere dialogues, powerful questions, group dynamics, and empowerment meetings. Also, things like sharing life stories, messages, and videos that lead to reflection and awareness are good ways of motivating employees to become the best version of themselves.

By nurturing talents within their own teams, managers and bosses develop motivated employees and future leaders who have been led and already know the importance of awakening and developing other people. This virtuous cycle leads to a positive retention of human professionals, productive and adherent to the company culture. The best way to cultivate talent is to be an exemplary leader – an educator, server, and friend focused on both the people and the results, not just on the results.

New York Times: “Where the Whole Agenda Is Innovation”

The New York Times profiles John Kao today in its Scientists at Work series. Here’s a snippet:

“Many people believe there is no problem because we are No. 1,” he said. As long as there is “no current pain,” he said, advocating for an innovation agenda is like advising patients to eat a healthier diet, exercise and stop smoking.

He said that might explain the inability of a group of eminent scientists to interest presidential candidates in a debate on science issues, “The conclusion I drew was it was not deemed important in drawing votes,” Dr. Kao said. But, he said, he hoped the next presidential administration would draw together scientists, business leaders, designers and others and ask them to produce a practical agenda for improving innovation. “And I would lock the door and make them work on it,” he said.

The United States is never going to lead in areas like low-cost production, he said, but it can be a dynamo for devising new technologies and combining existing technologies in new ways.

“The world needs us, even if it does not believe it,” he said. “I don’t believe in this ‘post-America’ world at all.”

False arguments against an American innovation agenda

Cross-posted at the Huffington Post

Now that the decks are cleared for the big November presidential showdown, I am praying — in earnest — for a meaningful discussion of America’s national innovation agenda. There has been scant sign of this to date, a few token mentions of the “I” word not withstanding.

In this election year, expect the skeptical or the indifferent to raise a litany of objections to having a national innovation agenda in the first place. In my own work as a self-appointed innovation gadfly, I get this kind of thing all the time. Here are five of my all-time favorites.

1) What’s the problem? We’re #1
 — The World Economic Forum says America has the world’s most competitive economy. And INSEAD’s rating places us #1 among innovative nations. I think this points to the danger of focusing on a snapshot, not a movie. There is no doubt that our lead is falling in many other areas whose long-term impact will be significant for our ability to innovate: public education, support for young scientists, and science funding strategies being only some of the more obvious examples.

2) Having an innovation agenda is just another excuse for big government and bureaucrats to waste our money. Isn’t this just another version of the discredited policy of picking winners? 
Anyone who has met me will quickly realize that I’d be the last person to champion yet another form of government bureaucracy. I readily admit that modern history is littered with examples of government technocrats in ivory towers merrily pouring tax payer money down a dark hole; supercomputing in Japan as advocated by their Ministry of Trade and Industry being a particularly notorious example.

What I am proposing though is that not having a strategy is no longer a viable strategy for us; even the mighty United States will need to set priorities and funding mechanisms in order to capitalize on its assets. Smart CEO’s don’t succeed by telling their talent what to do; they create an environment in which breakthroughs can emerge with appropriate resources and attention. Should we expect any less from our politicians?

3) We’re good at innovation — look at how strong our science and technology are
 — Again, if we take a snapshot of today, America’s preeminence in science is still unquestioned — if we play the story out into the future, the situation is much less rosy as expressed in continuing decline of Interest in science among the young. We also underpay our young scientific talent, which makes it more likely that they will be attracted to working in other countries in the future. And don’t get me started about ideological contamination of funding priorities. Most importantly, more science does not automatically translate into more innovation. Discovery is an important part, but only a part, of the innovation process. Science and technology need to bridge with entrepreneurs and designers in order to create the products and services that will create customer benefit. So just funding science alone will not necessarily advance innovation.

4) Others will never be able to imitate us because we’ve got our wildass American culture –
 There is some real truth to this. In fact our culture of risk-taking and enterprise is very much a part of our secret sauce for innovation. To be candid, most of the innovation hot spots I’ve touted in this blog are still relatively unforgiving of business failure. Try getting a loan, let alone an appointment, in Singapore if your last company went down the tubes for example

The question is whether our culture of innovation will matter in the long run from a competitive perspective. We are now in a world in which if you need American business values, you’ll simply be able to hire an American — or five hundred of them. Set up a “wild ass preserve” and then deploy your existing competencies to create value. Japanese car and Korean consumer electronics companies have been doing this for years; their design labs are often located in Southern California and filled with wild and crazy Americans…who work for others that lack their own culture of innovation and successfully insource it instead.

5) Who needs an innovation agenda? We’ve got more important issues to deal with — 
The indifference of the American public to the innovation agenda is one of the mysteries of the 2008 election in my book. Sure we’ve got immediate economic and national security issues. But the big issues of day — energy policy, health care reform, education — are the kind of wicked problems that desperately require innovation at a time when the skills of large-scale innovation and collaboration are lacking both in government and society at-large. Innovation isn’t just about iPods; it’s about our future.

I could go on, but you get the point. As Stephen Colbert said to me when I was on his show last October, “Will we even know we have a problem if we’re not willing to admit we have a problem?” I rest my case.

The AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy

John Kao spoke at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Forum on Science and Technology Policy in Washington, DC in May. The AAAS recently reported on Kao’s speech as well as the overall forum:

Though many of the experts expressed guarded optimism, the Forum featured an undercurrent of concern that the United States risks falling behind because it is complacent and doesn’t understand the ambitious new competitors which will challenge its innovation superiority in the 21st century. The times, Kao said, call for “a national dialogue of the sort we haven’t had in this country.”