Part III of the Leadership for the 21st Century
14 Dec, 2012
In part II of the series we detailed how a leadership development program for the 21stcentury is grouped into three basic categories: functional, expressive and motivational skills; with seven stages of transformation change, which contain 12 discrete new competencies.
Let’s consider cultural differences in leadership. Leadership development in the 21st century is also global. This implies skills need to be cross cultural — and not rooted in a narrow geo-political perspective. The program we are proposing in this chapter is designed to be “meta-cultural” in perspective and equally applicable in North America, Europe, South America and Asia.
One of the foremost experts on cross-cultural communications is Geert Hofstede. His studies point out several psychological universals that relate to the practice of leadership:
- Relation of the individual to authority
- Concept of self, especially:
- Relationship between individual and society
- Individual’s concept of masculinity and femininity
- Ways of dealing with conflict including aggression and emotionality1
Our development program incorporates these universal issues. In fact, several of the units of instruction are designed primarily from an Eastern philosophical context to give leaders sensitivity to these central issues as a function of the culture they operate within.
Decreases in productivity and waste in the process cost owners 50 percent more than necessary. Financing new construction is doomed without significant changes in the process. We anticipate management pressure to reduce real estate portfolios by as much as 50 percent within five years.
Examples of coming challenges
We recognize that this is fine in theory, but so what? Here is an example of trends in the real estate world that will bring this into focus. First, you will be managing a portfolio that is considerably smaller than today’s holdings. We, among others, believe that the process by which commercial real estate is designed and built is broken. Decreases in productivity and waste in the process cost owners 50 percent more than necessary. Financing new construction is doomed without significant changes in the process. We anticipate management pressure to reduce real estate portfolios by as much as 50 percent within five years. Forward leaning companies such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard are already moving in that direction. How will you respond?
Rex Miller and his team2 produced a masterpiece detailing the broken process by which we currently design and construct our commercial buildings. Simply put it doesn’t work and the banks that write checks, or underwrite corporations, are beginning to realize that half of their money goes down a black hole — never to be recovered. So, what is the scope of the problem? It is huge. In 2007, the commercial AEC (architects, engineering and construction) industry was netting 1.28 trillion dollars in the United States. Half of that money was wasted because of the process in place. If we come down from 50,000 feet, the average project is $6 million. But that means that $3 million on average goes out the back door.
The problem, in essence, is an old industrial business process that is linear in form, composed of many disconnected pieces that are sub-optimized on a cost basis. The world has become more complex, interrelated, and faster in pace during the past 50 years. These three forces broke the standard model that worked well in slower paced times.
The solution is simple actually but extremely difficult to implement. This is why new leadership is required. Miller likes to use an analogy of a compass and a gyroscope.
The typical business model for commercial construction optimizes on cost, schedule and quality. You can have two of the three, but never all three. You want high quality (say a design that meets a business need) then you come in over budget and are late. Suffice to say many factors contribute to this breakdown. Miller highlights a few for us:
- Risk adverse architects (probably a dying breed by the way)
- Legal processes that are murky at best
- A cost estimating process built on inaccuracies
- Lack of up front business cases
The solution is simple actually but extremely difficult to implement. This is why new leadership is required. Miller likes to use an analogy of a compass and a gyroscope. In the world of yesterday a compass was an effective way to guide you on a journey. Every once in a while you would stop, take another reading, adjust your course and move on. Repeat the process at frequent intervals. But today’s world requires a gyroscope that is dynamic and continuously self-corrects to allow for constantly changing conditions.
Playbook for Implementation
The major barrier to developing a sustainable organization or community at this point is a polity that lacks basic competencies to pull organizations forward in the direction of societal evolution. That direction, by the way, is towards continuously greater connectivity, harmony of relations among different groups, and the recognition of unity of purpose. But most leaders today don’t know what they don’t know. Thanks to Socrates for giving us a way to think instead of being told what to do.
Our outline for a Leadership Development program can best be described as a set of questions that training would help you answer. So, we like to phrase those capacities in the form of being able to answer some key questions:
1) How should you think about the future?
2) What forces are driving these fundamental changes?
3) What would new patterns of behavior and action look like?
4) What can we learn from the process of design to help us continuously adapt?
5) Are we asking the right critical questions?
6) Are you able to think systemically at a higher level of complexity?
7) How do we achieve balance in flows of energy and information?
8) What is the core of my personal identity as a leader?
9) How can I live this vision out?
10) How do others perceive me in a leadership role?
The formal program consists of a series of eight workshops structured around the seven stages of transformation outlined in Part II of the series, plus an introduction to the process. As we mentioned earlier, this approach also focuses on teams of leaders, not individuals, so it is critical that whole leadership teams participate together so they learn to function as a highly effective group.
Part IV of the series “Leadership for the 21st Century” will discuss how to commit to transformation in leadership development, and how to make the steps work for your organization.
To learn more, visit ForeSight 2025.
1Hofstede, G. (1997), Culture and Organizations: Software of the Mind, New York: McGraw-Hill
2Miller, R., (et. al.)(2009) The Commercial Real Estate Revolution: Nine Transforming
Illustration by cooldesign at Free Digital Photos.net