Do you like Harvard’s new approach to leadership?

Harvard, leadership, Bill George, team work

Leadership in the 21st century has changed. In less than a minute Bill George, Faculty Chair, Authentic Leadership Development at Harvard tells you how:

What Bill George has to say speaks for itself. He is very clear on how he and his faculty at Harvard believe leadership is currently changing.

Do you agree that leadership has changed the way he describes it? Or does it only apply to the Western world? If so, how long will it take before developing countries follow suit? Maybe it doesn’t always apply to the West either? Do most leaders in the West lead the way Bill George outlines? Are the number of leaders applying the new approach to leadership increasing? Has demand and control been abolished from leadership? Or should it? Is team work now more important all over the world? Or on the increase? Is looking at the long term instead of short term results becoming the norm? Has the recent financial crisis been a wake up call that is changing how leadership is done? Or are you of the opinion that leadership will always focus on demand and control and maximizing dividends to shareholders at the expense of a sustainable long term focus?

Video: HBSExecEd – Picture: Michael Cardus

66 thoughts on “Do you like Harvard’s new approach to leadership?

  1. Hi Catrina.

    Leadership has always been about tapping into people's skills and capabilities, so that has not changed. People are now more empowered and more connected, so leadership has to tap into that aspect of people's capabilities. So yes, big changes, but fundamentally, the same basic goals.

  2. Catarina,
    You asked if we thought if the Western world has changed to a team based leadership. My belief is that successful companies have made (or are making) this move. However, (and this is just my personal opinion), I don’t believe that our current administration has adopted a team-based collaborative style. Hopefully, our next President will. I certainly believe that President Ronald Reagan embraced this new leadership style.
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  3. I agree with him. The biggest challenge the old guard had was that they were of the mentality "do as I say… period, I am in charge". That simply doesn't work in the world today. Taking the time to listen to what a staff thinks and their ideas can enhance a companies opportunities and develop employee loyalties as well. There will always be a need to meet the demands of the shareholders. That hasn't changed nor will it in the future. How we go about meeting that demand has and will continue to evolve. Just my thoughts. 🙂
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  4. I'm not sure that I can speak to leadership in the corporate world, domestically or internationally. But, I will say that in my position as a nonprofit director, I think there is a time for the team based approach and a time for a more direct "the buck stops here" approach. Utilizing a team approach to leadership can certainly produce great ideas and motivate employees whose voices are being heard. But, it can also create a gridlock when there are opposing ideas and the defined leaders are not willing or able to take the bull by the horns, so to speak. A balanced approach to leadership in a company, where you truly value employee input and have the confidence to make timely decisions and take risks is the best approach to leadership. As a leader, you must be willing to accept input and feedback and admit when your approach could have been better. A strong leader is not right all of the time, but they are honest about their successes and failures all of the time.

  5. Catarina — I agree with one of Bill George's observations but not the other. I do believe, as he states, that leadership is much more collaborative and the old "command and control" style of leadership is going out of style because it's so counterproductive. However, I don't think that much has changed in the view — at least in the Western world — that you've always got to be thinking about next quarter's earnings. The markets force that behavior because if companies don't meet the expectations of industry analysts their stock will be punished.
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  6. As I work for academia and small businesses, I don't see much of these sorts of leaders first-hand (I don't pay a lot of attention to college presidents, though I'm sure my clients do). I can say that the leadership at relative's company (a major U.S. corporation) changed recently, but he doesn't seem crazy about them. They've made some top-down decisions that weren't that pleasant.
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  7. While I've heard a lot of discussion around the flattening out of organizations and the importance of engaging or leading from all levels, it's not evident to me that the practical application of those ideas has taken root. Someone has to lose power in order for others to gain it and I have not seen many leaders willing to give up power. In fairness, it can also be said, that while many workers would like more control, they are not always interested in more responsibility. So, while i think many leaders are more willing to be collaborative they will often only do it if they can maintain control.
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  8. In the Nordic based companies (mother Company based in a Nordic country) we do have a leadership culture based (in most cases) on consensus. This can be very effective in many ways.

    But there must always be leaders who dare to take decisions, even if they are not positive.

    A leader that has the knowledge of various Company Culture styles combined with the ability to be a decision maker is a good combination.

    This is my very own opinion

  9. I love team-based leadership, and have always used that style in leading the non-profit groups for which I volunteer. I haven't worked in the corporate world for 20 years, but from what I've seen and heard, that has changed much from the old days of top-down leadership.
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  10. There is much to be valued when it comes to embracing more collaborative leadership styles, but of course, public school isn't going to change anytime soon to offer curriculum that fosters that sort of leadership style. Business and education could learn a lot from each other.
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  11. Nothing new in this interview, quite frankly. There are lots of companies who have applied these modern management principles for ages, whereas I haven't noticed the rest changing in any positive direction at all. Actually the opposite: The difficult employment situation in most parts of the world have made it possible to treat employees as "subordinates" or "costs" even more than before. As a relatively successful business leader I consider this a real waste. By enforcing a spirit of co-operation, open dialogue (without fear being fired), personal initiative, the permission to fail when trying out something new are some of the ingredients that could free up a lot of new energy and intellectual capital within the company. Whereas a few despotic senior managers can ruin all this and consequently, the company will not thrive in the short, medium or long term.

  12. Catarina, I mostly do see the change in leadership in the USA. Since I no longer work in any other countries I cannot say whether this in the movement there too. I do know that some people with the command style are still having a difficult time with what actually would give them a more productive workforce – a more collaborative kind of leadership.

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  13. In the armed forces, the top brass will collaborate in the operation rooms, but in the battle fields collaboration is minimum.
    In the developing world, there is limited collaboration on the top level, but in villages and in small private companies people live and work together and listen to each other.
    In the developed world, corporations, enterprises and governmental agencies are huge, however with the Internet and other means of communication they benefit from collaboration.
    I am an Egyptian, live in Egypt and respond to the White House Correspodance with interest .

  14. I think smart leaders are realising that having solid teams helps build successful companies. Some businesses I worked for had this style so I don't think it is entirely new. However for some decisions it has to be the leader who makes the final decision taking into account the interests of all the stakeholders. I also do not agree that companies will take a longer term view on everything because running a business relies on decisions for the short term as well as the long term. Perhaps it is a case that they may have a more strategic approach which then helps to make sure the short term decisions are still in line with the strategy.
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  15. Good to see Bill George's view on leadership changes, Catarina. I certainly think that companies are exploring ways to provide more effective leadership as it's clear that the old ways of doing business don't work so well. Whether or not this will lead to permanent change remains to be seen – but I would hope so. When growth rates were high anyway, short-cut approaches that were entirely top down still could deliver growth. Nowadays we need to look a lot harder for it and often its the people at the proverbial coal-face that can see what's needed in different areas. By listening to them, leaders can redirect the company to capture the opportunities where they lie.

  16. I have to agree with Sherryl. What made Ronald Regan a great president is that he relied on his team and he listened to them. He admitted that he didn't have all the answers. Many companies are adopting what they call team leaders. Our current president thinks he can do it himself and it is his way or the highway. Very frustrating. One needs to listen to others and no one has all the answers.
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  17. Team based leadership can be a very good thing. Coming from the corporate world I can tell you that it is a two edged sword. I do think that most corporations have a difficulty moving to a team based leadership environment because their systems are not set up that way. It's like Jeri mentioning the school systems. It would take the effort of moving mountains to make changes.
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  18. `~~.The Leadership is becoming more n more participative.Leadership demands are function
    of current environment.Emergence of BRICS is shifting the leadership .World is looking at these countries for emerging powers.

  19. I have a social media marketing client that coaches executives in corporate America and the main topic she wants me to research this topic of team leadership. While research for her, I have noticed that team leadership is very important and the amount of material out there shows it increases in popularity. I personally do not see it as much these days because I am primarily virtual with my clients. But when I was working for a corporation, I tend to favor team collaboration with my team. I wanted my staff to feel that they could approach me on any improvements, issues, and other topics they may have on the process. Though there were communication issues from time to time, for the most part, this team approach worked for us. Interesting topic, thanks for sharing.

  20. I do believe that teamwork and sustainability is the new business leadership paradigm. I volunteer for a global grassroots nonprofit known as Humanity’s Team and we are launching a program called the Conscious Business Initiative which from what I understand, incorporates these values within the framework of spirituality and the fact that as people, we are all interconnected and we are all one. This paradigm, I believe, is essential for the world in which we currently live and for the future.

  21. Leadership working collaboratively is the way forward. No one person has all the answers. However intelligent a leader, he needs support and guidance from other leaders and officers. The saying “Two heads are better than one” comes to mind.

  22. Catarina, I think we do see more teamwork in the workplace and I think that part is important. No one person knows it all and drawing good information and ideas from other staff members is invaluable. However, having said that, in the final analysis, I believe one person still needs to be in charge if for no other reason than accountability.

  23. I have no exposure to leadership outside of the western world and cannot comment on it. Although I think collaborative leadership is the way to go, I am not convinced there is a massive shift to it in the western world. And there are still lots of incentives to work toward short-term versus long-term goals. But if that is changing, it is a good thing for the future.

  24. While I like his idea of what leadership has become I haven't actually seen evidence of it among U.S. corporations. One of the most important things he mentioned from my perspective is a focus on the long term. I don't know where that's happening becasue I just seem to encounter more and more leaders who are really working toward quarterly results, or in the case of newer companies, a quick buyout and exit..

  25. I think the style described in the video is wonderful. I no longer work in a 'traditional' setting but certainly would have welcomed this approach when I did. Of course there are many old school leaders still out there and I imagine few of them would eagerly embrace this style of management, still it's an encouraging trend and hopefully it will continue to spread.
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  26. I agree. How we go about meeting the constant demand of shareholders has changed. It used to be the boss was in charge and it was his way or the highway. That usually doesnt fly in today's culture, where companies often tend to listen to staff input. And staff have come to expect it. It develops employee loyalties as well.

  27. Its so much more rational and assumes that leaders are working with people, not widgets. Hopefully its a shift in thinking that will take root.

  28. Although, I might agree with this type of leadership, I am unsure if it will maintain.
    There are too many people, particularly those who work themselves up to a point of leadership, that think they have a hold on that position.
    This becomes an arrogance, then they rule: as Captain Ahab in Moby Dick says "There is one God that is Lord over the earth, and one Captain that is lord over the Pequod (his ship)"
    I think that as long as there is a hierarchy of leadership, it will be from the top down.
    Another point is, until, you give people a stake in making a decision, not just giving it, what is their motivation to do the bosses work for him?

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