One powerful thing I learned at McKinsey is the ability to synthesize complex ideas and communicate them in very simple ways that are easy to understand."
So I began to wonder, as I taught at Yale, what leadership really consists of. My students, like you, were energetic, accomplished, smart, and often ferociously ambitious, but was that enough to make them leaders? Most of them, as much as I liked and even admired them, certainly didn’t seem to me like leaders. Does being a leader, I wondered, just mean being accomplished, being successful? Does getting straight As make you a leader? I didn’t think so. Great heart surgeons or great novelists or great shortstops may be terrific at what they do, but that doesn’t mean they’re leaders. Leadership and aptitude, leadership and achievement, leadership and even excellence have to be different things, otherwise the concept of leadership has no meaning. And it seemed to me that that had to be especially true of the kind of excellence I saw in the students around me.
Environment, competition, customers. The way the organization's units relate to each other: centralized, functional divisions (top-down); decentralized (the trend in larger organizations); matrix, network, holding, etc. The procedures, processes and routines that characterize how important work is to be done: financial systems; hiring, promotion and performance appraisal systems; information systems. Distinctive capabilities of personnel or of the organization as a whole. Numbers and types of personnel within the organization. Cultural style of the organization and how key managers behave in achieving the organization’s goals. The interconnecting centre of McKinsey's model is: Shared Values.
That is exactly what places like Yale mean when they talk about training leaders. Educating people who make a big name for themselves in the world, people with impressive titles, people the university can brag about. People who make it to the top. People who can climb the greasy pole of whatever hierarchy they decide to attach themselves to.
Create a shared sense of purpose. In an era that has become infamous for rewarding profit making above all else, employees are understandably skeptical when leaders talk about values. And it seems that the more that mission statements are circulated, the more skeptical they become. Yet because a complex and dynamic environment requires people to act autonomously and intuitively—often without explicit instructions or rules—a strong sense of shared purpose and values is more important than ever. Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, has spoken frequently of performance with purpose. As she pointed out in a , “The most important part of performance with purpose is the use of the word with. It's performance with purpose, not performance and purpose, or performance or purpose. Unless you focus on purpose, you cannot deliver performance. And unless you deliver performance, you can't fund purpose.”
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How can you know that unless you’ve taken counsel with yourself in solitude? I started by noting that solitude and leadership would seem to be contradictory things. But it seems to me that solitude is the very essence of leadership. The position of the leader is ultimately an intensely solitary, even intensely lonely one. However many people you may consult, you are the one who has to make the hard decisions. And at such moments, all you really have is yourself.
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Participants will learn about McKinsey values and mission, key business areas, corporate culture, career opportunities and prospects. McKinsey consultants will share their job experience, offer valuable advices, and answer the students’ questions.
We have a crisis of leadership in America because our overwhelming power and wealth, earned under earlier generations of leaders, made us complacent, and for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them. Who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them. Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they’re worth doing in the first place. What we have now are the greatest technocrats the world has ever seen, people who have been trained to be incredibly good at one specific thing, but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of expertise. What we don’t have are leaders.
That’s really the great mystery about bureaucracies. Why is it so often that the best people are stuck in the middle and the people who are running things—the leaders—are the mediocrities? Because excellence isn’t usually what gets you up the greasy pole. What gets you up is a talent for maneuvering. Kissing up to the people above you, kicking down to the people below you. Pleasing your teachers, pleasing your superiors, picking a powerful mentor and riding his coattails until it’s time to stab him in the back. Jumping through hoops. Getting along by going along. Being whatever other people want you to be, so that it finally comes to seem that, like the manager of the Central Station, you have nothing inside you at all. Not taking stupid risks like trying to change how things are done or question why they’re done. Just keeping the routine going.
Unpredictable environments will require leadership styles characterized by the four dimensions outlined in the chapter above. Not all environments or challenges are alike, however. Just as different organizational models are necessary for different environments, so too are different leadership styles. Over time, an organization might move from one leadership archetype to another—for example, when a stable industry is disrupted, a shift to a more experimental style might be required. Or when an industry matures and becomes more stable, then an analytical style may be optimal. When an organization is not yet adaptive, but needs to become more so, strong individual leadership may be required initially to disrupt the status quo—but might later give way to a more collective style.