Leadership


The other day, I was commenting on the innovative nature of BSG Alliance. The way we deliver value to our customers is by guiding their transformation into Next Generation Enterprises. We accomplish this through an on-demand platform of services and software. Delivering a value proposition this innovative makes BSG Alliance very, very unique, and piques the interest of some very important, influential leaders. One of those leaders is Dr. Jim Cash.

Today, we announced that Dr. Cash has been appointed to the BSG Alliance Board of Directors. If Dr. Cash’s name sounds familiar to you, it might be because he is also a member of the boards of several other (not-so-small) companies, including Microsoft (MSFT), General Electric (GE), WalMart (WMT) and Chubb (CB). Further, he is a retired professor and Senior Associate Dean of the Harvard Business School. He is an exceptionally talented, highly visionary leader, and he sees the potential in BSG Alliance.

I’ve said it before (heck, even in this post), and I will continue to reiterate it… BSG Alliance is innovative. We’re focused on bringing benefits to our customers that other companies can’t. At the end of the day, our customers are more flexible than their competitors, and better able to meet the demands of a hypercompetitive global marketplace.

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Interestingly enough, I ruffled some feathers over at Recruiting.com with my post about the lack of leaders in Generation Y. John Sumser’s post didn’t make a whole lot of sense, so I posted a reply. Replies on Recruiting.com are moderated, apparently. And, surprise! My reply has not been posted – 24 hours after it was submitted.

Normally, I would give the benefit of the doubt – maybe they’re really backed up, and haven’t gotten to their moderation dashboard. But, that’s not it, since there are several other comments that have been posted since I submitted mine. So, I have to wonder…

Was my reply not posted because it made sense? I’ll let you be the judge… Here’s my reply to Sumser’s argument:

Collaboration is essential to the success of organizations in the 21st Century. I’m not questioning that. It’s exciting to see the unique and innovative solutions that vibrant communities can achieve. But, at the end of the day, everyone on the team needs to know where they’re headed, and it takes a leader to point the team in the right direction. A team without direction doesn’t make a whole lot of progress.

If you read my entire post, you will realize that my point is that we are not actively encouraging the development of leadership qualities in our young people. Even natural leaders must be nurtured in order to achieve their full potential. We’re simply not doing that effectively.

John, you’re saying that new types of leaders are required. I am saying that we’re not building and encouraging leaders like we used to. These aren’t mutually exclusive concepts. We still need leaders, even if they lead in a different way.

Regardless of how your enterprise is organized or how flexible its workforce may be, someone still needs to provide leadership at various levels.

Have a great weekend!
-Katie

So, today was a big day for BSG Alliance. We announced that we have acquired New Paradigm, a Toronto-based thinktank led by Don Tapscott, the co-author of the best-selling Wikinomics. New Paradigm’s business and technology innovation has paved a path to success for companies since 1993. Their ability to define where business and technology are headed is unparalleled in the marketplace, and now they’re helping BSG Alliance deliver our On-Demand Business Platform.

Bringing New Paradigm into the BSG Alliance provides us with an even greater to potential to do what Don Tapscott believes we’re poised to do

This company is going to change the world.

Here’s the press release

Have a great weekend,  If you’re interested in knowing more about the merging of these two powerhouses, take a look at the live webcast, which will be at 1:30 PM Eastern today (11/29).

I’ve been doing some reading on Generation Y. You know – the kids born from 1976 to 1995, inclusive. The kids who’ve grown up in the digital age. The kids who can’t remember a time before cable television, self-service gas stations, video games, and computers. The kids who have no idea what a turntable is, since the music they listen to fits into a 1.5 inch square piece of machinery called a “Shuffle” (mine’s pink, by the way). Vinyl is what we use to make pleather pants, not music!

There are a lot of great things coming out of Generation Y. These kids have a deep social conscience – they care about issues beyond themselves, and understand that they are vital members of a world outside their bedroom windows. These kids are team players – they understand the value of collaboration in problem-solving, and they work together to develop faster, better, smarter solutions. They understand technology, and the benefits it can bring to their social and professional interactions.

Bob Morison, Tammy Erickson, and Ken Dychtwald pointed out in their 2006 book Workforce Crisis that there are several key things to remember when dealing with younger workers. Young workers, according to Morison, Erickson, and Dychtwald share the following traits:

  • Independent, not only intellectually (as the baby boomers tend to be) but also functionally, having “grown up fast” and managed themselves from a relatively young age.
  • Situational more than structured, and so they feel free to ignore policies and procedures that they find restrictive.
  • “Digital” in how they process information and communicate, and sometimes digital at the expense of interpersonal (by their parents’ definition of the word, anyway)
  • Diverse and comfortable with diversity, so that one-size-fits-all policies and management methods will likely alienate significant numbers of them. (Dychtwald, et. al., Workforce Crisis, 2006, p. 106)

Morison, Erickson, and Dychtwald go on to explain that many employers may perceive these characteristics as indicative of a poor work ethic. Without a true understanding of the circumstances that have led Generation Y workers to adopt these characteristics, employers are doomed to what the authors termed “endless churn.” Workforce Crisis argues that Generation Y employees won’t change their workplace behavior, so employers who don’t change the workplace (or at least meet the Generation Y worker halfway) will continually suffer from the inability to hold on to the brightest workers.

While I agree that there are significant benefits to opening up traditional organizations to welcome (and support) the collaborative, innovative efforts of the younger workforce, I see a problem that’s not being addressed by current efforts to welcome Generation Y employees into dynamic companies. I see a lack of leaders.

My husband volunteers time each college admissions season to interview candidates who have applied to a very prestigious technical university in the Boston area. This school looks for more than just a high GPA (the admissions office is, frankly, inundated with high GPA candidates). This university looks for students who show leadership, drive, and initiative. What Tom is finding, though, is that the students he has been interviewing over the past several years have shown a glaring lack of those three important qualities. Tom will be the first to tell you that these are bright kids – they’ve done a lot of interesting things in their academic careers – but he has only interviewed one student who has gone out and actually shown initiative to do something other than what he’d been assigned. These kids have a ton of teamwork, given that their teachers recognize the value of team projects in building strong workers. But all their projects have been collaborative. No one has been groomed to be a leader. No one understands how to make the tough choices that have to be made, because no one has been asked to take on roles where making the tough choices is required. No one has been asked to be a LEADER.

In short – Generation Y is suffering from leaderphobia. They are afraid to seek out opportunities for advancement, because the value of teamwork has been drilled into their heads. They’re perfectly willing to do as they’re asked, but shy away from finding new opportunities to provide valuable, bottom-line benefits. Because of their ingrained sense of social justice, they don’t want to make it appear that they might be more talented than their teammates. The problem is, there are kids out there who are genuinely more talented, and we’re not taking advantage of what they have to offer.

An entire generation is being groomed to be collaborative, and we’re losing sight of the fact that, without leaders, we’re doomed to failure. Our organizations will crumble because no one is there to lead with a clear vision of the future.

Fast-forward 30 years. The Baby Boomers will be long gone, their ashes spread across oceans and over mountain tops. My generation will be enjoying our active older adulthood, playing golf at Del Webb’s Sun City, and drinking margaritas on our lanais. The Generation Y workforce will be in charge of the economy. Their efforts will put bread on the table of the world. But, without leaders, what will we have? Chaos? Well, maybe not chaos, but certainly not a clear direction, a clear vision for the future. And it will affect an organization’s ability to remain competitive on a global scale.

Leaders are born, not made. But it’s up to us to recognize the leadership potential in our youth, and do what it takes to guide and foster the natural leaders. What can we do to ensure that these talented leaders of tomorrow are not lost in a sea of mediocrity? Well, I’m not one to pose a question without some thoughts on answers, so here goes…

  • Establish well-defined mentor programs within organizations. As leaders are identified, they are matched with executives who can help them understand their potential and use it to make the organization a better, more profitable place. Many companies have been doing this for years, either officially or unofficially, and have been able to grow strong leaders with a deep sense of loyalty, to help the organization move forward. It’s time for all companies to understand the benefits of mentorship to their future success.
  • Make sure that there are roles within teams that are available to those employees who show the natural tendency towards leadership. Even a small team could benefit from the leadership of a younger employee. Providing opportunities to lead particular efforts – for example, setting up a team wiki, or developing a peer code review protocol – can open up avenues for natural leaders to excel.
  • Promote individual accountability. It is important that the team succeeds, but it is also important that each team member be held responsible for items relating to that success. If organizations promote individual, as well as team, accountability, they will be expanding workers’ mindsets from total groupthink into a more balanced team/individual outlook.
  • Reward innovation and leadership throughout an organization. Workforce Crisis points out that Generation Y employees are motivated by rewards, so organizations should look for unique ways to reward the desired leadership behaviors. It doesn’t always have to be about money – natural leaders are often more motivated by opportunities than they are by cold, hard cash.

What are some other ways we can encourage the development of leadership in today’s younger workers? Let’s take some of the best practices that the Generation Y workforce provides (openness and collaboration) and use them to come up with solutions to make our organizations stronger in the future.