Strategic Thinkers: Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood, Kate Sweetman Credentials: Ulrich is a Professor of Business at the University of Michigan and a partner at the RBL Group; he was named one of the ten most innovative and creative business management thinkers by Fast Company. Smallwood is co-founder of the RBL Group and co-author of five books. Sweetman is a principal at RBL and a former editor at Harvard Business Review. Big Idea: Great leadership can be broken down into five pragmatic rules. Book: The Leadership Code: Five rules to lead by published by Harvard Business Press, January 2009.
Do a search on "leadership" books at Amazon and you'll find close to 312,000 entries. One of them is a new book from management consultants Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood and Kate Sweetman called The Leadership Code. What makes this book different from all the rest? It attempts to synthesize hundreds of studies, frameworks and tools on the subject, along with interviews with CEOs, academics and consultants and the authors' own extensive experience, and whittle it all down to five essential rules about what great leaders do.
The rules are designed to help you lead well, but also to enable you to help others to master these principles. "When we help others learn and follow those rules, we expand leadership from a personal ability into an organization capability," the author say.
The rules themselves are simple, but the advice contained in each rule's chapter delves deeply into how to put that rule into practice. There are five leadership roles and each one has a rule that corresponds to it. The first four are:
1. To shape the future, be a strategist
2. To make things happen, be an executor
3. To engage today's talent, be a talent manager
4. To build the next generation, be a human capital developer
There is a fifth rule-to invest in yourself, be personally proficient-that is necessary to keep the other four in balance. A leader must be "personally, strong, aware and centered" in order to carry out the other four roles, the authors say.
Often, individuals are predisposed to one of the four roles. But as people move up the management ladder they need to master the rules of all four roles and they must excel at personal proficiency-inspiring trust and being credible with others. All leaders must have "one towering strength," the authors say, that makes up his or her signature strength. But all leaders must be at least "average" in their weaker leadership domains. And the higher up a leader goes, the more she needs to develop excellence in more than one of the four dimensions of leadership.
Knowing your area of strength tells you which other areas need to be developed. The authors provide a self-assessment tool to help identify your signature strength. Companies also need to assess their strengths so they know which areas they are strong in and where they need to develop more expertise. It's not uncommon for a company to identify the competencies they need to achieve their goals and then discover when they match them up with the five rules that they have an unbalanced and flawed leadership model.