Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Art of Balance, the Art of Leadership.

In leadership, balance is critical,
but balance is hard.

Balance is an art,
perhaps art aids balance.

I've written previously about the importance of balance in leadership. Lead Quietly's carnival of balance includes the following posts from our archive:

Keep it balanced, in 3D where I implore leaders to strike a three dimensional balance between Business, Leadership, and Personal Dimensions.

The Maturity and Balance of Quiet Leadership that describes the role of maturity as you strive to maintain balance.

Balance like Obama - A Lesson in Leadership Balance. Although, not a political endorsement, in this post I admire the statements made by Barrack Obama about balance and the challenge of balance, a challenge that exists in politics, business, and life. Balance is hard.

This past week a friend sent me an article that appears in the Academy of Management Learning & Education, December 2006 entitled, The Arts & Leadership: Now That We Can Do Anything, What Will We Do?

In the article, author Nancy Adler of McGill University proposes that the positive influence of the arts on leadership and business is significant and critical. Here are some citations that I found insightful.
The time is right for the cross-fertilization of the arts and leadership.

The scarce resource is innovative designers, not financial analysts.

Constant, intuition-based innovation is required to respond to discontinuous change; without it, no business can succeed in the 21st century....Actors, dancers, and musicians—performing as ensembles—have developed team-based collaborative skills to a much greater extent than have most managers.

As the business environment more frequently calls upon managers to respond to unpredicted and unpredictable threats and opportunities, the ability to improvise increasingly determines organizations’ effectiveness. "Managers and management students don’t understand how to create on cue, how to innovate reliably on a deadline. . . . artists are much better at this
The arguments that Adler makes are pretty compelling.

OK, let me confess, I am a student of the arts. My undergraduate degree is in Music Education, I was a music teacher in my first career. Despite the fact that currently I am pretty inactive musically, I have always thought that my music background brought creativity, dimension and balance to my thinking and work. Adler's article drew additional links between arts and leadership and management. It gives me cause to embrace the impact that music has had in my life.

It also causes me to value what my artistic coworkers and teammates bring to my team and organization.

It reminds me of a phrase I used to tell the parents of my music students, "It's never too late to learn music."

And finally, this insight motivates me to continue the reminders that I have to make to my children to practice their music.

Art adds wonderful balance to leadership and business.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Nice pays, winners don't punish.

An essential premise of this blog is that leadership does not need to include fist-pumping tirades, clipboard smashing halftime speeches, or shout in your face style of motivation. In fact, 21st century leadership should be based on authenticity, maturity, vision, learning and, in general, being nice.

I have written previously about the benefits of nice. Stronger community and effective collaboration are based on simple acts like gratitude and trust. We want to associate with nice people and communities built on niceness feel better suited for collaboration.

Some leaders might say that leadership and nice are incompatible. Nice is the Rodney Dangerfield element of leadership. The authors of the book, The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With Kindness state the perception very clearly when they write:
..nice has an image problem. Nice gets no respect. To be labeled “nice” usually means the other person has little else positive to say about you. To be nice is to be considered Pollyanna and passive, wimpy, and Milquetoast. Let us be clear: Nice is not naive. Nice does not mean smiling blandly while others walk all over you. Nice does not mean being a doormat. In fact, we would argue that nice is the toughest four-letter word you’ll ever hear. It means moving forward with the clear-eyed confidence that comes from knowing that being very nice and placing other people’s needs on the same level as your own will get you everything you want.
My recent exploration on leadership and collaboration led me to a recent study conducted at Harvard University on the power of nice or, more specifically, the incentive value of cooperation. A post last week at the Freakonomics blog brought the research to my attention.

In the study, the Prisoner's Dilemma was posed between participants. The Prisoner's Dilemma is the game theory situation that forces a choice between cooperating or betraying another player. Think of any episode of "Law and Order" on television where police detectives pit one suspect against another suspect to gain a confession or incrimination.

The Harvard study, added financial incentives or disincentives for every choice, whether, cooperation or punishment. The study's results showed a negative correlation between punishment and high payoff. This is summarized with the notion that nice and cooperation pays and winners don't punish. The research document found in Nature states, "winners do not use costly punishment, whereas losers punish and perish"

I have a tendency to respond, "So, what's new?" This is not new information. As the wise say, "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar." Nevertheless, the research provides useful validation and public attention. The Associated Press news release on the research was titled, "It Pays To Play Nice." Check out how many news sources picked up the story with this Google search.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly and be nice.