Archive for April, 2009

Leadership Styles in Differing Corporate Cultures

Leadership Styles in Differing Corporate Cultures

captain-planet_www-txt2pic-comLeadership and management work in concert to shape the path and then drive the organization along that path. This is just as true for innovation environments yet with the added dimension of fitting in with the corporate culture of their organization. Innovation environments are comprised of technical leadership and those relevant stakeholders in the company that enable commercialization of novel goods and/or services.

In one viewpoint, innovation environments need to adapt to the culture of the corporate host. Put this way, the technical leadership of the research department and relevant stakeholders must understand the needs of the greater organization. What type of research organization fits best into a particular type of corporate culture? To answer this, it is best to define the corporate culture that “hosts” the research organization.

Leadership at the operational level

Leadership is the key ingredient in the success of any endeavor. Excellence or failure is a reflection of the top because the environment is a product of the people who lead and drive the effort. Attracting and retaining the best–often those better than the hiring manager–is a cardinal sign that an organization cherishes leadership, excellence, and sustainability. Getting the right people into the right places helps to build sustainable innovation environments in which all internal stakeholders and intrapreneurs can align towards strategic goals.

Intelligence, sound judgment, and the capacity to anticipate are characteristics that set front runners from the rest of the crowd who are also expected to possess integrity, a high energy drive to get things done, a balanced ego, and loyalty. Organizations fail because of the caliber of people involved, not just because of strategic and operational plans, endeavors, or management theories and fads.

Colin Powell extolled multiple lessons about leadership from his experience whereby these lessons apply universally across institutional and industry sectors. Perpetual optimism as a force multiplier is also a clear motivating factor to those across the organization. It helps define and mold strategy, it helps everyone cope with the pace of business and change, and it sets the tone and operational level for the whole organization. Taking educated risks is another multiplier that enables everyone in the organization. You don’t know what works until you give a try.  Some fast lessons:

  • Keep it simple
  • Be approachable–it allows you to find the real problems
  • Organization charts tend to freeze movement and communication across heirarchical divides–so mix it up often
  • Keep looking at the details for the facts and rebut the experts to keep them on their toes–it keeps you grounded but your head in the clouds of strategy
  • Lending your ego to a position only diminishes your pride when the position fails
  • Leading, managing, and governing properly help most folks and anger some others.

Above all, we work so that we can provide for and support our loved ones. Spend sufficient time with your loved ones to recharge your cognitive batteries and your maximize your memory. Being close to your loved ones keeps the loneliness of leadership at bay. By being in diverse situations, it cross-trains your brain to enable you to look at issues with multiple perspectives and viewpoints.



Road to CommercializationWhat more natural a subject to first talk about than leadership, both personal and organizational. Everything flows from the top; this is true for our own lives and for the life of an organization.

Simply, a leader leads where others will follow. A leader creates a vision, and aligns colleagues’ input to build a strategy to go forward. Tactics and operational goals follow.

Just the same for innovation environments, whether they be mature research departments or venturesome headshops. The strategy and tactics can be program-, project-, or goal-based.

The leader understands a necessity that needs to be satisfied, and creates a path to fulfill that necessity. The necessity could be a customer need, client need, process need, a change, or technological fix.

A leader sets up an environment where folks can flourish. Guidelines and mutually understood values pervade the environment rather than rules and unwritten rules. Otherwise, the motivating factors, such as educated risk taking, that foster creativity become evasive and the shop atrophies.

Staffing a research team is like building a puzzle, where each puzzle piece represents a different discipline to construct the research picture. Doing it right requires thought and gut instinct and a good understanding of the needs and goals of the operation. Once staffed, if every member of a research team is viewed as critical and contributing, then turfiness, zero sum gain attitudes and intra-competitive behaviors are naturally kept to a minimum. Overstaffing often leads to the demise of a creative atmosphere, and reorganization typically results in the formation of a new research team.

Each of the points above will be discuss at length in future postings. At this time, …on the vanguard hopes to provide heuristic topics worth your comment and advise.