Thursday, September 23, 2010

Professor M.S.Rao’s Book Review Titled “Understanding Leadership Competencies – Creating Tomorrow’s Leaders”

The book titled ‘Understanding Leadership Competencies – Creating Tomorrow’s Leaders” authored by Patricia Guggenheimer and Mary Diana Szulc is a thin book with valuable takeaways about leadership competencies.

The book unfolds leadership competencies, discusses personal qualities of leaders and the actions that competent leaders take. It contains activities, exercises, assessments that are easy to understand and apply in practical life.

According to the authors, there are nine leadership competencies such as passion, humor, courage, integrity and trust, energy/vitality/enthusiasm, building a team, setting priorities, creativity and vision. The book provides the meanings of the competencies from Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. Let us look at the same:

• “Competence: possession of required skill, knowledge, qualification, or capacity; having suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge, experience, etc., for some purpose.”
• “Passion: emotion; the emotions as distinguished from reason; intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction; a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept; an emotion that is deeply stirring or ungovernable.”
• “Humor: an often temporary state of mind imposed esp. b circumstances; … the mental faculty of discovering, expressing, or appreciating the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous.”
• “Courage: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”
• “Integrity: firm adherence to a code of esp. moral or artistic values
• “Trust: to rely on the truthfulness or accuracy of.”
• “Energy: the capacity of acting or being active … the capacity for doing work.”
• “Vitality: power to live or grow.”
• “Enthusiasm: strong excitement of feeling.”
• “Build: to develop according to a systematic plan, by a definite process, or on a particular base.”
• “Team: a number of persons associated together in work or activity.”
• “Setting: the manner, position, or direction in which something is set.”
• “Priority: a preferential rating; esp. one that allocates right to goods and services usually in limited supply.”
• “Creativity: the quality of being creative; marked by the ability or power to create.”
• “Vision: something seen in a dream, trance, or ecstasy; an object of imagination; act or power of imagination; mode of seeing or conceiving; unusual discernment or foresight.”

The book unfolds amazing exercises on integrity and trust wherein you need to pick up the values and passions you like. You need to check whether you have the same or not and then start acquiring. It grills you at core and gets the best out of you. It contains several visual pictures for better understanding. It outlines few quotes such as:

"Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind." - E.B. White
“Enthusiasm finds the opportunities and energy makes the most of them.” – Henry S. Haskins

In addition, the authors take the reference of Terry Paulson’s ‘Making Humor Work: Take Your Job Seriously and Yourself Lightly, “It is dangerous to confuse professionalism with seriousness. You can take your job and your world seriously, and still take yourself lightly.”

What Do Authors Say?

1. Excellence is measured one step at a time, and it all begins with effort.
2. Recognize that sometimes we have to “stretch” ourselves to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
3. In today’s busy world, it is difficult to set priorities.
4. The goal of the organization is not to lose, because you are right, and to minimize the damage to the organization’s reputation. If you lose, you may have to pay severe penalties or, worse, declare bankruptcy, not to mention the enormous amount spent to defend your position.
5. The goal of any institution or individual is not to win a battle at the expense of losing the war.
6. People who have energy, vitality and enthusiasm are involved and pursue goals passionately. They put their hearts as well as their minds into their endeavors resulting in personal and professional fulfillment.

Sometimes we need to jump-start the creative process, by engaging our brain in a different thought process. Consider using mind mapping as a tool to stimulate creativity. Mind Mapping is a powerful graphic technique that provides a key to unlocking the brain’s potential. The Mind Map can be applied to every aspect of life in which improved learning and clearer thinking will enhance human performance. The Mind Map has four essential characteristics:

1. The subject of attention is crystallized in a central image.
2. The main themes of the subject radiate from the central image as branches.
3. Branches constitute a key image or key word printed on an associated line. Topics of lesser importance are also represented as branches attached to higher-level branches.
4. The branches form a connected nodal structure.


The book helps readers in presenting the leadership competencies and also in building their competencies through resources, exercises and self-assessment techniques. It is useful to the aspiring leaders who don’t have lot of time to refer number of books. The ideas and insights are well punched. The book is worth investing your precious time. To conclude, it is a good book that deserves to be widely read.


From The Mind Map Book by Tony Buzan & Barry Buzan, New York, Copyright 1993 by Tony Buzan & Barry Buzan.

“Future of Virtual Organizations” – Professor M.S.Rao

What is Virtual Organization?

You have heard and seen organizations that are lean, tall, flat and so on. You must have come across the concepts of virtual organizations, virtual teams, virtual offices and virtual leadership. These have tremendous impact on the future organizations. When we see movie production, we find people joining together for film shooting and departing after the completion of the film shooting. Even while working for one movie, people might work for other movies simultaneously as all people may not be required for making a particular film at a time. Similarly the virtual organization is a temporary organization where people join together in providing quick and innovative solutions to the problems.

Virtual organizations are unconventional and non-traditional way of doing the things. It effectively makes use of informational technology to share knowledge, skills and abilities to accomplish organizational requirements. It is working beyond borders through internet connectivity.

With the rapid changing technology, the tastes and temperaments of the costumers are changing. The virtual organizations are the means to meet the growing demand of these customers to provide quality solutions, services and products.

Virtual Teams:

In virtual teams people with different competencies and capabilities work together on common goals and objectives and often without physical interaction. These teams are beyond borders and boundaries and work together from varied time zones, geographies and spaces with collective objectives and interests. Virtual teams are dissolved once the project takes off as Price aptly put, "Teams dissolve on completion, to reappear in new combinations for other tasks.”

Virtual Leaders:

Virtual leaders are the people who lead the virtual team members beyond boarders with collective vision. These leaders align the energies and efforts of the team members towards organizational goals and objectives by influencing and motivating them. These leaders must have broad global mindset, with adequate tool set and requisite skill set unlike traditional leadership. Besides, they must be good at managing diversity.

Types of Virtual Organizations:

According to Bradt there are four types in virtual organizations. They are: the alliance organization that emphasizes on core competencies leveraging the strengths of the people, displaced organization where people are connected through internet technology but distributed geographically, invisible organization that is network of call-centers and back offices where business is executed telephonically and fourth type is a truly virtual organization that is the blend of the other three types of organizations and the best example for this is the online Amazon.com bookstore.


The crucial challenges in virtual organizations are the cultural and communication aspects where people need to be aware of various cultures while working with virtual teams and need to flex their communication to get across the message clearly and effectively.


The future of virtual organizations is bright as the times and technologies are changing rapidly. The world is going virtual way wherein people join together for common objectives and goals and separate once the project is over. It is like make shift tent for temporary stay.

Currently we find loyalty to organizations as skin deep. When people work together they connect for getting the tasks executed. Once the work is over, they separate and rejoin with others to get new tasks executed. This is the kind of mindset evolving among the employees globally. In future, it appears that the people connect over video conferencing and work together more vigorously than now without any physical interaction for executing the tasks and part away amicably.

The way the technology is changing it is very tough to predict where we will land in a couple of decades from now. However, considering the past changes, we can predict to some extent that the virtual organizations are here to stay.

Monday, September 20, 2010

“Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline and Teaching” – Professor M.S.Rao

“We often spend so much time coping with problems along our path that we forget why we are on that path in the first place. The result is that we only have a dim, or even inaccurate, view of what's really important to us.” – Peter M. Senge

Internationally each personality is associated with each area of specialization. When we recall a particular personality we easily relate with a specific area of expertise and also the other way round. For instance, Daniel Goleman is associated with emotional intelligence, Philip Kotler with marketing, John Adair with Action Centered Leadership, Ken Blanchard with Situational Leadership, and Peter Senge with Fifth Discipline. When we look at Peter Senge, he highlighted about organizational learning in his magnum opus ‘The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization’.

According to Peter Senge “A learning organization is a place where people are continually discovering how they create their reality.” He says that organizations are dynamic and continuously adapt and improve. As individuals improve their learning curve, the organizations too must improve their learning curve. He unfolds that learning organizations constitutes five disciplines such as personal mastery, mental modes, shared vision, team learning and systems thinking. Let us see how these disciplines can be used in the classroom for the benefit of both students and educators. The educators can effectively use these five factors for effective teaching for students. For instance, students can learn the concepts through personal mastery by mastering the contents and concepts. The educators can involve the students into interaction wherein students apply their mental modes for better clarity of the content. Thirdly, the educators can often highlight the common objectives of learning by sharing the collective vision of the students. Fourthly, educators can engage students to form groups in the classroom, discuss and ensure learning outcomes. Finally, educators can take informal feedback from students for making both teaching and learning better which is a type of systems thinking. We shall deal the same in detail.

Teaching in ‘Fifth Discipline’ Way:

• When we talk of mental modes, it is all about the students reflecting what has been taught in the classroom through mental pictures and visualization. It enhances their retention of the concepts paving the way for relating the reel content with real life applications. It builds confidence and promotes analytical and thinking levels.
• Educators must emphasize on personal mastery where their teaching styles should be tailored in such a way that students must be able to reinforce their learning.
• Often it is essential for educators to remind students about sharing their vision of joining the course and the objectives behind the classroom session as it makes them more accountable and responsible towards learning. It also helps them focus on learning objectives with desired outcomes.
• Team learning helps in effective transfer of knowledge and generates more knowledge. Educators must involve students in team learning so that they can discuss and challenge the ideas and information for further research. Numerically speaking, one plus one is two. However, when we talk in terms of teaching it is more than two and probably more than eleven. In this context, it is rightly said that when two people exchange an apple, they still have one apple in their hands. However, when they exchange ideas they will have two ideas as each individual is acquiring extra idea through exchange.
• Educators must look at the overall improvement of the classroom teaching by assessing the learning needs of the students. They must tune their teaching style as per the different learning styles of students to ensure effective teaching in the classroom. Therefore, it is essential to take inputs from the students informally to make things better. It is known as systems thinking from the perspective of Peter Senge.

To conclude, both educators and students can take a leaf from Peter Senge’s five disciplines for understanding the concepts and their application to reap rich rewards real life.

Monday, September 6, 2010

"Leadership Lessons for Future Leaders" - Professor M.S.Rao

"Keep your mind open to change at all times. Welcome it. Court it. It is only by examining and re-examining your opinions and ideas that you can progress." - Dale Carnegie

Since time immemorial, there has been a lot of emphasis on leaders and leadership. What fascinates this area is still a mystery since history. Although lot of research has been done, it is still unpredictable what makes an individual as a leader. In addition, there is also a debate whether the leaders are born or made.

Often the leadership legends looked back for learning lessons from their past successful leaders whenever they faced leadership crises. For instance, several American Presidents looked back to the leaders like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln whenever they were beset with challenges. It helped them learn lessons and overcome the challenges. The question arises here is whether what worked in the past will work in future. The answer for this is both yes and no. It appears strange, right! Let us look at the same.

The concept of leadership remains the same at the core level as the nature of the people remains the same at the core. At the same time, there is need for changes in leadership with the changing times and technologies at the surface level to stay relevant and successful for future survival and success. For instance, leadership in the past believed in the concept of ‘command and control’ and now it is more of ‘collaboration and parternering’. It is at the surface level. However, the qualities like character, example and influence remain the same at the core level. Hence, let us look at few touchstones of future leaders that are the blend of past, present and future.

Touchstones for Future Leaders:

There are several lessons for budding and upcoming leaders to take on the future battles effectively. They need to learn lessons from their failures. As a leader you need to start knocking down obstacles. You need to know your weaknesses and move forward. You should not allow people to know your weaknesses. You need to put up a brave front always. As a leader you need to set an example to influence others. Let us look at few more in a nutshell:

• Character is the key to leadership as Norman Schwarzkopf rightly put it, “The main ingredient of good leadership is good character. This is because leadership involves conduct and conduct is determined by values.”
• Always take the long view.
• Listen to all and unfurl your ideas.
• Although it sounds strange, it is better to befriend with your enemies to ensure your survival and success.
• Achieve your goals at a reasonable expense.
• It is the personal power, not the positional power that counts at the end.
• Emphasize on the ideas and the issues of the individuals.
• There are no competitors but only collaborators as yesterday’s competitors are today’s collaborators.
• Learn lessons in difficult situations.
• Use soft rather hard power.

Future Leaders:

“The Jack Welch of the future cannot be like me. I spent my entire career in the United States. The next head of General Electric will be somebody who spent time in Bombay, in Hong Kong, in Buenos Aires. We have to send our best and brightest overseas and make sure they have the training that will allow them to be the global leaders who will make GE flourish in the future.” - Jack Welch

The future leaders must be blend of doers, planners and teachers. They must build capabilities and competencies of their people. They must empower their people. What worked in the past might not work in the future as the leadership scenario has changed drastically. For instance, Winston Churchill was a war time hero, but failed as a leader during peace time.

As there is always change of guard from one generation to another, every generation must pass on the knowledge to its next generation so that the future generations can survive without making mistakes. The new generation learns and adopts the new things that become the surface and also retain the old things that become the core.


“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” - Helen Keller

It is a fact that although times and technologies change, the leadership principles and values that guide human nature does not change in totality. However, there is need to change the things at the surface level to tackle the future challenges without compromising with core values and morals. Therefore, the upcoming leaders and future leaders must reinvent their styles and attitudes with changing times to stand out from the pack and soar like eagles.