Leadership is so clearly important for developing and carrying out effective strategies that there is a never-ending stream of works attempting to boil it down to the factors that pave the way to high performance for both leaders and their teams so they can be duplicated.
One very impressive addition is a book called The Unknown Leader by Hussein A. Al-Banawi, Chairman & CEO of The Banawi Industrial Group, a major manufacturing firm in Saudi Arabia. Initially I was intrigued by the advertised prospect that it would outline a leadership model for the MENA area (Middle East and North Africa). How different might that be? Anyone paying attention to the upheavals going on there has to wonder if a different sort of leadership development is being evolved and promoted.
In fact, Al-Banawi definitely bridges cultures, educated in the US with lots of links to the West, but committed to bringing better leadership to his own and surrounding countries as you can see in these links. His model, examples and comments reflect that, a sophisticated accumulation that speaks well to the complexities of leading anywhere. This is definitely a book I can recommend though I had to download it from the library since they didn’t have hard copy as they do with so many North American leadership works.
In contrast I took a look again at Made In Canada Leadership, which I reviewed on publication in 2007. Excerpts have even made it online by now, reflecting its unique interviews and distilling of the Canadian variations, but the messages a quite similar. With core concepts side by side the parallels outweigh differences. So why are these ideas so hard to spread?
Quite different is a book given to me by a friend who attended a speech by the author: The Gold Mine Effect by now Canadian speaker Rasmus Ankersen who focuses on sports interests he developed in his native Denmark. Notably he points out that the idea that people are born with talent is a myth, echoing Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and Geoff Colvin’s Talent is Overrated, which we’ve discussed before. Unfortunately although he promotes additional positives on not wasting talent, he is short on how.
We see that those who practice most, lifelong, hours a day, excel, but not how to convince people to do that. I liked Ankersen’s reference to the work of James Flynn, which, as his latest title suggests, shows we are getting smarter with each generation (since the invention of IQ measures in the early-1900s at least), but some of those works are going to be difficult to draw lessons from by the looks of it. At least he quotes Flynn as showing the 60% of us have the intelligence to become leaders (far more than the 14% who currently hold such roles in organizations or the mere 1% to 2% who are effective), but again he falls short of laying out how we can develop them.
As always each author faces the challenge of not being able to put all the information we need for better leadership development into a single book it seems. Each finds a piece of the puzzle, like the four blind men each feeling a different part of the elephant and describing animals so different you’d hardly think they were related. Al-Banawi may have captured the most comprehensive collection, yet still doesn’t fully explain why it’s such a challenge.
The next few posts will take a stab at making headway with these questions, using these and some other observations as a base. As all authors agree, leadership is a very complex, if not the most complex challenge in the world. Yet Complexity Science starts from the principle that complex issues can be managed simply. This is likely the most important question for the future, as CEOs and organizations zero in on the absolute value of leadership development as their greatest challenge.