As most of you know I am not a fan of the current state of high-level leaders of our major businesses or government.
I recently saw the movie The Big Short. It’s award-winning author Michael Lewis’ journalistic account of how Wall Street bankers wrecked the world economy in 2008. Their hard power, one-dimensional thinking caused average everyday people to lose $5 trillion of their assets. The movie had funny moments and eccentric good guys who were needed to tamp down my anger. But there is nothing funny about the work lives of people who work for most big public companies. And there is nothing funny about the future damage we continue to do to our environment, our health, and our children’s future in the name of making money…dammit!
You may not be aware of this but real business results over the last two decades have been terrible. Most large businesses are floundering. True organic growth driven by streams of positive innovation is extremely rare. Today most CEOs of publicly traded companies are simply expert at financial engineering. That’s a fancy term for managing a company’s profit and loss statements, balance sheets and stock price to impress Wall Street analysts rather than to make inspiring business decisions. I know this first hand. I have been in many meetings to hear discussions about how to cut budgets and talented people only to get a target number.
Global business has spent the last two decades focused on efficiency. Total Quality, Re-engineering, Six Sigma, Lean. It’s all good for creating efficiency that produces acceptable product quality at a low-cost. Except everyone has done the same thing. They’ve even used the same consultants. So businesses have benchmarked themselves into mediocrity. Finding efficiency in large organizations does not take imagination so it enables mediocre minds to rise to the top of institutions that in many ways rule the world.
Meanwhile all the fun, creativity and courage is taking place in startups where good ideas and being different actually create value. The problem is that the corporate dinosaurs whose stomach acids attack even the smallest amount of true inspiration soon gobble start-ups up. Of course, there are exceptions to this picture. But they are way too few to make a big difference.
So last year I founded the SMART Power Institute to do continuous research on what leadership mindset and practices create and maintain organizations that can continually deliver products and services that actually enhance our lives and heal our world.
I am fortunate. I get to teach new science-based leadership practices, new innovation processes and new ways of elevating teamwork in complex webs of teams that are the new structure of business. I also get to teach people how to “work like a genius” which is a synthesis of everything we know about how to be highly creative, productive and happy at the same time. What excites me about the intersection between leadership and positive well-being is that both are vitally needed to create organizations that thrive and make a difference.
I feel very lucky to live at the perfect time when women are flowing into leadership roles at an unprecedented rate. The reason I am such a fan of women’s leadership development is that their social intelligence, empathetic awareness and short-term / long-term balance make them exceptionally easy to teach and coach SMART Power thinking and processes to. My job is to make sure that super-competent women don’t get stuck eighty percent up the organization chart only to waste their time trying to help hard power leaders accomplish meaningless goals.
What I focus on are the three core game changing skills of SMART Power:
- Increase your strategic impact. The perceived lack of strategic vision is the most cited reason for not advancing women into senior leadership. (It holds soft power men back as well.) Yet people with creative imaginations and moral ambition need to develop and present a SMART Business Vision that becomes the leadership agenda of organizations. I get to teach high potential leaders a science-based, 6-step method to open closed minds, get buy-in, command resources and change things for the better. (I have helped women who lack formal position power use this method to change product roadmaps, recruit a more diverse workforce, acquire R&D investments etc.)
- Social intelligence. The highest use for empathy is something I call CVI – Customer Valued Innovations. CVI is a process that focuses teams on creating product/service breakthroughs that customers really value. I call it disciplined empathy. I often layer a sustainability matrix so that the value can be created in a way that honors the environment rather than exploiting it.
- Gender Synergy. I believe the biggest chance we have to create an enduring civilization is to equip men and women to work together in a new way. This requires a mutual mind shift and five new powerful behaviors that unleash the strengths of our socialized and genetic differences. This is not as hard as it sounds. I’ve been able to do this in scores of projects over the past few years. Now it’s down to a science.
Well, I hope you can see why I am so committed to SMART Power. For 2016 my goal is to continue to use these principles and processes to transform organizations with a practical method to sharpen the SMART Power tools. I will also be expanding the Leadership SPA in partnership with a major university and a network of professional women’s groups. We are putting special focus on technology, biotech and entertainment companies for two reasons. These are the industries which are on the leading edge of our future. Second, all the research confirms that they are also the most sexist industries. That simply won’t do. We need SMART leaders to get to the next level. And we must get to the next level if we are to have an enduring civilization.