Posts Tagged ‘leadership’


The International Institute of Management (IIM) released a white paper on the symptoms of dysfunctional organizations and dysfunctional leadership. Bad politics is a disease that can drain organizations of productive potential, and the IIM white paper also proposed some possible cures to help afflicted organizations out of the rut and back to health.

The white paper describes symptoms of bad leadership, which upon reading, have a strong correspondence to a lack of critical thinking:

3. Performance Diagnosis Checklist

Even fast-growing and profitable companies can develop bad internal politics and unproductive work habits that will eventually lead to declining performance. It is true that the larger the organization, the more susceptible it is to the breakdown of communication, the emergence of management silos and misalignment. Yet, in my experience many of the smaller companies also suffer from similar problems. When management tends to focus so much on one management area, e.g., sales, and has no time to manage the internal organization challenges, dysfunction creeps in and takes hold. To build and sustain high-performance teams, leadership and human resources managers should keep an eye open for the following symptoms and treat the root causes before it becomes too late.

Dysfunctional leadership symptoms and warning signs:

  • Dictatorial Leadership: Management that does not allow disagreements out of insecurity or arrogance.
  • No 360 Degrees Feedback: There is limited or no leadership performance feedback.
  • Personal Agendas: Recruitments, selections and promotions are based on internal political agenda, for example hiring friends to guarantee personal loyalty at the expense of other highly performing and more-qualified employees.
  • Political Compensation: Stock options, bonuses and perks are not fairly linked to performance.
  • Inefficient Use of Resources: Budgets are allocated between business units or departments based on favoritism and power centers rather than actual business needs.
  • Empire-building Practices: Managers believe that the more people they manage and the bigger the budget, the higher the chance that they will be promoted. This results in raging battles around budgets, strategies and operations.
  • Unequal Workload Distribution: You’ll find some departments are underutilized while other departments are overloaded.
  • Too Much Management: There are many management layers in the organization, thus, hindering communication and resulting in slower execution.
  • Fragmented Organization Efforts: Interdepartmental competition and turf wars between rival managers lead to the emergence of silos, which results in communication gaps. Management silos almost always result in fragmented and duplicated budgets and projects, thus wasting valuable company investments.
  • Too Much Talk: Plans are heavy on talk but light on action. In a political corporate culture, image management becomes far more important than actions.
  • Ineffective Meetings: Argumentative and heated cross-divisions meetings with discussion and language focusing on point scoring and buck-passing rather than sharing responsibility and collaborating to solve the problem
  • Lack of Collaboration: Every person for himself/herself. Low sense of unity or camaraderie on the team. The key criterion for decision-making is What is in it for me?
  • Low Productivity: Management wastes more time and energy on internal attack and defense strategies instead of executing the work, innovating and overcoming challenges. Critical projects fall behind on deadlines, budgets and performance targets (e.g. sales, market share, quality and other operational targets).
  • Constant Crisis Mode: Management team spends most of their time on fire fighting instead of proactive planning for next-generation products and services.
  • Morale Deterioration:Muted level of commitment and enthusiasm by other teams. Even successful results cannot be shared and celebrated due to animosity and internal negative competition.
  • Backstabbing: Backbiting among the executives and managers becomes common and public.
  • Highly Stressful Workplace: There is a high rate of absenteeism and a high employee turnover rate.

The IIM paper provides a good basis of how critical thinking can help (or the lack of can destroy) organizations from a practical perspective. 

Read more here.

Download the paper here.

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(Excerpt from a client folio published by Morgan Stanley)


This past year, energy issues dominated much of the policy agenda as oil touched $150 per barrel and gas prices soared past $4.00 per gallon across the country. With both oil and gas prices in retreat as the economy hits the brakes, energy policy has lost its urgency. The new Obama administration will have many ideas and proposals in the energy arena, and the issue is sure to generate attention, but not much sweeping action.


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(Excerpt from a client folio published by Morgan Stanley)

Miscellaneous Business, Labor and Manufacturing

A handful of other commercial issues currently dominate the attention of lawmakers and federal officials – payday lending reform, credit card abuse, union elections, infrastructure improvements – and Obama has identified each as a priority in 2009.

In general, Obama supports a more consumer protection-oriented approach than McCain would have. A good example was the Obama campaign’s focus on payday lending abuses. To protect lower-income individuals, Obama has announced his intention to cap interest rates on payday loans at 36 percent, while seeking to provide borrowers with clearer, simplified disclosures on loan fees, payments and penalties. He would encourage banks and credit unions to increase small-denomination, short-term consumer loans.


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(Excerpt from a client folio published by Morgan Stanley)

Financial Crisis/Economic Rescue

Obama envisions fiscal policy as a central tool for spurring the economy and blunting the coming recession. To build upon the first economic stimulus package passed in February 2008, Obama supports passage of a second stimulus bill to inject infrastructure and benefits-related spending into the economic engine (Obama did not vote on the final version of the first stimulus package). Obama has proposed a twoyear, $175 billion total package, with:


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(Excerpt from a client folio published by Morgan Stanley)

Senator Barack Obama’s electoral victory, complete with expanded majorities in the House and Senate, gives the Democrats control over the legislative and administrative processes for the first time since 1994. This has significant ramifications for the new Administration’s policies to deal with the economic crisis, as well as domestic priorities on taxes, health care, energy, the environment, labor relations, and trade.

Today, President-Elect Barack Obama will shift to presidential transition following many months of campaigning. He will have just 77 days to assemble a cabinet, set critical priorities, and prepare a federal budget (which must be submitted to congress by February). Though he has not discussed it publicly, these plans are well underway. The Obama team is actively discussing potential Cabinet selections and will soon begin vetting resumes for the estimated 7,800 presidential appointee jobs which must be filled – 1,177 require Senate confirmation – and finalizing a comprehensive blueprint which will guide the incoming president through the transition.

While it is certain that the Obama presidency will mark a stark contrast from the Bush years, what remains to be seen is how much external factors like the economic crisis will impact his first 100 days and beyond. The following examines what we are likely to see under an Obama administration on an array of pressing issues.

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Very real (albeit comical) fears coming from the actor who played Jason Bourne on-screen:

I really want to know if she thinks dinosaurs roamed the earth 4,000 years ago… because she’s gonna have the nuclear codes.

It’s surreal for Americans to be voicing these fears of absurd leaders, coming from a country that has had its share of lameduck presidents and politicians (my own biased assessment).

Time to revisit an article on leadership posted not so long ago. I mentioned previously that true leadership may emerge during times of crisis, when organizations break down. This is truly a crisis time for the United States–but that begs the question indeed.

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With the US elections barely a breath away and the impending Philippine elections coming in less than two years, some of the most burning issues that take the floor nowadays has to do with the issue of leadership?

One sometimes wonders at the idea of being a leader. Is it simply being put in a position of responsibility or influence? Is it a job, or an attribute.

As someone who has had first-hand experience in the dog-eat-dog world of banking, I can say also first-hand that being part of an organization with a defined hierarchy does not necessarily imply that leaders exist.

I might even argue the opposite: that leaders emerge when organizations breakdown, or are at the verge of breaking down. In circumstances when organizations feed on itself as a vicious cycle, say in a corrupt bureaucracy, or a money-hungry corporation, this might be argued as a venue where leadership is missing, or is sorely needed.

In 1991, two management consultants: James Kouzes and Barry Z. Pozner, put together a framework for identifying and nurturing leadership. Briefly speaking, Kouzes and Pozner outlined 5 characteristics that can be said to be exemplars of leadership based on research they did. They described these characteristics as practices that identify leadership:

Challenge the process
The research found that leaders thrive on and learn from adversity and difficult situations. They are risk takers who regard failure – where not caused by poor performance – as a useful chance to learn and innovate.

Inspire a shared vision
Kouzes and Posner found in their research that people are motivated most not by fear or reward, but by ideas that capture their imagination. This is not so much about aving a vision, but communicating it effectively so that others take it on board.

Enable others to act
Leaders don’t seek to achieve it all themselves – they achieve results through others. But they do this not by simply repeating the vision mantra – encouragement and exhortation isn’t enough. People must feel able to act and then must be supported to put their ideas into action.

Model the way
Modelling means being prepared to go first, living the behaviours you want others to adopt before asking them to adopt them. People will believe not what they hear leaders say, but what they see their leaders consistently do.

Encourage the heart
Finally Kouzes and Posner established that people act best of all when they are passionate about what they’re doing. Leaders unleash the enthusiasm of their followers with stories and passions of their own.

You can check out further details on the K&P model from this online document. The interesting exercise is to run all aspiring leaders and wannabee leaders against the criteria to see who measures up. A similar exercise is going on in Finance Manila as we speak, but as with popularly held notions such as religion and nationalism–the notion of leadership can be quite a hotly contentious debate.

In these cases, being absolutely critical of one’s views and others is the only process I can think of that can ultimately lead to success.

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