I get to meet a lot of leaders in my day-to-day work, from C-level executives to line-level managers and everything in between. And I get to see them at their best–fresh off the victory of getting X million dollars for establishing an enterprise content management (ECM) program–and their worst–in the middle of a mess they can’t fix, with their jobs (or maybe even their careers) on the line.

There are lots of interesting things to note about leaders in both of these positions, but the one that’s been on my mind lately is the importance of struggling against insulation:

  • From the larger organizational context
  • From the work being done on the ground
  • From the wider community of practice for a domain of expertise
  • From the wider marketplace

I want to kick off a series of posts over the next few weeks that look at this problem and how leaders at all levels can overcome it. As I let the ideas percolate, I’d love to hear from folks out there who’ve faced this issue themselves, or worked with a leader who did–what are your thoughts and experiences out there? Jump in, and let’s get the conversation started!


Do we really need a Chief Strategy Officer?

After taking a break last post to review Open Leadership, by Charlene Li, I want to return to corporate strategy.

For those of you keeping score, I spent a few posts walking through a hands-on approach to building out strategy that I’ve used successfully at many clients.

Today, however, I want to step back a bit and get a little philosophical by considering whether strategy is something organizations should address through a dedicated department that rolls up to a Chief Strategy Officer.

Spoiler alert: I don’t have a definitive answer. So if you’re looking for one, you need to go somewhere else. But I have some thoughts on the matter that I want to explore a bit here.

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Review of Open Leadership, by Charlene Li

Just finished Open Leadership, by Charlene Li, which is a follow-up to her best-selling Groundswell. And whereas that book focused on the social media technologies that are transforming how companies do business, Open Leadership looks at how leaders need to transform themselves to allow their organizations to use social media effectively.

There’s a real glut of books out there on social media, and I find many of them lack real substance or staying power, whether because the social media domain is evolving so quickly or the books have been rushed to market (or both). Li’s book, in contrast, has a good bit of depth and will have quite a bit of staying power despite its timeliness. Continue reading

Make sure you tie your carrot to a stick

Changes in external incentives and in internal management are powerfully complementary. Giving managers incentives without also giving them the skills, authority, and resources they need to respond to those incentives is likely to be quite ineffectual. The same is true in reverse. Increased managerial authority is not likely to lead to improved care if managers have no incentive to do so. This is why various writers on organizational reform in health care have seen a need for “consistent” change (Harding and Preker 2002). It is not aesthetics that lies behind their observations, but rather the need to combine reasons to do better with this capacity to do better–in the same reform package.

Getting Health Reform Right, p. 215

I’m still finishing up Getting Health Reform Right, so a review is a week or so off. But in the meantime, I came across this passage on the plane last night and thought it held wonderful insight into leadership generally.

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Speaking of Leadership – John F. Moore

John F. Moore is the founder of The Lab, a consulting firm that provides market research, consulting services, and product delivery to help small and medium businesses, as well as local governments and state agencies, implement common sense approaches to leveraging social business strategies, tactics, and tools to meet their organizational goals.

In addition to his work with The Lab, John is a Strategic Advisor to Silberberg Innovations, the Founder of CityCamp Boston (an event focused on bringing together citizens, local government officials, municipal employees, experts, programmers, designers and journalists to share perspectives and insights about the cities in which they live), and a contributor to

Prior to founding The Lab, John was the CTO, SVP of Engineering, Chief Social Ecosystem Strategist at Swimfish, CTO, VP Engineering at Sonicbids, Inc., and the Director of Engineering at Brainshark,Inc.

John is also a prolific blogger, a frequent speaker on government 2.0 and social business strategies, and has grown strong, thriving communities on Twitter (19,000+), Empire Avenue (600+), and Facebook (150+).

I corresponded with John recently via email to ask him about social media and leadership.

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It’s not enough to lead

I was sitting in a doctor’s office over the weekend and picked up the latest copy of Rolling Stone to page through the interview with President Obama. And leaving aside my opinion on the president and his tenure to date, I found the article fascinating on a number of levels, the most important of which for this blog is the implications it had for leadership.

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Review of Health Care Will Not Reform Itself, by George Halvorson

George Halvorson is the CEO of Kaiser Permanente, the largest not-for-profit health plan and care system in the U.S., and has been a leader in the industry for over 30 years. Health Care Will Not Reform Itself is his attempt to spell out what he thinks are the key problems and most promising solutions to the health care problems we face.

For Halvorson, as the title of the book suggests, we cannot expect our health care system (which he calls a “nonsystem”) to spontaneously, organically transform to become more efficient, less expensive, and more effective. He would disagree with Christensen that disruptive innovation is acting like some invisible hand, making care more affordable and effective day by day over the long haul. The only invisible hand Halvorson sees at work in the U.S. health care nonsystem is profit…and our nonsystem is structured to reward things most folks would consider less than desirable for the country as a whole and its citizens as individuals.

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