Friday, 16 January 2015

Bestselling Book ‘The Leadership Code: Five Rules to Lead By’ - Reviewer Professor M.S.Rao

Acclaim about the Book
"What makes this book different from all the rest? It attempts to synthesize hundreds of studies, frameworks and tools on the subject, along with interviews with CEOs, academics and consultants and the authors' own extensive experience, and whittle it all down to five essential rules about what great leaders do." --CIO Zone

What are the Details of the Book?

If you want to learn five distilled rules from years of leadership experience from various stakeholders including researchers, experts and CEOs to grow as an effective and everlasting leader, read this book. If you want to build next generation leaders, read this book. If you want to leave a leadership legacy, read this book. Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood, and Kate Sweetman’s authored book The Leadership Code: Five Rules to Lead By is divided into seven chapters outlining five rules - shape the future; make things happen; engage today’s talent; build the next generation; and invest in yourself.

What is Inside?

This book outlines the five rules as follows: Rule 1 Shape the future. To shape the future, be a strategist: stay curious and develop a point of view about your own future; invite your savviest outsiders inside; engage the organization–no “one” knows enough; and create strategic traction within the organization.
Rule 2 Make things happen. To make things happen, be an executor: make change happen; follow a decision protocol; ensure accountability; build teams and ensure technical proficiency.
Rule 3 Engage today’s talent. To engage today’s talent, be a talent manager: communicate, communicate, communicate; create aligned direction, connect the individual to the organization; strengthen others, ensure people have the competencies they need; provide people with the resources to cope with demands; create a positive work environment-practice spiritual disciplines at work; and have fun at work.
Rule 4 Build the next generation. To build the next generation, be a human capital developer: Map the workforce; create a firm and employee brand; help people manage their careers; find and develop next-generation talent; and encourage networks and relationships.
Rule 5 Invest in yourself. To invest in yourself, be personally proficient: Practice clear thinking; rise above the details; know yourself; tolerate stress; demonstrate learning agility; tend to your own character and integrity; take care of yourself; and have personal energy and passion. And to take action on the leadership code, you must establish a clear theory of leadership; assess leaders; invest in leaders; and follow up to align organizational practices.

The book unveils that human capital developers invest in the next generation of talent. Today’s talent matters, but tomorrow’s talent matters just as much. Leaders who invest in tomorrow’s talent build for the future, create sustainability, and ensure a legacy. Human capital should be enhanced just as financial, information, and relationship capital are. As you prepare tomorrow’s talent, you will come to recognize and respond to challenges of retiring baby boomers. N-Gen, and the rise of global talent from places like China and India. Ultimately, your success as a leader is the extent to which you have built leadership, or the next generation of leaders. Effective leaders ultimately make others more effective.  In this regard, leaders who develop human capital are like good parents who devote enormous energy to increasing their children’s opportunities. Good parents offer children opportunities to learn and grow in ways that enhance each child’s unique personality. They encourage and coach them to reach their full potential. They delight in the success of their children, and pass onto the next generation an improved quality of life. Effective leaders do the same with their employees. They help employees learn and grow by coaching, supporting, and delighting in employees’ successes.

This book unfurls that clear thinking is a combination of intellect and intuition, reason and emotion. Clear thinking requires getting past the details to see the broader implications and thus exercise good judgment. The chess master sees the strategy, not just the moves.  When learning to type, we learn the letters, but fast typists type words or phrases because they work with words, not letters. To see patterns and not get lost in details, you need to learn to frame problems conceptually and communicate broader objectives. Leaders who think clearly also do not shy away from the toughest decisions.

This book outlines the huge literature on clear goal-setting highlighting the characteristics of effective standards (what we call OPTIMAL goal setting) as follows:
Outcomes: They measure the result of what we will do.
Processes: They measure the processes by which we will do it.
Public: They are visible, and others know what they are.
Time bound: They have deadlines for what is to be done.
Importance-focused: They focus on the right things.
Manageable: They are within the control of the individual.
Accepted: they are set with someone else, not imposed.
Learning: They use small failures as opportunities to learn how to improve rather than criticize and punish.

The book outlines that action learning is a powerful development tool because it shifts the emphasis from talking about leadership to doing leadership. The best action learning is done within the sweet spot of what the business needs and what the leader needs to develop. A few years ago IBM initiated an action-learning approach that involved identifying chronic business problems and then pulling teams from across the world together to solve the problem in eight, ten or twelve weeks.  Done right, action learning is a powerful vehicle for high-impact development.

The authors express their viewpoint that Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Airlines, and Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE are strong strategists: they both know how to execute and to get their ideas implemented by others; they are both high in personal proficiency; both are talent developers; and both are concerned about the next generation of talent and act as human capital developers.

Leadership Takeaways
  • Leaders succeed by enabling others to do the right work right. Modeling the rules of leadership ensures that you lead well, but helping others master those rules guarantees future success.
  • Knowing the rules enables you to adapt your behavior and succeed. In sports, rules determine the type of talent and game plan that teams adopt. In writing, rules shape the use of language to communicate. In politics, rules often establish who wins and loses. In driving, rules ensure safety and fluidity. In leadership, rules resolve what makes an effective leader.
  • You may not be the expert in all things, but it is good to be very gifted at some things.
  • Research has shown that self-employed people work longer hours, but are more committed to the job primarily because they feel more control over their work conditions. Encouraging members of the organization to devote real time to their outside lives renews the employees’ faith in and energy for the company.
  • Positive psychologists like Martin Seligman assert that people thrive in positive atmospheres where the focus is on what is right, not what is wrong.
  • One child does not have to fail for another to succeed. Each child can succeed by developing his or her unique gifts.
  • Success requires having the right people in the right places at the right time with the right skills.
  • Too often, leaders don’t talk to their employees about their career and performance for a variety of reasons-for example, they don’t want to raise expectations about a specific job or they don’t want to argue about things they can’t control.
  • The best source of future talent is present talent.
  • Coaching and mentoring help people know what to do to fit in and succeed.
  • It is a truism that people generally don’t quit companies, they quit bosses.
  • If you want to build effective human capital, you will need to delegate, empower, and allow employees to take risks, even if they occasionally fail, as long as they learn.
  • As a leader, make sure you empower people by giving them both authority and information.
  • Courageous and bold leaders have personal confidence and security. They make mistakes, but learn from them. Companies with a blue ocean strategy have first-mover advantages because they define new markets. Leaders who act with boldness and courage also have first-mover advantage because they make things happen rather than watch what has happened.
  • Research has shown that people can often see their strengths, but have a much harder time assessing their weaknesses.
  • People with resilience are willing to shrug off setbacks, learn from the situation, and move on.
  • Bob Eichinger and Mike Lombardo found that leaders who learn quickly and well, and who perpetually apply new ideas to current problems succeed not only in the short term but over the long haul. They call this trait “learning agility.” Successful leaders value learning so highly that they insist others do it too. This bent toward learning is often innate, yet can also be acquired.
  • Failing is not failing if it leads to learning. Keep looking for feedback, really reflect on it, and be resilient.
  • Surround yourself with people who see the world differently from you. Benchmark best practices in your industry and outside your industry so that you can leapfrog them.
  • CEO Jeff Immelt spends 20-25% of his time mentoring GE's middle managers.
  • Leadership is a team sport and spending too much time alone cuts off ideas and engagement.
  • Even CEOs, presidents, and senior executives make mistakes. Admit them. Leaders who try to hide or run from their mistakes spend more energy covering themselves than finding workable solutions.
  • Former U.S. president John F. Kennedy’s simple, emotional speech in 1963 launched a renewed space program: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”
  • Some companies, including Ernst&Young, McDonald’s, and CIA, use social networking spaces like Facebook, Nexopia or Friendster to help their people network.
  • One leading professional player has the mantra. “No guts, no glory” tattooed on his arms. Bold leadership is no different. If there is a decision to make, identify it, study it, and make it. If you’re wrong, admit it and learn, but be willing to act.
  • Character, integrity, morality, and ethics are the foundation principles for leadership.
  • Leaders who are under incredible scrutiny and pressure have to find ways to renew themselves.
  • Predispositions are our preferences and natural abilities. Passions are our life source and our drive, and they come from our deepest values and needs. When we connect our abilities to our passions we find meaning. Meaning comes when your work results in outcomes you care about, when you work with people you enjoy, and when you help others grow. Help others find meaning. Your ultimate passion is the passion you create in others.
  • You need to show exceptional commitment and energy. Others around you need to see and feel how passionately you enjoy and care about the work that you do.
  • There is an old saying in real estate that the three most important factors for success are “location, location, location.” In leadership development the three most important factors for success are “job assignment, job assignment, job assignment.”

What is the Recommendation?

The authors are insightful thinkers with a passion for HR and leadership. It is an innovative code in leadership. The authors are kind to grant permission to incorporate their leadership code in my new leadership perspective – Soft Leadership. Dave Ulrich has interpreted my 11 Cs in Soft Leadership and is kind to write foreword to my authored book, Soft Leadership - Make Others Feel More Important URL:             

It is a well researched book on leadership. The authors collected their research reports from various sources and distilled into five rules. The leadership ideas and insights are well punched hitting the bull’s eye. It is a great book for leadership scholars, researchers and practitioners. Strongly recommended for reading!

"...they have described 'practical ideas, insights, and activities designed to grow great leaders at all levels in organizations’. " --Financial Times

The Leadership Code: Five Rules to Lead By by Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood and Kate Sweetman (Harvard Business Review Press, December 9, 2008)

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Life is great!

Professor M.S.Rao, India
Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants India
Listed in Marquis Who's Who in the World in 2013
21 Success Sutras for Leaders: Top 10 Leadership Books of the Year (San Diego University) Amazon URL:

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