About Leaders And Followers

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Ulrike Reinhard:
Does this mean that leadership must have power? If so, what are the best ways to exercise this power?

Gunter Dueck:

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Leadership means that responsibility has been conferred onto you to move things forward.

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This responsibility is something that people can certainly recognize. For instance, the German chancellor has such authority and competence. Yet she’s accused of sitting on the fence too much. Employees want good clear leadership! Children want clear guidance from their parents! Leaders can give this when they lead – and everybody’s satisfied. But if they’re not up to the job, if they’re too weak or not respected, they’ll wield formal power like a weapon, issue commands – and nobody is convinced. That’s the cold side that a real leader has no need of. If I really have to order something to be done, I feel that something’s not quite right with me. I mean that generally speaking. If I’ve got to order my kid around as a father, there’s something wrong with me – especially if the kid wants to see me as the man who gives him guidance …

Ulrike Reinhard:
How far do you consider that the Internet supports this whole leadership and management process? Or is it just a kind of necessary evil?

Gunter Dueck: Figure management is now basically done on the Internet which is making it more and more powerful. But leading people by the Internet is problematic. Would you raise your child via Facebook? OK, I can understand your idealism about 2.0 but 2.0 can only do what it can do. You don’t have to approach every single thing through it.

Ulrike Reinhard:
An IBM report from last fall, a survey of 3,000 top managers worldwide, said that creativity is one of the key issues top management will have to take on board in the coming years. What does creativity mean to you, and how do I lead my employees to be creative?

Gunter Dueck: Isn’t that what they’re all saying now? But what the survey says – and you quote it – is that it’s top management that should be creative. Which doesn’t necessarily mean that each and every employee has to be so. Nor can they all be. In any case who is really creative? Creativity is something like innate intelligence which tends to be pretty rare. It’s what we now miss in top management. I don’t even think that we need that much creativity. Major companies have big problems coping with the various realities of the Internet. Telecoms are seeing their fixed networks crumble away, banks and insurance companies are disappearing into the Net along with books and publishing houses, energy suppliers must learn IT to operate balance area agreements while IT itself is vanishing in the Cloud and all types of administration are being automated … The point here is to get on top of all these upheavals. And to do so you don’t need that much creativity but you do need a whole lot of courage to take a long cool look into the future. Most companies deep down inside just don’t want to do this. That’s the problem. All the creative ideas are      already there, only actually implementing them is a hard and painful process because the legacy from the past weighs so heavily. In small companies, on the other hand, creativity is a real joy because there aren’t any bridges to burn. That’s why we see companies slowing down and dropping by the wayside while others are born and grow up big and strong! To give you a case in point – you can easily take joy in building e-cars, only it won’t be so easy if you’ve given your heart and soul over the past decades to building gasoline-driven vehicles.

Ulrike Reinhard:
Is there really something like creative management? Or does creativity belong in the creative department and not with the guys in suits?

Gunter Dueck: To my mind “creative management” implies that you come up with bright ideas every second day. But it doesn’t work like that. A company can live off one bright idea for years and it makes a whole mountain of work. Take BMW, for instance, which latched onto the idea of building cars from ultra-lightweight carbon instead of heavy sheet metal which means that the batteries of the e-cars have a much longer life. OK, that’s the idea. Only now you need hundreds of millions in investment! You need the courage of your convictions. And persistence! Before you taste that final success! Edison said that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. All this chatter about creativity hasn’t got the slightest whiff of perspiration, that’s why I call it chatter.

Ulrike Reinhard:
In our last interview you said that as Cloud manager you held no direct responsibility for human resources at IBM … which basically squares with the follower principle we’ve just talked about. What kind of personal experiences have you made with this?

Gunter Dueck: As Cloud manager, I was just the virtual boss of my people who had simply been asked to work together with me but who all still had their normal line manageres (who always wants to grab a slice of the work for themselves). I much prefer it when people are motivated enough to come and work with me because that means I don’t have to keep records. I’ve never had any problems with people refusing to work with me just because I wasn’t their real boss. You can read in my Bluepedia column which you can download from my homepage how I managed an entire project only working with volunteers. All on overtime – but that went well because I took care to ensure that the work really was enjoyable!




Leadership In A Flat Organization
(J.P. Rangaswami)
What A Little Nuance Can Do! (Itay Talgam)
Doing It The Wiki Way (Frank Roebers)


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