Monday, January 30, 2006

It's the end of the world as we know it...

The new Leader to Leader magazine has an interesting summary of Peter Georgescu's new book The source of success: Five enduring principles at the heart of real leadership. Mr. Georgescu is chairman emeritus of the advertising agency, Young & Rubicam, and proposes that the standard paradigms of leadership espoused in many best sellers are becoming increasingly irrelvant. Why - because the global economy (and particularly that of the U.S.A.) is moving from one dominated by excess demand to one of excess supply. The consumer demand of the 1950s through the early 1990s fueled increasing demand that seemed unsatiable. However, in the late 1980s, price became the focus of many businesses. Georgescu now proposes that demand and price cannot be the continuing focus as products look more and more the same - commoditized. Products that consumers will buy will be unique, different, and tailored to individual interests. This movement will require different leadership and organization strategies.

The leadership Georgescu predicts will be one based on five principles. The first principle is creativity. In his words, "creative capacity and brand value are an organization's most important asset" and to maintain the creativity that establishes value, employees have to be freed to make their best contributions. The second principle is enlightened leadership, the kind that causes employees to say, "there's nowhere else I would ever want to work." When employees say this, customers will begin to say, "there's no one else I'd rather buy from." The third principle is achieving competency and excellence in execution. In such an environment, every employee relationship with a customer is an opportunity for marketing, assuring the consumer that there is full confidence and excellence in the product. The fourth principle is alignment among management, employees, financial analysts and consumers that assures that the product in question is superior in fact and perception. The final and fifth principle is that values count. Basic human values will dominate the relationships among organizations and consumers and these include honesty, integrity, and respect for yourself and others. With these core values and accountability to actualize them, there will be trust. Without them, trustful relationships cannot be established.

While this summary may appear only to be relevant to for-profit companies, my own head quickly bridged to the relationship between education and students, families, and employer consumers. Further, I began to wonder about the role of values-based leadership learning, especially leadership that fosters creativity, enlightened leadership that supports it, commitment to excellence, alignment from creation to delivery of the product, and a commitment to shared human values. Are we on the verge of the end of the world as we knew it and is there actually a better world ahead?


Benjamin said...

I feel that such as the consumer world is being lead to tailor more to the consumer; so will the education world be lead to cater more toward an individuals wants and needs in an education. In this, it may be as simple as an expansion of "create-your-own-major" programs, to something as dramatic as the recasting of the classroom atmosphere as divisively Socratic, in the sense that the teacher will address each student on an individual basis and foster the sort of learning specifically useful to that pupil.

Perhaps it is a cyclical entity, as nature is said to abhor a vacuum. The reinvention of ancient learning -- which was in some Athenian settings values-based. If it can be properly updated (2000 years and huge strides later) it may serve to promote a better world for our society. But if it fails to be applied reasonably, it could simply serve to shake the foundations of contemporary views without creation of resolution. And presenting a problem without giving a solution does not move anything forward.

I am still working out my resolution to a problem I am seeing. The conceptual stages are easier to consider, but harder to escape from.

--Benjamin Alexander

Denny Roberts said...

Ben - Thanks for commenting on the last "It's the end of the world..." post. I hadn't realized that what is advocated by Georgescu really is returning to fundamental and ancient wisdom. I'm fascinated when this kind of thing happens. My own belief is that sometimes ancient wisdom was more simply and purely conceived, thus avoiding some of the distracting clutter of the modern day. I think the wisdom can be contemporized and would help us a lot. I'd like to hear your ideas about what would need to be updated in order to have a positive outcome.

Benjamin said...

I am hesitant to put words into the author's mouth; but in my reading it seems like an implication of a reversion to what was (loosely considered) perhaps not broke (ancient wisdom), so why did we try to fix it. It would be a interesting conversation on this manner.

I do have quite a bit on my plate, working out my potential project (I have posted some of my ideas on my blog [], and now having an idea contributed to the SFS program (I am not sure on what manner they are going to use my view).

But nevertheless, I would be open to such discussion, naturally. It is only though discourse that refinement occurs.

Denny Roberts said...

Ben - By the way, congrats on being selected for RA next year! I hope that what you have drawn from Scholar Leader and your ongoing inwquiry will be useful in your new leadership role. Let's keep explore how these ideas could be used in higher education. It may be profitable to meet again in the near future.