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Stephen Archer is a speaker with great charisma. By using illustrations and personal experiences and not being afraid to share his own point of view of the current situation and who is to blame for it, he engages the whole audience, at the same time helping us all to understand the credit crunch a little better.

— Warwick Business School

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Leadership: The first 100 days

With the replacement of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United by David Moyles and the replacement of Sir Mervyn King by Mark Carney at the Bank of England we have two major institutions under new leadership in summer 2013. The question on every football fan’s mind is how will David Moyles cope with the pressure and the task ahead. If he does something different can it possibly be better? The question on other’s minds is what will Mark Carney do that is different with a clear expectation that different will be good and better.

They are both under a special type of pressure – global visibility and expectation. At United the expectation for victory is at the highest level, the last thing Moyles needs is to have the fans questioning his ability. To this extent the same applies to King.

The first 100 days is the classic window of establishment, however, in both cases they do not have 100 days of comfort. Maybe 10.  So they are both working behind the scenes to eradicate the first 90 before they start.

As they take the helm, below are a few pointers which they might find useful on how to make the right impact as a new leader:

Core elements needed to be effective
There are two essentials defining leaders are described; What they do and Who they are. In other words the actions of leaders and what type of leader are is quite distinct.

[The paradox is that pre- assessment is mostly based on what has been achieved and to some extent who they are. Once in the job it is only the achievement that is monitored..yet why not both?]

What good leaders DO is have consistent clarity of direction and purpose. They know what they want to achieve and make sure that everyone else understands this direction. Like all great leaders, Ferguson was extremely focused at all times on the task in hand and his unquenchable desire to win. For him, everything revolved around soccer. Leaders have a unifying purpose, they bring everyone to the cause and everyone feels that they are part of the cause.  This is where Churchill was exceptional.  King was more collegiate.

Good leaders have the determination to follow through no matter what objections stand in the way and people can see that determination at all times.  To be these things means that good leaders are resilient, creative, versatile and tough; leaders have to be able to withstand headwinds of all sorts.

WHO leaders are is the most hidden but arguably the most vital ingredient.  Great and effective leaders are very aware of their environment. They know themselves and they understand others very very well. They understand the broadest context of all of their decisions and they know the likely impact. They seek to understand and ultimately are very clear about the challenges that stand in the way.

Good leaders are perhaps above all authentic, they are real and other people see them for that.  They are not acting, they are behaving naturally. They are also serving; they serve the cause and they serve people around them, above them and crucially below them too.  This is an alien leadership concept to many, but the effectiveness of leaders who serve those beneath them compared to those that only serve those above is enormous. The self serving leader has a short life. Eisenhower really understood this.  This is vital; it speaks of  genuine purpose.

Good leaders have presence. This is not just about charisma, this is about being seen to be leading at all times, they are on the job 24/7 and part of that job is taking the temperature of the people around them. They listen and act on what they learn, not just what they think.

So what do the two leaders have to do in the first 100 days?

1. Create a Plan

“Think first: What is it he is trying to do…what’s going on, where is he, what does he need to do first, and why?…A lot of things are going to go untouched for long periods of time, so where does he want to focus initial effort?”

In the first 100 days the basic plan must be built. This will address each of the major elements of the team, including strategy, structure, work processes, culture, etc.

* Work:  the basic, inherent tasks to be done by the team, and its parts.

* People:  learn the characteristics of the key individuals who perform the work.

* Formal organization:  the various structures, processes, and systems that are created to help the team and individuals perform their roles.

* Informal organization: the behavioural norms, patterns of influence and communications, and other aspects of the team culture.

2. Evaluating Personal Attributes

They will need to consciously think about what role they will own and what roles they will delegate. This requires a deliberate and candid self-assessment of personal traits so they can be clear about how to be most effective in the context of the role. A good start point is to assess what cannot be delegated and set out to minimise the role by that principle.

3. Engage Key Constituencies

To achieve the goals, they must actively involve people in the planning of new directions and implementing the changes at their levels. Once the leaders identify the key intents, they must constantly reinforce them by effectively communicating them to all stakeholders.

During their early days, each constituency may experience heightened uncertainty about the future and will compensate by making increased demands upon the leader. But he should be careful to focus personal energy and attention on the demands of a limited group; those that only the leader can address adequately: the executive team and the key players.

4. Extending Leadership Reach

They must build and leverage the management team: To be successful, the executive and management team must become an extension of his personal leadership, a force that projects his vision, values, objectives, and requirements out into the organisation as a whole. Part of his responsibility is to build a team whose members possess the skills, experience, and personal characteristics to win. They must collectively share the technical and managerial expertise required to enable the team to meet its objectives.

5. Heeding Red Flags

Having plotted the course for a successful tenure as leader they must keep in mind things that have the potential to trip them up somewhere along the line if they don’t pay attention.

Avoid the ‘Saviour Syndrome’: leaders often assume a role where they  become the psychological focal point for many of their staff; in an almost mystical way, they become the personal embodiment of the institution, its values, its beliefs, and its future. This is of course unhelpfully reinforced by external stakeholders and media. While this can be a tremendous strength, it can be a double-edged sword if taken to the extreme. They must refrain from taking on all the issues and resist the tendency to be the organization’s saviour.

5. Avoid the shadow

Sir Alex Ferguson’s presence and shadow will be felt for a very long time. Mervyn King has had a full tenure and helped navigate the UK economy through unprecedented times

Most will feel this but Moyles must 100% ignore this factor and be his own man and lead in such a way that everyone accepts the new and different leadership.  Carney has a different challenge. For him the trophy cupboard will always be filled with tainted rewards since economic measures even when effective usually have a clear downside.


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