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The Leadership Chain

The Leadership Chain

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Published by victor flores

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Published by: victor flores on Jul 31, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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03/02/2014

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The Leadership Chain:McClelland and his Legacy
By Bradford F. Spencer, Ph.D.
 
INTRODUCTION
Leadership is a much written about topic. The popular business magazines and indeed, somerather well selling books are often focused on specific leaders. In America, we often deify or crucify our leaders, and our business leaders are no exception to this foible.However, todays research into the true causes of the patterns of what molds leaders does notfocus on nearly enough. Certainly the scientific community looks down on the “researchmethodology.” The fact is the research often consists of interviews by business professors asking prominent captains of industry to speculate on why they are so different. To give credit where itis due, most executives admit they have no clue -- before they continue the dialogue to try tohelp the struggling researcher find the childhood incident which led to the drive that has set himor her apart. No wonder the conclusions are both suspect and not helpful to those asking whatthey do to improve themselves. This is where the approach of Dr. David McClelland differed sodramatically.This series of articles is designed as a pre-reading for the workshop (Leadership Process:Motivating Achievement
 
) designed to both explain and cover how to apply the extensive work of Dr. McClelland and his students. For that reason much on detail “how to” implement the findingswill be left for the lectures and interactions of the workshop. Our experience is that an overviewof this extensive body of knowledge will give the group a running start, thus allowing muchmore territory to be covered in our limited time.Interestingly enough, the initial research was not about the systemic and predictable causes of leadership at all. Nor was his interest in business, and certainly not business applications. Morewill be said later as to why this social scientist toiled away in relative obscurity and to this dayhis name is not recognized by many -- but most of todays works of substance cite hiscontributions. Certainly he was recognized as a giant among his peers and his position as headof the School of Social Psychology at Harvard University provided him with a unique platform.He used this platform to forward his work rather than to build fame.The sheer differentiation of businesses and the demands on their leaders in differing times andmarketplaces makes comparison a daunting task. The unpredictability of the battlefields they findthemselves on compounded by the changing competitive landscape expands the difficulty.Fortunately, we have generally accepted definitions of success as defined by Wall Street and itscounterparts in every major free market nation which make it possible to compare results acrosscontinents, and indeed, oceans.When people of good will do their best and succeed beyond their peers it is only natural to seek to find if a pattern exists. A primary reason is to create an edge by standing on their shoulders indeveloping the next generation of successful leaders. It seems the general public has in a rather cynical (but perhaps understandable) fashion bought the myth that the drive is to dominate one’sfellow man -- or simple greed -- is the explanation behind what drives executives to positions of  power.
 
The retailing of this perspective yields no help to the true student. Explaining the commonobsessions that brought them to the position where they are surprised by the acclaim and oftenreluctantly find themselves on the covers of magazines, is the question we are setting out toanswer with the implications for every managerial and executive level. Successful leadersrecognize at a profound level the article is truly not about them, but rather a way to sellmagazines while covering a business story. Pictures of the corporate headquarters do not jumpoff the newsstands.What this series of articles
does not 
attempt to review is the root causes of the numerous reasonsfor failure once the pinnacle seems to have been reached. Conflicts so varied and deep as to defya research process seem to be at work. But we think we have hints as to why the great often fall.However, the reality is that those driven to make businesses succeed tend to stay successfulmuch more often than not. We do think we have a modicum of insight into why that is. Frankly,it does not make for great headlines or even at times for interesting reading.I apologize in advance if this series proves to be a bit dry and suffers from a few too manyfootnotes and charts. If you seek a study in the “management du jour” techniques, you arereading the wrong paper. What makes “the few” able to consistently elicit more discretionaryeffort, to hire better people and have systematically more motivated people with better results iswhat we are attempting to document. We have labeled the phenomenon “
The LeadershipChain.”
INITIAL PREMISE
Right out of the gate, the initial premise is simple. Without question, the key to beating the oddsagainst todays challenges has to do with creating an environment that produces an
“achievement aroused,” high performing workforce.
So what is the job of an effective leader? Is it to provide direction? To motivate? To challenge?“All of the above” may be correct, but they are limited views of what a leader is. Leaders do allthese things. But what is the essential aim of leadership?
It is to create a climate whereinpeople want to --
are aroused 
 
to
-- produce great results
, and seem to be driven to do it over and over.This is the job of the leader -- to create conditions wherein others produce
 
great results, and theydo it repeatedly.
Reproducing these results over time is what produces greatness, in leaders,in organizations, and in people.
The job of an effective leader is to stimulate employees to pushthemselves and accept personal responsibility to meet or exceed tough performance targets. It isto create organizations where people do things above and beyond the call of duty; where peopleare highly committed to delivering extraordinary results.
In other words, great leaderssystematically create highly motivated, high achievement aroused organizations.

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