Leadership Reading to Start Your Week: 9/8/14

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Here are choice articles on hot leadership topics culled from the business schools, the business press and major consulting firms, to start off your work week. I’m pointing you to articles about leadership, strategy, industries, innovation, women and work, and work and learning now and in the future. Highlights include leading by asking, echoes of the dot-com bust in the big-data gold rush, three ways cloud computing is driving rapid innovation, influential business women share their pearls of wisdom, and the rise of robotics.

Be sure to look for dots that you can connect.

Note: Some links require you to register or are to publications that have some form of limited paywall.

Thinking about Leadership and Strategy

From Eric J. McNulty: Lead by Asking

“Having interviewed many leaders in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, I’m often asked, ‘What makes a great leader?’ Specific characteristics may vary by industry and context, but one that consistently shines through is the ability to pose meaningful—and sometimes deceptively simple—questions. Here are six that apply to anyone hoping to hone his or her leadership acumen and impact.”

From Rich Horwath: Combining Strategy With Innovation

“Strategy and innovation are shown to be two primary contributors to sustained financial excellence and competitive advantage. Unfortunately, very few organizations are able to bring these two disciplines together.”

From the Economist: Over the horizon

“FOR most people a 50th anniversary is an excuse for a party. For the men and women of McKinsey it is an excuse for a conference. Earlier this year the consulting firm decided to celebrate half a century of the McKinsey Quarterly by arranging a gathering of some of the world’s leading business thinkers and asking them to look forward to the next 50 years of management. The resulting special issue of the Quarterly is inevitably a mixed bag. A discussion on strategy inadvertently demonstrates the parlous state of the discipline that has provided McKinsey with its bread and butter. A puff-piece on eBay’s policy of recruiting female executives demonstrates that you should never let companies write about themselves (‘Gender diversity has long been a passion of our CEO…’). But there are three issues that stand out.”

Check out the McKinsey article: “Management intuition for the next 50 years.”

Industries and Analysis

From Neil Soderlund: Echoes of the Dot-Com Bust in the Big-Data Gold Rush

“The hype around big data is starting to sound like an eerie echo from the dot-com boom. Without question, big data can radically improve the way many of Australia’s major companies do business. The same could always be said of the Internet, but that did not stop the dot-com crash, which set back the growth of the digital economy by up to a decade.”

From James R. Hagerty: U.S. Manufacturing Rolls on Aged Wheels

“The equipment used by many U.S. manufacturers is getting creaky. Even as economic indicators rise, domestic capital spending has remained anemic by historical standards, especially in manufacturing. In contrast, companies have spent heavily on acquisitions and stock buybacks. That choice could hobble efforts by U.S. firms to compete more effectively with foreign rivals in the years ahead.”

From Candice Choi: Behind Big Macs, a drama over corporate control

“Behind those Big Macs and Whoppers is a hidden drama over corporate control.”

Innovations and Technology

From Robert LeBlanc: Three Ways Cloud Computing Is Driving Rapid Innovation

“Cloud computing has changed how executives look at technology. They want to embrace the emerging trends of big data and analytics, mobile computing and social business, yet they still need to deal with their existing information technology investments. For these executives, the cloud provides a quick and easy way to implement business process changes and find new ways to engage with customers.”

From Mike Steep: How to Create Innovation Cultures That Keep Working

“Because innovation is the water we swim in, we tend to believe that once we’ve created a functioning culture of innovation, it will sustain itself naturally. It won’t. Like every other part of a successful business, a culture has to be continually managed, refreshed, and refocused.”

It’s time for the latest issue of the Economist’s Technology Quarterly. Start with “Biohackers of the world, unite.”

Women and the Workplace

From Sumi Krishnan: Three Hard Conversations You’ll Have As A Female Leaders

“For female leaders, it’s imperative that we don’t let the opinions or perceptions of others affect our decisions. Having the confidence for hard conversations is often what builds our platforms for success. Here are some strategies to help address a few difficult discussions.”

From Amanda Marcotte: Performance review study: Women in tech get criticized more than men, are seen as “abrasive.”

“Kieran Snyder had heard about women in the tech word being judged more harshly than their male colleagues for the same traits and wanted to know ‘how often this perception of female abrasiveness undermines women’s careers.’ So she asked a group of men and women in tech to share their performance reviews with her, without telling them what the study was for. ‘The question I wanted to answer was: Did review tone or content differ based on the employee’s gender,’ Snyder writes in Fortune. It turns out that not only did gender matter, it appears to have mattered a lot, enough to shock even me, a jaded feminist.”

From Al Lewis: Influential Business Women share their pearls of wisdom

“We asked honorees of the 2014 South Florida Business Journal’s Influential Business Women to share their ‘pearls of wisdom.'”

Work and Learning Now and in the Future

From Lauren Weber: One in Three U.S. Workers Is a Freelancer

“Fifty-three million Americans, or 34% of the nation’s workforce, qualify as freelancers, according to a new report from the Freelancers Union, a nonprofit organization, and Elance-Desk Inc., a company that provides platforms for freelancers to find work. These individuals include independent contractors, temps, and moonlighters, among others”

From Alison Sander and Meldon Wolfgang: The Rise of Robotics

“Robots are beginning to augment and replace labor in many industries—a megatrend that is transforming the economics of manufacturing and reshaping the business landscape.”

From Michael Thomsen: Fire Your Boss: How Companies Without Hierarchy Are Getting Ahead

“It used to be the man made the company. Great businesses were personified in the figures of their visionary bosses like Jack Welch, Michael Ovitz, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs, around whom a carefully constructed hierarchy of managers assembled to ensure maximal success. There has always been something aspirational in this, a collective desire to invent a symbolic vessel for greatness none of us suspect we could have on our own. After decades of pursuing charismatic leaders to magically create growth in any industry—from app design to car manufacturing—a number of big corporations have turned toward non-hierarchical, leaderless structures and are actually outperforming many of their more structured competitors.”

More Leadership Posts from Wally Bock

Learning about excellence from C. F. Martin

There’s no secret to C. F. Martin’s excellence. The hard part is turning the ideal of excellence into consistently excellent products.

By and About Leaders: 9/2/14

Pointers to pieces by and about Terry Davis, Lindsey Ueberroth, Alex Lintner, Bruce Buchanan, and Dave Lewis

From the Independent Business Blogs: 9/3/14

Pointers to posts by Mary Jo Asmus, Scott Eblin, Les Hayman, Aad Boot, and Lolly Daskal.

Stories and Strategies from Real Life: 9/5/14

Pointers to stories about Market Basket, Pebble, Tim Hortons, Equipment Marketers, and DMI.

Writing well gives you the edge in business and in life. If you want to get a book done, improve your blog posts, or make your web copy more productive, please check out my blog about business writing. My coaching calendar for authors and blog writers currently has time open. Please contact me if you’re interested.

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