REQUIRED READING: A Code of Leadership Excellence

REQUIRED READING: A Code of Leadership Excellence
The Leadership Code: Five Rules to Lead
Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood, and Kate Sweetman
Boston, Harvard Business School

What makes one leader more effective than another?  In The Leadership Code, Ulrich, Smallwood, and Sweetman say that an excellent leader follows five principles: a core code for attaining personal proficiency, and four action codes for the leadership roles of strategist, executor, talent manager, and human capital developer. The strategist has a vision of the future, the executor turns ideas into actions, the talent manager creates a positive work environment where gifted employees flourish, and the human capital developer ensures the growth of future  management talent.

Ulrich, Smallwood, and Sweetman base their 5-fold code on their own experiences as academics and consultants, and many interviews with other experts. The Leadership Code contains short questionnaires for evaluating leaders and organizations on the 5 components of the code. Other methods of 360 feedback and psychometric evaluation are discussed. The authors also recommend that  individual leaders solicit feedback from others on a regular basis.

Organizations function better when their leaders emphasize all five parts of the Leadership Code. One way of determining how an organization is doing is to map its model of leadership to the five components of the code. Many firms over emphasize one area: manufacturing firms tend to emphasize either the personal proficiency or the executor roles of leaders. These firms now see efficiencies from adopting the other parts of the Leadership Code.
Ulrich, Smallwood, and Sweetman point out many ways that a firm and its leaders can improve on each part of The Leadership Code. A separate chapter looks into each component. Each of these chapters is a straightforward, research-based outline of contemporary thinking on how to achieve that facet of the code. The presentation is at a general enough level to apply to all organizations, yet specific enough to generate ideas for improving a specific entity.

The authors' strong ties to the executive development program at University of Michigan come through in the discussions of building the next generation of leaders and of leaders improving their own personal proficiencies. The next generation of leaders is built by having a workforce plan that ensures that the most talented employees perceive a path that starts at learning and mastering their technical competencies and stretches to managing others and, eventually, directing the organization. These potential leaders need first to be discovered, and, then, coached and mentored.

Current leaders need to invest in themselves to improve their own proficiencies.  A high-performing leaders has a starting point when he or she becomes aware of personal strengths and weaknesses. One route to improvement follows the contemporary thinking of positive psychology. On this path, one goes with one's signature strengths, and tries as much as possible to improve any recognized business weaknesses by using these signature strengths. Ulrich, Smallwood, and Sweetman also point out ways that leaders can learn to tolerate stress, be agile learners, maintain personal integrity, and take care of their personal physical and emotional needs.
Overall, The Leadership Code is an excellent, contemporary summary of thinking about leadership. It is written in a style that leaders can understand. It outlines a path for achieving excellence by following five principles.

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