EXECUTIVE IMPRINT MODEL™
Executives' imprints on their organizations can be characterized as (1) status quo, (2) politician, (3) pillager, and (4) footprints. As shown in figure 5, the type of imprint is a function of the levels of inspiration/ inclusion (12) and risk/resolve (R2).
Key elements of inspiration/inclusion are having a clear vision and enrolling the organization to pursue that vision. Vision is defining what kind of business and organization you wish to become, i.e., the future. Mission is defining what type of business and organization you are in, i.e., the present. Executives should involve members of their team and others in the organization in defining and confirming both.
Key elements of risk/resolve are willingness to take risks and having the resolve to see difficult courses of action through despite adversity. In addition, the more leaders encourage and promote risk-taking behaviors, the more members of their organization feel enabled. By fostering a risk-taking climate, executives encourage others to follow ideas and try new solutions and approaches in the day-to-day work environment.
The first type of executive imprint, low in both inspiration/inclusion and risk/resolve, is "status quo" or "don't rock the boat." This imprint is evidenced by
• No or "first-order" change.
• Operate in maintenance mode.
• Manage plateaus between major changes.
"First-order" changes, as borrowed from anthropologists, are incremental and reversible. Incremental change presumes the relevance of the old way and, in our radically shifting world, may be where the real threat resides.
Separately, as noted by John Kotter ("Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail," Harvard Business Review, March/ April, 1995), "employees will not make sacrifices, even if they are unhappy with the status quo, unless they believe that useful change is possible."
The second type of executive imprint, high in inspiration/inclusion and low in risk/resolve, is "politician." This imprint is evidenced by
• Seek position.
• Thrive on perceived power.
• Strive to be liked.
The third type of executive imprint, low in inspiration/inclusion and high in risk/resolve, is "pillager." This imprint is evidenced by
• Often face the "new leader dilemma."
• Drive for big payoffs quickly for self and shareholders.
• Give shareholders priority at the expense of other constituencies
The "new leader dilemma" is when there are high expectations for results, but low patience to achieve those results. It is the executive's blessing and curse of the 1990s.
One executive who has attracted a lot of media coverage and been characterized as a "pillager" is Albert Dunlap, dubbed "Chainsaw Al." His nickname for himself is "Rambo in pinstripes." Mr. Dunlap had been characterized as a turnaround specialist. For example, during an 18-month tenure at Scott Paper, he reduced a third of the workforce and the company's stock tripled. The Scott Paper success led to his being hired as the CEO of Sunbeam Corp. However, in June 1998, after about two years on the job, the board of directors fired Mr. Dunlap due to a "lack of confidence."
The fourth type of executive imprint, high in both inspiration/inclusion and risk/resolve, is "footprints." This imprint is evidenced by
• "Second-order" change.
• Drive to make a difference.
• Confront tough decisions.
• Stick to difficult courses of action.
"Second-order" changes, as borrowed from anthropologists, are rapid and irreversible. This includes executives who have decided to set their organization on the path of "second-order" change, knowing it will become impossible to return to the old way. A word frequently used to describe "second-order" change is "transformation."
Vision is a critical starting point for transformation. In John Kotter's article, he pointed to vision as the central element of any successful transformation effort.
A useful book on transformation is Control Your Destiny or Somebody Else Will by Noel Tichy and Stratford Sherman. The book chronicles the transformation of General Electric by Jack Welch. While GE was financially successful, Welch anticipated the impact of globalization and acted. He set the transformation in motion in 1985 by requiring every GE business to be either number one or two in their respective markets. Those businesses that did not make the cut were sold.
Another executive considered to be leaving footprints is Bill Gates. As the CEO of Microsoft, Mr. Gates has been described as a key asset with foresight and drive, and somebody who is "always ahead of the curve and knows how to stay there." According to a survey conducted by Olsten Corp., Microsoft Windows has increased as companies' standard software from 72 percent in 1996 to 92 percent in 1998. As of this writing, the federal litigation regarding Microsoft's market dominance has not been decided.
The word "footprints" was chosen to represent effectiveness as a transformation leader, i.e., represent an executive who has made his or her mark and leaves a legacy that cannot easily be reversed.
Getting coaching to leave footprints requires performance consulting.
To Be Continued