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Are you born to be a leader or can you learn to be a leader?

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It depends on your definition of leadership.

In my experience with building leadership capacity for an organization and coach C-level executives, I would highly suggest you first distinguish between what is Leadership and what is Management for your organization – at the top.

Once you have this definition then look for following traits to build via experiential learning(you can't teach leadership in classroom alone).

One of the best teachers of this subject is my friend Mel Toomey of Generative Leadership Group( He has taught me very important lessons about the topic of leadership, and I regard him as one of the best in the world. He says that most leadership education in Corporate America is Management Training. Leadership is a form of art. Management is a form of science. You cannot teach leadership in a scientific manner. You can create leadership literacy in class – but that is all.

I asked Mel, what is the one most important thing to teach (or learn) for different levels of leaders in a typical organization. Here is what he said:

1) New leaders: learn to TRUST THEMSELVES - a leader's capacity for trusting others is bounded by their trust for themselves.

2) Experienced leaders: learn to PREPARE TO MAKE MISTAKES... One cannot lead unless they are willing to be wrong... the handmaiden of original thinking are mistakes.

3) For senior leaders: learn that they WILL NEVER HAVE ENOUGH INFORMATION TO MAKE THE DECISIONS THEIR JOB CALLS FOR... By definition, the decisions leaders make involve creating... bringing new things into existence, dealing with matters that are unique. While history will inform a leader, a leader’s decisions involve maters for which they must write the history.

4) Finally for the top level executives: they need to learn to BE A "LEADER EDUCATOR"... the source of growth and innovation in your organization will come from those you educate, develop and mentor as leaders. Be "the coach" and clear the field of play for your "experienced leaders."

If you look at the list above, the question you asked no longer matters. The answer becomes - all human beings have the capacity to be a leader. The difference is, what in the ‘context of leadership’, the ‘play arena for leadership’ are you talking about and what needs to be developed between where they are now and what level of leadership they need to practice. As a side note, most organizational cultures are not tolerant enough for the craft of leadership to be learned fast and safely – en entirely different issue, but an important one.

It is very unfortunate that, many “Leadership Programs” are just that – one brush fits all. Total waste of time and money – most of this stuff does not work.



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Significant Innovation since Internet is Social Networking & Web 2.0

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If you want to see a real disruptive innovation since the Internet, get ready for Social Networking and Web 2.0

If you are completely new to Social Networking , go check it out now. If you are a visual learner like me, then you can watch this simple video on YouTube as well:

For example Linked-In is one of my favorite Social Networking sites. There are plenty of others such as FaceBook, MySpace, etc. You will be surprised how many Fortune 1000 companies have pages on these sites. These trends are currently turning the industrial marketing complex upside down. If you have not figured out a way to leverage these new innovations to grow your business, to find talent, to generate leads, your business is about to hit the wall in a very near future.

For example Linked-In is one of my favorite Social Network. I spend hours and hours on it every week. Here is a post from a great Blogger Mickael Nadeau who has summarized the benefits of LinkedIn on his Blog:

  • LinkedIn is a social network where you can interact freely with millions of people;
  • Like other social networks, it relies on viral marketing to grow: you basically invite your contacts to join your network and are, in return, granted to contact theirs;
  • What differentiates LinkedIn from other platforms is that it is primarily intended for businessmen and professionals, recruiters and job seekers… So, you won’t be able to post a picture of your dog there;
  • You can think of it as a virtual board of commerce;
  • It is very straightforward and easy to use.

And some advantages…

o It’s quicker. You don’t have to travel the country to attend conferences, lunches and never ending meetings to get acquainted with people. It is there and full of activity 24/7, no matter why you need it.

o It’s international. Want to speak with a decision maker in India, China or London? No problem: it’s just a matter of a few clicks. A lot of people around the world will learn about you and what you do without ever spending a dime.

o It’s useful. On LinkedIn, you have access to many of the best experts on any given subject. I have had some of my questions answered very intelligently within 2 minutes. In fact, that is how I came to use WordPress for this Blog.

o It’s profitable. There are a lot of leads and opportunities to be discovered on this network. Build your business and your connections at the same time!

o It’s free. Most of us wouldn’t invest in our own personal branding. Because of its scale and because its free, this tool could give you a real competitive advantage when branding your name and accomplishments.

Once you create a LinkedIn account, the best way of grow it is to leverage your current network (which should be growing everyday if you are looking at your new connections everyday already) with the capacity of time and resources you have to devote to growing it. If you are a recruiter for a firm, it might be ok to grow it for the sake of growing it. But if you are like me, using LinkedIn to find leads or find knowledge, quality of contacts are much more important.

So, I suggest you declare your ‘network growth strategy’ first. Once you know this, do everything possible to find update your profile to support that strategy, then answer every questions and pose every question that supports that strategy, and then to open meaningful conversations using external tools (your CRM system, Outlook, Blogs, Company Website, etc.). More qualitative conversations you are having in Linked-In and outside of Linked-In, you will grow your network and achieve your ‘network growth strategy’. 

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Singing about Innovation

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Amazing Gustavo Bitdinger

I ran into this funny and creative YouTube clip about innovation from Gus Bitdinger. You'll love it if you are trying to:

  • Teach innovation in your organization
  • Easily pinpoint the key barriers to innvation
  • Help tranform company culture
  • Better understand the primary barriers to good change management
  • Discover how you might be able to apply your creative juices in your work
  • Have fun and laugh out loud 

What do you think?


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How do we identify the "invisible patterns" right under our nose?

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Many organizations are spending a fortune to help predict the future for them and their surroundings. Having a competitive position and sustainable growth requires such investments. As obvious as this seems, in our innovation work at The DeSai Group, we find most organizations lack the art and the discipline to do this well. Most organizations rely on expensive research from outside, or rely on a more recent trend such as “Voice of The Customer” to help predict the future. Most organizations follow the same basic research and analytical resources (such as McKenzie, or Gartner Group, or IDC, etc.) as if that was the only truth to the future. I am not saying these resources and the reports they generate are of no value - on the contrary. They have value, but it is not enough. In fact, it might create negative patterns and limit your window to the future. Most leaders have relegated the tough task of predicting the future to someone else. That is poor leadership. That is not being innovative and lacks true sponsorship for innovation.

Let me take a seemingly trivial example. I’ve been going to a health club since 1985 and was an avid tennis player before that - until I had few operations on my left knee about ten years ago. I remember jogging to stay fit back then, as I still do today. Back then, it seemed that I was mostly alone when jogging. Today if you go to a health club, a local jogging track, Hyde Park in London, or The Jogger’s Park in Mumbai, you could run into a stampede. Trivial, but not so if you are Nike. Today, running shoe category is one of the fastest growth line in the shoe business.

Reflecting on my experience, this signal was about a change in values and attitudes. This is a startling reality and an eye-opener for me. I asked myself, how come I didn’t see this inner-shift in people’s value system sooner? Not only do we have trouble forecasting economic and political change like the oil crisis, but we also treat values and attitudes as if they never change.

Therefore, the $64,000 question is “What is invisible that is invisible?” How many of these patterns are around us today that cannot be seen and are unknown, but right under our nose? How do we identify them before they reach the center of the bell curve, where it ultimately lands on a Commodity Island?

Innovation Prompt #1: How can you and your organization bring early attention to weak signals – weak signals that are about to double in frequency and amplitude, before someone else in your industry does? At The DeSai Group, we call this developing “Deep Insights”. Deep Insights can reveal knowledge that can build differentiated innovation platforms – group of ideas that can either grow the top-line or improve efficiencies. Deep Insights can also reveal potentially disastrous situations to avoid as well. There are disciplined tools and methods, just like any other process, to help you see these unknown patterns – right under your nose!

Innovation Prompt#2: Other strategic question to explore is “What is known now that was previously unknown? Thus, trying to uncover concepts and descriptors, as in this case, “values, beliefs, assumptions, and attitudes”. How are values created? What are the difference between individual’s values, organizational values, societal values, human values, and moral values? How are these related? How are they created? What impacts changes to individual values within your constituencies – leaders, employees, customers, and other stakeholders? To what extent do they change or stay the same? What are their effects on our dynamic and evolving future? How do they link to the new climate and culture you want to build for your organization?

Got ideas or a Deep Insight? Let’s Talk.


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