Crafting Leadership via Ram Charan

Books. Books. Books. I am scanning lots of sources to pick out some of my ‘must read’ leadership books for next year. And, we all know that the world – and my book shelves – is full of books, manuals and courses on what it takes to be a great leader. Do I really need another one? Right or wrong, the answer for me will be a resounding yes, simply because I enjoy the learning process and I believe we can all continue to improve.

I’ve just learned of a new book by business productivity guru Ram Charan that details the key characteristics of great leaders. Ram Charan is also the coauthor of Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done and author of What the CEO Wants You to Know. Known as one of the world’s most influential business advisors, Charan has lent his expertise to such corporations as Verizon, General Electric, DuPont and KLM. In his forthcoming book, Know-How: The 8 Skills That Separate People Who Perform From Those Who Don’t (Crown Business, January 2007), Charan outlines the key attributes of truly great leaders, based on more than three decades of hands-on experience. An excerpt follows:

A person may possess the entire panoply of personal traits that everyone admires, but without the know-hows of running a business, that person can be a recipe for disaster. Let me describe for you the eight know-hows that are the bedrock of success.

1. Positioning the Business to Make Money.
You have to keep the business in sync with your customers at all times, and ahead of the external environment. Figuring out what to add, what to take out, what new opportunities might arise for profitable growth and which technologies to adopt are among the most demanding requirements of the twenty-first century leader. It is a challenge, for example, now facing publishers of magazines and newspapers as they see their decades-long stable positioning shattered because of the Google phenomenon and the resulting decline in advertising revenue.

2. Connecting the Dots by Pinpointing and Taking Action on Patterns of External Change.
Your success depends on your ability to detect emerging patterns of change clearly and precisely. You have to look at the business very broadly and from the outside in and have the tenacity and imagination to fill in the gaps until the foggy picture becomes clearer and more complete. This know-how is how you get ahead of the curve and on the offensive instead of constantly putting out fires.

3. Getting People to Work Together by Managing the Social System of Your Business.
Your biggest untapped opportunity for success is shaping the way people work together. Your own performance depends on your ability to get other people to coordinate their actions and work toward a common goal. Managing what I call the social system is how Bob Nardelli was able to transform Home Depot from its “stack it high, watch it fly” culture to one that delivers on its new performance requirements.

4. Judging, Selecting, and Developing Leaders.
You need the right people in the job, but getting the right match depends on your ability to judge people accurately, based on the carefully observed patterns of their decisions, actions and behaviors.

5. Molding a Team of Leaders.
You may have stars working for you, but the next challenge is persuading them to submerge their own agendas in the interest of delivering overall results. Molding a team of leaders is a huge multiplier of your capability for making better decisions and getting things done.

6. Determining and Setting the Right Goals.
Too often, goals are chosen by looking in the rearview mirror and adding some incremental adjustment. Goals must be set relative to the opportunities that lie ahead, and the organization’s ability to achieve them.

7. Setting Laser-Sharp Dominant Priorities.
The right priorities keep the truly important things from being driven off the radar screen. When the priorities are unmistakably specific, people know what should be getting their attention and follow-through, and what distractions they should ignore.

8. Dealing with Forces Outside Your Control.
Anticipate which outside forces might throw a monkey wrench into the forward movement of your business. Prepare for the issues outside constituencies raise, and judge the risks they may pose to your business model.

From: Know-How by Ram Charan. Copyright 2006 by Ram Charan. Published by arrangement with Crown Business, a division of Random House Inc.

Sounds interesting, and this text may make my initial list of books to consider. I’m still on the fence though, so I’d welcome any feedback from others who have read or will be reading this book.

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