People once stood in awe of electricity, writes Dale Zand, until scientists identified and harnessed its three basic variables: voltage, current, and resistance. Likewise, people marvel at the achievements of successful leaders, such as Lee Iacocca at Chrysler or Jack Welch at GE, and wonder how they do it. In this superb volume, Zand dispels the mystery surrounding leadership so that managers at all levels--from the CEO to the shop supervisor--can develop the skills needed to lead effectively.
Zand highlights the three elements required for leadership in today's information-driven organizations: knowledge, trust, and power. Knowledge, Zand argues, is essential to decisionmaking: Leaders must be able to tap information about customers, products, and processes found throughout the organization. The book brims with suggestions about how to tap this knowledge. The author demonstrates, for instance, how a leader's attitudes and behavior can release (or repress) the flow of knowledge in a corporation (he shows how at one failed home-appliance company managers suppressed information about customer complaints and reprimanded factory workers for suggesting changes, fatal mistakes); he outlines how the skillful use of questions can draw out and highlight the knowledge managers and workers possess; and he discusses how to avoid subtle obstacles (such as the complacency of success) to improve the link between knowledge and action. Trust, the second element of the triad, helps a leader achieve open, collaborative communication. Indeed, Zand shows that the degree to which people trust a leader determines how much access they will give him or her to their knowledge. The book explores the key elements in the development of trust (a leader must disclose relevant information, share influence, live up to the spirit of agreements, and not abuse power) and also illustrates some basic laws of trust--mistrust drives out trust; trust stimulates productivity; and mistrusting groups self-destruct. Zand then considers power, showing how the leader must set the agenda for the firm; select, develop, and motivate the people who will implement the agenda; and examine and adjust individual performance. Equally important, he shows that in knowledge-driven organizations, the effective leader rarely issues directives, but instead acts more as a consultant or a client. To lead Chrysler's recovery effort in the 1990s, for example, CEO Robert Eaton, senior managers, and project leaders all met when a new car model was to be created or redesigned. After the objectives were worked out, the design group was turned loose to organize itself and get the job done. Freed from constant second-guessing by top bosses, teams worked harder and took greater pride in their work. By the mid-1990s, this design-consignment process was so effective that Chrysler's speed to market and reduction of development costs far exceeded its U. S. competitors.
Masterfully written, Knowledge, Trust, and Power is a down-to-earth, powerful guide. Full of examples--many from the author's consulting experience--of companies from General Motors, Wal-Mart, and American Express to electronics, manufacturing, and health care organizations, it offers a wealth of practical information to managers at all levels, and to anyone who aspires to a leadership position.