In Search of Growth Leaders

Back from vacation …refreshed and renewed. Catching up on old news. July 7’s WSJ’s section devoted to reprising articles from MIT’s Sloan Management Review. Two articles picque my interest. This post is about the first one: In Search of Growth Leaders, describes a study of middle managers who actually make things happen in large bureaucratic organizations.

No surprises, but just want to point this out, because it’s absolutely true. Waiting around for senior leadership to ‘get it’ won’t work. Most of the companies we’ve studied who have built innovation capabilities initiated them from the middle management ranks. These guys WANT the company to grow, do well, achieve organic renewal. Many have energy, brilliance, and great leadership strength. As I mentioned before….it doesn’t have to start from the top. Ultimately, however, the top guys have got to become converts.

The article went on to describe these people in terms of their experience bases (extremely broad-ranges, diverse, allowing them to migrate ideas and solutions from one context to another), strong internal network, and strong held beliefs in their ability to change the world around them. Need to temper this with a reality check, to prevent ego maniacs from taking hold. We’ve seen it happen and it’s way too counter- productive to allow. But we also encountered, as these authors have, managers who really can get things done, and are confident. These are treasures in your organization.

The article’s sub-head is “Most companies have managers who can turbo-charge results. The trick is finding—and nurturing—them.” Unfortunately for readers, this last point…how to nurture them, is not addressed. But here’s what we find: They do NOT need equity participation in those businesses that they start. They want visibility with senior leadership. The usual sort of credit. They’re not the same as start up entrepreneurs who may be primarily driven by the promise of huge financial returns. These people want to see their organization’s continued success, and see its contributions adopted by the rest of us.

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