The CR4 Book Club Blog

The CR4 Book Club

The CR4 Book Club is a forum to discuss fiction and non-fiction books that have science, engineering or technology thematic elements. The club will read and discuss several books a year. All CR4 users are invited to participate. Look out for book announcements and the ensuing discussions that follow, but beware of potential spoilers!

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Book Review: A New Leadership Ethos (Part 1)

Posted February 08, 2010 4:55 PM by Steve Melito

Leadership is temporal. During each stage of an organization's life, a different type of leader is needed. No business is "built to last" either, regardless of the popularity of a book by Jim Collins by that same name.

These are just some of the ideas of Dr. Marc van der Erve, a European-educated writer and lecturer who now resides in South Africa. The holder of a BSC in Applied Physics and a Ph.D. in Sociology, van der Erve is the author of A New Leadership Ethos: The Ability to Predict.

Four Types of Leaders

According to Dr. van der Erve, there are four types of leaders: transformers, builders, growers, and confronters. Each is necessary during a specific stage in an organization's life. Transformers "re-invent" an organization by "finding a new platform for growth". Builders develop products and boost revenues to affect a larger environment. Growers repeat an organization's earlier successes with greater efficiency while fostering stable growth. Confronters oppose "established thinking" and entrenched business practices when a "radically changing environment" requires radical adjustments. Such business leaders break traditions, "stop a company from looking inward", and set the stage for a new transformer-type figure.

Marc van der Erve's leadership paradigm, which also characterizes the world's religious traditions and political powers, describes the histories of three well-known technology companies: Apple Computer, Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), and General Electric (GE). That both Apple and GE have survived and indeed thrived is a testament to the importance of having the right leader for a specific environment. The tale of DEC is a cautionary one.

Apple Computer

During his first stint at Apple, Steve Jobs was the consummate builder. His "platform for growth" rested firmly upon foundational products such as the Apple I and Macintosh computers. Although Apple achieved respectable revenues, Jobs was ousted when the business began to struggle. His successor, John Sculley, was a grower-type leader who optimized Apple's "operational and marketing processes" to repeat the company's earlier financial success. When revenues flattened, however, Sculley "failed to set off another cycle of growth" by botching the development of handheld devices. Sculley's successor, Michael Spindler, was a confronter who cut costs.

Cost-cutting could only take Apple so far, however, and Spindler was soon replaced by a transformer-type leader. Gil Amelio did cut costs even further, but "he also invested in the development of new ideas". Fittingly, he enlisted the help of Steve Jobs, "a builder who excels in identifying and nourishing niches". In taking the reigns from Amelio, Jobs introduced the iMac, the iPod and the iPhone. Apple Computer also began selling music through the Internet as iTunes.

Apple's example is easy to follow, but the stages of leadership aren't always discrete – nor are all its endings happy. Some organizations have enjoyed sweeter outcomes, while others have rotted from within. DEC and GE show how.

Editor's Note: Click here for Part 2 of this book review.

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Anonymous Poster
#1

Re: Book Review: A New Leadership Ethos (Part 1)

02/10/2010 11:35 AM

Wonder what he would say about Toyota and its recent problems.

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Anonymous Poster
#2
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Re: Book Review: A New Leadership Ethos (Part 1)

02/13/2010 1:26 PM

Please, read my analysis of Toyota here: http://anewleadershipethos.blogspot.com/2009_01_01_archive.html See also slide 53 of the pptx included in my LinkedIn profile: http://www.linkedin.com/profile?viewProfile=&key=1600690&trk=tab_pro

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