Chapter 8 Reading: Strategies of effective new product team leaders

October 15, 2009

The thing I liked about this article is that it really highlighted how complex being an effective leader can be. Effective leadership is not just about being charismatic or knowledgeable in your field. And, it is not just about being able to make the correct decision quickly and acting decisively.  Effective leadership is the sum total of a wide variety of parts that all must function as a coherent unit in order for the manager, and his or her organization, to succeed.

The study really highlighted the dynamic impact that the ability to manage personalities can have on whether a leader is effective. I really liked that the article focused on all the different people the managers had to deal with and who could have a positive or negative impact on what the managers were trying to accomplish. How to effectively manage your team of people and lead them to success while dealing with the demands and expectations of upper management, the concerns and biases of those working in areas outside of yours, and the personalities, attitudes and perceptions of your team is one of, if not the, biggest issues we face as managers.

This article is a nice counterpart to a blog posting I recently read at Wally Bock’s Three Star Leadership Blog, which discussed whether leadership can be taught. As Wally pointed out, leadership is not something that you can teach—it is “an apprentice trade.” You have to learn it as you go by trial and error. When you read something like this study, it becomes clear why you cannot just teach someone to be a great leader. There is no way a classroom can teach you how to manage the diverse personalities and goals that different groups at your company will have. You have to figure that out as you go. And we are always learning. If you move from company A to company B, although you may have learned techniques for dealing with the personalities and issues you face at company A, you then have to go through the learning process anew as you figure out how the personalities and organizational structures function at company B.

Another interesting aspect to this study was the impact that having R&D appointed team leaders versus team leaders from some other area had on whether the leader was effective. It seems that R&D folks felt that they should control the entire development process, and, as a result, their leadership style was geared towards maintaining total control and protecting their original area—the R&D area. I suppose that it is a natural instinct to try and protect what you see as your area, but it is somewhat disconcerting to think that the people who should have the most vested interested in the success of new product development are the ones doing the least effective job of leading others towards accomplishing that goal.

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