The Key to Developing a Great Leadership Style (Don't Just Imitate Mark Cuban)

Teaching college students about leadership is a muddled, mangled mess. There are so many theories and types of leadership from decades of examination and research–it’s an endless, but extremely important, business aspect of discussion and application.

We examine many of the styles out there, such as “level five” leadership, servant leadership, transactional versus transformational leadership, authentic leadership, charismatic leadership, and blah, blah, blah.

But one leadership concept keeps coming back to me. One theory seems to click with me.  This one way seems strategic to me. 

It’s not about emulating Elon Musk and Steve Jobs or hoping to be like Mark Cuban. It’s about strategy, and to me strategic thinking always starts with: a situational analysis. What is the situation, and based on that, how do we proceed?

Situational leadership theory

Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard developed the “situational leadership theory” with one thought in mind: No single leadership style is best in every situation. Leadership is contingent upon the situation.

It’s a simple and very important notion. You should analyze your situation, such as the tasks that need accomplished, and the competence and the maturity of the group you are to lead, and implement a leadership style based on these factors.

Situational leadership identifies four situations with matching styles. Thus, a leader can strategically, with analysis and foresight, develop a proper style for the situation in which they are leading.

The four situations, and the style for each

This theory and the following four styles look at the readiness of the followers and recommends a leader’s focus on task needs, people needs, or a combination of task and people needs.

  1. Telling Style–for low readiness followers. If the situation you are in has followers who are inexperienced, unready for tasks, have low ability or are untrained, and lack confidence, use this telling style. This telling leadership style calls for a high focus on tasks for the followers by the leader, without a high need for socio-emotional support. 

  2. Selling Style–for moderate readiness followers. In this situation the followers are somewhat ready because of a confidence to proceed, but they lack ability. The leader needs a selling style of leadership here, with a high focus on task to instill the ability in the followers, along with a high focus on people’s needs– which would help boost confidence further and help enculturation for the followers.
  3. Participating Style–for high readiness followers. In this contingency the followers are ready and capable for the task at hand, but the leader would love to get them to participate more; thus the leader style should be participating. The leader should have a high focus on people, relationships, and transformation, with less need for task.
  4. Delegating Style–for very high readiness followers. This situation is for true and total delegation.  Followers are task superior and the leader’s people focus is strong, with solid interpersonal relationships–most everyone is well trained, adept at capabilities, and full nurturing and social-emotional support is in place. The leader can now delegate completely, with confidence and trust.

It makes perfect sense to me. Custom-fit your leadership style to your situation. Certainly we do not conduct business in an off-the-rack world. 

Many examples of situational leadership have been seen over the years, from 3M and Apple to General Patton and President (General) Eisenhower to legendary basketball coaches Pat Summit and John Wooden. 

So, admire Jobs. Find some tips from Mark Cuban to help you. Even emulate Elon Musk to a point. But always thoroughly consider your situation when you lead.

And just in case you’re still confused, here’s a video explaining the whole thing. Enjoy:

Tech

How Nudge Theory Just Made You Click on This Headline (and Helped a Famous Economist Win the Nobel Prize)

It takes effort to move a mouse, point the arrow toward a headline, and click down on a button. As a writer, I know this is true–I search on Google and read headlines all day, and I write headlines like the one above that will hopefully make you interested.

The catch? We’re all inundated with many other headlines, so there has to be just enough information to make you slightly curious. And, you’re savvy enough to know when a headline is really just a ploy–a trick that’s only a level or two above an ant trap. On the web these days, headlines are all about a demonstration of perceived value. You won’t click unless it seems like there will be an obvious reward and the click will be worth your time.

It’s also a curiously apt example of how nudging works. It’s the power of suggestion, a hint of payback, and a promise of reward for your time all rolled into about 10-15 words. Of course, headlines are nothing new, and suggestions as a way to influence marketing and sales are also not new. What is relatively new, and why Richard Thaler just won the 2017 Nobel prize in economics for his work in this area, is that it has become quite a science.

A headline is a nudge in a pure form. It’s all about prompting people to action–is the promise of the article you’re about to read enough to cause people to act?

For anyone trying to generate content or write a blog, it’s incredibly important to understand the art of nudging. Create too much of a nudge (or too small of a nudge) and people won’t click. A headline has to find the right balance of suggestion versus giving it all away, and the principle applies to an ever greater degree because every headline can be measured so precisely. If you’re writing a headline, it’s worth the effort to think about how the nudge will cause a reaction (or not cause a reaction).

Let’s examine the headline above as an example.

First, you maybe didn’t know about nudge theory. It’s a new concept, so you were curious. It might lead you to discover there’s a book by that name (written by Thaler and a co-author). You might even decide to buy it on Amazon. That’s a big reward right there, because the economic principles of nudging can be invaluable for anyone responsible for product success.

Second, there’s a hint of a new angle. Thaler did just win the Nobel prize, and his accomplishments are worth noting in more ways than one. There’s an interesting correlation that might develop–it must be worth clicking if it was worth winning a Nobel prize. I have no idea if this will actually garner any attention, but I do know that nudging, the Nobel prize, and Thaler are all worth your attention. They might even change how you do marketing.

But it’s the combination of these ideas that I believe is so important, just as it’s a combination of several ideas that make an advertisement enticing, or a PR campaign, or a slideshow you plan to give to an investor. The balance of interest and carrot dangling, to the point where no one even knows there is a carrot involved, is incredibly interesting to me. It’s worthy of an entire book, actually. I’d buy it and read it to find out more–how do you strike the balance? What is the brain science involved that tips people off just the right amount? When is there just enough sugar and when is there too much?

If you know the answers to those questions, you might find some incredible success…with blogging and writing, sure. Or marketing. But also with any business endeavor.

Tech

Famed Architect’s Lawsuit Against Google Just Got Much More Serious

Eli Attia alleges he wasn’t the only one mistreated by the search giant.

A long-running lawsuit filed against Google by a prominent architect has just gotten much broader.

Last week, the Superior Court of California granted a motion adding racketeering charges to the civil case being pursued against Google by Eli Attia, an expert in high-rise construction. Attia claims Google stole his idea for an innovative building design method – and now he wants to prove that it does the same thing frequently.

Attia’s suit was originally filed in 2014, four years after he began discussions with Google (prior to its reorganization as Alphabet) about developing software based on a set of concepts he called Engineered Architecture. Attia has said Engineered Architecture, broadly described as a modular approach to building, would revolutionize the design and construction of large buildings. Attia developed the concepts based on insights gleaned from his high-profile architecture career, and has called them his life’s work.

Google executives including Google X cofounder Astro Teller came to share his enthusiasm, and championed developing software based on Engineered Architecture as one of the company’s “moonshots.” But Attia claims the company later used his ideas without fulfilling an agreement to pay to license them.

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Attia’s suit names not just Google, but individual executives including founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. It also names Flux Factory, the unit Attia’s suit alleges was spun off specifically to capitalize on his ideas.

Speaking to the San Jose Mercury News, Attia’s lawyer claims Google told Attia his project had been cancelled, “when in fact they were going full blast on it.” Flux Factory is now known as Flux, and touts itself as “the first company launched by Google X.”

Attia’s suit will now also seek to prove that his case is representative of a much broader pattern of behavior by Alphabet. According to court documents, the motion to add racketeering charges hinged on six similar incidents. Those incidents aren’t specified in the latest court proceedings, but Alphabet has faced a similar trade-secrets battle this summer over X’s Project Loon, which has already led to Loon being stripped of some patents.

The idea of racketeering charges entering the picture will surprise many who associate them with violent organized criminals. But under RICO statutes, civil racketeering suits can be brought by private litigants against organizations and individuals alleged to have engaged in ongoing misdeeds. The broader use of racketeering charges has slowly gained ground since the introduction of RICO laws in the 1960s, with some famous instances including suits against Major League Baseball and even the Los Angeles Police Department.

Tech

NSA director just admitted that government copies of encryption keys are a big security risk

NSA chief Michael S. Rogers speaks at Fort Meade.

The director of the NSA, Admiral Michael Rogers, just admitted at a Senate hearing that when Internet companies provide copies of encryption keys to law enforcement, the risk of hacks and data theft goes way up.

The government has been pressuring technology companies to provide the encryption keys that it can use to access data from suspected bad actors. The keys allow the government “front door access,” as Rogers has termed it, to secure data on any device, including cell phones and tablets.

Rogers made the statement in answer to a question from Senator Ron Wyden at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 2.06.46 PMWyden:  “As a general matter, is it correct that anytime there are copies of an encryption key — and they exist in multiple places — that also creates more opportunities for malicious actors or foreign hackers to get access to the keys?

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 2.07.12 PMRogers: Again, it depends on the circumstances, but if you want to paint it very broadly like that for a yes and no, then i would probably say yes.”

View the exchange in this video.

Security researchers have been saying for some time that the existence of multiple copies of encryption keys creates huge security vulnerabilities. But instead of heeding the advice and abandoning the idea, Rogers has suggested that tech companies deliver the encryption key copies in multiple pieces that must be reassembled.

From VentureBeat

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“The NSA chief Admiral Rogers today confirmed what encryption experts and data scientists have been saying all along: if the government requires companies to provide copies of encryption keys, that will only weaken data protection and open the door for malicious actors and hackers,” said Morgan Reed of the App Association in a note to VentureBeat.

Cybersecurity has taken center stage in the halls of power this week, as Chinese president Xi Jinping is in the U.S. meeting with tech leaders and President Obama.

The Chinese government itself has been linked with various large data hacks on U.S. corporations and on U.S. government agencies. By some estimates, U.S. businesses lose $ 300 billion a year from Chinese intellectual property theft.

One June 2nd, the Senate approved a bill called the USA Freedom Act, meant to reform the government surveillance authorizations in the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act expired at midnight on June 1st.

But the NSA has continued to push for increased latitude to access the data of private citizens, both foreign and domestic.


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