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Marcus Buckingham

Daniel Goleman

Herminia Ibarra

Dave Ulrich

Who is he? A British-American best-selling author, motivational speaker and consultant, best known for promoting what he calls ‘strengths’. His first job was at Gallup, where he worked on a survey that measured the factors contributing to employee engagement.

Who is he? A psychologist and former science reporter who popularised the notion of ‘emotional intelligence’ (EQ). Until the publication of Emotional Intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ in 1996, IQ was seen as the pre-eminent standard of intelligence. The notion of EQ is now widely embraced.

Who is she? Professor of leadership and learning, and organisational behaviour at INSEAD. She directs the Leadership Transition, an executive programme designed for managers moving into broader leadership roles, speaks internationally on leadership, talent management and women’s careers, and was ranked eighth in the 2015 Thinkers50 list.

Who is he? Professor at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, Ulrich is arguably the world’s leading guru of HR management. He pioneered the acceptance of HR as a business function, rather than a support function, and made a lasting impact by bringing the idea of the HR business partner into workplaces.

What does he say? People improve their productivity and personal satisfaction by focusing on their strengths rather than trying to reduce their weaknesses. Rules stifle the originality and uniqueness – the ‘strengths’ – that enable all of us to exploit our full potential. His second book, Now, Discover Your Strengths: how to develop your talents and those of the people you manage (2001), co-authored with Donald O Clifton and tied to a Gallup personal assessment tool called StrengthsFinder, focused on how to find and cultivate your strengths. In The One Thing You Need to Know... about great managing, great leading, and sustained individual success (2005) he argued that managers should capitalise on what is unique about every member of their team, as this will have a positive effect on their performance. Why does it matter? Putting people in roles they enjoy and excel at is empowering, says Buckingham, and thinking about strengths changes the way we recruit, promote and develop talent.

What does he say? Our emotions play a much greater role in thought, decision-making and individual success than was commonly acknowledged. Goleman defines EQ, a trait not measured by conventional intelligence tests, as a set of skills, such as control of impulses, self-motivation, empathy and social competence. Working with Emotional Intelligence (1998) extends these concepts into the workplace, using research to demonstrate that EQ is a barometer of excellence in almost any job. In Primal Leadership: learning to lead with emotional intelligence (2002), Goleman and his coauthors apply the principles of EQ to leadership. Why does it matter? Not only are people with high EQ (which can be taught) more successful than others at work, but, because EQ encompasses what are ‘essential skills for living’, they also lead happier and more fulfilled lives, says Goleman, whose ideas have inspired the mindfulness movement.

What does she say? Ibarra advocates learning through action. People stay stuck in jobs they don’t like because they don’t know what they want to do instead, but reflection and self-assessment lead to “analysis paralysis”, she argues. Her views are encapsulated in her 2015 title Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader, which explains how to step into a bigger leadership role, including the idea that ‘acting up’ to expected behaviours can be more effective than the idea of being authentic. Ibarra believes people become stuck in unproductive habits (such as micro-managing) because they lack experiences that lead them to want to do new things. Why does it matter? The volatile business environment calls for people who are multi-skilled, innovative, curious and infinitely adaptable. Meanwhile, too many leaders remain unprepared to step into senior roles and could benefit from a more honest framework for managing others.

What does he say? In the mid-1990s, Ulrich said HR should reorganise itself around four key areas: shared service centres carrying out transactional HR activities; embedded HR (business partners) working directly with business leaders; centres of expertise providing specialist advice; and strategic corporate HR. In Why the Bottom Line Isn’t: how to build value through people and organisation (2003), Ulrich argued that shareholder value increasingly comes from people, reputation and other intangible assets. He has recently cocreated a Leadership Capital Index, which aims to measure the effectiveness of collective and dispersed leadership rather than the CEO alone. Why does it matter? Given the growing acknowledgement that well-led and managed people are the best source of competitive advantage, the people who can optimise others (whether HR professionals or business leaders) have never been more important. People Management Middle East

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People Management Middle East: Issue 2  

The CIPD magazine for the Middle East