Phil Hauck's TEC Blog

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Harvard's Kellerman: It's Followership, Not Leadership!

We hear a lot about the impact of Leadership, but what about Followership?  Barbara Kellerman, a Harvard public policy professor, has done research on why Followership has been a force to be reckoned with for centuries, usually in the form of revolutions, but is now integral to organization development and success.  Indeed, she says that all Leaders have to take into consideration at all times two other impacts, the Situation ... and the role of the Followers.
Followers make things happen, and if they're to be most useful, need to be involved in the decision-making process as well.  So she told a recent St. Norbert College audience.  "Followers are changing leaders," she contends.
She has created categories of followers, the most useless being the Isolators, who are totally disengaged, and Bystanders, who don't provide input or help but whose presence actually provides "tacit support" to the Leader's "status quo."  On the other end, even dangerous, are the Diehards, who are totally consumed in their issue (on the positive side, think Nelson Mandela or Gandhi). 
Key players are Participants and Activists, simply different degrees of people who are involved, engaged, supportive.  They are front line with customers, and know what's needed, what works, what's not being done, and what's being done poorly.  They are vociferous, and create the "situation" which the Leader must listen and react to.  Good, effective Leaders know this ... and do listen and react.  It's how they make their assembly line, department, division and company thrive.  
When Leaders don't listen and react, when they ignore their people, when they treat people poorly ... their organizations do poorly, and in the past have created the need for unions as protectors.  Today that's far less true.
Followers have become as important as Leaders.
-- Barbara Kellerman is a long-time lecturer in public leadership at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.  Her most recent book is "The End of Leadership (Harper Collins, 2012).

Air Wisconsin's Rankin: Keep Flexibility and Options

The three planks to Air Wisconsin's strategy, explains CEO Jim Rankin, are Our Team, Our Product, and Our Future.   
        Our Future is the interesting one.  He told a St. Norbert College CEO Breakfast & Strategy audience that thinking about airline industry trends drives many of his strategic decisions, which it obviously should ... and with the objective of maintaining Flexibility and Options.  That has played out so importantly in the past that today, Air Wisconsin is the second oldest airline, at 47 years, never to have experienced bankruptcy.  Since 1978, 119 airlines have gone bankrupt.
It especially showed up in 2005 when its major partner, United, was in bankruptcy and requiring such major cost givebacks that Air Wisconsin would have gone out of business itself.  Instead, because it had saved $125 million in the bank, it had the flexibility to loan that much to US Airways to keep it out of bankruptcy.  In doing so, its quid pro quo was that Air Wisconsin would have the "right, but not the obligation" to become US Air's major regional feeder ... keeping its options!  Several weeks later, it took that option when United pushed them to the brink ... signing a ten-year contract with US Air.
        It's interesting that maintaining fiscal health (e.g., a large savings account) is critical to having "flexiblity and options" regarding the future.  It shows up in so many places. Another way the "flexibility and options" theme is driving them:  In today's negotiations with the company's five unions, it is obtaining what it calls a "growth" clause.  If the airline is able to grow and add planes, that the contract costs for additional employees will be more flexible, even lower if necessary, to cope with the industry's tightening cost model.
During the past decade, he said, Air Wisconsin has operated under a Fee-For-Departure business model, which it initiated in the industry, whereby it contracts its entire fleet to a carrier for a price, thus firming its revenue stream expectations, and shifting its focus to cost control while providing leading service.  Now, he sees the emerging model as a Collaborative Cost one, where US Air and Air Wisconsin (and with United for its ground handlers contracts), to develop system improvements that reduce costs even further.
Today, Air Wisconsin is headquartered in Appleton, but its 2800 employees are spread across the eastern U.S., flying airplanes for US Air, and providing ground handling capabilities for United ... for more than 1000 flights daily.  It has no operations any more in Appleton or Wisconsin.
The major takeaways from Air Wisconsin's experiences, Rankin said:
1.  In negotiations, you ALWAYS have more leverage than you think.  Don't yield too soon.
2.  NEVER bet the farm.  
3.  Grow ONLY where there is a lear path to profitability.  There will always be too many unknowns that will bite you.
4.  Build and nurture good relationships with your key partners, starting with your employees.  Help them out when they have a need.  It will come back to reward you when you are in crisis.