Believe It or Not: An Original Take on Leadership

LeadershipHardWay.jpgDov Frohman is a pioneer in the semiconductor industry. Among (many) other things, he started Intel Israel and was largely responsible for the growth of Israel's potent high-tech sector. With Robert Howard, he has written a truly original book on leadership, Leadership the Hard Way: Why Leadership Can't Be Taught—and How You Can Learn It Anyway.

A few of the provocative chapter titles are: "Insisting on Survival," "Leadership Under Fire" (literally, Israel remember), "Leveraging Random Opportunities." In a chapter titled "The Soft Skills of Hard Leadership," Frohman astonishes as he insists that the leader-manager must free up no less than 50% of his-her time from routine tasks. To wit:

"Most managers spend a great deal of time thinking about what they plan to do, but relatively little time thinking about what they plan not to do ... As a result, they become so caught up ... in fighting the fires of the moment that they cannot really attend to the longterm threats and risks facing the organization. So the first soft skill of leadership the hard way is to cultivate the perspective of Marcus Aurelius: avoid busyness, free up your time, stay focused on what really matters. Let me put it bluntly: every leader should routinely keep a substantial portion of his or her time—I would say as much as 50 percent—unscheduled. ... Only when you have substantial 'slop' in your schedule—unscheduled time—will you have the space to reflect on what you are doing, learn from experience, and recover from your inevitable mistakes. Leaders without such free time end up tackling issues only when there is an immediate or visible problem. Managers' typical response to my argument about free time is, 'That's all well and good, but there are things I have to do.' Yet we waste so much time in unproductive activity—it takes an enormous effort on the part of the leader to keep free time for the truly important things."

Yet another surprising idea from the same chapter is "daydreaming":

"The Discipline Of Daydreaming": "Nearly every major decision of my business career was, to some degree, the result of daydreaming. ... To be sure, in every case I had to collect a lot of data, do detailed analysis, and make a data-based argument to convince superiors, colleagues and business partners. But that all came later. In the beginning, there was the daydream. By daydreaming, I mean loose, unstructured thinking with no particular goal in mind. ... In fact, I think daydreaming is a distinctive mode of cognition especially well suited to the complex, 'fuzzy' problems that characterize a more turbulent business environment. ... Daydreaming is an effective way of coping with complexity. When a problem has a high degree of complexity, the level of detail can be overwhelming. The more one focuses on the details, the more one risks being lost in them. ... Every child knows how to daydream. But many, perhaps most, lose the capacity as they grow up. ..."

And so on. I admit to having some quarrels with Frohman, yet every idea in the book performed that most valuable of services: challenged my long-held and thence hard-and-fast views.

Two Thumbs Up.