Credible: The power of expert leaders - Business Leader News

Credible: The power of expert leaders

“With many vivid examples from a range of industries and settings, Professor Goodall shows how two essential qualities of our species that we evolved to manifest — leadership and expertise — must actually be reflected within our very modern instantiation of groups within both for-profit and not-for-profit organisations.” – Nicholas A. Christakis, Author of Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

Professor Amanda Goodall is Professor of Leadership at Bayes Business School at the University of London, where she specialised in how leaders and managers influence performance.

In Credible, Goodall delves into the essential attributes of expert leaders, presenting a career development model that emphasises the importance of going deep into business, working hard, and knowing your stuff. By highlighting these key qualities, Goodall offers a roadmap for individuals to achieve career success and personal growth.

Here is an extract from Credible: The power of expert leaders by Professor Amanda Goodall.

Chapter 3: The Case for Expert Leaders

In a report released in 2014, the UK headhunter Odgers Berndtson questioned whether academics ‘are the right leaders of tomorrow’ for universities. The search firm had no evidence to back up their shiny document and accompanying headline. Yet they were quite clear in emphasizing their unproven assertion that higher education will require leaders with skills ‘honed in the business world’.2

If those in charge of Stanford University had taken the advice of Odgers Berndtson, it would have been a mistake on a colossal scale. Global advances in technology would be many decades behind and the consequences would eventually have been felt around the world. And here’s why.

Frederick Terman grew up in Palo Alto, California, in 1910, having moved from Indiana when his father, a psychologist, took a job at Stanford. An early indicator of Terman’s future career came at just seventeen when he constructed a Morse code transmitter on his own. Terman, an extraordinary engineer who filed thirty-six patents between 1930 and 1947, was decorated by both the American and British governments after the Second World War. He spent most of his career at Stanford where he held many different leadership positions.

The decision that would eventually transform the world for us all happened prior to the Second World War, when Terman convinced the university to set aside some unused land on the Stanford campus to allow industry to work in closer proximity with their engineers. Later, in 1951, when Terman was dean of the School of Engineering, he launched the Stanford Industrial Park, the precursor for what was eventually to become Silicon Valley. Stanford’s faculty, graduates, and alumni have created just under 40,000 companies since the 1930s,10 including globally known brands such as HP, Nike, Cisco, Charles Schwab, Yahoo!, VMware, IDEO, Netflix, Tesla, and of course the inimitable Google.

The founder of Silicon Valley was an ‘expert leader’ who had a deep knowledge of engineering supported by business and management skills. Terman had extraordinary vision, but he was first and foremost an academic researcher and teacher. John Hennessy, president of Stanford for sixteen years, cemented Silicon Valley’s status and relationship with influential tech companies. He was another outstanding scientist. Both Terman and Hennessy represent exactly the kind of person the headhunters Odgers Berndtson might have passed over.

The patterns I uncover in ‘Credible’, from a career of research, show why we need managers and leaders who have acquired deep knowledge of their industry. To be an exceptional leader and manager requires a profound understanding of the core business. Being able to walk the proverbial walk is critical: simply being a competent general manager is insufficient. This insight might seem an elementary one. Yet it has become lost in the fashion for generalists and generalism that has become so common.

My research has shown, across every kind of industry, that credible expert leaders and managers improve company performance, and create happy and productive employees.

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