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Margaret Thatcher, 1925-2013 (Courtesy: Associated Press)

A Lower Voice Can Take You Higher Up the Leadership Ladder

Idea posted: February 2015
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change

When it comes to success in business, a man’s voice can make a difference — especially if he hopes to become CEO. New research reveals that men with deeper voices manage larger companies, make more money and stay in their positions longer. (Women were not included in this research though Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power was supposedly helped by coaching that lowered the pitch of her voice.)

Idea #483
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Composition VI, Wassily Kandinsky, 1913 (Courtesy: The State Hemitage Museum, St Petersburg)

A Symphony of Agency and Stewardship Values Ensures Family Business Success

Idea posted: May 2015
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Leadership & Change

Agency theory describes a contractual relationship between managers and shareholders who have divergent interests. Stewardship theory describes a collaborative relationship between managers and shareholders toward shared goals. Which works best for family businesses? New research reveals that a combination of the two, changing as the business moves through its lifecycle, offers the best recipe for success. 

Idea #518
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Methuselah, the grandfather of Noah, purported to be the oldest person to ever live, stained glass window Canterbury Cathederal (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Age Diversity and Performance: Negative Stereotypes and HR Policies

Idea posted: November 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change

Diversity in the workplace is now strongly encouraged in progressive organizations, and an increasing number of companies are enacting diversity-related policies. But this Idea suggests certain policies, such as those related to age diversity, may in fact hamper a firm’s performance if managers appear to hold negative age stereotypes.

Idea #256
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1956 Ballantine Ale original vintage advertisement (Source: Brookston Beer Bulletin)

Ambiguous Ads: Hidden Messages, Hidden Risks?

Idea posted: April 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Marketing

Companies sometimes use covert ‘cues’ and ambiguous images to advertise their products. This ‘purposeful polysemy’ enables them to target minority groups without alienating ‘mainstream’ consumers. It is not, however, a foolproof strategy. Research suggests that heterosexual men respond less positively to ‘gay window’ advertising.

Idea #360
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The Education of Alexander the Great by Aristotle, Charles Laplante, 1866 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Aristotle, Ethics and the ‘Art’ of Leadership

Idea posted: September 2013
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change

Aristotle’s ‘master virtue’ of phronesis, which combines ethics and action so that people can ‘live well’ and be happy, is often seen as the key to effective leadership. But it tends to be too narrowly defined. A re-reading of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics reveals that phronesis is linked not only to knowledge, skill, wisdom and intelligence but also to sensory perception, intuition and aesthetics. For Aristotle, doing the right thing partly depended on seeing and appreciating the fine thing. This raises important questions about how leaders reach their

Idea #202
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Attracting, Developing and Retaining Millennials

Idea posted: February 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

The number of ‘Millennials’ entering the workforce is peaking, and there is now global interest in understanding how best to manage them. By some estimates, nearly 80 million Millennials (young adults born between the late 1970s to early 2000s) make up today’s global workforce. There is also evidence that they are fundamentally changing how business is conducted. Here are some steps to maximizing their effectiveness in your organization. 

Idea #086
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Red flag on the beah

Avoiding Bad Decisions: ‘Red Flags’ and Reflection

Idea posted: January 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Decision-making can be understood better with an awareness of the brain processes involved in it. There are certain ‘red flag’ conditions that can lead to distortions in judgement, in turn leading to bad decisions being made. The authors provide examples of where this has been the case, and highlight safeguards that can be adopted to avoid them.

Idea #028
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Man jumping cliff

Avoiding Flawed Decisions: A Finance Manager's Role

Idea posted: January 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Finance executives are particularly well-positioned to help organizations improve their decision-making and introduce more rational decisions-making processes. In particular they are in a position to help management teams learn to identify ‘red flags’ and adopt extra safeguards against them. 

Idea #037
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Impression III, Wassily Kandinsky, 1911 (Courtesy: The Lenbachhaus, Munich)

Behavioural Economics: A Power that Goes Beyond Nudges

Idea posted: October 2017
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance

Behavioural economics solutions to societal problems mostly take the form of economic ‘nudges’ — such as defaults to increase retirement plan enrolments. However, the potential for behavioural economics to help resolve societal problems is far greater than the common nudges. A new paper explains how policy makers have failed to take full advantage of behavioural economics solutions.

Idea #677
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St. John the Evangelist and St. Francis, El Greco, c. 1608, Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

Being an Empathic Leader

Idea posted: January 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

An unexpected ‘skill’ that may be the key to more effective management and leadership is empathy. Empathic managers are viewed as better performers in their jobs, especially in certain cultures. As it is not a fixed trait, it can (and should) be learnt and taught by leaders everywhere, as empathic leaders are important assets for their organizations.

Idea #041
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Herman Hollerith’s Electric Tabulator, US Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 1908, Photograph by Waldon Fawcett (Source: Library of Congress LC-USZ62-45687)

Big Data = Big Opportunities: If the CEO Takes the Lead

Idea posted: July 2013
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change

Big Data has recently gained lots of hype, prompting organizations to consider the best ways to utilize it. In this Idea, researchers suggest the responsibility lies not within IT departments, as is typically assumed; rather, CEOs need to take charge of understanding, exploring and exploiting the opportunities presented by Big Data.

Idea #175
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William Mark Felt, Sr. (1913-2008), A.K.A. ‘Deep Throat’. Felt, a former associated director of the FBI supplied Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein with enough insider information to take down President Nixon after the Watergate scandal. (Source: CBS News)

Blowing the Whistle on Unethical Conduct: It Takes a Village

Idea posted: August 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
  • Operations

Employees who want to report wrongdoing must overcome two fears: the fear of retaliation and the fear of futility (the fear of risking the enmity of boss and co-workers for nothing, because nothing is done). New research on whistleblowers confirms that the boss sets the initial ethical tone for the organization or unit, but also demonstrates that co-workers play an important role in either supporting or discouraging whistleblowing. The research shows that the interaction of the two factors — boss attitude and co-workers attitude — impacts an employee’s fear of retaliation. If either the

Idea #193
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The Syndics of the Amsterdam Drapers' Guild, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1662, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Board Diversity Improves Corporate Results: Lessons from Singapore

Idea posted: December 2014
  • CSR & Governance
Institutions: NUS Business School

Singapore lags behind other nations in diversity on its corporate boards — while evidence mounts that diversity leads to better results, according to a 2014 National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School report on diversity. 

Idea #467
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The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, Caspar David Friedrich, 1818, Kunsthalle, Hamburg

Body Language: Power Poses That Get Lost in Translation

Idea posted: December 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
  • Marketing

Expansive postures and gestures — leaning forward, standing tall with arms outstretched, etc — are considered part of the ‘body language’ of power. They make the ‘actor’ feel more positive and focused and they communicate confidence and authority to the observer. But not all of them ‘travel well’ or cross cultural boundaries. Recent research suggests leaders should stop and think before striking a ‘powerful pose’.

Idea #278
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Covver Illustration from Developing Leaders 8, Julian Burton, www.delta7.com

Bridging Organizational Governance Gaps

Idea posted: July 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change

What the Board spells out as good practice, and what motivates managerial behaviour is not necessarily the same thing. The gap between both can lead to serious consequences, not unlike the scandals that took place at Enron, WorldCom and more recently, the BBC. How can your organization create a sense of moral responsibility from ‘the bottom up?’

Idea #179
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Bring Your Own Device to Work: The Pros and Cons for a Multinational

Idea posted: August 2014
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Operations

Rapid advances in communications technology available to consumers has meant that employees often have far greater private access to sophisticated technology than they do in the workplace. Is BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) - permitting employees to bring personal laptops, tablets, and smart phones to work, and to use their devices to access company information a sensible policy? In theory organizations benefit, in practice this presents many problems. This Idea uses a case study of a particular multi-national organization to see its response to this question. 

Idea #433
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St. Francis Preaching to the Birds, Giotto, 1299, San Francesco Upper Church, Assisi, Italy (Source: Wikipaintings)

Building Trust: The Role of Stakeholders' Personal Values

Idea posted: November 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Learning & Behaviour
  • Marketing

For stakeholders, such as employees and customers, the trustworthiness of a company is based on competence and character attributes. New research shows that whether competence or character is more important to establishing trust depends on the personal conservative or liberal values of the stakeholders. This research helps companies develop targeted trust-building strategies.

Idea #262
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Children Acting the Play Scene in 'Hamlet', by Charles Hunt, 1863, (Source: The Yale Center for British Art. Wikimedia Commons)

Calling in the Consultants: Risks and Rewards

Idea posted: September 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

The use of management consultants by businesses and other organizations is controversial — and its benefits hard to quantify. (The ‘consultancy effect’ is impossible to isolate from other factors affecting the organization.)

Anecdotal evidence and experience, however, suggest that the leaders who derive most value from consultants are those who see them not as ‘fixers’ but ‘facilitators’ come to ‘counter-observe’ the organization and help create or measure its aptitude for change.

Idea #214
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Can a Leader Be Too Ethical?

Idea posted: May 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Ethical leadership reduces the risks of antisocial and selfish employee behaviour and encourages the kind of ‘pro-social’ behaviours that create value and promote the collective interest. There could, however, be a point at which it is counterproductive. Recent research suggests that leaders demonstrating particularly high ethical standards can weaken the psychological contract with employees through perceived ‘moral reproach’.

Idea #377
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U.S. Army enlisted promotion - CONTIC Intelligence Center, Ft. Bragg, N.C. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Can Employees Be Motivated by More than Money and Benefits?

Idea posted: June 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Managers mistakenly believe that, although they have to provide both intrinsic (e.g. the love of a challenge) and extrinsic (compensation) motivations, employees are only extrinsically motivated. To best motivate their employees, managers need to look beyond the traditional external motivations such as bonuses and find ways to make the work challenging and interesting.

Idea #401
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  The Roman Forum, the commercial, cultural, and political centre of the Republic (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Centralized or Decentralized Decision Rights in Multinationals

Idea posted: October 2013
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Marketing
  • Operations

Certain company and country factors determine whether decisions should be centralized at parent company headquarters or decentralized to the foreign subsidiary. Ignoring those factors will hurt parent and subsidiary financial performance. And fixing the inappropriate decision-making structure could prove costly.

Idea #237
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ENRON's Kenneth Lay CEO and Jeffery Skilling CFO, The Houston Chronicle

CEO Connectedness Can Facilitate Fraud

Idea posted: April 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

CEOs have not only explicit legal authority but also substantial ‘soft’ influence (based on relationships, for example) over what happens in the company. This influence extends to wrongdoing, as revealed in new research by University of Michigan Ross School of Business finance professor E. Han Kim and University of Michigan Law School professor Vikramaditya Khanna. According to Kim and Khanna, CEOs who appoint their top lieutenants (thus increasing their soft influence) are more likely to commit fraud. Their research also shows that fraud is less likely to be discovered when CEOs are ‘

Idea #128
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Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz talks to the media (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

CEOs Can Galvanize Public Opinion – and Help Business

Idea posted: July 2016
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change

More CEOs are speaking out on social issues unrelated to their business. A new study shows that this activism can galvanize public opinion – and doesn’t hurt sales. 

Idea #611
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In the Classroom, Jean-Paul Louis Martin des Amoignes, 1886 (Courtesy: Bonhams)

CEOs’ Gender-biased Formative Years Has a Negative Economic Impact

Idea posted: June 2018
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change

New research using extensive hand-collected data confirms a gender gap in resource allocation (female division leaders receive less resources from their CEOs). This research also reveals the familial origins of gender bias in CEOs, and the negative economic impact of such bias.

Idea #711
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Belshazzar's Feast, Rembrandt van Rijn, c.1635-1638, National Gallery, London

CFOs Reborn as Agents of Organizational Change

Idea posted: June 2013
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Leadership & Change

After the financial crisis of 2009–10 and the subsequent global recession, CFOs have suddenly found themselves thrust under the spotlight like never before. They are no longer being seen merely as ‘chief number crunchers’ or even as senior accountants; organizations now want more out of their CFOs, and expect them to act as agents of ‘organizational change’. In this idea, some guidance is offered on how to effectively undertake such change management.

Idea #161
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Changing Attitudes to Business Ethics: Insights from South Africa

Idea posted: February 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
  • Marketing
  • Operations

The past 20 years or so have seen a marked change in attitudes towards ethics among South African business-school students. Recent MBA graduates have stronger opinions on what is ‘wrong’ and what is ‘right’ business behaviour and are more likely to think in terms of moral absolutes. This has significant implications for business schools and educators — and for companies and employers.

Idea #319
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Plato (left) and Aristotle (right), a detail of a fresco by Raphael (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Character - The Unspoken Essence of Leadership

Idea posted: June 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

In assessing leaders at any level in an organization, three questions are asked:

  1. Do they have the competencies to be a leader?
  2. Do they have the commitment to be a leader?
  3. Do they have the character to be a good leader?

This Idea focuses on leadership character because it is the most difficult to define, measure, assess and develop. Its aim is to define those dimensions of leadership character that are most important in today’s business environment and suggest how character can be developed.

Idea #157
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The Leopard, 1963, directed by Luchino Visconti, starring Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alan Delon, 20th Century Fox Pictures

Charisma or Miasma: Seduced by the Charismatic

  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
Institutions: University of Florida

Charismatic CEOs come across as higher achievers, and charisma has often been thought of as a must when hiring CEOs, but a large number turn out to be overpaid and underperforming. Boards should measure performance over personality when hiring and compensating CEOs.

Idea #026
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The Pilot Faints, from Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, illustrated by Gustave Doré, published 1798

Choosing a CEO: Safe Pair of Hands Vs Too Much Experience

Idea posted: November 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

A good track record of experience as a CEO does not necessarily lead to success in subsequent appointments. Evidence suggests that those appointed to the CEO role without a background in the role outperform their more seasoned counterparts. Why is this so, and what can prior CEOs do to avoid ‘the experience trap’? 

Idea #270
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John Barrymore as Svengali and Marian Marsh as Trilby, a poster for ‘Svengali’, 1931, produced and distributed by Warner Brothers

Choosing a Venture Capitalist: The Ethical Dimension

Idea posted: February 2014
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship

New and young businesses often depend on equity finance from venture capitalists. This does not, however, mean that they’re indiscriminate in their choice of venture capitalist fund. Recent research suggests that, in certain circumstances at least, entrepreneurs will spurn offers from equity investors who have a poor reputation for ethical behaviour.

Idea #332
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