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Friday, November 16, 2012

Pirate, Executive, or Administrator?

I see three solutions for many positions. I first noticed this model when we were bringing up the cellular industry, for CEO positions, but have since seen it for many positions in many industries.

The Pirate
A leader in starts and turnarounds, keeps the tribe together with vision, hacks, and personal examples. Budgets are theoretical, because we’re working new situations. There is never enough resource, so we have to apply whatever we’ve got to what we need to get to the next step. Kara Swisher’s AOL.COM: how Steve Case beat Bill Gates,nailed the netheads, and made millions in the war for the Web is a great book showing this type of leadership

The Executive
Makes the most of an existing operation, bringing economical systems and delegation. Has the advantage of historical performance to improve against, often scaling is a major accomplishment. Jack Welch in his heyday defines this behavior for me.

The Administrator
Doing more with less has been the mantra for over a decade. Occasionally I’ve seen fat organizations, but more often I’ve watched poorly defined missions exited. I’ve also seen how this mindset causes organizations to disregard achievable, mission saving strategies. The Administrator often leads to entropy, and is followed by ceasing operations or transferring assets to someone who can create more value with them.

I was explaining this to one of my favorite Pirates last week. Times are hard, and he was trying to sell himself into an Administrator position. Had he grown the company, he would have created havoc. The owners had an emotional attachment to tanking.

After I explained the model and what was expected, he said, “Now why would I want to do that?”

What do your people expect?


Unknown said...

'Pirates' are fun and exciting - right for a rescue or startup - a disaster for a stable, ongoing operation.

'Executives' are stabilizing and encourage confidence in the future - a value in the mature operation, an impediment for a startup where things just don't fit properly on the spreadsheet.

'Administrator' may be the estate rep or savior for the troubled organization - easing it into a least-painful expiration or raising the ashes of a phoenix to save it in a crisis or driving effectiveness and efficiency in normal times.

Each has a strength - and like most of us, in other circumstances, this becomes a hinderence or weakness.

The trick is getting the right one for the job at hand.


Thoughthebrowser said...

Too many times I've seen a graceful exit because the principals were not fit enough, smart enough, and passionate enough to maintain a startling success.

Stakeholders get wrecked for the egos of leaders.