InterSolve Group... has made a business out of
promoting... alliances, working with chief executives to assemble teams from diverse sources to create new business opportunities."
– Reuters

October 1990

The Realities of Leadership

Edward R. McPherson, President and CEO, InterSolve Group

"Most of us spend our lives as if we had another one in the bank". 

- Ben Irwin

In response to requests from our clients and many friends to share our thoughts and experiences, it is a pleasure to offer perspectives in two areas:

  • Recent Special Experiences
  • The Realities of Leadership

I. The Realities of Leadership

Commenting on leadership has become quite fashionable today. Academician's debate, analysts observe, and historians record the attributes and techniques of the noble behavior the world admires -- leadership.

Perhaps most instructive are the quiet reflections among leaders themselves, expressed when they are far from the bright lights of press conferences and removed from the keyboards of biographers.

Those who choose to be leaders among leaders have a unique opportunity and viewpoint to demonstrate effective leadership in a variety of contexts.

  1. Vision
    Our experience is that advanced leaders go far beyond knowing what needs to be accomplished. They can clearly articulate and see how the new project or enterprise will look, behave, feel and live before an initiative is ever started.

    This ability to "create the future" is highly developed in the best leaders. People who strive for breakthrough accomplishments in business, technology, medicine, or relationships do so largely from confidence in their vision and the persistence to transform vision into practical action.

  2. Integrity
    People who create the future through their vision place great premium on integrity. In short, whatever is worth doing is worth doing well with people who share uncompromising values of honesty and completeness.

    When people of integrity are assembled, astounding collective achievement is possible, in part because the sharing of leadership flows easily among individuals secure in themselves and each other.

    Leaders understand principles, and their actions are consistent with sound rules of conduct.

  3. Time Sensitivity
    Time is both a constraint and luxury for distinctive leaders. Leaders instill a sense of urgency for results as their own accelerated pace stems from accurately knowing how to go about tasks, where to go for the ingredients needed to orchestrate a successful effort, and what constitutes useful action.

    Balancing time as a constraint is the luxury of seeking progress in depth, creating legacies, and knowing few things really worthwhile are done easily and quickly.

    The experienced leader chooses carefully how to spend time and preserves a focus on the essence of what results are to be achieved.

  4. Value
    Leaders understand themselves and the leverage they bring to situations. Further, leaders, while resourceful, grasp economic value. Therefore, they are comfortable in committing significant resources toward investment in worthy endeavors, not as static financial transactions, but as dynamic sequences.

    It is as though leaders like gifted basketball players, see the whole game unfolding dynamically in slow motion, anticipating movement and, thus, they view investment in the context of continuous achievement.

    Skilled leaders whether entrepreneurs, creative corporate chief executives, or proven investors, speak in terms of return on investment over the long-term.

  5. Range of Effective Behavior
    Outstanding leaders exhibit daily the capability for a wide range of behavior so as to be effective with different people in a variety of situations. Certainly not all individuals, groups, or circumstances call for identical styles or approaches to leadership.

    Knowing oneself well contributes to the ability not to deal with business uniformly, but rather to expand the range of one's leadership to match a particular situation.

    These five elements of leadership - vision, integrity, time sensitivity, value, and range of effective behavior - are all present in distinctive leaders served by us, including:

    • A prominent industrialist
    • The chief operating officer of a $1 billion company
    • The president of an innovative investment group
    • The chief executive of an industrial manufacturer
    • The managing partners of a unique service firm
    • The president of a diversified service business
    • ... as well as others.

Leadership is a scarce resource that is increasingly viewed as heroic. Yet leaders are found and nurtured in many circumstances-business, fine arts, families, volunteerism, education, and elsewhere. It is leadership in daily life, regardless of the field of endeavor, which preserves values, sound ethics, moral behavior, and a concern for others.

II. Recent Special Experiences

  1. This summer I accepted an invitation to participate in current strategy discussions at the United States Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. This three-day forum with the Secretary of the Navy, the Chief of Naval operations, numerous senior officers and other guests provided an opportunity to share ideas concerning:
    • Global trends for the next decade
    • Our country's role in worldwide economics and military security
    • How to maintain peace and sustain readiness
    • The implications of the shift in national concerns away from a Soviet threat to issues such as global competitiveness, drugs, education, environment, and energy.
  2. These sessions were especially timely in the context of recent events in Central Europe and the current situation in the Middle East.

    With so much restructuring taking place in corporate America, it is useful perspective for our chief executive clients to recognize that redirecting the Department of Defense requires dealing with

    over $300 billion of expenditures and four million

    military and civilian employees - certainly a significant leadership challenge.

  3. On recent trips to England, Scotland, and Ireland, we have noted the lessening of popular support of a fine leader - Mrs. Thatcher - and the potential negative impact an inadequate infrastructure may cause the British Isles in the United Europe of 1992.

    By contrast, France, for example, has essentially no foreign debt, holds substantial financial reserves, is investing heavily in infrastructure, and possesses a central location - all of which portend well for the future. Such are the constantly shifting prospects around the world!