Real-Time Leadership: A book review by Bob Morris

Real-Time Leadership: Find Your Winning Moves When the Stakes Are High
David Noble and Carol Kauffman
Harvard Business Review Press (February 2023)

The power of three-dimensional leadership for all seasons

Companies annually ranked among those most highly admired and best to work for are also annually ranked among those most profitable, with the greatest cap value in their industry segment. However different they may be in most respects, all of them have results-driven leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. Without this leadership, they would be unable to respond effectively to challenges within their competitive marketplace.

For example, consider the significance of various disruptive challenges that intimately connect the digital and physical worlds. They include artificial intelligence (AI); sensors and the Internet of Things (IOT); Autonomous Machines — robots, cobots, drones, and self-driving vehicles; distributed leaders and blockchains; virtual, augmented, and mixed reality; and connection of everything and everyone: 5G networks and satellite constellations.

In Real-Time Leadership, David Noble and Carol Kauffman focus their attention on a framework that will enable leaders to “weather any storm” within and/or outside the given situation. Here is the acronym: MOVE.

Be MINDFULLY Alert (Chapters 2-5): Minimize surprises and inadequate preparation.
Generate OPTIONS (6-8): If you have more and better choices, you’ll make better decisions.
VALIDATE Your Vantage Point (9): African proverb: “Trust but verify.” Proceed accordingly.
ENGAGE and EFFECT Change (10 and 11): Overcome the “ideology of comfort and tyranny of custom.”

Noble and Kauffman: “Real Time Leadership is about making every moment count. Things move so fast there’s no time to waste, whether you are making a split-second decision, tackling a high priority for this week, quarter or year, or working toward a very long-term personal or work [individual or organizational] goal.

“When we face high-stakes challenges, we become exaggerated versions of ourselves. This can put our careers and our organizations in peril. Most leaders rely on instinct, based on pattern recognition that they have developed through years of experience. When they see ‘a’ happen and then ‘b,’ they instinctively know to do ‘c.’ It’s like a reflex. It works for familiar challenges and opportunities but for new things, [keep in mind] relying on instincts could take you in exactly the wrong direction.” Challenges and crises happen in real-time, often without prior warning. Noble and Kauffman explain HOW to respond effectively to them and do so in real-time.

These are among the passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Noble and Kauffman’s coverage:

o Why MOVE? (Pages 1-9)
o Mindcsul Alertness: Summary (11-13)
o Option Generation: Summary (16-17)
o Validate Vantage Point: Summary (18-19)
o Engage and Effect Change: Summary (19-20)

o The Four Stances: lean in, lean back, lean with, and don’t lean (30-31)
o Five Cs (33-36)
o External priorities (41-52, 43-44, (53-67, 149-152, and 184-185)
o Generating Options (83-123)
o Validating your vantage point (125-143)

o Beware of Blind Spots, Being Blindsided, and Being Blind (138-142)
o New Roles (167-198)
o 10X goals (201-210)
o Mateus case example (230-237)
o Extraordinary leaders (239-245

Whatever their size and nature may be, all organizations need leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise who can respond effectively and immediately — in REAL-TIME — to whatever crises and challenges that may occur. When reflecting on that, I was again reminded of my favorite passage in Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine could possibly do full justice to the value of the information, insights, and counsel that David Noble and Carol Kauffman provide but I hope that I have at least provided some indication of why I think so highly of their book.

Here are two concluding suggestions: Highlight key passages, and, keep a lined notebook near at hand in order to record your comments, questions, and page references as well as responses to the suggestions and recommendations that are inserted throughout the book’s lively and eloquent narrative. These two simple tactics will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of the most important material later.



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