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Evolutionary Leadership

Dynamic Ways to Make Your Corporate Culture Fast and Flexible

About The Book

Written by one of the world's leading management consultants, Evolutionary Leadership offers a vibrant style of leadership that will enlighten executives and inspire them to rethink their companies in an ever-changing economy. With business practices changing every day, companies must create environments of speed and flexibility that will engage employees and allow radical ideas to thrive. Susan Annunzio takes readers beyond typical management-speak, offering a blueprint for leading by
  • promoting environments that succeed amid constant change.
  • igniting passion for saving America's traditional businesses.
  • thinking about where your company is heading and how to get there.

With real-world examples, Annunzio shows how to create a more productive working environment by attacking traditional priorities in unconventional ways.


Chapter 1: The Evolutionary Leadership Challenge

What if one morning you arrived at your corporate offices and no one was there?

Your marketing staffers had decided to base themselves at various client headquarters.

The salespeople, equipped with Palm Pilots, Thinkpads, and digital wireless phones, were operating in mobile virtual offices.

Because of economics, customer service had been moved to another city, as had your distribution warehouse.

The R&D team you assembled was a collection of brilliant thinkers located around the world who worked with each other on networked computers and the occasional videoconference.

Your support staff -- accounting, communications, corporate counsel -- preferred to telecommute, plugging into the network from home offices and talking to each other via email and fax.

Even your personal assistant actually was located at the offices of your corporate parent, five hundred miles away; you and he communicated via calendar software, pager, and overnight mail.

What if, sitting alone at a big desk, you realized you didn't need a corporate office building at all? What would you do?

Welcome to the world of evolutionary leadership, where business strategies are fluid, workers are smarter and more demanding than ever, and the old rules of business just don't apply.

It's a world of global markets, ad hoc teams, telecommuters, email, videoconferences, online ordering, virtual offices, intranets, networked alliances, and instant information. And it's full of both challenges and opportunities for evolutionary leaders.

What Is Evolutionary Leadership?

Evolutionary leadership is a new style of business management designed specifically to guide top executives as they retool their businesses to compete in the eWorld.

In this brave new world, what does evolutionary leadership entail?

Evolutionary leadership means shaking up your corporate culture and fostering an attitude of speed and flexibility in order to facilitate the internal transformation to an environment for the new economy.

Evolutionary leadership means managing the clash between baby boomers and the new, brash Generation X and Y workers -- and finding a way to combine the talents of both groups to achieve success.

Evolutionary leadership means making the tough decisions that will set your company on the path to success in the connected economy -- and in the process save jobs, companies, and even entire industries.

Evolutionary leadership demands heroic behavior. It requires abandoning past business models and challenging current assumptions and beliefs. It entails breaking many of the rules we've played by for generations. It means sacrificing the comfort of the status quo in the quest for a new direction that will survive.

And most important, evolutionary leadership ultimately is not about connecting technology, but about connecting people.

Says Dave Tolmie, former CEO of, a permission email marketer, "The success of a company is based on the collective capabilities of its people. Every company needs to be more collegial and less structured so that the collective talents have a way to manifest themselves."

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates echoed the significance of the work environment in his book Business at the Speed of Thought: "The most important 'speed' issue is often not technical but cultural. It's convincing everyone that the company's survival depends on everyone moving as fast as possible."

Reinforcing that comment, international eBusiness consultant Eric Marcus says technology represents only 5 percent of the transformation process. The other 95 percent of a company's metamorphosis is represented by the changes in organizational behavior and culture that are at the heart of evolutionary leadership.

As a leader, it's not your job to worry about how your technology is set up. There are people more techno-savvy than you to make those decisions. Your job is more compelling, and ultimately, more critical: to create an environment where everyone can unleash their creativity. Technology is not an end in itself, but merely an enabler in the search for new products and services.

In the example above, evolutionary leadership means challenging the accepted belief that running a successful business includes bringing the entire staff under one roof from nine to five every day. Evolutionary leadership may require trusting employees to work independently in scattered offices. It may force you to give up some of the symbols of the Industrial Age: hierarchical organizations, clear lines of authority -- even office buildings.

Evolutionary leadership may force you to measure success differently, both corporately and personally. In the future, the world is going to measure success in terms of how many new ideas your company has generated and what kind of talent you're keeping and attracting. Meanwhile, you may need to reconsider golden parachutes, country-club memberships, and corner offices -- things that were the measures of success in the past. In the world we grew up in, these were ways of saying, "I made it." But they have become increasingly irrelevant.

Evolutionary leadership may mean finding new ways to be a leader: new ways to motivate when you don't see every employee every day, new ways to communicate your vision and create a culture, and new ways to think about what a company is and what it should look like.

We live in a world of new technology. We are bombarded by it every day. The availability of new tools has affected every company; it's forced them to reevaluate their businesses and rethink their strategies on marketing, distribution, communications, and organizational structure. Even if the strategy ultimately is to have no eStrategy, every business leader has had to rethink his company's place in the world. The new world is about "ruthless execution," as Amir Hartman states it in his book NetReady.

Most of the stories in this book are about strategy implementation: how companies like AMFM Inc., GATX Terminals, and DSM Desotech put in new business strategies to deal with increased competition and speed -- and then how those companies worked to catapult new behavior. The same principles that guided these companies apply in today's world of ruthless execution.

There are stories about companies faced with the challenge and availability of new technologies -- and how those company leaders handled it. You'll read about Educational Testing Service coming to grips with how new computer-based testing would affect its entire organization. You'll hear how CCH, a ninety-year-old book publisher, moved its products onto software and the Internet. You'll read about the trials of two large banking companies, Synovus and Wachovia Bank, as they created online banks.

Although the initial goal was to help established companies make the transition to the new economy, evolutionary leadership is not just for the traditional company. It's really about the kinds of leadership practices needed in the world we live in. And sometimes, though start-ups and dotcoms have fast-paced environments and stock options for everyone, the leaders sound and look and taste much like the leaders of the past. Having visited many start-ups, my experience is that there's a surprising amount of hierarchical behavior and old-line thinking in start-up companies. Once you get past the funky locations and pool tables, they can look just like any Industrial Age company, with employee cubicle size determined by rank. In fact, it's my impression that start-ups are finding themselves working hard to protect the cachet of the hot new company -- sometimes at the expense of their environment.

Oakleigh Thorne, who led the re-creation of CCH, is now a venture capitalist involved with several start-up companies. "What amazes me about these new companies is how they too have to change their culture," he says. "People can become ingrained in a culture in a week."

With that in mind, you'll read about the successes and challenges of big and small companies in establishing and maintaining environments that support new economy behavior.

So whether you are in traditional corporate America or at a start-up firm, the rules of the new economy challenge you to be an evolutionary leader.

You must have a vision for your company. You need to create an environment where ideas flourish and can be challenged. You need to deal with employees expediently and fairly. You need to communicate and inspire your workforce.

Creating an environment for the connected economy is not just a matter of getting up and telling your workforce that you want and need new behavior. It has to be more than symbolic gestures.

"If you open up 'new' old companies, you'll see they look a lot like the 'old' old companies," says Carl Russo, the entrepreneur whose Cerent Corp. became part of Cisco Systems in 1999. "The dress code has changed, which is really neat. But I'm not sure that it has anything to do with the core value set the company uses day to day. I think it's hard to cut at the core of that."

That's your challenge. Evolutionary leadership requires creating a workplace where new behavior is encouraged. It demands a new, irreverent way of communicating with employees. You must make sure this behavior isn't merely talked about, but really happens. Evolutionary leadership forces you to take the rhetoric of change and put it on the floor.

The Call to Action

The opportunity for evolutionary leadership exists at the juncture of several powerful forces:

  • The business world's need for leaders to guide the transformation to the connected economy

  • The speed of the changes in the business climate

  • The long-term economic peril many companies and industries face

  • The increasing reliance on intellectual capital

  • The movement of Generation X and Y into the workforce

  • The talent crunch in a booming economy

  • The personal motivation among current business leaders to leave a legacy and make a difference in the world

Technology is creating business challenges not seen since the early twentieth century.

Spurred by technology, we are experiencing a fundamental reshaping of businesses, markets, and competition that's just as dramatic as that wrought by the growth of the auto industry -- but the changes are geometrically faster.

In a survey by Nextera, 97 percent of business leaders said the rate of change affecting their companies is higher than it was just two years ago. Three-fourths of the respondents said that rate of change had doubled in a decade.

Speed is the first requirement of any cultural transformation, and it affects every other decision. To keep up with how quickly the world is changing, businesses must move from a strategic planning mode to a more immediate sort of strategic thinking -- where decisions are being made "real time."

While you are learning how to make decisions on the spot, you might as well realize that in this new world, you also will be making many of those decisions with insufficient data. No more six-month research reports or consumer studies. No more lengthy analysis upon which you'll base a carefully examined decision. The need for speed means that you will be operating more than ever using your instinct and expertise. In many circumstances, making a decision -- any decision -- will be more important than making the right decision. And it will take collaboration -- the finest minds in your company working together to make their cumulative best guess.

If it's any comfort, the inability to rely on research and analysis to make decisions may be a moot point because in many of the situations you'll confront in your transformation to the digital economy there simply are not established best practices to follow. As consultant Eric Marcus says, it's not about best practices but next practices. You don't need to worry about consulting precedents or historical examples. There are none.

"A lot of success in this world comes down to leadership and execution -- and being able to sustain some sort of business model through a world of insane competition," says venture capitalist/evolutionary leader Oakleigh Thorne.

Consultants who specialize in helping "traditional" companies make the transformation to the connected economy say emphatically that successful transformations depend on three variables: how quickly a company learns to do business in new ways, how well it leverages the unique characteristics of electronic markets, and how well it adapts operational processes, management decision-making, and the organizational structure to the eBusiness world.

All three things, but particularly the last one, fall into the arena of evolutionary leadership. Massive organizational change is on the way.

As we're moving at light speed, we must be willing to ask ourselves tough questions about the future of our companies. Which of our current operating assumptions need to be challenged? What new business models need to be explored? And, consequently, what new offerings, services, sales models may exist? What must we as leaders do to better serve the marketplace, our clients, and our employees?

And then, we must ask the questions that are the heart of this book: How can we continue to retain and recruit the best and the brightest when competing against a host of other opportunities? How can we leverage our employee brainpower to assist us in answering these and other questions we face as change rapidly descends? How do we encourage the employee behavior needed to implement these strategies in a time- and cost-effective way?

An evolutionary leader needs to maintain core competencies and address the future simultaneously -- as he reinvents his corporate environment. If he does not, his company's survival may be at stake.

Focusing on People

At the same time that all the rules about competition, market strategies, and organizational design have been turned upside down, we also must confront profound changes in the workforce -- and the role of people in making or breaking the transition to the twenty-first century economy.

The move from an economy based on manufacturing tangible products to one of intangible products and services, where information is the new currency, changes everything about how businesses are run and particularly how employees are treated -- because now your most valuable asset is likely the information in your employees' heads.

"In our world today, financial capital is abundant. Financial capital is no longer the problem. Human capital is the problem," says Andy Rosenfield, chairman-CEO of

But the corporate rules that governed American business for most of the past century are dinosaurs that frequently get in the way of establishing new environments.

Lawrence Baxter has one foot on either side of the fence, as executive vice-president in charge of Wachovia Bank's new online banking venture. Says Baxter, "Four or five years ago in financial services, the common talk was that the old-line companies were hampered in moving to the eWorld by their legacy (computer) systems. Well, what became evident to me was that the real barrier was legacy cultures and legacy revenue streams and legacy business models.

"My time now is spent managing the people side of the equation; I need to provide leadership in that area rather than worry about whether the technology is working or not."

A frightening number of large companies still have to convince managers that people really are their most valuable assets. One member of the senior leadership team for a global manufacturing company relates this tale: "When my CEO talked to me, he said, 'I know in my heart that people are the most important asset, but I think right now the rest of our management team doesn't really believe that.' He was really referring to the years where we ran the company as if machines were our assets and people were liabilities."

Just like this company, many corporations asked employees to check their brains at the door each workday. Companies sought team players with blind allegiance who would follow the rules. It's still a problem at many of our biggest and oldest corporations. One executive for a Fortune 100 company puts it this way: "The skills you need to lead a big, established organization today are not the ones you need to get you to the top."

In an economy based largely on intangibles, the competitive edge is imagination, and using your imagination to improve the design, service, packaging, presentation, and delivery of your product. As evolutionary leader, your job is to ditch the staid old culture and create an environment that encourages and rewards creativity, imagination, collegiality, rule-breaking.

You need your staff to be creative. Increasingly, you are paying them not only to do, but to do AND think. You have to trust them to think.

"It's all about speed and how quickly people are getting out there with their product or their service or their information," says one thirty-year-old vice-president for one of our nation's largest financial services companies. "But with the traditional decision-making structure, that will never work. Because the VP needs to sign it, then the first VP needs to sign it, and the senior VP needs to sign it, and then that person's Executive Management Committee member needs to sign it and that doesn't work anymore. It doesn't ease anyone's work load or save time or money if it's still this long drawn-out approval or decision-making process. The company needs to trust that the employee will make the right decision."

Many younger workers already have given up on traditional American companies in favor of academia, start-ups, or smaller ventures. Says one twentysomething: "The inner infrastructure of these companies is so strong that you can't break it. A few people with fire cannot break a history of nonactivity. Why bother trying to propose something new, because it'll take you months to go through all these channels and there is no upside to it. How do you fight that? The barriers to actual real innovation in a lot of companies are very, very strong."

The Generation Gap

Many business leaders admit they don't really know what to do with these Generation X and Y workers.

Who are these younger staffers? They are our children: self-managed, independent thinkers (and former latchkey children). They are multidimensional multitaskers (following in our footsteps but with more technology at their disposal). They have a cynical exterior but deep inside crave passion and want to change the world. And they view technology as the enabler of change -- not the answer itself.

Fundamentally, however, they are in a hurry. They can't wait for seniority and experience; they want to be judged on their knowledge and the results they have already produced. And that is where they clash with their elders.

Before you dismiss these younger workers out of hand, consider that we made them who they are. These are our children. For whatever reason, the baby-boom generation has been more child-centric and child-focused than any in history: interviewing for preschools; learning about child development; worrying about daycare, private lessons, and specialized camps; buying educational toys.

We have sat at the kitchen table and had conversations with them -- something many of our parents just didn't do with us. In front of them, we have talked about world issues and questioned authority and challenged the status quo. We have paid to send them to the best schools, to cultivate their fine minds and expose them in turn to the finest minds. We have raised them to believe they have unlimited potential.

So we have given our children the promise of unlimited potential -- then they come into corporate life and feel that they've been thrown for a loop because their potential is being hemmed in by the boundaries. They are told they don't know enough because they're too young. But they've been raised to have opinions, to think out of the box, to push the envelope.

Here's an example: One client's business was really starting to go downhill. One employee, a young analyst with an MBA, wrote a seething paper about what he saw going on there. Everything that he put in that memo was right on target. But his cocky manner stopped everyone. It made it difficult to see the content. We had done an assessment of this company's culture, and our professional findings were no different from what he had put in his memo. This is a future leader. This is a keeper. He needs some polishing but he's smart and cares.

And most important, young talent like this analyst really responds to a leader's passion about work. They want to believe in somebody who believes. They want to know it matters. They want to feel your beliefs. They want someone to see they're smart, pat them on the back, and someone who will give them an environment where they will flourish. They crave the support of an evolutionary leader.

What Distinguishes Evolutionary Leadership?

In the past, if you asked about the qualities and traits of successful business leaders, you would hear a familiar list: You need to be tough. You need to know everything about your business, industry, and company. You need to be able to know what to do in any given situation. You need to be able to wield power and delegate effectively. You need to be able to issue effective orders. You need to be able to maintain control. You need to manage the flow of information. "Knowledge is power," was the Industrial Age mantra.

Sounds a lot like George Patton.

Many business leaders in the past were like military commanders. They were directional leaders. They gave orders and told people what to do. They were brought up in an age that created great wealth using an assembly line mentality: "Stand up in front, tell the people exactly what needs to be done. And if someone does a really good job of following the directions, HE can be in charge someday."

But you cannot be that kind of leader any more. The Industrial Age ended twenty years ago. Today we need people's ideas. Innovation is a must. Evolutionary leadership is required to succeed.

After dozens of interviews and hearing scores of stories, I'm convinced evolutionary leaders -- those who are ready to take their companies and workforces into the connected economy as well as those who already have succeeded -- share a list of qualities that is quite different from the old command-and-control leaders of yesterday.

HONESTY: Honesty is the first distinguishing characteristic of good leaders today, because it affects the environment in so many ways. Evolutionary leaders share information as openly as possible to create an environment of trust. They admit when they don't know something -- and frankly, with the volume of data available, no one person possibly could know everything. And they admit when -- overtired, overworked, overwhelmed -- they make mistakes. They say they're sorry and everyone moves on. Finally, they encourage and reward honesty in their workforce.

Honesty in action: Carl Russo says it was personally very important to him to create an egalitarian, supportive, collegial, and honest environment at Cerent Corp. "The litmus test for me was what happened when we made our first bad hire," he remembers. "It was like having an extra thumb; it just stuck out.

"About three days after the person started, the manager and I were chatting about something else and he said, 'I think we have a problem. I think we hired the wrong person.' We went through the issues and I said, 'If that's the case, what are you going to do from here?' The response was: 'We need to terminate him: Treat him fairly, but terminate him because it's not going to get any better.'

"I was thrilled. That was the absolutely correct answer. But having the gumption to step up right after making a hire and say 'I made a mistake' is something that wouldn't happen in most corporations. There you're subtly encouraged to throw dirt on top to hide the mistake."

RESPONSIVENESS: An evolutionary leader needs to reflect his carefully constructed environment. He needs to be as flexible as it is. That means being available to listen to employees -- and to act when necessary.

Responsiveness in action: Harry Tempest tells this story when asked how he encourages the entrepreneurial spirit as chairman of ABN AMRO North America: A thirty-two-year-old vice-president in the banking giant's technology group sent Tempest an email saying, "I want to show you something. It'll only take an hour of your time."

To his credit, Tempest answered the email and told the man to come to his office, where he displayed a possible new way to access information from a Palm Pilot -- a product he had developed on his own.

"I said, 'Fantastic, let's go with it. Let's build it around and put it into a couple of products.'"

VIGILANCE: Even evolutionary leaders who have succeeded in creating the new environments they need say that is not enough. Continued success means being vigilant in keeping everyone on their toes.

At America Online, the leadership team has weekly operations committee meetings to keep everything moving smoothly, and to make sure the environment encourages the right behavior. "We are an intellectual capital company," says senior vice-president Mark Stavish. "We need to give people creative freedom, make sure they feel connected to the business, and make decisions that are the best for the company -- not politics. Speed is a direct function of how effective your leadership team is, and how effective their decision-making process is."

Dave Tolmie says, "Over time people have a tendency to gravitate toward the mean. That's always a huge risk. One of the things I have to do is constantly reinforce that we're a place where we don't do business as usual."

Vigilance in action: Andy Rosenfield is chairman-CEO of, an online educational resource. He's created a new economy spirit among his committed workforce. "You tell people, 'We're on a grand adventure. We are experimenting. We are financed by people who understand we're doing that. So be attentive to change. Be prepared to flex. Don't accept what we did last month unwaveringly. Be prepared to think it through again.' You'd think that would be good enough."

But Rosenfield says, "Even in an organization as young as this, you get these locked-in ideas. People think because they've visited an issue once and reached a consensus, that's it.

"I have to run around kicking people and saying, 'We have new knowledge. We have new data. Revisit it.' Or I write memos that even I think are borderline wacky. But I have to disturb the equilibrium."

WILLINGNESS TO LEARN -- AND RELEARN: This is no longer a world of "father knows best." You don't have all the answers. You may have to learn new skills and acquire new information to stay on top. Part of an evolutionary leader's wisdom is accepting that you may have to leave behind the tools that seemed so important in the past.

Learning in action: Dave Tolmie was CEO of, but he grew up in the bricks-and-mortar -- or the cereal-and-spoon -- world of General Mills. When you ask whether his background has been helpful in his career, he says, "There are things from my previous experience that are absolutely helpful. And there are things that you almost need to forget."

SENSE OF ADVENTURE: Evolutionary leaders share an ability to live in the world of speed and enjoy it. They are making decisions fast, with little information; they have to know how to draw the fine line between quality and execution. They have to want to be part of the moment.

It is like riding a roller coaster -- having a pit in your stomach, being scared to death but knowing if you just hang on you'll get to the end. For an evolutionary leader, the excitement of the ride wins out over the comfort of staying put.

0 Adventure in action: Bob Beck, general manager-global people for Scient Corp., the consulting firm, says, "Sometimes, it's been like, 'Where are we going to get our next income from? What's our revenue going to come from?'"

Beck remembers one particular time when Scient was less than a year old and had to make a tough decision about a client's business.

"We had reached a point where we had to tell this client that we thought they were going down the wrong road. We debated with them until they finally said, 'That's what we want.' And it wasn't what we recommended.

"We then said though we'd hate to give up the revenue, we have to tell them thanks, we're walking.

"Later on we were proved right. But that was a tough decision.

"You have to find others as well who are risk takers, adventuresome."

VISION: Great leaders throughout history have had a clear vision of the future and have been able to share that with their followers. But never in business has having a visionary leader and working for a company with a mission been more meaningful to workers.

"You have to have a soul. The business has to be about something, because in a market where talent is scarce, people will choose to do something they find more rewarding," says Andy Rosenfield of "You can't compensate with pecuniary differences for the ineffable part of what matters.

"I don't think most business leaders treat the communication of the passion of the business as their most important task -- when clearly is has to be." For Rosenfield, the mission is "the democratization of education."

For many evolutionary leaders, the vision reflects their own personal motivation to change the world. At, the internal slogan is "Work hard, have fun, make history."

Vision in action: America Online's senior management team, led by Steve Case, has been together for five years and seen an amazing number of ups and downs. What holds them together and what keeps their workforce motivated is a keen sense of vision -- which starts at the top, with founder Case. From the start he had a clear and concise vision of AOL: a new medium as central to people's lives as the telephone and television.

"In today's world, to be an employer of choice you have to realize that people have lots of choices, including who they work for, and you've got to build a work environment and a company that really gets at the essential notion of what people want to do," says senior vice-president Mark Stavish. "And what they want to do is to make a contribution. And work with people they like to work with. And they want to be in an organization they believe is going to make some significant difference in people's lives."

ALTRUISM: Call it whatever you want, but the best of today's evolutionary leaders share a strong desire to make the world a better place.

Sometimes that means fostering an environment that people enjoy.

Brad Keywell came from traditional corporate America, as did many of his colleagues. He says, "I've said it a thousand times: We all came from jobs that sucked. So the challenge at Starbelly was: Let's not suck. We all understand what it's like to not enjoy what we do or where we are. The workplace is a malleable object to be created by us together."

Sometimes that means finding a way to give back to the community.

At, Tolmie started a program called "Say yes, do good." An internal website listed volunteer opportunities; employees were encouraged to take time from work on a regular basis to give back to the community.

Sometimes that means providing the world with a product or service that improves quality of life.

Altruism in action: Brian Kreiter, a Yale University graduate, was walking around New Haven, Connecticut, and was struck by the number of homeless people. He wondered to himself if there was a way to help those people by tapping the skills and interest of college kids.

What started as a casual conversation with local agencies has evolved into the National Student Partnership, a nonprofit organization that links volunteer students with needy individuals to help them get training, childcare, and jobs. NSP now has more than one thousand volunteers in fifteen cities and a staff based in Washington, D.C.

In the meantime, Kreiter, just twenty-two, has started his own venture capital fund and is CEO of one of the companies he's incubated. He's used his corporate contacts and savvy to get NSP funding from such companies as Goldman Sachs and the Fannie Mae Foundation.

"I always picture us as sort of Robin Hoods," Kreiter says. "I'm always thinking: How do we get this stuff back to the people who really need it?" Kreiter's long-term goal: "To eradicate the distinction between profit and not-for-profit enterprises."

The Evolutionary Leadership Path

The road to evolutionary leadership is not an easy one. And perhaps the biggest challenge is learning to be comfortable in this new, less structured, less formal environment -- where you personally might not be comfortable at all.

But there comes a point in your life where you need to face the fact that the rules that made you successful don't work anymore.

This is not about money. It's about the ability to examine all your beliefs about what success looks like and the willingness to throw them away. That's a hard personal choice. It's also uncomfortable. You may live in chaos for some time.

You could ride the wave -- for most businesses, including yours, there's probably enough time, and enough money left in the till, so you could get by with riding the wave. You don't have to address the mind-boggling notion of a serious business transformation and the cultural upheaval necessary to sustain it.

You did your best, after all; under your administration, it worked. The history books will remember you as the leader who generated 20 or 30 percent profit, reduced the waste, cut expenses. But deep down inside there's a little voice that says you're not really looking at the tough questions.

It's your choice. You must ask yourself: Am I just going to ride the wave and leave quietly, or am I going to make a mess before I go -- and risk losing? Because once you've made the decision to try to leave a legacy, you also risk having it not work. You risk failure.

You have a choice. You can keep your big corner office and settle for what you've got. You can jump ship to one of the exciting new dotcom companies -- many leaders disillusioned with corporate America are doing so. But you also can stay put at your "traditional" business and change the rules. In the process, you might change the world -- or at least leave it a better place.

First, take a look at how you can improve the work environment through intergenerational cooperation -- by bringing out the best of the boomers and the Gen X and Y talent.

Then five steps will take you on the path to evolutionary leadership:

1. Win the revolution by accepting the fact that you can't win every battle: Take a hard look at your workforce and make fair but tough decisions.

2. Get brutally honest with yourself and your company. Ask the unaskable questions and speak the unspeakable truths.

3. Make loud statements about your commitment to change.

4. Communicate irreverently.

5. Create an environment that recognizes and rewards heroes -- especially the unsung heroes, those breaking the rules of the past.

You want to be, in consultant Eric Marcus's words, the "digital alchemist" who turns a business that was created in the Industrial Age into a Knowledge Age success story. That may require launching a revolution. It may get messy.

A real revolution is all about:

  • Breaking rules
  • Busting models
  • Asking the toughest questions
  • Facing the unspeakable facts
  • Breaking the code of silence
  • Working against the odds
  • Tackling problems
  • Challenging assumptions

But consider the possible payoff. Ultimately, it's all about becoming and creating heroes. And if you launch a revolution, you may end up a hero.

Tough Questions for Evolutionary Leaders

The new business culture requires turning old rules and systems upside down. I have been pushing CEOs for a long time to understand this concept and to begin thinking with an evolutionary leader mind-set. Below are the types of questions every evolutionary leader must ask himself as he begins challenging the established ways of doing business in search of something better. See if these questions get you thinking like an evolutionary leader.

  • What if the rules that had made you successful were now the cause of your current problems?

  • What if employees were smart and didn't need to be told what to do?

  • What if you admitted your mistakes publicly?

  • What if the name of the game was personal fulfillment rather than power and wealth?

  • What if the biggest threat to your company's future was employee dissatisfaction?

  • What if people did their best work at home?

  • What if you gave everyone in the company a chance to make more money than the CEO?

  • What if the CEO's office was smaller than those of his employees?

  • What if your office building was destroyed by fire; would you rebuild it?

  • What if everyone had access to information?

  • What if the worst corporate sin was boredom?

  • What if failure was defined as not taking chances?

  • What if the winner in the race was the company that created the most jobs?

  • What if the key to success was working with the competition?

  • What if winning meant giving your product away?

  • What if the only way to save your company was to destroy it?

Copyright © 2001 by Nextera and Susan Annunzio

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Product Details

  • Publisher: Free Press (February 12, 2002)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780743204392

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Raves and Reviews

Ellen Knapp vice chairman, CIO, PricewaterhouseCoopers An intriguing combination of entertaining stories and an easy-to-follow structure...well researched, well written, and exceptionally well timed.

Alan Weber Fast Company Annunzio gets down to the serious work of talking about the mind flips that leaders have to make just to survive, never mind flourish, in business today...She ends each chapter with coaching tips, diagnostics, and other tools.

Doug Merritt president and CEO of Icarian, Inc. Evolutionary filled with practical recommendations and immediate insights to help make your workforce your company's most important asset.

Publishers Weekly Annunzio gives a rare and detailed treatment of the workplace relationship between generations X and Y.

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