Issue 20: In This Issue

  • The Wizard & the Warrior
  • Level 5 Leadership

The Wizard and the Warrior - Leading with Passion & Power

By Lee Bolman & Terrence Deal 

The Wizard and the Warrior is not just a catchy title for a book, but a useful metaphor for two arenas of action that leaders must address in order to be effective.

Four Frames for Effective Leadership

In the authors’ earlier book, Reframing the Organization, they argued that managers need to get an accurate reading on situations before taking action. However, they found that managers typically rely on two lenses or ‘frames’ when they needed four. The two they use focus on structure and people - which are important and valuable but work best in a rational world populated by rational people. But no one lives in such an orderly world – at least not anymore. Today’s organizations are inherently messy and unpredictable.

According to Bolman and Deal, to succeed in this environment, leaders and managers need to utilize two other frames – political and symbolic - that view the world in terms of passion and power. But they have found through their research that this is just where managers are weakest.

Managers shy away from politics because they see its dynamics as sordid or because conflict scares them. They fear losing control and losing out. They cling to the illusion that if organizations were run right, they wouldn’t be political. But most managers have an even harder time grasping the elusive and mysterious influence of symbols. They discount culture as fuzzy and flaky and don’t see that it is there and influencing everything they do. Great leadership doesn’t happen without confronting these political and cultural issues head on.

The Metaphor

And so they use the metaphor of warrior and wizard to clearly delineate and emphasize the roles required to deal with the political and the symbolic frames. The wizard and the warrior inhabit two distinct but overlapping worlds. The warrior’s is the place of combat, of allies and antagonists, courage and cowardice - and sometimes a world of danger and destruction. The warrior’s role mobilizes strength, courage and willingness to fight as long as necessary to fulfill the mission.

The wizard, on the other hand, inhabits a realm of possibility, magic and mystery and the wizard’s role enables him or her to bring imagination, creativity, meaning and magic. The wizard’s strength lies not in arms or physical courage but in wisdom, foresight, the ability to see below and beyond appearances. The wizard brings unshakable faith that something new and better really is out there.

The tools of the wizard’s trade are values, icons, ritual, ceremony and stories that weave day-to-day details of life together in a meaningful symbolic tapestry. An enterprise without wizards is sterile and often toxic. People are out for themselves rather than bound together by a shared spirit.

The greatest leaders move in and out of both roles, even if they are more comfortable with one or the other - or they partner with someone who has a talent in a role they find hard to assume. Bolman and Deal intend the warrior and wizard images as metaphors to help you think on your feet. They maintain that these are roles that you can choose to play and can learn to play better. The book is intended to help you become more versatile and make better choices, armed with a repertoire of possibilities.

Wizards & Warriors

Bolman and Deal describe three kinds of warriors – toxic, relentless and principled – along with exemplars who highlight the costs and benefits of each stance. They then address the key attributes that warriors need to be successful – mind, heart, skill and weapons.

Similarly, they identify three wizardly roles – authentic, wannabe and harmful – and demonstrate how leaders can inspire, deflate or destroy a company. To be successful, wizards need to discover their own magic and spiritual core and then summon the collective spirit through example, values, ritual, ceremony and stories.

Resistance to the Roles

Their research over the last two decades has consistently found a paradox: most mangers rely primarily on the structural (‘analyst’) and human resource (‘caregiver’) perspectives, but the political and symbolic frames are most often associated with effective leadership. Their work suggests that a high percentage of managers are repelled or frightened by the warrior and puzzled by the wizard. As a result, they shy away from embracing the possibilities and powers embodied in these images. For those who dislike or fear combat, as is true of many who rely on the ‘caregiver’ role, recognizing the warrior within is both frightening and disturbing. For analysts who pride themselves on logic and common sense, the wizard’s mysterious ways are repellant.

To illuminate the pathways to follow and the pitfalls to avoid, they study defining moments in the lives of famous and not-so-famous leaders from different eras and places. As with any theory, seeing how it is put into practice in real world examples is critical to enable the reader to take it away and apply it on his or her own. Bolman and Deal do a great job with their examples and the reader quickly gets a solid comprehension of their theory in action.

A Relentless Warrior

For example, Bolman and Deal classify Carly Fiorina of HP as a relentless warrior and a wannabe wizard. As they review Fiorina’s actions during the HP-Compaq merger, you can readily see the strengths and limits of the relentless warrior:

  1. Their courage, persistence and determination make them formidable foes
  2. They excel when the objective is clear and they are able to advance against clearly defined adversaries
  3. Their constricted field of view, stubbornness and willingness to steamroller opponents casts them as polarizing figures

Relentless warriors wage battle with an unmistakable faith in their own worldviews and live by the mottos of ‘never retreat’ and ‘compromise only when your back is against an insurmountable wall’. They make almost as many enemies as friends, but their focus, passion and persistence often make them leaders of extraordinary impact.

A Wannabe Wizard

As a wannabe wizard, Fiorina relied too heavily on her vision and charisma and had little sense of opposing cultural forces that generated resistance and counterattacks. Wannabe wizards are susceptible to several crucial missteps:

  • Their bold new ideas go nose-to-nose with traditional values and entrenched cultural ways
  • They initiate bold new undertakings with vacuous values and cotton candy platitudes that offer little meaning or substance
  • The rely too heavily on book smarts and the fashionable ideas of the moment
  • They become caught up in their noble intentions and anticipated success only to trip over unforeseen events
  • Their intended magic proves no match for the power of opposing forces.
Misstep 1

Fiorina took advantage of every media opportunity to promote herself rather than shining the spotlight on the company’s past and future. She eclipsed the employees that were the heart of the company and soon many employees began to suspect her motives. It didn’t help that her fanfare violated a core HP value – humility.

Misstep 2

She over-promised and raised unrealistic expectations – that HP would grow 12 to 15 percent annually. She did not have the foresight of Lou Gestner at IBM who under-promised and over-delivered. Her grand plans tripped her up with the board and shareholders when the company missed its targets.

Misstep 3

Wannabe wizards also dislike criticism and bad news. Fiorina insulated herself with a group of younger acolytes with little operational experience – a group that came to be known as Carly’s Cult. As a result, Fiorina rarely got information she needed about what was really happening in the company.

Misstep 4

All the while, she rode roughshod over sacred HP cultural totems and taboos which accumulated to undercut her moral authority:

  • Publishing a new ‘Rules of the Garage” - an updated version of Hewlett and Packard’s original objectives – which employees perceived as trite market musings.
  • Flying first class when everyone else flew coach
  • Having an ad agency superimpose her image standing next to Hewlett and Packard in front of the legendary garage
  • Replacing Dockers with Armani suits as the encouraged dress code
  • Keeping a low profile around HP’s Silicon Valley offices when her predecessors had been visible and approachable.
  • … and the list goes on ….
In Summary

Bolman and Deal’s dissection of a number of well known and not so well known personae, including Enron’s Ken Lay as a wannabe wizard and Andrew Fastow as a harmful wizard, makes fascinating reading.

The Wizard and the Warrior is a metaphor that works - in theory and in practice. Bolman and Deal have done an excellent job and this book is definitely worth the time to read.

To purchase 'The Wizard and the Warrior- Leading with Passion & Power' click this link to get it from: 

Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve

"What catapults a company from good to truly great?" 

A 5 year research study turned up some unexpected answers - the first of which was the presence of a 'Level 5' leader.

Although Jim Collins specifically directed his research team to play down the role of the top executive, the empirical data won out.

They started by searching for companies that showed cumulative stock returns at or below the general stock market for 15 years, punctuated by a transition point, then cumulative returns at least three times the market over the next 15 years. At the end of their selection process, they were left with a total of just 11 companies - and this is what they discovered ....

Level 5 Leaders

These 11 companies averaged cumulative stock returns 6.9 times the general stock market for the 15 years after the point of transition. To put that in perspective, GE under Jack Welch outperformed the stock market by only 2.8:1 during his tenure from 1986 to 2000. And all 11 of these companies had an executive at the helm that combined the paradoxical mixture of personal humility and professional will - or a Level 5 leader as Collins terms them.

Compelling Modesty & Unwavering Resolve

The research team was struck by the way the Level 5 leader talked about themselves - or rather didn't talk about themselves. They would go on and on about the company and the contributions of other executives, but they would instinctively deflect discussion about their own role. In contrast, in more than two thirds of the comparison companies, they noted the presence of a gargantuan ego that contributed to the demise or continued mediocrity of the company. Besides extreme humility, Level 5 leaders also display tremendous professional will.

It is worth comparing Collins conclusions with the description of Carly Fiorina in the accompanying article (The Wizard and the Warrior) in the opposite column of this newsletter.

Collins distilled their observations into what he terms the Yin and Yang of Level 5:

Personal Humility

  • Demonstrates a compelling modesty, shunning public adulation; never boastful
  • Acts with quiet, calm determination; relies principally on inspired standards, not charisma, to motivate
  • Channels ambition into the company, not the self; sets up successors for even more greatness in the next generation
  • Looks in the mirror, not out the window to apportion responsibility for poor results, never blaming other people, external factors or bad luck

Professional Will

  • Creates superb results, a clear catalyst in the transition from good to great
  • Demonstrates an unwavering resolve to do whatever must be done to produce the best long-term results, no matter how difficult
  • Sets the standard of building an enduring great company; will settle for nothing less
  • Looks out the window, not in the mirror to apportion credit for the success of the company - to other people, external factors and good luck.
But Not By Level 5 Alone

However, Collins is also quick to point out that Level 5 Leadership, while the essential enabler, was not the only factor necessary for taking a company from good to great. His team also uncovered an additional 6 key factors:

  1. A focus on people first then strategy second; not the other way around
  2. Employees with the ability to confront the most brutal facts of their reality while still able to maintain absolute faith that they will prevail in the end
  3. Consistent and persistent attention to the process
  4. A focus on the intersection of three critical factors and the virtual elimination of everything else:
    1. What a company can be the best in the world at
    2. How its economics work best
    3. What best ignites the passions of its people
  5. Farsighted investments in carefully selected technologies directly linked to the intersection of the three critical factors
  6. A consistent display of three forms of discipline:
    1. disciplined people
    2. disciplined thought
    3. disciplined action.
Getting to Level 5

At the end of the day, Collins is still unable to answer the critical question as to whether Level 5 leaders are born or bred. However he suspects a combination of both and believes that working to develop the traits of a Level 5 leader will stand any executive in good stead.

For a more detailed look at the real life, Level 5 leaders plus more detail on the other 6 success factors, see the Harvard Business Review article from the January 2001 issue, or Jim Collins' book, "Good to Great", published by Harper Business.

To purchase 'Good to Great' click this link to get it from: