Is blue ocean leadership really ‘new’ in essence?

Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne: First, traditional leadership development programs and theories normally look at the supply side and focus on who leaders need to be. Factors they examine include values, qualities and personality traits, and also behavioral patterns or styles. Behaviors, however, are not the same as acts and activities. Behaviors are about the way someone conducts himself or herself in general. To be kind, for example, is a behavior that can manifest itself in myriad ways such as the way a person greets others, interacts, gives feedback, or even listens. It is indeed important, but it is broad and unspecified, and hence often difficult to measure and internalize because a leader is being asked to alter their basic, fundamental conduct. Blue ocean leadership by contrast does not focus on broad behaviors or ways of conduct, but instead focuses on specific acts and activities that leaders need to undertake like ‘explain the strategy clearly’ or ‘deal with underperformance.’ Moreover, whereas traditional leadership programs often treat “behavior” as a general pattern or style, blue ocean leadership focuses on acts and activities that are determined against the specific organizational performance goals and market realities of each given leadership level. Hence, the acts and activities are what we refer to as being ‘market connected.’ They are atomized items that are more precise and easier to adopt and achieve than general behavioral changes prescribed by traditional leadership approaches.

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