Changes in the structure and strategy of American for a new kind of leader-a leader who commands

industry have created the need a completely new range of skills.

Corporate Leadership Skills: A New Synthesis Richard



E. Byrd

n taking the initiative to accomplish a goal or organization mission -a behavior we casually call ‘leadership”- managers often must exceed the bounds of their given authority. The reasons for that are simple. First, organization design is never perfect or complete. Written policies and procedures never cover al! that must be done. In fact, if they were followed to the letter, such policies and procedures often would prevent an organization from accomplishing its mission. For example, British postal workers in the 1970s shut the postal service down simply by following policies and procedures precisely. They did not need to go on strike to have that effect. Then, too, those who make up organization charts don’t spend much time analyzing the gaps between parts, functions, or divisions of.any organization. When there are no rules, someone has to take the initiative to bridge those boundaries. Also, organizations are run by people, who are not interchangeable parts. Each is unique, and the 0 1987 by The Richard

combination calls for a manager who does more than exercise a role. But we know these things. Why, then, is there a new fascination with that oldfashioned word ‘leadership”? Because some of the changes that occurred during the 1970s and 1980s have created increasingly greater uncertainty and risk, along with more unknowns, more threats, and more opportunities-many of which remain to be identified. The litany of changes that follows is not a new list but a reminder of the pressing needs that are driving us once again to examine the essence of corporate leadership. In this decade, the United States has seen: Dramatic and sometimes unpredictable competition among world suppliers in markets the United States had taken for granted. These new suppliers are located not only in Western nations but also in Third World countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, and China. They are driving the United States into the postindustrial age. l

E. Byrd


l Deregulation, begun under President Nixon and continued under Presidents Carter and Reagan, of basic industries such as communications, fiance, and transportation, which has resulted in a restructuring of American business and industry. l Continuation of the technological race, with “Japan Inc.” gaining the edge in growth markets that U.S. companies had considered their own. l The information explosion which, while not always living up to the worst predictions, is most certainly shaping our thinking and working patterns. . Transformation of a manufacturingbased economy to a service-based economy. l An increasingly heterogeneous workforce composed of more women and members of minority groups as well as more people of different generations, resulting in new conflicts and challenges for U.S. management. l Shrinkage of the independent sector of the economy, which has served human needs in the United States as in no other country in the world. Increasingly, Americans value themselves more for what they receive (dollars) than for what they can give (service). l The rise of a new hero- the entrepreneur - who presumably is bringing competitiveness, excitement, and inventiveness to a sterile marketplace. l Aggressive efforts by business and industry to find better ways to gain marketshare and profit margins.


Because of these changes, old categories of management skills are under attack. These old categories -planning, controlling, leading, organizing, motivating-were geared toward people with a charter, a budget, a market, a number of direct reporting relationships, and clear organization boundaries

such as departments, divisions, and companies. We called such organizations closed systems. Managerial relationships in closed systems were constructed on the assumption that the organizational structure could be clearly defined. In this context, the worldof scientific management was born. tadership was simply the grease that managers used to keep it all working. Today’s manager, however, manages in open systems, taking on ad hoc and lateral responsibilities that are not listed on any organization chart. Nevertheless, those responsibilities are often as important as the manager’s functional responsibilities. New challenges may include dealing with a variety of stakeholders - employees, stockholders, government officials, vendors, community members, and customers. At every level of management, complexities abound and opportunities emerge that are not part of a manager’s frame of reference. Thus we need a new frame of reference-a set of words that describes the new skills needed to deal with the new management realities. This new frame of reference is needed not only by chief executive officers; it is needed by managers at every level of the organization. The word being used to describe the application of the new skills needed is the old-fashioned term ‘leadership. n In the search for the new words, we must recognize that corporate leaders come in many styles and have diverse characteristics. In the past, many theorists have indicated that leadership style depends on the complexity of the task, the maturity of the group, the relationship of the leader to the group, and the expertise of the leader. Others have sought to understand leadership styles through classification. At one time, concepts such as democracy, autocracy, and laissez faire were popular in describing leadership styles. These terms seem rather simplistic now, but at that


time they were new. Later characterizations included Robert Blake and Jane Mouton’s leadership styles, which classified managers by their “people orientation”versus their “task In 1967, Douglas MacGregor orientation.” introduced us to “X” and “Y” managers. Then, David McClelland identified achievement-oriented, power-oriented, and affiliation-oriented leaders. Rensis Likert described the ideal leader/manager as a “System 4” manager. Michael Maccoby used terms such as “craftsman ” “jungle fighter, ” “the company man” and “the gamesman.” Some attempts were even made at resolving the conflict between situational-management theory and the ‘best style” postulations. Some theorists, like Joe Batten, fought the process, or style, orientation, claiming that results were all that counted. Most of the frames of reference created during the 1960s and 1970s now seem narrow, directed toward internal organization needs and, often, concerned with skills required for what Noel Tichy calls “transactional leadership.” The new corporate leader, or “transformational” corporate leader, operates in an open-ended, more “intrapreneurial” world. The prophet for this type of leader was James Bums. His book, Leadenhip (Harper & Row, 1978), has become the touchstone for our decade. Tellingly, the book is not about being a manager, but about being a leader in several walks of life. To Bums, the transformational leader is not necessarily a manager of anything; the skills necessary for the manager leader are necessary for the nonmanager leader as well. The point here is not to diminish the role of manager in any way, but to demonstrate that the tasks management has traditionally been called upon to accomplish are being accomplished today by different methods and new skills. Consequently, we must give up ‘the old words and address the

needs of the 1980s with a new, more encompassing frame of reference that, in the words of Harold Leavitt, focuses on “pathfinding” as well as “pathminding.” Creating this new framework will allow us to bring together the key ideas of major investigators and corporate leaders and demonstrate their underlying commonality. The new framework that is proposed here consists of five key categories of leadership skills that encompass the range of leadership needs and synthesize the basic concepts in the literature and the writer’s experience. These categories include (1) anticipatory skills, (2) visioning skills, (3) value-congruence skills, (4) empowerment skills, and (5) self-understanding skills. As for whether leaders are made or born, we cannot but assume that leaders can be made. To assume otherwise sends us on a needle-in-the-haystack search for corporate leaders or simply leads us to hope that fate will provide whatever leaders are needed. Anticipatory


Foresight is fundamental to leadership. An effective leader intuitively and systematically scans the environment for potential areas of exposure to new historical risks. To develop anticipatory skills, a manager must accept that the world is constantly changing. A strategic thinker, who obviously anticipates, focuses on the three components of business identified by Craig Hickman and Michael Silva: servicing customers (internal and external) in new ways, finding new advantages over competitors, and exploiting new company strengths. Leaders who have anticipatory skills also focus attention on the people surrounding them. Networking with one’s own constituents and throughout the various constituencies in an organization is important for sensing future trends and building coalitions.

RICHARD E. BYRD concluded early in his career that people are professionally shaped by their work and work relationships. He has therefore spent his dual vocation as applied behavioral scientist and clergyman helping to create truly human organizations and institutions where people individually and corporately realize their positive potential. Today he works mostly as counsel and team builder for senior management. He also assists in reshaping organization values, in addressing the human aspects of successful mergers and acquisitions, and in creating participative strategic-planning methodologies. in more than 50 books, journal articles, audiotapes, and videotapes, Byrd has contributed to team building (“Shared Management: An Innovation, ” The Small Group in Political Science, University of Georgia Press, 1978). organization life cycles f’ils the Twig Is Bent, So Grows the Tree,” Personnel, March-April 7982). personal and organization risk taking (A Guide to Personal Risk Taking, AMACOM. 2974). managing change (Managing Risk in Changing Times, AT&T: 2982). and effective consulting (“Between Boss and Team, ” The OD Practitioner, February 1976). During his 20 years in private practice, he has consulted with more than 100 firms in such diverse fields as medicine, law, high technology, financial seruices, manufacturing, media, the arts, religion, and government. Byrd holds memberships in the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Sciences, the Society for Industrial and Organization Psychology, as well as the Minnesota and the District of Columbia Psychological Associations. He was a founding member of the Association for Creative Change. He is a licensed clergyman of the Episcopal Church and was awarded a Ph.D. degree in education by New York University.

In CEO Corporate Leadership in Action (Basic Books, Inc., 1984), Harry Levinson and Stuart Rosenthal state that “each leader made an effort to create an understanding of his platform, to obtain commitment rather than compliance. . . necessary to be able to sell his particular goals and aspirations as well as his immediate decisions.” The same holds true when events turn sour: A leader must anticipate disappointment and defeat and help people cope with them by sharing skills, competencies, expertise, and sophistication. Of all the purposes for anticipatory skills, the most maligned is its political purpose. However, a leader must have political skill to cope with the conflicting requirements of multiple constituencies. Corporate leaders also must consciously manage the political, consensus-building processnecessary to convert broad vision into an effective new strategy. Being in touch with the potential future entails being ready to take advantage of whatt /er opportunities may open up. The anticipatory mode and its required skills are perhaps best summed up by Robert Greenleaf in Servant Leadership (Paulist Press, 1977): “The leader needs two intellectual abilities that are usually not formally assessed in an academic way: He needs to have a sensefor the unknowable and to be able to foresee the unforeseeable. Leaders know some things and foresee some things which those they are presuming to lead do not know or foresee so clearly.” Anticipatory skills, then, entail projecting consequences,risks, and trade-offs (having foresight); actively seeking to be informed and to inform (scanning/communicating); and proactively establishing work relationships (building trust and influence). Some skill examples include encouraging staff to ask for the rationale behind actions, instructions, or requests; keeping staff up to date on situations in other functions that affect them; and educating key people about


ideas so that proposals have a better chance of being considered or understood. Visioning


As John Gardner stated in Excellence: Revised Edition (W.W. Norton, 1984), “Leadership is the process of persuasion and example by which an individual or leadership team induces a group to take action that is in accord with the leader’s purposes or, most likely, the shared purposes of all.“ I call this having a vision. Moreover, through this vision people in the organization grasp their unit’s relationship to larger realities. Effective leaders, then, have a vision that is persistent and consistent. People want to be in organizations that have a vision of larger realities. Visions clearly are in demand during times of change. When truly shared, they foster environments conducive to coalitions and teams working to reach those visions. However, commitment to a vision occurs only when people are actively involved in shaping it. Most likely, we can learn the most about visioning skills from athletes, poets, musicians, architects, and others whose dayto-day activities demand a vision of what they need to accomplish. They have often discovered what Charles Garfield, a computer scientist, discovered when he worked with NASA’s Apollo program: I saw men and women of average capabilities tapping resources of personal energy and creativity that resulted in extraordinary accomplishments. I saw their excitement and pride come alive, affecting everyone around them, building their imaginations with the possibilities that arose from what they were trying to accomplish. One thing became very clear to me. It is not the goal but the ultimate mission that kindles the imagination, motivating us toward higher levels of achievement.


The skills associated with visioning entail creating mental and verbal pictures of

desirable future states, persisting and persevering, and sharing and creating a new reality with others. Some skill examples include providing staff members with a clear and definite picture of as much of the future of the function as is known; using examples or analogies to illustrate the projected future of the organization to staff; and refusing to give up one’s view of the future, even in the face of great adversity. Value-Congruence


The new literature on corporate leadership is filled with commentaries on values, such as trust and respect for the individual, openness, teamwork, integrity, and commitment to quality. These commentaries discuss the importance of values and beliefs in guiding, motivating, and giving meaning to people who spend much of their life “at work.” Values are basic assumptions and beliefs about the nature of the business, mission, people, and relationships of an organization. They indicate desirable or preferred endstates, collective goals, or explicit purposes. They become standards by which choices are made. Values are often internalized so deeply that they define personality and behavior as well as consciously and unconsciously held attitudes within an organization. Hence organization members often follow the dictates of those values in the absence of incentives, sanctions, or even witnesses. Thus organization values are extremely important in directing choices made by organization members. Corporate leaders must be in touch with their employees’ psychological, economic, safety, spiritual, sexual, aesthetic, and physical needs. In this way, they can engage employees on the basis of shared motives, values, and goals. Perry Pascarella

points out the importance of shared values (as opposed to something decreed by the few) as being representative of companies noted for their strong cultures. When corporate leaders have established strong values within an organization, those values serve several functions: (I) They are guides for dealing with the uncertainty of intrinsically uncontrollable or difficult events; (2) they are standards by which choices can be made; (3) they provide the opportunity for the leader, in the words of Michael Maccoby, “to assert authority on issues of principle”; (4) they offer a vision that organization members can find meaningful and identify with; (5) they unify human resources management policies; (6) they bring employees together in pursuit of a mission; and (7) they help employees “overcome inertia.” The biggest pitfall for a corporate leader is that he or she will be inconsistent in applying values. The credibility gap that may result can lead to accusations of hypocrisy, cynicism, and malaise on the part of employees. Moreover, employees may end up

taking nothing management says at face value. Therefore, espoused values must be congruent with the shared underlying assumptions about the identity and core mission of the organization. Corporate leaders must also live up to the values they claim to hold -all the time, not just when it is expedient. The true test of values is the willingness of leaders to apply the principles or standards to themselves as well as to others. Managers must realize that people in authority are always in the spotlight: Their actions are always distorted, and caricatures are quickly telegraphed and carefully dissected in the search for hidden meanings and purposes that often are not there. These interpretations may become part of what employees consider the real values of the company. In the final analysis, guiding beliefs or values must be translated into daily behaviors. Consequently, a leader’s attempt to enforce values that are incongruous with other strongly held societal values may flounder. One final caveat regarding the creation

“The biggesf pitfall for a covporafe leader is that he or she will be inconsisfenf in applying values. The credibility gap fhaf may result can lead fo accusafions of hyprocrisy, cynicism, and malaise on the par-f of employees. Moreover, employeesmay end up faking nothing managemenf says af face value.” 39

of strong cultures with consistently held values is as follows: Times change, business environments evolve, and the need to respond creatively and with flexibility may not be part of an organization’s values. If an organization resists change, the result may well be its own destruction. Value-congruence skills entail knowing and understanding the organization’s guiding beliefs, being willing to act consistently as a person of principle, and having and using the ability to teach others the organization’s values. Some skill examples include using the organization’s guiding beliefs as a basis for day-to-day decision making, spending significant amounts of time communicating the values of the organization to others, and challenging colleagues or those in senior positions when inconsistencies in values arise. Empowerment


The fourth group of skills is associated with the concept of empowerment, a word that


can be threatening to managers. The concept certainly implies that power must be shared, but it does not require that a manager give away a finite portion of his or her power. Rather, it means that a manager should allow employees to share the satisfaction derived from achievement. It involves developing lower levels of leadership by pushing the power to take the initiative downward and outward throughout the organization. Transformational leaders believe in people. They are not dictators. They are powerful people, yet they are sensitive to other people and ultimately work toward the empowerment of others. They call forth rather than control. Maccoby sees the “new” breed of corporate leaders as being participative: “They don’t try to control everyone. They involve subordinates in planning and evaluation of work, spending time in meetings, so that the whole team shares an understanding of goals, values, priorities and strategies. They spend more time up-front developing consensus.”

“Leaders don’t invent mofivation in ofhers; they unlock it. They tap those motives in ofhers fhaf serve the purposes of the group in fhe pursuit of shared goals. Some researchers , . , suggest that corporate leaders are empowered by their constituents , , , by how much each employee elects to do a beffer or worse job.”

Although some popular notions depict great leaders as being obsessive, decisive, macho manipulators, it is clear that leaders discover time after time that releasing power to others benefits them in the long run. The more they can empower, the more they can achieve, and the more successful the whole enterprise becomes. Leaders don’t invent motivation in others; they unlock it. They tap those motives in others that serve the purposes of the group in the pursuit of shared goals. Some researchers go so far as to suggest that corporate leaders are empowered by their constituents-perhaps not by a formal poll, but by how much each employee elects to do a better or worse job. The skills associated with empowerment entail being willing to share power; taking delight in others’ development more than in having control; and realizing that visions are achieved by teams, not by single leaders. Some skill examples include treating disagreements as opportunities for discussion rather than as threats or wastes of time, involving staff as much as possible in making presentations, and regularly talking with staff about their career development goals. Self-Understanding


The fifth leadership skill area includes introspective skills as well as frameworks with which a leader understands both him or herself and employees. For a leader, selfunderstanding is critical. Without it, leaders may do more harm than good. In his study of 90 corporate leaders, Warren Bennis found the leaders able to recognize strengths and compensate for weaknesses. They were eager to get feedback on their performance. In fact, Bennis’s fourth major mark of leaders was ‘knowing one’s skills and deploying them effectively.” Ben-

nis’s leaders knew themselves and seemed responsible for their own evolution. Before taking a job, they typically would ensure that they could build a staff that would compensate for weaknesses they perceived in themselves. They could thusdiscem the gaps between their skills and the jobs requirements. The theme of knowledge and weakness showed up in Charles Garfield’s study of peak performers. As he stated in Peak Performers (William Morrow & Co., Inc., 1986): “In the same bottom-line sense that he or she understands know thy capital resources’ and know thy organizational objective as pragmatic priorities,’ the peak performer accurately assesses personal strengths. Peak performers inventory themselves, What am I really good at?’ What are my strengths?“’ Just as in Bennis’s case interviews, Noel Tichy’s study of transformational leaders showed they have an amazing appetite for continuous self-learning and development. To better understand themselves, then, leaders need a frame of reference with which to understand their needs, drives, and judgment. Various conceptual models-such as the economic man, the social man, the selfactualizing man, and the psychological man-have been suggested. Each framework presents notions about what makes people tick and each, in its own way, provides leaders who subscribe to that framework with a way to examine themselves. One’s leadership model may assume that people are motivated by reward and punishment, by the need to become, by the need to belong, or by some other motive. Whatever the framework, the leader will use it to evoke the motivation of others. In their book In Search of Excellence (Harper & Row, 1982) Tom Peters and Robert Waterman explain with great insight the effect of differing assumptions about the nature of human beings in the workplace. They fault


the rationalistic model created by Frederick Taylor for having no respect for irrationality, spirituality, and energy. Of course, leaders needs to use a variety of tools to recognize their strengths and weaknesses. Some of these exercises include reading books such as Zacoccu (Bantam, 1984), Yeager (Bantam, 1985), Alfred Sloan (Doubleday, 19631,or Peter Drucker’s Managing in Turbulent Times (Harper & Row, 1980). There are also self-evaluation indices developed by various management authors. Self-understanding skills entail being willing to search for personal identity and growth, appreciating that personal ego strength is a requirement for leading, being open to feedback and other performance data, and having a frame of reference by which to understand and arouse motivation. Some skill examples include knowing when one is overreacting to authority figures, showing awarenessof the effect one has on others, and acknowledging one’s own shortcomings.



The work of many investigators suggestsfive significant skill areas for leaders in uncertain times. These are anticipating, visioning, value-congruence, empowering and selfunderstanding skills. However, one fundamental question remains: Can these skills be taught7 On the one hand, Peter Drucker says: “There is no substitute for leadership. But management cannot create leaders. It can only create the conditions under which potential leadership qualities become effective, or it can stifle potential leadership.” Even more to the point, he says, “But leadership cannot be created or promoted. It cannot be taught or learned.”

On the other hand, one of the great leadership developers of the last three decades, the now deceased Gordon Lippett, said: ‘The needs, attributes, and competenties of leaders are complex, but identifiable. They may differ in degree, but not in the essenceof their manifestations. Leaders are indeed made, not born. The vital issue is how we can make better and more effective leaders, to help individuals, groups and organizations to mature and renew.” Given the world race for successand our need for leadership at every level of society, I believe that we have no option but to use Lippitt’s hypothesis. We must develop leadership skills in American corporations and at the sametime work to create the conditions in which leadership potential can emerge.



The seriousreaderin the field of leadershipmight begin by reviewing the selectedbibliography accompanyingthe article “Respondingto Contingent LeadershipBehavior” by Harvey A. Homstein, Madeline E. Heilman, Edward Mone, and Ross Tartell (Organizational Dynamics, Spring 1987). Their review is excellentfor contingencymodelsas well as for other perspectiveson leadership. For the classicson leadershiptheory and researchthat cuts a wider swath than corporate leadership, The Social Psychology of Organizations by DanielKatz and RobertKahn (JohnWiley & Sons,1978) should be read. I also recommend John Gardner’sseriesof “LeadershipPapers”being publishedby the IndependentSector in Washington, D.C. aswell asRobert Greenleaf’svery special Seruant Leadership (Paulist Press, 1977). Two

other excellent foundation books are James McGregor Bums’s Leadenhip (Harper & Row, 1978) and Bernard Bass’ latest edition of Stogdill’s Handbook of Leadership: A Survey of Theory and Research (The Free Press, 1981). Most of the research on which this paper is based comes from cutting-edge books on culture, change, and transformational concepts. I have avoided journal articles only because they tend to be even more cutting-edge than I wanted to be in this article. The authors have different aspects on which they focus in the area that I have called anticipatory skills. Noel Tichy, in Managing Strategic Change (John Wiley & Sons, 1983). and Harry Levinson and Stuart Rosenthal, in CEO Corporate Leadership in Action (Basic Books, 1984), are particularly interested in political skills (not snake oil). In contrast, Edgar Schein, in Organizational Culture and Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 1985). and Craig Hickman and Michael Silva, in Creating Excellence (NAL Books, 1984), focus more on traits such as foresightedness. Richard E. Byrd, in A Guide to Personal Risk Taking (AMACOM, 1974), suggests scanning and assessing for new historical risks. John Gardner, in The Nature of Leadership (The Independent Sector, 1986), and Rosabeth Moss Kanter, in The Change Masters (Simon & Schuster, 1983), advance the need for leaders to grasp the big picture. James OToole, in Vanguard Management (Doubleday, 1985), David Berlew, in “Leadership and Organizational Excitement” (The Leader Manager, Wilson Learning Corporation, 1984), and Richard Leider, in The Power of Purpose (Ballantine, 1985), admire persistence and consistent behavior. The idea that management’s primary job is to shape values is addressed in Michael Beer’s Managing Human Assets (The Free Press, 1984), Richard Pascale and Anthony Athos’s The Art of Japanese Management (Simon & Schuster, 1981), Perry Pascarella’s The New Achieven (The Free Press, 1984), and Michael Maccoby’s The Leader (Simon & Schuster, 1981). Maccoby also sees values as a way by which leaders can “assert authority on issues of principle.” Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman’s In Search of Excellence (Harper

&Row, 1982) and Harold Leavitt’s Corporate Pathfinders (Dow-Jones-Irwin, 1986) warn us that the day-to-day work beliefs of top managers who are “in the spotlight” are perceived as being the real company values. The issue of releasing p.ower versus sharing it is promoted strongly by Noel Tichy and Mary Ann Devanna in The Transformational Leader (John Wiley & Sons, 1986), by Charles Garfield in Peak Performers (William Morrow & Co., 1986), by Michael Maccoby in The Gamesman (Simon & Schuster, 1976), by Richard Pascale and Anthony Athos in The Art of japanese Management, and by Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus in Leaden (Harper & Row, 1985). As Robert Tannenbaum notes, managers often worry about sharing power rather than increasing the size of the pie. In Warren Bennis’s “Four Traits of Leadership” (The Leader Manager, Wilson Learning Corporation, 1984). “self-knowledge is the fourth mark of a leader.” Noel Tichy and Mary Ann Devanna in The Transformational Leader talk of “continuous learning.” Harry Levinson, in The Great Jackass Fallacy (Harvard University, 1973), talks about the leader as being a person who is always reaching “to achieve his or her own ego ideal. n Finally, I think the reader should understand that these concepts are not without roots, at least in our culture and in our current successful leaders. Warren Bennis’s “Four Traits of Leadership,” Noel Tichy and Mary Ann Devanna’s The Transformational Leader, Perry Pascarella’s The New Achievers, James OToole’s Vanguard Management, and Michael Maccoby’s The Gamesman and The Leader are all empirical studies. Their findings are not dissimilar. Only time will truly tell if we are all drinking our own bath water. For now, the best brains seem to be saying, ‘Time has made ancient good uncouth.” Ij you wish to make photocopies or obtain reprints ofthis orotheraticks in ORGANIZATIONAL DYNAMICS please refer to the special reprint service 43

Corporate Leadership Skills: A New Synthesis

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