Leadership

Leadership is linked with independence, ie

"...to be independent of public opinion is the first formal condition of achieving anything great..."

Hegel as quoted by Martyn Newman, 2007

"...to make a decision to lead is to decide to stop being a product of your time and place and instead take responsibility for creating a distinct vision and accomplish something unique. This is what ultimately defines you as a leader..."

Martyn Newman, 2007

It is worth noting what great leaders do, ie great leaders discover what is universal and capitalize on it. Their job is to rally people towards a better future by cutting through differences of race, sex, nationality and personality, etc; using stories and celebrating heroes to tap into those very few needs we all share.

In evaluating leaders, we need to ask the following questions

- what do they stand for?

- what are their values?

- can we trust them?

- do they have charisma"

Peter Drucker, 2006

NB Charisma is defined as the ability to capture other people's attention and to communicate major assumptions and values in a vivid and clear manner so that people become followers. Be wary of too much charisma!!!!!!!!!

There is a link between leadership and organisational culture, ie

"...Leadership is intertwined with cultural formation, evolution, transformation, and destruction. Culture is created in the first instance by the action of leaders; culture is also embedded and strengthened by leaders. When culture becomes dysfunctional, leadership is needed to help the group unlearn some of its cultural assumptions and learn new assumptions. Such transformations sometimes require what amounts to conscious and deliberate destruction of cultural elements, which in turn requires the ability to surmount one's own taken-for-granted assumptions, to see what is needed to ensure the health and survival of the group, and to make things happen that enable the group to evolve toward new cultural assumptions..."

Edgar Schein, 2004

Based on this leaders need to have

- perception and insight (leaders must be able to perceive the realities; to have objective insights into themselves and the organisational culture, and its dysfunctional elements. This may include leaders admitting to not knowing the answer, to admit to not being in control, to embrace trial-and-error learning, and to become supportive of the learning efforts of others, etc)

- motivation (to intervene in one's own culture and to have extraordinary levels of motivation to go through the inevitable pain of learning and change, especially in a world with looser boundaries in which one's own loyalties become more and more difficult to define)

- emotional strength (to manage one's own and others' anxiety by creating psychological safety as learning and change become more and more a way of life; at times staff can become angry and obstructive, especially as the leader can challenge some of what the group has taken for granted; this requires taking some risk, especially when entering unknown territory)

- ability to change cultural assumptions or induce cognitive redefinition (this includes new skills in analysing, renewing and changing cultural assumptions)

- ability to create involvement and participation (this involves the willingness and ability to involve others and elicit their participation, ie ability to listen and encourage the group to look at itself and identify cultural dilemmas, etc

- resilience (ability to filter much highly complex information that is coming from varying sources - sometimes incomplete - so as to understand the important parts very quickly and to make sound decisions, especially in emergencies; not taking things personally; able to bounce back from adversity)

Remember: in changing an organisation, old habits and ways can be hard to change but need to be given up before new ones are learned; the leader plays the role of anxiety-and-risk absorber to help staff through the early stages of change; at times an established culture can serve as an important anxiety-reducing function (even if the organisation has become dysfunctional because of it); leaders need to be able to analyse the culture in sufficient detail to know which cultural assumptions can aid and which ones will hinder achieving the desired changes. Furthermore, the leader has to have the intervention skills (including communication and implementation skills); other skills include listening, absorbing and searching the environment for trends and building the organisation's capability to learn; the ability to acknowledge complexity, uncertainty and experimentation (including trial and error); develop a purpose (realising that a purpose only works once staff feel anxious and need a solution)

It has been suggested that the best leaders have an unusual characteristic called integrative thinking:

"...they have the predisposition and capacity to hold two opposing ideas at once......they're able to creatively resolve the tension between those two ideas by generating a new one that contains elements of the others, but is superior to both..."

Roger Martin, 2007

These integrative thinkers work through 4 related but distinct stages:

i) determine salience (actively seek the less obvious but potentially relevant factors that sometimes result in a messier situation)

ii) analyse causality (not afraid to question the validity of apparently obvious links or consider multi-directional and non-linear relationships)

iii) envision the decision architecture (when trying to invent a new business model, understand the relationships between the number of decision-making variables)

iv) achieving resolution (embrace holistic rather than segmented thinking that can creatively resolve tensions that are found in the decision-making process)

Followers

Followers have 4 basic needs, ie stability, compassion, trust and hope

- stability

"...I need to know the things around me are secure, they are real and they are going to last into the future and that is a critical part of what makes me feel secure in what I do..."

Barry Conchie et al as quoted by Fiona Smith, 2009e

- compassion

"...I need leaders to project the sense that they care about me, though they might not know me as a person. But, through their actions and through their words, they show some compassion for my existence and for what it is I want and need in life..."

Barry Conchie et al as quoted by Fiona Smith, 2009e

- trust

"...there has to be some honesty and openness in the face of the situation that confronts me. So, I don't trust the leader who speaks in Pollyanna language and who dresses up problems as easy to solve or pretends there are problems where there are none - because I can see through that..."

Barry Conchie et al as quoted by Fiona Smith, 2009e

- hope

"...the optimist tries to communicate to people that struggle is worthwhile, there is going to be benefit to be gained as a consequence of the hardship that we go through. That the future state we are going to create is better than the state that we are in, and that I am part of the solution rather than a passer-by watching what is going on..."

Barry Conchie et al as quoted by Fiona Smith, 2009e

It has been demonstrated that employees who strongly believe their leaders feel enthusiastic about the future, and engage considerably better in the workplace.

Middle management

According to Quey Nguyen (2001), middle management takes on 4 vital functions, ie

i) entrepreneur

ii) interpreter between management and staff/teams

iii) therapist to staff

iv) tightrope walker (maintaining the delicate balance between stability and change)

 

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