Leading Blog


The Accountable Leader

Brian Dive tells us in The Accountable Leader that many organizations have difficulty developing leaders and fostering effective leadership because they have never considered the context they must lead in. The organization must be structured, Dive contends, so that all leadership roles from top to bottom have well-defined decision rights. In other words, accountability needs to be structured into the very fiber of the organizational architecture at all levels. Accountability, organizational design and leadership are three inextricably linked factors.
An organization is in flow, or in a state of equilibrium, when the required number of management layers (vertical architecture) matches the effective reach (or span of control) over the relevant resources that the organization needs in order to achieve its purpose.
After briefly explaining the problem and the key concepts used in correcting it, he begins to present practical application of his ideas for creating accountability within an organization.

The Accountable Leader
He addresses questions such as: How many layers of management are necessary? How do leadership requirements change at different levels? How can potential leaders be identified? How can they be developed? How should people be rewarded?

Beyond the useful correctives to organization architecture and accountability, Dive also makes an important distinction between Managerial leadership (operational in nature) and Strategic leadership (changing the organization) for leadership development. Each requires different abilities and approaches in decision-making style and accountability. “Operational accountability is ensuring that existing assets and resources continue to perform better. The resources are given. Problem-solving remains related to actual events, rather than the abstract.” With Strategic accountability “problem-solving moves into the abstract domain. Solutions have to be found that require mental modeling, as they do not yet physically exist.”

On leadership development, Dive writes that “many organizations still confuse values, skills and competencies” and “it is one of the main reasons why so many leadership development programs fail.” Here are several thoughts in this regard:
Although values and skills, especially technical skills, play an important role in who should work in an organization, they are not reliable guides for assessment of potential and who should be promoted.

Values are badges of belonging. They should end the message: “If you do not share our values, you cannot be a member of our family.” But you do not promote people for demonstrating the organizational values. The person at the front line should have as much integrity as the CEO, otherwise neither should be in the organization.

Skills influence performance. They should not be confused with the concept of potential to lead at the next level of accountability. Technical and professional skills increasingly give way to the importance of general skills. The best math teacher in a school is not necessarily the best candidate for the role of school principle.

But performance is about current leadership. Potential is about future leadership. This is a key distinction. The higher the progression into the upper reaches of an organization, the less relevant professional skills and performance become as predictors of future performance.

It is critical that the behaviors are linked to accountabilities. This is because different levels call for different qualities of decisions. It is important to identify the appropriate behaviors that align these. These aligned behaviors are called competencies in this context. They indicate who has potential to move to a higher level and perform successfully. This is the basis of true leadership development.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:01 AM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Leadership Development , Management , Teamwork



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