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What Kind of Leadership Will Work in 2010?

The Work Foundation, a British think-tank, released a reaffirming report on the principles of outstanding leadership. They concluded that outstanding leaders do three things:
  1. They think and act systemically: they see things as a whole rather than compartmentalising. They connect the parts by a guiding sense of purpose.
  2. They see people as the route to performance: they are deeply people and relationship centered rather than just people-oriented. They not only like and care about people, but have come to understand at a deep level that the capability and engagement of people is how they achieve exceptional performance.
  3. They are self-confident without being arrogant: self-awareness is one of their fundamental attributes. They are highly motivated to achieve excellence and are focused on organisational outcomes, vision and purpose. But they understand they cannot create performance themselves. Rather, they are conduits to performance through their influence on others. The key tool they have to do this is not systems and processes, but themselves and the ways they interact with and impact on those around them. This sense of self is not ego-driven. It is to serve a goal, creating a combination of humility and self-confidence. This is why they watch themselves carefully and act consistently to achieve excellence through their interactions and through their embodiment of the leadership role.
While these studies are helpful in defining what leaders need to aspire to, what is not so easy is converting these values into daily practice. In another fine article in the Financial Times by Stefan Stern, he offers the conclusions of a study by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones. In Leaders Must Live Up to Their Promises, he writes, “Mr Goffee and Mr Jones concluded – after speaking to followers, i.e. lower-ranking employees rather than leaders – that the best leaders brought four things to their organisations: a sense of community, a sense that the work is significant, a sense of excitement (or fun), and authenticity (meaning that the personality and behaviour of the leader is consistent and credible).

“Not too many leaders can place a tick by all four of these requirements. Cynical or disillusioned leaders will just add that list to the pile of other leadership theories, which have urged them to become “servant leaders”, “coaches”, “player managers”, and so on. Meanwhile, the disillusionment and dissatisfaction of those who are led grows. And we do not seem much nearer to establishing a clearer idea of what sort of leadership will work in the cynical and confused world of 2010.”

He adds this closing anecdote:
During the British general election of 1959, the journalist Geoffrey Goodman spent the campaign following the deputy leader of the Labour party, Aneurin Bevan, around the country. He made a record of Bevan’s many memorable speeches. One quotation in particular stands out. Contemplating the world’s increasingly interlinked problems, and the leadership that was on offer to deal with them, Bevan summed up what he saw in these terms: “Smaller and smaller men, strutting across narrower and narrower stages.”

Timidity and smallness in our leaders is nothing new. It has to be exposed and challenged, generation after generation. Even while we secretly hope for powerful new leaders to emerge.
In another highlight from the Work Foundation study, they made this observation about the process of becoming an outstanding leader:
Becoming an outstanding leader is likely to depend a great deal on maturity, self-awareness and self-development within the job. Some of the outstanding leaders featured in the research did not originally have a people-focused approach, but realised the impact they were having on people and therefore adjusted their style accordingly. They arrived at this point through experience, maturity and reflection. They had a very sophisticated understanding of cause and effect and how their actions can dramatically affect outcomes.
I would suggest that “maturity, self-awareness and self-development” will help us to adjust our leadership to the context we now find ourselves working within.

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



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