Sunday, February 1, 2015

Why Do We Still Have Problems Finding Good Leaders?

Leaders inspire and motivate their employees to be the best they can be where, through authentic people conversations they match their employee’s goals and future aspirations with their business needs ensuring a win-win for the whole organisation.
Matching employee’s needs with organisational needs starts at the recruitment phase, where logically you have to make sure you get the right people ‘on the bus’ in the first place. Then it’s over to the leadership to inspire and motivate their people to achieve the best results both now and into the future, while taking the employees on a journey of fulfilment.
Sure this utopian scenario assumes a level of maturity from both leaders and employees that is often sadly lacking in many organisations – but that in itself doesn’t mean it isn’t a cultural strategy that all organisations should be striving for.
We all know how a great leader should act – it’s not rocket science; and we definitely don’t need loads of fancy titled leadership models to tell us what we already know – what we do need are ‘boards, owners and stakeholders’ to demand ‘great leadership’ in their organisations at all levels and not to be scared to remove those that don’t lead effectively. With leadership comes accountability and hence by definition we must hold leaders to account.
Of course social media has given everyone a voice – but ‘we’ need to be able to see past the personal punting for work and the authentic comments on leadership. It really isn’t that complicated but us humans seem to be brilliant at making simple things complicated – often driven by the dream of extraordinary wealth and commercial success; and/or personal recognition and ‘fame’.
So if we know what makes a good leader what are the biggest problems with leadership ‘on the ground’ in today’s global economy;
1) That it’s not just about looking at operational results – but also about looking at how those results are achieved. Many command and control type leaders, who are de facto poor leaders, will argue vehemently that their results prove they are good leaders, and are often naively unaware just how demotivated their workforce actually are – and to be honest not really caring either.
These poor examples of leaders are often ‘brilliant’ at claiming their style is perfectly fine – since when they are asked to change and be more inclusive, results often drop, giving the command and control leader ammunition to argue how things are no longer working as well as they used to be.
Of course the real problem is that their staff are just totally confused with a change in style. For example, the ‘bad’ leader is often asked to start looking at delegating tasks and empowering employees more – but in a manipulative way they simply abdicate tasks to employees without any discussion and support – virtually guaranteeing that this ‘new style of leadership’ is bound to fail.
2) We mustn’t underestimate the effect of leadership ‘power’ on individuals. I’ve seen ‘normal’ employees turn into rampant narcissistic, power crazed leaders as soon as they are given their first leadership assignment. It can be quite a shock to the system and makes one wonder what made this person change – and more importantly how on earth the organisation can get the ‘old’ person back again.
Weirder still is that the individual who has just turned into this ‘narcissistic’ nightmare often isn’t even aware they are doing something wrong. These people often struggle to find their way in the organisation – as former colleagues who respected them – start to distance themselves.
Seeing ‘the gap’ – the new leader often reverts to using even more power to get his or her team around them – just alienating them even more, until there is a complete meltdown. Sadly the narcissist often survives and members of his team become scapegoats and the remaining members, fearing for their jobs, just learn to not like it but just lump it.
3) Leadership styles differ around the world and do differ significantly. These styles are often driven by cultural and historical differences; and commentators should be careful on two fronts. First is to assume that their style is ‘better’ and thus they try to impose their style when operating in foreign countries, without even trying to understand or assimilate to their host’s culture.
Second is to criticise leadership styles in other countries without having experienced the culture first hand. Two of the most basic barriers to effective leadership are arrogance and ignorance.
4) Followers must learn to speak up about poor leadership. It’s often been said that the one thing that’s common with a bad leader is that they have bad followers. That statement is a bit too glib without understanding the circumstances in which the followers are operating – but there does come a time when unfortunately the statement is true – and the ‘bad’ followers through their silence just fuel the poor behaviour of the bad leader.
We all know the attributes and behaviours of a good leader and don’t need fancy leadership titles to help us in this regard – if in doubt, just get a group of people together and ask them to write down what makes a great leader – and it’s a pretty good bet that in every instance you’ll get the key points of a good leader.
The problem seems to be that although leaders know what they should be doing, they are just bad at implementing the behaviours on a day-to-day/situation-by-situation basis. Leaders need to learn to self-reflect and hold themselves to account to the highest leadership standards – and if we can get them to do that, then we will see an immediate, positive difference in leadership and employee behaviour as well as sustainable organisational performance.

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