This is section 1.3 of the materials for the online leadership programme that is under development. Be a part of the course! It is free! How? Just read and learn.
So, at last! We have made it to the “substance”. We are ready to discuss the leadership model.
But one last introductory point. The model itself is interesting. But it is far less interesting than the reasons why we need a model. Why we need metrics to assess leadership guides us to select the metrics that we develop and test over time.
So how should a leadership model look? I would answer this question in light of what leadership should produce. In other words, I see leadership in a “functional” way. It has value when it works. On the other hand, things that look nice but that have marginal or negative effects have no value. BTW, people might disagree on this point. Some might argue that leadership has innate value, beyond its effects. Well, if you want to develop that line of thought, search out those folks. I don’t buy it.
So what effects are we looking for? In my mind, leadership should produce the following (1) group focus, (2) engagement, (3) empowerment, and (4) results over time. If we get all four, we have really got an engine that works! So how do we get there? Let’s take these one at a time.
Focus - I used to hear quite often from my clients that “I am getting stung to death by a thousand bees”. It is a typical business leadership problem. Too much crisis. Too little time left to look to the future. Indeed, I have noticed over the years that some people get addicted to crisis. Apparently they need the adrenaline rush in order to act at all. From an institutional perspective, this is disaster. Institutions in crisis usually fail. Let me say that again. Institutions in crisis usually fail. So, at least with respect to leadership in the institutional setting, the trick is to avoid crisis. How?
It is all about getting the right focus. Selecting what needs to be accomplished now so that the institution can move on to the next step. A classic example is how Steve Jobs resurrected Apple Computer when he returned. He did not and could not immediately produce something like the IPad. He started with the IMax - which was an audacious step, but not one that changed Apple in itself. He changed the focus within Apple to take that step, which in turn allowed people to move from there. Great!
We can state this more generally as a normative guideline. Leadership focuses attention on the key issue, and presents the group with a path to raise standards as needed to deal with that issue. Notice how this adjusts the comfort zone (we talked about that before).
Engagement - The point has been made again and again that leadership is part of a group dynamic. It is not something that we do alone (except perhaps as we lead ourselves). So what can we say about the relationship of the leader to the group? Certainly the leader should produce more engagement by the group to act. Put another way, the leader is looking to build linkages between the group and the activity that they are doing.
How does this work? It does not work by paying them more. Getting more money is nice, but as Dan Pink notes, psychologists know that this does not enhance engagement significantly. We build engagement instead by helping the group see themselves in a new and inspiring light. By building a more nuanced sense of why the struggle is important. By giving a purpose to the group. This must come first before any plan or skills building. As Simon Sinek says, we must start our thinking from why. Then we can move to how, and then to what. We must not start from what and then move to how and then why. As Simon points out, Martin Luther King shouted out that he had a dream — not that he had a plan.
Empwerment - Can anyone doubt that leaders empower their followers? They inspire them to perform better. This is what Coach Wooden did at UCLA with his basketball team. So how do we accomplish this? It is simple. We are inspired when we feel part of a story. When we feel that what we do fits into a larger thread of events that are much more important than our individual identity. Then we will get out of ourselves and into the action. Great leaders are great story tellers.
Results - The above standards are great, but engaging and empowering a group to focus on the wrong issue leads to disaster. This is called demagoguery and it is the opposite of what we want over time. So the leader also has to propose measurable benchmarks to test whether the thread of activity is moving in the right direction. Failure to reach a benchmark is ok. But failure to set benchmarks is not. and failure to link the benchmarks to the metrics of the storyline and the focus point amounts to fraud.
There you have it. A normative model. Like a big old dead fish on the table, it sits there. A lot of information. It will start to stink unless we put it to use. but how? Well, that is the focus on the next section.
Tags: ldrshp 1