The quality of leadership, more than any other single factor, determines the success or failure of an organization.
– Fred Fiedler & Martin Chemers, “Improving Leadership Effectiveness” –
Traditional leadership development is often too narrowly concerned with top-down leadership in large organisations. Clearly, organisation leaders can have a huge impact on culture, organisation style, effectiveness and performance.
Too often, however, top down leadership disempowers the majority of people by making leadership the job of someone else, who is paid more to deliver performance improvement. Often this is compounded by leaders who mistakenly believe that to lead, they have to control, and a range of confining bureaucratic and compliance activities tend to follow that add nothing to real outcomes.
In the complex organisational world of today, hierarchical leadership needs to have a much less influential place in the range of solutions to the challenges that confront organisations. Our favourite illustration of this is in the work of Ralph Stacey, who has provided a model of today’s organisational leadership/management challenges (see below) based on assessing the level of certainty in a given situation and the level of agreement about the solution.
The changing ratios of skills that managers will typically experience through the course of a progressive career demonstrate clearly that senior people in organisations need continually to develop their leadership skills- but what about the majority?
Imagine an organisation where everyone saw themselves as leaders in one way or another. What do you see? Chaos and anarchy, or creativity, innovation and mutual accountability?
To do so successfully requires a set of skills ranging from the highly sophisticated to the merely challenging, and we work with organisations and people in a number of pragmatic ways to help them think through their particular challenges and navigate to appropriate solutions.