Saturday, February 5, 2011
The Gap in “Learned Leadership” - America’s biggest impediment to organizational growth
Today business leaders are struggling with a number of impediments to organization growth. These are often identified as economic conditions such as a lack of capital, cash flow, increased regulations, softening demand, price erosion or predatory competition. While economic aspects do often hinder business success, it is the unwavering commitment and cohesive spirit of the people within the organization that enables the achievement of a competitive edge despite all economic conditions. This has been proven on numerous occasions. In fact we are seeing some of the most unlikely enterprises gain market dominance in the harshest of economic conditions. This is evident in observing the unprecedented entrepreneurial growth occurring in third world countries.
Winning the collective and enthusiastic commitment of the entire organization is easier said than done. This must be accomplished by engaging team members in a way that they willingly volunteer their disposable time and discretionary effort to the enterprise on a continuing basis. This requires that business leaders overtly practice functional leadership as never before. Yet effectively modeled leadership is a rare commodity, particularly in America today. We need only look at the world of sports, politics, and global business to see that even our most revered leaders are disappointing us at every turn. They consistently display a lack of honesty, integrity and commitment, coupled with a pervasive self-interest.
It is interesting to note that organizations can sustain themselves for years or even decades even with a “gap” in leadership due to sheer momentum or market force. Unlike adverse economic conditions a leadership gap can go unrecognized and unaddressed for many years. But it is difficult to cultivate growth and nearly impossible to sustain a functional corporate culture without effective leadership. The eventual symptoms are silo building, political infighting, accelerating employee turnover, stunted upward mobility, stymied succession planning and the eventual lack of market advantage.
All of this paints a bleak picture for continued business dominance and innovation in America. But recognizing this challenge is the first step in defining a solution. Business leaders must stop focusing on just the economic or market conditions facing their organizations. They must first and foremost confront their own behavioral issues. We cannot teach, train or coach our people to bring about change if we are not modeling the necessary behaviors ourselves. Often times leaders are so involved in the day-to-day minutia of running the enterprise that they lose sight of the mirror of self-reflection. We must be deliberate in demonstrating the critical traits of leadership in everything we do. They are honesty, humility, vision, competence, inspiration, communication and being others-oriented. If we are to properly lead we must integrate these into our personal value-set in a genuine and transparent way. I don’t know about you but if I hold the mirror up-to-myself I often find that I too am lacking in one of more of these areas during daily interactions. It is not just what we SAY as leaders that win people to our way of thinking it is what we DO! Our actions define our intentions.
Is leadership an inborn trait or can it be learned? While for some this may be inborn but the good news is YES, it can be learned! With a clear assessment of our leadership competencies, an open mind toward development, proven training, coaching and applied in a practical way with our daily interactions, leaders CAN be made!
This will be a first in a series of discussions on “what makes leaders great.” Stay-tuned for more and I’d love to hear your feedback.