Leadership in a changing world

Leadership and the quality of leadership
Leadership does not just refer to the person or persons at the top of the organisation.
Leadership is much broader and more widespread, and it is multi-dimensional.
The quality of leadership demonstrates itself in different ways:

  •  At the individual level through the behaviour of every individual leader;
  •  At the team level through the successfulness of management teams;
  •  At the organisational level by the leadership culture and the core values of the organisation.

Professional leaders
Leaders are not just the people with a formal leader's role.
Also leading professionals (for instance leaders in sales, account development, organisational change, program- and project management, leading consultants, etc.) have a strong influence in shaping the leadership culture. This happens in a natural way when leaders personally set the standard, being followed by the people around them, by setting the living example and by the way in which they inspire people, both inside and outside the organisation. These leaders create the professional image of the organisation in its markets.

Good leadership
Recent developments that have led to a global economic crisis have caused a lot of doubt about the honesty and integrity of leaders and suspiciousness about what drives them, their greed or their passion for the good of the organisation and the society. Only when their cause is sound, we should call them true leaders. Besides leaders should:

  •  inspire the people in the organization.
  •  ensure that the organization is sensitive to its surroundings, adaptive and cohesive.
  •  ensure that those concerned have a strong feeling of identity, an identity they are proud of.
  •  ensure that the organization is tolerant: there is room for variety, expressiveness, creativity and entrepreneurship.
  •  create preconditions for effective communication within the organisation and ensure that the 'language spoken within the organization' is consistent and coherent.
  •  develop and implement clear criteria for identifying, assessing, deploying, developing and supporting talent. 

But also this: leaders are human, also good leaders make mistakes and can judge wrongly, but they are eager to learn from mistakes and appreciate the help from their colleagues and subordinates.

Management focus versus Strategy focus
Leaders have to manage, i.e. control the organisational processes. Management is an integral part of leadership.

In his publication about Strategic Management*)
Ralph Stacey makes a difference between Ordinary Management and Extraordinary Management. With Ordinary Management he means the management focus on the ongoing production and delivery process,  and with Extraordinary Management he means the Strategy cycle of adopting the changing environment and reshape the enterprise.
One of the effects of the revolutionary impact of the internet society is that the frequency of the strategy cycle has increased from once every 5 year 20 years ago, until a continuous occurrence in today’s evolving developments.

*) Ralph D Stacey, Strategic Management & Organisational Dynamics, Financial Times Management 1993, 1996,  ISBN: 0 273 61375 8

Brains versus Heart, Rational versus Emotional
In their struggle to survive, organisations and their managers have become more result focused.
The pursue, to measure and quantify progress and results creates a tendency to accentuate the measurable, material part, while short term considerations tend to overshadow the immaterial, visionary, emotional and long term topics of leadership.
Leaders have become more rational and ‘brains tend to dominate the heart’
Many executive training programs try to emphasize the need for the brains-heart balance, while stressing for more reflection about the leader’s role, his interaction with the people around him, and his anticipation on the organisational change in its rapidly developing environment.
The good thing about such training programs is that they take the individual apart, separated from the hectic of the operations and by that create an environment that promotes reflection, but the bad thing is that when the training program is over, the leader gets immersed again in the stir of the day-to-day’s business and many times forget about the lessons (to be) learned.


Leadership in a world of disruption
In her recently published book A Different Kind of Leader, Accelerating Progress in a World of Disruption, Janet Poot summarizes the dynamic changes, organisations see themselves confronted with:

  • The changing landscape of talent;
  • The speed of things in an interconnected world;
  • The new world of work;
  • Geopolitical developments and changes in society.

For sure, organisations face quite a lot of new challenges. 
But also, we need to reinvent both the organisation and leadership!
Many of the trusted paradigms, about the context organisations operate in, will hardly cope with handling the current situation, let alone that they give answers about the future strategies to adopt.

Three dimensions of Leadership
LDpe focuses on three dimensions of leadership: the individual, the team and the organisation.

The first dimension of Leadership: the individual
In an interconnected world, a new world of work and a changing landscape of talent, Personal Leadership lies at the root of all development.
Self-employed professionals already dominate the scene in many market niches, these individual perform services without entering into employment contract. And even in the case where a professional chooses to be the payroll of an organisation, he/she sees it as a temporary career step. Life-long employment is something of the past.

The Leadership Development Toolbox has been developed, not from the perspective of the organisation's HR-discipline, nor from the scope of the psychologist.
From the early set-up we have developed the LDT from the perspective of the individual himself, serving him in his self-development.
We frequently have witnessed the evidence that we help him to speed up his personal (career-)development and grow a broader and more effective portfolio of potential styles and roles, making him aware of his behavioural qualities and pitfalls, showing him the value of systematic feedback, while proposing to him the nearest enriching development scenarios.

For the second dimension, the Team dimension, LDpe has developed the Team Effectiveness Program and created a number of tools for ensuring the right composition.
Probably the Team dimension is today more than ever of the most strategic value, since the importance of teams in innovation and change cannot be underestimated.
And since the managers of the organisation, because of their focus on 'ordinary management', seem to have difficulties in organising innovation and change, we need to mobilise the creativity of the organisation's non-managers, in order to discover the opportunities for innovation and change. For that, LDpe helps organisations to set up the right and powerful combinations of participants in Natural Working Teams.
See our chapter Innovation & Change.

The third dimension, the 'organisation', must thoroughly be reinvented, since most of us, up to now, have considered organisations as entities with external boundaries.
We talked about 'inside' or 'outside' the organisation, we talked about employees as the (legitimated) staff. Engaged 'external' contractors did not 'belong'.
Today more and more of an organisation's functions are run by third parties and more and more of the employed people do not have an employee contract.
Today's organisations are networked entities.
We desperately need to rethink the concept 'organisation'!

The organisation's control models are generally inadequate
The word ‘organisation’ as a synonym of company/enterprise, or institution, has become
 ingrained in our normal spoken language. An organisation is a coherent complex of missions and targets, functions, relations, processes, rules, etc, etc.

The British/American scientist/economist Kenneth Boulding (1910-1993) published in 1956 his systems-hiërarchy model:
1.The framework
2.The clockwork
3.The control system 
4.The cell
5.The plant
6.The animal
7.The human being
8.The social system
9.The transcendental

We generally try to govern organisations with level 2 or level 3 models (see above 'Ordinary and Extraordinary Management). Yet it are Human Beings (level 7) in a Social System (level 8) that have to deliver the results.
The changing conditions in our disruptive world stimulate individuals to reflect about their own interests and their objectives in life.
Financial incentives from the organisation (salary/fee) do not suffice.

It is important that leaders reflect about people's perceptions and motivations, how the individuals experience their working environment and co-operation context. Most of all, leaders should recognise the limitations of the organisation's control models.