Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Problem with Leadership...

Ah yes, the problem with leadership. I don't think we can distill the leadership challenge we face in the UK down to '1 problem'... though it would be great if we could, as we'd then only have one problem to solve, whereas I fear we have hundreds.

From my perspective, here are a few of the main 'leadership issues' we need, as a nation and as a profession, to address:
• The lack of emotional engagement of managers and staff in the vision, purpose and values of their organisation - many (the majority of?) organisations still appear to view staff as numbers on an HR database, hired to perform tasks and moved, fired or downsized whenever profit targets dictate. Studies suggest more than 40% of ‘discretionary performance’ is withheld or latent and could be unleashed by inspiring leadership.
• Less than 20% of those in the role of 'professional leader & manager' are actually qualified in the role – data suggests that, while many are qualified to graduate level or above, very few have those qualifications in leadership & management. Boards and senior teams are well populated with accountants, marketers, HR professionals and other areas of technical expertise – but who now have a different role, as strategic leaders, tasked with defining a vision, setting direction, engaging and communicating, enthusing and inspiring….
• Short-Sighted Management by Numbers - while many talk of a ‘stakeholder model’, it is clear from behaviour that shareholders and the city significantly outrank customers, staff, suppliers and society in the minds and agendas of many boards. Remuneration based on earnings per share, annual profit targets and a reactionary media all serve to reinforce an apparent natural (and national) tendency toward short-term results at the expense of long-term strategy and the greater good
• Action, Tasks and Processes at the expense of Thinking, Reflection and Strategy – my experience of many senior leaders indicates that they value caution, predictability and task completion beyond all else – leading to organisations that disempower managers and staff, the establishment of tribal targets that conflict and compete for resources, compartmentalisation of activity and a drive for endless ‘busyness’ at the expense of reflection, emotional engagement, learning, thinking and innovation


I could go on. Probably for about a fortnight. But I will stop there.


For now.


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