Effective leaders must be able to demonstrate competencies in both interpersonal skills as well as a focus on results. They must have high levels of self-awareness, be able to read situations and other people well. They must also be able to use their own emotions in an intelligent way. They must be authentic and demonstrate core personal and organizational values, not just talk about them.
By Phillip Ralph
Copyright (c) 2009 Phillip Ralph
Jan, a respected leader in a bank, was considered to be a results-driven, no nonsense type of leader. She and her division always met their financial targets. In fact she was one of the few of her peer group who was able to achieve this quite remarkable feat. Everyone knew that Jan could be hard with her people, sometimes downright aggressive, but it was largely overlooked because she made her numbers. In conversations with Jan, she openly acknowledged that she knew she wasn’t well liked and that some people had problems with her style. Jan’s justification for her actions was that the Chief Executive didn’t seem to have a problem with it so why change?
Just because the CEO didn’t seem to have a problem with it didn’t mean it wasn’t a problem - there was a cost in adopting her style of leadership. Many people hated working for her and in her division. In fact, turnover was higher than any other part of the bank, with many talented people leaving altogether. It was also getting harder and harder to fill positions within the division, with many people opting to work in other areas even though those areas really didn’t make the most of their knowledge, skills and experience. Engagement scores had also just about bottomed out, indicating some serious problems in the division.
Jan was demonstrating results-driven leadership alright, but it was to the detriment of her people and in the long term, the organisation. In fact, Jan was not results-driven at all, she was numbers driven. Numbers driven leaders are often seen as results driven and good for business, however they are hardly ever good for business in the medium to long term. They effectively burn people. They fail to balance the pragmatic and necessary focus on results with the necessary second face or dimension - people. It is a cliché to say that people are an organization’s most important resource - but even this statement misses the point - people are your organization, not just a resource!
Effective leaders - or more to the point - true leaders - are able to build relationships and high performance teams in service of organizational goals, not despite them. Long term sustainable performance requires people at all levels of the organization to be engaged and focused on the job at hand. They need to feel like their opinion counts, that they have a say in how things are run, and that the organization does have their interests at heart, not just ‘hitting the numbers’. Jan is a leader - and unfortunately there are many - who just doesn’t get it. Jan operates within a command and control framework which is really a carryover from the industrial paradigm where as a society we learn to manage ‘things’ effectively (the mass-production of cars is an example). Unfortunately though, people don’t like being managed and controlled like things - they require a far more sophisticated approach at one level - and far more simple approach at another level.
People need to be able to feel the values and good intentions of those in formal positions of authority. Employees need to know (and see) leaders serving those in the organization who actually do the work - usually those closest to the customer. Senior leaders exist to make others more successful, not the other way around!
Leaders like Jan understand their role to be to get results with what they have, rather than creating additional value for the company through building meaningful relationships, creating high performing teams, and enrolling everyone in the journey. Leaders who are ‘two-faced’ (with a focus on results and people) are not warm and fuzzy with their heads in the clouds. Quite to the contrary in fact - these leaders know how to surface and manage conflict constructively. They create safety for people to talk about the real issues, no matter how uncomfortable this may be at times. In fact, effective leaders sometimes provoke the system, for example a team, to overcome inertia. The must vaunted former leader of GE for example, Jack Welch, talked about when he first arrived at GE, his new management team had an air of ‘superficial congeniality’. In other words, it was an ineffective team that thought being nice to each other was being a high performance team. To provoke the system, Jack Welch used to throw some hand grenades, metaphorically speaking of course to surface the real issues.
A member of our team did this recently with an entrepreneurial not-for-profit organization we were working with. The consultant said to the team, ‘I think you’re more interested in making money than the reason you purport to exist - helping those most in need’. Now, it needs to be said that the consultant didn’t actually believe this statement, but what do you think happened? Firstly the CEO went red in the face and launched an attack on the consultant, closely followed by four more team members. After a few minutes, one courageous (real) leader stood up and said, ‘While we may not agree in the room, the fact is that many people in our organization believe this to be true.’ This then generated a whole debate the team hadn’t had before in its history - and one that generated some very positive outcomes. A simple example was that the CEO realized that many of the ‘good news’ stories were not being told - those stories where the organization had gone beyond its charter to provide great client outcomes, at great financial cost to itself. The problem was that no-one knew about it except those in the executive suite. As a result, the team started to focus on being able to tell stories - not fictional stories, but real live examples of how and where the organization was living its mission.
So in summary, effective leaders must be able to demonstrate competencies in both interpersonal skills as well as a focus on results. They must have high levels of self-awareness, be able to read situations and other people well. They must also be able to use their own emotions in an intelligent way. They must be authentic and demonstrate core personal and organizational values, not just talk about them. Leaders like Jan must be able to build and maintain relationships with factions or groups with different interests and agendas to her own. This is the work of real leadership, and to that extent, is ‘two-faced.’
"Phillip Ralph helps organizations, teams and individuals, create breakthrough performance that will make all the difference. Leaders create the environment and context for people to fulfil the mission and goals which in turn impacts culture, employee engagement, and ultimately, organizational performance. To find out how Phillip can help you and your organization achieve success please go to:" => http://www.theleadershipsphere.com.au/overview_36.php