Excellence in leadership is essential to the health and success of an organization. However, leadership development is often an expensive endeavour. It requires careful evaluation of what organizations seek to accomplish via leadership development investments. If the objective is to help people flourish as highly competent individuals, then the requirements for a development program would vary from one whose aim is to develop people so that they may accomplish more with and through others – genuine leadership and collaboration.
Changing leadership attitudes and expectations
As the times evolve, so do the attitudes and expectations around leadership. If we lived in ancient times when development meant territorial supremacy and hard-fought triumphs on the battlefield, we would want powerful, courageous, and intimidating warriors with the capacity to outsmart the opposition. If we lived in the industrial period, we would seek the most brilliant scientific brains. As the world became more ordered, specialized, and hierarchically structured in governments, institutions, businesses, and many other types of organizations, technical or functional ability and political savviness (skillful in tactics and power play) enabled many to rise to the top and become acknowledged as leaders. In this situation, leadership is often conducted through command and control, intimidation, and manipulation. Sadly, there are far too many instances of this leadership style, and organizations may be caught in an outdated mentality.
Instruments of authority
Where command and control still produce results, people have resigned themselves to the notion that they are fundamentally either stronger or weaker instruments of power; in some cases, they portray themselves as powerless for life, whereas in others, they believe they are untouchable and, as a result, frequently destroy their relationships. They admire or dread power for its own sake. Where do those at the top accept the culture — and why wouldn’t they if they were successful and benefited from it? — they will likely, consciously or subconsciously, further reinforce this culture via the training and development decisions they make. It does not promise well for the future in a world where optimal learning, adaptability, and receptivity are crucial success elements.
The cost to organizations, and their leadership in particular, when they are inadequately aligned with social changes is immeasurable. The modern knowledge worker is committed when they have the flexibility to be innovative and creative. They feel limited and irritated under a command and control system, resulting in unrealized potential. Furthermore, individuals in such an atmosphere often suppress vital knowledge, eventually costing the organization.
Employees who are not genuinely driven and willing to submissively and passively “sit out” their careers for a paycheck are challenging and costly to replace in the modern workplace. The longer we have command and control situations (as perceived by the average worker, since it is seldom recognized by leadership), the more disengaged individuals will grow. Progressive organizations comprehend what is expected of a contemporary leader and are swiftly gaining ground on their rivals that continue to use old command and control strategies.
The key change
Who do we consider to be excellent leaders? Who is ascending to positions of more authority and power? Who is given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to occupying leadership positions? Is it not those with a solid knowledge basis, as shown by their academic and other credentials? Not those with technical expertise and managerial experience, right?
Moreover, aren’t those who have proved the capacity to exploit their positional strength to get rapid outcomes the most effective? We think that these are the three characteristics that most people evaluate when evaluating applicants for leadership roles. Whoever meets the criteria may be excused for feeling superior to others. High intelligence, knowledge, tactical competence, and a healthy ego are potent combinations. In the budget, planning, and strategy discussions, it is nearly certain that the leadership challenge will devolve into a fight of wits and ego. Consequently, teamwork, the cornerstone to success, suffers.
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