As businesses overcome the travails of the current economic downturn and as the world we work in becomes more complex and quicker, there is a strong need to review current thinking on leadership. Leadership can no longer be just about an autocratic individual who heads up an organisation. And yet even the most successful organisations such as Hewlett Packard are still recruiting CEOs from without on reputation to try and lead the organisation. New leaders bring with them new cultures and new ways, they bring their past successes with them as baggage. However each situation, each organisation is different and it is the ability of a leader to impact and influence an organisation now that is so important ,not their previous record. We have to start considering a leader on the outcomes they have achieved through their followers rather than through their personal attributes. Leadership success is all based on gaining Followership.
Followership is about outcomes, it is about the leader, yes, but it is also about the organisation’s culture and ethos, it is about the environment, it is about the situation, it is about anything that impacts on any outcome. Great leaders often pale and fade when they are removed from their most natural leadership environment. Look at Tony Blair, Winston Churchill before and after the war. History is littered with great men that have achieved because the time and environment is right for them. Yet in other environs they appear like fish out of water
A leader must fit the social identity of the group he or she leads. They must fit in and this is achieved most easily if they originate from within the said group. To impose a leader from without takes time and can cause a change in organisational ethos and culture. Trust is key for effective communication and effective communication is critical to good leadership and trust comes only when mutual understanding is present.
Trust is vital in the development of an organisation to its true potential. Trust allows the fettles of control to be released and hence the frees up each individual’s potential within an organisation. Without trust the necessary speed of action required in modern business becomes impossible. With it an organisation can thrive and challenge itself into a cycle of continuous improvement. Leaders must create and preserve trust for it is with trust that the environment within an organisation enables true consideration of the environment without.
Protecting the natural environment we live in is a real tenet of modern business. It will not be long before disposing of a particular item will be more expensive than purchasing it! The social conscience of the developed world is awakening in a way that will challenge many of the ways we do business and leaders need to match that conscience if they are to create longevity within their organisation.
Profit will always be king, but profit may be measured in social equity rather than cash and it may soon be that the environmental costs are considered just too much for a market to bear.
Leadership development in such a changing and dynamic environment becomes awfully difficult. If an organisation is really to develop leaders for the future, rather than for the present, it has to give its leadership talent the skill sets to match the many different challenges and environments that may become reality in the future. No longer is leadership about just autocratic inspiration and individual attributes it is far more about inspiring and influencing those around you through trust and empowerment. Only then will an organisation maintain its competitive advantage over the long term.