Given what I do for a living I found John Adair’s comments published in a recent ILM publication of particular interest. “The immense industry which has grown up around leadership is now estimated to be worth $50bn per year but has not actually produced many better leaders.” The truths of this statement are apparent in the various leadership scandals and failures currently dogging just about every part of our society and almost ever present in our daily news stories. Another day another leadership scandal or failure or, at least, an example of bad leadership and the consequences we have to bear as a result – dying to meet a target? So what kind of leadership or leadership model should we be investing in as we move forward?
Ethical leadership and authentic leadership are interesting to consider in context of the current spate of leadership debacles, though not as leadership styles because they are more than concepts of style. Being ethical is about being guided by moral principles and ethical leaders embody, exhibit and live their beliefs and values. Being authentic is about being real or true and authentic leadership is about being sincere, directing with integrity and taking full responsibility by being true. Doing things right is not the same as doing the right thing and reward for being good is not the same as being good for reward. Ethical and authentic leadership are about being good and doing the right thing to be good and true to self and others whilst accepting responsibility for actions and decisions.
My personal view of leadership, generally and specifically, is the most difficult element of leadership to deal with is behaviour; your own behaviour as a leader and that of those you lead. I believe it is the behavioural aspect of leadership which yields the greatest returns and yet most often breaks leaders and destroys leadership. With this in mind and considering the Ethical and Authentic leadership models are founded on values and behaviours, I suspect the appetite to be led by ethical and authentic leaders will be greater than the appetite of leaders to become such. Considering how to develop future leaders in the ethical and authentic ‘mould’ is a particular challenge given the apparent shortage of appropriate role models available to them and the obvious limitations of traditional training. How do we incentivise and give primacy to adopting good behaviour over achieving rewards? How much does knowing about behaviour inform behaviour and decision making? How does legislation affect leaders and leadership? Thinking of these questions called the following quote by Plato to mind.
“Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly while bad people will find a way around the laws”
I cannot help but wonder how more stringent banking legislation or stronger whistle blowing laws will have any sustainable effect in addressing bad leadership?