Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What sort of model is the leader?

A month or so back I was invited to the annual general meeting of an organisation involved in community service work. During the course of the meeting the chairman stood up and harangued the members about their lack of involvement in providing various services. He accused the majority of members of inadequate commitment to the cause and, in effect, told them that they needed to change their ways.

Later I discussed this with the person who had invited me there. I was told that the very people who were being accused of lack of commitment were those who provided most of the money for the organisation to operate. Further, it was explained to me, a key factor in their doing very little else than provide money was the fact that the chairman had managed to alienate most of the members by his dictatorial behaviour. The feeling was that the chairman was seeking only those things that made him look good - he was not really interested in the organisation. Later I discovered that, not surprisingly, the rest of the leadership team exhibited similar behaviours - or they left for a new organisation.

The organisation in question has a leadership problem.

Traditionally the leader has been the one who is at the forefront of those being led. He or she is the one who knows where to go then sets the pace. The leader is the one who is seen first and after whom everyone else follows.

We see this in many areas. In business we describe those who are in top management as “business leaders”. We talk of those who are in front of the competitors as being “market leaders”. We talk of our politicians as being “national leaders”. In military and paramilitary organisations we speak of officers as being “leaders”. In almost every facet of life it is those who are in controlling positions who are referred to as “leaders” - the leader is invariably seen as being in the role of “master”

But is this necessarily leadership? And, if it is leadership, is it the sort of leadership that is appropriate today?

My research indicates that today the world is looking for leaders who:
* ensure they don't alienate their people no matter where in the organisation they may be - not just their direct reports
* are authoritative without being authoritarian
* have vision - know who they are and where they are going
* can communicate this vision to everyone who will listen
* are trustworthy and have personal integrity
* practice what they preach
* respect other people and their views rather than simply imposing the leader’s views on all around
* make it possible for others to achieve results

It is this sort of leadership that we need in all areas of society today - especially as we recover from the global financial crisis.

What are the leaders, and what is the leadership, like in your organisation?

More information about Douglas Long at http://www.dglong.com

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