Friday, 16 May 2008

Is Leadership the Enemy of Change?

For those of you interested in debates about how effective leaders are (and should be) in creating organisational change.....

I came across this rather small self promotional site that one of the Big 4 Consulting firms have created.

It contains an interesting debate where the following question is posed:

"This house believes that leadership is the enemy of change"

Despite being a bit 'public school' in style the debate contains some interesting discussion. The fact that only 28% people in an organisation actually trust their leaders is amazing. If that's the case then who are they taking their direction from........each other.

They give a great example of Linux which is an organisation of partners and loose affiliations all working together around a commonly held belief. I suppose that is self leadership but there are some important lessons to learn here. Isn't being a leader taking people on a journey of change with a common set of beliefs binding them all together?

Would love to hear which side of the debate you land on....


Tom Haskins said...

Chris: Thanks for raising this question!
I'm not surprised that only 28% trust their leadership. The pattern I see time and again goes like this:

Leaders who get trusted earn respect by walking their talk, acting on their principles, and following through on their commitments. They neither blame or exalt individuals for systemic breakdowns. They see the overview and the details with great clarity. This earned respect gives them a well-deserved following though any difficult change. They provide admired leadership.

Leaders who fail to earn this respect merely talk their talk, violate their espoused principles and drop the ball repeatedly. They prove to be obstacles to change once they are kept in the dark, regarded as incompetent. They are shown gratuitous respect while being held in contempt by everyone in an organisation who can afford to distance themselves from the top (72%). Those who put on a show of trusting the disrespected leaders are equally clueless or kept on short leashes (28%). The rank and file then realize who, among themselves, is earning their respect. These people emerge from the ranks as informal leaders who clear up misinformation, give their read on the latest pronouncements from above, caution against over-reactions and put alarming incidents into larger contexts. The informal leaders are trusted to show the way through the crisis brought on by the weak leadership. They have earned the larger following which inspires great fear among executives and conflicted loyalties for outside consultants.

Chris Morgan said...

Hi Tom - thanks for your very insightful comment.

It is fascinating to observe teams over a period of time - something which I am able to do in my job.

I often observe that there is formal leader for the group but the real influencer is the person who has the most respect and credibility with the rest of the team. Typically this person has high emotional intelligence and is tuned in to all that is going on around them.


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