I recall a seminar I attended a few years ago, where Chris Nichols (of Ashridge Consulting) put forward the idea of thinking of leaders as lighthouses. The concept has taken on new significance at this current time, as I observe businesses flounder, adrift in an ocean of unpredictability. No business was ever created without a vision, aspirations, goals and dreams of succeeding. Yet, the prevailing climate, the gloom of the global economy, and the rhetoric of politicians and media commentators, all combine to dampen spirits and encourage business leaders to keep their heads down till conditions change for the better. The trouble with this approach is that this will not help conditions change any time soon.
People tend to feed their emotions on what is around them, and if the only diet available is pessimism, negativity and aversion to risk, then that will, more than likely, become the prevailing culture.
We need leaders to be lighthouses. But, it is no good expecting to be able to navigate your course from a single beacon at the top of an organisation. To be able to steer one’s way successfully we need many lighthouses illuminating our way. Many leaders, at all levels, who act as beacons in a sea of darkness. We need growing networks of lighthouses, whose beams combine to cast increasing clarity.
Those businesses that emerge from the current economic situation, in a stronger, leaner, and more vibrant state than others, are those that are investing the time and effort in it now. Waiting until things turn round before investing in your people is a bad move. Waiting for the green shoots of recovery before starting to develop the engaged culture that will drive your business forward will be too late. Your competition will have stolen a march and be ready and prepared to take advantage of improved economic conditions.
Good leadership is situational. Ghandi was clearly an inspirational leader amongst his followers at a time of massive upheaval in a highly charged political and cultural context. He may have been less effective in leading a turnaround as the CEO of a car manufacturing plant. Leaders today need to be careful that they do not become ‘over-comfortable’ in their role of driving initiatives such as cost-transformation, off-shoring, right-sizing and other necessary but, ultimately non-creative activities. They may lead these initiatives well, they may achieve their numbers, but they need also to remember that these tactical measures are not what the business is ultimately about. The challenge is to keep one eye to the future, and plan for new product lines, new markets and new customers, which will demand reinvestment in re-skilling, recruitment and people development, to ensure the focus is on creativity, innovation and customer-focused skills.
This is a massive dual challenge, but those who emerge stronger will have adapted quicker. Those who believe that ‘hunkering down’, turning off a few lights, and waiting for it all to pass, will struggle, and many will not survive. Turning more people into lighthouse leaders, creating more beacons throughout every level of the organisation, and casting light into the shadows and recesses of your business will illuminate everyone’s path to future success.
- Do you have lighthouse leaders in your organisation? Are you one of them?
- Where do you cast light in your organisation?
- What’s happening in the shadows?
To discover more about how you can unlock the potential in you, or in members of your team, and increase your effectiveness and productivity, please do get in touch by submitting your details through the Contact Us page. I will be delighted to discuss further with you, and be pleased to talk about some taster sessions on a try before you buy basis.
Hi Louis, one of the big personal breakthrough moments I had in my career was in learning to give out light….but also to reflect others light. In this was the combined light is double – as a leader this meant helping others to find and shine their light – something that does spread out the light through the business in the way you suggest we should find.
This is why personal development, understanding and awareness – the softer skills – are critical in leadership.
One key thing I learnt on my journey was that the light would only shine when the passion of the heart was not being restrained by the logic of the mind….to let this light flow out and trust in it.
It would be interesting to see how others have understood / interpreted this concept of ‘light’…
Thanks Craig. That’s a fantastic observation about reflecting other people’s light, so making “reflecting mirrors” as important as a light-bulb in the leaders tool-kit. Love it.