You could be excused for wondering whether leadership has gone out of fashion right now. Whether it be politics, business or sport, wherever you look, there appears to be a vacuum at the top, and much discrediting of those leaders who remain.
What could be going on? Well, I think one of the problems is that we are mixed up about
what we want from our leaders. Perhaps we expect too much of them. Should they have all the answers? Should they be all-seeing and all-hearing? Is it reasonable to expect them to set strategy, direction, plan, implement, review, report and make key decisions, as well as dispense wisdom to all who seek it? Of course not. But, despite recognising this as impractical, and even unhealthy, as a society we are still encouraged to demand unequivocal and unwavering surety from our leaders.
At this time, perhaps more than at any time in the past, we need a different set of skills from our leaders. We live in a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world where knowledge is distributed more widely than ever, where more information is instantly available than at any time in history, yet despite all that information, decision-making has never been more difficult. Those who come out of the charismatic ‘all-knowing’ school of leadership present us with dangers.
The Dangers of the ‘Know-It-All’ Leader:
- People don’t challenge
- People don’t share problems
- People may withhold vital (even safety critical) information
- Encourages ruthlessness
- Encourages ‘one-upmanship’
- Encourages short term wins over sustained success
The Leaders required in our modern, complex, inter-connected, global world need to be different. They require a ‘Humble’ mindset. They ask questions and don’t pretend to know answers. They recognise others as the real experts; the people on the shop floor, on the phones, in the warehouse. They also understand the importance of listening to ‘The System’. The system in any organisation, any business, or indeed family or society as a whole, is more than just the individuals within it. The system holds information that individuals alone do not reveal. The vast majority of systems leave this valuable source of knowledge untapped. Only by allowing everyone to explore openly, and without fear of retribution, can the sense of what lies between people be revealed.
The Benefits of the Humble Inquiry Leader:
- Collaboration is encouraged
- Sharing of information for the common good is rewarded
- We all win together (not as individuals)
- Encourages shared responsibility and engagement
- Leadership is encouraged and developed throughout the organisation at all levels
- New leaders emerge organically
- ‘Deep Democracy’ ensures everyone’s voice is heard, valued and nothing vital is missed
- ‘The System’ reveals things that the individuals within it don’t
There is valuable treasure buried within our systems. Traditional leadership leaves it buried, and relies on charisma, or status and authority, to get things done. The modern, effective leader mines for it and remains humble about how much they don’t know.
To read more about Humble Inquiry read this The Case for Humble Inquiry
To find out more about Deep Democracy read this Deep Democracy
To find out more about Organisation & Relationship Systems Coaching read this ORSC
To learn more about how you or your teams can build skill in this area, and create a working environment built on constructive system-focused conversations, please do get in touch. Simply submit an enquiry through the Contact Us page. I will be delighted to discuss further with you.
About the author: Louis Collins enables people to operate more successfully within their system. You may be struggling to implement corporate strategy, you may want to get more productivity out of yourself or your teams but don’t know where to start, or you may not be having as effective conversations as you could be. I will work with you to enable you to formulate more effective ways of leading, to raise awareness of blockers to successful ways of working, and ultimately to help you and your managers to lead more successfully.