We get the Leaders we deserve?

If we accept that successful leadership helps people to take responsibility, to grow and develop, and to make hard choices, then, by definition, when people remain reliant and dependent on others providing answers, guidance and direction, and are content to let others do the work, then the leadership we get is, at best, sub-optimal.

People like to elect or hire leaders to provide them with the right answers, and not to confront them with challenging questions or difficult choices.  But, the great leaders do just that. They do not resort to using their authority to ‘implement their own answers’.  They may set out the vision, they may indicate the general direction we need to follow, but they will also put responsibility back in the hands of people to come up with the answers that are right for them and to be implemented at a pace that is tolerable.

Indeed, the more challenging the problem and the more risks involved, the more that people need to face up to the adaptive pressures and the choices that they face.  And, paradoxically, it is under these extreme situations that leaders come under the most pressure to provide the right answers.

The danger in these situations is that some leaders will Continue reading


Commitment v Compliance. What’s the difference?

All good leaders know the difference between ‘internal commitment’ and ‘compliance’. Yes, sometimes, compliance will have to do, particularly in moments of crisis and great urgency, when there is no time to put the ‘effort’ into gaining real buy-in.

But, the downsides of trying to lead when all you have behind you is ‘compliance’ are clear:-

  • People who are not fully committed to your vision and journey are unlikely to ‘go the extra mile’ when the going gets tough.
  • People will need convincing over and over again as each new situation arises.  Basically you buy compliance with a ‘for one use only’ sticker. 
  • People do not undergo learning and growth so successfully when they adopt a state of ‘grudging compliance’ , unlike when they are ‘fully committed’ and bought in to what they are doing.
  • People who are not ‘fully committed’ tend to look to others to take responsibility and blame others when things go wrong. In other words they deflect responsibility.

For a leader to be successful in their venture, they need their teams and followers to be fully committed and bought in completely to the vision and journey, and be Continue reading

Step off the dance floor once in a while

I was struck by this article by Paul Shoemaker on the “6 Habits of True Strategic Thinkers”.  It all makes sense and I am sure most good leaders will know this stuff – at least they will when they are away from the thick of the action.

So, what are the 6 habits effective leaders should form to get strategic?

  • Anticipate
  • Think Critically
  • Interpret
  • Decide
  • Align
  • Learn
A good list (for more detail on what’s behind each item go to the article) to add to any leader’s toolkit.  However, we all have “espoused” theories, and usually they are pretty sound. The problem comes when we start trying to put them into action.  What we then see are “behaviours in practice”, which more often than not are quite different from what we say we should or would do.
The one additional habit I would add, is STAND BACK and OBSERVE.
This has been expressed in a number of ways by different people.  One analogy I like is that of observing the dance-floor from the gallery.  Every now and then it makes sense to stop dancing, and observe the dancers from the gallery.  Watch their movement, the patterns they make, spot the crowded parts of the floor and watch for the different ways people are dancing. What can you learn? Then, when you rejoin the dance, you will do so with new knowledge, with a fresh perspective, and with strategies to put in to practice.
Another useful way to think about it is Continue reading