Article / Leadership
Anton Verwey, Member, CEO, South Africa
Predictability as the Basis for the creation of a Community of Leaders.
Recent research and publications on leadership also pay some attention to the concept of leadership brand. The key idea is that an organisation with a clear and identifiable leadership brand will have some advantages from a competitive perspective, and there is significant evidence that this is indeed so. In exploring the process through which such a leadership brand is established, conversations with clients as well as postgraduate students we engage with, have led to some interesting conversations about the notion of leadership community. Simplistically, this simply refers to all of the leaders in an organisation. At a more substantive level, our conversation partners seemed to gravitate towards the idea that at a deeper level, the creation of a real “community of leaders” is about the degree of trust that leaders have in each other. The question then is one of how we create trust (and trustworthiness).
The idea (hypothesis) was formed that the essence of trust and trustworthiness is predictability. As a consumer, you are more likely to use a particular service provider again if their service / quality is predictable. As an investor, you are more likely to invest in companies with predictable performance. In your personal relationships, you are more likely to build lasting relationships with people who are predictable. You are more likely to trust your leader(ship) if they are predictable.
The next question of course is what predictable leadership is about, and the following is our attempt to unpack some of the characteristics.
No, Hitler was not a good leader. He may have been a great manipulator, but not a good leader. Leadership, in addition to having the ability to influence and inspire people, must also be about doing the right things in the right way. There has to be some higher level of moral and ethical code determining the relevance and appropriateness of the chosen direction.
• Results driven
This much is obvious, and most authors seem to agree. Leadership is about achieving results, in any field of human endeavour. Of course, the results being aspired to must also be defined taking all of the other elements contained in this list.
Leadership is also about understanding the space that others occupy. It is also about acknowledging and respecting where other people find themselves, even if the leader does not agree with that position.
• Disciplined / Decisive
Achieving results in a principled manner means that leaders also have to be rigorous in leading and managing their organisations. There will also be occasions where leaders have to be decisive and clear about what needs to be done.
Leadership is not about doing things to or for people. It is about doing things with people.
In doing things with people, the simple notion of consultation is simply not enough. The nature of the business landscape (a network of networks) also means leaders simply have to collaborate both inside and outside their own organisations.
This might be stating the obvious, but leaders have to apply their minds. They have to be thoughtful and insightful about themselves, the people around them, the business they are accountable for, the environment they are in as well as the social context within which they operate. Lot’s of things to think about, and so few leaders give themselves enough time to do so.
Of course, results will not be achieved in the absence of an action orientation. Having been thoughtful and inclusive, there is a point where principled and disciplined action is required to achieve the results required. This is just common sense. Having said this, action orientation without the other elements in the list leads to busyness with no results.
• Broad thinking
Leadership is about making sense of an increasingly complex world. Thinking broadly (systemically) is a prerequisite for all the other elements. This also implies that leadership is about building and enhancing you own insight into and understanding of the world you lead in. Leaders have to be inquisitive and constantly learning, developing and growing.
• Level headed
Life happens to all of us, and not every eventuality can be planned for or controlled. Leaders therefore have to be resilient and level headed to deal with the ups and downs of life and business. This is where leaders have to be emotionally resilient so as to get over things (and themselves!) and move on.
• Emotionally mature
This one is (hopefully) obvious. Leaders have to engage with others in an adult to adult manner. Leaders also have to accept that not everyone will “like” them. Leaders have to be humble, and accept that not everything (in fact very few things) are about them and their personal interests.
In our view, these PREDICTABLE characteristics displayed over a sufficient period of time will lead to increasing levels of trust amongst and in leaders(hip) which will then lead to a true “community” of leadership. This leadership community is created over time, and in organisations where we have seen the evidence that it exists it seems that the principles of predictability have become less explicit and more ingrained in the “spirit” of how people behave. It becomes, in the true sense of the word, not only the way we do things (culture) but also why and how we do things. The processes to create this true leadership community are the essence of the company’s leadership strategy, and include both formal and informal (but planned) development processes. In our experience, the informal processes are far more important, and at the core of these is the simple process of leadership conversations. In many respects, it is the same process through which we build lasting and meaningful personal relationships – frequent face-to-face conversations about the things that truly matter.
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