How it was
The relationship between leader and followers has changed over the past 50-years and is still changing. Leaders used to command-and-control workers, who were seen to be basically lazy, having to be told exactly what to do, and motivated only by security and money. Leaders had top-down authority and a tight rein on workers who could not be trusted to do good work without control.
In the ‘70s and ‘80s more democratic models emerged. Workers were seen as responsible and motivated to do a good job, even without tight controls, punishment, and reward. This led to a less rigid leader-follower relationship, one more focused on creating happier, productive workers. The tools for doing that, however, were unclear.
The New Leadership
Over the past decade or two, there has been even more change in how leadership is viewed. We see more emphasis now on a leader’s capacity to build and sustain an inclusive and high-trust relationship with a loyal, capable, and motivated followership.
Leadership, then, is being redefined as a relationship between leader and followers, and requires a new set of competencies, often neglected in the past. Being bright and having formal power are no longer enough. Being a leader today means winning-over and convincing a mobile and demanding followership to stick around to help an organization achieve its potential to perform and grow.
Evolving new leadership competencies center on a broader range of interpersonal and communication skills necessary to engage an active and informed followership. At its heart is the realization that today’s leaders are expected to understand themselves and other as well as the impact of who they are, how they behave, and how they communicate with a stakeholder community.
Most organizations are trending toward value- and principle-centered leadership. Researchers, coaches, and leaders alike are recognizing that people and workplaces are emotional- and relationship-centered, not the strictly rational people and places we once imagined both to be.
What this means for leaders
All the above creates a new mandate for leaders to be competent in uncovering everything they can about who they are and how they touch their followers. A followership is far less likely today to trust and follow those who hold command-and-control views of leading and who do not reach out for input.
What is known about a leader by followers, and even bystanders, but not to the leader, can be disastrous to the leader when it goes viral. Even small matters can create thorny consequences in an eye-blink. Leaders today are more vulnerable to damaging local and public commentary about what they think is well-hidden or what they simply do not understand about themselves that others see, discuss, post, and use.
The wise, modern leader, therefore, works diligently to get and stay:
- Aware of her/his own mindsets, behaviors, and actions.
- Interested in stakeholder advice on how to improve.
- Motivated to consciously manage her/himself effectively in order to make better choices, achieve her/his goals as a leader, and maintain a supportive and engaged followership.
- In touch with her/his key strengths and vulnerabilities and able to discern which work for or against her/him at any given time.
The leader’s top team can be a key to being informed as to: “How am I doing?” Being a leader used to mean being lonely. Everyone, on the surface, wants to please so their deep, down good advice and suggestions go unsaid rather than risk offending or for fear of being rejected or ignored. Technology assistance, for example Leader Assess, provides fast, efficient, easy, and reliable way for leaders to constantly stay in touch with their personal “crowd” of stakeholders.
A leader uses such a system to get honest, helpful feedback from those with a stake in their success. It is not hard to do, but it does not happen on its own. It takes courage, conviction, and determination on the part of the leader.
The system solicits and consolidates input on five key questions from stakeholders and from the leader her/himself:
- What is the leader good at?
- What has the leader contributed?
- How has the leader grown?
- What should the leader concentrate on getting better at next?
The first three questions are easy, positive, and edifying. Their answers let the leader know s/he is known and appreciated by stakeholders. Answers to the fourth question provide golden input for the leader, especially if the consolidated input is reviewed by the top team prior to administering in order to be sure the group’s most important points are featured prominently and stated clearly.
Leader Assess+ goes further and collects input on nine-characteristics of performance for a leader and the leader’s top team to compare against norms by stage of organization maturity from studying thousands of data points collected on successful organizations over decades. Such data is invaluable in helping leaders, especially founder-owner-operators who seek to address common sticky situations such as:
- One of the top team members is misbehaving, not representing the target culture well, and generally holding things back.
- A long time senior player is approaching retirement and/or no longer thriving.
- The owner-operator-founder wants to move on but the organization is overly dependent on her/him and the target exit valuation is beyond reach.
- A new executive team member or two have been hired at great expense and the honeymoon period is over, it is time for things to click, but they are not clicking.
Top executives use Leader Assess and Leader Assess+ to systematically, routinely, efficiently, and easily collect data on their leader and on each other to collectively develop and follow a path to achieving their organization’s potential to perform and grow.
To learn more about how to develop leaders with team insights
- The theory and practice behind developing leaders using team insights at each stage or organization maturity is the topic of a three-hour Master Class at the National Annual Conference of the Association for Strategic Planning in San Francisco on March 16, 2016. Sign up now to attend the entire three-day conference at a special rate via code: FRIENDOFSPEAKER2016.
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