Latest update March 23rd, 2023 12:59 AM
Mar 05, 2022 Letters
There are those of us old ones who wonder how many of recent political leaders have heard about Winston Churchill. This British Prime Minister, in his book titled ‘The Hinge of Faith’, warned: ‘There is no worse mistake in public leadership than to hold out fake hopes soon to be swept away’. The foregoing insight would seem so relevant to us at a time of ‘climate change’ – including the continuing floods being experienced.
Much later, Jim Collins, author of the best seller ‘Good to Great’ enlarged on the concept and practice of leadership, after conducting a comprehensive research project of selected eleven US companies which had satisfied his criteria for being ‘Great’. In the process Collins created a five-level hierarchy of leadership. He admitted surprise at discovering that Level 5 Leaders embodied what he called a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will.
Later on however, the author summarised a leader’s relationship with those he/she leads in a corporate arrangement, but which arguably applies to any organisational structure – private or indeed public. The reader is invited to ingest the following, which are relevant even in our current decision-making environment:
• People are not your most important asset. The right people are.
•An organisation needs executives who on the one hand argue and debate – sometimes violently in pursuit of the best answers, and who on the other hand, unify fully behind a decision, regardless of parochial/personal interests.
• Leadership is equally about creating a climate where the truth is heard and the brutal facts confronted. There is a huge difference between the opportunity ‘to have your say’ and the opportunity, ‘to be heard’ – for the truth to be told!
• Leadership involves having the humility to grasp the fact that one does not necessarily understand enough to have the answers, and then to ask the questions that will lead to the best possible insights.
Lead with questions, not answers
Engage in challenge and debate, not coercion
Conduct autopsies, without blame
Build mechanisms that turn information into information that cannot be ignored
• The purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline.
• Organisations make the mistake of confusing ‘disciplinary procedure’ with the more positive ethic of ‘Discipline’, or better a ‘Culture of Discipline’.
• When in fact organisations have disciplined leaders, there is little need to stress ‘hierarchy’. When there is disciplined thought, there is hardly need for bureaucracy. When there is disciplined action, excessive controls become superfluous. The fact is that a combination of the culture of ‘Discipline’ and the ethic of ‘Entrepreneurship’ produces the magical alchemy of an organisation’s great performance.
But the final critical quote which may be considered relevant in our current circumstances is as follows:
“Level 5 Leaders channel their ego away from themselves…their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.”
Hope there are lessons to be learnt from the above.
Organisational Development and
Human Resources Management Advisor
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