We have a Choice

Leadership that Matters

Current leadership faces more complex organizational challenges then ever before. The problems tend to be a culmination or combination of technology, adaptability, and crisis management. The speed at which these challenges present themselves is constantly increasing, so it would make sense to respond to them by utilizing interdependent, and interactive solutions that offset and allow for solutions to be enacted. The influence of facing complex tasks in business should be that it forces significant shifts in the way the system behaves. So the question is are organizations and leadership learning to respond differently, and are systems changing?

It seems that less than 50% of organizational leadership responds differently when encountering a problem, instead most repeat past actions regardless of effectiveness, and many in fact simply ignore the issue. Alan Zaremba, Ph.D., of the Department of Communication Studies at Northeastern University in Boston states, “there can be knee-jerk reactions to stonewall, deny or think that the crisis will go away if it is ignored.” Much of this decision to deny or failure to respond in a positive way can be traced back to our vision of what leadership should look like. We have embraced, supported and financially rewarded, the soldier CEO, the independent, and authoritative leader. Inherent in this type of person is the belief that they alone are the solution, and their frame of mind when stressed and confronting difficulties is to do more of the same because it worked before.
Research points to a belief that future leadership skills should place increased emphasis on building relationships, collaboration and change management; this is direct contrast to what was emphasized in the past; straightforwardness, resourcefulness, and doing whatever it takes. The question is not do we believe this to be true, the majority of analysts, and leaders themselves agree with the assessment. The real issue remains, at what point will we begin rewarding the leadership that is needed as opposed to the leadership that is present, when will business schools begin teaching current leadership theory in alignment with what is needed and not what they learned, and when will truly human leadership, and not truly egoist leadership become the norm? It begins with choice, in each discussion, each action, and in each opportunity, if we choose to do what is right for the many and in alignment with ethics and core human values then the mission statements and posters on the walls of organizations will become active directives as opposed to passive decoration.However, what is needed is a leader with a collective, not singular perspective, a person that creates connections, and supports cross-collaboration as a means of sustaining performance and profitability.

When faced with challenges this type of leader is so intrinsically familiar with the crisis leadership principles of the organization that he or she can resist the temptation to suddenly seize control. You cannot guide the speeding car to safety by simply grasping the steering wheel harder. When leaders decide to be closer to where the challenges occur (with their people) then they will lead by fostering a mindful, aware and resilient team and create a similar culture in their organization so that when a crisis hits, they are responding collectively instead of reacting independently.

Leadership changes because of choices, not incentives, leaders will not do what is right just because they are offered more money, or stock, or security. Money in fact entrenches behavior, it only reinforces who they already are, so instead of hiring the right resume, what we need to do is hire the right mindset, the right values, and these people are everywhere, it just means choosing humanity over insanity, because we all know that doing the same thing over and over and yet expecting a different result is……well it’s what you currently have running most of your organizations.

-- mike


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