14 April 2009

Just 18% Happy With Own Leadership Performance

This result that just 18% of leaders are content with their own leadership performance was the outcome of a recent study by Dr. Seliger (PDF German). In addition, the conclusion stated two major shortcomings:
  1. Leadership instruments are choosen without facts, on the basis of "gut feelings"
  2. Lots of communication does take place, but it lacks plain-talking language
The consequences of this lack of performant leadership on the organizations are highly detrimental. Typical outcomes of bad leadership are: trends overlooked, growth targets missed, performance deteriorating, costs too high, employees demotivated, customers and owners disappointed, insolvency a clear danger.

The study uncovered some of the reasons, which conform with my experience. There are serious misconceptions that undermine performant leadership:
  • Leadership is reduced to "charismatic" leaders, neglecting the process of leading
  • Separation of thinking and doing, whereby the leader commands people to do (not to think, so they stop thinking)
  • Disregard for genuine leadership work in favor of operational work (i.e. sales manager is his best salesperson)
  • "Hero" conception of leadership versus the reality of daily housewife-type leadership chores to achieve consistent and sustainable results
These wrong myths of leadership prevent a more profound approach. What does such an approach need to contain? Here, my experience suggests not to fall into the trap to extend a "catalogue" of tasks or traits. Quite the contrary, less is more: principles come before attributes.

Sure, leaders need to follow standard work with high discipline, the core of leadership does not consist of tasks. The heart of leadership are the results delivered, which in turn means accountability for these results.

This may sound simple, but it requires the courage to define a clear vision on basis of personal responsibility. Especially in times of crisis, leaders are called upon to confront the new situation, investigate the reality and face up to uncomfortable truths. Not a job for the faint of heart.

Despite being in the center of social networks, leadership contains a lonesome responsibility and no consultant or clever method can substitute for standing up to it. Too often have we been fooled by the drappings of leaders, while the actual results then turned out to be dreadful.

Instead of impressing their stakeholders with results, these so-called leaders went through the motions of leadership only - in fact duping the public (i.e. just to mention the most famous: Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, Parmalat, Madoff, Bawag, etc.). More substance, measured in results, is needed for times like ours.

For our leadership practice we should bear in mind that your next most suitable leader may well come from a different class, a different country or a different gender than yours. But, he/she will be the one that delivers results. Take´m.


1 comment:

D.R. Lawrence said...

A good article with lots of food for thought. Of particular interest was the originating pdf study. The survey was presented to managers about their leadership capabilities. While the research article pointed out that leadership is not linear but circular, in many western organizations there is still a top-down linear set-up which is conducive to the continued separation of managers from leaders. Therefore, it is not surprising that only 18% of them thought their leadership capabilities were sufficient.