14/10/19, Cate Nelson-Shaw

Why we need to rethink the notion of leadership

leadership, Intent-Based Leadership

Leadership. Spend five minutes in your local book shop and you’ll soon notice the abundance of books about running a great business, achieving your personal goals or becoming a great leader; as well as the motivational stories of those who have single-handedly changed a business, a city or a team.

With 50,000+ leadership books available on Amazon, there is clearly a huge demand for the latest insights.  After all, the quality of leadership has a profound impact on how organisations perform, influencing the culture, values and indeed the people within. Leadership plays a critical role in our quality of life – there are frequent media stories about employee stress, “always available” cultures, heavy workloads and worries about a lack of work-life balance. Frazzled employees who feel disconnected from their employer aren’t just affecting their own mental health, there is also a detrimental impact on organisations and their customers.

And in our experience the issue affecting organisations that we hear time and again is leadership. So given all the advice and the eye-watering $366.2 billion spent on leadership development in 2018 alone, it’s hard to believe that we only produce a relatively small number of really outstanding organisations.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that in the last 20 years we have been told to manage organisations to the nth degree of with top-down targets here, KPIs there and wherever possible the introduction of processes to replace the reliance on judgement and common sense.  It means that we value doing things right, more than doing the right thing.

The idea that leadership is focused on a small number of senior people directing others is increasingly flawed. It’s a belief that is rooted in the era of mass production when the focus was on getting people to complete repetitive tasks to a consistent quality.  Today we live in a very different world – leaders can’t simply order people to be good at their jobs, and of course, customers have an instant and increasingly powerful voice. And so too do those in your team who are at the frontline of customer service, they have tremendous insights. 

More and more organisations are rethinking the notion of leadership and are keen to explore alternative leadership approaches other than traditional leader-follower models, encouraging leaders at every level of their business, trusting people to use their judgement to make decisions and valuing the experience and opinions of colleagues throughout the organisation, not just those at the top.

Find out more about Intent-Based Leadership

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