Leadership: Leaders – your country needs you

Leadership, says friend of mine, is first and foremost about vision. “It is about service and community,” says another. Frances Hasselbein, America’s most applauded lady of leadership, says leadership is about self – about how to be, not how to do.
Leading is, of course, about all these things and more. More often than not it defies succinct definition and is, instead, exemplified by actions that surprise or unexpectedly move us.
Why then, after 50 something years, has NZ Management magazine opted to publish regular column on the topic? Leaders and leadership are surely ubiquitous to the magazine’s content. That’s true, but here are some of the rationalisations.
Thoughtful, honest, visionary and empathetic leadership is, for variety of both obvious and not-so-obvious reasons, critical to this country. Perhaps we can pick up on examples of these virtues in action.
Leadership is changing. That seems to be true too. But how is it changing? Why is it changing? Is it really changing or is it just the environment in which leaders must lead that is different and demanding of new responses? Whichever or whatever is the reality, there is need to keep abreast of the leadership play, to test the theories, discuss the trends and collect the evidence of evolution.
Readers might like to understand leaders and leadership better. What motivates individuals, for instance? Can examples of inspired leadership make difference? What prompts leaders to act wisely or stupidly? Are their actions indeed explicable? We are according to accepted wisdom, all potential leaders. If so what unlocks the leader within?
With luck, the column might, at least from time-to-time, be interesting or even tad controversial. Publishers like that sort of thing. Perhaps it will create some leadership conversations. Kiwis aren’t good at having tough conversations. And, to be honest, we need some tough conversations around the leadership space.
New Zealand has leadership problem. It is not, of course, unique to us. Incompetent, self serving, hostile, unimaginative and confused leadership sits atop an array of the world’s most pressing problems. New Zealand, sadly, is simply more benign, and in some ways more corrosive microcosm of what ails much of the world. There is growing evidence of creeping corruption here which, some suggest, we are rapidly brushing under the carpet. Much of it may be official incompetence. Either way, like rising damp, it needs addressing.
Our leaders, with few countable exceptions, lack vision, insight, integrity and, most disconcerting of all, the political and professional will to honestly address critically important problems. There is growing unrest at senior management and governance levels that key economic, environmental, social equity, regulatory and competency issues are not being addressed. This disquiet might or might not be justified. The fact that it exists and is spreading is, however, important. Good leaders know when and how to listen. Hubris is dangerous leadership disease that spreads rapidly.
New Zealand is fortunate country. Its balance sheet is in sorry state but, inspired and enlightened leadership could turn its many real assets to account. The problem is the revenue line of our profit and loss account. Really smart leaders know that cost cutting provides short-term relief. There is no tomorrow without revenue.
Perhaps leadership is, as my friend suggests, about creating vision, building consensus, creating plan and executing it effectively. Leadership is not about closed minds, large egos, bullying and exclusivity. If it were and these were income-generating commodities, the P&L would soon be put aright.
This will not be “how to” column. It will focus on the individuals and the issues that lead and shape our organisations, economy, community and society. Leadership and management are, as management and leadership guru Henry Mintzberg insists, inextricably entwined – not at the macro economic and political levels, but almost everywhere else.
It will also, hopefully, be an “interactive” thought column which promotes rigorous debate and discussion on the essence of leadership. I would value readers’ ideas, suggestions and feedback as the column progresses. M

Reg Birchfield is NZ Management’s consulting editor and writer-at large. [email protected]

Visited 3 times, 1 visit(s) today
Close Search Window