NZIM Learning to Lead

Seems that everywhere you turn these days people are talking and writing about leadership – whether political, business, sporting or spiritual.

What all this verbiage reveals is that there are many different definitions and ideas of what constitutes good leadership – from heroic and inspirational to supportive and empathetic.

Personally, I favour the servant/leader model and believe good leadership is less about individual heros as about the ability of an organisation to nurture leadership at all levels. While we can all learn from good role models, I believe we put far too much emphasis on their contributions. This can de-motivate people who have good leadership potential simply because they don’t see themselves as cut in the heroic mould.

A more encompassing definition of leader is “every person who has the task to direct others”.

I was impressed by William Rosenbach’s answer to the question: can leadership be taught? (Management April 2003.) He responded “wrong question – leadership can be learned”.

For NZIM, leadership has always been an important piece of our management learning mosaic and in recent times we have pushed hard to specifically include leadership learning at all levels.

A recent NZIM-supported initiative is Leadership New Zealand, set up with vision to create culture of leadership across the community, assisting and promoting leadership and emerging leaders.

Academia has also weighed in with the University of Auckland’s recently established Institute of Leadership. With all this local focus on leadership, it was timely to hear current offshore thinking on the subject from speakers at the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) Conference in San Diego (May 2003).

Ken Blanchard charts the journey
Ken Blanchard (of One Minute Manager fame) spoke about “the journey to effective leadership” focusing on three key areas.
*vision (or direction)
*equipping people
*epositive consequences and sustainability.

Vision defines an image of the future that must be clear and communicated to all, so every employee has sense of ownership and involvement. Important elements include: the mission – defined in relation to your customers and what they are going to get out of it: the goals define what you want your people to focus on now; the values, or what you stand for, guides your journey.

Equipping people is about preparing them for the journey to the vision. self-serving leader shuts down feedback but servant leader shows appreciation. Once you know yourself, the task is to better each of your managers “one on one”.
Positive consequences and sustainability involves catching people “doing something right” to reinforce and sustain the journey to the vision.

First: build trust – employees must know you are there to help them win. People who produce results are happy. If they don’t produce, maybe it’s not the right job for them.

Second: accentuate the positive (one minute praising), don’t wait for exactly the right behaviour. If something is done wrong, redirect to another task, don’t waste energy on the errors. Describe the error without blame, show its negative impact, go over the task in detail then express your trust and confidence in the person.

“The biggest opportunity for leadership,” says Blanchard, “is when things are going right.”

Frances Hasselbein – the time is now
As chair of the Peter Drucker Foundation for Non-profit Management and editor in chief of the journal Leader to Leader, Frances Hasselbein’s management ideas have influenced business leaders worldwide.

Her inspiring address contained much to illuminate the leadership debate.
* Disperse the tasks of leadership across the organisation until there are leaders at every level and dispersed leadership is the reality.
* Make every leader accountable for building the richly diverse team, group or organisation.
* Permeate every job, every plan with marketing mindset. Marketing means being close to the customer and listening and responding to what customers value.
• Make the strengths of your people effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.
• Recognise technology not as driver but as tool. Change the technology as needs change, don’t change needs to match the tool.
• Build mission-focused, values-based, demographics-driven organisation.
• Provide board members and staff with carefully planned continuing learning opportunities designed to increase their capacity and unleash the organisation’s creative energy.
• Sharply differentiate between govern-
ance and management by delineating clear roles, responsibilities and accountabilities. The result is partnership of mutual trust and purpose.
• Mobilise the total organisation around the mission, until everyone including the newest member of staff can explain its role and purpose.
• Develop no more than five powerful strategic goals that together are the board’s vision of the desired future of the organisation.
• Focus on those few initiatives that will make difference – don’t skim the surface of an overstuffed list of priorities.

Hasselbein believes building sustainable organisation is primary responsibility for any leader. When the challenges of today have been met, will your organisation have the vigour to grow tomorrow? Her clear message is that managing for mission, innovation and diversity will sustain us and those we serve into the future. Leading change is the greatest management imperative.

Peter Block – serving soul and marketplace
Empowerment guru, author, and partner in Designed Learning, Peter Block talked about the leader as social architect – someone who can create cultures of community and accountability by changing how people are brought together.

While the landscape architect designs physical space, the social architect designs social space.

Social architecture is fundamentally convening function giving particular attention to the way people gather – and the way they gather is critical to the way the system functions. The social architect approach is about how to design and bring into being organisations that, says Block, serve both the marketplace and the soul of the people who work within them.

Jim Loehr – full engagement
Finally, some feedback from Dr Jim Loehr, who is widely recognised for his ground-breaking contributions to the field of performance psychology. He took as his theme “the power of full engagement” which he believes leads to ordinary people becoming extraordinary in the things that really matter to them.

The path from ordinary to extraordinary is “extraordinary energy” and the sweet spot in your energy he defines as “full engagement” – bringing all the energy you have right here, right now.

The major obstacle to that intense focus is multi-tasking, or not being fully engaged in any one thing. Research suggests that is both common problem and costly one – it’s been estimated to cost the USA economy in excess of US$250 billion.

This disengagement comes about because of poor energy management skills, says Loehr.

He contends and has demonstrated through his work that it is the investment of energy which gives the best return. His message: “manage energy not time”.

• The first part of David Chapman’s coverage of the ASTD conference in San Diego appeared in Management’s July issue.

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