If you do a google search for “Leadership,” the first page is full of articles from Forbes, The Atlantic, the Harvard Business Review, and Psychology Today. They all have a different take on leadership, but common themes emerge. Themes like: good leaders cast inspiring vision, lift up and support their followers, and focus on increasing the effectiveness of those around them.
My Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In accounts are constantly inundated by people quoting ideals of leadership, posting articles about leadership, and generally supporting the themes prevalent in the most reputable sources on leadership. But…I rarely hear the same type of thoughts when I visit a company, sit down with an executive to discuss the state of their business, or have informal conversations with my friends about how their organizations are run.
Overwhelmingly, people seem dissatisfied with the leadership in their companies. If they are in management, they feel constrained or overridden by upper level executives. If they are executives, they talk about how their best strategies to get the company moving in the right direction fall on deaf ears. They feel sorely misinterpreted by the chain of command beneath them. If they are neither management nor executive, they feel like no one up in the “ivory tower” listens to the real problems of the company. Even worse: they feel like management views them as a small replaceable cog with no real value.
How can there be such a huge disconnect between all the strong leadership principles circulating through the social discourse and the day to day experience of people at all levels of an organization? I’ve been thinking about this for a while. I keep coming to the conclusion that one of the following must be true (and different ones may be true for different organizations):
People talk-the-talk, but they don’t walk-the-walk,
People think they’re walking-the-walk, and don’t see how far off course they really are, or
People value the illusion of being a good leader, but place little or no value on actually getting good at leadership.
I’d like to offer some simple to implement solutions for each. Please note, as I’ve talked about before, simple doesn’t mean easy. If you’re reading this, and you know someone who is in a position at a company to implement these, please share it with them.
1: People talk-the-talk, but they don’t walk-the-walk
People in this category usually have good intentions. They are all too happy to give feedback to others about their leadership, but don’t have any motivation to invest in themselves. If they are in management, this can lead to their subordinates feeling like the manager is hypocritical. The simplest solution is to have a frank conversation with a person in this category. Explain to them that their actions model desired behavior far more than their words do. Ask them to spend a week modeling the change they want to see. Then you’ll have something to pattern yourself on. You’ll quickly find they will either rise to the occasion, or deflect all responsibility away. If they don’t believe their actions have the greatest effect on their team, it may be time to get a new leader.
They can quickly increase their ability to model leadership by finding a Mastermind Group to attend. I run one a few times a year. I know many people who are leadership trainers run them as well.
2: People think they’re walking-the-walk, and don’t see how far off course they really are
People in this category have a huge blind spot. Their estimation of their leadership ability is way off the mark. Usually, this manifests by them constantly finding the reasons “others” are sabotaging their good leadership efforts. The simplest way to correct this is to ask them to take a leadership assessment. The best tool I know is the Maxwell Leadership Assessment. It takes a 360 degree look at your leadership level by comparing your self-evaluation with evaluations from others in your organization. You can learn more about it by clicking here, then clicking on The Maxwell Leadership Assessment from the picture slider.
3: People value the illusion of being a good leader, but place little or no value on actually getting good at leadership
People in this category are usually stuck behind pride and ego. They are unlikely to invest in themselves in the near future, if at all. The simplest solution here is to include them in organization-wide training. Any attempt to target them or single them out for improvement will be met with resistance, massive attitude, and 0 results. As part of a larger movement in the company, though, they might see the value to the company to everyone growing together.
What other issues do you face in your organization? What type of poor leadership do you struggle with? Leave a comment below.