Tag Archives: organization development

Elements of Leadership – Part 1: Good leadership, common sense and purple cows

An organization requires good leaders to grow, develop and be successful. But what is the definition of a “good leader”?

Answering this question has developed into a multi-billion dollar industry, brandishing competing definitions, concepts and formulas. At some point in time, we have probably all purchased a self-help book or bought into a concept that purportedly had “all the answers.” They all come with some good perspectives and help us reconsider our existing approaches to leadership. Which is great, and always a well-worth exercise. But I think it’s safe to say that any book, concept, or article that argues to have all the answers never does.

Try to google “leadership fads” and you will end up with a long line of articles, including this one written by Steve Tobak @Inc. I found the article quite entertaining and interesting. In it, Tobak reviews some of the recent “fads” and argues that good leadership is the result of a combination of using common sense while embracing individual strengths that may provide a level of competitive advantage. This pragmatic and utilitarian approach definitely has a nice feel to it, although it doesn’t provide an answer to the question of what really defines “good leadership.”

If we all focus on our own individual strengths as leaders, combined with our individual interpretation of what constitutes “common sense” – wouldn’t we run the risk of turning into “purple cows” as described by Seth Godin in his book by the same name? Would we end up in a race where the end goal would always be to be a “remarkable” purple cow amidst all the regular brown ones? In a tough and challenging marketplace, where corporate ownership, brands, priorities and strategies have to be as effective and cost-efficient as they are flexible and in adaptable, won’t leaders and organizational leadership get caught up in the never-ending race toward one-up competitiveness?

I think they already have.

Over the last several years, faith in leadership appears to have slowly eroded in many organizations, both public and private. In important aspects, the financial crisis may have contributed to this, although the big financial institutions’ fall from grace may also be interpreted as a symptom of a broader problem of a growing leadership deficit in private enterprise. The more recent “fiscal cliff crisis” certainly provided a level of justification to the growing number of people who lack faith in our political leaders and the overall political process. In organizations across the nation, employee satisfaction and engagement is at a historical low. Numerous studies have found that more and more people are looking for alternate employment, or that they are unhappy with their current employers. The leadership deficit is growing by the minute.

So what do we do about it?

I believe that we have to make a concerted effort to turning things around, starting by taking a fresh look at our goals and priorities when it comes to the role and what we expect of our leaders in private enterprise, government, and non-profit organizations.

Because we need good leaders, better leaders. I believe anyone will agree. I would also argue that we need for people, for everyone, to have faith in their leaders. Yet for either of these to be realistic, we need our leaders to have faith in themselves and their ability and effectiveness in leading others.  Without first establishing a foundation of competence and confidence, within our group of leaders and beyond, nothing else that we do will matter.

Do you agree?

If you do, the first priority should be to find new and better ways and tools to develop and guide our leaders. Our goal should be to develop good leaders who have the skills, knowledge and abilities required to have sufficient confidence in their own abilities, who fully understand and accept the importance and value of their role and responsibilities, and who are effective in building the authority needed to leading and developing individuals, teams and organizations to enable them to accomplish extraordinary things.

Because this is what leadership is all about! It’s what makes leadership fun and so worth it.

We will return to this topic in the weeks to come, discussing what the essence and practical implications of good leadership really is. Please feel free provide your thoughts, comments, and suggestions. I welcome thoughts of disagreement even more than those who agree.

What is your organization doing to develop better leaders? What is your plan for developing your own leadership skills?