Monday, 14 May 2012

The Leadership Equation (Continued)

In my last blog I introduced the first component of The Leadership Equation. Today I will complete that equation.

Part two relates to those who follow the leader.  Specifically, those who follow must do so willingly.   It borders on the oxymoronic to suggest that those who must be pushed or pulled or coerced to a specific goal are doing so willingly. Rather, the willing response of the group is actually an acknowledgement and affirmation of the individual who has been called into leadership. This attitudinal position has a fundamentally positive impact on the process and significantly enhances the prospects of success.  Without a willing team, it is not possible to have an authentic leadership model.  And of equal importance, productivity will be at risk.

The third component relates to the goal or objective that the team is pursuing.  This goal must be noble or honourable.  It must meet each of these criteria.  Ethical, moral, legal and...achievable.  If the objective cannot satisfy all of these descriptors, it fails to meet the basic and necessary standard. 

Before you jump to conclusions, let me state that profit can be a noble objective.  Take the case of K. Matsushita, founder of Panasonic.  Matsushita argued that profit was simply the recognition of society that the product or service being sold represented a value which they supported through their purchases.  If that product or service failed to meet a value proposition, society would vote with its wallet.  Simply put, the value of a thing is what it will bring.  Profit is only ignoble when the means of achieving that profit fail to meet the moral, legal and ethical requirements.

Based on this leadership equation, I define leadership as:

A leader is one who, by virtue of their moral authority, is able to persuade others to willingly follow in the pursuit of a noble or honourable goal.

The value of presenting this definition in the form of an equation is seen particularly when things are not working out as anticipated.  You can now  analyze which component is not in compliance and then work to address the issues that are out of alignment.  As example, has the leader lost moral authority or is it being challenged in such a way as to cause confusion amongst the team members?  Perhaps the goal has become unachievable because of unforeseen circumstances.  If so, the team has probably responded with muted enthusiasm that is curbing productivity.  In either case, the equation allows you to be more focused on finding a resolution and getting things back on track.

Leadership is not a right, but a privilege.  Therefore inspirational leadership must be a habit, not an act.  Too often the reality is that authentic leadership has been found to be difficult...and left wanting.  This prompts the 'leader' to adopt non-inspirational approaches to motivation which only serves to  move the team further away from the goal rather than closer to it.  This is so tragic because we need true leaders now more than ever!  We need leadership that inspires us to fulfil our potential, not that which inhibits us.  Far too many aspire for leadership rather than being called into the position.  Their motives are entirely selfish at a time when altruism ought to be at the root of their service.

Some will argue that altruism is in conflict with the dynamic and critical decisions that must take place in order to guide an organization or even a team during these uncertain times.  To them I would say very simply, look at where that type of decision making has taken us now.  Christine Legarde of the IMF stated in November 2011 that we may very well be in the throws of a lost decade with respect to true GDP growth.  If you think that is an exaggeration, look to the example of Japan over the past two decades.

We need a new model of leadership.  I call it the `HI Principle'.

Please join me again next time as we begin to look at what this Inspirational Leadership approach looks like in the workplace.  You may be surprised at both how easy and how difficult it can be.

1 comment:

  1. I have enjoyed your series on leadership Jim. I particularly agree with the persuasive aspect or component of leadership that you identify. I wonder though if there isn't another important component to leadership, or even the matrix in which your formula is embedded, and that is "story". It seems to me that good leaders recognize the story to which they persuade those around them to buy into. Excellent leaders, of course, are recognized for their key role in creating the stories of their business/enterprise/etc. I think the element of story makes the formula for leadership more organic and contextual. WIthout a compelling story the formula could just become another decontextualized technical fix. The story has to be more than a vision or has to be about the past and the present so that it is a real story. So what is it about great leaders that enables them to create compelling stories that others commit to? Several years ago I created a community-based masters program for our Faculty. It was unique in that it was offered off-campus in a remote area of the province. The story I created with the program was the continuing education of aboriginal professional educators in the north who would impact their communities. The success of the program was astounding with all 24 students completing their masters degree. But what I found really interesting was the high degree of interest by my colleagues to teach in the program. I had absolutely no problem staffing the courses even though the program was offered over 600km from campus and the class was larger than usual. They were interested in the story...I had to do little to persuade them to participate.