Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Where are we coming from?

Before we can properly address this issue of inspirational leadership, we need to analyze where we are coming from.  I noted in an earlier blog that, as baby boomers, we entered a far different workplace.  Not only were our role models products of the depression and World War Two, but there were many other significant differences.  Some of these include:
1.  Almost exclusively, the leaders were male.  This led very much to a 'might is right' type of attitude in the workplace.  Leadership was rarely inspirational.  More typically leadership took on the form of bullying, threats, harassment or other types of coercion.  Let`s just admit that there was a lack of sophistication in the management and leadership styles.
2.  Post secondary education was still not common amongst middle managers and many senior leaders.  So `seat of the pants` best describes the style of process.  MBA programs had only just started in the `60`s`and the study of leadership only began in earnest in the seventies.  Again, the lack of sophistication was evident.
3.  Jobs were plentiful and the economy was booming.  I remember quitting my first job before I started because I received a better offer later in the week for the grand sum of $500 a year more.
4.  Companies were hierarchical and offered seemingly unlimited opportunities for advancement.  People were often promoted almost out of desperation because of the speed of growth.  This prompted the publication of a book called The Peter Principle in which the author contended that individuals were promoted until they reach their level of incompetence.  By extension he argued that this resulted in corporations across North America being run by incompetents...
5. Information moved at a `snail mail` pace.  And there was far less information available.  So often the tried and true model was easy to maintain.
6.  And finally, all knowledge was presumed to reside in the corner office.  The boss was deemed to be infallible.  His word was gospel and virtually unchallenged.

But along the way we had that Wizard of Oz epiphany.  You will remember that Toto jumped from Dorothy's arms to pull back the curtain on an old man pulling levers and shouting into a horn.  When exposed, Dorothy confronted him and exclaimed "...you are a bad, bad man..." to which he replied "...no little girl, I am not a bad man, I am just a bad wizard..."

Our leaders were not bad people, but they were bad leaders.  And as the conditions of business changed, their shortcomings were exposed.

Next time we will look at what has changed and where those changes are taking us.

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