Too much 'leader' not enough 'ship'?

A failing in the modern interpretation of leadership and an opportunity for a new generation of leaders?

All too often when we consider leadership we tend to think of it as an individual phenomenon – we focus too much on the leader and not enough on the relationships. This is a potentially fatal mistake because without an environmental niche there is no need for a team or organisation and without the team there is no need for a leader. If the leader could deliver the task, the team would be removed as a cost saving measure and the leader would become an executive!

Possible questions to consider:

1. Do we focus on, and develop, our leaders or our leadership?
2. Why?
3. Is there room for improvement?

Leadership can, perhaps, be usefully conceived (no need to get into definition debates) as: ‘the capacity of a human system to shape its future for good’ - i.e: viability in its environment. Which makes sense as - Why would anybody accept the leadership of another except that the other sees more clearly where it is best to go? But it is only through effective relationships that followers discover where and why they need to go. The vision does not exist in the plan but in the relationships which empower many subordinate, autonomous, decision makers. Confidence in senior leadership therefore flows more from the quality of the relationships than the accuracy of the vision.

Possible questions to consider:

4. How good are our relationships with external stakeholders from their perspective?
5. How good are our relationships with internal stakeholders from their perspective?
6. How confident are we in our answers to questions 4 and 5 – and why? 

If leadership exists in ‘the relationships’ and ‘the gaps’ not in the entities then:
o Quality of relationships define the effectiveness of the leader
o Achievements define the effectiveness of the team or organisation
o Management can control the part but it takes leadership to shape the relationships

Possible question to consider:

7. Which do we do most of, reward and develop:
a. Managing team achievements?
b. Commanding and controlling the parts?
c. Building the relations?  
8. Why?
9. Has this a consequence?
10. Could we do better?

If leadership exists in the relations and not the parts then it exists in the relations with those served and in the relations with those who serve.  Knowledge of the state of these relations flows from ‘outside-in’ but the ability to change flows from ‘inside-out’ - The real territory of change is always ‘in here’.  The aspirations and consequences may be ‘out there’ but you can’t get ‘out there’ without starting ‘in here’ - that is one of the many paradoxes of leadership

Possible question to consider:

11. How well do we understand, and meet, the needs of those we serve externally?
12. How well do we understand, and meet, the needs of those we serve internally?
13. Why is this so?
14. Is there something that can be done better?
15. What are we willing to do to make it better?

‘For every great problem, there is a simple solution – and it’s wrong!’ Expect progress to be difficult and challenging. Expect, and welcome, an element of doubt – only in the shadow of doubt do we really listen to hear if what another says doesn’t match what we think - only then do we discover an opportunity to learn and grow.

Possible question to consider:

16. Are you better at listening or interrupting?
17. If you do nothing different can you really expect things to be different?
18. What can you do to make your organisation better?
19. If not you, who?
20. If not now, when?

“You are the leader you have been waiting for”