I”ve come to the conclusion that the greatest example we have today of Complexification, Over-thinking and paralysis by analysis is what we’ve done with the whole field of leadership.
Research has shown in the past that leadership is a hygiene factor, meaning that it is not a motivator but it is a de-motivator if it’s absent.
Recent research I’ve done has borne this out in a survey of what employees like and don’t like. About 30% of my 500 respondents say that management is the thing they like least about work but only 1% say it is what they like most.
So if leadership is not all that critical to success, why are we spending so much time focusing on it. Perhaps we should do as IBM did in its heyday. They spent a lot on training new managers, not so they would be great but just so they wouldn’t piss off all of the talented people they had working for them.
Our paralysis by analysis has also made leadership such a complex subject that everyone is left feeling inadequate by the sheer volume of behavioural characteristics that go to make a ‘good’ leader.
If good leadership is a function of behaviour then how can two very dissimilar people with completely divergent behaviours both be good leaders? And how could anyone then call Steve Jobs a great leader given his irascible nature?
Research I’m doing is showing instead that leadership is 80% process and 20% behaviour or inspiration. It appears that great leaders all share a similar process for dealing with followers even if they don’t share behavioural characteristics.
If I’m right then it would be easy to implement good leadership processes and get 80% of the way to being a good leader.
Instead of the paralysis by analysis within which we’re stuck, perhaps we can break out and deal with leadership process instead of debating whether good leadership is a function of nature or nurture. Perhaps instead of training people to adopt new behaviours, maybe we can train them to follow a new process.
Which do you think is easier?
Let’s face it. How many companies have enough wealth to employ teams of leaders who accomplish very little yet get paid very well? I’m not saying that these teams don’t work hard (paralysis by analysis), but what I am saying is that more sweat equity is invested by the front line rather than the second floor. It is easier to say “work harder” than it is to work harder.
I can speak for many employed people and also say something that very few managers would admit to: employees are viewed as expenses more than they are viewed as people. The value of a stock share is by far more important than any one employee. BY FAR!
Management is so unpopular because the health of the business is the priority. The health of an employee will only become important if it affects the health of the business. This is the cost of being a manager. Humanity gets put aside and that’s just the way it is. The managers we most respect are the ones who maintain a sense of compassion for the lives of their staff. This makes their job harder, but is necessary in order to achieve genuine respect (respect for the position is a given). The result is a front line staff that delivers on management’s promise to the customer. The result the “bosshole” gets is an unmotivated, passionless staff who do the bare minimum to preserve their job.
If 80% of leadership is process (and I think it is because I’ve worked for people I severely disliked, yet maintained the highest respect for because of their hard work, clarity and integrity) then you are right on about how to train people to manage. But the behavioural 20% must directly relate with the other 80. Human beings are not expenses or assets – they are human beings. You’d be shocked to discover the capabilities of teams who like their managers. You’d probably find that scoring lower than 80% on your leadership abilities gets taken care of by invested people who genuinely care and have the knowledge and experience to effectively assume the leadership qualities you let drop – because they like and respect you, as they are liked and respected by their manager.
There is always one bad apple who is going to give his boss grief no matter what. In the cohesive, well-led team, that bad apple gets thrown to the pigs.
A team of apples rot under the supervision of a farmer who does not know how to care for apples. When a good apple shows up, that apple is alienated because it makes the rotten apples look even worse.
Good farmer = good apples. And good apples are the result of planting, watering, caring, pruning, and waiting.
In the 80-20 split, the 20% behaviour is the catalyst that allows the management to effectively deploy all the hard work that went into the other 80%.
Don’t underestimate the value of the 20%.
Thanks again Gord for the comments and yes you are right, it does help for people to have better leadership behaviours. And this is what will create great leaders, Good process + Great behaviour. The thing is I’m saying we don’t necessarily need great leadership as my research is showing that all we need is leadership that doesn’t suck. While great behaviour would be nice, it isn’t necessary.
If I understand you correct you are saying that Leadership (100%) = Process (80%) + Behaviour (20%). In order to understand the quotation one has to define all the three concepts: leadership, process and behaviour to test if the quotation is correct or if there are gaps. And if there are gaps what are they.
I have no intention to define leadership here but just to state that leadership is not a global concept and is personal, cultural, contextual and time (historical) dependent. There might, however, be some common treads across all these dependencies that have characters as being universal.
I can’t comment on the validity of your research as I don’t know much about it, but having 30% saying that management is what is least liked at current work is worry some but not surprising. And Gord’s comment above about “bosshole” describes it very well.
In my humble opinion I think leadership IS important, but not in a way that it is normally perceived, but perhaps in a more unexpected and indirect manner.
Thanks for the input and sorry for the slow response as I’ve been away and am now back at it.
One thought I wanted to leave you with is that while leadership is hard to define, it does have a purpose and that is to develop and implement strategy. What I have found is that good leaders, ones who are good at developing and implementing a strategy, all follow a similar process. And that process connects strategy with the daily action of all their followers.
The end result of following the process is that companies end up with better strategy and better implementation than if they don’t.
The great thing about what I’m finding is that it doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or extrovert, have great or lousy people skills, or comb your hair on the left or right. No matter how you behave, you can learn to be a better leader by learning the process that good leaders follow. And you don’t need to change your behaviour.