Nick's Notes

Leadership

It’s interesting how things cluster. Perhaps it’s more psychological than statistically valid but I sense that there are more conversations I’m having with CIOs and others about leadership at present.

Leadership is an interesting concept. For example, leadership can be in evidence at all levels of an organisation – it’s not really hierarchical like management, which has a defined scope of control. It undoubtedly can be taught, and it can be improved by experience. Yet at its strongest, it is an emotional pull. When more junior staff show leadership, it can be inspirational.

At one of my previous companies, my PA showed incredible leadership in tragic circumstances when a colleague collapsed and died in the office. It’s hard to prepare for such an event. I was out of the country at the time, and she had nowhere to turn. Yet she had a strong sense of what was right and acted impeccably.

The best leadership requires a direction. By this, I mean leaders lead their followers – by definition – to or from something. In my story, that was a strong moral conviction that directed the leadership. In less traumatic circumstances, it may be leadership towards the company goals.

Managers, on the other hand, ensure a consistent process. I know that is a sweeping generalisation, and I recognise that in any successful organisation both management and leadership are required. But have you ever talked about anyone being an inspirational manager?

Inspiring leadership at all levels in an organisation is something to be encouraged. All good leadership comes from deep-seated values – and good performance management systems look at values-based leadership and business performance as a matrix.

This situation creates conundrums, such as when someone who does not adhere to your values brings large volumes of business to the company. Jack Welch was clear – you get rid of those people, otherwise you destroy the values of the organisation. And the opposite way around, values-driven people who are not being successful in business terms, deserve support and coaching for success.

The qualities of good leadership – at all levels in an organisation – are to inspire confidence, embody an attractive set of values and to energise the organisation.

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