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Leadership’s New Look


Leadership’s New Look
by Merry Lee Olson

In a rapidly changing world, one can only speculate what business will look like several years from now. With technology continually changing the way business operates, organisational structures are transforming. It’s clear that today’s technology has dramatically altered not only the way people work, but the way they want to be managed. As a result, leadership — the subject of many studies, books, and training programs — is commanding a new look.

Dr. Kenneth Blanchard of The Ken Blanchard Companies — a world-wide development organisation with a wholly-owned subsidiary in the UK — says it doesn’t matter how much technology an organisation possesses if management doesn’t know what makes its business, and the people in it, tick.

Ken Blanchard is widely known as the co-author of The One Minute Manager® and creator of Situational Leadership® II, a simple and timeless business model that revolutionised management concepts when it was introduced two decades ago. He explains that people in the new millennium workplace are “knowledge workers” who play key roles in initiating and implementing strategies to improve bottom-line performance, which means that their leaders need to facilitate rather than direct the work process.

Around the globe most companies are made up of teams — both project teams and ongoing teams. Organisations have learned that teams boost the power of people to work together to realise individual potential and sustain optimal performance company-wide. “Good teams, successful teams,” says Blanchard, “all share things in common, whether it’s a sales team, a production team, a task force team, a sports team, or even a family team. And to be an effective team leader the goal isn’t to be boss and make sure everyone knows who is in charge. It’s to do whatever it takes to help the team perform well.”

In today’s workplace, effective leaders partner with their teams and individuals by encouraging them to set goals, talking with them about their performance, and asking how they would like to be recognised for accomplishments or redirected when necessary. Leaders serve as mentors and coaches, rather than act as “bosses”. The result is that management and employees work together in their organisations to identify and achieve excellence.

Creating and sustaining organisational excellence in a world that is changing so quickly is one of the principal areas of focus of The Ken Blanchard Companies. “The key is creating great human organisations that people want to work for,” says Blanchard.

As Ken Blanchard conducted his work with organisations around the world over the last 20 years, he’s observed that people need to be valued. “They want to be set up for success,” he says. To do this, leaders need to set a compelling vision, create strong operating values, and develop an organisational image that can be lived. Leadership has to point the way,” he says. “People want something to follow. It’s amazing what organisations can achieve when there’s a clear sense of where they are going and what they stand for.”

In today’s organisations, where individuals are being challenged to take on new responsibilities, leaders must let go of authority to create an environment that inspires people to support organisational goals.

Helping individuals evolve from being responsive to responsible and to take the lead even when they are not in charge is key. The ideal is to get people to move from being problem spotters to problem solvers. People want to set their own goals, negotiate for direction and support, and manage projects effectively.

“Now that job security is no longer guaranteed, people also want to be lifelong learners. They want to add something to their resumes that wasn’t there last year,” Blanchard says. “People want to learn skills that will allow them to be better next year than they are now, and they want to be able to solve problems on their own.”

Blanchard also believes that people want honesty. “You can’t tell your people that you are going to do something and then not do it,” he says. “Relationships must be based on trust, and leaders must be viewed as people with integrity.”

He emphasises that to achieve long-term success, leadership must be founded on values-based principles that uphold regard for the people being led and for the customers being served. These principles are timeless and include caring about people, loyalty, discipline and accountability. “Healthy organisations are those that engage values as well as methods, and where practices are aligned with those values,” he says. “People must be treated as an organisation's most prized resource. Each leader within the organisation should act as though his or her very job and the success of the organisation depends on how people are treated.”

Although The Ken Blanchard Companies have designed and delivered some of the most effective training programs on the market since 1979, Dr. Blanchard says they believe that training products or programs alone do not create adequate or lasting change in organisations. The power of training is unleashed only when it is tied to vision; therefore sound management links training with business strategy.

According to Blanchard, visionary leaders are the builders of the future — those who work with imagination and insight and look forward, not just at the issues at hand. They are able to bring forth the best in people and unite them around a shared sense of purpose. Visionary leaders have their eyes on the horizon; they are innovators and change agents, see the big picture, and think strategically.

Blanchard believes that setting an organisational vision takes a traditional hierarchy, but also believes that once the vision is set the structure should be turned upside down with the people who have the vision providing support for those who will convert it to reality. “You implement with shared power,” he says.

Management can jump-start a shared power culture by sharing information about its financial performance, its market share, its profitability, its costs*everything managers use to make informed decisions. "You have to open up your books and show everyone how your company makes money," says Blanchard. His belief is that sharing information that “tells it like it really is” creates a sense of ownership in employees that enhances their sense of responsibility. Information sharing also helps build trust between management and employees.

Giving more information is giving more entitlement. It creates a workplace where individuals take pride in holding themselves accountable for productivity, innovations, cost control, customer service and other business needs. They will also be energised to implement decisions and seek training in needed job skills.

New skills include peer leadership, according to Dr. Richard Lyles, author of Winning Ways: Four Secrets for Getting Great Results by Working Well with People, where he addresses one of the key factors in today’s organisational tier.

Lyles says that as society has moved from the Industrial Age into the Knowledge Age, organisations have become flatter (less hierarchical) and more networked, meaning results are produced through a series of lateral relationships rather than top-down directives. The result is that people who work in organisations must rely more than ever on peer leadership skills to get the job done.

Peer leadership represents the ability to produce results through others without relying on formal authority. A person who practises effective peer leadership generally can build positive relationships with others, both inside and outside the organisation, and at almost any level in the organisation, to achieve desired outcomes.

“Peer leadership is much more than traditional leadership laid on its side,” says Lyles. In many ways it is more challenging than top-down leadership because the practitioner doesn’t have positional power to fall back on.

Because peer leadership is an interpersonal process, all the skills and traits normally associated with effective interpersonal communications will be helpful. But in today’s work environment four key elements define a strong underlying framework that can help transform effective interpersonal communications skills into effective peer leadership skills. These include:

1. Using positive pull power to make others feel stronger as a result of interactions.

2. Integrating goals to achieve true alignment of intentions.

3. Avoiding polarisations, especially two-valued thinking traps.

4. Solving problems with a focus on the future rather than the past.

Taken together, these four guidelines form a basis for building the long-term, mutually rewarding relationships that are necessary for the practice of effective, results-producing peer leadership.

“I wrote Winning Ways to help today's executives — and aspiring executives — meet and conquer their greatest challenge,” Lyles says. “That challenge is not learning the latest software or mastering the global market. It's working with people — the crucial skill for everyone in business whether they're in the mailroom, at the customer service desk, or at the company headquarters.”

Obviously individuals play a key role in leadership. However, a new global study recently conducted jointly by the World Economic Forum and Booz-Allen Hamilton reveals that leadership is an institutional capacity, not solely an individual personality trait. Businesses that rely on a single great leader run the risk of being weakened when that individual leaves.

To thrive in the new economy, companies must cultivate several characteristics and their leaders must manage these enabling systems. Communication systems as well as enabling management systems in regard to planning, vision, organisational structure, and group measurement and compensation help to create alignment while encouraging adaptability. These two areas (alignment and adaptability) are the keys to organisational survival because they create the environment that allows individuals to do the right thing.

How does this play out as we accelerate through this first decade of the new century? Four members of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Office of the Future think tank - Drs. Eunice Parisi-Carew, Don Carew, Fred Finch, and Jesse Stoner- teamed together to take a look at what leadership will look like in five years. Trends they identified that impact this include:

 Globalisation of the marketplace
 Diversity of the workforce
 The explosion of technology and information
 Recruitment and retention of talent
 Creation of knowledge-based learning organisations

In their report, entitled Leadership 2005, Parisi-Carew, Carew, Finch and Stoner say that leaders of the present and the future have to be versatile and values-based and able to use both transactional and transformational leader behaviours. These leaders have to be able to move in and out of teams and be able to function in a hierarchical setting, yet on the same day function in a self-managed team and then in a leader-led group. They need to hold people accountable and also empower them. And most significantly, leaders have to encourage and foster change.

The authors define values-based leadership as being the process of achieving worthwhile results and contributing to the well–being of all involved, while acting with respect, care, and fairness for internal and external environments.

They believe that values-based leadership can function in organisational environments in ways that serve the achievement of others, build relationships based on mutual influence, articulate vision and values, build community, and enhance choice for all.

This is no small task! Accordingly, the four researcher/authors have defined “Areas of Mastery”—six essential skill sets leaders must develop. These include the ability to:

1. Authentically communicate

2. Identify developmental needs and flexibly respond in ways that foster growth

3. Understand and use multiple perspectives

4. Harness and use power for the collective good

5. Understand and use effective change principles

6. Understand the work of the organisation and maintain its viability

It’s not surprising that the four researcher/authors recommend that organisations move toward an integrated approach to leadership and treat it as a developmental process. Certainly that may be the best route to attaining enlightened leadership, which is unquestionably a requirement for organisational success in the 21st century.

The bottom line is leadership in our evolved society has moved away from hierarchical structures with "command-and-control" management modes. Adept leaders recognise that teams are more powerful than the sum of the individuals, and that individuals must be able to lead themselves before they can lead others. People in today’s workforce want to be recognised as appreciating assets, and those most in touch with customers want to be able to make decisions, and be supported in those decisions by their leaders. First-rate managers respect their workers, as well as themselves.

Why is good leadership important? To survive and thrive, organisations in this new millennium/century/era must develop cultures where leaders and employees work together to identify and achieve excellence. The performance of people determines an organisation’s success. The motivation of its people along with their determination, creativity, flexibility and hard work can increase sales, satisfy customers and send profits soaring. As Blanchard says, “Profits are the applause you get for doing a good job.”

Merry Lee Olson leads a virtual corporation of seasoned professionals who cut through the communications clutter to get to the heart of what organisations need to succeed in today’s increasingly connected global community. In addition to writing about business, she advises leaders who are seeking new solutions or initiating change.

The simple, but powerful, leadership principles found in Ken Blanchard’s writing and speeches have created a positive impact on the day-to-day management of people and companies around the globe. His impact as a writer is far reaching, with 21 books to his credit in the last 20 years - many of them best-sellers. The One Minute Manager was the first of these and has sold more than nine million copies worldwide. Translated into more than 25 languages, it continues to average sales of more than 15,000 copies per month. Free copies of The One Minute Manager are available to the first ten people to e-mail Toni Dickson at The Ken Blanchard Companies, [email protected], quoting ICPD.

Back to ICPD.


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