When you read a leadership book it is full of brilliant new ideas which have been brought together usually from existing work which can be decades old but still relevant. So, what this does, quite rightly is to put a new spin on leadership. Don’t get me wrong, I have spent decades reading these books and still buy the next one appearing on the shelves to see what pearls of wisdom they hold. I’m usually excited by the first ten pages, which bring me new knowledge, but then bored thereafter as I am told the same thing in ten different ways using ten different case studies which do not apply and are not transferrable at all. We are so caught up in names, strategy types, leadership styles and other elements which most of us could not replicate successfully in a million years that we lose sight of what is really important.
When creating a strategy for a company, unfortunately the second phase, not the first phase, is to include the teams from every level in developing the strategies and plans. However, by then it’s already too late, for two reasons. The first is that we as leaders and managers already have a set idea of what we want, and of course this is time constrained. Thus, the second stage of involving the business is a lip service system that will end with disappointment and dissolution from all of the staff because none of their ideas, or perhaps only a token one, will be taken into consideration. The second follows on from this and concerns the fact that effective leadership at this stage is impossible or difficult to implement because it has already been undermined by the approach taken.
What if we were to start working groups on specific aspects at the start of a strategy or plan, give them time to evolve and then get feedback from the groups in front of all layers of the business. Is this not better than having a dysfunctional team with folded arms in the room? Allow the leaders of each group to self-select and then provide them with the platform to give the results of their work including the underpinning rationales. Allow them all of the data and knowledge to make the decisions that come to the table and then these people feel that buy in is simple because their ideas are being listened to.
A good leader will then allow, however much they hate the idea, an organic development of the plan to be supported from across the business. This is in fact leading from the middle and allowing the fundamental tenets of good business sense that we all talk about to be fulfilled. We are all keen to provide such opportunities but constantly fail because either our egos or lack of altruism get the better of us. I know what it is like to do both of these but by learning through my years in different sectors am now comfortable in letting this go and applying the principles that really matter.