The future of leadership - McArthur
In follow up to the LG Professionals SA Conference, Allan Preiss from McArthur addressed the qualities of the leader of the future. Here is a follow up summary of the session, together with the audience responses during the session.
Our leadership model has failed us badly. Never have we had such low levels of trust in our leaders – be they corporate, political or religious leaders.
It is not just how our organisations are led. Rather it is the way we think about leadership that is at the heart of the problem.
Our leadership mindset goes back to Napoleon and is built on a hero leader model. This directs us to an obsession with strong, individualistic, charismatic leaders who are all-knowing and powerful and who must be in control of every situation. And if we just let them they will take us into a bright future.
Their role is to determine the strategy, devise the tactics and have an army of subordinates to do their bidding.
This might be appropriate in military campaigns or in times of crisis. It is totally unsuited to the 21st century where the success of our organisations and institutions is built on the skills and knowledge of their people. It is often said that the role of leaders is to create followers. This is certainly true of the hero leader model. But it is wrong!
We need more leaders in our organizations - not more followers. I am not talking about people with a title. I mean people who are prepared to take a lead on issues that matter, working in organisations that encourage and facilitate that kind of leadership.
These sorts of leaders already exist.
Jim Collins calls them Level 5 leaders. Robert Greenleaf speaks of servant leaders.
For Collins these leaders are characterised by the following features:
• They have great ambition for their organisations whilst being personally very humble.
• They are focused on their organisations being successful well beyond their tenure.
• They have a window and mirror philosophy. When things go well they look out the window to attribute success to the work of others or good fortune. When things go badly they look in the mirror and ask what they could have done differently to generate a better outcome.
The servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the organisations and communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power, servant leadership is about sharing power, putting the needs of others first and helping people develop and perform as highly as possible.
At the LG Professionals SA conference in Adelaide we asked participants to describe the attributes of the best and worst leader they knew of or had worked for. Their responses are shown below.
• Leads by example
• Inspires others to leave a legacy
• Enables staff
• Shares leadership
• Achieves through others
• Develops people
• Doesn’t treat people fairly
• Withholds information
• Doesn’t listen
• Doesn’t share recognition
• Says one thing and does another
• Micro manages
• Self centred
None of these attributes have anything to do with hero leadership or skills and knowledge. They are all about emotional intelligence and being other-centred.
Yet what courses do our aspiring leaders undertake? Invariably they are post-graduate programs that have a technical orientation: MBA, Strategy and Planning, Public Policy. I am not suggesting that technical/professional skills are not important. They are.
But they are 'table stakes'. They are what gives you access to the leadership table.
As we have seen far too often they are not what will make you a stand out as a leader.
We know what will do that. Too often we just choose to ignore it as we search for the next hero to fix the mess the previous hero got us into. Just look at the recent political turmoil we have experienced – Rudd to Gillard to Rudd to Abbott to Turnbull.
Some organisations do get it. They embrace the idea of being a leaderful organisation and they reap the benefits. They are a living alternative to hero leader organisations.
As William Gibson said: “The future is already here - It’s just not very evenly distributed.”
If you want to know more about McArthur’s approach to leadership and leadership development contact Rebecca Hunt or Allan Preiss from McArthur on 08 8100 7000. Or visit www.talentarchitects.com.au