FOCUS – Leadership: solo flight is over

by Bob Gregg – 

by Bob GreggMany times people think leadership is the “soft” side of management and that it may have some value—but that the bottom line must come first, and that the leader must operate with a firm hand … to the exclusion of the people involved.

In our last discussion we introduced the most recent research on leadership, done through a project at Stanford University. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great identifies five levels of leadership that correspond to what we’ve discovered. His new discovery? The twin elements in Level 5: personal humility and professional will.

I invite you to review the illustration (and better yet, get a copy of this book) and evaluate just where you stand in your leadership, and where those to whom you report stand. But don’t be intimidated. We’ve hinted at the fact that leadership can be learned; Collins’ research supports that.

In an interview reported in Christianity Today, Collins indicates these findings were a complete shock to him. “I really don’t like leadership answers, I’m biased against them. I certainly wasn’t looking for leaders like this. To see that there were the distinguishing type of leaders, was out of left field and remarkable.” He further comments that, “We learned that people are not the most critical asset. The right people are, even to picking the right people ahead of selecting the right strategy.”

Level 5 leaders are more focused on the mission of the organization, and getting the right people involved and in the right place is a crucial part in their success. Thus, the great companies were great places to work for the right people, but terrible places to work for the wrong people. Having the wrong people is not only detrimental to the organization and its mission, it’s most detrimental to the wrong people; they are unfulfilled and usually disgruntled and unproductive.

Once again, as our primary example in successful leadership, Jesus went to great efforts to find and recruit the right people as his disciples. Further, it is no secret that Paul was passionate about the mission. In Acts 15: 36-41 we see that his success was in great part because of his concern about having the right people in the right places to the point that he was even willing to break with Barnabas over the issue about Mark.

We’ve discussed a lot about theories of leadership and what leaders do in general terms. But, chief among what leaders definitely don’t do, is to use their power and authority in ways that damage the followers, and thus the mission of the organization itself. Power is the currency of organizational life, part of the process to influence people. But too many ‘wannabe’ leaders—who are too lazy to learn and /or practice real leadership—seem all too willing to accept leadership counterfeit as a result of their position and authority: command and control.

Once again, the words of Commissioner Linda Bond ring loud and clear: “The day of the ‘command and control,’ or solo flight style of leadership is gone. Anyone who thinks they can lead like that today is a dinosaur.”

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