Has Leadership Gone Missing?

Large initiatives with their analysis of current processes, resources and competency tend to reveal lots of previously hidden things.

With external eyes those things look like weakness in either leadership or strategy (you could argue those are one in the same). The tough part when it comes to moving change forward is that half the time it is not the current leaders who let things get to where they are. So in addition to suggesting ways to address the “things” that are revealed external voices also have to help with trust building.

Some of the things that get revealed:

Too Many Tools

Especially with IT initiatives first round assessment uncovers an overflowing toolbox with duplicates of everything.

With my eight year old daughter I cleaned out my garage. She put herself in charge of deciding which tools I would keep and which I would donate. For each one she asked me its function and then made me decide which version to keep. I now sympathize and empathize with my clients in new way. It was sad to see some of those hammers go, but the one I saved worked the best and had a chance of lasting.

There will always be someone who holds tight to one of those “unnecessary” hammers. Addressing that hold is an auxiliary part of the change process.

Who let all those tools accumulate?

Organic Decision Making

The previous question suggests someone in leadership willfully approved multiple tools.

In many cases, with external eyes, it appears getting a signature is the key to owning your own hammer. That does not release the leaders from the blame it just highlights one result of organic decision making. The leaders who freely give away their John Hancock are either purposely relinquishing decision making or feigning empowerment and mistakenly passing responsibility.

Empowerment is great. Development of mid level leaders through crucial decision making is fantastic. Just know that gets out of hand quickly. Organic Decision Making requires MORE leadership not less.

The Organizations Cultural Thing

Every organization has its cultural “thing”. For one it may be play nice. For another it may be “be nice”. For some it may be a certain kind of competition internally (one on one, team to team, etc.). For many smaller to mid size firms it is a too strong connection to the founder and his/her perspective (there comes a time for every organization where the founder perspective does not work anymore or the organization dies).

All the stakeholders know the cultural thing their organization has.

Most do not want to acknowledge the effects that thing has. The thing is a root cause all its own.

It may be a stretch to blame this on any one leaders or group of leaders. Except… that thing tends to reflect the original founders perspective. It works for a long time and then when it does not no one wants to confront it.

As an external I often find myself forced into trying to do and illustrate the opposite of the thing. For the “nice” places I do not go all the way to mean; I stop at contrarian.

Task vs. Process Focus

Human beings love to put parameters and boxes and fences and silos around stuff.

Those barriers are, to an external, visible and tangible. Internally not always as much.

The walls show in the way task is approached. Lots of lists? Lots of walls. Lots of to do’s? Fences. Lots of secrets and heroes (who know the answers and must be asked for them)? Well you get the point.

When task does not line up to process I see leadership failure.

Leaders, at least the senior ones, are known for and usually compensated against, looking ahead, seeing the future and anticipating. So should they not be great at placing task into process?

Admittedly there are some leaders who take organizations into a process focus. Too much of that and the lists get endless while the documentation and rules pile up. There is a middle ground. Big change tends to show the organization missed the middle in one direction.

Seeing an organization with external eyes from the vantage point of big change often reveals gaps in leadership, problems with culture and a task process balancing act that tilts too much one way. Has leadership gone missing?

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