Leadership Job Description (mission critical portions):
- Facilitate the development of, and establish, a concrete vision for the organization, its people and its services
- Engage all in planning for the short-term and long-term
- Build the capacity of the organization, teams, projects/programs, and people so that all goals, objectives and plans can succeed
- Hire, train and support very smart people who demonstrate their willingness to produce, perform, collaborate, grow, serve clients/customers, and support everyone else in the organization
- Demonstrate one’s own ability to grow, adapt, change, drive, excel, and build
- Confront ambivalence, problems, apathy, behaviors, and personal resistance which limit the fulfillment of the mission, or which limit the achievement of goals related to the organization, teams or client/customer service
- Engage in continuous improvement and business/service development
- Create a flexible, adaptive workforce and workplace environment
- Sustain a culture that is growth-oriented, based on very high standards (not the status quo) and is adaptable and embracing of change
What are NEVER listed, discussed or placed on the table for negotiation with a true leader, are the following behaviors and actions:
- Sustain the status quo or mediocrity
- Simply manage but not lead
- Slow or stop change
- Support resisters, under-achievers
- Sabotage the change and improvement efforts of leaders who are subordinate to them
- Stand by passive-aggressors instead of improvement advocates
- Situationally-plan instead of engaging in long-term planning
Yet, because of ‘friendships’, fear, apathy within themselves, or ignorance about ‘how’ to lead-confront-facilitate change, professionals in leadership positions make decisions which send messages that undercut true leadership (e.g., all of the things listed in the ‘Leadership Job Description’).
As a executive coach and an organizational change-consultant I have crossed path with many amazing, true leaders; those who fully embrace the “Leadership Job Description” components and move full steam ahead with change to better the organization, its workforce and its services/products for customers/clients. Almost all of the true leaders, with whom I’ve had the honor of working, have faced various levels of resistance, emanating from various stakeholder groups within and outside of their organizations who, for various reasons, don’t want to change-grow-improve-serve to their fullest potential. Oh, many of these stakeholders will all give lip-service to change-growth-improvement-service, but when they actually have to change, they engage in, at first, overt then passive-aggressive resistance efforts (e.g., denying the necessity of change, redirecting the need for change to center upon ‘managers’ or other organizational leaders instead of themselves’, derailing change with gossip-innuendo-rumors, slowing their own efforts, debating every single change endeavor, or forming alliances and enlisting other leaders to outright counter-act any changes).
It’s that last example (e.g., forming alliances and enlisting other leaders to outright counter-act any changes) that I believe is most dangerous to a leadership environment. All of the previous examples are individualized and can be dealt with on a situational basis. However, the enlistment of other leaders (i.e., senior executives or senior managers) undercuts the very culture of colleague trust and fragments the leadership team itself. When a leader engages in change for the “good” of the organization, its people, its customers, or its culture, it is the job of other leaders to support, not sabotage, the change; even if they don’t agree with it or understand it fully themselves.
Allying with employee or supervisory saboteurs, for whatever reason, sends a dangerous message. Alliances show themselves in the form of:
- Holding meetings with employees/supervisors of other leaders behind closed doors
- Entertaining ‘their side’ of the change-story without redirecting them to their leader
- Holding the leader accountable and disciplining the leader for creating uncomfortable change-situations when the fact is that all change is uncomfortable
- Communicating support for the status quo
- Engaging in story-telling, judgmentalism, rumors, gossip and disdain with the change-saboteurs
- Limiting or refusing to investigate or discuss perspectives with your leaders, seeing them as your true ‘partners’ for organizational success; instead simply making a decision based on employee or supervisory commentary, leaving your true leaders out on a limb and sawing it off
- Putting personalities and personal, long-standing, relationships before leadership principles and practices
The messages that these behaviors and actions send can be boiled down to: “if you just complain enough to the right people then all change will stop or slow down”, “if you get the ear of a senior executive, skew your story, and get them to distrust their own leaders then you’ll win in the end”, “leaders don’t really need to be followed or even listened to if you have access to senior executives”, and “any future change can simply be waited-out or reversed.” Leaders…I’m writing to you…these are the messages that you are sending when you ally with saboteurs. Are these the messages that you want to send?
Take a moment to sit in silence and identify the leadership legacy you wish to leave, the leadership characteristics, behaviors and traits that you wish to exemplify, and the leadership image you wish to portray; all of which send messages to stakeholders and all of which dramatically influence the culture of the organization or team. What messages do you want to send?
by Bob Schout, PowerSkills Training & Development, Inc.
©2015 All rights reserved.
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