Eko Consulting Ltd will share our latest thinking in our monthly blog. We will cover matters of topical and practical interest to those interested in developing themselves and their organisations.
The Cooperative Bank faces the daunting challenge of rebuilding its tarnished reputation as a consequence of Rev. Paul Flower’s sexual and illicit drug taking excesses. The question of how he got to a senior leadership role in banking will no doubt continue to be of interest to us all. Other stories of organisational misbehaviour include those of G4S (seeking to pay back monies accrued from fraudulent invoicing on Government contracts), Zurich Insurance ( CFO suicide note insinuating at a culture of bullying at the highest levels), RBS ( forcing small business to fold ) all hint at a crisis of leadership.
While there is no shortage of inspirational leadership in all business segments, a fundamental question needs to be asked as follows - What do the organisational leaders who want to delight their customers and create ethically sound and sustainable business need to consider. To my mind fundamental issues commend themselves as requiring consideration for any leader who wants to be successful. These issues are Purpose, Principles, Tactics, and Tests.
Organisational leaders have to be clear about their purpose in relation to the strategic orientation, organisational capabilities, customer expectations and market segment relevant to them. Too often the leaders that get into difficulty pay little attention to deciding how their own sense of purpose aligns to those of their organisation, over about satisfying shareholder interests or maximising profit. Purpose refers to internal drivers for motivation and are related to the expectations of the leader as well as the value assigned to achieving preset goals. The tricky challenge for some leaders is in making sure that a dominating sense of purpose doesn’t translate into bullying and intolerance of alternative views. Leadership purpose derives from a nuanced understanding of organisational context, the ability to remain relevant as a motivator and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
Organisational leaders have to base all their activities on a clearly demonstrable set of principles. Their embodying of values that are transparent is an essential requirement for leading authentically. Nothing is worse that a leader with a very wide credibility gap who purports to stand for certain principles but whose actions are a catalogue of dissonance. Leaders who last and leave positive organisational legacies are those whose principles are clearly espoused and open to critical scrutiny. The principles of the leader have to serve the defined purpose he or she has set out for themselves. It is not a question of plucking a set of worthy principles from a list but rather leading with clarity, integrity and a willingness to be tested as to how authentic they are.
Even with a clearly defined sense of purpose and embodied principles, the successful organisational leaders has to spend time devising, revising and refining the tactics to deploy in securing organisational buy-in and commitment. This is no small undertaking and requires consistent and focused attention. The choice of tactics will inform how the leader involves the organisational management/ leadership hierarchy in spreading the necessary messages. In addition the choice of tactics determines the organisational climate. The organisational climate is the way leadership is experienced by employees in relation to how they are supported to perform the expectations of their role.
Successful organisational leaders seek feedback from within and outside their organisation. In a sense feedback is the test of the successful deployment of the appropriate tactics. Indeed the opportunity to test and re-test whether the purpose they have identified, the principles they espouse and how they have attended to delivering their ambitions for the organisation should never be overlooked. This essentially is about responsiveness and resilience. Leaders who don’t attempt to find ways of testing their assumptions are taking a big risk.
Leaders who take these issues in to account will review and refine their sense of purpose on the basis of what tests of their effectiveness show up, if properly reflected upon these issues form the framework for a servant- leadership orientation. This is good as it reduces the risk of becoming addicted to the power of leadership and the propensity to abuse such power. A famous quote when rendered in full has profound lessons for the organisational leaders of today. ‘Power tends to corrupt, absolute powers tends to corrupt absolutely. Great men are nearly always bad men.’ (Lord Acton 1887). So why are we surprised when leaders are shown to have quite serious moral defects. The rethinking of leadership starts with defining leadership purpose away from the use and indeed misuse of power.