Leaders come and go, but whose influence is greatest when it comes to installing them? I could wade into the political realities of our time, but I’m going to try to resist that. Instead I will discuss the ways in which organizations install, grow and recognize leaders.
Organizations are complex entities. There are some organizations that are family dynasties, others that require significant technical expertise in leadership, and there are others where leaders are elevated for reasons associated with leadership of people and strategy.
When it comes to ‘who are the leaders’, what influence do the employees of an organization have in the choice? For the sake of this discussion, I will focus on organizations accountable to stockholders.
Leaders emerge over time. They can be installed as a result of exhaustive succession planning over many years, direct hiring or sometimes as a temporary stop-gap. Is the process of installing leaders always merit-based or can it be for other reasons such as expediency and change? Whatever, the reasons for leaders being in the roles they are, I would argue that employees have a big say in this.
Just doing your job, keeping your head down and going home at night hoping your job will still be there tomorrow, is a sure way of having zero say in who leads you. Taking the opportunity to provide feedback, voice your opinion, participate and be proactive, is a sure way to at least keeping doors open in the evolution of leaders.
The question of ‘how does culture influence organizational development’ is answered in part by the two extremes portrayed above. Employees who can’t, don’t or won’t contribute to the voices that define an organization, get led by leaders regardless of their opinion, preference or passion. Employees who speak up, challenge the status quo with the intention of improvement, and who are empowered to contribute to organizational change, get leaders who champion the masses in their pursuit of excellence. I appreciate that I am making some generalizations, but there is some truth to this argument.
Some leaders only see one path forward without considering the merits of others. Others assert autocratic influence. Still others become paralyzed by the web of complexity. And others are insightful, collaborative, incisive leaders. In all of these leadership scenarios, there is always someone accountable for how it is. If it isn’t the employees, sometimes through no fault of their own, it can be the existing leadership hierarchy, HR, Board members or ultimately stock-holders. So to the question ‘do we get the leaders we deserve’, my answer is ‘Yes’ – although the ‘we’ is the variable that leaves some people powerless and others responsible.
Creating a culture of openness and inclusion, developing a measured, talent-based leadership pipeline, appointing and assessing great leaders ….. all of these are vital components in an environment where leaders are developed and empowered. Align this to an organization that knows where it is heading and that is accountable to all vested parties and a healthy outcome is ensured. Working with organizations to develop their culture, coach leaders and build tomorrow’s pipeline is a privilege and also a responsibility to many.