Dave on December 21, 2011
The Harvard Business Review (HBR) published an interesting article in 2009 entitled ‘Leadership in a (Permanent) Crisis’ which, in my opinion, remains a worthwhile read and is particularly interesting on two counts.
Firstly, it was published over a year after the time generally acknowledged as the start of our prevailing economic situation. I use the word prevailing rather than current because as we draw to the end of 2011 the current forecasts for 2012 offer little optimism or hope of change for the better. The HBR article refers to ‘the current crisis’ in 2009 and forecasts economic crisis as the future norm existing beyond the recovery from recession. For me, as we enter the fifth consecutive year of ‘current crisis’, this poses the question ‘double dip’ or new economic environment?
Secondly, specialising in leadership, strategy and cohesion; the prevailing economic environment provides opportunities which simply do not exist in a benign situation. As much as regularity, dependability and certainty instil confidence they are the arena of the manager; whereas, irregularity, challenge and uncertainty provide opportunities not otherwise available to a leader. No amount of tweaking of financial mechanisms, directives or policy changes are likely to impact sufficiently on global competition, political instability, energy concerns and climate issues to remove risk and uncertainty.
So what should we do? ‘Batten down the hatches’ and rely on the same old measures and techniques that got us where we are today whilst hoping someone will ‘fix’ something somewhere to make all things good again? Or realise leadership and organisational adaptability are required to overcome the relentless challenges of our ‘new economic environment’? The problem is this, as difficult as the former may be it is undoubtedly a much easier option than the behavioural and organisational change required by the latter. Either way, the outcome is not guaranteed success though one course of action is more likely to succeed than the other.
The message in the HBR article referred to does not appear to have been popular at the time and I doubt it will be today. Perhaps because there is no ‘spoonful of sugar’ offered with the medicinal advice therein. This said, it remains worth reading all the same on http://hbr.org/2009/07/leadership-in-a-permanent-crisis/ar/1
Posted in: Leadership, Recession Leadership, Risk, Strategy
Phil on December 20, 2011
Europe’s dead, the world is going into a double dip recession, businesses are going into receivership, and banks aren’t lending money; how come this nation’s businesses function at all. If you believed all you read in the newspapers or hear on the radio or TV you would be feeling pretty depressed as you enter a brave new year. How would those negative feelings assist you in challenging business times, how would they boost your confidence, how would they inspire those you lead to greater feats and happiness?
The natural inclination to focus on the negative underpinned by a natural instinct designed to assist self preservation also comes with a severe negative influence that is extremely unhealthy as the world of capitalism mutates into something new and unknown. Positivity is the only way forward but positivity requires perspective,
Key attributes that are needed in organisations to allow businesses to survive and develop in this new economic climate are vision, flexibility, courage, determination, teamwork and a positive disposition. None of them are new, few of them are developed and sustained deliberately in times of plenty and yet they are the ones most needed when times become more difficult. What is missing in the short term approach to business is perspective. Its missing when things are healthy as it is not required but the evidence of its absence is stark when things get tougher. Perspective is vital within business leadership. Perspective is a view or prospect; it is also a particular way of regarding something. However for me the best description in a business context is an understanding of the relative importance of things.
The most important consideration in today’s business perspective is that the world has changed and it will not return to the heady days of 2008 prior to the banking crisis. But disaster is not as imminent as the media would have us believe. Business is changing form as pace, risk, economics and environment impact upon it. It is only those business that have true perspective and apply themselves in a positive way using vision, flexibility, courage, determination that will endure whilst those without perspective who hanker after days gone by will soon become a part of history as they are the ones that lack the necessary qualities.
Posted in: Leadership, Motivation, Uncategorized
Phil on December 6, 2011
We have entered the age of empowered individuals. Leaders use potent new technologies and harness social media to organize themselves and focus interest on their agendas and activities. Most are ordinary people with access to new information tools that can virally create large global audiences for their messages.
The more traditional hierarchical institutions of modern developed societies, whether they are governments or companies, are not prepared or ready for this new social power or leadership as the riots in London and the recent occupy campaigns in cities around the World exemplify.
This power has resulted in the emergence of a new dynamic form of leadership and new styles of leader – they are individuals who do not hold formal positions of authority, they operate and influence at every level within society virtually – top, middle and bottom. They are interested in political, social and organisational change. They challenge the status quo of the traditional institutions and the established concepts and practices of leadership. The speed of action of such groups implies revolution although given the pace of modern life it may just reflect more rapid evolution.
The world is changing and potential leaders now have phenomenal access through modern technology to potential followers; but are we really seeing the emergence of a new ‘grassroots leadership style’ or just a virtual reaction to current geo-political and economic issues and imbalances on global organisational and social stages?
This new technological advantage neuters traditional power and law enforcement and quickly turns virtual agendas into reality and action on an unprecedented scale. What we are seeing is the emergence of a new type of social leadership, irrespective of position or power or authority – relational rather than hierarchical. The concept of a fluid collective responsibility with time relevant ‘liquid leadership’ that builds, fades and morphs – where leadership comes to the fore at the top, centre, or edges of an organisation be it virtual or real. Leadership based more upon time relevant expertise, knowledge, and relational connection. It is a transient relationship where power is virtual and yet influence is real – a matter of permissive leadership with influence presiding over old fashioned traditional enforced authority, control and autocracy. Speed is of the essence and speed creates a phenomenal advantage for these new free running leaders. Accordingly, social power or the ‘power with’ rather than ‘power over’ provides the collaborative advantage even on the global stage. Witness the Arab Spring. This new leadership can be momentary and omnipotent, as powerful and transient as it is weak and ineffective. Predictable-maybe sometimes, yet surprise brings potency and it’s this new leadership’s unpredictability in terms of uptake or influence that can make it difficult to control. A popular cause and the means of unfettered communication are at the heart of this new leadership. Alliances fostered in an information age where national agendas are undone by social perceptions.
This new leadership has a precedent; it is similar in shape to the old terrorism of Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden. Where a religious and social agenda created a fanaticism that spawned martyrs by the thousand. Where social agendas pampered to by a sensationalist press created a myth of omnipotence. Perhaps the new anti-establishmentarianism will be seen as the new terrorism when viewed from an old fashioned state government perspective
This new leadership comes and goes dependent upon the social situation and leaders come and go dependent upon the relevance of their expertise and the access they have to social media and the scale of their audience. This new form is so dynamic it resembles a ‘liquid leadership’ of a group coalesced by only a social strategy or popular agenda.
These new groups herded together by social conscience or injustice often present a preferred response to those transgressors they oppose. Their preference is for action, to engage, not ignore; work with each other, not against to resolve issues by whatever means whether the establishment likes it or not.
Business needs to understand this new dimension of leadership, if it does not it will miss out on an opportunity. It needs to harness the social and economic power this new form of leadership affords For to understand and develop a new business leadership culture based upon influence and empowerment will bring with it a quantum change to the long established way leadership is currently practised using some of the somewhat antiquated autocratic leadership theory.
Posted in: Empowerment, Leadership, Leadership efficacy, Organisational Change or Transformation, Uncategorized