Is Leadership on the Endangered Species List?

Success-Figure-separated-from-SUCCESS-by-missing-puzzle-piece There is a common principle of leadership that is often misplaced through the hustle and bustle of employee management. These days’ managers and supervisors spend so much time looking to increase production while lowering cost for their business that the focus of team development and leadership takes a back seat to the bottom line. The recognition of meeting goals and objectives for the investor or share holders is a priority of all businesses and in many cases people in management will do anything to achieve that goal.   Managers, production supervisors and those in operations know perfectly well how to stretch the imagination and are able to manipulate employees to do a better job, but rarely find a way to congratulate them for a job well done.  In many instances managers and supervisors are so tied up with the responsibilities of the business that the employees are not noticed unless something happened, or something negative has occurred.   I have noticed that some managers will make the attempt to lead well, while others seem to be sending leadership values packing and replaced with almost an authoritarian mentality.

The old saying of, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink the water”, is a pretty old saying, it is also used as an excuse for managers who do not quite understand the concepts of leadership, consider leadership to be a waste of time, or just simply cannot manage on a level where leadership can be the contributing factor of a successful business.  Most people want something but they either don’t understand and what it takes to get it, or in some cases refuse to work hard enough for it. Being a leader is hard work and there is a level of mental toughness that can only be measured by the employees in which a leader has chosen to lead.

A transformational leader has the capability to enable and can convince employees that working for an industry, a company, or a business is what makes the employee a better person and is worth the time and effort you are willing to give to as a valuable asset within the organization. Employee investment is giving your employees the time and the development that ensures success through participation, interaction, values and constructive involvement that builds an employee’s own standards targeted toward the success of your team.  In many industries, employee investment is overshadowed by the negative standards of disposable employees; the fact that there are so many employees available in the job market, there is a common theme of “If you can’t lead the horse to the water, just get yourself another horse.”

It is unfortunate that in the thought process of employee management, leadership is has become somewhat lost between management responsibilities and business development; when in fact leadership should be the focus on achieving both functions.  It is easier to look at a problem like a surgeon and remove the problem, rather than implementing a strategy and provide solutions that involve employee development techniques. By increasing strength in information, skills, communication and cross training functions that invite cooperative based teamwork not only increase productivity, but offers long-term solutions that are a trademark of good business practices.

In an article by HGSE Professor David Perkins, “Rolls of leadership are a valued culture within any organization that is uniquely shared between all employees within the work environment.  “Traditionally, leadership development programs have been targeted at executives and managers who occupy nominal positions of authority and exhibit leadership potential.” (2009)

In a fully adaptive, successful organization, leadership is expressed when an individual plays one of several roles that, collectively, ensure the effective functioning of that organization. John Clippinger, a scholar of distributed leadership at the Harvard Law School, proposes that these include (but are not limited to) the following “archetypal” leadership roles:

The Exemplar. The role model that others imitate; exemplifies the assessment criteria and sets the standards for becoming a member of a network; important in setting the tone and culture of the organization.

The Gatekeeper. Understands the criteria for being included, retained, elevated, and excluded from a network; decides who is in and who is out; denies admittance to, and weeds out, those who fail to meet the standards of the network.

The Visionary. Determines what is limiting about the present and shows what is possible for the future; imagines new possibilities and plays a critical role in moving the networked organization in new directions.

The Truth-Teller. Keeps the network honest; identifies half-truths, cheaters, liars, and spinners in the networked organization; exemplifies independence, transparency, accuracy, and candor in the face of tremendous pressure.

The Fixer. Knows how to get things done; pragmatic and results oriented; creative in solving problems, and often bends rules and works through informal networks.

The Connector. Participates in multiple social networks; has numerous friends, contacts, and connections; critical to identifying and accessing new resources and helping get a message out.

The Enforcer. Uses coercion and pressure (perhaps physical, but more likely peer or psychological) to compel adherence to rules and network standards.

The Facilitator. Creates sub-networks or communities that provide network value and benefit an entire group; plays the role of a “community coordinator” in communities of practice; vital to coordinating and enabling other actors and decision-makers.

“Developing Leaders & Leadership in Organizations,” by David Perkins. (2009)

Leadership traits have a wide variety of functional needs in operations, planning, development and Employee Management strategies that have specific uses when applying value toward operational achievement goals. The Natural Leader can determine the strengths of employees while considering the goals of the company and provide a pathway that allows followers to become leaders while encouraging direct interaction of rolls that maintain stability within the organization.

Is there the lack of educated professionals dedicated toward leadership are causing companies to take a second, and even a third look at candidates to be employed within the organization? As an unemployed professional, I have witnessed and even experienced the long drawn out process of hiring managers to fill the needs of a company. Many professionals that I know personally are more than qualified to fill positions within their industry and have the educational and technical background that is far superior to people that have been hired within an organization. In many instances these professionals have endured 2, 3 and even up to 9 interviews with a company only to be turned down for some obscure reason or another.  So just what are companies looking for?

“A manager or leader, by definition, manages or leads others. Nor do most effective managers succeed by coldly issuing orders from behind a desk. Instead, effective leaders tend to possess interpersonal skills and a true human touch. The reason is that merely knowing what to do (having the right strategy, plan, etc.) is worthless if you cannot persuade others to participate. Plenty of managers possess unquestioned intelligence, drive and industry-specific knowledge, but are utterly lacking in people skills. Such people tend to have great ideas, but fail at securing the “buy-in” that creates real, company-wide support.” (Allbusiness.com 2013)

thCAEKOZ1HThe overall health of an organization is measured by the people and the leaders who are employed within the establishment. Most people would agree that the United States Congress is inept, lacking any leadership traits and no longer effective as an organization. The truth is that eventually new leadership, (we hope), will alter or change the overall functionality of participation and invite cooperation that increases productivity that offers solutions.  As with any living entity, a company is susceptible to environments that can either maintain good health of an organization, or cause weakness that can eventually compromise the overall strength of a company. If a “Vision” of a company is an exercise that maintains health; “Complacency and low morale” is a virus that needs to be treated. So a leader or specialist may be needed to diagnose and apply specific needs that increase the overall health of the company.  Having leaders within the organization that are adaptable to the constant changes in the environment is a challenge in itself and finding the right leader for the job may require lots of time and patience before a successful candidate is chosen to lead your business in the right direction.

As a professional, I can say that there is no blueprint to every solution within an organization and finding the right leader to fit those specific needs are either overlooked by a company during the interview process, involve inadequate recruitment processes, or is there really a shortage of managers with leadership traits that are increasingly becoming more difficult to find?  If it is clear that managing professionals are becoming more difficult to find perhaps we should think about an endangered species listing for leadership professionals and implement an increase of education funding that becomes an urgent priority for future growth. There is only one problem that I see for that to happen; Congress would have to approve it first…

Chadwick Buchanan

References:

“Developing Leaders & Leadership in Organizations,” by David Perkins. (2009) Retrieved 08/06/2013 from The Harvard Graduate School of Education website at http://www.uknow.gse.harvard.edu/leadership/leadership003b.html

“What Hiring Managers Are Looking for When Hiring Managers” (2013) Retrieved 08/07/2013 from Allbusiness online at http://www.allbusiness.com/labor-employment/human-resources-personnel/14509322-1.html

A Personal Approach to Employee Management & Recognizing the Mistakes of Leadership

In the ever-increasing development of employee management and high production output, the most difficult task for a manager or supervisor is maintaining the motivation of employees that provide first-line services. In many instances of employee management it is often said that a successful manager or supervisor is 70% direct employee relations, employee mentoring, motivation and employee development, while 30% of your time is managing all other aspects of the business that you have been hired to do. In most instances, failure to manage employees takes shape when a manager or supervisor becomes complacent, has reached his or her own potential, or is unable to change their own idealistic views that no longer apply in the current structure of employee developmental strategies.

As a manager and a supervisor, it is inherently responsible that we provide leadership and motivation that increases productivity, often changing how we apply our techniques in business processes and employee development. Ask any manager how many times they have approached an issue or problem and they will tell you that they have made mistakes along the way. I would agree that I have made several mistakes over the years, and some of those mistakes have had disastrous results; in one instance, putting friendship above management and jeopardizing my own career for the sake of others that I was meant to lead. What I have learned from that experience was in fact a wake up call that allowed me to see where I had made those mistakes and recognition of what had transpired to get me to that point where I had lost my direction of leadership and replaced my own management strengths with the fear of losing momentum and overwhelming complacency. I had also recognized that not only did I let myself down; but I let my own team down and the people who respected me as a leader.

“Managers should act as if they are part of the team, not just the boss of it. They should minimize the trappings of office, and reduce the emotional distance between themselves and the rest of the workforce. People need to feel that management is part of “us,” not “them.” Dig in, routinely help with the work, and be readily available to anyone who has a problem, whether work-related or personal. Wash your own cup. Above all, ensure that you stand for something, have uncompromising principles and stick to them.” (David Maister, 2013)

One of my greatest strengths is learning from those mistakes and recognizing that what I do as a manager or supervisor directly influences not only those that I am responsible for leading, but also influences my own management style. The mistakes I have made provides a clear understanding of how I influence myself to do a better job and the approach to how I manage my employees that define who I am as a leader, a mentor and decision-maker that can acknowledge not only my greatest successes, but can also admit where I have made my greatest mistakes, which is one of my own personal achievements that I will take with me throughout the rest of my career.