Leadership – it can’t be that simple

I could tell Gemma was frustrated.  Normally she stood up and greeted visitors with a smile, but this time she sat sullenly in her chair.  I sat opposite her just as a thick report landed in my lap.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“The latest leadership thing” she replied.

I flicked through.  Spiderweb diagrams, colours, bar charts.  Looked nice.  Even had some words.

“So what are you going to do with this?” was my next question.

“Well, perhaps I can run a gap analysis with…THIS” and this time landed a 5-page brochure in my lap.

I flicked through.  Spiderweb diagrams, colours, bar charts.  Looked nice.  Even had some words.

“I get the impression you’re not happy” I ventured.

“Not happy?  Well then I need to adjust my leadership style.  Perhaps I need….THIS” she said loudly, poking her monitor then spinning it to show me a website with the words ‘LEADERSHIP COMPETENCIES’ blazoned across the top, and a colourful diagram with the words ‘competencies’ written in the middle.  I spied the words ‘strategic architect’ before she angrily spun the monitor back around.

I waited.  Gemma stared at me, then gradually a smile appeared.

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“This leadership business.  Leadership, leadership, leadership.  All over the place.  My people have been subjected to all sorts of soul-searching, feedback and various versions of amateur therapy and it seems that the whole thing is just a bunch of teaching adults how to get along.”

“Do you think most adults get along?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, do you think most adults in the world have the ability to work with another adult without ending up in a fight?”

Gemma raised her eyebrows.  “I suppose….” she said.

“So maybe the reason leadership in your organisation isn’t delivering any more results is that you’re teaching adults what they already know”

Gemma slumped back in her char.

“Any ideas then?”

“Yep.  We’re going to do this.  We’re going to ask every manager in the organisation to:

  1. Let their people know what’s expected of them
  2. Set them up so they can deliver it
  3. Then expect it”

Gemma looked at me like I had just turned into Beetlejuice.  “It can’t be that simple”

“Why not?”

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