On Leadership

I see many organisations that invest in leadership training for senior and middle roles, but not for managers and supervisers closer to the coal face – why is this?

I think it is because of a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of leadership and its pivotal role in organisational performance.

Leadership is about transformational behaviours; altering how others perceive situations and driving change for the better in the organisation. In today’s dynamic and competitive world change is a constant; everyone at every level in the organisation needs to exhibit leadership behaviours in order to enable change.

Change in the organisation is a response to change in the outside world of suppliers, customers and competitors. Changes in the outside world are most closely observed by those inside who are facing outside – the front-line operators and their immediate team leaders. Denying them opportunities to develop their leadership behaviours simply means they will continue to transact with the outside world despite its changes, rather than transform what they do and how they do it in response to those changes. This same old, same old approach is a recipe for failure.

I’m not suggesting that developing transactional behaviours at the coal-face is waste – I am saying that it is insufficient.  Knowing about delegation, the performance review cycle and issuing clear instructions, might get you through today, but its not going to inspire, innovate and change anything or anyone for the future.  That requires transformational leadership behaviours to be enacted everywhere in the organisation.

Some take the view that the organisation is a machine, with lots of levers to be pulled and knobs to be dialled up in order to achieve organisational performance. Others take the view that the organisation is an organism, comprised of human relationships through which work is done. Either way, people are in charge – and how they interact determines success. Transformation sustains organisations; transactions merely enable existence.

So, if you are thinking about the training of your front-line people and their team leaders spare a thought for investing in a balance of transactional and transformational behaviours. Find out where their real needs lie and design or purchase accordingly. Odds on they are undercooked on transformational behaviours and need a bias towards that in their programme.

ODI recognises the centrality of transformational leadership behaviours to sustained organisational performance. We have the tools to assess needs and to develop and deliver programmes that transform your people and your organisation. Give us a call on 0508 ODIODI.

Kyran Newell