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Bruce.Holland@virtual.co.nz



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Most leadership comes from Middles not Tops

The problem

In most organisations, there's one person who is the leader. Also, these days with flatter organisations, less people are near the top. Some people in the middle become frustrated by their position in an organisation because they define success as being "on top."

The number one misconception people have about leaders is the belief that leadership comes simply from having a position or title.

In well-run organisations, the reality is that most leadership comes not from Tops but from Middles.

The energy from this resource is awesome, yet many organisations simple miss out.

Middles can get frustrated

In most organisations, there's one person who is the leader. Also, these days with flatter organisations, less people are near the top. Some people in the middle become frustrated by their position in an organisation because they define success as being "on top."

Indeed many Middles are burned-out, bottlenecked, bored and brassed-off. They know they can contribute, they want to contribute, yet the Tops don't want to know.

The position myth

The misconception that leadership comes simply from having a position or title is so pervasive we have given it a name, we call it the, "position myth". In well-run organisations, nothing could be further from the truth. Most of their leadership comes not from Tops but from Middles.

In these organisations you don't have to be on the Top Team to have a significant impact. You don't need a position at the top of your group, department, division or organisation in order to lead.

Leadership is a choice you make, not a place you sit. The true measure of leadership is influence - nothing more, nothing less. Leadership is dynamic, and the right to lead is earned individually with each person you meet. Position has little to do with genuine leadership. Influencing others is a matter of disposition, not position.

For more on how to influence...

Why this is important

Leadership is THE critical resource in an organisation; so why don't more Tops see their role as leaders of leaders?

In my work I am often saddened by how many Tops work on the assumption that only they can provide leadership, only they have all the ideas. Of course they seldom come out and say this, indeed they are more likely to say how they value their people. But ask them who will lead the next Project Team or who will contribute to their strategic thinking and it's clear what their assumptions are.

I don't blame Tops, it's the way most of us have been trained. Even 20 years ago tangible assets in the balance sheet accounted for well over half the market value of the organisation, so this is where business schools focused their attention. Many still do!

Today tangible assets account for only about 10% of the market value of most organisations and intangibles (think leadership, information, culture, strategy and brand) typically account for about 90%.

The excuse that "It's hard to measure" or "It's not in the accounts" simply don't wash. Good leaders know where their value resides and find way of measuring it.

What to do about it

Leadership is THE critical resource in an organisation, yet many senior managers act like it's some sideline. If this describes your senior team, they need to rethink their assumptions, including:

  • Your organisation is not a mechanical system, it's a living system; it's not a hierarchy, it's a network of networks.

  • You don't get the best out of people by control but by encouragement, they can't be herded but they need to be led.

  • People are not closed they are learning machines. To learn is a basic human need.

  • The main driver is not competition and survival of the fittest, it's cooperation, collaboration and connectedness. The power is not in the people, it's in the connections between them.

  • It's impossible to engineer outcomes, it's better to find successes and amplify them.

  • Too much organising will backfire, we need to trust that emergence is part of the way the world works. A book full of rules will lead to less order than a few rules that are accepted by all.

  • Leadership can not be bought or controlled, it can only be given, encouraged and set free. It comes from Tops who believe in their people, more than the people believe in themselves. Most people are like unlocked treasure chests, all they need is someone with the key. It comes when Tops value people above all else, even when the going gets tough. It's about nourishing people: body (more income), head (more learning), heart (more belonging) and soul (more meaning).

  • Analysis is King. Sure analysis is important, however, so is systems thinking and strategic thinking and these are the ones that are scarce.

It's assumptions like this that we question and update in our Leadership Development Course. We know that a change as fundamental as this takes about 4 months. We have found a way to compress this into about 5 days.

For more on Leadership development ...

For still more on Leadership development ...

Call to action

If you want your Top Team to focus on where the real value of the organisation is, rather than where it used to be 20 years ago, then I strongly recommend you talk to me about Leadership Development.

I am available to come and talk to you and your management team.

Think BIG,

Bruce Holland Virtual Group Business Consultants, Wellington, New Zealand.

email: bruce.holland@virtual.co.nz free phone: 0800 4 virtual or 04 570 0727 web: http://www.virtual.co.nz

Key words: Leadership, leadership development, leadership management, leadership training, leadership program, leadership skills

 
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