One of the Institute’s longest serving members, Tony Lamond FIML, shares his opinion and reflections on the changes in leadership development and concepts. His article reminds us of the importance of reflecting and learning from the past. Tony has been a Member of the Institute for 51 years – it is safe to say that Tony has a lifetime of leadership lessons to share.
Management theory has seen many popular fads come and go. It is not that the management concepts that were promoted in the past were “wrong”, it is that the world has since moved on – dominant economic issues have changed and the competitive environment has shifted, so new management concepts are required.
In contemporary times it has been said that we have experienced 30 years of social and economic change in 30 weeks. One does not have to be a business genius to appreciate that this generates demand for new management concepts, and the leadership to implement them.
It is said in marketing that there are three truly great words: “Fresh”, “Pure” and “Free”.
Or we could call them by analogous words or phrases for the business world in general, such as: “New“, “Unique” , and “Easy to adopt”.
There is no doubt that the concept of “leadership” has become very popular in this, the new millennium.
- It is “new”.
- It is distinctive, if not exactly “unique”.
- And it is particularly appealing in that, subliminally, it is promoted on the basis that it seems to be “easy to adopt “.
And for those who hope to achieve and practise leadership comes success, promotion, and rewards – and thus a prosperous personal future. If only it was so.
Towards the end of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, ‘Macbeth’, he said:
“I have been led on with small truths
Only to be betrayed in greatest consequence”.
So many small truths have been presented about “leadership” – and they are all basically true – but one is encouraged to believe that they are easy to achieve, when they are not.
Leadership is not a quick, fun-packed seminar concept. It must be recognised that leadership is a result. It is an ongoing task and not something you learn in one lecture at university.
‘Leadership’ is not new. It has been practised for hundreds of years, and so many of its principles are eternal. But very few persons are recognised as being truly successful leaders. “Many are called, few are chosen”.
Nowhere is leadership more relevant than in the Australian Defence Forces (ADF). The ADF spends considerable effort in teaching leadership, at all levels, since there are no delusions that imparting leadership concepts is hard and even harder to adopt.
While the essential characteristics of leadership vary, my experience has shown me that the characteristics outlined below have generally remained the same when it comes to great leadership.
Knowledge / Experience
You must be able to demonstrate and deliver your capabilities to your team. Your knowledge will most often be based on a foundation of education and then refined by practical experience. Do not think that some tertiary education alone, after leaving school, is sufficient. A leader will be studying and updating all of their working life. Gaining that knowledge is difficult and it requires sacrifice and determination.
This Institute is the “Institute of Management and Leaders” . One cannot become “a leader” if one does not understand the concepts and practices of management, and the planning concepts upon which management is built.
Leadership implies that you are providing direction to your team in a clearly-defined and structured manner – providing a longer-term vision, outlining a more immediate mission, and presenting the action steps that will unite the team towards achieving corporate objectives.
A leader does not simply trot out a few ‘bright ideas’: we can all do that. Leadership implies that you are operating in an organisation where some form of strategic / operational planning exists and, as a team leader, you will have ensured that such planning exists.
A true leader will have these planning issues always running in their mind in a coherent manner.
There is a significant difference between confidence and bravado. A leader must be confident. You must be able to “walk the walk and talk the talk”. You will only be able to exude that confidence through having knowledge and experience, having personally accepted the challenges of difficult tasks, and then gone on to overcome them.
The ADF has a concept – the 5 P’s that can neatly be applied to leadership:
Precise Preparation Precedes Perfect Performance
A leader must be prepared – physically and mentally and specifically. There is nothing worse, but it is all too common, for a business ‘leader’ to attempt to ‘waffle on” and present views and direction “off the cuff”. Team confidence sinks.
A leader must prepare. A leader must be crystal clear on what they wish to achieve and present – every day of their working life.
A leader must accept responsibility – for their own actions and of the whole team for which they lead. Far too many “leaders” have wriggled their way into a position by avoiding responsibility and passing difficult tasks onto others. It has been said of them – they never made a mistake, because they never made a decision.
Lead by example
A Leader should be able to understand and even do every job of every team member – and do it better. A leader should be able to demonstrate their ability and support each team member and, in so doing, see how the team member ‘s task can be improved.
Care for every team member
A Leader should be fundamentally interested in the work welfare of all the team. A leader should be seeking to develop the operational capabilities of each member of the team. Every-one has aspirations, but often they do not have the educational capabilities to further their path through life. A leader must assess the capabilities of each team member and seek to ensure that each person has the capability to carry out their team tasks in accord with and to the best of their ability.
Prompt decision making
Prevarication in business decision-making is catastrophic. A true leader can assess the issue, consider an issue within the functional plans of the organisation, and present the corporate direction to the team. Promptly. Crisply. Confidently.
A leader must be accessible, not locked away in a closed-door office and seen only by appointment. Leadership requires regular communication with each member of the team.
If team members really do not know why they are doing their task, how it is contributing to the success of the organisation, and the business environment in which they are operating, they will feel they are not being valued regardless of the remuneration – and they will leave.
None of these characteristics of leadership are easy to develop or apply. They represent a considerable personal challenge, both in developing and maintaining one’s capability in each characteristic and then applying them daily.
A truly successful leader must develop and apply them all. That is what leadership is all about.
- It is hard challenging work.
- Leadership is a lonely position.
- It is not for everyone.