“There are very, very few organizations today that have sufficient leadership. Until we face this issue, understanding exactly what the problem is, we’re never going to solve it. Unless we recognize that we’re not talking about management when we speak of leadership, all we will try to do when we do need more leadership is work harder to manage. At a certain point, we end up with over-managed and under-led organizations, which are increasingly vulnerable in a fast-moving world.”
– Dr. John P. Kotter, Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership at Harvard and Chief Innovation Office at Kotter International
It’s amazing to me how many people who are in positions of leadership in the eyes of others function as managers—not leaders—all the while referring to themselves as… leaders! However, in the final analysis, John Kotter reminds us that being a great manager at a time when what’s needed is great leadership puts your organization in a very vulnerable position.
I often ask myself, “Why is there such a lack of leadership in so many organizations?” I think that in some cases, we misunderstand what leadership is; and I believe that sometimes we miss the starting point of leadership, which leads to frustration—which causes us to default to being a manager, instead of a leader.
Great leadership is not about barking orders to everyone around you. It’s not about motivating people to do what you want them to do, while making them think that it is actually what they wanted to do. That’s really just manipulation, disguised as motivation; and great leadership is not about manipulation. Great leadership is about enabling people to work together to achieve a shared vision. Increasingly, I believe that the key thought is “shared vision”, and the key word is: shared.
I lead a lot of workshops where people say, “The problem in our organization is trust.” Leaders want teams to trust each other, and they want employees to trust leaders. However, I find very few leaders who are willing to trust the employees enough to allow them to participate in creating a “shared” vision.
Leader, ask yourself some questions:
- Have I articulated a clear vision for my organization?
- To what degree is the vision a “shared” vision?
- Do the people in the organization really “own” this vision?
- What percentage of the employees could accurately describe the vision?
- Can I explain the benefit to the employee if the organization achieves the vision?
Without that trust and without that shared vision, leaders are faced with either management or manipulation. Pick your poison.