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The leadership crisis

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Leadership is trusted influence, nothing more and nothing less, says Judith Germain, who explains how to truly understand the leaders in your organisation.


One of the biggest challenges facing businesses right now is a crisis of leadership. There is a need to ensure that the company will remain profitable, employees remain engaged and customers satisfied for the company to survive the current economic downturn.

The second biggest challenge for businesses is to truly understand what leadership is and how to ensure that it permeates throughout the company. This is, for many companies, much harder than it appears as this desire can often manifest itself as an increase in command and control management rather than a genuine improvement in leadership. Good talent management is hard to come by.

A true leader is trusted

The best way to distinguish management from leadership is to understand that management is generally concerned with controlling complex processes; and leadership is about managing and facilitating change. This manifests itself in the leader challenging the status quo and acting and thinking in a strategic way. Whilst management tends to be restricted to those in a management role, leadership is demonstrated by individuals regardless of any formal role with the company. By encouraging leadership by all employees is the key to a company’s success. Management and leadership is integral to each other and those that hold management roles need to have a good grasp and execution in both of these disciplines.

“Whilst management tends to be restricted to those in a management role, leadership is demonstrated by individuals regardless of any formal role.”

Leadership is getting things done through trusted influence. This implies two things, that the leader inspires trusts in his followers and he has the ability to influence others. To inspire trust the leader needs to be credible and have a good reputation. When deploying talent management strategies it is important to remember that employees are loyal to their leaders not to the organisation that employs them. With this in mind it is essential then that the development of leaders in the organisation, regardless of formal role, is planned, controlled and nurtured.

Good leaders are role models and have strong empathic characters that demonstrate high social intelligence. Social intelligence differs from emotional intelligence in so much as it focuses on the impact that an individual has on others. If you have high social intelligence then it is implied that you have high emotional intelligence as well.

How to develop trust

Trust = reputation and credibility; therefore to develop trust the leader must concern himself with having the right reputation and being credible in what they do. Employees need to believe in their manager and be able to consistently predict how their manager is likely to react in any given situation. This provides them with comfort and increases the chances that they will remain loyal to their manager. The basis of trust is character and competence. Questions to consider are:

  • How much integrity does the leader have?

  • Is the leader egotistical or humble?

  • Is the leader’s intention honourable?

  • How capable is the leader in his role?

  • How does the leader’s track record stack up?

To develop trust the leader must provide the right level of autonomy to their employees. A leader that has an inappropriate command and control style of leadership demonstrates a breathtaking level of distrust in the employee’s abilities. This will encourage the employees to reduce their work performance and be less likely to be loyal to the manager or their company.

“Credible leaders will be an expert in what they do, demonstrating a track record of competence that enables others to have confidence in their ability.”

Leaders in management positions need to be able to tell the truth at all times, as this encourages trust in the relationship between the manager and the employee. The most effective leaders acknowledge other people’s contributions and not take a disproportionate level of credit for a job well done. They should be proud of an employee’s achievement and not feel threatened by their success.

A leader that selectively shows their vulnerability to their employees, thus demonstrating that they are ‘real’, is more likely to engender trust. People find it hard to relate to individuals who seem strong all the time. The reverse is not true however – those who appear weak the majority of the time tend to engender distrust and contempt by those who should be following.

Credible leaders will be an expert in what they do, demonstrating a track record of competence that enables others to have confidence in their ability. They will treat others with respect and extend trust to others on a regular basis.

Trusted leaders are more likely to be able to influence their employees. With flatter structures and more matrix organisations it is increasingly likely that leaders are expected to manage employees that are not direct management reports. They are not responsible for their pay and cannot hire or fire them – they are, however, accountable for their performance.

With the credit crunch showing no immediate signs of ending, it will be imperative for leaders to work on cementing their credibility and trustworthiness, if they are to engage with their teams and encourage them to buy-in to the organisations plans for survival. Good staff are hard to come by and even harder to keep. In tougher times, a good leader will be fundamental in retaining and motivating the organisations top talent and preparing them for future succession. Equipping them the true qualities of leadership excellence is vital to securing the continuing success of the business in years to come.

Judith Germain is managing director of leadership company Dynamic Transitions, which aims to improve leadership performance and trust within organisations. For more information visit www.developing-leadership.com or email [email protected]

4 Responses

  1. The role of HR
    I agree with John, if HR does not contribute to the bottom line then its not a part of the company vision. This can mean developing leaders within the organisation regardless of employees’ job titles. Leadership requires influence and it is this influence that gains followers. Sometimes employees have more influence than their managers and it is a wise manager/company that can harness this. It is worth remembering that trusted influence gains willing followers and this must be a worthy aim for any successful company.

  2. Engaging with leadership
    Well speaking as a consultant, following a successful management career, I don’t like the weasel words leader or engage. Anything with that many Google entries isn’t adequately defined to be of value.

    A leader is someone who has followers. No followers no leaders. Let’s talk followhip!

    You don’t have to look far to see examples of Followship that has lasted for a long time.

    If you really do have Followers, they won’t mind if you show a little human fallibility every now and again. But just a little!

  3. Re previous comment
    The great thing about comments is that I have no doubt they are designed to get people discussing an issue.
    I am afraid that I feel Don might be trying to push some buttons – “HR have no clout in the boardroom buttons”?
    The article raises the usual questions about the difference between leadership and management which have been around for as many years as I can remember. The modern manager in my opinion has had very little in the way of managment training and therefore the argument still stands – what are the differences?
    Don appears to be asking for a Competency style of management to be applied to the roles of leader and manager – which if true I would agree with and can easily happen – that is if anyone knows what the difference in competencies are – so back to the writer then?
    The emotional comment is probably the reason that HR appears to have little in the way of boardroom appeal as the role and competencies required of board members is to lead the whole company to success which means making profit. People are involved in this process as are managers and leaders. The role of the leader is to create a vision that everyone can understand and be a part of – the role of the manager is to define process that people can follow to help them achieve the results required. The rols of the emplyee is to uderstand what is required of them and to achieve that as a minimum.
    So here is my question – what is the role of HR – if it does not contribute to the bottom line then perhaps its not a part of the company vision?
    And yes – this is designed to create comment
    Having spent the last two years trying to approach HR with a relative view of competence related management and found the response to be totally negative – I have concluded that the difference between management, leadership and HR is that one is positive, one is controlling and the remainder just like to keep things as they are. The question is which is which?

  4. Leadership
    I have already commented on this frenzy to distinguish between management and leadership. and how it is being perpetuated by academics and consultants etc. The fact is that while it is nice to have debate on the difference ……… or suggested difference, every organisation will have their own idea of what they expect from their ‘managers’ and ‘leaders’. I know that in just about every case, the requirement placed on ‘managers’ or ‘leaders’ is a mix of both which will vary from organisation to organisation.

    So instead of beating ourselves to death about what the difference is, how about putting somed performance criteria, detailed stuff and not requiring people to act ‘professionally’, allowing each organisation can take whatever mix they desire to suit their circumstances. Help them identify those crucial tasks required to be performed, so each ‘manager/leader’can deliver as required. I have yet to find any manager who is not required also to be in some part, a leader……..and vice-versa. No wonder HR is struggling to establish themselves in the boardroom when we continue this pursuit of academia rather than practicality. Of course there is a place for academic thinking…… a most important place. The real trick is to turn that thinking into practical applications. Good luck!

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