“We have a wrong-headed notion of what constitutes a leader, driven by an obsession with leaders at the top.”
–Bill George, Harvard professor, former CEO, Medtronic
We have a crisis in leadership today with seemingly continuous scandals rocking business, government, religious organizations, non-profits, sports, and more.
The latest results from the much respected Edelman Trust Barometer show only 18% of the knowledgeable people surveyed believe business leaders, and only 13% of government leaders, will tell you the truth. Shocking.
We can blame the crisis on human nature, greed, the lust for power, ego, or the phases of the moon. All have some skin in the game (except perhaps the phases of the moon). But there’s another driving factor as well: a flawed leadership model.
Great Leadership Is a Group Performance
Most people think about leadership from the top down, conflating leadership with authority. The quest for a heroic leader to save our organizations is a false search destined to disappoint. Yet, we continue to await such saviors. We focus too much on the skills of the people at the top and their leadership style, whether it be directive, empowering, authentic, transformational, or whatever.
Great leadership, triple crown leadership, works up, down, and sideways. It is a group performance, enlisting anyone and everyone to lead at certain times, regardless of the organizational hierarchy. Sometimes the CEO leads; sometimes the CEO bites his or her tongue to let others lead, letting them gain invaluable leadership experience.
We heard this concept of “leadership as a group performance” over and over again in our research:
“If you have to lead everything, you’re just aggrandizing yourself.
The real world needs empowered project teams, individual leaders, all kinds of folks.”
-Bob Hatcher, CEO, MidCountry Financial Corp.
“The old organizational model where a few people decide things, and then ‘manage’ everyone else, just can’t function in today’s environment…. A team is characterized by the fact that every single person takes the initiative and is a ‘changemaker.’” -Bill Drayton, CEO, Ashoka
“Leadership at Neusoft is not single people, not the CEO, COO, or the CFO.
We need all the leaders from the bottom up.”
-Liu Jiren, CEO, Neusoft (China’s largest IT services company)
“The top leader’s job is to get others to lead.”
Leadership Derailers Assessment
Take this assessment to identify what’s inhibiting your leadership effectiveness. It will help you develop self-awareness and identify ways to improve your leadership.
Why Is Great Leadership a Group Performance?
But why is great leadership a group performance? We can think of ten reasons (hopefully, you can add more). Great leadership is a group performance because it:
- Retains good people because they are engaged and challenged.
- Encourages out-of-the-box solutions to emerge.
- Reveals new ways to implement solutions.
- Keeps the leader’s ego in check.
- Develops successors.
- Allows you time to think more strategically.
- Allows you time for sanctuary.
- Allows you to work fewer hours.
- Allows you to get more brainpower on the problems.
- Allows you have more balance in your life.
Great leadership is a group performance.
- Are you “doing it all” with all the challenges on your desk?
- Are your people waiting for you to give them direction?
- Do you lack a good successor?
- Do you lack innovation to help solve your problems?
- Do you think of yourself as absolutely indispensable?
Tools for You
- Leadership Derailers Assessment to help you identify what’s inhibiting your leadership effectiveness
- Personal Values Exercise to help you determine and clarify what’s most important to you
- Alignment Scorecard to help you assess your organization’s level of alignment
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Gregg Vanourek and Bob Vanourek are leadership practitioners, teachers, and award-winning authors (and son and father). They are co-authors of Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, a winner of the International Book Awards. Check out their Leadership Derailers Assessment or get their monthly newsletter. If you found value in this, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps!