Friday, October 11, 2013

We need Leadership not Likership

I was trolling through the net, as you do when the weather has set in and the false promise of an early summer has dashed away laughing that you fell for it, when I stumbled upon this quote.

'We need leadership, not likership'

Its an interesting quote, and it struck a chord.  Leadership is a complex wee beastie at the best of times.  It has so many nuances that defining it can often leave others in various states of confusion.  Look at Educational Leadership.  So many people have waxed lyrical about it.  Sometimes it seems that a new fad about what the latest best kind of leadership type or model to aspire to pops out of the bastions of leadership research every few months.   Keeping up is as tiring as running a marathon.

A quick 'google' (thank you universe for google) and you are assailed with terms like the following:

  • Hierarchical
  • Transformational
  • Instructional
  • Facilitative 
  • Chrasmatic 
  • Innovative
  • Situational 
  • Democratic 
  • Coaching
  • Collaborative 
  • Managerial 
And so the list goes on ....  

Quite a few are similar.  I personally subscribe (and this is based on quite a number of years as a leader) that the most effective leadership style is the one you need for the moment.  I see leadership as a toolbox and the different models and styles are like tools that you choose depending on the applicable moment.  

However, let me not get distracted talking about the tool box of leadership or I will go on about this for quite some time.  I feel that is a separate post for another rainy day.

Back to the quote - heres why it struck a chord.

We have just had the local body elections.  A big congratulations to those who are re elected and those who are new.  Commiserations to the good people who missed out.  That taken care of, I could see links to this quote.  How many of these people were voted in on pure 'like-ability'.   I suspect most of them.  It is good to vote for those you 'like' but having someone elected to lead - or indeed appointed to lead because they are 'likeable' - is this enough?

I agree that teams need to like the person they follow - or shall I define that further to say it helps to like the person they are being led by.  But, the ability to move the organisation (or community or country) forward is far more complicated than just being 'likeable'.   Professional respect, trust and good communication are important.  I have not always 'liked' (as in I would not want to be besties with them) some of the leaders I have worked with - but I have respected and professionally appreciated a number of them.

Leaders have to make decisions sometimes that wont be popular or particularly likeable.  It is why they are the leader.  Whats that saying by Abraham Lincoln - 'you can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time'.  A popular President by all accounts (I wasn't there but there have been rumours) where even those who did not like him acknowledged that his leadership skills were outstanding.

As a leader, sure I would like to think the team 'liked me' - but if that came at the cost of poor leadership then I would prefer to settle for professional respect.

Recently Labour party members got to vote for the new leader.  It was ground breaking for kiwis in that the membership got a say.  The new leader - I for one am grateful to finally see leading the party - is not one that all of the caucus 'like' at times - BUT they acknowledge he has the skills and strength to lead the team to victory.  The past two leaders were highly 'likeable'.  Both nice men who meant well.  But to come up against the current PM, being 'nice' is not enough.

Well readers, it would seem all this discussion above on leadership and like-ability has led to a conclusion for myself (much like a leadership epiphany).  Leadership is complex.  To be liked is a nice to have - and much like the tool box I alluded to above - there are contexts where being a liked leader is ideal but there are also contexts where to be liked is not nearly as critical as having the other skills you need to get the job done, and a context that comes to mind would be change management.

I am sure the more I reflect on this the more likely I am to revisit my thinking.
Oh well - at least I am thinking.

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