Caught between a rock and a hard place, is it least worst to plead ignorance of mis-behaviours that are happening in the organisation or team you lead?
Manipulated markets ‘Muppets’ Rogue Trader Systemic failure Un-ethical Greed Mis-selling Lack of judgement Lack of moral compass System failures Lack of customer service
For ‘strong’ leaders, by which I am referring to those in the limelight who have plenty to say, the organisation quickly shapes itself to align to the values and behaviours that appear to fit and be rewarded. We are social animals, and quite capable of picking up on pecking orders and subtle queues, especially when little more than lip service is paid to what is written in ethics statements, codes of conduct and control documents. People know who gets the bonus, who is favoured and gets promoted. We quickly learn the real values of our colleagues from their behaviours, rather than the lip service that they might pay to written codes to play the game and be politically correct. In effect, the ‘leader’ shapes the organisation in the shadow of their ‘Worldview‘, or Weltanschauung to give it its German roots and name. Hence, can leaders be innocent of the actions of the organism that they have created, albeit subconsciously?
Many of you will be familiar with Goleman’s book on Emotional Intelligence (EI) and why it is important. His less well known follow up book on Primal Leadership describes the classic leadership styles in terms of being either ‘resonant‘, and building capability and energy within the team, or being ‘dissonant‘, and creating dependency and reducing capability over time. No prizes for guessing that the old ‘Directive‘ style of command and control dis-empowers a team over time. The other one is ‘Pace-setting‘, which interestingly is described as the default model in use in traditional Partnerships such as large accountancies and law firms. It has also been explicitly adopted by large government departments seeking to emulate private sector efficiency, such as HM Revenues and Customs.
I fear that many people in leadership mistake the Pace-setting style for the resonant ‘Coaching‘ style. As any coach will tell you, showing someone how to copy what you do is a long stretch from getting people to expand their comfort zone by helping them to do it for themselves, or even changing fundamental behaviours rather than simply activities. Let’s hope that our next set of leaders benefit from some robust coaches who can help to restore Values, or moral compass, and ethical behaviours. If not, then the leadership model is not sustainable and will collapse like a house of cards when the next crisis hits.