Prof Barbara Kellerman asks those in charge of leadership-development programs to question the assumptions the industry promotes:
· Leadership can be learned by most—quickly and easily; over months, weeks or weekends.
· Leaders matter more than anyone else.
· Followers are secondary.
· Context is tertiary.
She also suggests several important mindset shifts based on these assumptions:
We cannot stop or slow bad leadership by changing human nature. No amount of preaching or sermonizing—no exhortations to virtuous conduct, uplifting thoughts or wholesome habits—will obviate the fact that our nature is constant (even when our behaviors change).
We cannot stop or slow bad leadership without stopping and slowing bad followership. Leaders and followers are always interdependent.
We cannot stop or slow bad leadership by sticking our heads in the sand. Amnesia, wishful thinking, the lies we tell as individuals and organizations, and all of the other mind games we play to deny or distort reality get us nowhere. Avoidance insures us to the costs and casualties of bad leadership, allowing them to fester.
What Leaders Can Do
Leaders can become more effective and ethical by following these steps:
Remember the mission.
Limit tenure in positions of power; share power.
Establish checks and balances.
Avoid groupthink; ask the right kinds of questions.
Establish a culture of openness in which diversity and dissent are encouraged.
Don’t believe your own hype; get and stay real.
Compensate for your weaknesses by hiring and delegating well.
Develop a personal support system (mentor, advisor, coach, best friend).
Stay balanced and healthy.
Be creative, reflective and flexible.
Question assumptions; get reliable and complete information.
What Followers Can Do
If bad leaders are to be stopped or slowed, followers must play a bigger part.
But many followers consider the price of intervention to be too high. There are real benefits for going along, along with real costs and risks for not going along. We often choose to mind our own business. Nevertheless, incompetent and unethical leaders cannot function without followers.
Followers can strengthen their ability to resist bad leaders by observing these guidelines:
Hold leaders accountable; use checks and balances already in place.
Find allies; develop your own sources of information.
Be loyal to the whole, not to any one person.
Be a watchdog (especially if the board seems too compliant).
Be skeptical; leaders are not gods.
Take collective action (even on a modest scale, such as assembling a small group to talk to the boss).
Luckily, more followers are stepping up to the plate, demonstrating a willingness to share responsibilities, power, authority and influence. They know that once bad leaders are entrenched, they seldom change or quit of their own volition. It’s up to us to insist on change—or an early exit.
Dr Surya M Ganduri, PhD. PMP. is the Founder & President of eMBC, Inc., an international firm specializing in strategic and executive leadership development processes that Help People Succeed in an Evolving World. Dr Surya has over 28 years of business experience in management consulting, leadership development, executive coaching, process improvements, organizational development and youth leadership. For more information visit www.eMBCinc.com or contact eMBC, Inc., directly at (630) 445-1321.