Does leadership matter? In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins states that “good is the enemy of great”. In other words, for organisations that remain mediocre, good is good enough.
Organisations that have moved from good to great have made sacrifices and difficult decisions in order to get to where they are. Yet, some leaders are unfortunately not willing to do the same. To them, good feels. In his book, Jim Collins further points out that there is no more effort in being great as there is in being good.
It is a serious question to ask ourselves, “is good enough, good enough for me?”, and sometimes it is. We are not trying to load this question to such an extent that everyone says “of course not”, after all, not many would admit to good being good enough, but we should all count the cost before we say that we are heading for greatness.
Not many are willing to develop as a leader to the point that it hurts. In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni, says “Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.” And why is it so rare? Because the leadership required to bring it about is difficult, and not many chose to take the actions that are necessary to bring about great teams.
To answer the question, why leadership matters? It matters because great leadership helps develop great organisations and in turn, great teams.
What makes an organisation great? Now that is a question that will no doubt bring about many different points of view. Here are a few that some others have suggested.
Great organisations are driven by “why?”. They have purpose and it is the purpose that drives what they do and how they do it, as confirmed by Simon Sinek in his book, Start with Why.
Great organisations have the triple bottom line of “Profit, Planet and People”, confirms Sir John Whitmore in his book, Coaching for Performance.
Great organisations are “capable of making a significant difference and achieving sustainability”, according to Jim Collins
Great organisations no doubt achieve their goals and do so in a sustainable and ethical way over a period of time.
What makes for a great team? We know that great teams make the competitive difference, so it is important that all our teams are outstanding in what they do and the results that they produce. Here are a few ideas that some have suggested.
Patrick Lencioni states that great teams have deep levels of trust that inspire passionate debate about the things that matter. They commit, they hold each other to account and focus on results.
Adding to this, Martine Haas and Mark Mortensen confirm that great teams have four enabling conditions, they have a compelling direction, a strong structure, a supportive context and a shared mindset.
Furthermore, as stated by Carley Sime, great teams have 5 key team dynamics, they are, Psychological Safety, Dependability, Structure and Clarity, and Meaning of Work.
Taking the two elements of great organisations and great teams into consideration has enabled us to establish why leadership matters.
Based on this can we bring out some leadership qualities that matter?
Insist on Trust
Do we insist on trusted relationships? Do we challenge individuals who display behaviours that led to a lack of trust? Or do we settle for levels of trust that are good enough? Levels of trust can be measured and we can include them as a metric in our organisations if trust is a non-negotiable for us. Here we tackle one element of why leadership matters.
This has to be led and modelled by leaders; it requires high levels of vulnerability, honesty and openness. Challenging poor behaviours is challenging, and possible parting company with employees based on how they are trusted and trust others, rather than how much money they make for the organisation is also challenging.
Why do people work for you? Why are your customers your customers? Why would people invest in you? Why would people believe in you?
Some leaders have followers because it is their role, status and authority in an organisation. Other leaders have followers because they inspire. The latter give people a reason to get out of bed in the morning, to be a part of something greater than themselves and are given discretionary effort by the people who follow them. It can be easy to be driven by ego and to make an organisation about the leaders, but great leaders are driven by a higher purpose.
To coach means to believe in the potential of others. Leadership can be about development, growth and learning. Or, it can be about having as many sycophants as possible whose only purpose is to carry out our great ideas.
To coach means to develop people to be better than we are and growth for everyone opens untold possibilities for success. We live in a generation that prefers to be coached rather than told. If you are new to coaching then practice asking more questions, especially those starting with “What”. The harder part though is giving less advice. Here are a couple of questions to get you started:
What could you do? (Rather than giving an solution or answer)
If this was going really well, describe it to me, what would that look like?
Hopefully throughout this blog we have helped you understand why leadership matters.
It matters because leaders set the tone, the culture and the climate in any organisation. It matters because leaders lead people in creating great organisations and great teams.
Furthermore, when asking why leadership matters, it can be determined that it matters because leaders insist on trust, they inspire and they coach.
Written by Leadership Coach Ian White.
“Good to Great” by Jim Collins
“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni
“Start with Why” by Simon Sinek
“Coaching for Performance” by Sir John Whitmore
Harvard Business Review, “The Secrets of Great Teamwork” by Martine Haas and Mark Mortensen.
Forbes, “What makes a successful team” by Carley Sime.