Leadership – create today what we’ll need tomorrow

| February 24, 2017

Today’s middle management often finds itself caught between compliance, processes and technology. Gabrielle Davies explains why personal skills are crucial for good leadership.

That old saying about wanting to soar with eagles has never been more true than it is today. For those who look to today’s leaders for inspiration, then face their day to day middle management leadership roles, it may feel like bringing Tinkerbell to the Red Wedding.

Yes, there are aspects to this in terms of the difficulties women face – and they are significant and different to the everyday issues – but more broadly, there’s an even bigger threat facing our future workforce leadership.

Caught between the rigidity of compliance, processes and technology, today’s middle management are fighting to demonstrate individual leadership in a field that cares less for authenticity than compliance. We’re at risk of creating a new breed of leaders whose success is based on metrics not meaning.

Today’s dependence on technology and process to drive organisational productivity puts potential leaders in a difficult position. Process outputs require compliance and measures, human factors are, in the operating equation, process inputs. Demonstrating leadership means wielding the compliance stick better than anyone else and winner take the measure.

However, being able to capture the process and technology mastery flag should not replace the focussed development of personal leadership skills.

Skills based leadership – personal and interpersonal as well as technical – are essential ingredients for emerging workforce leaders. Too often, their leadership recognition comes from less worthy victories.

Middle management jousting, as the great unspoken sport of large organisations, is also the breeding ground of bad behaviour. Slopping thinking passes muster in the interests of getting things done, and availability is a skill set equal to the ability to make it up convincingly as you go along. The personal leadership skills here – the hardest skills – are how to have difficult conversations, how to call not-good-enough, have empathy, motivate and support people and importantly, how to beat politics without playing them.

The answer is obvious but unfashionable: understand one’s own personal skills and strengths and apply these equally in an everyday operating context. A quick look at the last-but-one job of any of today’s leaders shows they typically stepped forward when their leadership capability was demonstrated through the confident application of their best skills. Sure, being courageous, having a sense of humour, being authentic and fill- in-any-one-of-a-thousand-current -leadership-descriptors here will help, but committing to your abilities and working those is what makes a leader.  Experience proves a leader.

It’s time we focussed directly on the skills we need of tomorrow workforce leaders – it won’t be enough to make them delivery champions. There will be no Tinkerbells at future Red Weddings.


One Comment

  1. anghelita

    February 27, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    Leadership Matters

    Leadership is very important. Leaders have a major role in setting the vision to move toward the organization’s goals, and then creating a motivating environment for people so those goals can be reached. But boy, leaders who don’t know what they’re doing, or have big egos, can take a good company and drive it straight into the ground. So don’t kid yourself. Leadership does matter.