Ban the Rule Books and Performance Management
A spectacular own goal!

You can only wonder!

Life is an enigma. Nevertheless there are certain things that one ought to be able to take for granted. Without question one of those should be that leaders are people who should inspire. After all, a pre-requisite for a leader is to have followers and to have followers you would think a leader must surely have:-

  • A clear vision and sense of purpose; and
  • The ability to inspire others to also pursue that vision and purpose.   

Certainly, these are qualities you would expect executives leading large organisations to have. After all, how can you execute a strategy if you cannot get people to follow you and implement it? Yet, it seems that that these qualities are less prevalent than you would think.

Of course there are always exceptions. We all know glaring instances where the existence of these qualities can not only be questioned, and even categorically denied. (But hopefully not in your organisation!) You would not, however, expect leaders themselves to be the ones to doubt their own capabilities. Yet, rather surprisingly, as the chart below shows, only around 50% have this confidence.

Distorted perceptions

Now we are all entitled to a little self-doubt now and then – even leaders. Yet the scale of doubt depicted here is rather disturbing. In fact perhaps the only unsurprising thing about this chart is that leaders themselves think more highly of their capablities than anyone else. Yet this in itself begs further questions.

  1. If executives themselves don’t believe they can deliver the strategy, why are they in the position they are in and why are they continuing to pursue the strategy they are?
  2. If they don’t believe they can deliver the strategy why do they allow themselves to be so highly rewarded? Are huge salaries and bonuses little more than an insurance policy to mitigate their eventual failure?
  3. If others around them have even less confidence than they do in their ability to deliver, is failure not more likely to be the inevitable outcome?
  4. Does anyone here recognise that there is effectively a leadership vacuum?

After all, an inability to deliver strategy is indicative of failing to create followers and that, by definition, is a failure of leadership. Strategy consists of two parts: development and implementation, and implementation requires the collaboration and support of people. You cannot execute a strategy on your own. You cannot implement a strategy without followers.    

Thus these findings are cause for concern. After all, if you were uncertain of your ability to implement a strategy you would focus first and foremost on your people. You would try to win their hearts and minds and ensure you convert them into followers. Yet how many organisations do you see where executives make this their priority?  Only this week I was talking to a trainer who had been told “You need to be careful. We don’t want to encourage our people to think too much.”  

That is almost certainly a case of the blind leading those they would have blind, but, unless you ensure that you eliminate every last vestige of such an antiquated attitude you will be just as likely to end up in the ditch of failure. You need to ask yourself what you are doing to create followers. If you do, you will be less likely to be in the position of doubt that the chart portrays. 


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