Sunday, March 16, 2008

Leadership - leading or following?

Does leadership development come up with the goods particularly when it comes to preparing leaders for dealing with a crisis or ambiguous situations?
Do leadership developers (trainers) know how to develop critical and creative thinking?
We are just finishing off a 5 year research project looking at leadership decision making, problem solving and agility in times of difficulty - when things are uncertain and ambiguous (I will post the articles from this when they are ready). What is becoming very clear is that most leaders have no personal strategy for dealing with difficult situations or ambiguous conditions. The study has found that only about 11% of leaders have such a strategy, or even think about it.

What, you may ask, is the number one leader's strategy for dealing uncertainty or difficulty?
The answer is not very encouraging. It is to see what others are doing and copy it. It's a sort of safety in numbers mentality.

Most leaders don't have a personal strategy for what to do when things get difficult or ambiguous

The second most popular response? To collect more data. The problem here is that the leader's report that this is usually self defeating as the data is normally conflicting and the sheer amount available is confusing. The ambiguity of this strategy usually means that leaders end up making a decision about what data to accept and which to omit. As you can probably guess they largely choose to omit the data that is less optimistic, more confusing and that which they don't understand. When they are confused by the data they fall back on strategy 1. See what everyone else is doing.

The current economic crisis is actually crisis of leadership

You only have to have a look at what is happening in the financial markets at the moment to see this behaviour writ large.

This current crisis is a crisis of leadership. It has been leadership decisions both at corporate and governmental levels that lead us into current economic mess.

Over 83% (the sample size for this study was 1628 leaders from business and service industries in 7 countries) said that they they would not consider them selves to be particularly creative or that they struggled with creativity.

We will look in greater depth this week at leadership development and more from the study.

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