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Saturday, October 09, 2010

What Drives Our Leadership Impact?

“Where others see hierarchies, the new leaders see connections”, writes Emmanuel Gobillot in his book, The Connected Leader: Creating Agile Organisations for People, Performance and Profit.

What differentiates a connected leader is the way in which they impact and influence those around them and this is largely determined by the way in which they view good leadership. More than even our individual skill-set, how we see the role of leadership greatly determines the impact we have on others and the success we will have as leaders.

Our impact is the result of a number of factors. Using the iceberg metaphor, above the waterline for all to see, are skills and knowledge. Gobillot writes; “Skills and knowledge are important because they give the leader the ability to take part in the game. On their own, they do not differentiate between average and superior performance…. But it is below the waterline that the real differentiators lie. …Below the waterline, the drivers of impact can be found. Performance will differ depending on how people see their role. If doctors believe that their primary role is solving problems, their behaviour is likely to be different from that of surgeons who see their roles as healers.”

We need to examine our beliefs if we are to change our impact and effectiveness with those around us. 

Often we adopt the "smartest person in the room" or "the leader of all leaders" mind-set when thinking about leadership. With this mentality we won't have the necessary ability to work well with other leaders and  develop community. As Jean Lipman-Blumen wrote in Connective Leadership: Managing in a Changing World, "leaders cannot just issue orders; instead, they have to join forces, persuade, and negotiate to resolve conflicts."

Your ability to do this is largely determined by the "below the waterline" type factors.


Why Good Boards Aren't There When You Need Them

There has been a lot of talk about governance in the wake of the financial crisis. People have been wondering: where were the directors when numerous financial institutions bet the proverbial mortgage on, well, mortgages and their related products? Those directors are supposed to be there to defend the shareholders against self-interested executives trying to maximise their personal compensation by taking excessive risks.

We thought that we had board oversight in hand after the last crisis. We tightened up governance dramatically, for example with Sarbanes-Oxley in the USA: more scrutiny, more independent directors, financial experts on the audit committee, etc. With SOX behind them, boards should absolutely be able to do the job. Shareholders should have good protection.

But there's a flawed assumption buried under the logic of SOX, which is that it assumes a relatively random distribution of smart, experienced people smeared across boards like peanut butter. In other words, every board should, on the whole, have at least one or two smart, experienced independent directors. 

It is worth examining that assumption, because it is the soft underbelly of board governance.