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Leadership and Management: The King is Dead, Long Live The King

Within the confusion that surrounds the label ‘Leader’ I am attempting a clarification of what defines a leader in a business sense. In an earlier post on LinkedIn (Misled, Mismanaged? Or ...

Within the confusion that surrounds the label ‘Leader’ I am attempting a clarification of what defines a leader in a business sense. In an earlier post on LinkedIn (Misled, Mismanaged? Or just Mistaken?) I outlined three types of leader which may be valid in a business environment. 

By sharing the text of a speech delivered in 1917 by Major Bach, Jason Versey outlines the ideal ‘believer’ leader type. Describing an individual with character closer to that of a god rather than that of a  mortal this is, even so, a good template to work from. 

Recently in a post entitled 'Would you work for Me?" on LinkedIn, James Caan described the organisational set up he has established at Hamilton Bradshaw.  

Caan says - "...when it comes to working on a project, say I need some of the latest figures; Deepak the chief investment officer is sitting two desks away, If my computer causes trouble, Bhupinder my IT lead is a desk away, so there’s no delay in fixing a problem or gathering information. Work is fast, effective and productive." 

In these few short words he conveys the image of a modern management environment where ‘believer’ leadership is always present. The leader surrounds himself with able lieutenants who continually feed him accurate data for decision making. 

This would work as well in a military, even combat, situation as it does in a fast moving business environment.  

Many commenters on the post challenged the title, saying that it should have been "Would you work with Me?". However, I believe that the original title is the correct one. The type of leader who would construct this setup needs to be personally involved, wants the final decision to be his and is fully prepared to take the responsibility of a wrong move. When things go well his praise for his team would undoubtedly flow in abundance. 

The set up described has only one failing. It depends entirely on the presence of the leader. The leader must be easily contactable, if not there will be dissension on any decision. 

An ideal format then for a entrepreneur led team, or for a family business or other small business where the principal is the most important stakeholder. But what about a larger business? One that has external stakeholders, one where the business itself is the most important element. A business like this must grow and continue in the absence or demise of any particular leader. What about the smaller leadership roles in businesses where the leader is not the principal, but merely a team leader or department manager?  

Such a leader may find that the aspirations for the business, those success targets set for team members and nurtured in each individual, are changed by the business. New dreams become the goals for both leader and team, and these must be 'sold' to every individual in the team before they can be fully effective again. 

Difficult for a leader in such a situation to conform to 'the believer' type of leadership, far more likely then, that such people will be 'the experienced' or 'the professional' type, able to accept new circumstances and apply management soft skills to harness the backing of each team member in an efficient manner, befitting the needs of the business. 

The danger here is that such leaders in the business environment will grow with the experience gained and decide to move on. Such decisions are made, not only when a change in business aspirations do not align with the personal aspirations of the leader, but also when another employer offers the leader a better deal.  

What needs to take place here? 

The answer, of course, is delegation. Delegate the authority and you must delegate the responsibility. If the leader has handed off both authority and responsibility, the leader no longer leads, the recipient of the delegation leads. So, what role does the original leader now fill? 

Obviously, that will depend on the quality of those presenting themselves, or being available, as successors. The original leader may wish to exercise a gradual succession, may wish to mentor the rising star, gradually releasing more and more of the control, until the transition is complete.  

The one thing any leader must do is accept that there must be a succession, that authority and responsibility must pass. If not, the business dies when the leader turns to other pursuits. This truth is evident both in business and in politics. Where a successful leader holds on to leadership too long, the succession is crippled. Prime candidates for the leadership succession may be damaged, either by a reluctance to challenge the outgoing leader or by being set impossible tasks by a an outgoing leader, reluctant to depart.  

Smooth succession can only occur where the outgoing leader is complicit in the grooming of the successor. 

In short, really successful leaders accept that the first and foremost task is to begin to plan their own demise. 

This much is evident in a close reading of the text of Major Bach’s speech. The task (or business), and not the leader, must be the focal point of any really successful leadership. 

As for the business, leadership succession must be planned and provided for at every stage of development. Failure to embrace this results in huge issues, where knowledge is held and retained by individuals rather than the business.  

The prospect of a key employee moving to a competitor, not only with extensive business data and possibly taking along some team membersPsychology Articles, but also failing to leave behind any sound succession plans is the stuff of nightmares.  


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Chris has a lifetime of management and IT experience.

More insights may be found on his websites

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