Leaders: The Need to Build, Not Always Buy

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????by Jason Questor
Founding Partner and EVP Learning Systems

Everywhere you look today business professionals are discussing the need for leaders. This is not new. What is new, for some,  is the reality of global competition coming right to your front door, coupled with uncertainty as the New Certainty. In his 2009 book Leaders Make the Future, Bob Johansen coined the acronym VUCA to represent the current and growing reality businesses face: volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. This forms the backdrop for what I want to talk about today, and that is the need to incorporate growing your own leaders as a key element of your immediate and ongoing strategy.

True leaders are a rare commodity, and increasingly, this is a seller’s market. People who have what it takes to leverage deep understanding of your business and the marketplace and inspire others towards a sustainable high performance vision can pick and choose where they want to work. Or, they might just strike out on their own or with your best people and become your new competitor.

In his article for Forbes in October 2012, Avi Dan pointed out that the challenges faced by medium sized businesses are particularly acute.

  • Larger organizations can afford to pay handsomely for their top talent, far beyond the budgets of mid-size companies.
  • They can also afford to maintain highly specialized business support functional areas and departments, such as project management, business analysis, sales and marketing. Larger organizations can maintain a well-resourced middle management tier to support strategy through operational excellence and tactical initiatives. Everyone else has to be able to do this work themselves.

Add to this the importance of what Robert Greenleaf calls Servant Leadership, which includes not just understanding that people are the foundation of success in any venture, but having true empathy for them and the ability to harness their energy towards shared success in a culture of service.  Much has been said and written about Servant Leadership since Greenleaf first coined the term in 1970, but it is astounding how little has actually been done about it in everyday business.  This, despite the fact that the concept is thousands of years old. Half a millennium before the Common Era, Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu is credited with saying “The highest type of ruler is one of whose existence the people are barely aware. Next comes one whom they love and praise. Next comes one whom they fear. Next comes one whom they despise and defy”. Every organization wants and needs the first two types. Having the last two types will kill your business.

What all of this leads to is the need for everyone, but especially smaller and mid-size organizations to invest in the in-house growth and development of effective leaders and managers at all strategic and tactical levels. Skills like establishing and working towards an actionable vision, effective delegation and coaching, managing for performance and professional development, establishing a culture of effective collaboration, teamwork and continuous improvement , and managing change and conflict are very learnable skills.  As business leaders, we must make excellence in leadership and management a priority.

From Business Analysis for Business Performance ©2012 Jason Questor.

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