18 February 2009

Leadership and groups

Leadership is often seen as something that is part of a group. In corporations groups are a way of life. And leadership can be for the corporation as a whole or for subgroups. Subgroups are created when dividing the corporation into departments with specific tasks. But they can also be created for a specific temporary task.

Most organizations that grow beyond twenty persons, automatically divide themselves into specialist groups. Accounting, purchase and sales, cleaning, they are all part of the organization. Specialization has its advantage over generalization, when it comes to certain organizational tasks. These departments often doe not really need leadership. Especially when the members are highly specialized and highly trained. Often the specialists know exactly what to do and only need someone to keep them up to date with higher management and in contact with other departments.

Groups that are specially formed for a certain task often have need of internal leadership. But they also need external leadership, to support their work. Especially if the task has implications for the company policy or if it is to prepare change.

Internal leadership of groups is needed to make the group work efficient and effective. However this internal leadership does not necessarilly has to be filled by one person. Belbin showed that the success of a group is defined by the fulfillment of nine roles. In which one person can very well occupy two group roles.

The external leadership is needed to make it possible for the group to do its work. But also to let the groups work have effect. Without the external leadership the work the group has done could very well get lost in the politics of any organization that is larger than 50 members.

05 February 2009

Leadership and getting trained

Although it is often stated that leaders are born and not made, it is off course just the opposite. A born leader without the possibility to practice will never become a leader. Where a future leader with lots of chances to practice, automatically becomes a better leader.

Training leaders
The most important part of leadership is getting a chance to practice. If this practice is structured and formal or informal and unstructured does not matter. For many of todays leaders the rule was, that they encountered situaties in which they could develop there talents as a leader.

From the point of view of an organization, it is off course better to work structured at the development of future leaders. There is however a but attached to this method.

A however
The danger of training leaders is that they are trained for the present or the past, not for the future. It is possible to train for the future, but that takes a different approach to training, from what today is main stream. In the current economy most trainings are based on what we already know. The knowledge that is passed on, is based on the past or is current at the moment the leaderships position is to be taken. The knowledge is seldom based on the fact that the world changes.

Few future leaders following an official trainingprogram learn to gather knowledge to understand the future. Often the idea is, that this will happen by itself as one is busy learning. A second thought is that learning to gather knowledge and information automatically leads to understanding the current situation. That this a flawed idea was proven in 2008 by the economic crisis, that was caused when the mortgage industry collapsed.

So it takes more to make someone understand the information he has received or gathered himself in his current situation.

04 February 2009

Leadership and training 2

A leader has three ways in which he is involved with training. The first is his own training to become a leader. This is often a combination of informal and formal training. Secondly he is involved in the training of future leaders, to get them ready to take their position as a leader, when it is time for the leader to step down. Thirdly as part of the strategy of the organization. Here I am only going to talk about the training of leaders.

The standard method

Save a few companies, most companies choose to hunt and select their new leaders outside their organization. The choice is for proven leadership quality. That has two reasons. First you prevent jealous reactions of other managers, who did not make it into the leadership position. Second you have proof that the new leader can lead and can bear the lesser aspects of the function of leader.

The prevention of jealousy between managers is important to an organization, because jealousy can create adverse powers. The managers that were passed over, can start an internal war or use their position to undermine the new leader. And every internal resistance has negative effects on the effectiveness of an organization.

The advantage of the proof of leadership is that you prevent someone failing, because he was not ready for the leadership role. However the proof is off course only proof for the fact that the leader could lead the organization he left. It can never be proof, that he can lead the organization he is going to lead. Except off course is both organizations are identical to the last point.

The other approach

A different approach is the management development program for high potentials. A combination of training and development for employees who show potential to realise that potential.

These programs begin off course with the selection of the HiPo's, by their manager, a manager HRM or HRD or maybe even a manager MD and a manager high in the hierarchy of the organization, sometimes the current leader.

Next the HiPo's get to participate in all kinds of training and development, directed at realising their potential. Often this potential strands in a management position at middle management levels. Not because they lack potential, but because their are more people with potential, then positions for managers.

This approach often flounders at the possibility to practice with the new knowledge acquired during the MD program. An effect from that fact that training is something completely different from a working organization. A proper working MD program will try to make the training situation resemble the practice of the organization and will try to integrate the training into the practical organization.