by Gary Nelson
Issue #198 – This post is part of the TrendWaves blog series, an NBOGroup publication on Leadership & Organizational trends and insights for Business Leaders.
Today’s organizations are frantically searching for the “magic bullet” or “technique” that will drive employee engagement, increase productivity, creativity, competitive advantage…and more. With billions of dollars invested in developing Leaders who can “engage”, a recent MIT study shows that the return on these investments are embarrassingly small. Studying dozens of companies, they found that one of the top three “pathologies” for failure is “Leadership development with a flavor of the month approach”.
The solution is available to anyone who wants it! NOT from the business school lecture halls, MBA textbooks or consulting firm buzzwords. The solution, has been tried and proven successful for more than 1500 years, and today still stands the test of time.
Let’s now look at these timeless leadership “truths” for organizational success.
Lead with a Clear and Meaningful Common Vision
From The Benedictine Rules of Leadership, we begin with “Benedict’s Rule of Common Interest”:
This is the idea that members, or stakeholders, are bound together by the high purpose of sharing an important interest or mission. The starting point is the clear understanding by ALL involved of the primary organizational and individual objectives, which is the common interest.
The common interest must be clearly articulated, perceived by all members and stakeholders as being important and something worth bonding together for.
In his book Passion for Leadership, Robert Gates reinforces the Benedictine Rule with the following advice under the heading, “Where you want to go: The Vision Thing”: Gates states that, only leaders at the top can discern the Vision and the need.
Leaders Need to Be Future-Focused
Jacques Barzun, in his book From Dawn to Decadence, echoes this truth:
“To govern (lead) well requires two distinct kinds of ability; political skill and the administrative mind. Both are very rare, either in combination or separately. The former depends on sensing what can be done (Vision/Mission), at what moment, and how to move others to want it… But one can be a true politico, and be at the same time incapable of administration. To administer is to keep order in a situation that continually tends toward disorder. In running any organization, both people and things have to be kept straight from day to day.”
Those who would be agents of change, must first conceive and articulate where they believe an organization has to go and rally support for that Vision/Mission. They need to diagnose what is wrong that therefore needs to be changed, and why reform is necessary. This is essential in order to persuade employees and stakeholders to get on board.
The Vision (or future) “Thing” is nicely underscored by Inventor Charles Kettering: “My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there”.
The Engagement Scene Today
Current results close to home! The impact of this leadership truth has been validated by the NBOGroup Leadership Surveys (2000 – 2015) with every survey indicating frustration and underperformance from a lack of clarity or understanding of the leadership’s vision/mission.
Use the truths from the past, assessment of the present, to create a positive future!
- The Benedictine Rule of Leadership: Classic Management Secrets You Can Use Today by Craig S. Galbraith and Oliver Galbraith
- A Passion for Leadership: Lessons on Change and Reform from Fifty Years of Public Service by Robert M. Gates
- From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life by Jacques Barzun