An organization is super rich in leadership and becomes a Leadership Lab, a School of Leaders, if it has three types in store.
1. Good leadership at the top, is a given. Is there however ‘collective leadership’ within? The ability to function and perform with spontaneous, unsolicited, not dictated by the CEO ‘taking responsibility’. Translation: ‘I’ll do that’, ‘I’ll take care of this’, ‘leave it with us, Peter and me’, in areas, topics, issues that do not necessarily belong to the (representational) functional hat of the leaders. If this is normal, congratulations, but you really are a world minority.
(My test, by the way, is when I see an HR super VP visiting a remote corporate land, presenting the overall company and business strategies to all in a Town Hall, not the HR strategy. Change the function HR for any other: The CFO presenting the R&D strategy, the R&D head presenting the overall HR, etc. In depth, I mean. Many people think this is silly. I think it is a sign of serious blessings; they get collective leadership. They will be a great Leadership Lab. It’s silly until you see it, then you realise its beauty)
2. Distributed leadership: a recognised presence of natural leaders across the board, regardless of their rank and position in the organizational chart. Plus, you do something with them, as opposed to admiring them.
3. A well defined pool of transferable leaders, in different levels and areas of the business. Those leaders could be called upon to lead any function, any business unit, any affiliate, any new venture or acquisition. And they will be chosen for their transferable leadership capacity. Their original expertise, functionality, tribal belonging, are irrelevant. A former technology guy now leads a commercial operation in X. An ex-manufacturing head, now leads a technology venture. A former HR director, now leads an affiliate. If this sounds crazy to you, you don’t know what you are missing. If it sounds impossible, think about how to make it possible. If your organisation doesn’t do this, or can’t afford to move people around at top jobs other than at functional capacity level, you are not necessarily in terrible shape, but you are missing a lot.
I often hear, we have excellent technology leaders, or product development leaders, but we cannot give them a top commercial role. Well, I’m sorry for you, but you need to do some serious soul searching as to why you say this. And, by the way, you have just told me that you have a wonderful Talent Management system. Really?
If you have that pool of transferable leaders, and use them as the norm, my second congratulations for the day. You are a minority. Make sure you publicise the existence of that, big time.
If you have 1 plus 2 plus 3, you are a Leadership Lab, a School of Leadership, regardless of your business. It must make your place very attractive. You must be very proud. Make sure people know.
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