The role of leadership in organizations is recognized as a critical need for their evolution. This has become even more important in a world so complex and volatile as the one we operate in now. CEOs taking part in IBM’s 2010 Global CEO Study titled “Capitalizing on Complexity” admitted the following:
“In our past three global CEO studies, CEOs consistently said that coping with change was their most pressing challenge. In 2010, our conversations identified a new primary challenge: complexity. CEOs told us they operate in a world that is substantially more volatile, uncertain and complex. Many shared the view that incremental changes are no longer sufficient in a world that is operating in fundamentally different ways…Today’s complexity is only expected to rise, and more than half of CEOs doubt their ability to manage it. Seventy-nine percent of CEOs anticipate even greater complexity ahead.”
Yet, our current leadership model is hurting our ability to deal in a world loaded with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity…a VUCA world. I recently read a blog post by Ted Coine on his 21st-Century Business blog. In his blog titled “Management is War? Make That Was.” Ted discussed the role of World War II in creating our current organizational structures in the private and public sectors. Watch HBO shows like “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific” and you will see it…command-and-control leadership. People with experience and capability are put in positions of authority to get goals accomplished. Whether storming beaches or taking a town one house and street at a time…the great thing about command-and-control leadership in World War II is it got results. Missions were achieved and the war won…But according to Ted it has created challenges and an overall inability to leverage the talent in our organizations as noted in his comments below….
“Here's the thing, though: top-down leadership creates vast waste of human talent. It motivates us to do what the big boss orders, but it also turns off our inner drive to exceed when no one's watching, or monitoring, or counting one acute measurement of our output.
Order your people around, and they'll do the bare minimum to keep their jobs. Measure their performance by the numbers, and they'll give you those numbers - and very little more. Think for them, and they'll stop thinking for themselves - they'll stop thinking for you, for your company.”
The importance of leadership has never been more important in our country than it is now. Yet, we find ourselves wanting for great leadership. This was recently brought home for me when the Partnership for Public Service announced its 2010 Best Places to Work rankings for the Federal government.
While many factors are considered in the overall index ranking for organizations...the key factor shaping how employees see their workplace, for the fifth time in a row, was effective leadership. Much of what you would expect is rolled into determining the grades for this category. The survey asked about the ability of senior leaders and supervisors to generate motivation, commitment, opportunities for employees to lead and developmental opportunities. Scores for the largest Federal departments and agencies varied from 73.5 at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (Who was recognized as the #1 place to work in Federal government) to 46.5 at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. But there is something deeper as Ted Coine sees from his perspective of the private sector that is even more prevalent in the public sector.
When you look at scores for large Federal organizations in "Effective Leadership"...It's kind of sad...for the top 28 organizations with scores it averaged out to the following overall grades for "Effective Leadership" in the Federal government since 2007:
2010 - 55
2009 - 53.2
2007 - 51.7
While there has been improvement in the average scores since 2007, even if you grade on a significant curve...a 55 is a failing score (Let’s be honest…the 73.5 that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission scored is just average). These kinds of scores speak to what can only be seen as a leadership gap not because people are leaving positions, but because they are in them!
So why don't we have more of it in the Federal government? Could be any number of reasons. My experience and perspective tell me this...in top-down driven, bureaucratic organizations where the working environment is about rules, standards, process and tasks driving organizational activities, senior leaders and supervisors are more like a boss than a leader. I discussed this in a previous blog post on my DNA of Human Capital blog titled "Is Your Boss Your Leader?" There is a big difference between the two and what benefits they bring to an organization. Leaders inspire people engagement and drive innovation and results by leveraging talent in the public sector and not wasting it. In the future, Federal government organizations will need great leadership and not just effective leadership to create and fuel the kind of results that efficiently manage resources and effectively achieve results that drive the United States. The kind of great leadership that is transformational...The American citizen requires no less.