Blog | Lead. Follow. Or Get Out the Way! The Changing Face of Leadership

Published February 22, 2018 by Luke Talbot

Employee Insight
Lead. Follow. Or Get Out the Way! The Changing Face of Leadership

Do you want to be a top performing leader? It may seem like common sense that leadership has always been vital to company growth – and research really does back this up. A top performing leader will have a 50% greater impact than an average one, and drive a doubling of profits. Sounds good to any shareholder or investor right? Thousands of books have been written on the subject of what makes a good leader, and academics have dedicated their careers to studying the secrets of the art (or is it a science?) of leadership. 

Yet, tales of bad leaders abound, and the traditional role is becoming increasingly difficult due to flatter organisations, a talent-driven economy and a more fluid and chaotic world. Good leaders matter more than ever, but too often good organisations promote the wrong people to be managers, expecting them automatically to become leaders. Partly this is down to the Peter Principle, which states that candidates for promotion are chosen based on their performance in their current role, rather than how their abilities fit their future position. Consequently ‘managers rise to the level of their incompetence’ – they keep getting promoted until they can’t cope.

So how can organisations ensure that they nurture the leaders that they desperately need? Here are three good places to start:

1. You need leaders across your organisation

The old, top-down model of senior leaders directing a company infallibly from on high no longer works in today’s fast-paced world. Flatter organisations mean that middle managers are increasingly making vital decisions while interacting with customers – their day to day leadership of teams is crucial to business success. Therefore, you need to nurture them and provide them with the training, feedback and best practice to do their job. Focusing solely on senior leaders won’t be enough to keep your business nimble, innovative and agile. In fact, if you’re focusing on the senior leaders only you have a perfect storm brewing of talent leaving, existing management self-serving and the pace needed to execute dragged down.

 2. Give them the skills and support

Don’t let the Peter Principle drive your leadership strategy. Provide the right training to your new managers, and those you have earmarked as future leaders, so that they aren’t simply thrust into an unfamiliar role. Let them learn from their peers – encourage sharing of best practice across your business, and ensure that they have the opportunity to improve through 360 degree feedback provided as and when needed, rather than simply at an annual review. There is a big difference between managers and leaders, and as a teaser – this latest Crosstalk covers this. Anyway, back to the three points!

 3. Let your people speak

Attracting and retaining talent is central to creating agile, productive and successful businesses. And with ever-greater competition for their skills, your people are not going to stick around long if their manager is a bad leader. Quick thought? What happens if their manager is a bad leader, but a great business asset? Time to rethink the succession planning – but that’s one perhaps for another Crosstalk!

So, it’s therefore imperative that you listen to them and let them provide feedback on the leadership skills of their managers – what are they doing right, and where can they improve? Identifying weaknesses is the first step to fixing them, or in a worst case scenario, looking at moving a bad leader out of the business.

Leadership has never been more vital – or more complex. To find out what you need to do to ensure your leadership strategy is in tune with today’s business needs listen to our Crosstalk: Lead. Follow. Or get out of the way!


Ps. Missed the previous ones? We won’t tell anyone, but check them out here.

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