I’m suggesting a change in how we view leadership development. Most leadership development is still entrenched in the evergreen story of the stereotypical heroic leader. He (usually male) is an individual with the innate, endowed gift to lead and command others. His superior abilities are demonstrated by singlehandedly solving problems and inspiring and directing others to action (not always for good, as history has taught us). In more recent times, in organisations, this has all been translated into neat packages of individual competencies, which people learn and are assessed on. We are all expected to aspire to this package as the measure of our leadership worth, and we will always fall short of it.
In today’s world, the one-in-a-million heroic leader at the top is no longer on his own! Leaders (and followers) are everywhere. Tech-savvy Gen Y’s are arriving in organisations with enthusiasm and confidence only to leave soon afterwards, disappointed and disillusioned. A recent survey showed that only about 3% of Australian CEO’s are engaged actively with social media. While they are so often dismissed as being too confident and ambitious, the Gen Y’s experience is worth taking into account. Their world is one in which knowledge and expertise is available to anyone who takes the time to access Google. Their disillusionment comes from watching leaders using command control behaviours based on the often false premise of their superior knowledge.
Its time we changed the tune. The new generations in the workplace have access to information which largely removes authority based on expertise. Effective leadership in this new world is determined by the myriad of relationships and connections that results from experience. Instead of looking to expertise for power, leaders need to value the network of relationships that they have built up over their career. This is a major cultural shift. We know that how people are promoted is less about individual competencies and more about who you know, who knows you, and being in the right place at the right time! Relational networks are power. Once a leader values this, s/he can turn to mentoring and coaching others, using his/her superior organisational experience to assist the future generation of leaders.