A Leadership Crisis
I believe we are in the midst of a leadership crisis. Bill George and John P. Kotter, both professors at Harvard Business School agree.
John P. Kotter is an internationally recognised organisational researcher who has numerous publications to his name. He is the Konosuke Matsuhshita Professor of Leadership. A graduate of MIT and Harvard, he has been on the Harvard Business School faculty since 1972.
Kotter states that:
After conducting fourteen formal studies and more than a thousand interviews, directly observing dozens of executives in action, and compiling innumerable surveys, I am completely convinced that most organisations today lack the leadership they need. I am not talking about a deficit of 10percent but of 200percent, 400percent or more in positions up and down the hierarchy. This is not to say that untalented, unenergetic people occupy management positions.
The typical case is just the opposite, with bright, experienced, and hardworking individuals, some quite extraordinary, almost all trying to do what they believe is right.
The problem is that far too few of these people are providing the leadership that is increasingly needed in business, government, everywhere. … The central issue here is not one of style. It is about core behaviour on the job, not surface detail and tactics, a core that changes little over time, across different cultures, or in different industries.1
Bill George was the former Chief Executive of Medtronic, the world’s leading medical technology company, from 1991 to 2001, and chairman of the board from 1996 to 2002. Under his stewardship, Medtronic went from a market capitalization of $1 billion to $60 billion, averaging a growth rate of 35 percent per year. He is currently professor of management practice at Harvard Business School.
In his book, True North2 George states that:
An enormous vacuum in leadership exists today—in business, politics, government, education, religion, and non-profit organisations. Yet there is no shortage of people with the capacity for leadership. The problem is we have a wrongheaded notion of what constitutes a leader, driven by an obsession with leaders at the top. That misguided stand often results in the wrong people attaining critical leadership roles.
Over the past fifty years, leadership scholars have conducted more than a thousand studies in the attempt to determine the definitive leadership styles, characteristics, or personality traits of great leaders. None of these studies has produced a clear profile of the ideal leader. Thank goodness. If scholars had produced a cookie-cutter leadership style, people would be forever trying to emulate it. The reality is that no one can be authentic by trying to be like someone else. People trust you when you are genuine and authentic, not an imitation. … You need to be who you are, not try to emulate somebody else. … Leaders are defined by their unique life stories and the way they frame their stories to discover their passions and the purpose of their leadership.
George goes on to say:
What concerns me are the many powerful business leaders who bowed to stock market pressure in return for personal gain. They lost sight of their True North and put their companies at risk by focusing on the trappings and spoils of leadership instead of building their organisations for the long term. … The result was a severing of trust with employees, customers, and shareholders. … In business trust is everything.
Every successful business leader has to make the shift from “I” to “We.