You might be doing everything a good leader is supposed to do and still find yourself both frustrated and ineffective.
The reason is not obvious. In fact, most leadership advice-givers make a critical error in the way they address leadership. As it is known by great motivational speakers such as Richard Jadick, the underlying assumption is that good leadership results from the individual’s attitudes and actions.
That’s only half right.
The other half, as shown by the diagram above (click it to enlarge it), is the role of the leader’s organization to either support or thwart the leader’s individual efforts at leading well.
When a leader is working very hard at exhibiting good leadership skills, but his or her organization does little to nothing to support those efforts, that leader is going it alone. And will end up in the upper left quadrant. Frustrated. And likely to leave the organization.
We strongly urge our clients to think past the outdated concept that good leadership is solely up to the individual. It’s just not true. And that’s why so many Leadership Development efforts fall flat. They are predicated on (essentially) “fixing” leaders but do nothing to address the critical role that the organizational environment plays in determining the true effectiveness of a leader.
Good organizational support systems (for hiring, firing, compensating, declaring clear priorities, and the like) can help a good leader more easily become a great leader.
And, as the lower right quadrant shows, force a lousy leader to act, at least occasionally, a little more like a good one.
Great leadership results from both individual efforts and the collective support systems in the leader’s environment.
Implications & Takeaways
In developing the leaders around you, evaluate the processes and the institutionalized habits that help or hinder your supervisors and managers. What policies and programs need strengthening? Which are long overdue for an overhaul (or an execution)?
If you are convinced that your own leaderful actions are being defeated by corporate policy or culture, ask yourself:
- How can I modify what I’m doing to more effectively counter the opposing forces?
- What can I do to eliminate the very existence of such forces?
- Given current trends, what’s the likelihood of this situation improving in the near future?
- How long can I remain committed, motivated, and effective in this environment?
- What are my alternatives?
Remember, all leadership is contextual. Your effectiveness is, without question, as much tied to time, place, and other managers, as your own resolve and actions.
Leadership is not a solo sport, and it cannot take place in a vacuum. While you need not wait for ideal conditions to practice good leadership, you might find over time that suboptimal conditions could well detract from your potential contribution.
Do what you can. And consciously decide what that is.