Monday, 25 January 2010

Exceeding Expectation: the principles of outstanding leadership

This month saw The Work Foundation publish the results of a two-year qualitative study of outstanding leadership. The researchers conducted over 250 interviews with leaders, their managers and their direct reports in six UK organisations. The research has uncovered clear differences between good and outstanding leadership resulting in the presentation of evidence to support a systemic, people centred approach to high performance leadership. Emerging from the analysis are nine themes and three principles which characterise outstanding leaders:

1. They think and act systemically
2. They see people as the route to performance
3. They are self-confident without being arrogant

So, can these nine themes and three principles be learnt? Yes, undoubtedly they can – the 77 leaders interviewed were not cloned, neither did they have equal measures of skill or ability. One of the common factors for the 77 is their individual recognition that they continue to learn, develop and evolve as leaders.

One of the most thought provoking points in the report executive summary is the implication in this sentence: “Some of the outstanding leaders featured in the research did not originally have a people-focused approach, but realised the impact they were having on people and therefore adjusted their style accordingly.”

Think about your own leadership approach and think about your organisation and its policies and procedures, especially performance management linked processes. Do they allow for up and coming leaders to examine their own impact, realise implications (either individually or supported by coaching) and make adjustments and re-invent themselves as outstanding future leaders?

Or in the current economic environment is this just not possible and is the zero tolerance approach to mistakes adopted by many organisations the way forward?

We are interested in your experiences and your views.....