Friday, January 11, 2013

Our Leadership Pandemic

Corporate America : Our Leadership Pandemic

The disease is rabid self interest. Not the healthy sort of self interest that we all need to employ to provide for our families but the short sighted self centered sort of self interest. 

Look at the symptoms. Almost exclusively you see leadership managing up. There is more interest in managing perception than managing the business. Future leaders are taught that managing perception is a critical skill if one is to advance. This is a key symptom of the leadership pandemic.

Look at a leadership meeting. It is about making oneself look good and avoiding blame. Problems don’t get solved. Instead, everyone is jockeying for position. Net result is the creation of a culture that teaches the underlings to do the same.

In lean and agile, leadership goes to were the work is done (i.e., gemba walk). Managing perception is  not needed when one sees things with ones own eyes. Leadership is on the floor observing the work frequently. Such behavior is the pulse of a healthy organization.

In lean and agile, leaders take accountability for problems, they don’t run from them. What is valued is the ability to collaborate with others across the value stream to resolve issues. This is fundamental to continuous improvement. This is a primary responsibility of leadership.

Unfortunately, the culture of “managing up” keeps the leadership from going to where the work is done. There are no gemba walks. Instead, leaders go to rooms with closed doors and manage perception via PowerPoint slides, elegant phrasing and distancing oneself from any blame. Such a culture teaches future executives how to “kiss the ring” of the current power brokers. Instead of managing the business, everyone is managing ones career.

Thus, problems don’t get solved, continuos improvement is but an empty phrase, the organization becomes dysfunctional and ineffective.

Is it any wonder we see so many American companies stagnate or in decline. Is your organization infected with the leadership pandemic?