We recently canvassed my 1st degree network on LinkedIn for feedback on an article about the changing face of leadership. It clearly struck a chord because more than two dozen people took the time to respond with over 8,000 insightful, closely argued and often provocative words.
To leave this high-quality thinking languishing in my in-box would be ‘criminal’ so we’ve pulled together the key topics and powerful excerpts into a series of six short posts.
This amazing response has also inspired us to launch an ongoing conversation freed from the constraints of website and in-box. To this end we’ve set up a LinkedIn Group called ‘Leadership in a Changing World’ which we invite you to join.
Candid, thought-provoking discussion is essential to keeping our thinking both disciplined and fresh. We hope you agree and look forward to engaging with you soon.
Post #1 (of 6): Makes Decisions
The first of three ‘new’ leadership competencies that were referenced in the article, the importance of decision-making clearly struck a chord. The only disagreement in the feedback was over how new it really was.
The consensus amongst the respondents was that leaders have always needed to make decisions based on incomplete information, however, recent events had definitely upped the ante. Here is a selection of the relevant responses:
“In the early days of lockdown everyone was making decisions on little or changing information. Staff looked to the leaders to provide assurance with a measure of control. After those first weeks, the succession of decisions was obscuring the profound opportunities that existed. We became uber-risk adverse. Everything was pitched in terms of Covid safety: we risked it pervading all our planning and strategy to the point it would become all-consuming.”
“Decision-making was, is and will be based on insufficient data, as we are living and working in a complex world. If there is a single thing mankind is not good at, it's handling complexity. That's one of the reasons why all these AI, expert systems, robotics etc. are developing fast.”
But with technology yet to entirely fill the gap, there is a sense that our reliance on people is as great as ever. And this should be embraced and not denied.
“It’s important that CXOs surround themselves with a wise mix of people who can help provide input via their own capabilities and the level of insight their extended teams and networks bring to bear.”
“Leaders who take decisions by themselves when information and data are scant, without any consultation, aren’t good leaders, even if they prove to be more right than wrong. When they get it wrong, it will be very difficult to engender followership on future directions of travel because of their autocratic style.”
This led a couple of respondents to explore the differences in approach between business leaders and those in politics.
“I think the difference between the government and the private sector comes down to how key decisions have been taken. The PM has made a series of decisions without any detail around the implementation. It has looked like policy-making on the hoof. In the corporate world, because of the accountability to shareholders and other stakeholders, important decisions are challenged robustly through rigorous governance processes.”
Our experience is that governance processes may not always be as robust as the last statement implies. We would love your further reflections on the value and effectiveness of governance in the world of business. Feel free to sign up and contribute.