A wise man once said:
· “The people want me to be their leader – I must follow them”
The crux of the matter is that great leaders know that their function is a mixture of both leadership and followership and really great leaders realise that their most important function is the creation of more leaders, not just followers.
I recall that Andrew Strauss, England cricket captain when they won the Ashes in 2005 (not a good day to mention that this morning!) said that while he was nominally the captain, he actually wanted eleven captains on the field.
Simply put he wanted to have people on his team who were prepared to take the initiative, to offer thoughts and advice and to work together for the overall success of the team.
Listen to any discussion about rugby as it is played these days and understand that there are several metaphorical captains on the field; not in name perhaps but certainly de facto.
For example, there will be a player who leads the pack, someone who leaders the backs and so on. More often than not these “extra” leaders are not normally appointed as such but they certainly emerge during training or in a match.
While the business leader has the overall responsibility for determining how the business is run and indeed for its overall performance, when the headcount in the company grows it becomes well nigh impossible to retain that measure of overall contact that is needed.
Just take a look in any business at how each section or department operates. Well run and well led departments contribute more to the overall success than is commonly realised and they can be a great training ground for future leaders.
Far seeing leaders encourage these “extra” leaders to act as mentors for their people and naturally they are in line for promotion as the situation arises.
The Hopper brothers in their excellent book, “The Puritan Gift” make the point that in the great engines of growth in pre-war America developed “bottom up” management where there was a constant upwards flow of information which enabled the management to make decisions that reflected what was really happening at shop floor level.
The onset of change in those companies, largely post-war, led to the appointment of financial officers to the highest posts with a consequent change to top down management and in many cases a steady decline in performance.
As long as answers to those two fundamental questions are constantly transmitted to the people in the business:
· How am I doing?
· Where are WE going?
then they will understand and accept that they are involved in a business which knows its purpose, what it is there to do, what it exists to achieve, and as a consequence they will be far more likely to want to be a part of the future of the business.
It takes an effort of will on the part of leaders and top management to involve their people to this extent but the results can be startling in terms of morale, in terms of involvement and consequently in terms of performance.
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