Why leadership matters…

Posted by on Dec 18, 2019 in Blog | 6 comments

Leadership guru Peter Drucker once said that only three things come naturally to all organisations: friction, confusion and under performance. Everything else requires leadership.

It’s worth thinking about. My observation is that those in church circles have an uneasy relationship with leadership. They are conscious of how easily it can be abused, and of how some leaders embark on toxic quests for power and control, using the nobility of the mission of Jesus to mask their naked ambition. Consequently they are quick to point out that genuine Christian leadership is different, and they are right. After all, Jesus not only taught servant leadership, he modelled it as well. It is the latter step that was the game changer, for we all know that talk is cheap, but when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet shortly before his crucifixion – well, clearly that was more than just talk.

Christian leaders also know that they are never the prime leader – for only God has that role. Christian leaders need to be led, and know that they will ultimately account for the way they have followed or ignored the leading of God.

There are many other qualifiers we sometimes add to the task of Christian leadership, but in our caution let’s not overlook how important good leadership is, and the difference it makes to any organisation – be it a workplace, the church or the local sports club.

Think of the three natural but unhealthy defaults Drucker identifies…

Friction is often present in organisations because we don’t have a leader who can help us hold courageous conversations which help to nip deteriorating talk in the bud. Without that, unacceptable behaviours get glossed over, and so continue. If there has been no one to help us stamp out gossip, selfish agendas, and sloppy habits, friction inevitably results.

If you are in a harmonious workplace, thank God for the leadership that has helped bring it about. It doesn’t come naturally. If you are not, think if there is a way to strengthen your current leaders so that this can change. It is possible to exercise a form a leadership from the second, third and fourth chair, so simply because you are not the main upfront leader does not mean you can’t help set the culture in your organisation.

Confusion is the second of the default states identified by Drucker. It expresses itself in different ways, most commonly by people saying they don’t know what is going on, and if they do, they don’t know why it is going on. Decisions seem a mystery, and people are not sure just what direction they should go in. They might have a general sense of what they are supposed to be doing, but because they don’t see its place in the wider vision of the organisation, they don’t know where to direct their extra energy, or what would be helpful.

You have a good leader if the people in your organisation are able to say, this is where we are going, this is why we are going there, and this is the role I am supposed to play in getting there. If they can not only say it, but say it with enthusiasm, you have an outstanding leader.

Again, if this is not the position, why not explore ways you could help to rectify things. Some leaders have a clear sense of what is supposed to be happening, but have failed to communicate it effectively. Or perhaps some decisions have been made that the leader forgot to convey. Perhaps you can jolt their memory, or think about ways that you can move from confusion to clarity.

Underperformance is the final of the woes that under led organisations find. There is a leadership dividend that is tangible in well run organisations. People sense they are a part of a place that is going somewhere, and so want to bring their best self to it. The reality is that we are all potentially many different selves. There is our bored, disengaged self, or our preoccupied self, or our anxious even fearful self. None of them see us produce our best. But if the leadership of our organisation has articulated a clear, worthy, stretching and attainable vision, we are likely to step up, and do the best we can, especially if the environment is also encouraging and affirming.

If the leader or leaders you serve under tick all these boxes, you can indeed by grateful – and do tell them that you appreciate what they do (for there are many times when leadership is a lonely and difficult road, and leaders also need encouragement). But if not, why not see if there is a chance to lead from the second, third or forth chair. Much better to be part of the solution than to simply add to the friction, confusion and underperformance.

As always, nice chatting…

6 Comments

  1. Hello Brian – a very interesting read.

    I can almost imagine from what you have written is that Drucker’s three elements can be resolved by good management as apposed (not opposed) to good leadership. If another saying is true, that “every leader needs to be a good manager, but not every manager makes a good leader” how can self management and self leadership be built into the individual so that, for example, weaknesses of under-perfomance can be minimised?

    Regards

    Wayne

    • Certainly agree that every leader needs a good manager working alongside them. Its key that they both respect what the other brings. I think the Maxwell insight is that managers do things right, leaders do the right thing. Both are needed.
      Under performance can have many causes – but lack of motivation is probably the most common, others being lack of clarity about what needs to be done, feeling overwhelmed, not being able to overcome a very specific deficit (perhaps a skill that is missing – and which tailored training might sort out). Also common is not knowing what can usually be expected – or not knowing what bar should be leapt over. In other words, my output is 10 because I assumed that was about right, and didn’t realise most manage 12.

  2. Really enjoyed this commentary Brian. Resonated with me because of my interest in the importance of strategy in any organisation…If the team understands the where (vision), why (purpose), how (mission) and what (strategies to achieve these), then they should be able to see how they fit into them. And in my experience this can only be done well, in a servant-leadership culture led by teams rather than ego-driven individuals.

    • Great to hear from you Nigel. On strategy I’ve also been thinking about the other Drucker nugget that culture eats strategy for breakfast – which seems valid to me.

  3. Leadership can be the most lonely place until we realise that it is God who placed us in the position we are in today. It is to Him that we need to turn to when faced with challenges.

    If God is leading then we have to start in the 2nd chair at least. Of course if the Trinity is to be trusted we will always start on the 4th chair.

    I certainly do think that the first point on friction is critical to sort out through wise leadership. The heart of Christ is Galatians 5:22. It is only through the heart of the Holy Spirit that we can lead our followers as Christians.

    Thanks for a great article.

    • Thanks for these thoughtful comments Fred. Yes, important to realise that the first chair belongs to God…

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