Organizations have been known to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars certifying managers in the use of a popular leadership program, only to have it scrapped when the CEO finds another quick-fix program that looks better or gets the axe because the program failed to deliver as promised. After a while, employees get confused as to which method is in and which is out.
These top-down training efforts are referred to irreverently at the lower levels as management-by-bestseller. Sadly, an enormous amount of time, talent, and treasure can be wasted on one-size-fits-all leadership theories that focus on popularity rather than purpose.
A leader is someone who makes things happen. But, in a dysfunctional setting, a leader can also stop things from happening—which is the basis of most productivity losses. If you want to keep dysfunction from gaining a foothold in your workplace, focus less on leadership training and more on leadership positioning.
So, what does this mean? For starters, you may have to alter some of your beliefs; beginning with the myth that leadership originates from the top. Another assumption you may have to let go of is that to lead people you must be in front of them or at least visible. Sometimes it is better to lead from behind so that you can see if your followers are headed in the right direction.
Leadership works best when it is informal and natural. There is no need to spend a ton of money on formal programs. Doers, those 20% of the workforce responsible for 80% of production, come by leadership naturally; all they need is a clear understanding of their purpose and an opportunity to achieve it. Put Doers in positions where leadership is needed and watch them do the right thing the right way for the right reason.
In today’s customer-focused marketplace correcting errors, making adjustments, and authorizing refunds are all critical leadership functions that must be performed when management is not around. Organizations need to position Doers at the point of customer contact empowered to act on the company’s behalf at any time, day or night.