There are four “levels” of leadership we see in most organizations:
- The leader – developing self, developing character, being self-aware
- Leadership of others
- Leadership of teams
- Leadership of organizations
Have you noticed something interesting about this list? Only one of these four levels of leadership are about the leader. The leadership of others and of teams is about relationships. The leadership of organizations is about stewardship, about processes to ensure the long-term survival of the organization and about vision (and maybe a bit about leading others & teams). Yet most of the blog posts, discussions, research and thoughts about leadership are leader-centric – the traits, skills and behaviours (the “features”) of the leader.
I recently read a great article in the Ivey Business Journal about corporate governance. In it, Knud Jensen argues that we are too focused on the features of a board (who is on the board, how the board is structured, etc), and not focused enough on the functional relationship between the board and management. He also notes that the context in which each board and management team works also has significant impact on the effectiveness of a board. Essentially he is arguing that how a board works (its processes) is far more important than what the board looks like.
I think that Jensen is right, but not just about boards. Much of leadership is about constructing relationships and processes – how we work together to achieve shared goals. In other words, how the people in the organization function and the processes they use. Each context requires different processes and functions, different relationships.
Let’s try to create more balance in our discussions of leadership – consider the “how” people work together, rather than what they do or how they behave. Let’s get less focused on the leader and more focused on the process. If we can learn to create processes that make groups of people more effective at working together, then we’ve achieved something.
Jensen, K. (July/August, 2014). Reconceptualizing the board and its metrics. Ivey Business Journal. http://iveybusinessjournal.com/topics/governance/reconceptualizing-the-board-and-its-metrics#.U_NR4UiVMzU