Tuesday, August 02, 2011

LEADERSHIP (continued): the CEO or President/PM and their teams.

From: TheAustralian
August 01, 2011

Boards lash weak leadership

"DIRECTORS on boards overseeing companies ............believe the poor state of the current public policy debate and a perceived lack of political leadership are directly affecting consumer confidence and damaging the nation."
“Adding to recent concerns expressed by senior business leaders, a new survey covering directors of large publicly listed companies, large public sector organisations, small privately operated businesses and charities in the retail, resources, infrastructure, property and services sectors identified a lack of authoritative leadership as their single biggest concern about the future.”

{Another article pointed to the perennial complaints of politicians about media bias: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” quoting an American President who also said “the buck stops right... here”!}

Far too often it seems that those who seek leadership are not necessarily the best equipped, even if well qualified to lead an organization, board or company. The main complaint in the above article in the business pages of The Australian is that there is little understanding between the business community and the Government. Politicians are not business people, while business people are not politicians. The needs of each and the understanding between them are not sufficiently well developed through lack of experience. This leads to lack of confidence between each group, but a good leader can overcome such obstacles. It is only when ambition and ego overtake the intelect that trouble can develop.

However, big business leaders do have political-style interests within their companies, while politicians may also have their own business talents and/or interests which they pursue alongside their political careers and responsibilities. But in each case, it may be an individual's ability to understand the other's problems, not necessarily the whole group's dynamics such as the Party or the Company Board's cultures which will alow them to formulate the right policies for electoral or business success.

Politicians undergo much scrutiny by the media and they are mercilessly criticised and satirically lampooned and caricatured by the press. Hence politicians must have a strong sense of their own abilities and a 'thick skin' to withstand 'the heat from the kitchen'. Decision making in politics is very difficult and time consuming. It takes many small teams reaching a consensus after teams of advisors have studied policies to propose to the electorate. But in the end it is the Prime Minister or a Minister in charge who will take responsibility for the whole because that is where the 'buck stops'.

In small organizations, the hierarchical structure is not much different. The president of the organization will have to take ultimate responsibility for whatever decisions that organization makes for the benefit of its members or in the undertaking of their projects. A good president/leader will also work with committees, advisors, experts in various fields in order to realize their organization's objectives.Our roof bodies in the Jewish community work in similar fashion,- for better or worse!

The problem in small voluntary-type and communal organizations (NGOs) is the fact that leadership and leaders are not necessarily elected or selected from among a pool of able and willing candidates. Usually it is a matter of 'the willing' rather than the most able who is available to take on the responsibilities of leadership. In addition we must be aware that, as in politics, there are people who are not just willing but also ambitious to move up the leadership ladder and will push competitors out of the way just to get to the top,- sometimes even at all costs. These are the 'control freaks' invariably and their leadership style is not conducive to good working relationship anywhere( but especially not on a volunteers' committee in a not-for-profit community NGO).


Volunteers on committees who are willing to give their time do so out of altruism because they believe in the cause or objectives of that group.The common good is their first aim and their own sense of satisfaction is secondary. The ambitious volunteers who harbour leadership ambitions will usually think of themselves and their needs first and try to impress the rest of the team with their abilities.

The group needs both kinds, or there would be no leaders willing to take on those responsibilities involved in leadership.But one needs to beware the egoist whose intelect is not up to it!


The style of leadership then becomes paramount in determining the effectiveness of any committee and the organization as a whole. Hence those who feel they are engaged in the running of the committee and the organization will happily stay on it and contribute their time, skills and expertise. But those who are determined to be authoritative, will act as bullies and intimidate the committee's members who are too shy or too insecure. This is not a good working environment and eventually the able volunteers will move on.


Selected, elected, appointed or anointed, the new leader takes over.After the shouting and the clapping, the expectations between leader and the team takes over. If popularly elected, most will be happy to welcome and promises of help and cooperation are in order.

The leader with less appeal and support will need to prove him/herself by using everyone's abilities to their utmost capabilities.This is evident in our hung Parliament!

Then there is the leader who meddles too much in everything that other committee members work on; or the one who will delegate all responsibilities
for a project to an individual without ensuring that there is consultation also with others. If all goes well, the leader takes responsibility but if there is failure, then the other will be blamed!

Sometimes people with ability and ambition will gravitate towards a political Party or particular organization which is sufficiently successful and prestigious in the hope to attain status in their community through it. They may then aim for leadership, but need to offset whatever deficiencies they have, say in people-skills, by teaming up with others who are better at it. It is interesting to watch how these dynamics work within groups in some top organizations or even in political Parties all the way to Parliament.

Some leaders whose egos are bigger than their intelect will surround themselves with those who will massage their egos but meanwhile pursuing their own agendas,- for better or worse!

This is, in general, the most dangerous of the leadership styles for any organization,- political or voluntary because they will resist all forms of criticism and dissent in their organization.

Janet Albrechsten in The Australian argued that "political correctness" stifles free speech in a country and therefore dissent. This is, in extremes, dangerous for democracy.


There are many other combinations and permutations in leadership alignments,- some working better than others depending on the inviduals. Standing up to bullying tactics and the ability to withstand and adapt to criticism,- fair or unfair- are the criteria for good team building and democratic leadership models in a successful organization.But communities also expect strong leadership when the need arises or in crises. The Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh showed that during the recent Queensland floods and she was greatly admired and praised for it.
In the USA, it was President Obama who promised such leadership strength, but the jury is still out whether he has delivered on his promises.
We still await the verdict on our first female PM, Julia Gillard.


The Perils of Global Intolerance:
The United Nations and Durban III

A conference presented by The Hudson Institute and
Touro College Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.

Go to www.DurbanWatch.com.

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