27 March 2014

Is Leadership an Increasingly Difficult Balancing Act?

What's the Future of the Authority Figure In Leadership?
Leadership involves the effective management of tensions characteristic of all organizations. Are such tensions exacerbated by today's need for increasing speed and agility required repeatedly to achieve transient strategic advantage in a world of impatient investors, restive employees, and demanding customers? Do they require leaders who have fewer answers, more questions, and a bias for testing and quick action? Are investors, employees, and customers willing to trade yesterday's authority figures for a new kind of leader, one with fewer answers? Those were the questions implied by this month's column. The predominance of responses suggested that the answers to the questions are "yes, yes, and maybe."
Adam Hartung commented that "As technology has increased the speed of market shifts, organizations have been unable to keep pace… in no small part due to the reliance on hierarchy and the dominant position given very highly compensated CEOs." Jackie Le Fevre put it this way: "Short answer to the question—increasingly difficult balancing act? Yes-in part at least due to scale and speed of information flow through social media…"
Respondents described what increasingly will be required of leaders. Kapil Kumar Sopory said that "Leadership these days has become a complex art… people with bias for listening, testing and fast reacting will generally succeed."
Aim, in describing his experience, added: "One common characteristic I encountered … is that (the) vast majority of the leaders were morally stable and people who aspire (to a) high degree of integrity in how they solve the unknown by being honest with all the stakeholders." Several suggested that a heavy dose of authenticity in leadership is what is needed to manage the tension. Michael Leahy commented that "…we are challenged to sort out short term position … and personal self serving ambition versus more genuine leadership…When we are traveling in white water we have to be very aware and responsive but we always have to keep our integrity, values, and goals." Clark Phippen assured us that leadership is up to the task, saying that "true leaders can easily address the challenges you describe without the 'academic' complexity you and John Kotter suggest."
How investors, employees, and customers will react in a business world populated by leaders with these characteristics is another matter. Gerald Nanninga's comment suggests that it may not be an issue. As he put it, "Leaders have never had all the answers. It's about time we admit that." Jeff Schur, citing CEO Bob McDonald of Procter & Gamble and the company's shift to more emphasis on digital media as an example, commented that "it is possible to allow experimentation… trial and error … without the CEO looking foolish because he or she does not know the answers and is no longer expected to in the ephemeral state of entropy we live in, called Digital."
We're left with impression that changes in leadership required for success in the fast-moving information economy will be achieved with limited discomfort. And yet we are confronted daily with criticism of leaders who don't have all the answers. It's as if we—as investors, employees, and customers—long for the good old days of the conventional authority figure. Is there still a need for that kind of leadership? What is the future of the authority figure in leadership? What do you think?

Source :- Harward Business School 

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