The heart of an organization are its leaders. Without them there is no beat, no impulse, no initiative whatsoever. This is why strong leadership is so important to an organization. With leaders I don’t refer to just the top of the organization or its middle management. I mean all people in an organization from whom leadership can be expected. This includes people in formal leadership positions—such as the board or management team—but also informal leaders at whatever position in the organization.
But what makes a good leader—especially in the uncertain times that a crisis brings? We certainly need no HiPPOs
– leaders that believe that the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion is all that counts. And we also don't need old style top-down, "bossy" leadership, telling people exactly what to do. But we also don't need fuzzy or democratic leadership where it is unclear who is in charge or where the majority vote is all that counts.
But what then? For defining the type of leadership that is needed, the literature is full of descriptions and typologies. There is the traditional autocratic leadership, charismatic leadership, visionary leadership, participative leadership, servant leadership, transformational leadership
and so on and so forth. Especially the last type gets a lot of attention today. It highlights the role of a leader as a facilitator of change (transformation) in the organization. Transformational leaders challenge and motivate others to enhance their productivity and efficiency through communication and high involvement.
Even though transformational leadership may have a lot of advantages compared to other types such as autocratic and charismatic leadership, it is not necessarily the best type of leadership for strategy. Of course the motivational approach may be useful, but making strategy happen requires additional skills too, especially in times of crisis. These are not necessarily in conflict with transformational leadership, but need to be explicitly mentioned as well.
What we need is grounded leadership
. It implies all the dictionary meanings of the word grounded, including being wise, sensible, down-to-earth, realistic, practical, stable and unpretentious. In addition to this general sense of being grounded, grounded leaders are characterized by having the following six qualities:
Conceptual. Leaders need to see the big picture and connect the many things that are going on. They need to be able to connect details with an overview and the short-term with the long-term.
- Diligent. Leaders should be hungry for improvement and not too easily satisfied with how things are. They shouldn’t strive for perfection, but always be on the look out for ways to things better.
- Tenacious. Leaders need to persist until something is done and not give up or give in too soon. They should be determined and able to make tough decisions despite uncertainty and resistance.
- Receptive. Leaders need to be open to subtle signals and listen attentively to what others say. They should be persuadable and change course based on the information they receive.
- Communicative. Leaders need to be able to express themselves clearly and persuade others to do what is needed. They should also be willing to share information and be transparent where possible.
- Caring. Leaders need to care about people and be able to put themselves in their shoes. They should treat people as human beings and take their needs into account wherever possible.
When they have these six qualities, leaders will be able to lead an organization—or a unit, department, or team—effectively and in a grounded manner. They will be able to balance
between thinking big and acting small, between aiming for the best and being pragmatic, between insisting on their own views and listening to others, and between the organization’s interest and people’s personal interests.
Such leaders have what it takes to effectively identify and address strategic issues and opportunities together with the rest of their organization—in times of crisis and in "normal" times. Do you have what it takes to be a strong, grounded leader? Copyright notice: the six qualities described above were taken from The Strategy Handbook, Part 2, Strategy Execution