Leadership―Not the Be-All and End-All it’s Portrayed to Be

Business studies are heavily influenced by trends, fashionable fads, buzzwords, and flavor of the month/year doctrines and dogmas. What they share in common is researching specific business results, effects or outcomes that have been identified most frequently as an unwanted situation, a problem or a challenge by respondents to a survey.

The next step is taking inventory of specific solutions that respondents applied to their individual cases, and distilling a best-practice for solving a generic unwanted business result, effect, or outcome. However, the process by which these best-practices are derived is known as a fallacy; a misconception resulting from incorrect reasoning. No matter how popular a best-practice is, as long as you keep treating symptoms instead of the root cause(s), you’ll keep getting unwanted outcomes, albeit different ones from before.

Apart from these fallacious solutions, business coaches create a seemingly endless list of desirable behaviors and personality traits they ascribe to a leader for the purpose of enhancing employee engagement. By-the-way, statistics show that only six percent of all business results are directly attributable to individual and groups of people.

In general, these prescriptions are intended to make already successful leaders even more successful. But, what about those leaders who are currently struggling to become successful? So, is leadership the Be-All and End-All as it is portrayed to be?

Means and Ends

Whereas best-practices are created in response to an unwanted situation with immediate consequences for bottom line results, leadership advice is handed out in a highly generic format, independent of any specific industry, socio-economic or geo-political situation. In other words, it misses specificity and above all, it misses context. Ask yourself, To what or whom are you providing leadership? What is the objective of the leadership you provide?

Leadership is treated as an end in its own right, as opposed to a means to an end. Dr. Albert Einstein warned us against this phenomenon when he said: Perfection of means and confusion of ends seem to characterize our age.

The Value Chain Model

Prof. Michael Porter, creator of the Value Chain model, identified “Leadership” as just one of the “Firm Infrastructure” functions, which he qualified as a support business process. In other words, leadership must interact with the business system to shape the character or nature of that system in order to realize what is to be done. Leadership studies do not prescribe what needs to be done, when it must be done, and under which conditions and situation it must be done, and why.

Consequently, it is difficult to believe that leadership can even exist without appreciation for the business as a singular, unique, integrated, and open system. Appreciation implies a recognition of worth or value of the system, and the idea of clear perception as well as the ability to monitor work processes. Moreover, statistics show that ninety-four percent of all business results—i.e. all (un)intended and (un)wanted outcomes—are inherent to a system’s design, structure/organization, implementation/operation, maintenance, and management. These responsibilities belong uniquely to the realm of executive leaders.

Unfortunately, studies show that a majority of leaders is befuddled and bewildered by complex business systems. As a result, we see many leaders striving to be successful by eroding the business system’s capability and capacity—by investing in operational efficiency measures that undermine operational effectiveness. For whatever reason leaders seem to believe they can maximize profitability by reducing cost to zero!?

To make matters worse, statistics show that seventy-five to ninety-six percent of all incidents are symptomatic of systemic failure—read: a leader’s inability to develop the business system’s capability and capacity, thus setting their employees up for failure.

The Vicious Cycle

Do you recognize the vicious cycle (a sequence of reciprocal cause and effect in which two or more elements intensify and aggravate each other, leading inexorably to a worsening of the situation)?

The business system performs according to its design, structure/organization, implementation/operation, maintenance, and management. Leaders fail to understand the feedback provided by that system. Consequently, employees are set-up to fail by its leaders’ wrong decisions. Subsequently, leaders seek help to make their employees perform better. That’s nuts—the chutzpah!

In conclusion: you cannot lead what you don’t understand. So, gain appreciation for the business as an organic system; develop insight into the connections between the system’s component parts. CEO Effectiveness is determined by Appreciation and Leadership!

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