“There is nothing new under the sun…”
While it is true that most ‘new ideas’ are a revisiting of something that was already in place, the case can still be made that farmers don’t plow fields the way they used to a hundred years ago. Architects are designing buildings today using methods that are new in the last few decades. And if you have taken a flight anywhere in the last year, you know that our normal methods of travel isn’t the methods that our grandparent’s generation used to avail themselves of.
So, it makes sense that this is also true of leadership today. While the ability of humans to lead each other in endless number of contexts and efforts hasn’t changed, we need to recognize that we are learning better ways of leading then what was considered conventional twenty, even ten, years ago.
Most organizations use leadership models that can be traced back centuries. These traditional, often called “top down” models, can present a threat so subtle we fail to realize our organizational pulse is threading out. Even though its a philosophy we are used to, one we have been schooled on and trained in,
“top down” models often do more to choke out leadership then they do encourage or develop it.
An additional challenge for leaders within traditional “top down” models is that often team members feel unable to express their frustration with the status quo; often because it’s the only model they know as well. So, if you want to create the space needed for new leadership to be birthed and developed, you have to keep a watchful eye for the 5 common indicators that can point to a failing leadership model, because your team probably won’t tell you about it.
Your team is slow to move forward, and/or its hard to keep them moving.
If its difficult to get your team moving or keep them excited about something its likely they are experiencing a disconnect with leadership. If new initiatives, as they are developed at the higher levels of leadership, do not translate well within the organization’s vision, your team will fail to understand why new ideas should be given their extra effort or take precedence over their current work.
You have a herd of Sacred Cows.
Have you ever heard the phrase “We haven’t done it that way before,” or “That’s not the way we do it here” on multiple occasions— maybe you have even said it a few times yourself? Congratulations! You’ve just discovered a sacred cow. Humans by nature enjoy predictability. Whenever there is a variation for the norm, or the mere possibility of it, you will start to see and hear your team start reaching for predictability like the handrails on a subway train. This too points to a disconnect with the overall vision. Once a vision is widely understood and embraced, it is easier for the team as a whole to change, even abandon, the “way we used to do things” if it means getting closer to what is wildly successful.
Organizational Telephone Game.
During your next one-on- one meetings, ask your team members this question; “How does what you are currently working on connect with who we are as an organization and what we are all about?” If you get varied explanations from your team to this question then the vision hasn’t been made clear enough. A healthy leadership culture produces a vision that is so well understood it can be consistently connected and easily articulated by individual members of the team.
Rising leaders get jettisoned rather than elevated..
Glass ceilings often leave rising leaders feeling like there is no room for them to continue growing as leaders within their current context. So, instead of looking for ways to shoulder more for their organization, your team members begin to seek outside opportunities for them to further their development. While a team member transition is not always a bad thing, losing a prospective (healthy) leader is something you want to avoid… almost at all cost. If for no other reason than it will likely require less time and resources for you to create room and opportunities for their continued development then you will spend getting a replacement up to speed. Plus, there is no guarantee that the next team member will show as much development potential as the departed one. If your team is frequently losing potential leaders or is consistently losing them at the same level in the organization, you might be ignoring a major threat warning for your organizational.
“I could be doing more…”
Team members that do stay often become frustrated because they have capacity and vision to do more for the organization but cannot find opportunities to put their leadership to use. If your model can’t grow or expand in order to make more leadership room, team members who may be serving outside their strengths will grow frustrated as they see areas where their talent lies, but are unable to see a path to get there. In these cases, its only a matter of
time before they are jettisoned also.
These indicators are not death sentences. They are symptoms and warning signs that change is needed. But unless a different modus operandi is introduced—your organization will never achieve more than what it is accomplishing now. And, eventually, even those results will start to diminish as frustration grows throughout the team.
At Red Chair Leaders we believe that they answer to these (and other) leadership pain points is a team based model. For more information about how to inject team based leadership into your organization, visit RedChairLeadership.com.