If the senior executive isn’t, or shouldn’t try to be, the leader of the organization, what is his or her role? If not the “hero-boss” or charismatic individual leader, stirring the organization to life in the leader’s image, then what?
The senior executive’s role is to manage the organization, not to transform it, not to be a change-agent, edge-walker, or any of the other myriad sorts of “leader” promoted by various nooks and crannies of the incoherent modern leadership movement (see Chapter One, “What’s Wrong,” of Managing Leadership for a review of the problem of defining leadership; you can download it, here (for free, in .pdf format, 344KB)). The best source of leadership for the organization is embedded deeply within and throughout it – it is not to be imposed upon it from the top. It is to be managed from there, like any other valuable organizational asset.
But how? How does a manager manage leadership, as described in the book. This topic is covered in some detail in Chapter Seven, “Managing Leadership,” but can be summarized here.
Basically, the manager’s role is to find ways to give expression to the natural tendency of the organization and its members to perform the leadership functions of the group. There is an inherent desire to want to understand the organizational and larger environments, and to protect the organization against perceived threats, while enabling it to successfully accomplish its goals and position itself to continue to do so in a changing world. Managers needn’t really take all this on themselves (see the first 3 chapters of Part II of Managing Leadership to learn why) – they only need to develop mechanisms for understanding and deploying these natural tendencies to the benefit of the organization and all its members.
Intelligent management directs itself to understanding how the organization seeks to accomplish this through its members, at all levels. Managers unleash this organizational leadership, provide it a core around which to rally and flourish by disciplining it to the proper tasks of the organization, and they promote and cultivate it throughout the group. There are innumerable specific ways to do this, varying among industries and organizational cultures. However, all organizations can benefit from managing the leadership inherent in them. It doesn’t matter how flat or hierarchical they are, what line of work they’re in, or in what public or private sphere they operate – they all inherently and naturally possess organizational leadership. The manager’s role is to cultivate and manage it.
But, of course, it will take time and thorough debate to establish the value of this approach. That debate, hopefully partially to the appearance of Managing Leadership, is beginning. Feedback from various directions is coming in. This site will serve as a forum – hopefully, just one of many – for discussing these.
To begin with, next week, we’ll review some of the candid thoughts regarding the ideas in Managing Leadership offered in a letter to the author by Professor John Adair. Professor Adair had some very nice things to say about the author and Managing Leadership – but he didn’t agree on every point! Stop by in the coming weeks to learn more.
As always, I look forward to your visit.
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