Sunday, May 7, 2017

Who's In Charge: The Complexity of Leadership

Leadership is difficult.  The challenges of leadership are often due to an underestimation of its’ complexity. Too often, leadership is thought of as the ‘face of the organization’, but leadership is significantly more complex than a simple representation that embodies organizational mission, vision, and values. Cultivating the strengths of others, mitigating for weaknesses, while building capacity in subordinates and accomplishing a set of aspirational goals isn’t exactly easy. In fact, I contend that leadership is one of the most difficult exercises in humanity. Furthermore, it’s my belief that those who excel at leadership, meaning they lead in a way that allows the organization to experience sustained success, are quick to acknowledge the difficulty of such.  Leadership isn't about being in charge; its about managing the time, talent, and resources in your charge.  It's messy, complex, and down right difficult. If I had to define it, I'd do it this way:
Leadership is the ability to design a structured framework that leverages the strengths of multiple individuals, allowing for an integration and coordination of key actions and strategies aligned to the organization’s mission, and put into practice a mutually agreed upon vision. This complex task requires key skills and abilities that must be developed through life long learning, reflective practices, and professional experiences. 
Leadership is challenging for a number of reasons, but summarily much of the following make it a complex task. Let’s take a look at the list below:

Leadership Challenges:

·    Challenge 1: Developing a through knowledge of each individual’s strengths and growth opportunities in your organization to support a plan to develop and elevate capacity.
·    Challenge 2: Designing a structure that supports the leveraging of strengths for organizational effectiveness, while mitigating for weaknesses.
·    Challenge 3: Maintaining a clear focus on organizational goals and objectives; avoiding unproductive actions often disguised as work that needs to be done.
·    Challenge 4: Coordinating and integrating strategic actions in a timely and collaborative fashion to maximize positive impact.
·    Challenge 5: Managing and developing talent and resources to support success and exploit the strengths of individual members whose impact positively contributes to the greater good of the organization. 

Acknowledging the difficulty of leadership is key to understanding how to improve your personal leadership capacity. A desire to lead should not be confused with an understanding of leadership. Far too often, a desire to lead is rooted in what one perceives leadership to be, without a through consideration of the complexity of such a task. Those who aspire to lead should take the time to study effective leaders, but before doing so should be careful in the ways in which they define effectiveness. Let’s explore further.

Leadership Effectiveness:
·      Supported by structure & strategy (structure & strategy are used to move forward)
·      Supported by results (evidence via qualitative and quantitative data)
·      Supported by impact (link between leadership actions & improved capacity of others)
·      Supported by value (adds value to the organization as a whole)

 Fig. 1 Leadership Effectiveness

To add value to the organization, a leader must first possess a clear understanding how the three key elements that contribute to such: strategy, results, and impact. Without an appropriate understanding of the three contributors to value, determining how and if value is added can be quite difficult. To improve your effectiveness as leaders, you can begin by thinking carefully about the challenges of leadership, what makes it difficult, and what makes leaders effective.

What makes your leadership challenging? How can you define those challenges and then plan for addressing them? Leave your thoughts in the comment section. I'd love to know what you think.  Until next time-be you, be true, and be a hope builder!

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