This is a guest post by Jonathan Farrington. Jonathan is a globally recognized business coach, mentor, author and sales thought leader. Formerly, Jonathan was the Managing Partner of The jfa Group. During the period 1994 to 2006, Jonathan personally coached more than 100.000 frontline sales professionals and sales leaders. Prior to that, he held several board level appointments working with a number of the most successful international corporations including: – IBM, Wang, Legal and General, Andersen Consulting, Litton Industries and The Bank of Tokyo. Jonathan is now the Senior Partner at Jonathan Farrington & Associates and the creator and CEO of Top Sales World. His highly popular award winning blog can be found at www.thejfblogit.co.uk Jonathan is based in London and Paris.
What Leadership Was
Leadership was once about hard skills, such as planning, finance and business analysis. When command and control ruled the corporate world, the leaders were heroic rationalists who moved people around like pawns and fought like stags. When they spoke, the company employees jumped.
Now, if the gurus and experts are right, leadership is increasingly concerned with soft skills – teamwork, communication and motivation. The trouble is that for many executives, the soft skills remain the hardest to understand, let alone master. After all, hard skills have traditionally been the ones which enabled you to climb to the top of the corporate ladder.
What Leadership Has Become
The entire career system, in some organisations, is based on using hard functional skills to progress. But when executives reach the top of the organisation, many different skills are required. Corporate leaders may find that, although they can do the financial analysis and the strategic planning, they are poor at communicating ideas to employees or colleagues, or have little insight into how to motivate people. The modern Chief Executive requires an array of skills.
Some suggest that we expect too much of leaders. Indeed, “renaissance” men and women are rare. Leadership, in a modern organisation, is highly complex and it is increasingly difficult – sometimes impossible – to find all the necessary traits in a single person. Among the most crucial skills is the ability to capture your audience – you will be competing with lots of other people for their attention.
Leaders of the future will also have to be emotionally efficient. They will promote variation, rather than promoting people in their own likeness. They will encourage experimentation and enable people to learn from failure. They will build and develop people.
Is it too much to expect of one person? I think it probably is. In the future, we will see leadership groups, rather than individual leaders. This change in emphasis from individuals towards groups has been charted by the leadership guru Warren Bennis. His latest work “Organizing Genius” concentrates on famous ground-breaking groups, rather than individual leaders. It focuses, for example, on the achievements of Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Centre, the group behind the 1992 Clinton campaign, and the Manhattan Project which delivered the atomic bomb. “None of us is as smart as all of us” says Professor Bennis.
“The Lone Ranger” is dead. Instead of the individual problem-solver, we have a new model for creative achievement. People like Steve Jobs or Walt Disney headed groups and found their own greatness in them.” Professor Bennis provides a blueprint for the new model leader. “He or she is a pragmatic dreamer, a person with an original but attainable vision. Inevitably, the leader has to invent a style that suits the group. The standard models, especially command and control, simply don’t work. The heads of groups have to act decisively, but never arbitrarily.