How Leadership Power Failures Disrupt Alignment for Improvement
1. Beer, Michael High Commitment, High Performance Jossey-Bass 2009
2. Conner, Daryl R. Managing at the Speed of Change Villard Books 1992
3. Crosby, Robert P. Solving the Cross-Work Puzzle VIVO! Publishing 2010
4. Scherr, Allen L. and Jensen, Michael C. A New Model of Leadership Harvard NOM Research Paper No. 06-10, Barbados Group Working Paper No. 06-02, 2007
Tool for Ongoing Review Meetings
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Empowerment alone is not sufficient
Empowerment of teams to manage such issues is very important but not sufficient. In the midst of the complex demands and pressures of work, leaders with supervisory authority—the authority to define roles, assign tasks, assure accountability, and allocate resources—have a crucial role.
At least three actions from these leaders are key:
- They maintain attention on the change as a shared priority through strong public and private commitment both to the change itself and to a work environment of collaboration and empowerment.
- They assure ongoing meetings at least monthly with other leaders up, down, and across the organization and with teams they supervise in order to assess progress and the state of the work environment and to address barriers. Their participation models openness, honesty, and courage in order to elicit and work through confusion, disagreements, and concerns.
- With emergent issues brought to them inside and outside of review meetings, they make decisions in a timely way including input from those who will be impacted and those with relevant expertise.
Why gaps in leadership are often invisible
Daryl Conner in his book Managing at the Speed of Change used the term “black holes” to refer to gaps in such essential leadership actions because of the resulting substantial risks for delays and failures in change initiatives.
While the risks are especially high when actions of senior leaders or front-line managers fall short, any breaks in the chain of strong leadership support from the top down are problematic.
Lack of sufficient leadership is often invisible as the cause of problems with change efforts because it usually manifests in difficult team and interpersonal behaviors like conflict or resistance. As a result, interventions too frequently overlook leadership to focus primarily on team development and communication.
The essential leadership actions--sustained, visible commitment; ongoing engagement in tough conversations; and timely decision making--are very hard to do consistently. If leaders don’t recognize this, they put results and the well-being of their teams in peril.