Leadership — Excellence vs. Mediocrity…
Leadership — greatness vs. mediocrity. Most experts on leadership feel strongly about many of the business and political leaders who have been in charge for the past twenty years, or so. There’s a consensus among them, that the series of U.S. crises, including: the greatest economic recession we’ve ever experienced, including the banking crisis, the mortgage crisis, the housing crisis, the unemployment crisis, the energy policy crisis and the environmentally policy crisis, all could have been avoided if those leaders calling the shots, had been excellent rather than good or mediocre. This is not to suggest that all of the people leading government and big business have been bad. There have been plenty of mediocre leaders in small-to-middle market business organizations, as well.
In June of 2011 I presented a keynote speech to a group of 300 of the brightest and most talented sophomore’s selected from high schools throughout SC. These students were “leadership ambassadors” at the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership (HOBY), SC Conference at Erskine College. In 2011, HOBY SC celebrated their 30th year anniversary. To date, more than 3,000 high school sophomores have attended this world renowned, prestigious, three day event. Also in the audience, were the parents of these future leaders and approximately one hundred volunteer/mentors, for a total of about 700 people. I spoke with them about the importance of “moving from being good to being great,” first and foremost as individuals and secondly as leaders. Also, how to make that transformation; and lastly, about why “great” leadership is our country’s best hope for the future.
The greatest weakness among our current leadership pool is their inability to create a culture of discipline within their organizations. Jim Collins was spot on in his book, How the Mighty Fall… “Any exceptional enterprise depends first and foremost upon having self-managed and self-motivated people—the #1 ingredient for a culture of discipline.” He goes on to suggest that people think that cultures, like the one he describes, would be characterized by “rules, rigidity and bureaucracy.” Collins feels this leads organizations to, “become infected with the disease of mediocrity.” Collins suggests just the opposite, “If you have the right people, who accept responsibility, you don’t need to have senseless rules and mindless bureaucracy in the first place!”
Additionally, I like how Jon Benfer, Director of Global Coaching Services at The ARBINGER INSTITUTE, www.arbinger.com, describes new “level 4 and 5” leaders as those who “Lead an out-of-the box workplace, creating a blame-free culture of accountability and cooperation.” These leaders also engage in an “Energetic pursuit of the right results with active responsiveness built into every workplace action,” Benfer says.
If there are questions about your organization’s strength of leadership you may want to check out The Center for Board Excellence, www.boardevaluations.com. This is a web-based information technology company whose Leadership Excellence Assessment (TM) solutions are the gold standard of excellence in corporate governance and leadership evaluation.
So, as previously mentioned, I intend to talk at HOBY SC, about moving from being good to being great. Of course this will include some discussion about character, passion, resiliency, risk, charisma, collaboration, empowerment and the need to give back. Thankfully there are a few great leaders of US organizations already practicing what I described above. Although, there’s still plenty of room for the rest to either transform or get out of the way, for those who can. What do you think?