At the age of 28, I found myself heading up a division of an Insurance Company, which was part of General Electric, in the USA. As the only woman on the Leadership team and ten years junior to most of the others I felt out of my depth. What did I know about Leadership? How would I exert my authority and take control? How would I lead my team effectively?
I was about to head down the road of many Leaders, who are ill equipped to take on a Leadership role, and plunder in showing that I had no fear and knew exactly what to do. My Mentor gave me the best advice that Leadership is about getting the best out of people. You need to give up control in order to get it. Don’t rush in pretending to know everything. Be humble, be yourself, listen and learn. If you want Power in your organisation you have to build trust.
After a decade of working with Leaders in the US, Europe and South Africa on business improvement initiatives it is clear that the key driver to a successful change is Leadership. That takes maturity, courage and generosity. I’ve learnt that emotions are wasted on frustration, fear and judgement. Emotionally Intelligent Leaders transform frustration to excitement, fear to courage and judgement to curiosity. It is only when we develop these critical Emotional Skills that we are able to lead in a complex environment.
Etsko Schuitema, who developed the Care and Growth Leadership model, believes that Benevolent Leadership is a key component for sustainable change interventions. Leaders, who give appropriately, create conditions known as a legitimate relationship of power and will receive the types of behaviours they are looking for.
There are a few key elements that Benevolent Leaders need to give.
1) CARE: The opposite of care is not hate but indifference. Schuitema’s research has shown the levels of trust between management and employees are directly related to the levels of care that management demonstrates towards employees.
2) MEANS: People need to be given the tools, the time of a Leader, targets, direction, authority and feedback.
3) ABILITY: People need the skills to do the job and the context of why it is important.
4) ACCOUNTABILITY: Only once people have been given the means and the ability for a job they can be justly held accountable. People only grow if they are held accountable. They must be held Accountable for doing things right and also held accountable for doing things wrong.
It is the job of the leader to hand over the means and the ability for tasks and then very importantly to hold their staff appropriately accountable. Underperformance is always related to the lack of these aspects. All aspects of underperformance are therefore in the hands of the leaders. As Ben Zander, the famous conductor once said: If your team is underperforming, stop and go apologise to them.
Leaders who criticise and blame their people for all the problems in the business don’t realise that there are no bad Soldiers just bad Generals. If you build a team with the right people from the start and give them the care, means, ability, and accountability you will get the best out of people.
Debbie McCarthy is the Co-Founder and Director of a leading Business Improvement Service provider, Training Leadership Consulting and Director of a Public Benefit Organisation, Singakwenza. As a Business Women living in Pietermaritzburg, she works with leaders all over the world. Her experience in multiple industries has exposed her to different challenges in the corporate and non -profit environment having facilitated and co-developed courses in Change Management, Lean, Six Sigma, Train the Trainer and Leadership Development.
As published in The Witness, 5th October 2012