Leadership in 19 thoughts explores a wide variety of leadership aspects. The thoughts are an intermediary consolidation after a year of interviews with leaders, reading, discussing and writing on the subject. The key message of the 19 thoughts is that leadership is like a good story. It provides meaning. Leadership development is never ending story development.
1. If you think saying good morning to your people is a waste of time, think again.
Leadership is a human phenomenon. As Ron Meyer[i] puts it: “Compare it to riding a horse. Riding a bike is easy. It’s technical. You push the start button, kickstart the engine, give gas and off you go. A horse doesn’t have a start button. It doesn’t have a throttle. A horse follows you if it trusts you, if you connect.” Connection is essential. All too often we are so busy with managing our plans, processes and systems that having a normal conversation with people feels like loosing time.
I once knew a manager of a large department who didn’t have a great charisma or wasn’t very dominant in his leadership. But he greeted all people that he met in the hallways in a personal and interested way and after each meeting or presentation, he said ‘thank you’ and showed his appreciation for the effort done. His human touch was the essence of his influence in the organisation.
Wouter Degeest[ii] stated it in this way: “More and more I have normal conversations with my employees. If you want people to think for themselves and take ownership, you have to treat them as adults.” Internal communication in Apple was also key for Steve Jobs. He put the coffee machines and post trays central in the office layout to stimulate conversations.
This human aspect of leadership is at the core of transformational leadership. Bass & Rigio [iii] make in their full range leadership theory a difference between transactional and transformational leadership. Transactional leadership is a continuous negotiation: “ if you do this for me, then…”. It reduces people to objectives, performance scores & competency profiles.
Transformational leadership develops people, makes them stronger and is based on personal relationships. It’s more effective in times of change and turbulence. Transformational leadership behaviour has 4 I’s: intellectual stimulation, idealized influence, individual consideration and inspirational motivation. Individidual consideration is what this first thought is about. It also differentiates ‘self-serving’ and ‘collective-serving’ charismatic leaders. The former sacrifice individual interests for the larger goal. The latter show individual consideration for their people.
[i] Ron Meyer is Professor at Tias Nimbas and Visiting Professor at Antwerp Management School. He teaches strategy and leadership. This quote comes from a leadership seminar: http://wp.me/p18W99-7d.
[ii] Wouter Degeest is CEO of BASF and has leading positions in Essenscia, VBO and VOKA. He managed successfully the economic crisis in 2009 and a number of practices become best practices for the BASF Group. The full account of the leadership interview can be found on www.antwerpmanagementschool.be
[iii] BASS, B. & RIGGIO, R. (2006). Transformational Leadership. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 282 p.