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Leadership, vision, cynicism and social issues


Themes: Leadership

LeadershipLeaders in organisations need to create a vision around which people can align and exhibit discretionary effort and self-direction, as well as their creative input and entrepreneurship

Leadership plays a huge part in the transformation and visioning of the future organisation but cynicism is a major barrier in that process and, as the operating environment becomes increasingly uncertain, vision is more important than planning.

That is the view of Dr Jonathan Trevor, Lecturer in Human Resources & Organisations at Cambridge Judge Business School, in the fourth of a series of discussions around the pressures and changes facing leadership today. Also taking part and expressing the practitioner’s view is Kate Tojeiro, executive coach and Managing Director of Xfusion.

“Essentially what leaders in organisations need to do is create a vision around which people can align and exhibit discretionary effort and self-direction, their creative input and entrepreneurship.”

Dr Trevor believes they should be ’emergent’ as opposed to the planned hierarchical, bureaucratic manner of the past when the environment was more stable and more certain.

He highlights three key aspects to transformation:

“First is crafting that vision whether it is around the direction of the organisation overall or around some parts of the organisation. The second is energising and inspiring people to make a transition or change to start that transformation journey. The third critical aspect is maintaining momentum.”

He adds that these all require the management of sentiment. Leaders, wherever they are in the organisation, must explain what transformation really means and must engage with others to make it meaningful, so generating momentum.

“One of the biggest challenges is overcoming cynicism. Cynicism in the mass media; cynicism in our organisations; cynicism in terms of academia, not least, because the things that we are talking about are well tested, tried and tested concepts.

“Authenticity for example, visionary leadership, transformation; all terms which can become or start to sound platitudinous but actually that is precisely the challenge. The difficulty is these things really matter, but they matter only in the context of a specific organisation and where it’s going relative to its environment, resource and capabilities.”

According Dr Trevor, a snapshot of diverse organisations would show that authentic leadership, trust, collaboration, inspiration and motivation all matter but they are different in each body.

There are other issues in authentic leadership around priorities and values which differentiate one organisation from another.

“These are social issues as opposed to economic or technical issues. The social aspects of organisation are the hardest but if you get them right, they are the most enduring source of sustainable competitive advantage.”