Early in my career I was headhunted to join a brand new startup. It was a management consultancy that had been created by a big international business. The company had big plans in the UK for their new enterprise and within six months they had recruited 60 top people. They were very pleased with themselves.
They had paid top dollar and had got top dollar people.
About a year down the line they decided to run some psychometric tests. And when the results came back they were pleasantly pleased. Nearly three quarters of their people tested very highly for leadership skills. It confirmed what they thought. They had recruited well and employed great leaders.
They thought that decades of success lay before them.
How wrong they were. Within two years the place was in ruins. It was closed down. The losses were huge. And they were dumbfounded. How could so many good people have conspired to have created such a mess. How could the psychometric tests have been such a complete failure? They had promised so much.
They had confused having strong leaders with success.
Another look at the psychometric tests showed how it had gone so badly, so quickly. When they dug deeper they found that less than ten percent of their people were ‘finishers’. The company had failed because nothing got done. They needed doers not leaders. And they did not have any.
It is a lesson that many businesses would do well to heed today.
We live in a culture that lionises business leaders. Their achievements are chronicled by journalists. Their views are sought by politicians. Their opinions are pored over on LinkedIn. The way they dress. The things they do. The lifestyles they lead. They are celebrities in a celebrity obsessed culture.
it is almost a rule that everyone in business wants to be leader.
It is not surprising really. People are ambitious. They see that leaders get paid more. And they want the same. So they set their sights high and spend as much time as they can attemptingto acquire and hone the skills that leaders possess. They say the things that leaders say. They do the things that leaders do. They act the way they think leaders should.
Who would want to be a doer, when it is leaders that get all the rewards.
It is a situation that is storing up real problems for the future. Try counting for yourself how many people stress leadership abilities on the their LinkedIn profiles and updates. While everyone is spending all their time showing what a great leader they are, their day job is being ignored and things are going to pot. Just like the startup that failed, the business world is building up a culture where the cult of leadership is holding back success.
We are building a cult of leadership that can only end badly.
Balance is the key. We need to rebalance our commercial culture such that business doers are as valued and feel as wanted as business leaders. There needs to be way to encourage people to spend time acquiring the doing skills that enable business to get things right operationally. We need to get back to the idea that people are appreciated and rewarded for getting things done.
Good leadership is useless without talented people to turn it into results.
I suggest we need to start turning the situation around immediately. We could start by stressing the importance of leadership by example. And start to recognise that becoming a business leader is not an end in itself. Show people that good leaders are actually good doers.
But culture change does not come easy. Their needs to be more than just recognition and re-education. There needs to be more drastic action. Something that sends a message to people about what is valued and what they should be striving for.
So let's pay leaders less. Pay doers more. And get some balance back into business.
By Justin Hopkins
Article from LinkedIn