Effective Leadership

By Chris Chittenden

Leadership and management are well-used terms that mean many things to many people. Our interpretation of management is "Managing what is", we see leadership as "Managing what could be". In other words, managers seek to get the most of the current way of doing things and leaders seek to take people to places that they would not go by themselves. We would like to share with you our way of looking at leadership and what makes an effective leader.

There are many facets to a great leader and we claim that all of them are based on the leader’s network of relationships. Fundamental to effective relationships is trust and, above all else, to become an effective leader, one must be trustworthy and build trust with others.

Effective leaders understand that trust is based on assessments of past actions. They are sincere and mean what they say. They "walk the talk". They are competent at what they do. Their employees know that they can do what they say they can do. They are reliable. They understand the promise cycle. They are clear in their requests and offers, allow for negotiation of those requests and offers in the context of defined organisational priorities and then manage their promises effectively.

They recognise that once lost, trust is hard to recover and so they work hard to maintain the trust that they have built.

Since leaders manage what could be, they are able to design organisations that are capable of adapting to the rapidly increasing change of the business environment. Those organisations are flexible and focussed.

An effective leader sees their organisation as a network of relationships and has the conversational skills to build those relationships. They know that the right conversation at the right time and in the right mood will build relationships. They know that the wrong conversation will damage them. They have an understanding of language distinctions and the active nature of language and utilise these in the conversations that they have.

Effective leaders recognise that to manage what could be, they must interrupt their "busyness" in order to reflect and speculate. They need to step away from the day to day pressures to see the forest from the trees. They also recognise that breakdowns present opportunities and that the bigger the breakdown the greater the potential for learning and transformations. Therefore, they do not punish mistakes but see them as opportunities for learning and growth.

An effective leader is able to anticipate or create shifts in the paradigms in which their organisation operates. They recognise that we are all unique observers and that there are many different viewpoints within their organisation. They tap those views to generate paradigm shifts. They then have the conversational skills to create new realities for people and to shift their organisation in ways that they adopt the new paradigm and make quantum leaps forward.

An effective leader has employees who personify the mission and values of the organisation. People who are fully committed to what the organisation wants to achieve. They know that commitment comes from the heart, not the head and that personal commitment is an embodied way of being and an emotional acceptance of a way of doing business. Therefore an effective leader understands how to tap into the fundamental mood of their organisation and to intervene and influence in ways that develop a mood of ambition for the future throughout the organisation. They also understand the vital role that each individual’s emotional state plays in their ability to learn at any point in time. They know that certain moods and emotions enhance learning and they seek to establish that emotional context to enhance their systematic learning programs.

Effective leaders know that with increasing commitment and trust will come empowered staff. They understand that all of the great ideas do not come from one or a few people at the top of an organisation but that the majority can come from those who actually do the job. They recognise that through empowered staff, the organisation will become more efficient and productive.

There are many concepts put forward about leadership. Many of them provide similar concepts about what makes an effective leader - trust, relationships, vision and a new way of being.

We believe that our approach goes that one necessary step further. We help our clients understand, at a very basic level, what is required to build trust and relationships, how to interrupt their busyness and speculate effectively and how to assess and intervene in the organisational mood. We provide them with the well-grounded distinctions and skills so that they can then transform themselves, their employees and their relationships.

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© 1998 Chris Chittenden