Recently in a workshop, someone asked me the question “why is leadership important?” I had been completely immersed in the need to shift ourselves towards the new leadership paradigm of leading so people can lead. I had forgotten to give the space and time to the participants to come to their own idea of why leadership is important.
The importance of leadership to some degree is tied into the definition of what leadership is. Never-the-less, it is still possible to answer the question “Why is Leadership Important?”, even if the answer will not feel right to those who define leadership differently.
Whether leadership is weak or strong in an organization it can be felt. Whether the people speak up about it or not, they all feel it and they know it. Sometimes they know something is ‘going wrong’ and they cannot quite put words to express it.
Leadership Can Be Felt
We were once engaged to do an organizational diagnosis. An educational institute had received some significant help from a management consulting company over a period of more than a year to improve their management protocols and practices. A checklist had been completed to verify that they had everything in place to pass a management audit. After some time, auditors came in to evaluate the organization for certification. The organization failed the evaluation. Shock set in. No one understood. They were following extensive and exceptional management practices. Together with Board and Staff, we carried out a diagnosis and discovered that they did not have sufficient strength in leadership. Their strengths were found only in management.
In another example, in the social service sector, staff morale was high,staff retention was good, people who worked at the agency felt fairly good about each other. On the surface, everything seemed to be going well. Yet the impact that the agency was making in the community was insufficient. The agency was not fulfilling its mandate. It ran the risk of losing its government funding. The diagnosis showed clearly that they did not have sufficient strength in leadership, only in relationships.
Why Is Leadership Important?
To turn both situations around, we needed to address the same subject: leadership. We engaged in individual and team understanding of leadership, of the importance of leadership, and then we proceeded with leadership development. Together we agreed that leadership is important because:
- It keeps activities linked to fulfilling the core purpose of the organization
- It takes leadership strength to go into the unknown, being flexible and adaptive to opportunities and challenges
- It keeps the organization focused on its long term and operating strategies
- It keeps energy focused on where it needs to be focused, thus consolidating energy to be successful
- It makes decisions from a number of possible choices
- It creates the conditions for strong relationships including collaboration
If you were faced with the question “why is leadership important?”, what would you say? Why is leadership important to you? Here are some reflection questions to get you started:
- How do you define leadership?
- Is there a distinction between leadership and management? If so, what is this distinction (hint: we believe that there is a difference and that both are important functions in an organization, both being done often enough by the same people, and yet each with its own value)
- Based on your definition of leadership and distinction between leadership and management, why is leadership important?
We’d love to post your reflections about why leadership is important below.
Please join us May 3rd through 6th in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada for a three day deep dive into exploring leadership at our Extraordinary Leadership workshop. The focus is on leading in a culture requiring agility, flexibility, and a performance environment of constant change.
Photo Credit: jaylopez | FreeImages.com