I had a phone call today with a business owner that I have done some work with. We were talking about the viability of offering leadership as a part of his service model. He explained to me that he gets a little bit “itchy” when he thinks that what is being proposed isn’t a solid, tangible result. I could tell that his concern was that leadership has become such a buz word that it’s lost its relevance for the savvy business owner whose primary concern is viable impact within his margins and productivity. It led me to think about the industry in general…are we talking to hear our own voices or do we have in our hands the answers struggling organizations are looking for?
The caution in the consultation industry is that conceptual knowledge doesn’t give business owners, decision-makers and people who want change the actionable steps they need to make change happen. Within academic circles this can become a toxic cycle of concepts confirming concepts without us ever taking it back into the market place to find solid ground to run with it. The practical application of leadership is listening to the business owner, the not-for-profit chairman or the CEO of the health authority and seeing where the barriers are for THEM in their roles and for their team.
I have had experiences myself as a business owner of being led through a process that sounded great but in actuality led me to no viable action plan. That’s the call that leadership must answer. If we are to demonstrate that shifts in corporate culture, profit margins and ROI are the result of applied leadership within an industry or organization- we must put solutions into people’s hands and empower them to use them.
This resonates within the health and teaching professions in a way that many clinicians have not considered. Disability and mental health produces a ton of reports. Just like within the business sector- those reports become irrelevant when they do not result in actions taken. They make great paper airplanes and nothing more. Rarely do I see a report that goes beyond recommendations and actually synthesizes the information with the intent of making the solution tangible- or as my colleague stated today “brick and mortar”. This leads to low trust between families and clinicians and we have spent an enormous amount of resources managing this fall-out. All because we did not understand or appreciate the impact of leadership and the signs that its missing. Having a "team meeting" that costs thousands and doesn't change a thing is just as much a problem in hospitals, schools and intervention programs as it is in the world of the entrepreneur. We have much to learn from the business world in the helping professions.
Whether we are talking about leadership within a corporate setting or evaluating the “tools of the trade” of leadership within any industry it is critical that those of us who aspire to influence do so with the intent to see those changes live- in real time- for real people. When we leave leadership in the realm of “concept” we have failed to lead- how ironic.
- Are the "recommendations" you are making based on concept or the reality of the person you want to engage?
- When you think about leadership- what does that mean to you? Is it action or idea? If it's just idea- how can you attach something "real" to it?
- Do you regularly measure the impact of your use of leadership recommendations? If you are the consultant- do you provide this measurement? If you are the client or professional- do you have a goal that you wish leadership to impact?
Change requires people to take action. The goal of leadership is to offer a pathways to those changes where there were previously road blocks.
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