Do you cure Leadership Like Headaches?

You have a terribly headache. Pain. Agony. So you take a pill, and usually within some minutes you’re OK. You might be OK for some days even. And then it hits again. The pain. The cycle continues endlessly, and maybe gets worse time after time. Unless you look deeper.

Most organizations actually develop leadership the same way we cure headaches. Taking a pill, a quick solution. Whether it is leadership in changes and transformations, daily performance management, instruction or learning situations, the cure is given in the same way: Quickly, instantly, with a focus of fixing the symptoms, but without understanding the causes. Training. Instructions. Facilitation of a session. Change in a role.

A deeper look into the problems might reveal more. Is it the way you sit 9-10 hours a day that causes stiffness in your shoulders? Is it the old sports injury causing pain in your back and stiffening the circulation of the upper body so that the lack of oxygen creates headaches? Is it the constant teasing of a colleague that makes you feel bad? Or is it merely changes in your eyesight that is the heart of the problem?

We want to be agile and effective, using resources carefully and with a clear target. So creating a sort of a pill, e.g. training, giving instructions and policies, changing people’s roles, seems to make sense. But then the pain appears again, maybe in another team, in another form, but the cause remains the same.

Anna is the head of department in a national corporation. In addition to her daily role, she is responsible for applying a companywide transformation within a given time period. Ways of working are to be revisited. Anna gets communication materials, leaflets, and videos for employees and support for the business HR. The idea is presented first to her management team, then the management team members brief their responsible teams and all get the virtual materials.

A Q&A session is organized. Anna is prepared for it, acting her best way to encourage the new ways of working. Some questions are asked. This time it is not a question of lay-offs, so no big emotional drama is evident. Somehow Anna starts to feel that the given communication is coming from another planet. All return to their daily tasks. People are happy for a change in their routines on that day and a company paid cup of coffee with cake, but did anything change? People listen but did they understand? Commit? Take responsibility?

Like in this example case, the hidden leadership pain-point causes are in the structures, environment and culture. How do we engage? How do we communicate? How do we empower our middle management? How do we unleash the hidden potentials of our team leads? How do we guide people: with an open coaching style or in a bureaucratic teacher way? How do we give space for personal feeling of self-control?

The roots of good and excellent leadership are not visible, yet present at every moment. We discover new opportunities when looking deeper, taking a moment to understand the causes and looking at the matter from a new angle and starting point. Who should initiate changes in an organization? Who sees the daily change needs? Who understands the business from the client angle? How do we empower management to give responsibility of the work to their teams? How do we create an environment of trust?

Understanding the underlying implications of our leadership allows us to realize the potential within our teams, organizations and within ourselves. We heal the roots and basic structures of leadership when we apply changes in real life: in the relationships to our surroundings and in the set up of the organization structures. Seeing everyone as leaders, allowing space for self-control, and expecting responsibility and ownership of own actions makes a huge difference, and is more of a change in thinking than anything else.

There are simple tools to get this process started. Good starting point for this exploration is presented in The Gaia Leadership Model Click here to download our guides

Pills are cures for symptoms, whereas healing needs touching deeper.

Mari Hedberg, Partner

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