reunión de personas

October 14, 2022

How to transform the internal leadership of a company

We are disappointed with leaders, in organisations, society and politics. Business leaders both seduce and disgust us at the same time: we observe behaviours and attitudes in managers that give us hope and others that move us to discouragement. In any case, leaders are fundamental and essential for our companies.


Leadership defines changes

All in all, a leader, in the managerial context, is a person who is able to formulate a vision (a purpose), convey it to the organisation, and get the organisation to move to realise that vision. This is our Blue Leader or blue leadership, someone who is able to lead their organisation towards a vision, who brings out the best in their employees, who inspires them, who takes them out of their comfort zones by making them feel emotions and participate in challenges/dreams that others would be unable to achieve. A Blue Leader is a leader who knows how to do it in the digital world, in a society and in open organisations, with followers who talk to each other and to their bosses, skipping hierarchies, a leader who leads the organisation in a sea of uncertainty, who provides certainties where only options are observed.

Leadership is a compass in times of change. Leaders help us understand the environment, encourage us to achieve a vision, formulate the future and suggest alternatives to address it. The world of the 21st century is more uncertain and dynamic than ever, and the need for leaders to help us navigate it is more pressing. However, leadership based on hierarchical power and control is obsolete and does not work for us, and followers are unwilling to accept it. Over the years, companies have become more complex and managers capable of governing them are needed more than ever. In an organisation such as the one we are advocating in this book, leadership is not guaranteed by position in a hierarchy, but is earned and exercised. Collaborators have the capacity to differ in a more open way, to challenge the organisational status quo. In the past a manager's inadequacy could be hidden in the chain of command, in a Blue Leader this is simply not possible. Natural Blue Leaders, individuals who influence and inspire, appear in the organisation, are elevated by employees, are conscious actors in the transformation of the company towards its purpose.

These are not good times for leadership: several academics doubt that the obsession with leadership development is having tangible results in improving organisations and consider that we may be facing a certain discontinuity in the exercise of leadership. Barbara Kellerman in "The End of Leadership" and Gary Hummel in "The Future of Management" are just two examples of this school of thought. We have a lot of literature reflecting on leadership models, on how we should run organisations, on how we should manage people, on the importance of the collective over the individual, on the need for focus and prioritisation in an ambiguous context, on the need to delegate rather than command and order, on the importance of talent management in the new environment. Dozens of articles are written about the failures of leadership models, but the reality is that there is little action arising from these efforts. We have evidence that the historical trajectory of leadership evolution unequivocally shows a trend of devolution of power from leaders to followers, accelerated by the democratisation of access to information and the dissemination of knowledge, of which today's social media are only an appetiser.

According to what has been studied by these authors, and others that we will not mention here so as not to overwhelm, and backed up by our experience observing the organisational dynamics in the more than 500 companies in which we have worked as consultants over the last 25 years, employees want greater protagonism, and they demand a new relationship from their bosses, from the official leaders of their organisations, a new relationship, a new leadership that is much more open and participative. Collaborators demand transformational leadership, and increasingly reject carrot and stick strategies. They demand individualised consideration, intellectual stimulation, implicit motivation. Employees demand three main things from their bosses: An inspiring vision, confidence in their capacity and autonomy, and transparency in decision-making. They also believe that their managers should provide them with a playing field in which to carry out their activity.

"New leadership is necessary to govern in a new scenario. The leaders we have had so far have served us in a completely different environment. Let's understand the new environment and learn to unlearn to start a new life".

At the same time, business schools train managers to be better leaders, to boost their performance. However, as Kellermann comments, and as we have seen in our experience watching many of these managers perform, we believe that, unfortunately, many of them become better-trained executives, but not better leaders. This leadership does not serve our needs. We need to move away from the mediocrity of the leadership deployed in many companies and look for new and excellent leadership to achieve the impact we need.

Many managers are not genuinely concerned about employees, collaborators, and customers. Insufficient efforts are devoted to responding to the needs of the three key groups; they have insufficient attention to detail, they do not listen with humility, they lack a global vision and they do not have a positive attitude. We need business, union and social leaders to be able to reach agreements, find synergies, forge real and strategic alliances between the private and the public to provide effective responses to current challenges. To generate wealth and prosperity we need them to put their ego aside, to be humble, with the need to manage social conflicts, listening to people and knowing how to say no when it is appropriate.

"If we are not able to work together and with a vision for the future, there will be more losers than winners and we will not build the welfare society we need".

In short, we need leaders who are transformers, revolutionaries, who influence beyond their position, who persuade rather than command, who always seek organisational purpose, who see uncertainty as an opportunity; who believe in internal entrepreneurs and start-ups as innovative engines for growth. Growing is life, prosperity and the future. As we can see on a daily basis, change is generated by people connecting inside and outside the company, but always in pursuit of a shared and transformative purpose. We need to connect in order to retain the new generations of workers, currently less rooted, with less sense of belonging, with deep unease about those unfulfilled expectations.

"The changes are generated by people, they are the drivers of the transformation process. Without them, we are nothing. I don't know leadership without followers "

The new leadership we are advocating is more interpersonal, more collaborative, sharing, inspirational, less executive and hierarchical. Collaborators want to interact not only with their immediate manager but with the highest executive of their organisations. We are witnessing a separation between authority and leadership, so that increasingly leaders will not necessarily be in high positions in the hierarchy, but leaderships will be more cooperative, more group-based. In the past, authority entailed obedience and obedience led to compromise. New workers do not move about by obedience and do not engage with the company in the same way as our parents did. Ángel Castiñeira in his book "El poliedro del liderazgo" makes a curious statement: "Leadership is largely a manifestation of our laziness." In the past, we entrusted ourselves to leaders by giving up part of our personal responsibilities. These times, when we could trust a leader to get us out of trouble, have passed into history.

Blue Leaders are less governed by the hierarchy. Information flows in and out of them as never before, value is generated cooperatively between customers, partners and employees; collaborators no longer expect their leaders to do everything for them, but to inspire them, empower them, treat them like individuals and provide them with information in a transparent manner. A new transformational and open leadership is needed to lead to Blue Leadership. We need leaders who are less complacent, who are not satisfied with "don't change something that already works"; with more ambition, who understand that disruption threatens around every corner and that the average lifespan of companies has shrunk and continues to shrink; not to take it for granted that we will be here tomorrow, to be aware that the environment in which we find ourselves is full of uncertainties and opportunities, and that nothing is forever.

"Blue Leaders will give us the ability to be more open, transparent, honest, connected, reflective and passionate about what we do in pursuit of a common goal, but we need the necessary qualities to achieve this, some innate and some learn. Let us now understand how we can achieve this"

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