If you look at the standard organizational model, the first thing you notice is that it’s a pyramid. It is narrower at the top than at the bottom. There are a lot of worker bees at the bottom of the pyramid — that’s why the base of the pyramid is broader than the top of the pyramid is. There are fewer managers than employees, and there are a very small number of executives at the top of the organization, calling the shots.
Since the typical organization has lots of non-management employees and only a small number of senior-level leaders, it stands to reason that every minute of a highly-placed executive’s day has great impact. The decisions C-level leaders make have huge ramifications on everything from the company’s stock price tomorrow to the firm’s existence or nonexistence five years from now.
Lagging performance is among the most glaring indications something is awry in an organization. Then there are the quieter, less splashy but still foreboding signals: a culture of distrust, the uncomfortable undiscussables, staff disengagement, disorganization — all of which indicate a disconnect that could cost a business tremendously if not addressed.
When confronted with a problem, or better yet, before it becomes a problem, leadership consultants Bob Anderson and Bill Adams recommend organizational leaders first turn inward to drive lasting change.
In stark contrast to the corporate world — where people in large companies are promoted into leadership roles only after working their way up through the ranks — leadership development in the startup arena often happens overnight or even by accident. Entrepreneurs often have to go without management training, development coaching or a course called “CEO 101.” They have to figure out out how to be a leader on the fly. And because teaching yourself to lead is no easy feat, especially when you’re managing a rapidly expanding company, you may well fail. That’s part of the reason 36 percent of new businesses fold after just two years and 90 percent of technology startups simply don’t make it.
Many of the things we need to know to be successful – to innovate, collaborate, solve problems, and identify new opportunities – aren’t learned simply through schooling, training, or personal experience.
We know from research (and common sense) that people who understand and manage their own and others’ emotions make better leaders. They are able to deal with stress, overcome obstacles, and inspire others to work toward collective goals. They manage conflict with less fallout and build stronger teams. And they are generally happier at work, too. But far too many managers lack basic self-awareness and social skills. They don’t recognize the impact of their own feelings and moods. They are less adaptable than they need to be in today’s fast-paced world. And they don’t demonstrate basic empathy for others: they don’t understand people’s needs, which means they are unable to meet those needs or inspire people to act.
This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at@Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories attgam.ca/leadershiplab
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