Contemporary organizational theorists and analysts argue that global marketplace competition requires leadership. This leadership should promote collaboration, adaptation, and constant learning. James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner shared in their latest book, Learning Leadership: The Five Fundamentals of Becoming An Exemplary Leader, “no one can make anything extraordinary happen alone.” A 21st century business enterprise cannot compete and remain marketplace relevant unless leadership replaces dependence on structure and expertise for providing organizational focus and decision-making.
In Peter Senge’s book, E.Q., he states, “the only sustainable advantage a 21st century business enterprise can possess is to learn and adapt with customers faster than the competition.” Learning speed, continuous improvement, flexibility, and growth are what determine today’s business success and longevity, not price, organizational size or management-defined quality.
As this seismic shift in marketplace competition occurs, creating and retaining the leadership needed is “the critical challenge” confronting today’s executives and management communities. To compete and succeed as a learning organization requires every organizational stakeholder to be a leader, culturally united in a shared quest for excellence in both execution and outcome for the common good.
The quest to create a customer-centric learning environment begins with defining the leadership needed. Continuing to use existing expertise, past experience, role tenure or organizational entitlement to promote and instill a leadership culture is insanity (using the same thinking and behaviors and expecting change or improvement to occur). Expanding oversight cannot create a leadership environment or culture that uses learning, continuous improvement and shared accountability to constantly create value and pursue excellence. To create and sustain a learning organization, all stakeholders must be encouraged to be a Developmental Leader – a leader who can direct or follow by using learning as his or her catalyst for change. Developmental Leaders use learning to invite and engage others in exploring possibility, altering the status quo, and maximizing potential for the benefit of all.
Characteristics of a Developmental Leader:
- Asks open-ended questions
- Listens attentively and humbly, not selectively
- Proactively establishes contextual perspective
- Promotes balance in thought and behavior
- Uses vision to invite and enroll stakeholders
- Maximizes both organizational and human potential
- Is always customer-centric in learning and action
- Empowers, rather than tells and assigns
- Instills and sustains systems thought and action
- Facilitates and enforces process discipline
- Energizes, rather than motivates
- Fosters innovation, creativity, and “out of the box” thinking
- Encourages collaborative synergies in building relationships
- Builds trust through honest, factual communications
- Holistically networks in making decisions and solving problems
- Uses learning to promote inclusion and participation
- Aligns strategy with cultural empowerment and work management processes
- Focuses on outcomes as well as the activities used to produce results
- Uses measurements to instill shared accountability
- Inspires others by being a role model for ethical communications and behaviors
Developmental Leaders use learning to create and sustain relationships based on trust, service to others, rational thought and action. They enroll and engage those they influence in maximizing potential for the common good. Their power and influence is established and sustained by involving others in exploring possibility and collaboratively sharing accountability for execution and growth in the pursuit of excellence.
Management communities make change happen. They provide the stimulus (“why factor”) for learning and change. Managers are the keystones (what and how) for promoting and facilitating involvement, improvement and growth. Most importantly, managers establish stakeholder accountability and the timing of change (who and when). High performance management communications focus on the present and future, not the past. They empower organizational stakeholders to explore possibility and opportunity while pursuing excellence for the benefit of all. Management communities that use past success and/or reinforce personal comfort zones of thought and preference to deal with complex, ambiguous marketplaces don’t position their organizations for 4th Industrial Revolution success. Instead, they promote risk aversion, cynicism and fear. In the 21st century, business enterprise success and longevity can only be achieved if management communities shift away from their dependence on structure and authority. To achieve success in the new global economy, managers must embrace both leadership development and empowerment as their power and influence platform for learning with customers and leveraging marketplace potential.