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Bleeding from the Top

In my experience as a member of middle management, a consultant or indeed as a board member of various organisations, it became obvious that the quality of the leadership involved was a vital component of the strategic planning process and its implementation.  I have seen business units that were floundering under one manager suddenly become strong, vibrant and meaningful under a new leader.

To comprehend and cope with our environment we develop mental patterns or concepts of meaning…..(sic) to sketch out how we destroy and create these patterns to permit us to both shape and be shaped by a changing environment (Boyd 1976)

So why are so few of our leaders, at all levels within an organisation, capable of acting this way? Despite thousands of years of strategic thinking and development, the art or discipline of strategic thinking continually gets caught in a form of paralysis.  There is no doubt that this is because of the lack of innovative thought among leadership, particularly in middle management.

This failure of management cannot be diagnosed simply as the ‘Peter Principle’ or the idea that individuals may be promoted to their point of incompetence. In many cases, the very people who, excelled at the finest educational institutions, are more often than not, poor leaders with little strategic or tactical innovation. Can you offer a reason why? Social enterprises often have leadership and management issues. The use of training or mentorship programmes tends to be underused and the fragmented nature of the sector doesn’t help.

  1. January 26, 2010 at 10:46

    The debate you raise is a very interesting one. I manage a small social enterprise. Day to day organisational challenges can very easily consume you (I have been that soldier!) to the detriment of engaging more regularily with strategic planning. Particularly when resources and cashflow are tight, and it becomes about survival. The irony of course is that its at times like this that your fine tuned stategic skills would be of most value if they had been developed sufficiently. From my experience Board Directors, if engaged appropriately and are interested in the organisation, can act as valuable mentors to an MD. Its all about letting go of your ego and listening. They often have many more years experience and have seen ‘some of it’ all before. Their experience may be from different contexts. There is great learning here, because it might be the only time you get exposure to how another organisation operates. As strategies and approaches can be at the macro and micro level; from questions that ask where is the company going to what is the best way to get support for a particular initiative, there is always much to be learned from those around you.

  2. February 1, 2010 at 17:23

    So how best would the sector do this? Is there room for a ‘club’ or networking event in general for the sector, perhaps hosted by some organisations but open to the whole sector? With some interesting speakers but in particular plenty of time to network like the First Tuesday event for commercial start-ups?

  3. February 11, 2010 at 13:17

    I’m not sure. I’ll have to think about that one. First thoughts are that we can’t create a new network…that it might eb best to tap into existing ones, like local chambers of commerce etc. People’s time and commitment are already stretched.

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