Leadership Articles: TALKING LEADERSHIP


A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
September 2012   |   By Dan Gaynor

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The Case for Order

We live in a world where authority has become a bad word and we place a lot of value on personal freedoms, a world of self first where a great many people don't want rules, expectations or accountability. Within this type of culture it's not surprising that authority and order have fallen out of fashion. Today, ideas like self-directed teams and flattening the organization (a euphemism for getting rid of the managers) get a lot of attention, but all healthy and effective teams are ordered, and it takes authority to instill and maintain order. The opposite is chaos, and chaos does not lead to high performance or high productivity.

While it may not be fashionable leadership thinking today, there will always be a need for order, and someone in authority to maintain it. The question is not whether authority has any place in leadership thinking but who is holding it and how is it being used. Caring and effective leaders use authority to protect organizational order around three facets of corporate life: fairness, accountability and values.

Throughout history, from kings to CEO's, the senior leader has been responsible for making sure the community is fair and just. This is why we have the rule of law. Every parent knows that the first sentence coming out of their two-year-old is often, "It's not fair!" Well, were still saying it at 50! When a workplace is perceived to be unfair, people react strongly. The most dedicated employees get turned off. Good leaders use their authority to ensure the workplace remains fair, as best they can.

Good leaders also ensure accountability is part of life within the organization for two reasons: First, it's essential to the welfare of the entire workplace, without accountability a culture of excuses soon blossoms, and this kind of place wouldn't have much of a future for anyone who is part of it, (for more on this check out "Accountability And The Corporate Body" from our archives.) Second, accountability is a good teacher. When a strong leader holds someone accountable for what they have done he or she is positioning them to learn, even when that accountability comes in the form of job loss - sometimes people need to lose a job to learn a lesson. Failure to enforce appropriate accountability makes the leader an accomplice to the problem.

Finally, good leaders must be the keepers and shapers of corporate values. Values more than anything, affect the quality of the workplace and the team's performance. When strong leaders observe arrogance, lying, laziness, bullying, selfishness or any of the other values issues that cause so many problems, they do something about it. They know their ability to attract, motivate and retain talent rests largely on the quality of its organizational values. Values are not an area where skillful leaders go soft. Effective leaders provide a strong personal example, communicate what they want in team members, then reward the right behavior and correct the wrong behavior wherever they encounter it.

Effective leaders are caring and they are strong. They appreciate the need to maintain organizational order around fairness, accountability and values to ward off chaos. Authority and order may be out of fashion in a lot of current leadership thinking but they will always be at the heart of healthy high performing teams.

Discussion questions:

  1. How do you feel about the need to use your authority to instill order when it's called for?
  2. Can you think of a time when accountability taught you, or someone you know, a key lesson?
  3. Which organizational values are most important to you and how often are you telling people about them?

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A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
September 2012   |   By Dan Gaynor


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