Over recent months particularly, we have been bombarded with the terms ‘strong and stable’ relating to Leadership as we have witnessed and endured seemingly endless political campaigns and numerous elections. We have been sold various brands and examples of what “good” leadership looks like, and told what style is appropriate for the current turbulent times that we find ourselves in.
People are understandably exhausted and saturated by the rhetoric; overloaded with strap lines designed to attract our attention and to seduce us into believing in them!
It is, without doubt, a basic human need to seek leadership whether at an individual, organizational or national level. The appetite for a leader who will deal with uncertainty, create a compelling Vision of possibility and create the opportunities for me, my team or family to grow and thrive, is very real.
However, in recent times individuals globally are becoming more disillusioned by the leadership that they experience as their demand for greater transparency, authenticity and the right to have more involvement in shaping their future continues to grow.
Expectation and definition of what good leadership is has changed, but sadly the supply for what is required now is all too lacking.
Rather than experiencing ‘strong and stable’, competent leadership, I would suggest that what we are actually witnessing is a Leadership Crisis!
There is an argument that the growing uncertainty and increasing chaos experienced recently is precisely because of the lack of competent leadership.
Where are the role models and examples
When adults and young people are challenged to describe role models of excellent leadership they often struggle. If they do it is usually in the form of a sports personality, a global leader of the past but rarely an industry leader. For the vast majority, these are completely non-existent.
In fact, data recently published suggests that the most common reason why individuals leave their role is due to their line manager; due to a lack of respect or indeed a perceived lack of competence. Further, what is observed and noted of current leadership – nationally, organizationally and internationally – are the lack of leaders who appear to remain steadfast and clear headed at times of crisis, change or challenge. Instead, what is experienced is leaders who either demonstrate reactive, often panic-like responses to the situations or, paralysis in decision making with little or, no action.
Why is this the case? What does it tell us?
In both of these scenarios there is an overwhelming lack of Vision and Belief and ability to handle complexity in the individuals who are leading. We seem to have developed our leadership models on a premise of certainty, where the decisions are based on accurate, reliable and often predictable information and outcomes.
However, given that the world we now live in is increasingly unpredictable and there are growing chaotic influences; Belief and Will become ever more important if organizations are to seize the opportunities that change will bring. Our leaders need to be more compelling in their Vision for their people and organizations, and confidently navigate through the difficulties and challenges whilst harnessing and mobilizing the energy of the individuals they lead. They must be resilient and know who they are in order to lead and attract others. Their purpose must be clear, aligned and shared with those that wish to journey with them.
Politically, economically, socially and environmentally we cannot and must not continue as we are. We need to be more responsible in how and who we develop as our future Leaders.
We need leaders who know where they are going and “create” the road to the future.
There should and must be an abundance of good leaders developed for our organizations and the world if we are to flourish and survive. This is fast becoming one of the most serious issues that we face.
We have the resources and the individuals to develop as effective leaders together with the demand and appetite from individuals and organizations for Strong leadership. The question is, do we have the Will?
It requires being brutally honest and not dressing things up. People will no longer accept being a cog in someone else’s machine! They now demand strong leadership that respects and values their views, ideas and concerns.
Where are we going wrong?
One-off training programs, broad experience and a job title are simply not enough!
Whilst many organizations credit themselves with developing the leaders of the future and believe that their identification and development of leaders is adequate, much evidence exists to the contrary.
It is only now with the criticality of the current uncertain environment we must acknowledge that we have grossly underestimated our understanding of what makes a good leader. Leadership is not defined by title and position it must not be a reward or, a rite of passage.
It is a way of thinking and way of being; a depth and breadth of thinking and strong set of values beyond self-vested interest it must be authentic to be effective. It should be based on competence and not on the current criteria where individuals are often promoted from a technical background or length of service into a leadership role.
The role of a leader has changed significantly over the past 20-30 years and the shift from an autocratic, top down style to a more inclusive and facilitative approach, is now the norm. However, the competencies required to be an effective leader in this environment have not been fully understood and developed. As such we now suffer for our lack of understanding and investment.
What do we need to urgently do?
Leadership development globally is seriously under-invested in. It requires a commitment to ongoing education, professional input and in-depth comprehensive development over time. Further, there are not enough robust processes in place to identify potential leaders.
Ideally, Leadership development should start at a much younger age, I would suggest it should begin during our formative years for all and not the privileged few. It should be acknowledged in a more direct way to create a culture of “Leadership at all levels,” of one self and latterly if appropriate, leadership of others. In all cases Leadership requires integrity, belief in others, accountability and responsibility. It is the foundation for both individuals and organizations in having more control and successful futures.What are the attributes & characteristics of a good leader?
- Authentic – they tell the truth – it’s difficult
- Trust people
- Have Humility
- Ask for and accept help
- Encourage questions
- Treat other with respect
- Invest and develop others
- Make themselves redundant
- A clear Purpose and compelling Vision which attracts others
- Ability to deal with complexity and uncertainty
- Understand culture/climate
- Engage people, including all stakeholders
- Communicate in a meaningful way
- An ability to take difficult decisions
We clearly need to make it a priority to identify early individuals who demonstrate potential of leading others; who are likely to cope with uncertainty, unpredictability and complexity, and can confidently navigate and negotiate their way through times of crisis and opportunity.
More now than in the past 60 years, Leaders must be fit for purpose and competent if we are to see our organizations and countries grow, thrive and indeed survive in the future.
Leadership will be one of the defining success factors of the 21st century!
IAOCR believes that strong leadership is built on an individual having essential skills, strong knowledge and the right behaviors. We are so passionate about both the need for strong leadership and the future of Clinical Research Industry that we’ve developed a specific program in partnership with industry leaders and Kellogg School of Management. The Qualified Executive Leader Program (ELIACR) develops high level commercial and leadership competencies in professionals that have had a progressive career within clinical research, but not previously benefitted from a business school education. For more information on the ELIACR program please visit our ELIACR page.