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Today I was executive coaching a CEO on Leadership and was struck just how challenging leadership is and how heavy the mantle of leadership is for senior people.
This is a CEO who has been in role for 4 years. He has risen up the ranks of his company and knows the business and its people inside out. He mentions he grew up with a lot of the people in the business but he can no longer be friends with a lot of these people as the decisions that affect these people are squarely on his shoulders.
He feels the pressure. In particular, he feels that pressure when performance is challenging for his business. He wants to develop more leadership in his business and wants to start with himself.
We discussed different aspects of leadership including how he would define leadership, the different styles of leadership and when different styles are more applicable than others and what makes those more applicable. We discussed how his leadership style had changed over time, and how he used different styles. After 4 years of being the CEO, only now does he start to see his leadership role and how he can influence the organisaiton through his leadership.
We discussed whether leadership actually mattered for his business. Does his business really need leadership or does it need better followers? The summary is “Yes” to both, but different situations require both leadership & followers. The company has a fantastic culture around the quality of the work they do, which is embraced by all – no need for better leaders or followers there. However the leaders are the ones who are expected to be the sole guardians of performance with the quality of work and performance not always being good bedfellows. So in this situation they need wider leadership on balancing the two elements of business performance and quality of work. They need better followers as they do spend a great deal of time discussing areas that have no real impact on the performance of the business.
He expressed that he needs not only more leaders in his teams but also people to feel empowered, and truly empowered, to take the role of being a leader in their team on, rather than rely on him to make the decisions about everything from which toilet roll to use in the staff toilets through to the vision for driving the business. He acknowledged that he had to give more space for people to develop their own leadership and for the wider business to encourage more leadership from its staff. In particular, he needed the staff to build their awareness of the performance of the business and the impact of their behaviour on that performance, and take it upon themself to actively change the trajectory of the business.
What was clear during our session, was there was lots of things bubbling away below the surface of this conversation on leadership. that touched on many different areas, including motivation for himself and his team, the strategy of the business and the day to day performance of his business. It felt that this conversation of leadership had set metaphorical hares racing, and he was desparate to catch these hares as soon as possible. There were lots of silences and pensive thoughts, which in coaching I see as a positive reaction as the individual is taking the time to consider the implications of the discussion.
Our discussion on leadership I’m sure will not end today, and I look forward to see where the discussion on leadership goes next with him.