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            [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_22612" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Jack Welch was CEO of GE for 20 years. In a changing world, is he still the model for leadership? Jack Welch was CEO of GE for 20 years. In a changing world, is he still the model for leadership?[/caption]

 

When discussing the challenges facing business leaders it seems almost de rigeur nowadays to talk about the level of change organisations are facing.

The challenge to equip leaders to build the future in these uncertain times is certainly daunting, with seismic geopolitical shifts (in this context the Trump administration seems to be the gift that keeps on giving), disruptive technological change (how many of us even fully understand the implications of bitcoin, blockchain and whatever new technology will be unleashed on us next) and even severe climate and weather events.

The very ubiquitous nature of these challenges may however inure us to their real potential as both a threat and an opportunity to affect a true paradigm shift in how we view leadership, a classic case of an issue being undervalued through overuse.

.

The Concept of Leadership

From the perspective of the 21st century the development of our concept of leadership is a little clearer than it may have been in the past.  From this remove we can see how the largely male, heroic models of leadership have greatly influenced the literature and teaching in this field.

The business leaders who are most often cited, Jack Welch, Steve Jobs etc. are broadly from a similar mould and the models of leadership, with the exception of Servant Leadership (as a servant leader you put the needs of others, particularly team members, before you even consider your own, but how many executives really model themselves on this type of leadership?) extol an assertive, confident, out-going and mainly extroverted style.

In fact, the Myers Briggs type most associated with leadership is the ENTJ (extraversion, intuition, thinking, judgment), which is described as the ‘general’, again exposing the military underpinnings of the leadership canon. We can clearly see this bias in the continuing popularity of books like Dale Carnegie’s “How to win friends and influence people”, the pseudoscience of NLP and programmes that teach executives how to create the right ‘impression’.

Given the genesis of the leadership concept it is understandable that people might misconstrue the notion of leadership presence as the ability to impose oneself (and influence people), but there is real hope that we are about to experience a genuine shift in the paradigm.

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Unhappy Influencers

[caption id="attachment_22617" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Richard Boyatzis studied how leaders influence those around them Richard Boyatzis studied how leaders influence those around them and how that effected their lives and careers[/caption]

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Recent research conducted by Richard Boyatzis and colleagues from Case Western Reserve University examined the relationship between the extent to which people adopted an ‘influencing’ leadership style and their later satisfaction with both their careers and their life in general.  Interestingly they found a very strong negative correlation between these factors, i.e. the more people adopted an influence style the less satisfied they were with their careers and lives.

Boyatzis and colleagues did not have an objective measure of career success, so one could still argue that the ‘influencers’ did better in their careers, but Boyatzis’ research does tell us that irrespective on how well an outsider might judge your career progress, the ‘influencers’ are less happy about their situation.  The researchers concluded that those who adopt an influencing style are pushing on their environment and trying to get more from others, e.g. they tend to show a high need to control social situations.

The crux of the problem, especially in the context of a VUCA world, is that pushing on or trying to control an environment that is in a constant state of flux, verging on chaos is unlikely to be very effective and will certainly lead to people being highly dissatisfied and unhappy in their work and indeed their lives.

Now would be the perfect time for the leadership movement to learn the lessons of evolutionary psychology that success in a changing environment falls to the most adaptable, those who can outlearn their competition.

 

The Adaptable Generation

This will require a cadre of new leaders who are less ego-identified with success and winning, who don’t see problems as opportunities to impose themselves and demonstrate mastery of the environment.

Rather we will see the emergence of leaders who can go with the flow, adapt to new realities quickly, work through and with others as either leader or follower and pivot gracefully as cherished paradigms fall away and hard-earned experience proves ineffective as a guide to new problems.

There is no doubt that the idea of women in leadership is in the current zeitgeist and may or may not create a fundamental shift in how we see leadership in the future.  I am however hopeful, that as the new model emerges we will see less emphasis on the old machismo of the ability to impose oneself on others and on the environment and more emphasis on the willingness to adapt, change and ‘flow’ with emerging realities.

Bruce Lee used to tell his students to ‘be like water’, perhaps that is not a bad metaphor for what leaders will need to become.

 

imi-colm-foster-810Dr Colm Foster is Director of Executive Education at the Irish Management Institute. He has acted as a leadership development consultant to organisations in the US, Asia and Ireland, particularly specialising in Emotional Intelligence.

The next IMI Diploma in Leadership starts on 2nd May, 2018.
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IMI Insights

IMI Insights

10th Sep 2019

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Future of Financial Services Leadership Programme Launched in IMI

Minister of State, Michael D’Arcy TD, holding the ‘Ireland for Finance’ 2025 strategy document at the Future of Financial Services Leadership Programme launch at IMI, joined by representatives from BPFI, IFS Skillnet and IMI.
  • Minister of State, Michael D’Arcy TD launched a leadership development programme for senior professionals across the financial services sector
  • Programme is one of the formal action items on the ‘Ireland for Finance’ 2025 strategy
  • Minister D’Arcy TD stated that the programme is ‘designed to develop future leaders for a disruptive landscape’

Minister of State, Michael D’Arcy TD today launched the IMI Future of Financial Services Leadership programme, one of the formal action items on the Irish government’s plan for the international financial services sector.

“The Future of Financial Services Leadership Programme is a product of cooperation between industry experts and higher education to identify the key challenges in the financial services sector and has been designed to develop future leaders for a disruptive landscape” said Minister Michael D’Arcy at the Launch of the Future of Financial Services Leadership Programme. “The programme is a headline action in the Ireland for Finance strategy and increasingly, we will be adopting a ‘life-long learning approach’ to ensure that people and their employers have the necessary skills and expertise to deal with both current and future demands.

“This programme is an opportunity for senior managers working in financial services and fintech to not only input on where they see the future of financial services and fintech going, but to assemble the toolkit necessary to lead their organisations through a time of transformation and to ensure that we have continued success in these areas.

“I would like to thank the IMI, BPFI, and IFS Skillnet for developing this course.”

An industry-led initiative, the programme aims to develop the leaders in the financial sector so they can support the overarching ‘Ireland for Finance’ 2025 strategy; for Ireland to be a top-tier global location of choice for specialist international financial services.

As part of that goal, an employment target of having 50,000 people in direct employment by 2025 has been set, compared to 44,000 people currently employed in the sector.

The programme is a result of the collaboration between the Irish Government, IFS Skillnet, Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) and IMI. The design was a result of a series of focus groups and workshops with stakeholders in the industry, starting in late 2018, which identified the key challenges leaders are facing in the sector.

“Accessing talent and appropriate skillsets are major priorities for our members.  In a recent survey of our international banks some 62% pointed to digital skills as a key skills shortage area’ said BPFI’s Chief Executive, Brian Hayes. ‘’With this in mind, we have worked closely with our members and the IMI to develop this programme.  It will focus on the impact that technology and customer expectations are having on business models and on how firms can use tools like design thinking to compete through innovation.  We believe this programme will greatly foster innovation and critical thinking in those firms that participate.”

‘’The availability of a well-educated, highly skilled adaptable workforce has enabled Ireland to become an important global location for financial services. If we want to continue growing in this ever-changing financial landscape, it’s vital our workforce is equipped with the latest thinking and skills.’’ Said Brian McMahon, Network Manager, IFS Skillnet. “We’re delighted to support the IMI Future of Financial Services Leadership programme which is designed to enhance leadership capabilities for the sector.”

The Future of Financial Services Leadership programme brings together senior leaders in organisations from across the sector, from established financial providers to regulators and fintech’s – something Chris Roebuck, economist and IMI Programme Director, feels is an advantage the Irish sector has over competing countries.

‘From digitisation to changing consumer behaviour, the financial services sector is going through a necessary upheaval at the moment to better meet the needs of customers and deliver sustainable profitability’ said Chris Roebuck. ‘Ireland is in a unique position to take advantage of the current disruption in financial services. The programme puts the stakeholders in the same room to enable them, their organisations and the sector to move forward with a leading-edge, coherent and agile strategy.’

Within the programme, cross-company strategic projects will be created and presented to sectoral sponsors, alongside stakeholders in the civil and public sector. These projects aim to deliver strategic value at both organisational and sectoral level and influence the thinking about the ‘Ireland for Finance’ 2025 strategy as it grows and evolves.