Strategy & Leadership

How do you make sure that you get things done?

August 5, 2015

In present times, management magazines and business schools focus on topics such as quality management, knowledge management, and lean. This focus should be taken seriously. “Vogue words” do not emerge for nothing. They indicate the need which is present in organizations. Executives and clients attach importance to that need and the consultant should therefore be aware of it.

From the perspective of consultancy, leadership is the ability to get things done. That does not necessarily have to be linked to one person, the leader. This can also be done by a team, a network, a group, or an entire system.

Organizations constantly need executives who successfully implement change, who constantly bring about where the organizations will falter. Leadership is needed in every organization where people work together. 

Theories about leadership

Leadership in the “great man” theory

Qualities of leaders have been studied with the presumption that leaders have innate qualities that explain their leadership: the “great man" theory, sometimes also called the “trait” theory. In modern organizations, the casting of executives is taken into account. A good rapport between the team and the leader is crucial for effective operation. An essential part of that rapport is the culture within the team and the character of the leader. 

Leadership and action

Two categories of properties and actions are particularly relevant for leaders:

  • Effective structuring of work
  • Supporting those who have to do the work

Both facets must always be present simultaneously in a certain balance. The balance between the two poles does not necessarily have to be 50/50. The practice, for example, shows that a team with relatively low-skilled people are more in need of clarity than of support in mutual intercourse, while highly educated people are more in need of group support than of a leader who repeatedly explains everything. 

Figure 1. Two sides of leadership

Effective structuring

And also

Supporting the team

Challenge

And also

Support

Hard on the content

And also

Soft on the relationship

Task-oriented

And also

People-oriented

Structure

And also

Process

Interventions in leadership

For the consultant, it is important to understand where the concepts of modern leadership come from, but he must learn to assess in practice what the effects are of a certain style of leadership on the changes he is hired to implement. 

By studying character structures (dealing with individuals) and organizational cultures (dealing with groups) he/she can draw conclusions about effective styles of leadership in certain environments. It is important that there should be a balance between challenges and support (see Figure 1). The consultant can examine the effect of an imbalance and also demonstrate this to his or her client in a two-by-two matrix, with challenge on one axis and support on the other axis (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Challenge and Support

Learn more? Download the Dutch chapter Leadership of the book 'Professioneel Adviseren' of Jan de Vuijst. 

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