Leadership and CultureModern organisational leadership requires a whole new set of perspectives and competencies. Competition is no longer just for market share but for the right people. The performance of those people must be leveraged through developing engagement which means ensuring empowerment and motivation.

Leadership strategy in the business schools emphasises Vision and Mission first – which are different things – although surprisingly so many leaders do not get the difference. They are about purpose and direction. The Vision sets the purpose and the Mission the direction/goals/objectives. This difference is critical particularly as new generations of knowledge workers are more interested in the former than the latter.

Microsoft’s vision, famously, was ”a computer in every home”. It was about empowerment of the individual, in a time when computers were available only to large organisations. Great idea, great purpose, great results.

The challenges for large organisations are based around the ability to innovate, the ability to adapt (agility) and the ability to attract and retain great talent. Organisations which have the first two tend to have the third. Why? Because a company that is good at innovation has the space and ability to take risks that allows autonomy and learning to blossom. Environments like this allow people to make a difference and to grow and learn and they are highly motivational. The opposite of this approach kills companies. Read this report on Nokia for example: Nokia.

We do not motivate people, we create the environments that allow them to be self-motivated.

Agility means the ability to adapt, so autonomy and authority must be pushed out to the coal face, to the people that work with the customers or consumers. If you give your people these freedoms and coach them to enable accurate risk assessment and decision making you again create that motivating environment.

The millennial generation, today anyone below 35 years old, own many of the competencies required to thrive in purposeful organizations and are coming up on 50% of the available talent pool. Organisations must provide the motivational environment to attract this talent or they will wither and die.

But most good Leaders know this. The challenge is how to implement this in their organisation. Where to start? One issue is the lack of recognition of the culture that exists. Like a fish in water they are not aware that water is all around them. I know myself of the highs of gaining an understanding at a training course or conference and going back to the organisation full of good intentions. And then slowly and surely forgetting them as the organisational norm floods in and quenches the fire.

The main blind-spot is culture recognition. As Peter Drucker famously said:

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Cultural change is key to improving organisational performance. It must be done in tandem with the process. Processes are easy to see and change particularly for the solution finding leadership style. Culture is the Mammoth in the room.

Culture change is possible of course with a plan, a communications strategy, time, and the will to make the changes. It requires true emotionally intelligent leadership; walking the talk, resonating the why and communicating the purpose throughout the organisation while sustaining the will to make the changes against constant opposition. This is the secret to turning good intentions into great results.

Aidan Higgins BE MBA of ADEO Consulting is a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist working with Leaders and Teams in Ireland and the UK. He has over 25 years experience working in various capacities with individuals, teams and organisations of all sizes.