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What makes a great leader? Lots of people write very passionately on this subject and I am not going to analyse their ideas. Instead, I would like to look at this question from a different perspective – the view you have of the world or your Worldview.
Your Worldview is a reflection of the concepts and beliefs you have about how the world works or how it should be. It was probably shaped by your parents and your experiences in life. It helps you make sense of events and guides the way you respond. Some people have very fixed world views, others are much more flexible.
To answer my question, I want to take a broad look at two different Worldviews and what a great leader would look like from each perspective.
Age of Science & Industry
Most of the corporate world has its roots in the age of science & industry. It is characterised by the concepts of competition, innovation, meritocracy, power, performance and materialism. These ideas have brought us unparalleled prosperity and raised the living standards of millions of people. Organisations are run like benign machines. Executives want to control the markets and re-engineer their organisations to achieve dominance. Delivering great results is the primary objective. Many are tempted to do whatever it takes to win the competition. People are valued providing they can deliver. Corporate life is about predict and control.
In this environment great leaders have to be:
- Action orientated
- Intellectually intelligent
I’m sure you can add to the list. Leaders are required to have a firm grip of their organisations and be seen to be in charge. Given this very dominant perspective of leadership it is not too surprising that the majority of leaders display strong male oriented characteristics (regardless of sex).
If your organisation shares this Worldview then it makes absolute sense to select and train leaders to operate in this way. They can then take their place in the hierarchy and help ensure that people play their roles in the complex machinery of the organisation.
But what if your Worldview was different?
In the Green or post-modern age, relationships become just as important as achieving results. Great results are achieved not by becoming more powerful but by building and enabling nourishing relationships. Executives want to grow healthy businesses that contribute to the world rather than exploit it. Organisations are seen more as a family than a machine and the family includes employees, suppliers, customers, shareholders and local communities. In this Worldview the focus is on strong values and creating healthy relationships, Get this right and great results will follow. Leaders tend to do what is right. People are valued for who they are.
In this environment, great leaders look very different. They have to be:
- Able to build trust
- Emotionally intelligent
Again I am sure you can add to the list. In this Worldview, objectives are agreed through discussion and responsibility for achieving them is genuinely shared. These characteristics have a much stronger element of nurture and care and allow for typically female traits to emerge in leaders.
Leadership development programmes will naturally look very different
One Worldview is not better than another.
When I look at the corporate world, many organisations are primarily run from an age of science perspective but have added a few green age practices. For example, at performance appraisal time, the policy says that manager and employee should agree objectives. In practice the manager still tells people what they have to achieve and the employee takes it on the chin. Neither really understands how to play the game any differently. The green age practices don’t really work because the science age need to control is still dominant.
The strong action centred leadership admired in an age of science organisation would wreck the relational world of a green age organisation, and the compassionate understanding approach of a green age leader would be seen as weak and useless in an age of science business.
One Worldview is not better than any other, it is just different. Great leadership in one age will almost certainly not be great leadership in another.
So what does make a great leader?
A good leader might be someone who is fully conscious of their Worldview and finds a matching organisation where they can use their talents and abilities authentically. A great leader might be someone who can do this and have the flexibility to recognise and adapt when their Worldview has changed.
I would love to know what you think.
Our Conscious Leader programmes are designed for green age leaders.