Sally Gulliver’s new deputy, Will Comfort, had handed her a large poster of some Global Blancmange staff laughing. Underneath it said, ‘Why should anyone be led by you?’
Will smiled. ‘It’s a campaign.’ He passed her another poster. More Global Blancmange staff, looking happier and more productive than it has been my privilege to witness. It said: ‘Example is leadership – Albert Schweitzer.’ And another: ‘Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership - Colin Powell’
A curious combined frown and smile crept over Sally Gulliver’s face. ‘You’re going to PR this organisation into better leadership…?’
‘Kinda. The idea is, we have these all over the building, starting with the reception area. So the moment our people walk into our offices, they know what they can expect from their managers. And managers know what we expect from them.’
Sally was silent for a moment, thinking. I privately hoped a Churchill quote would find its way onto the posters. ‘Okay. It’s bold, it looks great, it really sets out some expectations for people and it’ll seize their attention. But it also makes me… uneasy.’
Will waited patiently.
‘Will, the thing is, shouldn’t we be communicating what our leadership values are first, and developing those, before we start surrounding people with big posters about their shortcomings?’
Will adjusted his glasses carefully. ‘When you’ve raised this issue with the Management Team, did they agree with you that you needed to change things?’
‘Well, not really, I mean, in principle, yes, but in practice…’
‘And you’re still of the opinion that our retention rates are down to poor management?’
‘God yes. Aren’t you?’
Will nodded. ‘So I think, it’s time to start embarrassing people into better leadership behaviour.’
Sally’s eyebrows shot up. ‘You really think that could happen?’
‘Well, put it this way: a campaign like this will get a lot of people asking questions about how they’re led. It legitimises people having higher expectations of their managers. And that can only be a good thing. We can only develop people so far when it comes to how they behave: maybe sometimes
Sally nodded slowly. I could tell that she wished to be convinced, but remained uneasy.
Then she took a deep breath. ‘Let’s do it. Maybe we can raise the profile of good leadership sufficiently for Management Team to buy into what we want to do. Maybe we’ll raise such a clamour in the organisation for better leadership, that it’ll be irresistible.’
Will grinned, picked up his posters and bounced out of Sally Gulliver’s office.
I left Sally to her thoughts for a few moments and then rumbled: ‘You seem ill at ease.’
Good leadership’s a difficult code to crack
‘Good leadership’s a difficult code to crack. It’ll take more than posters. Then again, what kind of leader would I be, if I didn’t try something a little bit different, a little bit bold? In any case, Will’s right: Management Team don’t get it.’ Sally stood up, and started to spray my leaves, which I appreciated: dust can undermine a pot plant’s natural elegance. ‘If they don’t get it when I try and tell them, maybe they’ll get it when the organisation does…’
Next Friday: The Campaign for Real Leaders
Bingleby was confiding in Richard Goff
Sharp and witty. Gets you thinking. l like this blog.
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