Opinion: Take Me to Your Facilitator
Maurik, John Van, The Independent (London, England)
These are trying times for leaders. If they do not deliver strong leadership, they are blamed for any shortcomings that result, and if they do, they are criticised.
Indeed, there is a strong belief that the final years of the Eighties saw the demise of the whole concept of strong individual leadership in both political and business life. While we are swift to blame the Eighties leaders for being too directive, we are equally swift to blame their successors for being too indecisive, too malleable, too grey.
Is there a middle road to follow? Or have we, as followers, become too sophisticated? Alternatively, do we expect too much?
Either way, we successfully place our leaders between a rock and a hard place, and, given the state of the opinion polls, few political leaders seem to be able to overcome that particular dilemma. Business leaders and managers face the same dilemmas, albeit on smaller and less public stages.
Yet if the concept of leadership is dead, why is there such persistent preoccupation with those waiting in the wings? Successor spotting is being raised to a high art as the media devote disproportionate time or column inches to those who will next occupy centre stage.
Are we simply in an inter-regnum? Are we, in fact, yearning for the return of strong leaders who will solve all our problems and show us the paths to social and economic utopias? Maybe, maybe not. But we are preoccupied with the concept of leadership whether we like it or not.
And in business life, the time for a new approach to leadership has arrived. A new set of talents will be demanded of business leaders in the near future, and, while leadership remains what you do rather than what you are, there is an urgent need for a new mindset to underpin the doing.
We all have a style of leading that we feel most comfortable with; for many this will be the old command-and-control approach. This just will not do in the future.
But it is not simply a matter of abandoning it for something else. The longer something is practised, the more comfortably it fits, the harder it is going to be to change.
The word of the future is "facilitation". Although it is unlikely to replace the word leadership in the management lexicon, it more fully describes the fact that tomorrow's leader must act to release the excellence and creativity in others. This would enable them to be better equipped to deal with the evolving nature of both the business opportunities and threats that will arise. …