Magazine article New Zealand Management

Leadership: Who's Leading What?

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Leadership: Who's Leading What?

Article excerpt

Byline: Reg Birchfield

World enterprise, according to a growing body of research, is facing a leadership crisis. Businesses are becoming too complex, too competitive and yes, too confused about the future to govern and manage effectively.

This issue of NZ Management is heavily focused on leadership because, in part, this time each year organisations like Leadership New Zealand and the Sir Peter Blake Trust promote Leadership Week. Coincidentally, a new Global Leadership Forecast by the Pittsburgh-based DDI Group was released to this magazine ahead of general media distribution. Its findings suggest a "leadership revolution" is needed to fix an increasingly serious global leadership problem. This tandem of events seemed like just cause to tackle the topic in detail.

An IBM global CEO study conducted in late 2009 found that half the chief executives from 60 different countries surveyed, doubted their organisation's ability to handle the world's increasingly "volatile and complex" business environment. And around 80 percent of them expected their operating world to become even more complex.

Now, 18 months later, DDI's study reaches similar conclusions and worse. Leaders are not only finding life increasingly difficult, their organisations are simultaneously failing to school up sufficient next-level leaders and managers to take over.

The global financial crisis (GFC) and potent new smart technologies have combined to accelerate and exacerbate the problem. The speed with which the new information society is imposing itself is so great, and the transition to the next generation of better equipped leaders so slow, that the marketplace and society in general are confused and frustrated. People expect leaders to lead and now they are too often ill equipped.

Despite the plethora of early warnings, the world is not well prepared for the knowledge age. But then, neither was it for the industrial age. Preparation for an economic, social and environmental shift of such magnitude is understandably too much to ask, given our innate resistance to change.

But the degree of change taking place is what makes leadership so important. The differences between leadership and very competent management are rather more stark in today's climate.

What then, should leaders be focusing on? People for one thing. The way people are led and managed hasn't changed much in 50 years, even though their terms and conditions of employment have. …

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