Enabling Leadership

My Leadership Mission

I have a personal mission to explore the most effective ways of assisting people to become enabling leaders in their chosen field of service/contribution. There are so many very capable people in all types of organisation who have the talent and ability to be truly effective leaders. However, and unfortunately, many organisations appear unable to develop these same people to become leaders that their colleagues would be proud to work with.

I have started a blog called bottomupleadership.com to share my thoughts and ideas on how to become a self or enabling leader. My aim is to explore the practical ways that most people can take to develop their leadership skills without feeling the need to fit into a particular leadership model. This is simply due to the fact that we are all different in many ways and this makes it impossible for a “one size fits all” approach to leadership. Therefore my way of thinking about leadership is based on a very clear appreciation that effective leadership is critical in today’s rapidly changing business world and that there is a need for everyone to be a leader.

No one has all the Answers

The level of complexity that most of us experience in organisations of different sizes makes it impossible for any one leader to have all the knowledge and experience to know what to do most of the time to enable their organisations to be truly effective. This is simply due to the fact that the way most organisations are structured in compartment or silos adds to the complexity as each silo has its own culture, rules of engagement, mission, and general modus operandi. In many instances there is more energy expended defending a silo territory than is invested in fighting the competition in order to improve the organisations ability to be measurably competitive and profitable. Therefore to expect the CEO or any other senior executive to clearly know what is the best way forward for the organisation is usually based on the misconception of the person’s omnipotence.

If no one has the knowledge and experience then how do organisations obtain the focus and direction needed to achieve the level of productivity necessary to by competitive. The answer lies in the collective knowledge and experience of all those who are employed in the organisation. The leadership challenge today is to find ways to tap into the collective capability to enable clarity to be achieved about what the organisation needs to be doing to obtain the level of performance needed to compete in a highly competitive business and commercial world. This is where every person needs to be ready to provide leadership when required as the time will certainly arise when their particular leadership contribution will be needed.

Issues viewed from Different Perspectives

It is enlightening to compare the view the directors have of their business with those engaged in different parts of the business from operations across to those at the customer interface. The issues considered by each group tend naturally to be quite different due to the degree of responsibility and accountability. However, my real concern is that decisions are being made by the directors that are frequently based on flawed information that could easily be clarified by simply asking the people who know intimately the ins and outs of the issue under review. Yet this does not often happen as the decision makers believe that they know what is best and proceed from this generally false premise.

To obtain a clear picture of any issue now requires it to be viewed from a number of different perspectives. The benefit of a form of triangulation is that the shape of the issue tends to firm up as different parts of information and insight is uncovered through dialogue with those actively involved in the issue. In many instances one right answer or solution is sought when in fact several options should be generated from which one that appears to offer a sound solution can be selected. If for some reason this does not work the other options are still available and with the information about what did or did not work with the first option a new strategy can be created.

Valuing every Contribution

An effective leader recognises and demonstrates the fact that they value contributions from anyone willing to contribute thoughts, opinions, and ideas on an issue. The benefit from this way of working with others comes from the fact that many really useful and innovative ideas have been suggested by people who normally would not be expected to be creative. When a person feels respected for the contribution they make they also feel valued and this builds their confidence to continue to promote their ideas. This process is the basis of enabling leadership in terms of creating an environment in which everyone’s contribution is encouraged and respected without it being judged in an inappropriate manner as this is what usually tends to stifle and demotivated those who could truly add value…

It is a pity that organisations based on the hierarchy are usually inept at growing their people to encourage them to be willing and open with their comments and contributions. You soon learn to know where your place is in the pecking order and that it is career limiting to challenge or confront management. The result is usually a significant level of mediocrity is achieved when the opposite is very possible in that high performance is readily available when enabling leadership is actively practiced, even in hierarchies!!!

Enabling Leadership Journey

I have produced a number of blogs in www.bottomupleadership.com to set out what I believe will be an effective way to become an enabling leader for the future. I have also provided insights on how many traditional organisations and managers consciously or unconsciously change you from being an unique creative person to becoming a corporate commodity. My goal is to firstly alert you to the dangers and secondly to provide you with ways to avoid the syndrome and become an enabling leader. Enabling leadership is a journey that is ongoing with frequent stops to review and reflect on progress. I will provide ideas and tools in this blog to help you on the journey.

Tom Jaap

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2 Responses to Enabling Leadership

  1. Tony John says:

    Sometime, back in the mid-to-late eighties, as a manager, in a US pharma company in Australia, I had the unique experience of a Tom Jaap “makeover”. Whilst training seminars and professional “self-development” was an everyday hazard and continued unabated over my 27 years in this company, Tom’s impact was indelible. I still refer to it today when I refer to authentic change. When you can recall an event with clarity after 25 years+, when so much minutae is forgotten, then it is worth the remembering.

    I recall the uncompromising challenge of the everyday behaviours we indulged in, and perhaps were idiosyncratic to our culture. Put down humour is the one that resonates most. The ability to insult, perhaps humiliate a colleague, and leave them powerless to respond without seeming to be overly sensitive, or over reacting to “harmless humour”

    Most enduring of my memories is the farewell speech of our managing director, a veteran (probably Tom’s employer, directly at the time) of some 35 years, stating that this was a particular (sic uncomfortable) event he preferred to forget.

    This to me (who was inspired to do post grad studies in change management partly as a result) was the ultimate compliment.

    They say that truth is the first casualty of war, then if that is so, then it is also the epidemic of corporate life in this country.


  2. David Pride says:

    Hi Tom, I was looking for something on consequential leadership. I remember we talked a lot about this in the 90’s. Do you have anything handy? I am now applying this to safety leadership and in particular to how ‘back office’ roles inadvertently impact the front line by the decisions they take. Hope to see you and Sheila in 2012. All the best!

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