Articles

December 2021 – Question Of The Month

December 15, 2021 - By Wendy Lambourne, Director, MA Industrial and Organisation Psychology, Registered Psychologist with SA Medical & Dental Council

Question: Does Legitimate Leadership say that the results are not important compared to the contribution of individuals?

Answer: Obviously the results are very important! Anyone who does anything seriously has goals and a strong desire to achieve them. And in any competitive environment, one competes to win, not lose.

But the essential way to achieve the result is neither to focus on it nor to obsessively measure progress against it. A desire to stand on the top of the world and a determination of how far short of the top one is does not get the relatively few people who succeed in conquering Everest to do so. Similarly, a fixation on the score on the scoreboard, relative to other athletes’ scores, is not what gains a winning score for the athlete. Nor does an ambition to progress up the hierarchy assure promotion to the desired position.

What determines whether or not mountaineers reach the summit, other than luck (and luck plays a part in every result), is all that they do to get there – how well they prepare for the ascent, the choice of the right path to take, that they pace themselves correctly and then overcome the inevitable obstacles along the way.

All of these things are themselves a reflection on those leading the expedition – their ability to select high-calibre team members and then enable them both in preparation for and throughout the climb.

Similarly, “games are won by players who focus on the playing field, not by those whose eyes are glued to the scoreboard” (Warren Buffett). More accurately, games are won by talented players who have exceptional coaches.

Finally, what produces the desired organisational result is that people at every level in the organisation make the contribution required of them to produce the result. Enabling people to make the contribution required of them, to be the best that they can be, and to be prepared to go above and beyond in pursuit of the organisation’s objectives, is the job of those in leadership positions in the organisation.

In my experience of corporations, middle and senior managers spend well over 50% of their time in setting, measuring and mincing about whether they and their subordinates are achieving the targeted results. In contrast, they spend far less time ensuring that their subordinates have the means, ability and accountability to achieve those results. If the ratio was the other way round, better results would be achieved with much greater job satisfaction for all concerned.

Wendy Lambourne
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