The capacity of a human community to shape it’s future

06 Mar 2013


The capacity of a human community to shape it’s future. That’s the favorite definition of Leadership of Peter Senge. He emphasizes two aspects of leadership with this definition. The first being that it’s about the collective. The second that leadership has a creative orientation, that he sees as fundamental for leadership; “how we realise things that are really meaningful to us”.

Josh Bersin gives interesting support for the thought that leadership is more about the social relative context than about the individual. In his research he finds that “while the CEO is a very important person, our research shows that enduring business performance is really driven at much deeper levels: a focus on leadership strategy. Long term business performance comes from leadership culture and careful and continuous development of leadership at all levels.”

Bersin and colleagues after researching a number of Talent Management practices discovered that the level of maturity of leadership development in an organization has a bigger impact on business performance than “almost all else”. This impact exceeds that of the CEO.

Two important conclusions (source: Forbes, It’s not the CEO)

1)   High-Performing organizations directly link leadership strategy to business strategy.

No matter who’s the CEO, operational execution takes place at the mid and supervisor level. When these people are well connected, coached and trained, business “flows”.

‘High-performing companies understand this, and they build a leadership development program which uniquely trains, supports, and selects people who drive their business’s strategy. By doing this, they build execution into the culture.

2)   High-Performers develop leaders at all levels.

High performing organizations understand that execution takes place on a practical level in the organization. It’s the managers and supervisors that make sure that things happen. When a CEO doesn’t implement his strategy in a practical and effective way, nothing will really happen. Research shows that the best performing companies develop their leaders bottom up. Senior leadership serves the needs of management, as in a inverse pyramid.

The “inverse pyramid” of leadership is one now widely used by many agile organizations. In our company we have a philosophy that “everyone is a leader” and each individual is given the responsibility to understand the business and make decisions which support the mission of the entire organization.  Accenture calls this “stewardship” and they reinforce to managers that they must “leave work each day making Accenture a better organization”.

The favorite definition of leadership of Peter Senge is “The capacity of human community to shape it’s future”. In this short movie he explains why.

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