Many management practices are as outdated as the factories — like this disused one in Waterbury, … [+]
Cracking the Leadership Code was published in the middle of March, just when governments across the world were beginning to order lockdowns of their countries in response to the coronavirus. So its author cannot be seen deliberately to be offering any insights into those seeking to lead nations or organisations through this unprecedented crisis. But the book does contain powerful lessons for those seeking a route through the current uncertainty.
Drawing on a couple of decades as a speaker, consultant, trainer and coach, Alain Hunkins sets his sights on challenging the inevitability of mediocre leadership. He cites research by the public relations firm Ketchum revealing that alarmingly small proportions of employees believe their leaders are doing a good job, think they communicate well and are confident they will improve in the coming year. Many other reports reveal similar findings. So, why — when organizations spend so much on training and development — is this the case? Hunkins insists that “no leader sets out to be mediocre.” For the most part, he says, people want to do a good job. The problem is that good intentions alone do not translate good results. “Too many leaders don’t understand what it takes for them to succeed. They mean well and work hard, but they lack the proper mind-set and tools.”
Cracking the Leadership Code is essentially a guide to acquiring the tools that will enable leaders to achieve the results they and their superiors crave through such things as improving employee engagement, increasing productivity, decreasing staff turnover levels, expanding influence, reducing stress and improving overall work-life satisfaction. At its heart, though, are three principles — connection, communication and collaboration. All are much talked about but not always fully understood. Hence the notion of cracking a code.
The way Hunkins tells it the problems of leadership in many organizations stem from hanging on for too long to the old command-and-control management approach that powered commerce for much of the 20th century. Thanks to what he calls the “megatrends of affluence, computerization and transparency,” this top-down approach and the hierarchy it produced will not work any more.
Instead, leaders are confronted with a “flatter, faster world” where they cannot know everything and so rely on other people to provide insight and information. “Thus, being connected becomes more important than ever.” It follows from this that, in order to compete, smart companies have reorganised to share knowledge and decision-making with those on the front line and even the customer. For such a complex structure to work requires effective communication in all directions. At the same time, companies are moving away from top-down planning to adopting agile methods in an effort to be able to innovate more quickly and to provide a better customer experience. This requires collaboration.
Using his wide-ranging experience, Hunkins offers helpful tips on building on these principles to develop the tools required to enable more leaders to defy the gloomy statistics. But he also offers plenty of common sense and reminders that leadership development is not as straightforward as it is often made out to be. “The idea that effective leaders can plot their progression on a straight line is a myth. Progress is messy. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it feels like failure. You need to learn to accept the messiness and all the feelings associated with it. It’s a surefire sign that you’re growing,” he writes.
This content was originally published here.