“It’s all about finding and hiring people smarter than you. Getting them to join your business. And giving them good work. Then getting out of their way. And trusting them.You have to get out of the way so YOU can focus on the bigger vision.” – Richard Branson
Leadership, in a nutshell, is guiding and directing, to “get things done”… but that’s a bit simplistic.
More formally, leadership is the accomplishment of goals through the direction of people… or a set of behaviours used to align members of an organisation, to execute strategic plans, and to continually review and renew. Phew!
It would be possible to add more and more complexity to the definition of leadership – and professors in business schools do. But that’s enough to set the scene in terms of what leaders have in common; let’s look at different types of leaders.
Richard Branson is a charismatic leader; his style of management is built on a foundation of strong communication skills, persuasiveness, and charm.
He’s a “game changer” – An original thinker, someone with a high capacity for original thought (imagination); he’s very much’ ideas-focused’. He also happens to be a “playmaker” – someone with a drive to create collaborative endeavour and collective contribution. It’s no surprise why he’d been successful in several dissimilar industry sectors.
Read More: Blurring the Lines between Work & Play
From a different era, Henry Ford was also a game changer – but also an “implementer” – a pragmatic “get things done” leader, “task-focused”, a creative problem solver who was successful in one industry.
Psychologists talk about “proclivities” or predispositions; a tendency to choose or do something regularly.
Effective leaders tend to know what their own proclivities are. They play to their strengths and ensure they’re supported by others with complimentary predispositions.
And how do they know?
They may know through observation and self-awareness. They may know because their colleagues have told them, or because effective ways of working have just evolved organically over time.
Or (much) more recently, they may know because they’ve taken a psychological test (the GC Index) which reveals their scores as game changers, implementers or playmakers (as mentioned above) or as strategists or polishers (the other two proclivities measured).
Adrian’s (the writer’s) own GC index results
If they’ve been astute, they will also know the proclivities of their colleagues, because each member of the team will have taken the test.
Big organisations will have a senior leadership team (SLT) – that could be the board of directors of a company, the cabinet of a government or the most senior teachers in a school; there are many other examples.
Ideally the members of the team won’t all be the same; there will be a balance of different managerial proclivities, different experiences and most importantly, different perspectives.
Where all the members of a team are similar there’s a great danger of leadership known as the “group think”.
This useful term was first introduced in Psychology Today by Irving Janis in 1971 who conducted extensive psychological research on group decision-making under conditions of stress.
Groupthink is a cognitive bias that refers to dangerously subjective reasoning or decision-making by a highly cohesive group.
The group is likely to be characterized by uncritical acceptance or conformity to prevailing points of view and their reasoning will be simplistic.
There are clear symptoms of groupthink – some being observable behaviours, some being more implicit attitudes or beliefs:
- Illusion of invulnerability – creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks.
- Collective rationalization – members discount warnings and don’t consider assumptions.
- Belief in inherent morality – members believe in the ‘rightness’ of their cause and ignore moral consequences
- Stereotyped views of ‘out-groups’.
- Direct pressure on dissenters
- Self-censorship – doubts regarding the perceived group consensus aren’t expressed.
- Self-appointed ‘mind guards’ – Members protect the group and especially the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions.
Does any of the above ring any bells? If so, what can we do about this Groupthink?
As a leader, or an adviser to a leader, you can assign the role of critical evaluator and avoid the stating of preferences and expectations at the outset.
Read More: The Mark of a True Leader
Members of the group can discuss the group’s deliberations with a trusted associate and report back.
Outside experts can be invited in and encouraged to challenge views and biases of the members.
You can allocate the role of ‘devil’s advocate’ to one member to question assumptions and raise the issue of bias
You can use the GC index in recruiting senior people, and in allocating them suitable roles within projects or task forces, to ensure diversity of thinking and impact.
Alternatively, you might want to consider bringing in a consultant; an objective outsider to help you obtain better information, and help you to interpret it, and evaluate the implications for your organisation.
And you might want to use a consultant with Management, Research, AND Psychology qualifications and expertise – but I would say that, wouldn’t I? I’m biased!
This post was contributed by Adrian Rhodes. He’s a UK based management consultant with an MSC in Management Psychology and an accreditation to use the GC index – be sure to check out his LinkedIn profile for more details.