Leading Today’s Organizations into the Future


How do organizations inspire workers undergoing so much change and competition in their lives? Many organizations are good at providing extrinsic rewards such as cash, promotions, and titles. Yet, contemporary organizations miss the key ingredient of good leadership. 

In fact, most organizations won’t be successful without it. Managers can purchase better equipment or introduce a new process. However, the situation won’t improve until there is good leadership. What is leadership? There are a variety of leadership definitions. For my blog, leadership is defined as the ability to influence people to support a specific goal.

Corporations desire them. Militaries thrive on them. Churches praise them.  Sadly, many people don’t understand the concept of good leadership. I will make a distinction between a great leader and great manager. In fact, leadership is not about being the boss or manipulating people for personal gain. Barbara Kellerman, author of Bad Leadership, defines bad leadership as “being unwilling or unable to control personal desires such as power instead of seeking for the common good.”  

She place bad leaders in two categories: ineffective and unethical. An ineffective leader achieves the desired objectives but falls short of their  intentions. Kellerman explains  that leaders are often judged ineffective because their efforts fail due to their methods and the end results. However, this situation is different in regards to ethics when leaders decide to act in unmoral ways before their followers.

I’ve seen passionate managers; however, they weren’t great leaders. These managers were zealots for getting the task completed and checking boxes. Their influence was directly related to their position in the organization, not their personal influence. Rick Joyner, author of Leadership Management, notes the qualities that make a good leader would make poor managers in general.

What is the critical reason for this distinction? A manager must be detail-oriented to achieve success while a good leader must be concept-oriented. There are a few exceptions, however.  Joyner explains that large organizations are usually bureaucratic and make it difficult for great leaders to rise to the top. In my organization, it is difficult to implement innovative processes due to a bureaucratic structure. Managers are rewarded for handling tasks, not inspiring people.

Organizations that want to have sustainable success must find ways to infuse good leadership into their organizations.  All managers are not leaders. Organizations that do not understand this simple fact will leave themselves vulnerable to disaster. Some leaders are forced to start new organizations (for example, Steve Jobs of Apple).  Countless leaders, especially change agents, are energized by their passion. I would say it is a critical component for effective organizations.  If a manager wants a more “charged” organization, give them good leadership that inspires followers.

Why are organizations reluctant to deal with the issue of good leadership? What can be done to infuse contemporary organizations with good leaders?

 © 2010 by Daryl D. Green

21 thoughts on “Leading Today’s Organizations into the Future

  1. I am fortunate to work in an organization that does inspire leadership. Upper management allows people in leadership roles to take charge and make necessary changes. For an organization to be successful, they must allow their people some freedom and give them the tools necessary to make improvements. Good leaders believe in Theory Y (people want to do a good job). When leaders give people the ability to succeed, most times they will perform even better then expected. Of course, this is a win-win for the organization and helps create greater success. Thank goodness I work in an environment that promotes good leaders.

  2. Companies are reluctant to deal with the changes good leaders develop to increase good results or modified a current structure that can be more productive. Good leaders search for an effective progress all the time. Companies can challenge their leaders to be better leaders. As 3M or Alcoa do.
    3M requests its leaders to develop new process, products or any activities in their areas to improve departmental activities. Some of 3M great products were developed this way. Post it was developed because of a religious worker from 3M. While singing in his church choir, Art Fry, a 3M scientist, tires of losing his place in the hymnal. So, he worked on a bookmark that’s lightly adhesive. At 3M, the leaders need to separate some time in their shift to work on some change. If some of their new indicated process are approved the leaders and their team get a reward in 3M products or commissions.
    Alcoa asks their leaders to help the projects department with new ideas to intern improvement. When some of the projects will be developed someone in the department go to work in the project. Many times, this is a great opportunity for that individual shows its capacity to manage activities and possibly get a promotion. Alcoa departmental leaders look forward for these opportunities to appear and get some reward.

    Source: http://www.3m.com/us/office/postit/pastpresent/history_tl.html

  3. Organizations may be reluctant due to the lack of knowledge in understanding the concept of good leadership. Is leadership an inherent trait or can it be taught? Perhaps understanding the leadership approaches that are studied today may help inspire companies to mentor young leaders into leadership roles within their company. Grooming employees that demonstrate natural leadership traits, skills, situational awareness, and task and relationship characteristics will be highly effective for a company. Their characteristics, whether intuitive or taught (or a combination of both) will bring success in achieving a common goal for an organization.

    Reference: Leadership, 5th Ed., by Peter G. Northouse.

  4. Oftentimes companies worry more about getting the job done or placing a check in the box. Good managers that work well with deadlines and are highly organized can accomplish this task. If this is done effectively a company may become complacent and accept this as being good leadership. Just as stated in the blog, one can accomplish the tasks but fall short of the intent of the task. Anyone can accomplish a task to get a check in the box but it does not in turn mean that it will result in anything else. The project manager may be in charge of implementing a project with the aim of reducing costs. A program has been implemented and the check is now placed in his or her box. But what about a year down the road when costs are still high or even higher? Was this manager leading? While serving in the military, many times the shop supervisor would place his go getters in charge of a project. They were effective in getting the job done well. He had the respect of his comrades and team unity was implemented.

    • A good leader has systems in place to follow up and monitor project costs. Managers many times just move on to the next project and assume someone else is doing the follow up.

  5. To me the difference between a manager and a leader has to do with charisma and attitude. A good manager and a good leader perform at or above their expectations but a good leader motivates with good communication and enthusiasm. Good leaders have a presence and way about them. They are convincing and people easily buy into their vision.

    Good leaders may not be promoted because top management may feel threatened. Many people are insecure and if they see someone else having success and the people skills to obtain that success they sabotage that person. Also there are not a lot of good leaders out there because you cannot train or teach someone how to be a good leader.

  6. Organizations are reluctant to deal with the issue of good leadership because at the end of the day, the bottom line matters most. It is very easy for managers to get caught up in achieving the company’s goals or “checking off the boxes,” as another writer put it. I was involved in several leadership development programs while in undergrad. From my transition to the full-time workplace I have found that some of these concepts are touched on but not always reenforced through management’s actions. I have found that a lot of the time, managers do not even have a firm grasp of what is that their employees do. In my personal experience, my own manager has a hard time comprehending my individual needs for motivation and creativity, because she has never done my job herself. Some ways that companies can infuse leaders into the organization is to implement programs that allow employees to understand the company as a whole and see how their roles contribute to the company’s bottom line. Also, managers should allow employees to step up and take on leadership activities such as leading staff meetings, encouarage employees to hold one another accountable, and empower employees to give feedback.

    • Christopher, I completely agree that it’s important for managers/leaders to understand what it is that their people do. As an employee, I want my manager to understand what I do so that they can support my efforts. As a manager, I want to understand what my folks do so that they can 1) have my support, 2) respect my opinion because I know what their job is. I’ve been in the work force for over 20 years, and I understand it’s a struggle to be 20something. What you learn during this time in your career is that most managers won’t understand what you do. Do the best you can every day at your job, and learn as much as you can on your own. Generally, no one will teach you in the work force. You must be proactive. If you can find a good manager/leader to work for, you’ll never forget him because they are rare.

  7. I had an opportunity to work for both, good manager/bad leader and good manager/good leader. Working for big corporations, you have to deal with goals and numbers on daily basis. Good leader will help you to overcome obstacles and reach the desired result, while bad leader (who might be a good manager) will push employee’s limits. Numbers are important to a certain point, but at the same time there is a risk to lose good employees trying to reach goals that sometimes are not possible to reach physically. Good leader has great communication skills and cares about his/her employees; it increases productivity and improves performance. I noticed that employees’ performance and, therefore, achievements had increased after new Director took over our company. It is important to know that everything you do is important for the company, not just the numbers you are shooting for and reaching at the end of any given period. Many companies implement new strategy that they called “Management in training” program. Potential manager is working for every department in the organization for a period of 6 months; at the end of the training he/she is being promoted. I think this is a great program: these managers know exactly what is going on in the company and appreciate their employees.

  8. Companies are reluctant for leadership based mostly on fear. Fear of failure and/or new ideas, as well as loss of control. “The ability to generate an emotional response is the key to any leader’s success.” Leader’s must sometimes take a calculated risk to achieve goals. If the leader must spark an emotional response, he/she is hoping that is a positive response. My source references leader’s such as Moses, Winston Churchill, and MLK Jr. Although these are all extreme cases, all of these leaders took a risk when taking on leadership. Companies may fear a negative response which could lead to the demise of a section of the organization. Complacency can also be a huge part of restricting strong leadership. In my organization, I constantly hear “this is the way we have always done it”. A good leader must have the freedom to change procedure (to an extent) to effectively lead. If the leader is kept in a box, in the box is where the ideas will stay as well. An inner company leadership board could be a good way to infuse leaders. Those who have proven to have the traits of a leader would make up the board. This allows the company to cut down on quick decisions, still keep some control, and allow freedom of new ideas. The members of the board would need to not close the door on ideas stemming from unlikely sources (ex. employees) because this would kill the growth of the board itself and limit the ideas produced from the board. If the employees feel that their ideas are being heard and considered, it will help develop upcoming leaders in the organization.

    Source: http://sloanreview.mit.edu/the-magazine/articles/2004/winter/4524/leadership-and-the-fear-factor/

  9. I also believe that the reason organizations are reluctant to further provide inspiration for good leaders is “fear of the unknown”. Unfortunately, in most organizations, especially at uncertain economic times, the bottom line takes precedent. As Zack said, an inherent trait of leaders is that sometimes they tend to be risk takers. Whether these risks are well thought out and may potentially payoff greatly, it is a risk most organizations don’t want.
    Because a lot of organizations are bottom line centered, they are satisfied by simply having good managers. Find an innovative company(Apple, GE) and you will find an environment that attracts good leaders.

  10. A leader is extremely valuable to an organization. A leader gives a purpose for employees to become the best at what they do as well as clarify the vision/goals of an organization. Unlike middle-level managers, technical skills and job-specific expertise may not be required to be a leader of an organization. This illustrates my point that leaders are different than managers and an organization needs both.

    When I read a special report by U.S News titled “America’s Best Leaders 2009”, the article did not measure leaders by their financial success, but rather by their ability to instill motivation and steer their organizations effectively to become superior to similar organizations. According to the U.S News research team, “the committee defined a leader simply as a person who “motivates people to work collaboratively to accomplish great things.” Many CEOs of the world’s most financially successful companies don’t make it to this list, in recent times more often than not due to unethical behavior. Therefore, ethics and social responsibility is a main requirement for a leader.

    According to a Human Resources World website, the 10 qualities of a good leader are: Vision, Integrity Dedication, Magnanimity, Humility, Openness, Creativity, Fairness and Assertiveness. Can you teach these qualities to a candidate that has none of them? I don’t think so. However I believe that these traits can be expanded upon and further trained as long as a foundation already exists. Therefore, in order for organizations to find better leaders, human resources need to choose candidates that show these traits, possibly by giving prospect employees detailed personality tests and scenario-based questions to better understand their personalities rather than judge them only by their technical and job-specific skills. Spotting leaders will always be challenging since human traits are qualative rather than quantative.


  11. True leaders must embrace change and the goals of the company. Leaders are required to very quickly change directions and motivate employees to remain profitable in today’s market. Leaders who are not willing to adapt to change will find themselves in conflict with the goals of today’s company. Dave Ramsey, a successful financial advisor, says a good leader is 15% ability, 15% availability and 70% adaptability.

    In the Harvard Business Review “Personal Histories: Leaders Remember the Moments and People That Shaped Them” an example of a great leader Michael Eisner (chairman and CEO of Disney in Cali.) explains how his high school principal influenced him to be excellent. Eisner says, “Imperceptibly, Mr. McClellan’s advice went from annoying to inspirational, the foundation for just about all I’ve accomplished. And here’s the best part of Mr. McClellan’s directive. If you strive for excellence, you may not always succeed at leading, but you will certainly succeed at living. If you keep your eye on the ball of excellence, you will find fulfillment, whether you have an army of followers in your wake or you are alone, confidently striding down a solitary path.”

  12. I personally feel that organizations are reluctant to deal with good leadership sometimes in fear that their positions might be at risk if they bring in someone with good leadership skills (this isn’t tru for most cases though). Other reasons could possibly stem from fear of the leader being to expensive (wages), hard to train or fear that they might get board with their position and not be an efficient or an effective employee. Companies can develop leaders by taking the individuals that display true leadership qualities (i.e. vision, integrity, dedication etc) and mapping their career out within the organization in order to have them prepared when their leadership characteristics are needed. This will slowly groom the individual to be better prepared for the leadership role.




  13. companies are sometimes afraid to deal with the issue of good leadership, because every company wants to believe thier leader is a good leader.Whether in fact a person is born a leader or develops skills and abilities to become a leader is open for debate. There are some clear characteristics that are found in good leaders. These qualities can be developed or may be naturally part of their personality. some taits of good leaders are said to be
    1)A good leader has an exemplary character. It is of utmost importance that a leader is trustworthy to lead others. A leader needs to be trusted and be known to live their life with honestly and integrity. A good leader “walks the talk” and in doing so earns the right to have responsibility for others. True authority is born from respect for the good character and trustworthiness of the person who leads.

    2. A good leader is enthusiastic about their work or cause and also about their role as leader. People will respond more openly to a person of passion and dedication. Leaders need to be able to be a source of inspiration, and be a motivator towards the required action or cause. Although the responsibilities and roles of a leader may be different, the leader needs to be seen to be part of the team working towards the goal. This kind of leader will not be afraid to roll up their sleeves and get dirty.

    3. A good leader is confident. In order to lead and set direction a leader needs to appear confident as a person and in the leadership role. Such a person inspires confidence in others and draws out the trust and best efforts of the team to complete the task well. A leader who conveys confidence towards the proposed objective inspires the best effort from team members.

  14. The fear of change makes organizations reluctant to deal with issues of good leadership. Today’s business world is highly concentrated of companies. The growth of technology and the advanced communication created a competitive business atmosphere. The way to survive is to reshape to the needs of the rapidly changing world, and keep up with the latest changes. The fear to change leads organizations to fail. Costumers are looking for the best service out there. In order to meet their demands, organizations need to reshape quickly and adopt new ways to get the job done with best service.
    Flexibility is important feature for contemporary organizations to have. Before organizations reject change, they need to consider it and see if it works. Some organizations accept the change rapidly and grow quick such as IBM. Some others do it poorly like ATT.
    I found this sentence in the Blog “A manager must be detail-oriented to achieve success while a good leader must be concept-oriented” very interesting. Management deals with day to day activity of organization. True leadership includes effectively orchestrating important change. Great leaders keep people focused on moving the organization toward its ideal future, motivating them to over come whatever obstacles lie in the way.




  15. Lack of good leadership for a company is a sure recipe for failure and despite this being a fact; most companies still don’t really put a lot of emphasis in this issue. Good leadership calls for efforts not only from the individual but the company as well, breeding good leadership takes training and motivation as an individual can be a good manager but the goals are not aligned with those of the company so the companies have to train the managers and give them room to think and innovate. A good manager creates a trickling effect meaning the employees below him will also follow the example, and a good workforce is equal to the success of a company.

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