The emerging leadership paradigm in organisations

Some organisations today are starting to recognise the value of having a broader definition for what makes a high performance culture rather than just focusing primarily on productivity. In the latter that translates as squeezing the assets dry to get the return required for the shareholders. This model offers us nothing new as the mechanism to get us out of the stagnant growth we find ourselves in post GFC 2008. Moreover many have begun to question the short-term nature of that way of operating with its focus on quarter by quarter. In Colourful Boardrooms we explain that this doesn’t work because it becomes measurement for measurement’s sake and when leaders behave like this they are looking in the wrong place. The focus is on the individual rather than the system so responses tend to deal with the symptoms rather than cause. Chaos or disruption in a system is a signal that change is needed to rebalance the system and bring it back into flow.

Great minds don’t think alike and the best leaders are those that access and are comfortable operating within a range of different forms of intelligence including emotional and intuitive intelligence. The following core ingredients tend to be present: psychological safety so that there is space for courageous conversations, fresh ideas and new perspectives; regular reading of the emotional field so that there is clarity about an individual’s level of motivation and how that is affecting the whole team; and an appreciation of difference. This facilitates emotional intelligence in the work place, which in turn builds connection, empathy and trust. This can only be developed through regular bouts of self-reflection.

In short, more advanced companies are starting to make the connection that it is not just individual leadership development that’s required but the need to look at the whole culture of an organisation. This is because environment impacts behaviour. Empowered cultures create leadership in everyone. We have designed a number of tools based on colour that allow our clients to slow down and gain access to what lies beyond the primary field of vision.

Our USP is that we work with colour. We operate in this way because it gives leaders and organisations a new language to explain what has previously been unconscious. This understanding allows them to see the assumptions, belief constructs and patterns of behaviour that create resistance and confusion in the system. With increasing disruption and innovation along with the pressure on productive growth the default position has been this desire to measure everything, with the intention of bringing greater clarity and certainty of results yet the issues of today are far more complex and require very different solutions.

Of course productivity plays a part in a high performance culture. If you look at our diagram, we would suggest that companies aim for high positivity, high productivity. Whilst there are examples of organisations in each quadrant, the prevailing norm is high productivity, low positivity. The focus is on making money, working hard and being single-minded. In most regards the focus is on being bigger, faster, stronger and it’s all about winning, which is based on how much profit is made. The pressure is such that success comes at the cost of family, friends and well-being.

The way to create the conditions for high performance is through the feminisation of business. In a world with a more even distribution of feminine values, the end goal would not just be about money: it would be about delivering a passion or belief first. Work would be more supportive, enabling both men and women to be successful without having to compromise on family and health.

This is a challenge for many because it means moving out of dualism which we are conditioned into from an early age starting with communication: for example a point of view is either right or wrong. Leaders need to become comfortable with polarity, to be able to hold opposing views, even though that causes tension. This means moving away from a fragmented approach to change where the focus
in leadership development is on the individual and going for whole systems change with a focus on the collective and the tacit rules around the ways of working. In short it is about allowing for emergent change to unfold by resisting the desire to control it.

Finally if you look back over the last 100 years or so, you will see that a disproportionate number of new leadership theories and books have come from men. With this lack of balance has come another disadvantage and that is the tendency to over intellectualise ideas because the focus is on analytical logical intelligence. Now with the feminisation of business we see intuitive intelligence coming to the fore where leaders know how to act because this way of being is grounded in spiritual intelligence.