No, I haven’t decided to transition to a career in fashion design or apparel marketing, so no need to worry. However, leadership, like everything else, has its share of fashionistas and style-influencers that are worth discussing.
In today’s world, where people want to “just add water” and create solutions to fix their organizational ills, there is a growing tendency to latch on to the latest fashion trend to apply to what ails you. I refer to these as “management by best seller” and there is no shortage of books being published with their authors proclaiming their approach is the answer! Just like fashion trends (I recall my bell bottom jeans and shag haircut in the 1970’s and gosh, I looked good! LOL) which come and go with the times, so do many of these best sellers.
I encourage you to be slightly skeptical when an author declares they’ve found the silver bullet. It’s imperative to remember these authors are calling out ingredients to improved performance, not the recipe. On the other hand, there is style and it’s often timeless – navy blue blazers, actor Cary Grant, being authentic – elements like these never go out of style because their premise and effect are everlasting.
Translate this concept to your organization right now, pause and consider all the solutions leaders and often consultants (present company excluded) have proposed over the last several years and consider their success rate. It’s probably pretty low, isn’t it? Why is that? Well, there is a maxim in the consulting profession and it’s that “problems define solutions” as opposed to the other way around, where leaders can sometimes suggest a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist. I think we’ve all experienced that, haven’t’ we?
When we distill solutions down to their essence, sure a new piece of leading edge software can help, but it’s only a tool (or is that a toy? I digress). Instead, the essence usually involves leaders crafting a compelling and clear vision, developing accompanying goals to enable success, actively enlisting their workforce in the design and execution of the goals, providing a meaningful and timely update on the progress towards goal completion, and fostering a workplace environment and culture that reflects high expectations and human decency. Doesn’t sound too hard to create all that, does it?
Consider for a moment, are you and your organization fascinated with the latest fashion only to be frustrated when it suddenly became stale, or are you an architect of innovation and in a relentless pursuit of constructing and maintaining an organization of cool people doing really cool work? Simple, isn’t it? So, time to discard those fashion trends and become fluent in style and continue our journey in getting better all the time.