LEADERSHIP THEORY- ARE WE REALLY BEING “FAIR DINKUM”

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Leadership Theory- Are we really “Fair Dinkum”?
(Definition of “Fair Dinkum” for non-Australian readers)
“True”, “the truth”, “speaking the truth”, “authentic”
This week I have been asked to participate in a panel discussion for a leading Australian institution dealing with leadership issues. Before such an event I like to gather my thoughts on the subject in order I can give constructive answers., (this negates the possibility of having an ugly Donald Trump moment).

In the past I have expressed some divergent views on the subject and through the passage of time and experience I have become more committed in raising consciousness of the need to seek alternative solutions to improve leadership.
In modern day parlance leadership has to be one of the most frequently used words today it seems not a day goes by without it being raised either in business, politics or in our communities. Furthermore across the social media channels the question being continually asked is “How do we define leadership”
In recent years it seems this search has promulgated a whole new industry with a huge amount of players both from academic and corporate backgrounds each with their own versions of how we can develop leadership qualities in our people.
Exactly one year ago today I published the results of some research I had conducted regarding the future of management development. http://www.kenwoodspeaking.com.au/publications/.

The results revealed an alarming sentiment that an urgent review was required in how we approached the upskilling of our managers in preparation for future leadership roles.
As part of any meaningful research it is useful to conduct further work to ascertain the validity of the original findings and data. Here are some of my recent findings:
1) People are confused by the many different versions of leadership theories being offered and in fact are becoming disengaged with the subject.
2) The type of material does not translate into assistance for their everyday problems.
3) Its premise is based on a “telling” mentality not appropriate for today’s audience.
4) Not enough emphasis is being placed on the pressures involved in working with people in today’s current rather hostile environment.
5) The attempts by senior personnel to impart leadership values within their people (albeit noble) is less effective than had been hoped. E.g. Employees have in a lot of cases have stopped listening citing a lack of trust.
6) Other external research reports that our engagement levels in Australian organisations are at the lowest levels in a very long time, especially amongst middle management and millennials. http://sacsconsult.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/SACS-Consulting-Disengaged-Nation-Report.pdf
7) A disproportion of development for senior personnel rather than middle management.
8) It is seen by senior executives to be the panacea to all our management challenges.
Following these disclosures and other empirical sources clear messages are emerging that we need to rethink our approach? Is it the harsh reality we either do not have the answers to change methodologies or perhaps we do not have the will to change the status quo because it is just too hard.
Either way the time is well overdue for us to be “Fair Dinkum”, it brings to mind that often used quotation by Albert Einstein, “The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”
Finally I think it is prudent to ask the question “If the current methodologies being employed are so effective why are they not translating into more successful outcomes?”

Ken Wood
People Specialist
31th August 2015