Alaina Love says good leaders are stewards of their organizations and “should be champions of the ideas and people who make it run.”
Love, COO and president of Purpose Linked Consulting and co-author of The Purpose Linked Organization: How Passionate Leaders Inspire Winning Teams and Great Results, says one enemy of effective leadership is the desire to exercise control.
“If you allow the culture that has made your organization successful to be smothered by corporate need for control, the opportunities to innovate will diminish. And the only ones who’ll be left at the table for dessert are your competitors,” she explains.
Often organizations begin as clusters of innovation. That culture is relatively easy to maintain when an organization’s hierarchy is bare-bones and it has to move quickly just to survive. Everyone gets a place at the table and everyone’s contributions are valued. Ideas are tested quickly, and bad ones are quickly abandoned – with the consolation that every experiment is an opportunity for rapid learning.
But success can undermine this sort of culture. After a sustained period of growth, an organization – like a body – can begin to suffer a hardening of its arteries. Specialization builds silos. Expertise gets locked into narrow, specific units, each with its own turf to protect. Hierarchy grows. Pleasing bosses becomes more important than serving constituencies. Decisions get slower, more difficult to make and more defensive in nature.
The innovation that was taken for granted at the beginning – and sorely needed as the foundation of the organization’s culture – becomes a forgotten stepchild. The organization’s best and brightest start drifting away to more innovative, intentionally interactive and interdependent environments.
Leaders who are good stewards resist the momentum toward organizational atherosclerosis by becoming champions of two things:
- the organization’s founding culture; and,
- the gifts, potential and well-being of people for whom the leader is responsible.