Structure can make the difference between a bad organization and a good one. The difference between a good organization and great one is leadership.
- John Maxwell
A compelling challenge within many companies is the ability to maintain a cohesive sense of organizational stability, an efficient structure, and a team that has a clear sense of purpose and direction.
Unfortunately, many leaders feel that it is strictly up them to carry the load on all fronts in order to move the organization toward its desired goals. As this unfolds, the very fabric of the organization begins to unravel. The warning signs begin with low morale, lack of trust, and shifting channels of communication.
A humorous story is told that somewhere in the world is a country with a population of two hundred and twenty million. Eighty-four million are over sixty years of age, which leaves 136 million to do the work. People under twenty years of age total ninety-five million, which leaves forty-one million to do the work.
There are twenty-two million employed by the government, which leaves nineteen million to do the work. Four million are in the Armed Forces, which leaves fifteen million to do the work. Deduct 14,800,000, the number in state and city offices, and that leaves 200,000 to do the work. There are 188,000 in hospitals and insane asylums, so that leaves 12,000 to do the work.
It is of interest to note that in this country 11,998 people are in jail, so that leaves just two people to carry the load. That’s you and me-and brother, I’m getting tired of doing everything myself!
From within the confines of their whacky corporate culture comes a plea from those longing to return to the days of stability and productivity. It begs the question by those trapped in this environment; is there hope? Be assured that the answer is yes, and it begins not with a new organizational structure (although one may be needed), but a return to rightful leadership. An understanding of the following three concepts will help put you on a path of restoring the confidence your organization needs to move forward.
A strong leader is a compliment to the structure. George Barna said, “Great organizations may have great leaders and a poor structure, but I’ve never seen a great organization that had a great structure and a poor leader.” And this is where the focus must be concentrated. The mistake is made when those at the top of the organization believe if they just improve the organizational structure they will improve the company.
But without a change in leadership style it is simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Your company may have a great organizational structure, but with the wrong leader at the helm is still a prescription for disaster. But take a strong leader with a good structure and your potential is unlimited.
A strong leader mentors successors. Succession in your company is by design. When the leader is surrounded by potentially strong leaders he is laying the foundation for the future. In fact, he wants to be surrounded by as many like-minded people as possible.
Henry Ford said, “You can take my factories, burn up my buildings, but give me my people, and I’ll bring my business right back again.” What a powerful testament to the quality of people he surrounded himself with. Can the same be said for the people you surround yourself with? Again, it’s not the structure that makes this possible, it’s the leader.
A strong leader creates momentum. Lee Iacocca said, “The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.” And this is where the pace and momentum of the leader is relevant to the success of the team. When the leader is out front in his understanding of the importance of momentum, he can place his team in a position to win.
Noted leadership speaker and bestselling author Mark Sanborn says, “Leadership doesn’t make a difference, leadership is the difference.” The game changer with momentum is that it draws in the talent and resources of all the team and that energy is perpetuated throughout the structure. By focusing first and foremost on strong leadership, the organizational structure benefits.
A strong leader makes the difference in his organization by leading in a way that compliments the organizational structure, by mentoring successors, and creating momentum. It is not the power of the structure as much as it is the power of the leader that makes this possible.
© 2011 Doug Dickerson