Should the Type of Organization Determine How We Lead?

authentic leadership authority buy-in common leadership issues earning leadership employee engagement engagement ethical influence impact influence leadership management productivity profit profitability purpose retention service supervision value Nov 30, 2023
common leadership issues

If we think back to how we started this look at Leadership Misunderstood, the biggest myths we’ve taken aim at here were few but extremely common:

  • People automatically follow a business owner, executive, manager (or whatever other title you want to insert here) because their paycheck depends on it;
  • The organization is different because the people involved aren’t highly paid (or paid at all in some cases) so leadership doesn’t really apply;
  • Because it’s in the public sector or nonprofit space, profitability and productivity aren’t things that come into play…

After working through each of these, despite how crazy they may seem to us now, we can’t lose sight of how often they all impact how the responsible parties choose to lead - or in many cases, choose NOT to lead… The biggest driver for me suggesting that all of the different types of organizations I’ve referenced through this process are so much like different verses in the same song is that they all have a common thread! Every single one, regardless of scope or purpose, deals with people in one way or another! And when people are involved, the results will be better with great leadership!

Sure, a whole bunch of screaming, yelling, and threatening someone’s livelihood can get results - at least until we’re no long watching their every move - but I’ve never seen it yield that increased discretionary effort (as much as 57% if you believe the Harvard Business Review stat I’ve referenced a number of times) that comes when team members genuinely buy into what they’re doing. And that ain’t gonna happen without effective leadership, I don’t care how amazing the compensation package is!

When we consider the military and most public safety roles, it’s easy to think the chain of command eliminates all the possible problems we would face in a private organization - and we’d be dead wrong! While that structure serves a purpose, failure to lead well will inevitably create a revolving door that looks a lot like one of those merry-go-rounds that were in many parks when I was a kid. You know, the ones you’d spin as fast as you could to see who would fall off or throw up… Although there will always be some turnover in every type of organization, I haven’t seen any that’s been able to keep their best people without having good leaders in place.

And in my opinion, the biggest misconception I’ve heard is that leadership really does tie in when there’s no direct reporting or authority, like in a civic group or a church where everyone is there on a voluntary basis. Quite honestly, I’m convinced that’s where leadership matters the most!

The terms we focus on may not always be productivity and profitability but you can bet that we still need to achieve some sort of goal. And unless that goal is insignificant, we’re going to need others involved in helping us get there. So should the type of organization determine how we lead? I certainly don’t think so. As Cindy and I have heard Mark Cole say so many times, “Everyone deserves to be led well!” Regardless of where we’re at or what we’re measuring, we can take responsibility for doing just that!