Are you treating middle management like mushrooms or strawberries? Part 1

MushroomsSteve Brown, Chairman of The Fortune Group International, asserts that a leader has two purposes:
  1. Provide for the continuation (aka survival and prosperity) of the business
  2. Develop your next tier of managers
This second purpose, of course, feeds directly back into the first; in order to ensure a company's lasting success, a leader must develop people to do their job 'as if they would be replacing them' after they leave. However that requires emotional maturity and a longer-term perspective, something leaders are often conditioned to neglect. They can so easily get caught up in the now – in appeasing shareholders, in reaching quarterly targets, in looking good in the press – that they fail to look effectively beyond the next board meeting. It also requires a leader's willingness to be open and transparent, and to communicate not only what the role is but how to do it.

Over the last few weeks, I've been seeing more and more evidence that this absolute imperative is being disregarded more than ever.

First I came across a press release which says that in 2008, nearly half (36 out of 80) of the new CEOs appointed to Fortune 1000 companies were from outside the firm. By the simplest of measurements, the preceding CEOs of those 36 companies failed as leaders.

Then I read a piece on John Baldoni, who argues that CEOs must empower middle managers. This encourages greater levels of commitment, which in turn translates into fulfilment of the second purpose: the development of future leaders. However, Baldoni ends with a sobering commentary on the current economic environment:
This economic recession has seen far too many senior executives leaving their companies in dire straits; in retrospect, they failed totally as leaders. Had stronger leaders existed – and had they been allowed to voice their opinions – some of the more egregious risk-taking might have been mitigated.

Clearly, many of today's leaders are failing spectacularly!

How does this all relate to the title of this post? Find out in Part 2 next week...
Posted: 11/5/2009 1:25:27 PM by Nick Morris | with 0 comments
Filed under: leadership
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