Thursday Thought: Failing Organizations

Failing Organizations - 1Being involved in the realm of leadership coaching and leadership development, I choose to observe things that many do not take notice of.  And there is a constant that is visible to all those who would look closely.

“Failing organizations are usually overmanaged and underled.”

Warren G. Bennis is credited with this quote.  Bennis grew up within a working-class Jewish family in Westwood, New Jersey.  He enlisted in the United States Army in 1943 and would go on to serve as one of the Army’s youngest infantry officers in the European theater of operations.  He served bravely and was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.  (I like him already!)

He spent much of his career in the academics and in leading great academic institutions.  He authored or co-authored 30 books.  He may have been the one to coin the phrase “ . . .  is like herding cats.”

Failing Organizations - 2One of his most well-known works, On Becoming a Leader, originally published in 1989, lays the foundation that a leader must be authentic.  He uses words that speak of the need to be the author of one’s own creation.  He says leaders must be a combination of experience, self-knowledge, and personal ethics. This need for an effective leader to remain true to their self-invention would be further expanded upon by others into what has become known as the Authentic Leadership approach.

So what is my point on this Thursday in July?

My point is that most organizations fail as a result of a failure of leadership.  I don’t know what it means to be “authentic”.  I see that word bandied about way too often.  So much so that it has lost any real meaning to me. And I really don’t know what it means to “be the author of one’s own creation”.

But I know what it means to “be a combination of experience, self-knowledge, and personal ethics.”  Those are not management terms.  Those are leadership terms.  There is no substitute for experience.  You need to know yourself and your limitations.  And you better be a person of integrity and ethical in all of your actions.

What about you?  Are you overmanaging and underleading?

Something to think about on this hot July day.

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Photo credit: garlandcannon / Foter / (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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