• Shayne Leslie

Group leadership at board level will determine your success

As part of the Integrated Governance system, Leadership is one of 4 principal tasks of a board along with strategy, control (policy) and monitoring.

Board leadership is a form of group leadership. 4 important aspects of leadership should be discussed as a group;

  1. How do we define leadership?

  2. What is our group leadership style; paternalistic, authoritarian, democratic and laissez-faire?

  3. Are we transformational, transactional, charismatic or authentic?

  4. Based on our definition and who we are, how are we going to improve our skills and implement strategic change as a group?

Defining Leadership

Thousands of studies have been conducted into leadership. Part of defining board leadership is understanding the major definitions of leadership and deciding where in the continuum your board’s ‘default’ position lies.

Understanding your default position helps to:

  • Learn group skills to challenge leadership styles so your board can embrace constant change. E.g. how to actively get out of the board’s comfort zone.

  • Create an early warning indicator in case the board begins to avoid strategic and complex decisions in preference to stagnation (e.g. too much time spent on correspondence).

  • Identify skill gaps and leadership gaps.

  • Lead an organisation appropriately.

What is our group leadership style?

Leadership profiles, such as DiSC Work of Leaders, help individuals understand their natural tendencies and comforts in different leadership situations and how they may impact group leadership. Possible tensions are unveiled and where the board may identify gaps for succession planning.

The default group leadership position can be identified. For example, is your board conscientious with attention to yesterday’s detail more than they are transformative with a fresh approach to strategy and learning? Or is your board quick to make decisions rather than taking a measured and risk-managed approach?

It is critical that boards know the group leadership style so group decision-making can be refined and made more effective. Those pots of cash that we once used to paper over our leadership errors have long ago disappeared for many of us.

Are we transformational, transactional, charismatic or authentic?
Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership enhances the motivation, morale and job performance of followers through a variety of mechanisms. Aspects of this leadership style include connecting the follower's sense of identity to the collective identity of the organisation, being a role model and challenging followers to take greater ownership for their work.

To begin to bring this leadership style to your organisation, boards and CEOs can;

  • Develop a challenging and attractive vision; this can be done with employees as well if you allow budget and time.

  • Tie the vision to a strategy for its achievement.

  • Develop the vision, specify and translate it to objectives.

  • Achieve the vision through strategies to realise the objectives.

  • Express confidence, decisiveness and optimism about the vision and its implementation to staff and members through images and feedback.

Transactional Leadership

Transactional Leadership, also known as managerial leadership, focuses on the role of supervision, organisation, and group performance. The leader promotes compliance of his followers through both rewards and punishments.

Unlike Transformational leadership, leaders using the transactional approach are not looking to change the future, they are looking to merely keep things the same.

Leaders using transactional leadership as a model pay attention to followers' work in order to find faults and deviations. It’s a difficult one for Boards who need to change the way they lead without forgoing their comfort-level of compliance feedback.

This type of leadership is effective in crisis and emergency situations, as well as for projects that need to be carried out in a specific way, such as construction.

Charismatic Leadership

Charismatic leadership is where people follow a single individual; an individual who has the potential to help the organisation rise above unsatisfactory performance and internal cultural restrictions to develop a positive environment.

Charismatic leaders will often transform organisations through their ability to see opportunities and their willingness to implement unique strategies. They’re often seen at the forefront of start-up businesses and as entrepreneurs.

The leader is prepared to take on high personal risks, to engage in self-sacrifice, and to act in innovative, unconventional and effective ways to achieve the vision.

Although there a many advantages, there remains significant risks in an organisation that is being led by a charismatic leader. The obvious one is the vacuum that is created when the charismatic leader leaves. Often, these style of leaders leave under unusual circumstances creating trauma, such as a sense of abandonment, in those ‘left behind’.

As part of a risk strategy, succession planning or having a 'back-up plan' is important for an organisation that is being led by a charismatic leader.

Authentic Leadership

Authentic leadership is an emerging approach to leadership that emphasises building leadership legitimacy through honest relationships. Ethical foundations are paramount. By building trust and generating enthusiastic support from their subordinates, authentic leaders are able to improve individual and team performance.

Because authenticity in leadership is rooted in being true to one’s own ideals of leadership and ethical values, authentic leadership is brought about through a lifetime of experiences and is resistant to traditional training programs. Development of authentic leaders involves guided self-reflection and building self-awareness through the use of a life-stories approach.

Authentic leaders look for training that challenges their personal stories, helps interpret their value set and takes a creative approach to understanding the self before leading others.

Based on our definition and who we are, how are we going to improve our skills and implement strategic change as a group?

When we design strategies for boards, under the heading of ‘governance’ is a strategy dedicated to leadership. Here, boards can plan improvements to group skills and lead their organisation through effective strategic change.

It may be as small as making one improvement to board meetings per month. For example;

  • Month 1: Change agenda and reporting to create a strategic focus

  • Month 2: Remove non-strategic correspondence to a pre-read report and discuss only on an exception basis

  • Month 3: Ensure that those who usually speak first, speak last. Those who usually don’t speak, must provide an opinion first. Appoint a ‘devil’s advocate’ who usually just agrees. All ideas are heard and discussed before a decision is made.

  • Month 4: Create policy to manage grants and sponsorship funding decisions more effectively

A more thorough and formal method is through a Board Evaluation. These evaluate:

  • Leadership technique

  • The extent to which the board ensures strategy drives the organisation

  • Quality of information and decision making

  • Working together

  • The board’s ability to tolerate risk.

Board evaluations really aren’t the scary, finger-pointing exercise individual directors may think they are. They're not just about testing an individual’s knowledge of governance - in fact, this part takes up a tiny proportion of a worthwhile evaluation.

Rather, board evaluations are about checking that leadership around the table is conducive to realising the organisation’s strategic plan. Aspects such as;

  • How do we regularly monitor strategy?

  • How do we make sure strategy is driving the organisation?

  • Is the quality of our information at the standard we need to make good decisions?

  • Are we making decisions to benefit the organisation's future or to benefit ourselves?

  • Do we have robust discussion or groupthink or do we attack each other?

We incorporated many leadership policies into Integrated Governance 40 Board Policies. Contact us for a discussion on Board Evaluations.

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