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#102: The Implications for Consultants of New Leadership Paradigms

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, August 05, 2009
I'd like to move my consulting focus to more closely work with leaders. What are the trends in leadership at the top I need to be aware of?

One of the most significant changes in leadership thinking is that leadership is not, if it ever was, about command and control from the top. Scholars of leadership over the past few decades considered that intellect, exercise of power, and control over subordinates and communication were main components of leadership influence and success. However, a closer look at highly successful organizations where the nominal leaders did not have these characteristics reveals a few insights about the real source of leadership. If you are thinking about leadership, it is important to build on these new insights.

Probably two of the more important aspects of this new view of leadership are that leadership comes from many places in an organization and that coordination and facilitation are more important than command and control. A consultant does not necessarily need a CEO as client sponsor to strongly influence leadership in an organization. Also, your skill set does not have to be about command processes. A better strategy is to help your client tap into the social, work and communication networks of the organization, understand the psychology and culture needed to help work teams reach consensus, and even better attend to the trappings of a leader's position (e.g., pay, perks, dress, behaviors, resolving disputes). Unlike in the past, employees have more power to decide whether and how they will be led. Your best advice for a leader is to understand how best to define how your client can find that "just right" leadership style and skill.

Tip: An increasing amount of research is being conducted to help both organizations operate with respect to leadership and followership. One good summary is from a Scientific American Mind article The New Psychology of Leadership, an article long enough to give you insights about how you can increase your value to clients. The point made here is that the most effective leaders are ones who help shape a group's identity and vision, then create a feasible strategy to get there. This makes it clear that a consultant's skill in traditional strategic planning process may have to give way to a new focus on helping leaders understand, facilitate and communicate from within a culture rather than From above it.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  collaboration  consultant role  customer understanding  leadership 

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