Catch-22 of tracking down new leadersOn 11 Nov 2003 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Leadership,like football, is a funny old game. England boss Sven Goran Eriksson told apacked auditorium at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’sannual conference in Harrogate last month that his former right-hand man, SteveMcClaren, was “the best coach I have ever worked with”. YetMcClaren’s record in the hot seat at premier league Middlesbrough has been farfrom spectacular. His side finished last season in mid-table and has made apoor start to the current campaign, despite having a reasonable amount of cashto spend on players. Timewill tell if McClaren can put things right; although with football’s managerialmerry-go-round spinning ever faster, time might not be on his side.Whatthis example neatly illustrates, however, is the ability-performance paradoxthat exists in all organisations: highly talented individuals don’t alwaysdeliver as leaders. Some fail because their emotional intelligence doesn’tmatch their IQ. But the main reason is that talent alone cannot compensate fordeep-rooted organisational dysfunction. CIPDresearch shows that high-performing organisations are those that find asuitable blend of management systems, HR practices and human relationships.Successful leaders have the knack of identifying the blend and encouragingtheir people at all levels to pursue a strategic purpose or vision, sometimescalled an organisation’s ‘big idea’. Leaderswith the knack cannot be easily identified by their formal skills orperformance in specific jobs. Many top football managers – including Eriksson,Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson – were players of limited ability.Similarly, many people in other walks of life have excelled as leaders, despitetheir apparent prior limitations.Thiscreates an intriguing market dilemma as stiff competition for the limitedsupply of identifiable winners causes executive salaries to soar. It istherefore vital that organisations seek more effective ways of spottingleadership potential and, in particular, nurture potential from within.AsUS management guru Jim Collins told CIPD delegates in his keynote address –based on research published in the bestseller Good to Great – outstanding chiefexecutives are usually internal appointments. Recruiters should not be swayedby personal charisma but look instead for individuals who are quiet,self-effacing and ambitious for the organisation above purely personal advance.Somewill question Collins’ championing of the modest leader. The ejection fromoffice of the hapless former Conservative leader, Iain Duncan Smith is anobvious heresy against the Good to Great credo. Few would argue that ‘the quietman’ had what it takes to lead a major political party – great leaders usuallyhave a bit more personal ‘oomph’ than Collins suggests. But Collins is surelyright to challenge the widely-held view that charismatic or maverick leadersalways perform best. ByJohn Philpott, Chief economist, CIPD Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.