Conventional leadership wisdom counsels that the leader must have vision and that, when new to a position, incoming leaders should revisit the vision and values of the organisation. At interview, candidates are typically quizzed on their vision for that particular context. It is valuable advice but there are some pitfalls to avoid.
- The incoming leader may want to ask when the process was last undertaken. If recently, then s/he will want the rationale to be clear, otherwise, stakeholders may become suspicious: – What is the new agenda? What is the incoming leader looking for? Is it predetermined? The take away: be open about your intentions and ensure genuine collaboration through the process.
- Visioning and values clarification exercises can become mind-numbingly tedious. Remember, people continue to be involved in the actual ‘doing’, in real-time. The processes may indeed take time, but should still be sharp and focussed. The take away: a delineated process and timeframe help build confidence.
- Much of what is articulated through the process will be relatively predictable. In some senses, it should be, because the outcomes will be reflecting both what is already valued and what is aspirational. The key is in avoiding going through a major process only to end up with motherhood statements with which people do not really identify. The take away: ensure sharp, focussed, relevant and meaningful outcomes.
- Transferring processes and outcomes from previous contexts is another trap for the incoming leader. ‘In my last school (workplace) we…’ spells the death knell! The take away: understand and respect the past and particularise methods to the given situation.
- No one is more keenly observed than the new leader. Clarifying new directions and affirming what is valued will be a wasted exercise and actually counterproductive, unless the actions of new leader are seen to be consistent with those values. The take away: speak and act in accordance with the values the organisation and you espouse.
There is no denying the significance of articulating the values and beliefs of an organisation/school and the vision for its future. Avoiding some of the traps will make the process more energising for everyone, including the incoming leader.
Ask people what is good and what needs changing – the changes add up to 90% of the necessary change agenda…people on the inside know what is needed, ask them – then help them achieve it. A new leader thus becomes both agent of change and guardian of the collective wisdom. This isn’t that hard really – so why do so few people do it?
Neatly put, Graham and certainly agree. A matter of trusting others – valuing their perceptions and opinions.