How often now is it that we hear of scandal in executives, politicians, and leaders?
The answer, sadly, is very often.
It begs the questions, why do scandals, or ethical crises exist? The answer is: people operating in complex systems do not always make good decisions. They sometimes take shortcuts or have not got all the information available, or they simply cheat to win.
Economies and societies have changed. The traditional nature of work has changed.
It is no longer a possibility for senior managers to switch off from work when they get home. Emails still arrive on their phones; news reports arrive at any time in the 24-hour news cycle.
From changes in society, we have scenarios of increased mental strain on leaders.
Many of these managers and senior executives are not seasonally trained leaders, but rather high performing front-line individuals promoted without adequate training.
Being a person who carries out the day-to-day work, and being a person who manages it, is different. In Tasmania, there are some ad hoc solutions to this emerging gap:
- The Tasmanian Leaders Program offers a place for 24 participants a year, and similar numbers in their iLead program.
- The Emerging Community Leaders program provides around 24 participants a year.
- University of Tasmania offers courses that include leadership components, like a unit I have delivered into the Bachelor of Business, Leadership in Organisations.
- TasTafe offers a Diploma and Certificate IV in Leadership and Management.
Each of these provides some benefit to the community through their delivery, but to a limited number. Except at a broader Tasmanian level, these offer, in their current forms, a piecemeal approach to a wicked problem of society. We have changed the structure and nature of our work, but we have not prepared our people to deal with such.
My research has highlighted that certain types of leadership development can lead to reduced ethical crises. But more than that, with more than 1000 people involved in my study, authentic leaders have a higher job and career satisfaction, are more mindful, and more engaged. The people that report to such leaders are also more engaged, less likely to leave, are more creative, perform better in the workplace, are more ethical, and have higher mental health.
As Steve Jobs. said: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”.
So, what concept, plan, strategy, initiative, or government mandate begins a response to the growing complexity of the world? To respond to low digital marketing knowledge, the government rolled out Digital Ready. To respond to a goal for more entrepreneurs, the government rolled out enterprise.
To respond to the need for people to be more self-aware, sincerer, have higher integrity, and higher authenticity, the government is yet to develop a response. Despite that, the evidence is there that these attributes in leaders lead to higher profitability of organisations, better workplaces, and reduced instances of ethical crises.
My PhD offers a beginning of a response to unethical and ineffective leaders.
There needs to be growth in real-world evidence of leaders being transformed from unethical or ineffective to effective and ethical. There needs to be a systematic approach to developing leaders across Tasmania at a macro level, that has the micro-level personalisation that programs like Tasmanian leaders offer. The leadership revolution requires two drivers: a knowledge generator, and a network of delivery. The first component, the knowledge generator, must create ongoing research through randomised-control trials, causation-level inferences, and connecting the thousands of academic publications to the Tasmanian-context. The outcome is an ever-enhancing development program for leaders in Tasmania.
The second component, the network of delivery, is a spider web of interconnected players who can provide a consistent program across small groups. This cannot be multiple institutes running their own shows, and operating on different theoretical bases, and delivery methods. A systematic approach only works if we can agree on the important building blocks of effective and ethical leadership and if we can agree on the best way to develop such attributes in our people. In Tasmanians. As Simon Sinek said: “Leadership is not about the next election, it’s about the next generation”.
Funnily enough, though, it requires leadership to make this happen. It takes a government treasurer to realise the key to productivity is developing leaders. It takes a health minister to realise the key to positive mental health in the workplace is developing leaders. It takes a university vice-chancellor to realise the key to Tasmania’s social and economic future is by developing a cohesive knowledge base on leaders and their development. And it might take a few bold Tasmanians to nudge them to such a realisation. If we can get it right though, Tasmania becomes placed as a location for excellence in leaders, and that leads to a healthier state, higher productivity, more innovation, less ethical crises, and happier people. And all those things sound like indicators of high liveability and the foundations of a successful economy, to me.
- Joey Crawford has a PhD in Leadership Behaviour (under examination), lectures at the University of Tasmania.