Thinking about Future States
Aspiring role model leaders need to think irst, and think hard, about appropriate targets for their efforts; indeed, so does everyone in the organization.
People who have committed themselves to a future state will use that as guidance when setting goals for their ongoing change efforts. At any given point in time, a developing organization will have a number of individuals who have developed into strong role model leaders, many others who have just begun developing their leadership competence, and some who are not yet motivated to learn to be leaders. An organization needs to have a clear purpose – it must have as part of its vision a future state that all can embrace, for then all its people will have the same target as they develop competence. Connected to this purpose, the organization will beneit from looking collectively into the future towards the target they share as a group. Earlier in the chapter, it was shown that the framework for thinking about future states varies with the kind of change being considered. When thinking about small, well-deined incremental changes, the future state is best described as a plan; when thinking about extensive continuous improvements, the future state is best described as a vision; and when thinking about transformational, extensive, ongoing, dificult change, the future state is best described as an aspiration. This hierarchy for thinking about future states is useful when appropriate targets are being considered for the
leadership development activities described in this chapter.
Developmental leadership activities are ongoing, evolutionary, dificult, and transformational. Leaders need to direct their efforts at superordinate aspirational targets. Those who are still learning to become role model leaders – those who haven't yet learned to want to be leaders – need to be shown that the organization has a worthwhile aspirational target and have to see this target if they are to develop themselves. And, in the same way, those people need to have and see a worthwhile aspirational target for the tough work of development of their organization as a natural outcome of the individual aspiration.
An Aspiration: Everyone a Leader
The aspiration – the future state for the activity of developing into a competent leader of self – is Everyone a Leader.
Setting aspirational targets such as “zero workplace injuries” and “Everyone a Leader” has spillover effects for the people who embrace those targets and for the organization as a whole, in all dimensions of productivity, quality, and service to stakeholders. So if individuals can motivate themselves to accept an aspiration as a valid, pragmatic target, this will clear the way for all of them to develop themselves into successful leaders and for the organization to become a high-performance one.
Scientists and engineers deal pragmatically with “perfection” every day. When engineers build better bridges and factories, or develop better chemical processes, they have been inspired by scientiic theories about perfect states. They work developmentally, always improving existing processes and always seeking innovative solutions that approach the same perfection as the scientiic theories they have learned.
Engineers produce a vast array of materials, often by following complex manufacturing processes that involve potentially hazardous raw materials. While doing this work, the engineers at DuPont believe that “zero injuries” is a realizable target; by inference, they do not believe that some injuries are acceptable. They are convinced that perfection is a practical target and all their work is better because of that conviction and because the efforts they have made to achieve it are delivering measurable results. Put simply, there is nothing more practical than a theory accepted. Believing that everyone can learn to be a leader has the same sort of impact – accepting it provides the motivation required to become one. In turn, if everyone accepted the idea that zero injuries was not possible, then there certainly would be injuries; an undesirable outcome.
An Aspiration: The High-Performance Business Organization
The aspiration of a high-performance business organization relates mainly to moving beyond the constraints of conventional business organizations. In a high-performance business organization, all the employees are individually motivated to achieve the target of Everyone a Leader and they work together to achieve that goal for the company as a whole. Such an organization focuses on these aspirational outcomes:
• The organization has created an admirable set of core values and lives
those values. • All individuals have learned to be role model leaders and are continually developing their leadership competence.
• The organization has created and sustained a harmonious level of
service for all stakeholders.
• Productivity and quality measures are all higher than in other business organizations and are growing sustainably, with no wasteful processes or outcomes.
Again, let's use safety as an analogy. If everyone in an organization is committed to zero injuries, then they will be highly motivated and inspired by others working beside them to work on leading the organization to a state of high performance in safety and in all other activities.