Canadians will head to the polls, in a few weeks, to elect a new leader, or reaffirm the one we have, and south of the border CNN is already scampering after any whiff of 2012 election gossip. Both countries seem to be laboring under the same misconception - change the guy (and it's still a guy in both countries...shame on us) at the top, and the future will be secure.
It's a popular notion that all a dissatisfied country, company or church needs to do to set things right is to swap out their current Prime Minister, President or Pastor. Popular thinking maybe - but naïve, none the less. And it is, on both sides of the border time - as Maya Angelou would say 'for thinking people to think'.
In his book, The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki sites several well respected studies challenging the validity of this idea that there are individuals, however well educated, well paid or adored, who embody superior decision making abilities that can, single handedly, lead a group out of the woods every time. Instead research points to the crowd, the team or group the leader leads as having a better track record in terms of assessing a situation and collectively making good decisions.
The average tenure of a CEO today is eighteen months. Companies routinely hire men or women they deem to be superstars, pay them wads of cash and loads of stock options and then give them precious little time to wow the stockholders.
Ridiculous, says Jack Welch, twenty-five year veteran CEO of General Electric. Jack admits to making his share of business blunders but says he was grateful to have had twenty-five years to redeem himself and work out the kinks in his leadership. Today the ink is barley dry on the incoming CEO's hiring bonus before he's planning his lucrative exit; often leaving disappointed employees and shareholders in his wake.
More than once I've been working with a company and witnessed the CEO, VP or Department head buckle under the pressure of an intense business environment. I've seen them struggle behind closed doors to make the tough calls in solitude. I've wondered how much of their desire to shoulder the full burden of key decision making alone was bolstered by the board's, or their own, misconception that real leaders should be able to pull off miracles every time... and all on their own.
Good decision-making, and effective execution requires the wisdom of the group. It requires in-put from all levels, and a healthy dose of modesty on the part of the man or woman at the top. It's lonely at the top and working alone is ill advised for any leader. When change is in the air - it's the kiss of death.
As an Executive Coach I can be the confidential thinking partner you may need when the stakes are high. Remember, you can change it - I can help!